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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Year of Faith Pilgrimage, Part 1: Rome

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Photos and Story by Phillip Sategna

Earlier this month, Bishop Wall led a pilgrimage to celebrate the Year of Faith. The trip consisted of four days in Rome and six days in the Holy Land. 

October 1, Day One

We visited St. Paul Outside the Walls. The basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine. It was built over the burial place of Saint Paul, where it was said that, after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial. Went to mass in St. Benedict’s Chapel of St. Paul. Saw ancient excavations of Roman times and the remains of the destroyed church. We took a break at a small cafe outside the church walls. St Paul’s Outside the Walls is one of Rome’s four ancient major basilicas or papal basilicas. The basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Peter’s and Saint Paul Outside the Walls; our guide explained how all these basilicas are extraterritorial properties of the Vatican.

St. Paul, similar to before his conversion, was hated by many Jews because they openly and publicly taught that Jesus was the Son of God. The Jews thought this was blasphemy against God and were more than willing to throw someone in jail over the issue. Ironically, Paul persecuted many people and put several of them in prison as well. As we all know, he gladly gave his life for Christ.

St. Paul was beheaded by the Romans around May or June 68 A.D. During his ministry the apostle Paul spent about a total of 5 1/2 to 6 years in prison. Archeological studies and excavations are still ongoing outside the walls of the basilica.

Our pilgrimage members were all blessed to celebrate mass in an area where we know St. Paul preached and wrote many of his letters.

Bishop Wall, assisted by Father Keller celebrated mass in St. Benedict’s Chapel. It was said that St. Benedict lived on this site when he came to Rome. The chapel was beautiful with a statue of St. Benedict behind the altar. The upper part of the main restored basilica has the painted medallions portraying all the popes from St. Peter to John Paul II.

After mass was celebrated, we took a bus tour on the way back to the hotel and saw the Paletine Hill, the Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of Rome. We also saw the remains of the Hippodrome where the Romans had horse races and chariot races. We saw the Tiber River and the only island in the river, the Isola Tiberina. It is where the word “isolation” comes from and also the word “quarantine” from quarnata (40) in Italian. Left there to die or heal for 40 days. Ponte Fabricius, built in 62 B.C. connects Rome to the island. This bridge is the oldest bridge in Rome.

We also saw Castel St. Angelo (the castle of the Popes where the Pope could go in time of danger). A wall with a narrow passage led from the Vatican to the castle. Pope Leo built the wall during his papacy because of the unstable times in Rome. The wall has narrow slits that line it. Our guide said it is just wide enough for one person to walk down.

October 2, Day Two:

We waited for the start of the Pope’s audience at 10:30. All the members of the pilgrimage ended up being spread out all over the grounds. Some had good locations and some had better ones. Four of us lucked out and were in the right place at the right time.

These photos speak for themselves. I said countless rosaries prior to coming to Rome that I would just get to see Pope Francis in person. The Blessed Mother did one better! The pope stopped exactly in front of Jeanne and me. The baby being kissed was with her mother right in front of us. I filmed it on my iPad until he stopped. The four of us who were standing there freaked out. Theresa was so excited she couldn’t get her phone to work. We were all screaming and then reality set in when he drove off and then we all started crying tears of joy!

This Pope is going to change our beloved Catholic Church in more ways than any of us can imagine. All of us on the pilgrimage will remember this day and this Pope for the rest of our lives. We were all blessed to be a part of it. These two photos don’t need any explanation. The smile on the Pope’s face tells it all.

How blessed for our Bishop Wall to be this close to the Pope and have the opportunity to meet him personally after the general audience. I told him not to wash his hand but he didn’t listen. He was seated in the second row with the other bishops and cardinals to the left of Pope Francis.

October 3, Day Three

Dominic and Nina Biava’s nephew, Christopher Bernabe who is from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, was being ordained, and we were allowed to be part of the Mass. It was a great experience for all of us – going to Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica!

After the Ordination Mass we went to the Vatican Museums. The photo on the left is the dome of St. Peter as seen from the Vatican Museums. Michelangelo designed the dome but his most famous creation outside of the Sistine Chapel is the photo on the right.

