Shiphrah and Puah were midwives commanded by Pharaoh to kill male by hcj


									Pilgrimage to Italy and the Shroud of Turin May 12-20

The Shroud was on my “bucket list.” It was my focus, the rest being just icing on the cake.
 So, I came curious, but left convicted. My conviction is rooted in the clear call for all of us
to be Christ to the world – a call that obligates us to radical behavior --- radical behavior
rooted in Jesus, Paul, Francis, Pio and Benedict. Important to take the time to read the 2nd
Epistle of Paul to Timothy.

Jesus re-presents Himself through the actions of the saints to remind us of the call to be
radically holy. We see the face and wounds of Jesus in the Shroud …a 1000 years later, when
the world has forgotten Jesus, we see the face and wounds of Jesus in St. Francis…another
1000 years, in St. Pio. Without the visible wounds, we see the suffering of Pope Benedict and
in all holy people.

The experience of pilgrimage fulfills the words of Augustine Fides quarens intellectum. Faith
leads to understanding, not the other way around as practiced in our secular society.
Understanding is the fruit of faith; an understanding based more on trust than fact.

In the final analysis, it was less the relics and more the pilgrims. All those souls gathering in
a desire to grow in faith provided context to my heart --- the Church Militant is a singular
pilgrim community that cooperates for the salvation of the world. This satisfies a need of the
heart that the mind can never provide.

We are not alone – the Church Militant, Church Suffering, Church Triumphant within and
outside of time were, are and will be a pilgrim people traveling together and assisting each
other to our promised destination.

I guess in retrospect, the process was not curious to convicted. It was more like curious -
infected - convinced - convicted- witness.

I love being Catholic!

WARNING: I struggle with poetry and am sensitive to reality that exposure to more than two
of my poems is best described as an “infliction.” For you English majors, my poems can be
characterized as “periodic iambic pentameter with an accidental rhyme scheme.” Read them
at your own risk.
The pilgrims made the pilgrimage. To see so many people at the shrines was instructive of
the need that people have to get their hearts aligned to strengthen their faith.

                      buongiorno pellegrini
                      who swarm at the very hint of ash
                      do not put a sin in cynical
                      by traveling without meaning.
                      Did you come
                      because you are curious
                      just to see the dead?
                      Did you come
                      because you have grown
                      and you are ready to take serious
                      the work to win the crown?
                      Did you come to fill a need
                      perhaps to seek the gardener
                      who can give to you the seed
                      that will grow on rocky soil.
                      Did you come to touch a relic
                      that by touching you’d be freed
                      from a life of aimless toil.
                      Fides quaerens intellectum
                      St. Augustine said
                      learn more from your heart
                      than the facts stored in your head.
                      Know by contemplating Him
                      in man incorporates the leaven
                      that gives to us the buoyancy
                      to rise to Him in heaven.

May 9
This is the start of an adventure generously given to me by my wife, Janet. She knew of my
interest in the Shroud. Venerating the Shroud is on my bucket list. We could not afford such
a trip for both of us. She sent me. Janet is with me vicariously. I have her rosary and intend
to touch it to every shrine I visit.

I packed enough clothes and other essentials in a small duffle bag. My plan was to take
enough clothes for 5 days intending to wash everything mid-trip.

I departed Chicago at 8:15am for Newark NJ. My brother Mike met me at the airport.
Sunday night dinner with Mike and Marcia, Molly and Jon, Megan and Brian and Kelly and
new born Connor was a reinforcement on the importance of family.

May 10
Marcia goes to daily Mass. This is good. Mike doesn’t. Mike should.

We killed some time driving around Revolutionary War sites.

May 11
Mike very generously provided me transportation from his home to JFK. This saves me
considerable time and aggravation.

The line for registration was surprisingly long given I was there 3.5 hours early. I must have
arrived at the end of the peak because when I got to check-in, the line behind me was fairly

I inquired about changing seats to get an aisle, but was told that the tour organization required
me to stay where assigned.

In any event, I am off to Turin.

I discovered a new type of seating on the plane --- best described as “pilgrim class.” I was in
the center of a 4 seat configuration. The width of the seats required you to keep your arms in
front of your body since shoulders were touching shoulders next to you. I sat next to a
pilgrim named Shannon, same name and age as my daughter.

