“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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“Postcards” from the Class of 2014

June 4, 2014



May 28th: Today, after having a retreat that was filled with graces from the Holy Spirit, we left Ars, France for Rome. When we arrived in Rome and saw St. Peter’s Basilica we were all taken back by the beauty that the heart of the Church has to offer. It is truly a blessing that we are all able to study here in Rome and learn about our future bride in the heart of the eternal city.

May 29th: We had our first day of class today in Human Virtues for Priestly Fatherhood taught by Fr. Robert Gahl. In this class Fr. Gahl does a beautiful job of explaining the necessity for our priests to be holy fathers in order to serve our broken culture and help bring the faithful to holiness to which we are all called.
In the evening we went to the North American College and celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension with all of the men who are studding to be priests there. It was a great celebration and we all had the opportunity to see some old friends and share in fraternity.

May 30th: We finished our class on Human Virtues for Priestly Fatherhood and then in the afternoon most of us met with our spiritual directors. It is great to be able to go to spiritual direction on The Rome Experience to help us integrate everything from what we are leaning in classes, our prayer lives and all of the different experiences that we are having here in the eternal city. Spiritual direction helps us to see how God wants us to be formed through these experiences, and allows us to stay close to Him.

May 31st: Today we had the opportunity to have an audience with His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke who is the head of the Apostolic Signatura. He took time out of his schedule to explain to us what happens at the Signatura, how annulments and other marriage cases are handled as well as how the tribunals go about addressing cases. Cardinal Burke stressed how important it is to uphold the justice that everybody is entitled to especially when these very difficult cases are being reviewed.
After our audience with the Cardinal we all had the opportunity to explore Rome a bit more. Most of us were able to visit different churches and basilicas. So far our time in Rome has been eye opening to all of the blessings that God has and is continuing to give us.

June 1st: Today most of us had the opportunity to go and attend one of the Masses in St. Peters Basilica. It was awesome to be in the very heart of the Church while the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was being offered. It was a reminder as to why we are here in Rome. We are here to be formed to be the best priests that God is calling us to be. To be in the same place where so many saints and popes have been before was awe-inspiring.

At noon we all had the opportunity to see the pope at his Angelus address. For most of us it was the first time seeing him in person. It was great to be able to pray with our father in the faith in the heart of the Church with thousands of others. God has truly blessed us men on the Rome Experience for this I am truly grateful.

REFLECTION: God has given us many different blessings and some crosses in our lives. Both of these are opportunities to be grateful because both lead us closer to Him. I think we need to take more time out of our day to thank God for all that He has so generously given to us.

Adam Bradley
Seminarian for the Diocese of Green Bay
Rome Experience Class of 2014

Reflections from the Rome Experience Class of 2013

June 26, 2013

matthew caravaggio

A Summary of Week 5: June 16-22
Curtis Miller
Seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington

This past Sunday, many of us were blessed to be able to attend a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, celebrated by Pope Francis. One of our program’s spiritual directors, Fr. Christopher Mahar, was even able to concelebrate with the Holy Father and to speak with him after Mass. It was a very hot day in the square, dotted with parasols, fluttering makeshift fans, and officials distributing water bottles. Yet the 200,000 of the faithful seemed to forget the heat when Pope Francis entered the square on the Popemobile. As he made his way through the crowds, Francis seemed to greet every pilgrim personally. Indeed, he often stopped to individually bless the sick or disabled, vividly exemplifying pastoral charity as well as reminding us of the dignity of every human life as a gift of God. In his homily, our Holy Father preached on this theme explicitly, reminding us that God is the source of our life. “Following God’s way leads to life, while following idols leads to death,” he warned. When we set up rivals to God, we stifle our own lives in the process. However, this is not the final word of the story because “God, the Living One, is merciful.” To stress the importance of this point, Francis led the whole crowd in repeating it three times during one memorable moment. In forgiving our sins, the Pope concluded, God gives us His gift of life anew.

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Reflections from the Rome Experience Class of 2013

June 10, 2013



Darrell Kostiha
Seminarian for the Diocese of Austin

Top Five Highlights of “Week 3”

1. First highlight would be the opportunity to go to the baths in Lourdes, France, so much so that not even the cold water and the fact the attendant looked at me funny because I was wearing thermal underwear could take away the joy of the experience.

