Prayer, Suffering, and the Saints | Reflections Post-Rome 2023
On this feast of St. Lawrence, our thoughts turn to St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, a stop on The Rome Experience’s annual 7 Church Pilgrimage, where the deacon of Rome is buried. We reflect with Caleb on the beauty of love and sacrifice:
Reflecting back upon this Rome Experience, I understand why the Lord gave us this opportunity: he wanted to increase our capacity to love. There were a few instrumental causes for this: prayer, suffering, and the example of the saints. During this trip, we had many opportunities for prayer, for intimate dialogue with the Lord. Each day, on average, we would spend over two hours in common prayer and meditation before the Blessed Sacrament! This does not include the personal prayer that each seminarian did on his own. These times of prayer made us realize that we are not God, and that we must humble ourselves before him and trust that he will give us what we need everyday. I honestly think that the Rome Experience would be a useless exercise without the scheduled prayer times, because if God is not the center of it, something else will be.
Suffering, too, was a means by which God increased our capacity to love. Though the trip was a wonderful experience, there were many difficult and painful moments: jet lag, no A/C, walking, homesickness, actual sickness, allergies, back pain. All of these little sufferings helped to keep us on track. By them we understood that this trip isn’t butterflies and lilies. It’s difficult work! This experience of suffering draws our attention to something greater, to God. It is then important, after having suffered, to go to Jesus and to trust in His mercy, so that by His wounds he may heal you.
Lastly, we grew in our capacity to love by the example of the saints that so densely populated the city. We met hundreds of saints: Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Philip and James, St. Brigid, St. Justin Martyr, St. Clement, Sts. Praxedes and Prudenziana, St. Lawrence, and many more! It seemed like each day we learned about a new saint or got to visit a tomb of a saint. One saint that was very close to the Rome Experience was St. Philip Neri. In fact, the church in which we celebrated daily Mass was the church that St. Philip Neri spent much of his time in! His example is noteworthy and especially pertinent, because St. Philip Neri had to combat moral laxity among the laity and clergy alike during his time in Rome. He worked against this trend by forming oratories that were schools of religious fervor and devotion, and he constantly enjoined others to do good and avoid evil. St. Philip Neri, and the other saints present on this trip, is a constant reminder to strive for holiness every day.
In Rome, there was hardly a day where I didn’t have a cappuccino or a gelato, but there was never a day where we didn’t pray, suffer, and learn from the saints. These three things were immensely helpful during this experience and allowed each of us to strive for holiness day in and day out.
Diocese of Victoria