Saturday, February 4, 2017

Back Home

After a wonderful canonical retreat in Assisi, we have all made it safely back to St. Paul, MN.  

Thank you so much to all who followed us on our journey in the Eternal City and kept us in your prayers.  It was greatly appreciated. 

Please continue to pray for us as we start our last semester before priestly ordination.  

"To all God's beloved in Rome (and all over the world), who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 1: 7

God bless. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 25th

We had another early morning walk to St Peter's this morning, this time to celebrate Mass at the altar of the tomb of St Peter. The altar is underneath the main floor in the grottos, surrounded by the tombs of popes.

Behind the altar you can see an Icon of Christ. This is from St Peter's first tomb, called the Trophy, built in the year 160A.D. Just a few feet below rest the bones of a Galilean fisherman and friend of Jesus, St Peter.

We also attended Evening Prayer with Pope Francis for the week of Christian Unity. Christian leaders from around the world joined the Holy Father for dialogue and prayer. Evening prayer was held at the tomb of St Paul. Peter and Paul, who were martyred on the same day, are the ones who brought the Gospel to Rome. They gave it a new foundation, made it an eternal city.
Tomb of St Paul

Which is why today was there perfect way to spend our last full day in Rome. Tomorrow we'll travel to Assisi for a week long silent retreat in order to prepare for our upcoming Ordinations. The blog will go dark until at least February 2nd. Until then, thanks for reading and please pray that we be good and holy priests of Jesus Christ.

January 24th

We started our day by having mass with Cardinal Harvey at St. Paul's Outside the Walls where St. Paul is buried. 

After some breakfast with the Cardinal we visited the Secretariat of State within the walls of the Vatican. This congregation takes care of two things: first, internal helps for the Pope (translations, helping prepare various speeches, answering letters and organizing the visits of various heads of state) second, they organize the Church's diplomatic relations.

They took us up on a terrace to get a unique view of St. Peter's Basilica and Square.

At the Secretariat of State

In the evening, we visited the rooms of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). We were able to celebrate Mass in the room where he died.

It is amazing to think about what one yes to Jesus can do.  Thanks to St. Ignatius's yes, the Jesuits evangelized the New World (including the America's). Many saints have come from the Jesuits and they have also given us our current Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Mass in St. Ignatius's Room

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 23rd

We started and ended our day at St Peter's Basilica. It's amazing to visit St. Peter's in the early morning. It's almost empty and there are priests at almost every altar praying the Mass. We were at one of the altars in the grotto under the Church. This chapel was dedicated to the Polish Church and Our Lady of Czestochowa.

After breakfast we had another class discussion on the mission of the Church. We're all gearing up for our final paper and exam for this J-Term.
Then in the afternoon we had another with art historian, Dr. Lev. This time we toured the Vatican Museums which is the fourth largest museum in the world. Walking from room to room we watched the evolution of art all leading up to the Sistine Chapel.

Everyone has heard of the Sistine Chapel and its famous ceiling but for many who visit it each year, the beautiful fresco is too much to take in. It's overwhelming, but yesterday we learned to read it and it was astounding. If you're interested here is a small slice of our afternoon:

We ended in St. Peter's, a church Michelangelo helped finish, in the words of his contact, "for room and board, and for the salvation of my soul."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 19th-20th

We took a train on the 19th to Montefiascone, a town northwest of Rome.  We spent the night at a seminary belonging to the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE). This is an order of religious priests dedicated to the missions.  They go to the places that other priests may not want to go. After dinner (which started at 9:30 pm), they sang songs from different countries (there are seminarians there from Italy, Germany, France, Ukraine, Ireland, Scotland and other countries as well).  We sang "Country Roads" for them to give them a taste of America.

An IVE seminarian from Scotland shares his testimony

It was inspiring to speak with these men and to learn what motivated them to be missionaries.  Some of the problems we face seem small compared to their challenges.  For example, one priest who spent some years in Syria had to face the martyrdom of many of his parishioners.  One of the priests of the community told us that we need to be crucified priests, priests who always show forth the love of Jesus. 

We spent Thursday night at the seminary and on Friday they took us to see a Eucharistic miracle.  In the middle ages, a priest from Prague was doubting Christ's true presence in the Eucharist so he was going to Italy to speak with the Pope about it. He said Mass along the way in a Church near the IVE seminary and the Host started to bleed (this Church still has the pieces of the altar with blood stains).The priest went to show the Pope what had happened. The Pope was so moved he asked St. Thomas Aquinas to compose prayers for a liturgy dedicated to the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.  This was the beginning of a feast that we celebrate every year, Corpus Christi.

We came back to Rome Friday night tired but joyful having encountered these men.

God bless you.

The SPS deacons along side some of the IVE seminarians

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 18th

We began this morning on a high note, a papal audience. We walked a few blocks to the Vatican and saved our seats (they go fast). A few hours later the crowd started cheering and Pope Francis walked to the front of the audience hall. He preached about the prophet Jonah and his Christ-like willingness to be thrown into the sea if it meant the others on the ship would survive. At the end the Pope blessed us and extended his blessing to all our friends and family've been blessed by the Pope!

Then we walked over to the North American College in Rome. We had pasta and fellowship with our brother seminarians who study here in Rome. Plus their rooftop terrace has the perfect view of St. Peter's for a group photo.

We split up after lunch. A few men were invited to an interview with Vatican radio about our month in Rome. Many others went shopping for liturgical goods we'll need after Ordination. Still others made various pilgrimages to Churches in the city.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January 17th

From inside the Catacombs

In the morning, we made a pilgrimage to some of the ancient Christian catacombs.  These underground catacombs were used as a way to burry the dead when space above ground was not available (the largest of the catacombs had 500,000 graves).  They are important for us spiritually because the early Christian martyrs were first buried in these catacombs.  A few of their names might be familiar to you: St. Cecilia, St. Sebastian, St. Philomena.

In the afternoon, we visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  This congregation works on doctrinal questions as well as on grave discipline issues in the Church (not an easy job!).  What impressed me most was hearing from two priests who work in this difficult department and witnessing their joy.  They told us to "keep our head against the tabernacle", in other words, to always stay close to Jesus in the Eucharist.  From Jesus comes all our joy even in the most difficult of assignments and situations.

In the evening, we visited the headquarters of Opus Dei.  We were able to have Mass in their chapel with the body of their founder, St. Jose Maria Escriva.  Opus Dei is dedicated to teaching the universal call to holiness, especially among lay people.  They stress that every situation can be sanctifying, whether that be family life or work life.  Holiness is never reserved for priests (or deacons)!  Holiness is for everyone.

God bless you.

A joke "secret passage way" at Opus Dei

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