New and Old Friends | Memoirs from Rome 2021

July 16, 2021
  • Matt Montag Post

Some Final Program Highlights…

1. St. Paul’s Outside the Walls
The first highlight of the week was visiting St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls. During this visit we were graced with the presence of Wisconsin-native, Cardinal James Harvey. Cardinal Harvey is the Cardinal Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. The visit began with an introduction to the Basilica from Cardinal Harvey, which was followed by an in depth tour from Sr. Emanuela of the Missionaries of Divine Revelation, aka the “Green Nuns”. The visit was both intellectually and spiritually nourishing. We prayed at the tomb of St. Paul and celebrated Mass in the side chapel dedicated to St. Benedict. The visit finished off with pranzo hosted by Cardinal Harvey. All the guys had a great time and were thankful to the Cardinal for his hospitality.

2. Afternoon at the Noronha’s
Later in the week our professors John and Ashley Noronha hosted the Rome Experience at their apartment for an afternoon of appetizers and fun. During the visit we ate lot of delicious food prepared by Ashley, sang songs accompanied by John playing on the piano, had great conversation, and finished off with a group picture. Thank you again, John and Ashley!

3. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
On Saturday morning of that weekend we visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, commonly referred to as the CDF. One of the functions of the CDF is sorting out matters of Church teaching. This was a unique experience for men preparing to be priests because of the charge Christ gives to priests to feed his Sheep both with his truth and his love. The CDF plays an essential role in the life of the Church in communicating matters of Church teaching so that priests and laity can come to a clearer understanding of the purity of the Gospel message in their lives and the lives of their families. Now next time an important document comes out from the CDF we will be able to put a place to a name. Thank you, Rome Experience, for planning this into the trip!

5. Visiting Monte Cassino and Sts. Benedict and Scholastica
After going to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Saturday morning, five of us went on a quick pilgrimage to Monte Cassino and San Giovanni Rotundo to see Sts. Benedict and Scholastica and Padre Pio. Personally, I don’t have much of a devotion to either St. Benedict or St. Scholastica, I was just along for the ride. All I’ve gotta say is woah…I am so glad the others wanted to visit Monte Cassino. The basilica was one of the most beautiful churches I’d seen on the Rome Experience (and that is saying something!). Along with the beauty of the church, the spirit of the saints buried there was present. All of us did our thirty minutes of mental prayer in the crypt church where Sts. Benedict and Scholastica are buried. They were both present and interceding for us as we prayed. What I learned from this trip is that saints are perfected in charity, so while we might not be close to certain saints, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still close to us. What a gift it is to be Catholic!

6. Visiting St. Padre Pio
St. Padre Pio was the highlight of my week. This is because Padre Pio has played a special role in the deepening of my family’s faith, and the realization of my vocation. Around 2012, my dad learned about this friar from Italy named Padre Pio. Soon afterwards my father’s devotion to Padre Pio became very strong and culminated in him becoming a “spiritual child of Padre Pio”. One of the promises of becoming a spiritual child of Padre Pio is that he effectively takes spiritual charge of your whole family. So when my dad became a spiritual child, I unknowingly became one as well. In 2016, my family went on pilgrimage to Rome. It was everyone’s first time being there and the only other place we visited outside of Rome was San Giovanni Rotundo to visit the Shrine of St. Padre Pio. At this time in my spiritual journey I was practicing my faith, the priesthood was on my mind, but I was not yet seriously discerning. When my dad knelt down in front of Padre’s tomb, unbeknownst to me he prayed that one (or both) of his sons would become a priest. Thanks to my dad’s faith and Padre Pio’s intercession, soon after our 2016 pilgrimage the call to the priesthood began to be much stronger. It wasn’t until we were about an hour away from San Giovanni Rotundo this time around that I remembered all of this.

The following day we went to visit Padre Pio’s tomb. When I got up to the tomb I knelt down to pray. Very soon after kneeling down I was overcome by gratitude as I realized I was kneeling in the same spot my dad had five years earlier, only this time I was wearing a Roman collar. Thank you, Padre!

Matt Montag
Archdiocese of Cincinnati