April 17, 2015 Day 6/Final Day
Dear Family of Faith,
As with all good things, this Pilgrimage myst come to an end, but what a glorious final day this has been.
We began our day in the best way any of us can begin any day---by being able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. However, this morning, we were as privileged as anyone could be to celebrate Holy Mass at 8:45 a.m. in the Clementine Chapel of St. Peter Basilica, right above the very tomb of St. Peter. Accompanied by Fr. Ted and my family members, my fellow pilgrims, we celebrated Jesus' life-giving Presence with us in Word and Sacrament, in one of the most sacred spots imaginable.
What a great privilege; what a graced moment. As I thanked God during this Mass for these 10 years of service to the Church as a Bishop, I also re-pledged myself to continue my ministry with dedication, courage and joy as I Shepherd the Church in Kalamazoo. Following the Mass, the Basilica Guard very kindly allowed us access to the last part of the Scavi Tour where we could venerate the bones of St. Peter, right above the Clementine Altar. These bones are kept in an air-tight clear box which allows the Faithful to see them. At that sacred place, we knelt in prayer together as we venerated the one to whom Jesus said: "Tu es Petrus", that is, "You are Peter....and upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give to you the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven."
Following that beautiful Mass, Fr. Ted gave us a very "first-class" tour of St. Peter Basilica that was catechetical, inspirational and informational. Following is a video we created from right inside the Basilica:
Following the tour, the six members of my family (the more adventurous ones) climbed the more than 500 steps to the very top of St. Peter's Dome to be able to see all of Rome from that exalted vantage point. While they did that, I prayed in the peaceful Blessed Sacrament Chapel of St. Peter Basilica and shopped for souvenirs. After a very quick lunch (pronzo) of gelato, we took the two-hour tour of the Vatican Museum, which was very interesting, and culminated in the tour of the Sistine Chapel, where Conclaves for the election of new Popes are held. What a magnificent artistic masterpiece this Chapel is!
At the end of the Museum tour, we all came to the North American College for my family to see this seminary where nearly 300 young men are being formed, including two of our seminarians, Jeff Hanley and Max Nightingale. Here is a video message offering wonderful views of the city:
Finally, we ended today with a very nice concluding meal together enjoying Roman pasta: my family, Msgr. Osborn, Father Ted, Jeff and Max.
During the meal this evening we asked one another what each person's highlight of the week has been. Naturally, each person focused on something personal and special to him/her; something unique. For me, the natural highlight was being able to visit our two seminarians and see first hand that they are doing well and making progress in their formation and education. Of course, I was also thrilled to be able to renew my Episcopal Promises as a Successor to the Apostles in St. Peter Basilica, the very symbol of our Catholic and Apostolic Faith and to be able to be joined by members of my personal family, as well as my faith family. But, truly, the highlight of this Pilgrimage Week for me was that I had the awesome privilege of holding our Holy Father Pope Francis' hands in mine, not just once but twice, that I was able to assure him of the love and respect of the priests and lay faithful of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, and that I was able to kiss his hands with filial affection and great respect. And both times Pope Francis asked me: "Pray for me!" I know he would want me to ask you to do the same for him----even as I ask you to do the same for me and for our beloved Diocese of Kalamazoo.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
+ Bishop Paul J. Bradley