“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.

Read the rest of this entry »


Reflections from the Rome Experience Class of 2013

July 11, 2013

Basilica of Saint Agnes_06
A Review of The Rome Experience 2013

Matthew Biedrzycki
Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

It is about 6:00 AM on July 2nd and we have just arrived at the airport ready to begin our last day of travel on the Rome Experience. Since we’d embarked on our journey several weeks earlier we had traversed three countries, a mountain range, numerous major pilgrimage sites in Western Christendom, basilica after basilica after basilica, the tombs of martyrs, saints, confessors, popes and even found time to stop, pray and even eat some pretty good food along the way. We attended a general audience with Pope Francis, had the chance to pray with him as he celebrated the mass and Sunday Angelus. On its face the Rome Experience appeared a success and not a few of us were looking forward to sharing what we had learned and experienced with family and friends as we returned to the states.

On this last day of travel we were blessed with the opportunity to have Mass at the airport before setting out for home. Father’s homily that day threw our last several weeks of travel, pilgrimage and study into new relief. As Father began the homily he commented on the good fortune we had of hearing the Gospel passage where the Apostles cry to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” because their boat seemed ready to sink (Mt 8:25). Father said that the passage highlighted not only the trust we ought to have in Jesus, but also the importance of cultivating that relationship with him and his Church which truly was the focus of this experience. He highlighted a few of the major places we had been and memories we had made and reminded us that they will fade in time but it is that relationship with Jesus Christ that truly saves us and makes us the loving sons that God desires us to be.

Read the rest of this entry »

June 15th: Feast of the Sacred Heart

June 15, 2012

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Praying today especially for our class of 2012 and the priests of the Rome Experience as they continue their journey in Europe!

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mt 6:21)

Retreat at Norcia — summer 2010

July 23, 2010

Beautiful countryside outside the town of Norcia


The following is part of a journal kept by Rome Experience seminarian Trent Schmidt, class of 2010, during the silent retreat at Norcia.  

“Today was the fourth day of our silent retreat.  Our first meditation was on the Mass and in particular how the Mass manifests our Lord’s great love for us.  As He told His disciples how greatly He has desired to eat this Passover with them, in the same way before every Mass he says the same thing to us. Because of this reality we are also privy to the same graces as the twelve apostles during every Mass.   

The second meditation of the day centered on the 15th chapter of John’s Gospel, (I am the vine and you are the branches,) which is an exhortation to be holy as He is holy.  We are to become like Christ.  But holiness comes at a price.  Its met with resistance, but the pain is about growth.  The Church was born from the wounded side of Christ, and our wounds can be joined to His.  

The third and final meditation of the day was on prayer –in particular the filial prayer Jesus had with God the Father as something we must incorporate into our prayer lives.  That relational commitment is integral in our noisy world, and can only be accomplished through time set aside daily for mental prayer .  How we are to best serve the people of God, practically and spiritually, will best be discerned in prayer.  

Fr. John Heisler also gave us a great talk that evening, on following Christ and living in the Holy Spirit.  He focused on practical ways we can incorporate the fruits of the Holy Spirit into our lives as priests, while strengthening their effectiveness in our ministry.” 

Scala Santa

September 10, 2009

Scala SanctaThe Scala Santa was a very consoling moment for me. Underneath these wooden steps are the marble steps of the Praetorium where Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. The tradition is to walk up the stairs on your knees and pray an Our Father on each step. I did this and I offered my prayers for my entire extended family. Along the way up the stairs, there are holes in the wood cut out so that pilgrims may touch and venerate the stairs our Lord once walked upon. That has been a consoling theme throughout many of the churches here in Rome: the relics of the Passion of Christ. I have venerated the True Cross upon which Jesus died; a nail that pierced his hand; a thorn from his crownof thorns; the pillar upon which he was scourged; and the headboard that says Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews). These are amazing artifacts, all from the Holy Land, that make the Faith come to life right in front of you.

-Ryan O’Neill

Eucharistic Miracle in Cascia

June 19, 2009

The other awesome thing in Cascia was this Eucharistic miracle.: a priest hastily stuck a communion host in between the pages of his breviary to take it to a sick person, but when he opened his breviary, the host had become a piece of flesh dripping blood. So it is now in this magnifying-glass-looking holder, and it still has the paper from the page of his breviary stuck to it from the blood. I was glad to learn that this is not held in as high esteem as the Eucharist, because it is not the living body and blood of Jesus. When we receive the Eucharist, we eat and drink the living body and blood of the resurrected Jesus.  This is still totally awesome! If I had any doubts about the Eucharist before, I feel much more faithful.

-Ryan O’Neill

Cascia Eucharistic miracle

%d bloggers like this: