While Rome does not celebrate Presidents Day, I greeted this new, and final, day here in Rome with that realization upon waking this morning. I have to admit that I have been completely "unplugged" from world affairs, including all the daily media coverage regarding whatever the latest political crisis might be. But on this day, we celebrate our great Presidents of our past, and we pray that God will bless and guide President Trump through these first weeks in Office, and most especially that God will continue to bless our great country. [I'm also mindful that this is the first anniversary of the tragic shooting that occured in Kalamazoo last year. I echo my "tweet" from this morning, "May we all be in prayerful union with all people in Kalamazoo who were killed or tramautized by the violent shooting spree 1 year ago today."]
I was very much looking forward, on this final day, being able to complete the visit to and celebration of Mass in each of the four major Basilicas in Rome: we began last Monday with the first one being St. Mary Major, then on Thursday at St. Paul Outside the Walls, Friday at St. Peter, and now today at St. John Lateran. For those who visit all four Basilicas, there are special graces, indulgences and blessings, so I was pleased that we were able to do so.
Since the taxi cab strike continues, now in its 4th full day (which really impacts the city in lots of different ways), our faithful Giuseppe picked us up and drove us to the Basilica and waited while we celebrated Mass. Msgr. Osborn and I celebrated Mass in the Sacristy Chapel of St. Ann, as we prayed for and offered my Mass intention for our President and all elected officials.
(Tomorrow, my Mass intention before we leave for the airport will be for all those who are sick or suffering in any way, in body, mind or spirit.). Even though we didn't have a lot of extra time, we were able to take in the beautiful art work throughout this grand Basilica. As you know, St. John Lateran Basilica is the oldest Cathedral Church in Western Christendom, the "Mother of all the Churches", and the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Rome. So, while Pope Francis is the Pope for the Universal Church and exercises his ministry in that regard mostly at St. Peter Basilica in Rome, he is also the Bishop of Rome, and when he exercises that aspect of his ministry, he does so from the Cathedral of St. John Lateran. The heads of the two great Saints, Peter and Paul, are both preserved above the main altar of St. John Lateran, and at one of the side altars of the Last Supper, part of the table where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His Apostles is preserved. It is a truly magnificent, historic, sacred place.
Giuseppe was waiting for us across the busy Rome street near the entrance to the Holy Stairs (Scala Sancta), which are the original stairs from the Praetorium that Jesus used to stand before Pilate to be condemned to death. Constantine's mother, St. Helena, had these stairs brought to Rome from the Holy Land in the 4th century. As many of you might know, there is a replica of these Holy Stairs in the Holy Family Chapel at Nazareth in our very own Diocese, one of the only replicas in the world. We did not get a chance to go in and venerate them this morning, but it really is an inspiring, holy place from the previous visits I have made.
Our next stop was back over by the Vatican, a meeting with another one of the Curial officials, Bishop Brian Farrell, the Secretary of the Council for Christian Unity which was located along the Conciliazione where many of the Vatican Offices are located. Msgr. Osborn and I had a very productive meeting with Bishop Farrell, and he was quite helpful and supportive to us in our inquiries.
Following our final official business item on our eight-day "to-do list", we met Deacon Max Nightingale when he finished his early morning Canon Law class at the Gregorian University for some coffee near the Swiss Guard barracks. After this brief visit, Msgr. Osborn had another meeting to attend, and Max and I did some last minute shopping and then enjoyed a nice, leisurely pronzo together, at which I had my 8th bowl of pasta over these eught wonderful days. (I'm sure I will not eat another bowl of pasta for quite some time, but I have truly enjoyed every one so far). This lunch/visit was a wonderful opportunity for me to spend with Max in more personal and confidential way so we could discuss a number of issues.
We are so blessed to have all nine of the young men in our formation program, but our two Deacons, Jeff and Max, are both gifted and holy young men, ready and willing to be ordained priests in service to the Church of Kalamazoo! Thanks be to God.
After lunch, Max and I returned here to the NAC (North American College) so we could both take care of the things we needed to do. At the end of the afternoon, we gathered for Evening Prayer and enjoyed some pizza together as our last meal here in Rome.
Early tomorrow morning, after Mass, Giuseppe will drive us to Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino Airport for our 11:45 a.m. Flight to Atlanta, and then to Detroit, for our drive back to Kalamazoo, which, we pray, will all go smoothly. With gratitude to God for all the blessings we have received during this Pastoral Visit, it's time to say: "Arrivederci Roma!"