2. Being in Ars, France and the surrounding French countryside which was beautiful and very peaceful and reminded me a lot of Westphalia, Texas my home.

3. Simply having St. Peter’s in our backyard!

4. Visiting the churches in Rome with Doni from Florence whose expertise helped in finding the churches, but also his artistic knowledge was influential in gaining more insight into what we were seeing.

5. Talking to the Swiss guards next to St. Peter’s with Tom Gignac about being able to visit St. Stephen’s behind St. Peter’s, and the response that I needed to be an employee at the Vatican, so I replied that I guess I need to fill out an application for a job (hit him on the shoulder laughingly). He said come back tomorrow in the daylight and talk to Swiss guards as maybe then it would be possible to see.

Reflection “On Being on The Rome Experience”:

I think personally some of the greatest joy I have received on this trip has come from interactions with people whether in France or here in Rome. Although what we are seeing has truly been breathtaking I would have to say that being able to walk around in clerics and talk to people of a different language and nationality has been profoundly inspiring in the sense that they truly seem open to conversing with you. However, I do believe that the Italians love seeing someone from Texas and that helps (accent) I suppose, but wearing clerical attire does help in striking up conversations with complete strangers, and the “marvelous exchange” between the ‘I’ and the ‘thou’ truly makes God feel present and makes present the universality of the Church and its mission to protect love.

Rome Experience 2010, day 10

November 12, 2010

June 1st, 2010 — from the Rome Experience journal of Jeffrey Gardner

Day Ten started with morning mental prayer in the house chapel at the Monastery di S. Antonio in Norcia, followed by breakfast that consisted of coffee, rolls/bread, jams, juices and the world’s best honey.

            All Rome Experience days were special, but this was a bit more so because we were going to Assisi, Italy — St. Francis’ home town! The ride through the Italian mountain country was breathtaking!  The roads are wide and comfortable – no real danger of going off the road – but in many places, the mountain ascends sharply on one side of the road, while descending quickly to a beautiful mountain stream on the other side.  Interestingly, we drove through one mountain tunnel that was 4000 meters long, or approximately 3 miles.   

Rome Experience seminarians in the mountain town of Assisi, June 2010

             Once we got on the highway, the landscape opened up, and we could see beautiful mountains, lush green valleys and cities built along cliffs.  The first stop was the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Our Lady of the Angels) that rests in the valley below the sparkling city of Assisi.  The basilica is quite beautiful on its own, but the real beauty of is that it houses the little church in which St Francis died — the Porziuncola Chapel. The basilica is so big that it comfortably houses the chapel, which is about the size of a one-room schoolhouse. I think these two are the most beautiful of all the churches, other than St Peter’s, that I have seen in Italy.

            After the stop at Our Lady of the Angels, we rode the bus the short distance to Assisi and immediately went into the Basilica of St Francis.   You feel the real presence of St Francis in the basilica — even more so as you roam around Assisi!  As you walk these narrow, brick-lined streets you get a sense of what the saint saw and how he lived.  You can pray in churches where he prayed, eat lunch in the public meeting area called the Piazza Commune where Francis and his followers met, and tour Francis’ house and the room in which he was born.  Assisi is a must for any Catholic visiting Italy.

Pallium Mass impresses

July 8, 2010

Photo and story submitted by Jason Keas on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul Apostles, June 29, 2010    

“This is a picture of us this morning at the Pallium mass.   This morning, we woke up and, while sacrificing breakfast, stood in line for the Pallium mass.  We got in line around 7 AM.  The gates opened at 8 AM for a 9:30 mass.   We got good seats, though we were all spread around.   I was about seven rows back in the open seating section.   Other seminarians got to sit much closer, and some have some good stories about getting in closer. It was great to experience a mass inside St. Peter’s, and to see 38 bishops receive the pallium.”    

Ready to line up early for the Pallium Mass, June 29, 2010


Pictured above, left to right:  seminarians Kevin Drew, Erik Bakk, John Hammond, Brendan Johnson, Jason Keas, and Rome Experience faculty member Fr. Eric Nielsen.   

To give an idea of just how packed it was and why it was necessary to line up two-and-a-half hours in advance, here is video from the mass:  http://www.catholictv.com/Pallium-Mass.aspx

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