The Pieta showing Mary holding her crucified Son in her arms is the most photographed piece of art in St. Peter’s Basilica, this statue was carved from one single block of marble by Michelangelo. It took him 2 years to complete and he was only 21 years old. The statue was never behind glass until 1972 when a crazed Hungarian born geologist from Australia took out a hammer and started busting parts of the statue. Mary’s left arm was busted off as well as other pieces. Vatican officials used feather dusters to collect every single piece of the statue. It took a very, very long time to restore the statue. There is a video on You Tube that shows the attack and the subsequent painstaking process of repairing the Pieta. If you watch the video don’t pay attention to the subtitles at the bottom. It was done by a radical anti-Catholic group. That is why the beautiful statue is now behind thick glass and is very well guarded from the public so it can’t ever happen again.

We didn’t get a lot of time to look around St. Peter’s Basilica. The mass ran a little longer than expected, but the art work and the sculptures within the church are indescribable! I hope everyone who saw it for the first time had the same feelings that Jeanne and I had.

Next we visited the  Vatican Museums- the Sistine Chapel is a must-see. You are not allowed to take photos or videos of this chapel. It is where cardinals of the church meet after the death of a Pope to elect a new one, or in the case of Pope Francis, when the sitting Pope calls it quits. Many artists painted scenes in this room but the most famous is the ceiling painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. Our guide spent a lot of time explaining all the art work in the chapel. You need to buy a book to really appreciate what all you actually see when you enter this very historic and religious chapel.

We had a short explanation of the Colosseum by our guide and then we took a quick 20 minute walk throughout the structure. The Colosseum took eight years to build. It was finished in 80 A.D. We will never know how many Christians lost their lives here. Left here and traveled to St. Peter in Chains.

According to legend, when Pope Leo, was comparing the chains given to him to the chains of St. Peter’s final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together. The chains are kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the basilica (shown in the photo I took above). Saint Peter in Chains was first rebuilt on older foundations in 432–440 to house the relic of the chains that bound Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem, the episode called the Liberation of Saint Peter. The Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III), who received them as a gift from her mother, Aelia Eudocia, consort of Valentinian II, presented the chains to Pope Leo I. Aelia Eudocia had received these chains as a gift from Iuvenalis, bishop of Jerusalem.

San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) is a Roman Catholic titular church and minor basilica in Rome, Italy, best known for being the home of Michelangelo‘s statue of Moses (the photo above), part of the tomb of Pope Julius II. Our guide Rimon told us that Moses is depicted with horns, meaning “the radiance of the Lord”, due to the similarity in the Hebrew words for “beams of light” and “horns”. Rimon told us his kind of symbolism was common in early sacred art, and for an artist horns are easier to sculpt than rays of light.

We visited the Piazza Navona and spent a little time here before moving on to see the world famous Pantheon.

The Pantheon is a building in Rome, Italy, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus as a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome, and rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian about 126 AD.

Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 ft. This dome wouldn’t have been possible if the Romans hadn’t invented cement!

It is one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs”.

Our guide Louie told us the stresses in the dome were found to be substantially reduced by the use of successively less dense aggregate stones, such as small pots or pieces of pumice, in higher layers of the dome. Hidden chambers engineered within the rotunda form a sophisticated honeycomb structure. This reduced the weight of the roof, as did the elimination of the apex by means of the oculus which is shown above. Any water that comes through the oculus in the ceiling amazingly falls into the four holes in the above photo. This was the end of our third day in Rome.

October 4, Day Four

Capitoline Museum designed by Michelangelo. The statue is a copy of the original located in the museum. It is Marcus Aurelius. Michelangelo designed the piazza and both museums in the piazza. He also designed the massive steps that come up the hill from the streets below. They were very easy to walk up, very wide steps tilted as you go up Capitol Hill. Our group came through this area on our way to the ancient Forum.

The Arch has an inscription at the top the recalls an imperial tragedy (a murder). The other photo shows remnants of the treasury, Trajens Market, the Temple remains of Castor and Pollux (three columns by themselves in the center), remains of the Temple of Saturn (six column remains on the far right), and the Imperial Palace in the background (tall buildings with windows and doorways to the left of the trees).

We saw the world-famous Trevi Fountain, a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy, designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. Standing 86 ft. high and 161.3 ft. wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Legend has it if you throw a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain you will return to Rome. It worked for Jeanne and I. It is at the center of three streets converging on the fountain.

The Spanish Steps are a set of steps climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti. It is the widest staircase in Europe. It gets its name from the Spanish Embassy being in the area.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Rome but I think at this point everyone in our group was looking forward to going to the Holy Land.

Stay tuned for Part 2!


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