The flight to Frankfort departed at 4pm. Due to the volcanic ash cloud, the plane flew north of
Iceland which extended the trip by about an hour.
May 12
We landed in Frankfort about 6:30am. The connecting flight to Milan was scheduled to
depart at 7:15am. By the time we got to the gate, disembarked and gathered in the terminal, it
was 7am. We all figured we were stranded and would need to be put on later flights, but
Lufthansa personnel escorted us through a private Passport control point, put us on a bus and
took us to the departing gate. The flight to Milan left 15 minutes late, but we were on it. I
suspect the good folks at Corporate Travel worked some magic behind the scenes.

It was raining in the Milan Airport. The roof in the baggage claim area had many leaks. For
a city renowned for fashion, the airport was tacky.

We were met by Steve and Janet Ray and a tour facilitator named Luca. Over time, we came
to respect Luca’s super powers on organization and negotiation. We got on a bus and headed
toward Turin, about two hours away.

We stayed at the NH Ambasciatori, a pleasant enough hotel. My room was cell-like, the bed
was but a bunk. The room looked onto the bell tower of St. Charles Boromeo, about 50
meters away, which rang every 15 minutes.

Today was a day of adjustment to changed time, culture and monetary system.

The welcome dinner was celebratory. So many people I do not know, but here for a common

May 13
This is the day the Lord has made for us to venerate the Shroud.

Strange to start the day with salami and bread and a struggle to find coffee --- so many
Americans and so few coffee machines.

I am assigned to Bus #2, the best bus. We were not the best bus just because we said so. We
were the best bus because we had Ted. Ted is from Texas. He struggles with arthritic hips
which require him to use two canes. He lost his luggage. It was always rumored to be in the
next city we visit, but never arrived. Ted never complained. He experienced all there was to
experience in a humble and accepting manner. Whenever I think about this pilgrimage, I will
remember Ted.

We start with a min-tour of Turin and are introduced to Liz Lev, a walking encyclopedia on
art and architecture and a passionate integrator of history and our Catholic faith. I should
have mentioned that plagiarism is one of my super powers. Most of the thoughts and insights
you will read in this journal belong to Liz.

Interesting local history. I had forgotten that there was no unified country until the middle of
the 19th Century. There were a multitude of city-states, dukedoms and the Papal state that all
operated autonomously until unified under the House of Savoy.
The jurisdiction of the House of Savoy extended from Southern France to the Piedmont area.
This connection with France was the conduit for the Shroud to travel from France to Italy and
then, in the 20th Century, to be given to Pope John Paul XXIII.

Turin was the capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont and became the capital of unified Italy in
1861 under Victor Emmanuel II. When Rome was captured in 1870, the capital was moved
to Rome. Pius IX became the last Pope with significant temporal authority tied to papal

Turin became an industrial leader of Italy. I found out that the “t” in FIAT stands for Turin.

We got into line to see the Shroud about 10:35am and entered the Cathedral about 2.5 hours
later. The line was never ending. We moved 4 or more abreast over about 2km. It was a line
of New Testament Babel with German, Polish, Italian, English and French speakers ---
different languages all unified in one Faith --- this is the Catholic Church.

As we entered the Cathedral, there was a short movie that presented the Shroud and location
of important portions of the Shroud. We were filtered into 4 separate lines as we approached
the Shroud. There was a live video feed of the Shroud that was majestic in its simplicity --- a
sepia image floating against a black background. This preparation helped orient the eyes for
the brief time we would have close to the Shroud.

At 12:30pm, I stood in awe and saw the face of God from about 10’ distance.

Even though the (negative) image is faint, you can clearly see the front and back view of a
naked man, hands folded across his groin. The face swollen and serene, the body surprisingly
muscular, the beard and hair arranged, the wounds screaming pain. It was the wounds that
will stay in my memory – the large, round wound on the wrist and foot, the gouge in the side,
the blood on the forehead and arms, the scores of linear wounds on the front and back that
covered the body with dots and dashes. This man was scourged naked.
My allotted 3 minutes passed quickly and I was ushered from the Church. It was surreal. I
had seen Him, the body and blood of Jesus.

Images of the Shroud are posted in the Church of St. John where the Shroud was originally
housed. The wounds are more pronounced in the positive image that reflects white on black.

I had time to reenter the Cathedral and spend time with the Shroud, now from a distance of
150 meters. In the Gospel of John (chapter 20), he tells of running to the tomb, looking in and
seeing the stripes of burial cloth and the cloth that covered Jesus head and “He saw and
believed.” The beloved disciple did not believe until he saw the shroud. I expect John, having
witnessed the Passion, knew there were only two ways Jesus was getting out of the tomb ---
he was going to rise or his body would be stolen. The burial cloths in the tomb indicate the
body was not stolen.

