“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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“Postcards” from the Class of 2014

June 9, 2014


I refer to the following three highlights as “The Triduum”:

Sunday, June 1, 2014
After going to Mass at a beautiful Franciscan church just to the side of St. Peter’s Basilica, I along with a few others went to the Regina Caeli led by the Holy Father at St. Peter’s Piazza. I have never been to Rome nor seen the Holy Father in person so I was excited to see the Pope – though not as much as I had anticipated. About five minutes before the Pope was scheduled to appear, I distanced myself from the group and began to pray on what is the significance of seeing the Pope in person is. (The fruit of this prayer is posted below.) Then, as he made his appearance from the window of the Papal Apartments, I found myself having to hold back the cheers I wanted to express for the Holy Father. I found myself with arms up welcoming the Holy Father as he looked at us from his window.

It was the solemnity of the Ascension and he spoke that day of God’s continual presence with us – in particular, he mentioned those persecuted Christians who suffer so much quietly. He asked us all gathered in the piazza if we believe that God is with us. He asked us this same question twice and then had us say out loud: “The Lord is with us!” The Pope also said that Christ offers his wounds to the Father and so we must do the same.

Monday, June 2, 2014
On Monday, Fr. Roger Landry from the diocese of Fall River, led us on tour in St. Peter’s Basilica. We had Mass in the crypt of the Basilica. While the whole morning was full of blessings, I particularly would like to share the experience of participating in the Scavi Tour. This tour is of the excavations that have been done under the structure of St. Peter’s. We walk through what was once the necropolis next to Nero’s Circus. The highlight of the whole tour is the sight of the bones of St. Peter. We stood about 10 feet from where they were returned (where they were originally located) after being examined after they were discovered. They are kept in a see-through container.

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Rome Experience 2010, day 14

November 27, 2010

Saturday, June 5

Today we split into two groups: one climbed a mountain with a cross on the top, the other stayed below.    They also hiked up to the site to which the monks are supposed to be moving:  an old Carmelite monastery on the side of a mountain overlooking Norcia.  It is nowhere near the cross at the peak,  but is a much quieter and more contemplative place for monastic life than in the city of Norcia proper.  Those who skipped the hike had, instead, an in-depth tour of the monastery where we assisted at Mass.    Climbing the mountain took about four hours, with a few breaks.  Once we reached the top, we had lunch and then we made our way down the mountain to get back in time for dinner.  It took about two hours to get down.  The view at the top was amazing.  You could see all of Norcia and some surrounding towns.  In the distance all around us we could see snowcapped mountains. 

Hikers tackle Mt. Pitino outside Norcia, Umbria, Italy

Rome Experience, day 3

November 8, 2010

May 25, 2010

from the journal of Adam Kerrigan:

 Unfortunately, I didn’t get much sleep last night.  Before I left for Italy, my mom not only raved about gelato, she also told me Europe does not have an insect problem. She recommended I leave the windows of my room open at night in order to “experience the cool Italian breeze”.  Following this advice resulted in my room and body being attacked by hundreds of mosquitoes. Common sense should have told me that where there is a river there are mosquitoes!  I probably slept for an hour, and rose the next morning covered in bites and smashed insects.

The Arno river flows past the church of Santa Croce, Florence

Although I only slept a little, I was ready to tour Florence. We were again led to Santa Croce, where we began our day with mental prayer. Santa Croce was at one time the second-largest building in the world, and its architecture and art are, as Jeff Gardner would say, “simply phenomenal,” not to mention the vaulted ceiling and high-rising walls reminded me of my home parish. After mental prayer and Mass, Dony led us on an extensive tour of the Franciscan Church during which we saw the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Lorenzo de’ Medici and even Machiavelli. I know why most of them were buried in a church, but Machiavelli still leaves me scratching my head.
After Santa Croce, we saw the Church of Philip Neri, and went to a former Benedictine Abbey with loads of frescoes and even the original Angelus painting. At twelve noon we gathered at the painting to pray the Angelus, which was a powerful experience. We also saw where Lorenzo de Medici, the most powerful man in the world, used to go on retreat. It was a small cell, with a stairway that led to a room with a cozy little chapel. In the chapel was the depiction of the rich young man, to remind Lorenzo that power in this world is not everything.

