Today was a free day where people chose from different options. Jeff went to Florence with a group of 10 pilgrims, while a bus of pilgrims headed to Pompeii with Emily and several others stayed in Rome with Fr. Walsh. Photos will post tomorrow!
We were very blessed with the opportunity to have mass right in front of St. Peter’s tomb in the Grotto area of St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world. The Basilica stands on the site of Nero’s circus where many Christians were martyred including St. Peter. Next we visited the Vatican Museums and saw its many treasures including countless marble sculptures, massive tapestries of scenes from the Bible and Church history and finally a long look at the Sistine Chapel, which was built in the 15th century as a private chapel for the Popes. There we viewed Michelangelo’s impressive frescoed ceiling and the fresco of the Last Judgment. We returned again to St. Peter’s Basilica to visit the famous white marble Pietà carved by Michelangelo at the age of twenty-five, We had a few moments to pray before the tomb of Blessed John Paul II. We ended the visit to St. Peter’s Square with a teaching by Jeff. Using the illustration of the Egyptian Obelisk of Augustus in the center of the Square, he contrasted the reign of Augustus to the Reign of Christ. Who do people come to worship in this place now? Caesar or Jesus Christ? The rest of the day was free for everyone to shop, relax or find a piazza or church to visit.
Today, on Divine Mercy Sunday, we were able to have mass at St. Mary of the Angels, a church designed by Michelangelo using the abandoned ruins of the Baths of Diocletian and transforming it into an amazing place for Christian worship. From there we began our walking tour through some of Rome’s most famous sights like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona which in antiquity was a stadium built by Domitian where many Christians were martyred. There is a statue of St. Agnes there. In the center of the piazza is the magnificent Fountain of Four Rivers sculpted by Bernini.
We ended up at St. Peter’s Square for a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI from his apartment window. After a break for lunch, we finished the afternoon with a trip to the Holy Staircase where we prayerfully ascended the stairs on our knees like millions of pilgrims before us. The Holy Staircase was brought to Rome from Jerusalem by St. Helena as it was understood to be the stairs upon which Jesus ascended when he was condemned to death by Pilate. It was a moving experience for many of us.
The day started early with a quick breakfast before boarding the bus to St. Mary Major, one of the four major Basilicas of Rome. There we celebrated mass. Christen Favorite, our cantor for the pilgrimage, sang the Ave Marie after communion. The acoustics of the church made her rendition spectacular. Next we visited another major basilica, St John’s in Lateran which has magnificent statues of the 12 Apostles. At the church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, we saw the display of the fragments of the Holy Cross found in Jerusalem by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine.
We visited another amazing church, St. Praxedes, which houses the remains of many of the Christian martyrs of the early centuries.
In the afternoon we toured Imperial Rome, visiting the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. Emily taught on the connections between the two Holy Cities, Rome and Jerusalem. The tour concluded with a visit to the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Chains, where we saw one of the masterpieces of Michelangelo, the famous statues of Moses. Jeff had the special opportunity to meet with his longtime friend, Cardinal Burk, who lives in Rome. Cardinal Burke has always been an inspiration to Jeff.
After a restful night’s sleep (for most of the pilgrims) and breakfast, we walked the short distance from our hotel to the Basilica of St. Mary of Angels for mass. Inside this huge church is the Porziuncola (a small church that was the headquarters for St. Francis and his order). Also located nearby within the large church is the Cappella del Transito where he died in 1226.
After mass, Jeff spoke about simplicity, explaining that it is not achieved by organizing our outer world, rather it comes by developing an inward relationship with Christ.
Next we walked through the picturesque old city of Assisi, visiting the Church of St. Clare, the main square and then to the Basilica of St. Francis, another huge church. This one is two levels, with the remains of St. Francis in a crypt below the church. The frescos on the walls depict the life of St. Francis and also the parallels between his life and Christ’s. After lunch and a bit of shopping, we visited the Hermitage, where St. Francis and his followers retreated to pray in solitude on the slopes of Mt. Subiaso. The main complex is built around the cave of St. Francis and was quite an experience for us to squeeze through the tiny doorways. We strolled through the woods along a path to a place where we stopped to meditate before returning to the hotel for dinner.
Everyone landed safely in Rome where we boarded two buses headed for Orvieto, a town high on a hill that we reached by cable car. After lunch and wandering through the midaeval style streets, we experienced a wonderful mass at the Duomo, a magnificent Cathedral that houses the very first Eucahristic Miracle. The Blessed Sacrament is kept in a special chapel for veneration where we spent some time reflecting upon the real presence of Christ.
Mass was held below the chapel in a crypt that contains the bones of St. Felix, a martyr of the 3rd century. From there we drove to Assisi for dinner and overnight.
Details are now ready for our pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, April 10-19, 2012! We are looking forward to an amazing time on this pilgrimage, with time to reflect on the simplicity of the life of St. Francis and then to explore the roots of our Catholic faith in Rome. Fuller details can be found on the brochure itinerary.
Hightlights will include:
* daily mass
* on-site teachings by Jeff, Emily and Fr. Walsh
* Pope Benedict XVI Papal Audience in St. Peter's Square
* reflection time in Assisi
* tour the catacombs, amazing churches, and historic Rome with optional travel to either Florence or Pompeii.
Pricing and full details can be found on the registration form and the brochure. To reserve your spot, send your $500 deposit per person and regstration form along with a copy of your passport face page to Golden Eagle Travel & Tours, 21250 Excelsior Blvd, Excelsior, MN 55331.
Our spiritual director for this pilgrimage is Fr. Chris Walsh, who has accompanied us to the Holy Land last January. Fr. Walsh has a gift of communication, spiritual sensitivity and a servant's heart, reflecting the humility of St. Francis. He has been on several pilgrimages around the world as well, so we look forward to his assistance.
We hope that you will be able to join us. Please feel free to call with any questions -- Emily at 763-420-1074 or email us at email@example.com.
God Bless--Jeff and Emily Cavins
We are putting together the details for a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi the week after Easter in the spring of 2012. Dates will be finalized soon! We will post the brochure and registration form here when details are ready. We will be using Bonnie Lane of Golden Eagle Travel and our spiritual director will be Fr. Chris Walsh from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who also accompanied us to the Holy Land in January 2011. He has traveled to Rome several times and is a joy to be around.
The focus for this pilgrimage is on the simplicity of St. Francis and we will spend two nights in Assisi and of course be in Rome for the papal audience. We will have daily mass, teachings by Jeff and insights into history and archaeology by the guides and by Emily who just finished her degree from the University of Minnesota in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology (and that includes Rome!)
We will also send out an email blast to those on our previous pilgrimage lists. If you wish to be included on the mailing, send your name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.