Holy Father and Holy Apostle

popedoublebreastThe sun was rising over Rome as we passed through metal detectors in the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square and made our way towards excellent seats near the foot of the Basilica steps. We tried to keep warm in the crisp air. From the microphone next to the Pope’s chair, an American Monsignor welcomed all the pilgrim groups from the United States, including St. Mary of the Assumption, Upper Marlboro, Maryland!

Then the Pope arrived, passing in the popemobile just a few feet from our seats. By this time the sun had climbed high into the sky. We were surrounded by a large group of Bavarians on one side and Polish on the other. The Holy Father was greeted with cheers and singing in many languages.

Pope Benedict talked to us about St. Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. We chanted the Our Father with him in Latin. Then he gave us his blessing.

St. Paul Outside the Walls
St. Paul Outside the Walls
After the General Audience, Fr. Gus DiNoia welcomed us into the meeting hall of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This is where Pope Benedict conducted meetings for over twenty years when he was the Cardinal Prefect. The offices of this dicastery (ie., department of the Roman Curia) are in the “Holy Office” building, right next to St. Peter’s.

This afternoon, we visited the Catacombs of St. Domatilla. Then we made our way to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

All of us were rendered speechless by the splendor of the church, and by the fact that we had reached the tomb of the Apostle of the Gentiles. We toured the church, admiring many beautiful adornments, including the portraits of all the Popes since St. Peter.

Interior of the Basilica
Interior of the Basilica
We celebrated Holy Mass in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. Then we made our personal visits to St. Paul’s tomb.

I have been to this holy place before. But this year is special: the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul’s birth. A new set of doors has been installed on the left side of the entrance, the Holy Doors for the Pauline Year. They are painted with the scenes of St. Paul’s conversion and martyrdom and marked with the following incription in Greek and Latin: “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.”

All Roads Lead to…

s-maria-maggGreetings to you from the neighborhood of Santa Maria Maggiore. After an afternoon stop in Orvieto, we have arrived in Rome.

We had a beautiful morning in Assisi to bid a bittersweet goodbye to Sts. Francis and Clare. Yours truly took advantage of the nearby friary full of Franciscan priests, and I went to Confession.

I don’t think any of us really wanted to leave Assisi, but we got on the bus anyway, because we are on a mission from God to get to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to see the Pope.

Orvieto funicular
Orvieto funicular
We reached Orvieto at mid-day. The roads up to the ancient hilltop city are closed to outside traffic. So we traveled by funicular up to see the magnificent medieval Duomo. We explored the town and lunched. Then we had Holy Mass in the crypt of the cathedral, surrounded by the tombs of four bishops.

Our hotel here in Rome is two blocks from the Papal Basilica of the Blessed Virgin, where we will have Mass on Friday. Tomorrow morning we will go to St. Peter’s Square to see Pope Benedict.

Then we will go to the Holy Office. Not because I have been called in for questioning. An old friend of mine works there, and he wants to show us the place.

After lunch, we will visit the catacombs. Then we will go to the tomb of St. Paul, at his Basilica “Outside the Walls”—ie., south of the walls of the ancient city. We will celebrate the Holy Mass there.

The Holy Office, seen through the colonnade of St. Peter's Square
The Holy Office, seen through the colonnade of St. Peter's Square
I wish I had more snapshots to show you. Our photographers have been working hard to provide nice pictures for these posts.

Unfortunately, computers do not work the way they are supposed to work. They bait and switch. It is unlikely that we will be able to have any more snapshots. It IS likely that I will throw my laptop out of the third floor window of this hotel.

These posts will not be enjoyable without snapshots. This blog is becoming lame. I am sorry.

Count on our prayers for you, though, at the tombs of the Holy Apostles.

FILES-VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCETomorrow, when we receive the Pope’s blessing, he will be blessing all those we represent, too–the entire parish of St. Mary of the Assumption and the whole loyal readership of P & BD.