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Rome: Day 3

November 6, 2012

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Today was a day of rest, relatively speaking. That is to say we actually got a much needed nap this afternoon to reenergize us for the second part of our Pilgrimage.

We woke up early and arrived at St. Peter’s Basilica just before 7:00a.m. Promptly on the hour the bells of St. Peters rang out as the doors swung open, permitting the entry of about one hundred pilgrims who arrived early for Mass.

We rushed inside, taking in the grandeur of St. Peter’s for the first time. I was struck by the image of Michelangelo’s Pieta, but as I slowed to take it in I was almost trampled by my fellow pilgrims who rushed to the first chapel on the right side of the church. Curiously, I followed, only to notice the altar of the chapel read “Johannes Pavlvvs II,” the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Our party scanned from altar to altar, looking for a priest celebrating Mass in English. We ended up celebrating in Italian at the tomb of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and rebuilder of Rome. Afterwards, we walked back to the sacristy to ask if we could reserve a chapel for Fr. Jorge to celebrate Mass later in the week.

The master scheduler asked, “you want chapel right now? We looked at each other with a smile and were soon being led down into the crypts below St. Peter’s, many of which are used as chapels. Walking through the corridors, one after another, we took in the sounds of the liturgy being celebrated in many languages. Some were speaking, others singing and chanting, but all were united in a message of praise. There was no experience that could have proven it more clearly, this is the home of the church. It is where her people of every place, language and culture become one. And it is beautiful.

This is the unity I wrote about on the journey over, the unity I longed to experience. This is the visible sign on earth that the legacy of human disunity is conquered, like death, by Christ.

Other thoughts for the day:
Once again, Fr. Jorge led us in a beautiful Mass. He reminded us that the call to Holiness is not always comfortable, that sometimes its painful as we lay aside our own will to do the will of God. But, it is good. Such a beautiful reminder.

We shared many more laughs today in our various experiences today. My favorite… As we climbed the 200+ stairs to the top of the tower at St. Peter’s a sign marked the progress of having reached the top of St. Veronica’s column. Without hesitation Father bursts out, “you know, there used to be a towel here for people to wipe off the sweat from the climb” (if you don’t get it, Wikipedia St. Veronica). I would have laughed even harder if I was able to catch my breath from the climb.

I am going to miss Italian Cappuccinos when this trip is over. Starbucks is no longer an acceptable option.

As I walked out of the fortress of Sant’Angelo I saw two little kids running towards me that reminded me of Lincoln and Lorelei. All is well back home but I’m definitely missing my family.

Speaking of family: my wife informed me that the fountain in the picture from the Rome: Day 1 post makes me look like Yoda. Agree, I do. So awesome. Thanks again for that, Michelle. It’s been shared with all the guys in our party and I’ll not soon live it down!

We’ll be back at Saint Peter’s for Mass in the morning and I’m willing to bet we still don’t have an outcome to the election. I’m praying for unity back home. Please email me at cwilliston@gmail.com if you have other special intentions that I can keep in prayer.

Buena note and may God Bless all who are following along on this journey with me!

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