Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lenten Pilgrimage to Rome, March 29 - Laetare Sunday, March 31, 2019

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent—-Laetare Sunday—-having enjoyed a full, pleasant and enriching weekend in Florence (Fierenza), we have boarded the high speed train as we return to Rome. This is the second time I have visited Florence, the first time being more than 30 years ago when I visited here in the late 1970’s. In a city as ancient and historic as Florence, not much has changed, but my appreciation for all that it represents has certainly broadened.

We arrived at Noon on Friday and a short cab ride from the train stations brought us to the Casa Regina del Santo Rosario (House of the Queen of the Holy Rosary) a Retreat House/Bread and Breakfast operated by the Sisters of St. Philip Neri. Once we got our room assignments and got situated a bit, we began our exploration of this beautiful city. As in Rome, the main points of interest are the famous churches and historic museums. After a delicious pronzo (lunch) at the Accademia Restaurant (where it was so good that we also returned there for our final lunch on Sunday), we visited the beautiful Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross), a Franciscan Basilica that dates back to 1295, and claims the distinction of being the “Pantheon of Italian Glories” as the resting place for Michaelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Alfieri, Foscolo, and Rossini. The Church holds gorgeous and inspiring frescoes of Giotto, Donatello, and Rossollino. It also is the home for the Leather School of Florence, where fine leather products have been hand-crafted for almost 100 years, and where we were able to see the present-day artisans fashioning their craft today. After a refreshing cup of coffee and a break, we returned to the B & B, had a little siesta, followed by a late evening non-meat dinner for this Lenten Friday at Il Grullo, and then a welcome bedtime.

From left, Msgr. Michael Osborn, Bishop Paul J. Bradley, Fr. Maximilian Nightengale and Father Jeff Hanley
Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross), a Franciscan Basilica

March 30, 2019
Saturday began with celebrating Mass with the Sisters in their Retreat House Convent. Since they requested the Mass to be in Italian, Msgr. Osborn was our principal celebrant and Fr. Max preached a fine homily in both Italian (for the Sisters) and English (for the rest of us). After breakfast, we began our all-day exploration of one of the most famous landmarks in Florence, the “Duomo”, the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Florence under the formal title of Our Lady of the Flower (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) It is a massive structure and an architectural wonder. Words can not do justice to the beauty of its massive exterior, with the bell tower and very famous Baptistry, a separate but complimentary structure nearby. It took well over 100 years to construct this Cathedral begun in 1296 and completed in 1436. The lines of pilgrims/tourists waiting to get in, with ticket required for entrance, was over an hour’s wait. Once inside, the interior is massive, but fairly simple. We saw all the parts of the interior open to the public, and then thanks to the kindness of some of the security guards, we were permitted to see the remainder of the Cathedral that is not normally available. The craftsmanship of the woodwork in two sacristies (one for the priests and one for the bishop) was magnificent. We also were able to see the interior of the Baptistry with the entire ceiling revealing in numerous frescoes the entire story of Salvation History. Both structures are amazing architecturally and inspiring in all that it represents and teaches to the hundreds of pilgrims who see it each day. (Photos inserted here.........)

After a brief lunch, we walked to see the world-famous Ponte Vecchio with shop after shop of costly jewelry for “the rich and famous”. The Ponte Vecchio is one of a series of bridges which cross the scenic Arno River.

We then visited the Pitti Palace, currently a museum holding the priceless works of many famous artists, including Rafael, Murillo and D’Agnolo. After walking all the way back to our B&B where we freshened up a bit and got ready for a delicious Saturday evening meal at a local restaurant, La Carbonata (who claimed to have the best Florentine Steak), those among our party who wear Fit-Bits revealed that our grand total of steps for this one day was just short of 15,000! No wonder my legs hurt!

Laetare Sunday - March 31, 2019
Today was the highpoint of our Florence visit as we were invited to concelebrate Mass on this 4th Sunday of Lent/Laetare Sunday with the Canons of the Cathedral (the Duomo). The Mass was celebrated in Latin with a Schola who beautifully sang the Mass parts in Gregorian Chant. It was a great privilege to celebrate with our priests (Msgr. Osborn, Father Jeff and Father Max) along with several of the Canons, and for me to offer this Sunday Mass (as I do every week)“Pro Populo”, for all the Faithful (Living and Deceased/Clergy and Laity) of the Diocese of Kalamazoo. 

These days in Florence have been beautiful, Spring-like (warm with pleasant breezes), and very spiritually enriching for all of us. Along with the Mass Intention for all our Faithful today, you all remain in my prayers at each of the holy places throughout this pilgrimage. As the train now approaches the Rome Terminal, I look forward to continuing this Pilgrimage for the 4 days remaining for our time in Rome. Let us continue to pray for one another.

Faithfully yours,
+Bishop Paul J. Bradley


Friday, March 29, 2019

2019 Lenten Pilgrimage to Rome—-March 28

Greetings from the Eternal City, the Center of our Catholic Faith, the See of Peter, the Vicar of Christ on Earth! 
      Msgr. Michael Osborn, our Vicar General and Director of Priestly Formation, and I traveled from Kalamazoo and arrived in Rome early Thursday morning to blue skies, pleasant temperatures, and Spring fully alive.  Five members of my family (four siblings and a brother-in-law) are accompanying me on this pilgrimage, as we visit with our two graduate priests, Father Jeff Hanley and Father Max Nightingale, as they are completing their two-year License in Canon Law.  The 45-minute drive from Fiumicino Airport to the Casa Santa Maria allowed us to pass through the beautiful countryside and into and through the dense traffic of cars/motorcycles/trucks and throngs of pedestrians, both tourists and local residents of the very busy city of Rome.  Father Max and Father Jeff were waiting to greet us at the Casa (as it is referred to), the residence for about 75 student priests from the United States, where Msgr. Osborn and I are staying.  (My family members are staying at an AirBNB within a five-minute walk from the Casa.)
      After finding our rooms/accommodations and a chance to freshen up, all ten of us enjoyed a delicious late lunch (pronzo) at an outdoor restaurant.  We then had time to do some sightseeing before returning to our rooms for a short rest (siesta).  We all gathered at 6  p.m. in the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Casa to celebrate our first Mass in Rome, followed by our first chance for a light dinner (cena) of pizza at a local restaurant (DaMichele) that claimed to have the “best pizza in the world”.  Fr. Max, who is a regular patron of this restaurant, agreed that they certainly had the best pizza in Rome.  Since the “body clocks” of those of us who had traveled such a great distance had not caught up with the actual time of Rome, we were all ready for an early bedtime. 
      Friday, the first full day in Rome, began early with breakfast at the Casa Dining Room, followed by all of us celebrating Mass together in the Crypt of the beautiful Church of the 12 Apostles, very near the burial place of two of the 12 Apostles, St. Philip and St. James.  To be able to be that near the earthly remains of two of Jesus’ closest followers and to celebrate Mass in that very place is one of the greatest thrills of any pilgrimage to Rome.  Father Jeff preached a beautiful homily, providing us with some of the history of that great basilica and these two Apostles.  
View from the Crypt to the upper Church of the 12 Apostles

Mass at the Church of the 12 Apostles (shown from left at the altar: Msgr. Michael Osborn, Bishop Bradley, Fr. Jeff Hanley and Fr. Maximilian Nightengale). 

      Following Mass, we have all boarded a high speed train to travel to Florence where we will be for the weekend.  I will be writing more about that part of our Pilgrimage in the next day or two.

Faithfully yours in Christ,
+Bishop Bradley