“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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Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith welcomes Rome Experience men

June 30, 2010

Kevin Hurley submitted this photo,  taken by Father Eric Nielsen on June 19, 2010, after the Rome Experience seminarians and faculty met with Fr. Steven Lopes at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  The Prefect of the CDF is Archbishop William Levada, appointed in 2005 to succeeed Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger — now the Holy Father — who held the position until he was elected pope.  As Prefect of the CDF, Levada acts as the principal defender of teachings of the Church.

Father Lopes, the archbishop’s secretary, is holding a white paper in the front row.

Rome Experience seminarians visit Fr. Steven Lopes at CDF

Vatican Radio tour and the importance of media evangelization

June 29, 2010

From seminarian Jeffrey Gardner:

On June 18th we toured St Peter’s, and then Vatican Radio.  St Peter’s was grace-filled, but I was moved by what I experienced at Vatican Radio.
    On the Vatican Radio tour, we saw a film on their history and got to meet a woman who works there — Charlotta Smeds.  She is from Sweden, came to Rome to study when she was 20, and then converted to Catholicism.  She is now the voice of Vatican Radio to Sweden. 

What really stuck me about Vatican Radio is that they may be the only form of evangelization many parts of the world receive.  For example, in some parts of the world,where the Church is not strongly present, many never get to attend Mass.  In fact, they may only ever participate in the Mass through what they hear on Vatican Radio.   This left me awestruck.  The things that I get to do every day in the US and in Rome — take part in the Mass and the Sacraments —  are unavailable to some of my Christian brothers and sisters, except in the form of a radio broadcast.  I can’t imagine how deep their faith must be;  they are sustained by the Church’s graces transmitted via radio waves!

    Charlotta told us about many of the letters Vatican Radio received after the fall of Communism in Europe.  Many of the letters spoke of how Christians behind the Iron Curtain gathered in secret around the radio to hear the pope speak on Vatican Radio broadcasts.  Vatican Radio was their lifeline, their connection to the graces of the Church.  We will never know how important Vatican Radio must have been in helping to bring down the Iron Curtain — I am sure it played no small part!
        We must never forget that we are called to evangelize the world to enable all God’s people to hear the beautiful news of the Gospel, and to touch God in the Sacraments of his Church.  Vatican Radio is a big part of this evangelization.

Vatican Radio -- lifeline to the world

Learn more about Vatican Radio at their website:


Rome Experience seminarians attend Wednesday audience: see video!

June 24, 2010

June 23, 2010. For the third week in a row, Benedict XVI dedicated his general audience to St. Thomas Aquinas.  The Pope cited Thomas’ work as a source of profound theological truths.  For video of the audience — attended by Rome Experience seminarians — click here:


Or was it 15,000? Let’s just say the place was packed!

June 23, 2010

From Brendan Johnson’s journal:

June 11, 2010
Today we had the Mass for the end of the Year of the Priest and it was an amazing sight!  There were about 15,000 priests concelebrating with the pope,  and thousands of other people besides – when the priests walked out after vesting, it took about an hour and a half for them to completely get out and fill up all of the seats and they arrived in very steady streams down the paths in St. Peter’s Square.

Again, the homily was in Italian, so we couldn’t understand everything that was said, but there were some good responses from those who could, so I’m excited about reading the homily when I get a chance. The only thing that was a little disappointing about the Mass was the number of people who randomly walked in and out of the section we were in. I think that more than a few of them thought that it was just a tourist attraction to watch the Catholics perform their rituals. I’m glad that they were able to stumble in and at least in a small way participate in the Mass – but it was surely heartbreaking to watch them in their ignorance.

After the Mass the pope drove right by where we were standing again and we were able to see him up close again, which was pretty neat. After the Mass we went for lunch at Santa Croce and then I went for an afternoon siesta (sometimes the Italians have great ideas!). After dinner we had a bit of a party for Fr. Heisler who was, unfortunately, leaving us to go back to the States to attend a conference for seminarian formators. It was a good time though – and a lot of good conversation.

A close look at the Holy Father

June 21, 2010

From Brendan Johnson’s journal:  June 10, 2010

Today was the vigil for the end of the Year of the Priest, so we went over to St. Peter’s at about 5 pm to try to get in as close as we could to see the Pope. We were able to get in the very front of the seminarian section and to see pretty well the stand where the presentations were and, eventually, where the pope was to be. He didn’t come in until about 9:30 but there were talks starting at about 8:30 pm.

The talks, I’m sure, were very good, but only a few of them were in English so I didn’t catch much of what was said.   At 9:30 pm when the pope came in, he drove right by where we were standing, so I was about ten feet away from him as he drove around before approaching the altar.  There, he answered questions from priests from all over the world. He answered in Italian, so again, I didn’t understand anything, but it was still really neat to have him answering these questions — and without his notes, too. 

 After the Q & A,  the Blessed Sacrament was brought in, and the pope presided over Adoration and Benediction, which was incredible! Everyone went down on their knees in St. Peter’s Square and went completely silent to receive Benediction.   After Benediction ended, we got back to Fraterna Domus (late), but the sisters let us in so that we could go to bed for a few hours to get back up for the Mass the next morning.

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