The Canonization of Saint André may be over, but our pilgrims in Rome are still exploring the Eternal City. Here is the latest post of their adventures from Andrew Solkshinitz.
One would think with all the Br. André celebrations coming to a close that the fun has died out. Wrong! For us pilgrims today, it was just getting started. We had an early morning wake up again on Tuesday as we had to leave our hotel at 7a.m. for Mass at St. Peter's (in the Vatican). We entered to find an empty, quiet, holy place contrary to the entire hubbub that comes later in the day with tourists and tour groups. Holy Mass in the Tridentine form (or the Latin Mass) filled every side altar inside the basilica as the bishops and priests that work there started their days offering it up to the Lord. We were treated with the melodic chants from the Eastern Byzantine tradition as they too were welcome to celebrate Divine Liturgy in the Roman church.
We were joined by His Excellency, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, for Mass in the Irish chapel down in the crypt next to Saint Peter's resting place. We concluded Mass with a loud round of the Notre Dame Alma Mater. After Mass we toured the tombs of our deceased popes, including John Paul II and Saint Peter himself.
Fr. Jim then treated us to cappuccino and pastries for breakfast. After waking up with a cup (and bumping into a Bishop from Milan), we headed on our pilgrimage to see the different stages of Jesus' life. At this point, I had a few "I-will-never-forget-this-moment-in-my-entire-life" moments, and I don't just speak for myself either. Our first stop was the Pantheon which was originally a pagan temple to all the ancient gods. Michelangelo and Victor Hugo are some well-noted people buried there. After that, we stopped at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, another pagan church that was dedicated to the ancient goddess: Minerva. It is now dedicated to our Blessed Mother and is the only church in Rome that is built in the gothic style. From the outside one might overlook it, but the inside was beautiful. There was a calming peace that many of us found as we walked around and stopped in the many alcoves and mini-chapels to pray. Saint Catherine of Sienna is incased in one of the altars there. She is a stigmatic and a doctor of the church.
We moved on to the start of Jesus's life at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. There is kept the relic of the crib that Christ was placed in after he was born. We then moved, after picking up some Italian gelato of course, to the Basilica of Santa Croce (or Holy Cross). In this church is kept the many relics pertaining to his crucifixion: thorns from his crown, nails from his hands and feet, a large part of the wood of the cross, and part of the plaque that the Romans put above his head. We venerated these relics and reflected on His passion and death. It was a very emotional experience that impacted many of the pilgrims.
The part of this trip that has had the most impact so far on me, and I am sure to my fellow travelers, was the next church that we visited: Sancta Scala. This church contains the wooden steps from the stairs that led up to Pontius Pilots house. These are the steps that Christ walked up, hands tied, when he was being condemned to death. It was about 20 steps that you were allowed to climb, but the only exception was that you where required to be on your knees. Every step we were reminded of the pain that Christ suffered and the deep emotions that would have been going through His head as well as His Mother's. We left that church quietly and reflectively. It was a lot to take in for some of us, myself included.
Our final trip took us to the Bishop of Rome's church (i.e. the Pope's church in Rome), which is the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. We explored the ancient primacy of the papacy here in this church as it was filled with many different pope seals, statues, and artwork. Before Saint Peter's was built, this was the older version of the Vatican. Saint Francis walked in this church when he wished to start his order. We all got a sense of how old our church was by being there. After that we finished our day off by heading to the Spanish Steps. The steps are a cool place to hang out, and we decided to get some wonderful Chinese food for a change.
I would like to take this time and once again truly thank the Congregation of Holy Cross for their kind and generous funding so that this trip is made possible. It has been a wonderful religious as well as vocational experience for all of us here, and many of us are already coming away with a different view on their own calling. Thank you, Holy Cross, and God bless you all!