Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 9- "This is the tale of Captain Jack Sparrow"

To first explain today's title... It's a Lonely Island video from SNL that we've been singing ALL WEEK LONG. To check it out, click here. WARNING: It's pretty vulgar at some parts (although not the parts we were singing... gosh, we're not THAT trashy!).

So we woke up bright and early for breakfast and were on our way at 8:00 to head to Fiumicino Airport. We said our goodbyes to Fr. Frank when we got there and headed through security (which was the loosest I;ve ever seen). Heck, they didn't even really check our passports. A couple of them weren't even opened. Fr. Kyle, on the other hand, spent the whole day being questioned...
"Where are you going?"
"I'm sorry?"

At any rate, the trip was uneventful, albeit way too long. We were all ready to be home by the time we got to Heathrow. Too bad we had another 8 hours until we landed in Baltimore!! haha...

So this trip has been absolutely incredible. It was worth bleeding out most of my bank account, because this was seriously the trip of a lifetime. Even with the bumps along the way, everyone got along and had an excellent time. It was certainly a holy pilgrimage, since we visited so many famous religious sites. But besides that, we had a lot of fun and enjoyed the fraternity. Hey, all 9 of us are Knights of Columbus... fraternity is what we do!

Special shout-out to the Padres for making this trip awesome. To Fr. Kyle, for facilitating the planning (especially in the earlier, formative period of planning). To Fr. Frank, for being our leader and tour guide for the week, as well as arranging our lodging and showing us the true face of Pallottine hospitality.

And to all the guys, thank you for making this trip so much fun. It's hands-down the best vacation I've ever been on and I'm blessed to have shared this experience with you. Until next time, brothers, Ciao!

Day 8- "Regina coeli, laetare, Alleluia!"

So, we got up bright and early, powered our way over to St. Peter's for Mass at the Altar of the Chair (of Peter), only to find the security line going around the entire Piazza. Talk about frustrating! They were all tour groups anyway... what about the actual pilgrims who want to GO TO MASS? You know, it's only the most integral part of Catholic worship at the most famous Catholic church. No big deal...

Once we got over the frustration at the Italian security guards (because you KNOW the Swiss Guard would've thought to have a special Mass entrance. DUH!), we went around the side to check out the JP II exhibit. They had a lot of his quotes and photos on the walls, along with plenty of videos and lots of neat items from his life. We got to see his various vestments (from deacon all the way up to Pope), his hiking gear, skis, and (much to David's excitement), the cross used at World Youth Day. Among the videos were short but still jarring clip of when he was shot in the Piazza, as well as a longer one of the last few years of his life as his health failed. Overall, an excellent tribute to the life of such an influential and beloved (Blessed!) Pope.

Blessed JPII's crosier and vestments (from the Jubilee celebration, I believe)

The world-renowned Papal shoes

Chris and Matt chilling in the shade of the basilica

We staked out the perfect spot fore the Sunday Angelus: On the opposite side of the Pizza, in the shade of the columns. We had a great view of His (tiny German) Holiness from up in the residence. The whole thing lasted only 10 or 15 minutes, and was exponentially more bearable than the Wednesday audience. And, as before, we completely missed the English portion of his address (because of his thick German accent), which was something to the effect of "May ze Almighty Fazer bless you!"

"Look, it's-a de Pope!"

Papa Benny greets his flock

Somehow, we ran into one of the Polish Pallottine sisters, as well as the guys we had lunch with at the NAC. It must be nice, being so close to the Vatican for that stuff!

The afternoon was very low-key and relaxed. Vince and Chris went out to Ostia (beachfront suburb of Rome) to visit some family Vince has there. Dan rested up at the house, recovering from being ill the day before. The rest of us went with the Padres to the church of San Silvestro, where they were to say Mass for a group there.

On the way, we popped into one of my favorite churches of the week: one dedicated to St. Andrew, my patron :-D Behind the altar, and around the apse, were beautiful paintings of Andrew's martyrdom. I just really liked it because it was my boy Andrew. ;-D

Yeah, this whole church is dedicated to St. Andrew. Awesome!

Even just walking down the street, you'll pass a random piazza that's full of excavated ruins.

We also popped into the Gesu so Fr. Kyle could visit... he wasn't with us a few days ago when we went the first time. But it was a good thing we went inside, because they were having a concert in the church when we walked in! So we were treated to a nice 20-minute choral concert in an absolutely beautiful place... what a way to spend part of our last day in Rome! I felt just about in heaven.

Choral concert in the Gesu. PTL!

San Silvestro is, go figure, another beautiful Roman church. This one is currently run by the Pallottines, which is why we were going there in the first place. It's a very old church, over 1000 years old in its original form. There's an excavation beneath the sanctuary and part of the congregation, where 8 popes are buried. They also have the relics of Pope St. Silvester, as well as one of the 3 heads of St. John the Baptist.

Facade of San Silvestro

Heading inside with the Padres, getting ready for Mass

It was like stepping back in time into the more ancient times of the Eternal City. Woah!

Explanation on that: 3 churches claim to have St. John's severed head. That being said, the skull at San Silvestro seems to be the most likely real one, since they also have a reliquary matching the descriptions from some old documents about the skull.

The most-likely-true head of St. John the Baptist
The sanctuary of San Silvestro

Looking up into the church from down in the crypt

REALLY old fresco of Jesus and the Apostles, also down in the crypt

We had Mass with a cute group of Filipinos living in Rome, complete with the folk-y Filipino church choir. After Mass, the rector, Fr. Fitzpatrick (a witty Irishman who was in fine form, boy-o!), took us upstairs to their house. It's a shared community between Pallottines and Augustinians. We sat down there for a good long while, chatting with them and sipping on a few bottles of wine and some cheese.

