Praised be Jesus Christ! It’s hard to know where to pick up as a couple of days have already passed us by – time is a fleeting thing. It’s so easy to gloss over a nondescript list (which is what is below) when you can’t see the fullness of what lies behind each item. The spiritual significance of what we saw and experienced is what gives it life….yet to note it all down would make this an impossibly long entry. So instead of going on and on about how hard it is to put it into writing, I’m going to list some of what we’ve seen and then touch upon one or two of the highlights.
Some of the places we’ve been, some of what we’ve seen:
- The Pantheon – which has now been converted into a Church
- St. Catherine of Sienna’s body
- Found Cardinal Merry del Val’s tomb – he’s buried in the crypt under St. Peter’s!
- Climbed the cupola of St. Peter’s overlooking the city and looking from inside the dome down at the Baldachinno – talk about getting queasy
- Walked through St. Mary Major – which has artwork from the earliest of centuries
- Visited St. Clements – which has 3 layers of buildings one right on top of the other. The bottom layer being from the 1st century. Amazing!
- Saw relics of the manger
- Prayed by relics of the true cross and other instruments used from the passion
- Walked through St. John Lateran – where both the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul are held in veneration
- Attended the Pallium Mass with Pope Francis!!! We were able to get wonderful seats up near the middle front, aisle. As you will see by the photo, Pope Francis was very close! We learned that because he wants to keep a spirit of reverence at Mass, he does not look up as he processes in or out.
- On the feast fay of the Martyrs of Rome, we visited their Church in Rome.
- Had the privilege of seeing St. Therese’s habit – one of the two that are in existence is in Rome.
- Was able to attend Mass at the tomb of St. Pope John Paul II!
- Walking through Vatican gardens and visiting Vaticano Mosaico for an outstanding tour which included learning how the mosaics in St. Peter are restored
- And the list goes on….
Even taking the time to note what’s been happening the last couple of days makes me realize all the more how RICHLY blessed we are in our Catholic tradition. So often we only hear what the media presents to us. They help form our thinking, our opinions. And let’s get this straight, if you think the media communicates the complete truth, let me break it to you not so gently, they don’t. We had the opportunity of having some media coverage for a project we were working on. Of the 5 or so different media outlets we worked with, though they all received the same information (more or less) and the facts were pretty simple, every single one got something wrong, and in some cases skewed the information or misunderstood. This was for a small project. Can you imagine what they are communicating in the way of our Church? Especially since they don’t particularly appreciate all that we stand for. I don’t think this is a new revelation to anyone but thought I’d mention it anyhow.
Hopefully we know nobody is perfect (though we do expect it from others though not always ourselves) and that we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, some have made some horrid choices that have deeply and negatively impacted the Church. Thankfully it doesn’t end there. Christ is our head, we are the body. This is our saving grace. Walking in the footsteps of the saints, seeing and learning what they endured for Jesus and His Church makes us stand at attention for what we know we need to be doing. Probably for us, in a much smaller way, though no less insignificant.
We had the privilege of touring the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). The congregation that Pope Benedict XVI headed as prefect when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. This occasion actually impacted me more than seeing the holy sites (although I’m not minimizing this in the least). Our Church is made up of people – which means we have our moments (good and bad) – and regardless of the bad, we still have a most beautiful Church. Not a tyrannizing hierarchy as the media portrays us, a behind the times, old-fashioned institution out of touch with reality and consisting of greedy plotting individuals. Not at all!! The Vatican is not separate from you and me – we are one. It’s not them and us. It’s just US. Though not minimizing our challenges and faults, we have a rich heritage, a rich history, a rich future. We have the Lord. If you could TRULY understand the richness of our faith, and the holy people who make up the body of Christ, people who love our Catholic faith, you would be inspired, uplifted, renewed.
I’ll get off my soapbox now. I wish you could see what I’m seeing and understand what I’m trying to say. We Catholics need to learn about our faith, love it. Love the Church, friends. Love her!