Rome. Rome. Rome. How my cousin lived in this city for an entire semester is beyond me. I was so over-stimulated and ready to find a secluded lake, after just 2 days!!
Despite my brain being almost unable to absorb anything else after day 2, it was an absolute trip of a lifetime and if I never get to go back, I would be just fine. I know that what I experienced was put in my path specifically, you wouldn’t believe how specific these things were, and that fills my heart with joy. So much joy.
The first day in Rome, well the first day was really a half day, was relaxing. The one and ONLY time I would ever described Rome as relaxing. After getting settled into some very nice hotel rooms (bed bug checked and free – this is a real concern, I’ll leave it at that) we got some late lunch/early dinner and the authentic Italian food was great! Then we had Mass and praise and worship at a nearby Church. And, that was it. Nothing too extravagant. Nice and easy introduction into the city. Of course, after sitting on a bus for 14+ hours, there wasn’t much energy in me to do much of anything.
The second day, we started out running, literally. We had to catch some public transportation and almost missed it. Our first stop was St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. Meaning, this Basilica when it was originally built, was built on top of St. Paul’s tomb because he had to be buried outside the walls of the city of Rome. This is also where the early Christians would gather together and pray/worship. After that we made our way to the Vatican to catch the Angelus with Papa Francesco, and a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, aka, the Vatican (kind of), by NAC Seminarians.
The Basilica was great, but probably my favorite part of this day was seeing one of the NAC Seminarians and experiencing the ocean completely disappear. These Seminarians know someone, who knows someone, who you know, or have met at some point or another. It was quite a beautiful to experience the big world, shrink to the Franciscan University Austria Program and a NAC Seminarian. Mind blown. Later that night we had dinner at the hotel, which we did every night, that’s a whole blog post itself. Then we made our way to Adoration and Confessions.
Day 3 – Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica at the altar with St. Peter’s original chair above the altar, walking tour of Rome with some amazing gelato, lunch, more city exploration, Vatican Museum and the day closed out with a NAC tour and praise and worship.
Day 4 – Mass at St. Mary Major, followed by another walking tour, lunch and time in Rome’s living room, and then back to the hotel for dinner and SLEEP!
Day 5 – Papal Audience (we had two of the kids with us get kissed by the Pope, it was surreal). These moments waiting to see the Pope, not a single one wasted. There were some students who spend the night at the Vatican Square and some who went at inhuman hours of the early morning to make sure we would have the seats we got. These seats allowed for these kids to sit on top of the barriers and have the chance to be kissed, Kissed, KISSED by the Pope (I still can’t believe it!). Of course, being the Americans we are, we were also the loudest group there. Other Americans knew we were Americans because we were so loud. Not kidding. After that experience, I visited St. John Lateran, Basilica di Santa Croce, and the Santa Scalla steps, Trevi Fountain and more gelato, Mass at Sts. Cosmas and Damian (Franciscan Friars main house in Rome, the Cardinals kicked us out of St. John Lateran, apparently, they get to pull rank? ;), and last dinner in Rome.
Some quick fun facts: at the Basilica di Santa Croce there are relics of Christ’s passion – pieces from the crown of thorns, his robe, cloth he was on the cross with, piece of the cross, and a (fancy photography name) image of the Shroud of Turin. This was the cloth he was wrapped in when he laid in the tomb, has an actual print of his face, and gives an idea of how tall he was, what his body structure was. Makes this man who we imagine and see images of, real. Jesus is real.
Also, St. John Lateran has a piece from the slab of the top of the table that the Last Supper was celebrated at. I could go on about all the other things we saw, but this post is already very long. I’ll just have tell you in person!
Then, the next day we woke up super early and made our way to Assisi where the last half of the week was spent. In the city of Peace.
As you can see, I remember very clearly a couple of moments throughout our days in Rome, but in trying to put this blog post together I had to look back at my journal to remember all that happened. Some things that happened in Assisi, I was remembering in Rome. It’s absolutely beautiful how these ten days were spent. Ten days of my life were spent in Italy, walking on average about 10 miles a day, kissing holy ground, walking on holy ground, seeing holy sites. 10 days were dedicated to praising the Lord with our voices, laughter, tears, silence, heartache, prayers, and anything else left in our hearts. It was a pilgrimage, within a 4-month pilgrimage. And, life it seemed, could never get any better.