Today we traveled throughout the Vatican and Rome visiting the truly beautiful and sacred sites. Our day began with a leisurely walk through the Vatican Gardens. These gardens are a vast expanse of gorgeous lawns, (just now) flowering trees and plants behind and above St. Peter Basilica, overlooking the Vatican and all of Rome. What a peaceful and reflective place. It is in a house in this garden that Pope Emeritus Benedict (or as he prefers to be known "Papa Benedict") lives in his retirement of prayer and study, and in which he still, at age 88 (today is his birthday) walks through parts of the garden each day. (Unfortunately I/we did not get to see him.)
We then traveled to St. John Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral Church of the Holy Father as Bishop of Rome and the Seat of the Diocese of Rome. St. John Lateran Basilica is also the oldest church in all of Christendom, the "mother and head of all churches in Rome and throughout the world".
It is massive, ancient and beautiful Church, and the place where the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul are preserved, the two giants of our faith. We then visited the Holy Stairs---the stairs which Jesus climbed at the Praetorium in Jerusalem and on which Pilate condemned him to death. St. Helen, the mother of Constantine and the founder of the true Cross in Jerusalem, had these stairs dismantled and brought to Rome for veneration centuries ago. It is the tradition that pilgrims climb these holy stairs on their knees in prayerful remembrance of the beginning of Jesus' suffering and passion for us and all the world. It was truly inspiring to see the streams of pilgrims doing so with great devotion.
After a little lunch, we then traveled to the 4th and last of the 4 major Basilicas in Rome, St. Paul Outside the Walls. This Basilica is a favorite of mine since I am named for the Basilica's namesake, the great St. Paul, the Missionary and Apostle to the Gentiles. We were privileged to celebrate Mass here in the Baptistry of the Basilica, and to venerate the tomb of St. Paul at the main altar in this gorgeous, ancient Church.
The day concluded with a very nice dinner with my family/fellow pilgrims, along with our dear Msgr. Osborn. As hard as it is to believe, tomorrow will be the final day of this week of Pilgrimage. May you have a blessed night. In Christ our Joy, + Bishop Bradley