“Postcards” from the Class of 2014

June 10, 2014


Monday, 2 June: This morning we attended Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, followed by a tour of the basilica and the Vatican necropolis. We also had time to pray individually in the basilica, and I chose to do so in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. As I knelt before the tabernacle to pray Lauds, the opening verse for the first psalm (Psalm 84) gave perfect expression to my thoughts: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of hosts. My soul is longing and yearning, is yearning for the courts of the Lord.” Visiting the great churches and basilicas of Rome, one can easily fall into the role of the tourist, forgetting the spiritual significance of a site of pilgrimage. Here, in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord, surrounded by art and architecture by some of the greatest artists, such as Bernini, Borromini, and da Cortona, I was reminded before all else that this is the dwelling place of the Lord: Hic Domus Dei est et porta caeli (this is the House of God and gate of heaven). The magnificence and beauty of the art and architecture there serves this purpose: it is a noble space for the Sacred Liturgy and dwelling of the Lord, a fitting shrine for his saints (first and foremost in this great basilica, St. Peter the Apostle), and a testimony to our faith. This experience in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel shaped my travels to the numerous other basilicas and churches this week, reminding me of the primary spiritual purpose of these visits.

Tuesday, 3 June: Our schedule today included trips to the Catacombs of St. Callistus and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The highlight for me was a short visit that I made to the Basilica of St. Sebastian, about a ten minute walk from the Catacombs of St. Callistus. Since we were given some time to walk around, I decided to take an old road surrounded by the Roman countryside that lead to the Basilica of St. Sebastian. I thought to myself that the view from that road of the quiet country was a view shared by the early Christians as well as countless pilgrims to Rome throughout the centuries before the great urban sprawl of the twentieth century swallowed up the majority of the open land surrounding the old city walls. The peaceful silence of that walk served as a prayerful preparation for my pilgrimage to the Basilica and shrine of St. Sebastian. As the bodies of the martyrs had been removed from the catacombs and placed in the churches of Rome, it was good to be able to pray before the tomb of one of those great martyrs that had once rested in ancient catacombs.

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Reflections from the Rome Experience Class of 2013

June 11, 2013


Alexander Witt
Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

On June 5th, the Rome Experience 2013 visited the catacombs of Priscilla. The holy site is a former quarry used for burial of Christians between the second and fourth century. As we made our way through the early Christian graveyard, their plight is apparent. From her earliest years, the Catholic Church has been rejected. Though she is a beautiful flower, swollen with the nectar of eternal life, she has been, as Christ Himself told us we would be, a sign rejected (see John 15:21) relegated time and time again to the basement.

The metaphor of the Church as a flower is not an accident. From the time of Jesus until A.D. 319, the Church was denied those things which the world thought she needed in order to survive. There are three things that every plant needs to survive: sunlight, water, and care. If a plant is denied any of these things, the plant will wilt and eventually die. This is what the ancient Romans were attempting to do as they persecuted the early Christians.

They denied her the sun. Those who persecuted the Church in her earliest days thought that, if the Church of Jesus Christ was to be destroyed, they would have to scorn her presence in their everyday lives. The early Christians were rejected from society because of the love Christ instructed us to bear towards the weak and disenfranchised of society. Saint Anicius Boethius is a perfect example. He was a philosopher and an advisor to the King of the Ostrogoths. Soon in his career, because of the love for the downtrodden of society that he learned from Jesus, he began to oppose his fellow advisors who would often accuse the poor unjustly in order to advance themselves and their own careers. He was accused of treason because of his defense of the defenseless and died a martyr in A.D. 523. They sought to take away the sun from St. Anicius by keeping him from practicing his Catholicism in his daily life.

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Fr. Eric’s 2009 Rome Experience journal — Day 26

May 21, 2010

Friday, Day 26:  Rome

We took the 118 to the Catacombs of San Sebastian and got there a little before 10:00.  After the tour, we had Mass in the catacombs, a very moving experience.  The altar was well-prepared, but they had a clay chalice and paten for our use.  In the future, we might want to bring our own, of a little nobler quality.  We took the 218 back; as it turns out, it is a lot closer to San Sebastian.  That evening, everyone left for the vesper service opening the Year of the Priest.  Those wearing cassocks received better seating than those dressed in a clerical suit.  We returned to Fraterna Domus for dinner at 8, as the sisters agreed to serve dinner a little later than usual.

Year of the Priest begins with a service at St. Peter's Basilica

Rome Experience seminarians Ryan O'Neill and Samuel Morehead at St. Peter's

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