The Shroud of Turin May 2010
To see the face of Christ, to see the wounds he suffered -- the wounds of the scourging were
particularly visible as dots and dashes that covered His body.

                       Not an I blinded eye
                       came to read
                       the silent summation
                       of your dying
                       on that Thursday
                       You ascended.
                       Shredded flesh on
                       shredded linen,
                       The Morse Code
                       of "I am risen."
                       Dying shameful
                       Buried well.
                       Joyful crying on a day
                       of acclamation
                       with this pilgrim ecclesiae
                       Confident in a conviction
                       that nothing can prevail
                       Not then, not now
                       not even to the
                       Gates of Hell

We completed a walking tour of the area surrounding the Cathedral, staying more or less
ahead of a thunder storm, and ended up at the Basilica of Mary Our Help. Much to my
surprise, this Basilica contains the reported incorrupt bodies of St. John Bosco, founder of the
Salesian Society, and St. Maria Mazzarello, foundress of the Salesian Sisters.

Turin, as an industrial center, attracted migrants and poorer families. Since adult males were
at war with Napoleon, Turin factories became a major consumer of child labor. St. John
Bosco and St. Maria Mazzarello focused on care to the child workers and abandoned youth.
He died in 1888

Mass was celebrated by Fr. Scott Courtney. If there is a God in heaven (and I know there is),
here is a priest who must become a Bishop. We need men like him who can feed the sheep
and steer the Church through secular seas. Over the rest of the pilgrimage, we celebrated
Liturgy in some astounding places, but never did the location outshine the glory of Fr.
Coutney’s celebrations. My only concern is that any Episcopal background check would
reveal he is a Cubs fan, a fact in many circles that would be construed best case as bad
judgement and worst case as a constant near occasion of sin. I wonder if he knows the Cubs
used to be the Chicago White Stockings.

ASIDE: now that I am back at work, when anyone enters my office with a question, I shout
“Matthew five three to twelve.” I am not getting much repeat visitation.

Dinner again at the hotel. I had an idea that I would be able to shed some weight during these
10 days, but it is not looking good.

May 14
Departed early for long bus trip across Piedmont and Tuscany to Umbria. We were exposed
to the beauty of the Italian countryside and the strength of the faith of Italian Catholics.
Almost without exception, every holy place we visited had multiple stations for
Reconciliation and every station was occupied.

We saw Florence from a distance, the cradle of the Renaissance. The dome of Santa Maria
del Fiore, built in 15th Century, incorporated designs from ancient Roman monuments.

An interesting site was a large mountain that appeared covered with snow. It turned out that
the mountain was being quarried for Carrara marble. This is the marble used by
Michelangelo for his masterpiece, the Pieta.

Many of us laid eyes on the Adriatic Sea for the very first time.

Excellent example of classic queuing theory when 150 pilgrims arrive en masse at a rest stop
with two registers and one bathroom. As for me, I liberated some salami and bread from
breakfast and ate it for lunch, a more civilized time of day for salami.

Some 600km later, with sore backsides, we arrive at Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, just
outside of Assisi. We are about 4km from Assisi.

Before Italy was unified, it was a land of city states that were in constant aggression with
neighbors. Every hill has a fortified city at its peak. Perugia and Assisi were such and it was
Perugia that Francis, in his time as a soldier, set about attacking. He was captured and spent a
year or so in prison.

It was safe in the fortified city. It was not safe on the valley floor. It was on the valley floor
that Francis lived.

This is the cradle of Franciscan life. Here is where Francis lived and died. The little church
that Francis restored, the Portiuncula, is fully enclosed by the Basilica. Portiuncula means
“the little portion.” I now understand the naming of John Michael Talbot’s Franciscan
community in Arkansas. The Poriuncula is about the size of a typical master bedroom and
richly decorated on its exterior. The interior is more austere and simple. It is amazing to know
that some of these stones were put in place by St. Francis himself.

We celebrated Liturgy at the Franciscan monastery adjoining the Basilica.

A short ride up the hill, we arrive at Hotel Roseo in Assisi. We found out later that “Roseo”
is an Italian idiomatic expression for “yes, we have no hot water; no, we don’t really care.”

May 15
Another rainy day as we were deposited at the base of a rather steep hill. Fortunately, the
escalators were working. They carried us to Assisi and the Basilica of St. Chiarra (St. Clare)
that was built at the end of the 13th Century.

