Thursday, December 31, 2009

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage: Day Three

This would be the students first full day in Rome with some normal rest. They would need it. After breakfast (Colzione) they would have a historical lecture to prepare them for their visit to St. Paul Outside the Wall. I never got to this church and everyone I know who visited it reports being deeply moved. The Basilica is one of four major Basilicas in Rome. The basilica was founded by Emperor Constantine who had the church built over the remains of St. Paul. The church was them modified and built on by subsequent emperors and popes. The result is a stunning Basilica and grounds. A place that requires you to pause and ponder the life and martyrdom of Paul

St. Paul Outside the Walls a tour

The pilgrims would then move on to the Coliseum. This is perhaps the easiest place to imagine the power and might and abuse of Ancient Rome. I am sure they will have memories of Hollywood Rome as well as memories of what happened to early Christians at this site.

Europe - summer 2006 - Rome - Ancient Ruins

After lunch the pilgrims would then tour the catacombs. They would have a better appreciation of what it meant to be a Christian during the first centuries. They would also celebrate Eucharist in the catacomb of St. Sebastian.

Rome Pilgrimage Day Two-Catacombs

I never visited the catacombs and yet I will feel connected to our pilgrims. I was a mentor at Catholic Collegium this past summer at St. John’s University. We celebrated Eucharist in the presence of the relics of St. Saint Peregrine the Martyr. St. Peregrine was a 12 year old boy in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Commodus. This is the same Emperor we have all seen in the movie The Gladiator. In the year 192 the Emperor demanded his subjects worship him as the demigod Hercules. Peregrine was one of four young men who refused to worship the Emperor. Young Peregrine was tortured. He was thrown in the dungeon. He was placed on the rack, he was whipped. Finally he was flogged to death with leaded whips. The young martyr’s relics have been venerated ever since.

So, as my daughter and the other pilgrims visit Ancient Rome and the Coliseum I will remember St. John ’s University and the young saint and feel connected to our pilgrims.

I am sure the pilgrims had much to reflect upon today. I am also sure they had time to enjoy their new and growing friendships.

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