Last night we all returned to Rome and shared the stories and graces from our personal travel.
We started the day early with a Mass in St Peter's Basilica. Our Rector Mgsr. Callaghan celebrated Mass at the tomb of Pope St. John XXIII, who opened the Second Vatican Council. In his homily Monsignor encouraged us as we approach the priesthood this spring to be as open to the Holy Spirit as was the good Pope. He also reflected that it didn't seem very long ago that he was ordained a priest in that very Basilica.
After breakfast and an espresso we walked to the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. Dicasteries are special offices in the Vatican (though not necessarily physically within the Vatican) which focus on particular areas of the Church's mission. After lunch we visited the Dicastery for the New Evangelization as well.
What struck me the most about these visits was seeing how these offices actually function. Too often we have this image of the Vatican as the huge, powerful, institution. And it's true that the Pope has the authority and the Fatherly duty to correct people who have fallen into theological error. However, the Vatican officials that we spoke to all stressed that it was not their job to force the Church to do this or that. Rather they are there to guide and facilitate the work God is already doing among his people. They couldn't point to any programs they were undertaking but they could tell us about the work men and women from around the world were doing to spread the Gospel. I think we all learned a lot.
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