The Basilica houses the crucifix from the Church of San Damiano, the crucifix that spoke to
St. Francis when he was a young playboy living a lavish lifestyle in Assisi. As the story
goes, Francis became depressed and started spending time in introspective prayer. He
enjoyed visiting the deserted, decrepit chapel of San Damiano. The icon is almost life size
with the eyes of the crucified Lord closed in death. With Francis prayer, the eyes of the icon
opened and the head nodded forward toward Francis and it spoke "Francis, don't you see that
my house is being destroyed? Go, then, and rebuild it for me." Francis, thinking he meant the
chapel, did so; later it became clear that God meant the universal Church. Francis started
taking goods from his father’s warehouse and selling them to raise funds for the repair. This
lead to the confrontation in town square of Assisi that resulted in Francis stripping himself
naked, returning all of his worldly possessions to his father and becoming a beggar --- radical
behavior then, radical behavior now. The Franciscans were the first mendicant order where
the brothers beg for their food and for money to give to the poor.

We celebrated Liturgy in the main altar the Basilica of St. Clare.

St. Clare’s body is not incorrupt, but her body is displayed as though she were. Her face is a
mask of some sort. She was from a noble Assisi family. She and her sister, Agnes, fled their
home to live in a monastic life style. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies and wrote the
first monastic rule for women. Following her death, the order was renamed the Order of Saint
Clare, the Poor Clares. They lived at San Damiano, which St. Francis helped expand to
accommodate the community. They were known for a radically austere cloistered lifestyle. I
did not know that St. Clare is the patron saint of television --- she was reportedly able to see
and hear Mass on the wall of her cell when she was too ill to attend in person. Oddly enough,
Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN is a Poor Clare.

We walked to Hell’s Hill, the location outside of the walls of the town for public executions.
St. Francis is buried on Hell’s Hill in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It is composed of 3
spaces, the upper church, the lower church and crypt. St. Francis was buried in the lower
church in 1230. The location of the burial site was concealed for fear that the remains may be
stolen. Apparently, no one recorded the location and the location was forgotten. St. Francis
was rediscovered some 600 years later. The crypt was built then to expose the coffin for
public veneration. The coffin is suspended in a rock column above an altar. Around the
column is a marble step used for prayer. The marble step has two groves worn into it from
pilgrims on their knees processing around the burial site. Surrounding St. Francis’ coffin are
the burial sites of brothers Ruffino, Angelo, Masseo and Leone.

The tomb of St. Francis 2010
Hell’s Hill is the name of the place where Francis is buried. It was where the city executed
criminals. Francis was the face of God with stigmata to the world 1000 years after Christ;
St. Padre Pio was the same, 1000 years later.

                       Hell's Hill is the haven
                       where birds and pilgrimages flock
                       to see where good intention
                       encased a radical in rock
                       Hungry for a message
                       our experience has erased
                       "Give it all up"
                       are not the words
                       one wants put in their cup
                       Heart in stone showing
                       hearts of stone the way home
                       May the face of Christ in Turin,
                       Assisi, Rotundo and in Rome
                       be hammers and chisels
                       sharp enough to quarry stone

We saw a lot of relics from St. Clare and St. Francis. The one that impressed me was the
habit that St. Francis wore. It was very roughly made with several large holes that had been
patched, ostensibly with fabric that was cut from a cloak belonging to St. Clare.

I had a strange encounter. Leaving the toilet facility outside of St. Francis basilica, for which
I had paid half a Euro for the privilege, I literally ran into a man wearing a gray habit who was
wearing no shoes. It was cold and rainy. My first reaction was “what kind of nut is this!!”
and get away from him. My second reaction was this is exactly how people must have
reacted to Francis. Much to my embarrassment, I later found out that this man was most
likely a “grey friar”, follower of St. Francis. I only was familiar with “brown friars.” I need
to curb my middle class discriminations.

This is an aside: The day after I returned to Illinois, I attended an EPIC seminar on Church
history. We consumed about 300 years per hour. It is important to remember the significant
contribution of the various religious orders --- Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines.
Benedictines are monks; they devote themselves to prayer and work. Franciscans and
Dominicans are mendicant friars which means they are supposed to wander around among
people, preach and live on the benevolence of strangers. Capitalism was invented by religious
orders and 25+% of economic output in medieval times came out of monasteries. They
controlled the money supply and became the banks of Europe.

May 16

Up and off early. Rainy weather still, but not as threatening. We drive 150km to Loreto.

