Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day in Rome: Visiting the saints

As the first full day of our Pilgrimage to Rome dawned this morning, I realized this is a very special day.  Yes it's.....Sts. Cyril and Methodius Feast Day!  Of course, as we all know, February 14th is also Valentine's Day throughout the United States, but as I came to realize, here in Rome Valentine's Day doesn't get much play.  There were some stores that we passed by here and there which had red hearts-balloons, or heart shaped pastries, but for the most part, it's not nearly as big a deal here as it is in the U.S.  I don't believe I heard one person wish me or anyone else a Happy Valentine's Day.  This is fairly ironic since St. Valentine is historically traced back to a priest of Rome who, because he witnessed the marriages of Christians against the Roman emperor's orders, was thrown into prison, and eventually beheaded.  While he was in prison, he befriended the jailer's blind daughter, and we are told, was able to have her experience a miraculous healing that enabled her to see.  Before leaving for his execution, he left her a note signed "Your Valentine", which, it is said, began the tradition of sending Valentine's greetings to those we love and care about.  But here in the very city where Valentine was martyred and is buried, his secular observance is not celebrated.  However, the two saints who are celebrated on this day are two Slavic brothers who also lived and ministered for a period of time here in Rome, Sts. Cyril and Methodius.  So, no matter how we look at it, February 14th is a very special day.
            Our day began by having our Deacon Jeff join with Msgr. Osborn and I in celebrating early Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major.  

The major basilicas here in Rome seem to have all received a much greater degree of security, with barricades surrounding St. Mary Major and gaining entry to the inside of the Basilica only being possible by going through a checkpoint which requires the same kind of security screening as we all experience at airports these days.  Better to be safe. We arrived early enough to have some good time in prayer before celebrating Mass at 8:00 a.m at the chapel of the Holy Crucifix.  My special Mass intention for today was for all the priests of our Diocese, and in particular for any who are sick, struggling in any way, or with special needs.  Our Deacon Jeff preached a very fine homily for us.  Following Mass and a little breakfast of cappuccino and bombas (cream filled donuts), we began a series of Church visits.  Among them was the Church of Santa Prassede (Praxedes), an out of the way church that was simply gorgeous.  

Next we visited the main Church of the Jesuits, the Church of the Gesu, where St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier are both buried. 
Church of Gesu

Crucifix in Church of Gesu

 Next we visited another Jesuit church not far from there named Sant'. Ignacio, where the bodies of St. Robert Bellarmine, St. John Berchmans, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga are all buried.  It was in that church where we paid special prayerful tribute to Father Felice Cappelo, an expert in Canon Law who taught at the Gregorian University in Rome in the 1930's.  His cause for canonization is underway, and one of our priests, who has a very strong devotion to him, asked me in particular to pray for him at Father Cappelo's tomb. 
The grave of  Father Felice Cappelo

            After briefly stopping again for another cappuccino, we visited Santa Maria Soprano Minerva where the body of St. Fra Angelico and St. Catherine of Siena are buried.   At St. Catherine's tomb, I prayed in a special way, of course for all the priests, deacons and people of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in our Diocese, especially for Fr. Bruno Okoli who is in special need of our prayers at this time.  We ended our Church visits for today by visiting Chiesa Nuova, the Church of St. Philip Neri, and there of course we prayed for our young Oratory project in our Diocese and in particular for Father James Richardson and Brother Edward, seminarian, asking God's blessings upon them and the Oratory project.
Body of St. Philip Neri

            We stopped for pronzo at a lovely ristorante near the Vatican, where I enjoyed my 2nd bowl of pasta for this Pilgrimage.
            After a brief time of reposa (a nice afternoon nap), Msgr. Osborn and I met with the Rector of the North American College, Father Peter Harmon, to discuss the progress of our two deacons who will be completing their 4th year Theology (their 3rd year at the North American College).  Of course both Max and Jeff got glowing reports and high marks, not that we would have expected anything less.   When Jeff returned from an evening class he was having, he, Msgr. Osborn and I enjoyed some locally baked pizza---very delicious indeed.
Deacon Jeff Hanley (left) with Msgr. Michael Osborn (right), Vicar General/Director of Vocations

            You may have noticed that I have only mentioned Deacon Jeff in today's recap.  That is because Deacon Max will not return to the North American from his Holy Land Pilgrimage until Friday of this week.  So, unfortunately, I won't get to see him until then. 

            This first full day of our Rome Pilgrimage was a very full and prayerful day.  I look forward to tomorrow's Audience with our Holy Father and many other blessed events.  Until then, I more immediately look forward to a good night's sleep.   Happy Valentine's Day!  Happy Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day!    In Christ our Hope, may we be at rest!

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