Rome as Key to Our Past, Present, and Future

June 29, 2016

A great benefit of partaking in The Rome Experience has been the ability to stretch one’s perspective of the city beyond just the quick tourist traps. We saw many of the “big” sites early on and have been able to dig a bit deeper in these later weeks of the program. It was in this further exploration that Rome’s unique significance to our past, present, and future as Christians and Western people stood out.

Early in the week, Dr. Marshall took our class on a field trip to the Church of Santa Maria di Aracoeli built atop the place where legend claims the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus appeared to Caesar Augustus to announce the birth of a newborn Son of God in the world. If proven true, this would represent the first Marian apparition in history and the first indication of a Christian presence in the Empire which would be radically transformed by this nascent faith.

Tradition or not, this church points to a Christian link that extends deep into Roman history, and as importantly, a Roman link that lies at the very inception of Christian history. This city is brimming with similar links which we as pilgrims have been able to witness and incorporate into our appreciation of God’s plan here.

On Friday, we stepped into a less distant past with our trip to Nettuno and Anzio where we visited the Basilica of St. Maria Goretti and the Sicily-Rome American World War II Cemetery. In fact, much of what we presently experience finds roots and parallels in these more modern developments.

St. Maria Goretti speaks directly to our wounded culture about the value of purity and one’s final trust in the boundless mercy of God. Her example provides a holy example for the way we wish to live our lives today.

Walking through the American cemetery full of servicemen and women killed fighting to liberate Sicily and southern Italy from Nazi occupation filled me with an appreciation of the sacrifice made by many to ensure the future of all. The society we currently live in was shaped by these men and women and they still serve as a reminder that the world we live in was not always so. Here in Rome and southern Italy, we see many of the keys that built our present and continue to influence it.

At the risk of sounding too novel, our pilgrimage to Europe has coincided with incomparable events in our world’s history. Here in Rome, reminders of the horrendous Orlando shooting and the aftermath of Brexit fill the newspapers, street corners, and people’s conversations. What will Rome’s role be in all this? Yet, here in the midst of ancient ruins and Baroque churches, there remains a link between Rome and the future that we are to live.

For us as Catholics, Peter is here and he is the one who will lead us into an uncertain future. He always has and will until the final consummation. We will leave the Rome Experience in just over a week yet we will always look to Rome, even from an ocean away. I know this experience will transform my view of the past, present, and future as I continue on the journey of priestly formation. From Rome, we go onward to serve the Lord and His people in America.

Andrew Tomonto

The Rome Experience Class of 2016
Archdiocese of Miami