We visit the Basilica of Santa Casa. Liturgy is underway, celebrated by a Bishop with 4
priests concelebrating.

The “Holy House” is a very small, plain stone building encased within the Basilica. The
building is surrounded by a tall marble screen. You enter on the side. The space has an altar
on one end with a niche that contains a black image of the Virgin and Child. Steve Ray
commented that the home of the Holy Family in Nazareth is a cave. People would have built
stone walls at the opening of the cave to provide additional living space and protection. He
pointed out that the lower portions of the three walls of the Santa Case appear to be of stone
from the area of Galilee.

According to tradition (small “t”), the walls were brought here by angels (more likely by a
family with name of De Angelis) when the original location was threatened with destruction
by a Turkish invasion. In any event, it was inspiring to think I could be touching stones that
were touched by Jesus, Mary and Joseph. While I have to admit that I have reserved
judgment about the legitimacy, over 2000 saints have venerated this shrine.

Steve made a very interesting comment that it was in the home in Nazareth that Mary
experienced great sorrows --- with the death of St. Joseph and with the departure of Jesus
when he left home on his public ministry and Mary then lived alone.

When the Mass on the high altar ended, a screen was lowered behind the altar and the Sunday
audience with Pope Benedict was projected live. Everyone stood, listened attentively and
applauded periodically. There were several shouts of “vive il Pape!” It was wonderful to be
in a community where the Pope is loved and respected. Following Pope Benedict’s
comments, the screen was raised and the Bishop motioned to the priests that it was time to go
and then they walked off the altar with the Bishop’s arms around the shoulders of two of the
priests. I have never seen such Episcopal behavior. It was refreshing to see such

Steve gave an interesting characterization of a day in the life of Mary:
   - Mary up first to light lamps and start fire
   - Toilet and walks to well to get water
   - Prepares breakfast of barley bread, honey, locust or fish and lunch
   - Wakes up Joseph and Jesus
   - Toilet and washing
   - Morning prayers
   - Eat meal
   - Depart for work at dawn – Steve believes they worked as stone masons at a site about
       an hour walk away. Nazareth was a town to small to provide regular labor for a
       carpenter (about 200 people in town)
   - At dusk, collect daily pay (denarius)
   - Mary prepares dinner
   - Arrive home after dark, eat dinner
   - Evening prayer
   - Bed

Back on the bus for a 180km trip to Lanciano (“the Lance”) and a Eucharistic miracle that is
officially recognized by the Church.

We walk to the Church of St. Legontian. Here, in the 8th Century, a monk who was offering
Mass, had doubts about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, during the consecration,
saw the host transformed into human flesh and the wine into blood, which later coagulated
into 5 globules. In and of itself, it is interesting that any degradable material would still exist
after 1200 years. The flesh, which is the same size as the large Host used today in the Latin
Church, is fibrous and light brown in color. The blood consists of five coagulated globules
and has a yellow color.

It is claimed that examination of the flesh shows it to be heart muscle and free of any
preservative material. The blood was shown to be human and possess characteristics of fresh
blood. It was also claimed that, when weighed, each globule of blood weighs the same and
the total weight of all globules remains the same whether one or all 5 are weighed. The flesh
and the blood have the same blood type, AB.
We celebrated Mass in front of these relics.

Back on the bus for another 155km ride to San Giovanni Rotundo. We have put in almost
500km today. The Gran Paradiso Hotel is a welcome sight…and very close to Santa Maria
delle Grazie, the new resting place for Saint Padre Pio.

May 17
We are up and off to Mass in front of the tomb of St. Pio.

The crypt is lavish in its decoration. Luca indicates that the ceiling is gold tiles. There are
some wonderful mosaics decorating the hallway leading to the crypt.

We can walk to the crypt and reach in to touch the casket of St. Pio.
Mass is delayed a bit. The ushers (probably better called “ssshers”) are a bit perturbed
moving around repositioning the standards and ropes that provide traffic control. The Liturgy
is beautiful, right in front of the crypt.

Later we are told that the reservation to have Mass at the tomb of St. Pio was made more that
a year ago, when the body was in a different location. In this crypt, we were refused the right
to say Mass because it impacted other people who wanted to visit the crypt. Steve and Luca
told the local officials that we were not leaving and they were going to go to the local store
and get bread and wine and celebrate the old fashioned way. The officials caved. Thank you,
Steve and Luca.

This experience turns into a case of boundary conditions of glitz and kitsch. We have gold
and art work with the humble monk. The rest of San Giovanni Rotundo is awash in religious
paraphernalia, mostly statues of St. Pio in sizes from a 1” to 3’, the vast majority imported
from China.

