“Postcards” from the Class of 2014


Week 5 Highlights

The Top Five:

Coming to a City Near you: Pontifical Council for Family
This past Monday we had a conference with Fr. Bill Donovan from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He explained to us the work that is being done in the Archdiocese for the big gathering of families in September of 2015. Started by St. John Paul II, one of the main jobs of the Pontifical Council for Families is to host the “World Meeting of Families” once every three years. The last one to take place was in Milan 2012 where over one million people participated in the closing Mass. This is very exciting for us in the United States, as we will host this event that should draw pilgrims from all over the world. Having gone to World Youth Day in 2011, there is something very special in a gathering with people from all over the world. This event in our own backyard will grant us the opportunity to pray for the family. There is no problem if you are not excited, I may be excited enough for everyone in the country.

Brothers and Sisters
This past week a few of us were able to encounter the gift of fraternity in various different ways. Some of the seminarians studying at the NAC (Pontifical North American College) invited the three guys on the program from Florida to their weekly Florida Night. This night consisted of praying Night Prayer (Compline) and just hanging out together. It is a clear sign of a good time when time flies by. This past Saturday Dan Daza-Jaller (whom blogged last week) and I went to visit TreFontane. This is the place where it is said that St. Paul was martyred by beheading. His head proceeded to bounce three times and each time his head hit the ground a spring began to flow. On our way to TreFontane we encountered a group of Religious Sisters from all over South America, we began to speak to them and realized we were heading to the same spot. Not only did we get a great explanation of the actual church, but we were taken to a tiny grotto where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a man who was very anti-Catholic. There would have been no way for us to get to this Marian Shrine without having met these Sisters. I bring these stories up because one of the goals of the Rome Experience is to create and foster fraternity among us so as to continue this brotherhood in the priesthood (God willing). This fraternal friendship is not only exclusive for our brother priests but also for good and holy Religious Women. We truly encountered that it is very good when brethren dwell as one (Ps 133), especially in Rome.

The Holy Spirit works wonders in this place…
On Friday morning we were given the opportunity to tour and visit the Vatican Museums with one of our professors, Professor Dony McManus. The museums were beautiful and filled with people. However, when we got to the most famous and probably most crowded room I quickly forgot all about the art. In the Sistine Chapel, we are given the opportunity to contemplate creation, relive moments in the lives of Jesus and Moses, and prepare ourselves for the “Last Judgment.” When looking at that huge fresco painted by Michelangelo in the mid 1500s, my mind was taken to March of 2013. I thought to myself, “In this room men gathered together a little bit more than a year ago, and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit elected a humble servant of God, the Supreme Pontiff.” My mind could only travel so fast up and down the Last Judgment as to wonder what the Cardinals were thinking as they read the oath and looked up at that awe inspiring painting depicting the second coming of Christ. And then I thought of our dear Pontiff. What must have been going through his mind that the moment they were calling his name, IN THIS VERY ROOM! We had to leave, but I immediately went into St. Peter’s to pray for the Holy Father because if I got overwhelmed just thinking about it, imagine those who were actually there.

Beneath these signs are hidden, priceless things to sense forbidden.

The line above comes from the Sequence for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. This day was very special. In the Vatican, instead of celebrating this feast on Sunday, they celebrate it on Thursday. A group of us went down early enough with cassocks on and surplices in hand to be a part of the Papal Mass and Procession. What a beautiful Mass! Even though there were a few hundred people at Mass it was very prayerful. When the procession began, there could have easily been a few thousand people lining up the road from St. John Lateran to St. Mary Major. Again, it was very prayerful and very solemn. Every church we passed on the way to St. Mary Major rang their bells and had banners decorating their façade in honor of our Eucharistic Lord. When we got to St. Mary Major the Holy Father gave us benediction and the most beautiful celebration of Corpus Christi concluded. It is something out of this world to see the Vicar of Christ on Earth holding Christ in his hands.

7 Churches, 19 miles, 12 hours, No big deal.
This past Sunday we did something that traditionally is done on the Wednesday of Holy Week. After a very early Mass we began our pilgrimage. We visited St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, Sancta Croce in Gerusalemme, St. John Lateran, St. Sebastian, St. Paul Outside the Walls (traditionally these are the 7 churches), and Santa Maria in Trastevere. The experience was one of prayer, mortification and fraternity. At each church we would spend some time in prayer and moments of rest. We would also pray the rosary from one church to the next. We prayed the full rosary, all twenty decades, something I had only done once before. The day was possibly the most beautiful day we have had in Rome. Not a single cloud in the sky, a nice breeze blowing, and the sun brightening our day. Even though we did walk long stretches with a hot sun and little water and practically no food, we all held true to the golden rule of the Rome Experience: Thou shall not complain. I will make a confession here because I can complain sometimes, either aloud or to myself. Throughout these past five weeks, I have been making a conscious effort not to complain. I say this because it leads to the next point that made this pilgrimage awesome. I have noticed that these past weeks when I have not complained I have been able to share more with my brothers. The fraternity we built on this pilgrimage is one that will be with us until we die, and as one of the guys mentioned after the pilgrimage, it made us miss some of the men who did not come on the walk. Fraternity is sometimes not easy, but when given the opportunity strangers become friends, who then become brothers on the roads of Rome.


The Good type of Tired.

I offer this reflection on the good type of tired because I am pretty sure I can speak for the majority of the guys on the program when I say we are all feeling this. This good type of tired is one that affects one’s body but enriches and motivates the soul. For the most part when we retire to our rooms for the night we all have one goal in mind, get to bed as quickly as possible. I say this and mention it because of the nature of the Rome Experience. This program is wholesome. It encompasses all aspects of formation that we find in the seminary: human, spiritual, pastoral and intellectual. We have intellectual formation in the classes we take about Art and Architecture. We have pastoral formation in the simple things that make other people’s life easier or better, like cleaning after dinner or washing our clothes in the sink. Spiritual formation is made evident by our communal prayers and private devotions. Lastly, human formation is made known by opportunities for mortification, fraternity and planning our life. With all these elements working together as one unit, we work also. And at the end of a long day, when we get to bed we are tired, but it is the type of tired that makes us get back up and do it all over again.

Matthew Gomez
Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Miami
Rome Experience Class of 2014


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