Jeff Gardner and Kevin Drew outside the Duomo in Florence, Italy

After visiting the museum, Dony took us to a socialist dining hall where rebellious art students convene —  the board of health would not have been pleased with this place.  Next, we visited Dony’s studio, where he showed us some of his Church projects and instructed us how to properly go about creating art with soul. It was an educational experience that gave me even greater respect for the young artist.
Dony took us to the Duomo later in the afternoon, and we had the chance to see what was at one time the largest building in the world. The Duomo is known for its massive dome and beautiful fresco of the Last Judgment. As soon as I saw the enormous structure I knew I had to find a way to the top. Thankfully, we made it just in time to scale the dome and see all of Florence from its cupola.
That night, we had dinner with seminarians from Florence. I expected them to be very different from seminarians in the United States, but they really weren’t.  Many of the personalities in the seminary mirrored the personalities of our group, and we had a wonderful dinner with them that consisted of pizza, spaghetti, wine, and of course gelato.

Rome Experience 2010, day 2

November 5, 2010

May 24, 2010
from the journal of seminarian Adam Kerrigan

 The sleep didn’t last long on the plane before I was awakened for breakfast by the stewardess.  Again, the Air France crew provided us with fine dining before we landed in Paris.  The plane landed without any problems and our dazed and confused group entered the Paris airport to wait on our flight to Florence, Italy.

The flight to Florence was very short –only about two hours. After we gathered our bags, we were rushed onto a bus that took us to our hotel, where we had about a half hour to get cleaned up before we began our tour of the city with local artist Dony MacManus. Dony has been diligently working to promote true Catholic art around the world. He has an unrivaled knowledge of the art and churches of Florence, so our group was very blessed to have him as our guide.

Artist Dony MacManus leads a tour of Santa Croce, Florence

First, we headed to Santa Croce, which is essentially the cemetery of the great names of the Renaissance. We were able to celebrate Mass in the side chapel, which was mind-blowing.  Like those in many Italian churches, the side chapel was very baroque, filled with gold, frescoes, and massive statues. I could have sat in that chapel for hours, but we only were allotted the time for Mass.

After Mass, Dony showed us the museum at the church. It was filled with many works that I had seen in my college art history books. Dony informed us that a great deal of Florence had been damaged by a massive flood in the 1960s. The water damage was evident in certain pieces, like the San Damiano crucifix, which was barely intact.

No walking tour of Florence is complete without gelato...

By then the group was pretty hungry, so Dony led us to the nearest stand offering gelato, which is the Italian version of ice cream. For years, I heard people rave about gelato and how it is so much better than ice cream because it is creamier and more natural. I have heard that it doesn’t cause any weight gain, can solve the world’s energy crisis, and can even be a cure for cancer. Let me tell you, I now believe that it can do all those things. It really is that good! After we finished our gelato, we dodged several gypsies, saw some major sculptures, and went back to the hotel for dinner and an early rest.

A spiritual pilgrimage

August 27, 2010

The Rome Experience is, above all, a spiritual pilgrimage.  Seminarians are given ample opportunity for prayer and reflection, frequently aided by some of the most beautiful artwork in Christendom, and in some of the holiest places on earth. Shown below:  seminarians pray after Mass in the Church of Santa Croce, Florence.

Praying after Mass in the church of Santa Croce, Florence, May 25, 2010

Retreat complete — time to hike and hang out

July 30, 2010

From Trent Schmidt’s Rome Experience journal, Day 9 

Hiking the countryside outside Norcia

A good stretch of the legs under the Umbrian sun


“Today the silent retreat ended.  It was a great period of reflection and contemplation, but I think everyone is ready to start sharing stories about what they experienced during the retreat and getting to know one another.  After Mass at 8 AM, we were given the rest of the day to explore the area and meet up again in the late afternoon.  Some guys hiked to an ancient monastery that the resident Benedictine monks are raising funds to get restored and inhabit once more.  Other people hiked a mountain on the other side of town.   Most of the guys did what it seems the locals do best — hang out, sip cappuccino, and enjoy the day!  It was a great way to end the retreat.”

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