In the old church, I took great comfort in praying near the confessional used by St. Pio. He is
the apostle of the confessional, reported to spend 12 hours per day administering this
sacrament. He was the first priest to bear the stigmata.

There was an interesting story from another pilgrim. We were discussing that St. Pio was a
man of our time and it was highly likely that there are many in town who knew him
personally. She said she had told a co-worker that she was coming to San Giovanni Rotundo.
The co-worker indicated that she had family there and told her that once a relative in the US
was very sick, they called a relative in San Giovanni Rotundo who knew St. Pio. He gave the
relative one of his gloves, used to protect the wounds of the stigmata. The glove was sent to
the US; the relative was cured. They still have the glove.

The tomb of St. Pio 2010

                      Small stones speak
                      lavish moments
                      around the bones
                      of a man most aptly named
                      Jump up you son of Timaeus
                      and demand that you might seek
                      beyond the gold my tomb enthrones
                      Grace builds on nature
                      and Pio cries do not be meek
                      From silencio to sanctus
                      be a warrior of the militant
                      advocate of the suffering
                      celebrity of the triumphant.
                      Lord, unguild complacency
                      The heart has needs
                      logic cannot see
                      Dies natali
In the afternoon, we took a trip to Monte Sant’Angelo. Lots of interesting lore on this. St.
Michael was reported to appear to the Bishop three times at end of 5th Century and told him
the cave (now under the church) was sacred ground. There was supposedly a foot print of St.
Michael that is under the perpetual adoration chapel. St. Francis, St Bernard of Clairvaux, St.
Bridget of Sweden and more than 6 Popes all visited this site. When we arrived, the Church
was locked, but Steve and Luca talked their way in. It was a long way down to the cave, but a
rougher climb back out.

May 18

On the road again and headed in the direction of Rome by way of Manoppello (about 205km).

In Manoppello is the Church of St. Michael that houses a relic called Veronica’s Veil. When
we arrive, it is very odd that we are the only pilgrims in the area. At every other shrine, there
were heavy crowds. I suspect this speaks about the veracity of the relic.

Steve explained that Veronica is actually vera nika which means a true image.

In any event, the veil was reportedly brought to Manoppello in early 17th Century and given to
a local resident. Local belief is that it is the burial cloth of Jesus that was put over his face in
the tomb. I saw minimal resemblance to the face on the Shroud, the hair and beard on the
Shroud are very different. The face is visible on both sides of the cloth. There is an open
mouth with teeth visible; the eyes are open and pupils (brown) visible. Stylistically, it had the
sense of a medieval painting, imperfectly rendered, with awkward proportion. It could have
been a work of art produced after seeing the Shroud.

I reserve my judgment. Pope Benedict did venerate the relic in 2006.

Depart Manoppello for Rome. Some 200km later, we pull into the outskirts of Rome to visit
the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. In ancient Rome, no one could be buried within the walls of
the city. Catacombs were dug to accommodate pagan and Jewish burials as well as Christian.
Forty different catacombs have been discovered. I suspect that the persecutions of Christians
really drove the need for more burial sites. St. Callixtus was a deacon assigned to administer
the burial site. He later became Pope.

The Catacomb of St. Callixtus is four layers deep, the top layer (about 30’ deep) being the
oldest. The length of tunnels is estimated at more than 20 kilometers.

We were warned that anyone with claustrophobia should stay out. The pathway was narrow
and tall. In some locations, more than 8 crypts were carved ceiling to floor. There was quite
a bit of art work preserved that showed Christian images (Good Shepherd, Last Supper, fish)
and graffiti.

For me, the most interesting crypt was the grave of St. Cecilia. She was martyred in 177AD.
Her body was uncovered in 822 and moved to Church of St. Cecilia. She was incorrupt ---
the earliest known incorruptible. She died a horrible death when the executioner was not able
to cut off her head. She reportedly lived for several days. She was found in the position
depicted by the marble statue --- body on its side, face down, hands open with 1 finger
extended on the left hand and three fingers on the right signifying “one God” and “the
Trinity.” In 1599, her sarcophagus opened. It was found that the saint's body was still totally

We celebrate Liturgy at a Church near the Catacombs.

