Rome: Wed 8th July
Today was a hectic day. Yesterday we travelled from San Giovanni Rotundo via car and then 3 hours by train. Needless to say it was a hot day (about 38°C). The train was an hour late arriving so we waited in the heat. More for us to offer up. This time, however, there was food that we could buy on the station platform.
Our poor driver was waiting at Rome for us for an hour, all dressed up in a suit. He must have been so hot. However we had a great time talking with him on the way to the hotel. It was so pleasant to be able to converse and he gave us a wonderful introduction to Rome- like a mini tour – explaining all the landmarks as we went. So you see, Jesus is good to us – with every downside there is an upside.
The next morning we were picked up for our tour by our official driver and our guide. His name was Vincenzo.
First stop was the Colosseum. This really put us in touch with our Christian roots, with the guide explaining the pagan society and the entertainment with gladiators, lions and Christians. He told us how St. Ignatius of Loyola died this way.
He told us how each Good Friday, the popes throughout history would always say 4 Stations of the Cross there. Also, how there is a little altar in one of the arches in which a priest says Mass every day, for all those martyred. He also mentioned Pope Innocent VIII in the 15th Century who commemorated the passion of Christians in the Colosseum and Pope Clement X who dedicated the Colosseum to God. We said a little prayer for all those who had died.
St. John Lateran:
This church is actually the church (seat) of the Bishop of Rome. There is a depiction of the Last Supper and behind this picture are relics from the Last Supper table.The main altar is built within an apse which holds (at the top) the heads of Saints Peter and Paul. We prayed through these saints for the Church and its bishops, priests and cardinals and also the Church remnant. We presented our petitions so that they would pray for us. Reverently, we got our handkerchiefs out and touched the base of the apse which housed these precious relics.
St Mary Major:
There was a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows. The chapel has a painting which shows the pope (Liberius) drawing the line in the snow to outline where the chapel should be built. Our guide told us how the pope had dreamed of snow falling and that he was to build a basilica there. Our Lady gave him the sign. Snow fell on August 5th, 352 AD – in the middle of Summer!
Around the walls were 3 rows of paintings which depicted the prophets, and people of Old Testament such as Moses, Jacob and Joshua and God’s promise of a Saviour.
St. Paul (outside the Walls)
The guide tells us that when Paul was beheaded, his head bounced 3 times and that where it bounced, 3 springs of water sprung up. (I hadn’t heard this before).
This was where our English speaking guide left us. We were very grateful. He taught us and showed us so much about our Faith. We promised to pray for him.
The Catacombs: 8th July
This afternoon we did a tour of St. Sebastien catacombs. There was a church where we could pray and light candles before Our Lady for our Prayer Group intentions.
We had to wait for an English tour guide. It was very touching to see these places where the early Christians lived and gathered and prayed and were buried. It was moving to touch the walls that these early persecuted Christians had touched and to say a prayer for them.
There were many young children and babies who died. We could see the names and Christian symbols on their graves. St Sebastian was buried there and his place was marked but his body was later moved to the Church (at the catacombs site). His relics are part of the altar.
9th July: Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
This morning 4 of us went on a pre-booked tour of the Vatican Museum/ Sistine chapel. We were split up among a number of guides – each with a smaller group of about 20.
At first he seemed ok. He was very animated and enthusiastic in his descriptions of objects and history of various things. He seemed to waste a lot of time talking about trivial things.
The huge tapestries were amazing. He proceeded to take us to see various objects in the Museum. A lot were pagan gods such as Apollo, Atlas etc. He pointed out how some of these provided the basis for certain paintings and carvings of holy things. I began to be not impressed.
We came to a reconstruction in miniature of the pantheon with all the various gods in each archway. He said in his usual jovial voice (and I don’t know if it’s true) that there was Mass held there every Sunday at a certain time. I called out “What? Here? In the Pantheon?” He said “yes”. There was no sign of any kind of altar – only a huge sort of shallow bowl.
By this time I was really mad and sad and couldn’t wait to get out of there. Finally, at the end of the tour – after a whole hour- we came to the Sistine Chapel- which is why we came. He (the tour guide) didn’t enter the chapel. The chapel was big and the paintings beautiful. We stayed a while to ponder.
When we returned to our hotel, we spoke to others in the group who had been 20 years previously. They said that the Vatican Museum had lots of beautiful, holy things but all we saw were the tapestries and a view of the Vatican gardens and Pope Benedict’s residence.
Our Hotel in Rome:
Once again, we felt so blessed. Our hotel rooms each had a holy picture on top of our beds and a Bible (but in Italian). And there was a chapel with an altar and the Blessed Sacrament present, where we could pray as a group, and attend Mass when there was a Mass being offered.