If yesterday’s blog post was dry, you can thank the jet lag and lack of sleep for that. Literally, I would fall asleep in the middle of a sentence and then the letter L would be streaking across the paragraph like a bullet train of incomplete thought to nowhere. Hopefully, you only hit the snooze button on this serial and are awake for the next edition.
Today, the Explore Your Faith group was headed for St. Peter’s Basilica to have a 7:00 AM mass in the chapel to Our Lady of Czestochowa located in the crypts below St. Peter’s Basilica. An interesting fact about the chapel we had mass in today was it was special to Blessed Pope John Paul II. It was a very moving experience to have mass in a place visited by such a legend in modern Church history, and also to be among the many other celebrations beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. Catholics talk about how when the mass is said, the whole church around the world at the same mass regardless of geographical location. In that hour, it certainly was tangible. As you would finish one creed, you would hear French congregants singing the Gloria. Then, to ascend back to the ground level of St. Peter’s Basilica and see the church quiet and prayerful is also moving.
We had to leave Vatican City at around 8:00 AM, and I’m not sure that I wanted to leave. It was so powerful to see St. Peter’s Square so empty and quiet. It reminded me of how Elijah heard the LORD the most in the empty cave, not in the thunder or the earthquake. We then went to St. John Lateran, which is the Pope’s own church as Bishop of Rome. The Church really knows how to appeal to people’s aesthetic appreciations, because St. John Lateran was absolutely beautiful with its paintings and giant sculptures of the Apostles.
The next place we visited was the Santa Scala (the Holy Stairs), across from Saint John Lateran. These are the steps Jesus walked up when He was condemned. They are now covered with wood with small slats that you can look through to see the actual steps. My knees took a beating walking up those steps on them alone. However, I don’t feel any pain, so it couldn’t have been that bad, and certainly walking on one’s knees is nothing compared to the fate Jesus had to face on his feet. At the top of the stairs, my fiancée and I went to a chapel just behind the corner near a statue to Pope Pius IX and prayed our Novena for Impossible Requests, which we intend to keep until December 25th. Personally, it was very special to me to be able to pray something from my daily life right there in such a blessed place.
Our next stop was the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, which is an interesting venue to find in Rome, since the name would lead you to think it was actually in the Holy Land. Personally, I got distracted trying to get an interview with a bishop from Ireland and had to rush through the shrine. Incense wafted through the cathedral as an ordination for priests had concluded shortly prior. The nails, the wood from Jesus’ inscription, and the crossbeam from the Good Thief’s cross were amazing to see.
The Coliseum was our next place to visit, our first stop in the ancient world. Father Ben Cieply, our guide, made a great point. He said that it is not distasteful to go to a place like the Coliseum, where so many Christians were martyred, because we, as Christians, see it as a triumph, much in the same way we see the Cross as a triumph. While we didn’t get to enter the Coliseum, it inspired awe to see an existing structure from the Roman Empire, unlike the Forum, which is nothing more than a few standing columns while the rest are fallen and broken.
Perhaps the most splendid site from the ancient world we saw was one that had been upgraded to a beacon of light for the Kingdom Jesus had come to establish: the Pantheon. Once a pagan temple, Christians claimed the site and made it a house for worship to the one true God. The sky was overcast, so a ray of sunshine didn’t shine through the hole in the roof.
After seeing the Pantheon, Father Cieply said we were free to disperse and go see more sites or go back to the hotel. Well, my fiancée and her mother and I decided to try to go see the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps on our own. It was 7:00 PM, so when we were lost after twenty minutes in a city we didn’t know (nor did we know its language), we quickly gave up and went back to the hotel. That unto itself was an ordeal, since the map didn’t exactly show all of the streets we were seeing in reality. All I can say is thank you to Rome for being such a multi-lingual city and thank you to St. Anthony for praying for us to find our way back to the hotel. One thing I didn’t want to do in Rome was stray away from the group and get lost. Well, it happened. At least something calamitous didn’t occur and the night concluded with eating out at the same laid back restaurant near our hotel.
Mark Lane, Associate Producer, Sonrise Morning Show