We depart for the hotel into Rome rush hour. Soon after entering the gates of Rome, we come
to Nero Circus. This is the site of the first organized, state-sponsored executions of
Christians. The city of Rome burned in 64AD and Nero blamed it on the Christians. This is
the likely the place where St. Peter was martyred. There was an obelisk at the center of the
Circus, brought to Rome from Egypt by Caligula, that is now in the Piazza of St. Peter’s.

The objective is to get checked in at the hotel and then go a restaurant to have dinner with
Cardinal Arinze, who had graciously agreed to meet with us. He was the youngest Bishop
ever consecrated (age 32), one of the principal advisors to Pope John Paul II and was
considered “papabile” in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict the XVI. Cardinal Arinze is
from Nigeria.

The amount of graffiti on Roman walls is astounding. All of those wonderful building

We drive across the Ponte Vitorio Emanuele for a great view of Castel Saint Angelo
(originally the mausoleum of Hadrian) and right to Saint Peter. What a heart lifting view!
We head south toward the hotel, change course when Steve decides we should go directly to
the restaurant. We drive a considerable distance north along the Tiber. We pass Ponte Milvio
where Constantine won the battle that freed Christianity. I was surprised that no one pointed
this out. I just happened to see the sign.
The restaurant was, I believe, named Baba, which could have been an abbreviation of “Ba
Runi”. This was a Nigerian greeting we rehearsed. Well, we confused the good Cardinal
who commented that there are 250 dialects spoken in Nigeria. He speaks only one of them.
“Ba Runi” must be from one of the other 249.

Cardinal Arinze gave a very nice talk that summarized where we had visited and the
importance of those site and relics. He encouraged us to love and obey and to use the
sacraments frequently, particularly the Eucharist. He closed his talk by saying he did not
want anyone to comment that “he had finished but he had not stopped talking.”

It is late when we finally get to NH Villa Carpegna. The process for handing out room keys
never got to the point where it could be described as efficient.

May 19
We start the last day with a bus trip to St. Peter’s. It is important to get there early in order to
get seats that allow a good view of Pope Benedict. When the gates open, there is a rather mad
dash into the beautiful Bernini designed Piazza. Luca directs us to the perfect spot. Luca
warns us to protect the space, particularly from Nuns who will push to be near the Pope.

90 minutes later, Pope Benedict enters the Piazza in the Popemobile. He comes by our
location twice. I doubt if I am more than 8’ from him. He looks much more fail than I
expect. However, his talks are energetic as he spoke about the importance of faith and
pointed us to the Blessed Mother at Fatima. Benedict repeats his talk in 6 different languages
for different pilgrim groups who are there to greet him.

We meet at 1pm at the obelisk in the Piazza. This is the one that was moved from Nero’s
Circus to the Piazza by Sixtus V in 1546. We move back the buses for a tour of the three
major papal basilicas in Rome --- St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, St Paul Outside the Wall.
These churches are on Papal property, the only such property outside of the Vatican. A
basilica is a church consecrated by the Pope.

There are four papal churches of Rome (above plus St. Peter). They have a special “holy
door” which is only used in a Jubilee Year. Furthermore, no one is supposed to celebrate
mass at their high altars except the pope and those specially delegated by the pope to act in his
stead. However, we celebrate Mass at the high altar of St. Paul Outside the Wall.

I make an interesting discovery. The rosary I carry for Janet has medallions separating each
of the decades. The medallions depict each of the four papal churches. I will be able to touch
her rosary to each of them.

Basilica of St John Lateran
The property and construction of the church were provided by Constantine, Laternae being
the maiden name of his wife. This is the Church of Rome, the seat for the Bishop of Rome,
the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic faith. It is here that a Pope makes all ex cathedra
declaration on the faith. Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum
mater et caput is carved over the entrance.

In front of St John Lateran is an obelisk taken from Eqypt by Constantine. He had it installed
at the Circus Maximus. It was moved to St John in the 17th Century.

Included at St. John are the steps of leading to the praetorian of Pilate that Christ ascended for
His sentencing (moved from Jerusalem to Rome by St. Helena). We did not see this relic.

St. John Lateran is older than St. Peter’s. The Popes lived at the Lateran Palace until Clement
V transferred the official seat of the Catholic Church to Avignon in 1309. When the Popes
returned to Rome, with the influence of St. Catherine of Siena, the Palace and Basilica were in
such poor condition (fires and earthquakes) the Popes lived in different places until the
Vatican Palace was built.

Five ecumenical councils were held at St. John Lateran. It was here that St. Francis came to
get papal approval for his religious order.
The “holy door” is a large bronze door taken from the Roman Curia.