We managed to meet up with the rest of the group for our final dinner in Rome. We went to another place by Compo de Fiori (I think), which was stellar. The food was well-priced and FANTASTIC! Since it was our last night, most of us did 2 courses. I went for the traditional Roman dishes of Norcina and Osso Bucco. YUM! For dessert, I had some great Tiramisu. We topped dinner off with some Sambuca, as well as a celebratory round of Grappa.

So, tomorrow we head home. Sigh.... I'm going to miss this place.

Day 7- "Pictures with the sisters!"

Today was the best morning ever—we finally got to sleep in! It was exactly what we needed, after a full week of early mornings and late nights. Gave us all plenty of time to recharge.

After meeting everyone in the lounge for coffee, I went for a walk into town with Frs. Kyle and Frank, Dan, Nick, Chris, and David. We visited the Pantheon first, which was very Romanesque. It was kind of a requirement of us going to Rome in the first place. It used to be a Roman temple, but it’s since been converted into a really nice, old-looking church.

Next, we stopped at a nearby church (the Gesu) where St. Ignatius of Loyola is buried. As with all other Roman churches, it’s beautiful. There’s a huge fresco on the ceiling that was made with the appearance that it’s spilling right out of its gold frame. Really well-done artwork. The church also houses the arm of St. Francis Xavier. Apparently, that’s all of his remains that could easily be brought back from the Holy Land after he was martyred.

Leave it to the Jesuits to make a beautiful shrine to their founder!

I LOVE this fresco. It's just jumping out of the framing... literally.

Once we got back to the house, we had Mass in the main church at the Generalate, where St. Vincent’s incorrupt body is kept in a glass coffin beneath the altar. After Mass, Fr. Frank gave us the long version of the Pallottine story, which was all very interesting. The Pallottines do a lot of really good work within the Church. Apparently, their church has been around for a LONG time and many improvements have been made since St. Vincent took over care of the place. One neat thing they have there is an infant Christ that was used in the original Vatican manger scene at Christmas time. Go Pallottines!

The alter in the Generalate

There's St. Vincent Pallotti. And that's what an incorrupt body looks like.

Fr. Frank in "Teaching Mode"

Giving us some more fun facts about the Pallottines

Ah yes, we're still in the Easter season! Alleluia!

Jesus Christ, FTW!

We had lunch with the community, including a group of the sisters who came for an end-of-the-year celebration. Afterward, we went upstairs to meet the rector general of the Pallottines, which was great. He’s a very pleasant and holy individual, and it was nice to be able to meet the man who offered us such great hospitality.

Us with the sisters, just before Mass

After lunch, we hopped on the bus and took a ride over to St. Paul Outside the Walls, the 4th and final patriarchal basilica. Most of it was rebuilt within the past 200 years, so it's fairly new for Roman standards. Again, a lot of it was burned down back in the day and, coincidentally, the fire stopped at St. Paul's tomb. Yeah, that''s right. St. Paul, the persecutor turned evangelist, is buried there. Just one more saint to add to the list of tombs we prayed in front of... what a week!

The basilica itself is really nice; I liked it a lot mostly for the cool courtyard in the front (with a huge statue of St. Paul) and the fact that it was actually quiet enough to pray in peace. Since it's "outside the walls" of Rome, it's off the beaten path for non-pilgrim tourists. Thus, the folks who were actually visiting were there for religious reasons. For the win!

Giant statue of St. Paul

San Paolo, defending Christ's Church

The Holy Door, opened only on Jubilee Years

Another neat feature here are the mosaics. The most obvious is the Popes. Each pope, from Peter all the way to Benedict XVI, has a circular mosaic portrait somewhere along the top of the wall. Additionally, there's a beautiful (and very old) gilded mosaic in the very back that has Jesus, the Apostles, and St. Paul. It's kind of eastern-styled, which adds something a little unique to this church.

The chains that bound St. Paul

Matt, stopping for a prayer in the St. Benedict shrine

Jesus and the posse, in all their gilded glory!

St. Paul's also has a great gift shop and cafe. They're fairly new and sit atop some excavations, which have revealed some of the original foundations and such from the old basilica. The cute baristas made an excellent cappuccino and pie. And the gift shop was like a college pilgrim's gift shop Holy of Holies... among various books and religious items, there was a whole wall of booze and candy made by the Franciscan and Benedictine monks/abbots who live in the monastery attached to the basilica. We purchased some absynth to try out later on...

Excavations of the original basilica

We headed back to the house by way of the Circus Maximus. Check off another ancient Roman must-see! That's the great thing about Rome... everywhere you go, there are ruins and churches. It's a great combination of holiness and rich history. Love it!

Yeah, that's right. THE Circus Maximus!

We also stopped into a smaller (and very old) church that appeared to be run by the Byzantine Rite called Santa Maria in Consmedin. Outside the church is La Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth). The legend is that, if you stick your hand in the Mouth and you're a liar, it will bite off your hand. Lovely thought, no?
The Byzantine church where Emperor Hadrian is buried

The outside... the Mouth is behind the gate on the left side
Dinner wasn't the BEST of all week, but it was still excellent. We went to a place near the Compo de Fiori and met up with Chris Seith, the youngest of the UMD alumni and DC seminarians studying at the NAC. We had a great time, as always, sharing a delicious Italian meal. As our custom seemed to have become, we stopped for gelato on the way home.

Another church. No idea of the name, but it's near the Compo de Fiori. And it's known for its mosaics.

The mosaics are even beautiful on the outside!

Don't ask. I don't know.

See? Mosaics all over the place!

Yet another glorious day in Rome. Tomorrow is our last day, and we'll be going to Mass at St. Peter's, followed by the Angelus with Papa Benny and afternoon/evening shenanigans.