1 – Saints . . . and more Saints
The first highlight of the week was really somewhat of a weeklong highlight. This last full week in Rome we were given plenty of free time in the afternoons. As such, I eagerly took advantage of these open time-slot opportunities to visit and pray at some particular churches in Rome that house the tombs of the saints. Among the many saints that I was able to “visit” were St. John Leonardi, St. Joseph Calasanz, Ss. Bartholomew, Ss. Philip and James, Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, St. Phillip Neri, Bl. Pius XI, St. Lawrence and St. Stephen.
Perhaps the most significant of these “visits” for me was the visit to the tombs of St. Lawrence and St. Stephen in the church of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls – this since I highly esteem these two saints. Indeed, their zealous love for the Lord has always particularly inspired me and, as such, I was eager to be able to pray to them and ask their intercession.
2 – The Church of St. Francisco in Ripa
A second highlight of the week came about on one of my “free afternoon” treks around Rome – specifically at the Church of St. Francisco in Ripa, a church off the tourist-beaten path that houses, among other treasures, the room where St. Francis of Assisi stayed when he visited Rome. Fortunately, while I looked about the church, a sympathetic “guide” – whom I took to be the sacristan of the church and who was giving what seemed to be an impromptu tour of the church to two Spaniards – caught sight of me and invited me to join them on the tour. With them I was able to visit what was once St. Francis’ cell – a starkly simply room that contained the stone slab that served as Francis ‘bed” as well as the large stone that served as his pillow. Edifying, to say the least.
3 – Papal Audience
I don’t think any trip to Rome would be complete without the Wednesday Papal Audience. On a side note: thankfully, the Lord granted us rather cool weather for the audience, a welcome gift given that it can get pretty hot sitting in St. Peter’s Square under the bright Roman summer sun.
Of note for me in the Pope’s teaching during the audience was his mention of the importance that each person plays in the Church – how God needs each one of us to help accomplish his work of salvation. Thinking back on this, I realize now how guided the Pope’s words were – this since the audience coincided with the feast day of St. Josemaria. Indeed, although the Holy Father made no direct reference to St. Josemaria, it seemed to me that the Pope’s words very much echoed the vision that St. Josemaria had for Opus Dei, a vision that I think is of great importance in our times: that all might play an integral part in their varied stations in life and in their particular circumstances in helping to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
4 – Mass at St. Eugenio for the Feast of St. Josemaria Escriva
Yet another highlight of this week was the beautiful mass which we attended in San Eugenio in honor of St. Josemaria celebrated by the Prelate of Opus Dei. It was truly a blessing to be able to participate in this great feast in Rome with members of Opus Dei from across the globe. In a special way, I offered the mass in thanksgiving for the Rome Experience program and for all the members of Opus Dei, especially those priests who assisted in the program and the benefactors who made the Rome Experience possible.
5 – Mass at St. Peter’s with the Holy Father for the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul
Nothing could have been a more fitting finale to our time in Rome than mass at St. Peter’s with the Holy Father on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Not to mention that this particular mass was also the Pallium Mass, the mass in which the metropolitan archbishops from around the world receive the pallium – the wool vestment which they wear as a sign, not only of their episcopal authority as metropolitans but also of their union with the See of Peter. Needless to say, it was an incredibly unique and blessed experience.