The interior is massive with 12 very large statues of the Apostles placed in the niches in the
columns that support the church. Fragments from the skulls of St. Peter and St. Paul are
enshrined above the main altar.

There was a relic of the table from the Last Supper encased in a side altar.

Basilica of St Mary Major

There is an interesting story about the location of this church. In mid-4th Century, the Pope
had a vision of the Blessed Mother who asked him to build a church in her honor. He did not
know where to build the church. In the month of August (hot times in Rome), snow fell on
the place where the church stands. The church recognized the important role of Mary as
“theotokos”, the mother of God as confirmed at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

Here is where Pope Pius V came to pray before the Battle of Lepanto. Pius V was the Pope
who excommunicated Elizabeth I of England.

The ceiling of the church is gold gilt that was supposedly given to the Pope by King
Ferdinand and Queen Isabella from gold received from the New World during a restoration of
the church in the 16th Century.

Below the main altar is a crypt that holds the remains of St. Jerome (translator of Scripture in
the Latin Vulgate) and remains from the manager that held the Christ child.

In a side altar there is a picture of the Blessed Mother supposedly painted by St. Matthew.

Bernini, the great architect of St. Peter’s, is buried near the main altar.

Basilica of St Paul Outside the Wall
This church was built by Constantine over the spot early Christians venerated as the burial site
of St. Paul.

On the way to the church, Steve gave an account of the imprisonment of Paul at the
Mamertine Prison. The prison was built about 600BC on two levels with the prisoners
lowered through a hole in the floor of the first level to the lower level. The lower level was
dark, wet and the stench made it hideous. St. Paul wrote his final letter from here to Timothy
(II Timothy) as his last will and testament.

Steve also mentioned that there was graffiti of early Christians on the sarcophagus of Sts Peter
and Paul asking for their intercession. St. Peter and St. Paul were treated by the early Church
as though they were twins --- the new Romulus and Remus. During the Protestant revolution,
they became separated with St. Peter taking a lesser role in the Protestant tradition because of
his association with the Catholic Church.

The church was destroyed in the early 19th Century. The decision to rebuild it in exactly the
same way became a global initiative with contributions coming from all over the world --- the
alabaster pillars came from Egypt; Russia sent precious materials for the tabernacle.

The tomb of St. Paul (St. Timothy is next to him) is beneath the main altar. There is a set of
chains that were his prison chains. The original cover on his sarcophagus reads “Paulo
Apostolo Mart.”

There are mosaic portraits of all of the Popes --- Peter to Benedict. It is reported that there is
space for only 8 more Popes.

There is a chapel to St Stephen commemorating the fact that Stephen, when he was stoned,
prayed for St. Paul. “Without the prayers of Stephen we would not have Paul.”

We celebrated Liturgy on the high altar.

May 20

Finis est!

Pilgrimage class transport home that makes the bus feel spacious. I am again seated with
Shannon who graciously offers me her aisle seat, but I have souls to free and stay in the

I make an early connection to Chicago and am home and happy to be so.
Just a comment in passing on public toilets in Italy --- they are the bane and salvation of
many. In a sense, Italy has raised the process of elimination to an art form. Successful
behavior in this confined space requires a skillful integration of physics, geometry and ballet.
One departs with a feeling of accomplishment and more than a dollop of humility.

Post Post Script
We were able to see the face of God in the Shroud, a Eucharistic miracle, a location made
sacred by the Archangel Michael and relics from the Nativity and Last Supper. We saw a veil
with the image of Christ from Veronica and a painting of the Blessed Mother by St. Matthew.

We visited the burial sites and relics to celebrate the lives of Sts. Peter, Paul, John Bosco,
Maria Mazzerello, Clare, Francis, Timothy, Jerome, Cecila. As was the practice of the early
Church, we call on all of these saints for their intercession for the sake of the Church and for

We heard the voice of Peter in Pope Benedict.

We participated as part of the catholic Catholic Church in a pilgrimage for spiritual
awakening and growth.

I return changed and challenged.

Bless us all, O Lord. We are your people, the sheep of your flock.
While no one escapes the earthly game alive, the martyrs have shown us that it is our choice
to die in the bleachers or on the field of play.

                      There is an appointed time,
                      the grand plan.
                      Timeless in the heart
                      with the final choice in man
                      My life I lay before me
                      from obligation to addiction.
                      In letting go, I gain control
                      to shell the lie and see the fiction.
                      The key to life is being dead
                      when all is done and said
                      the dying I can do
                      I just fail in staying dead.

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