Sharing in His Heart | Reflections from Rome 2023
The Rome Experience made it safely back home in time to celebrate Independence Day in the USA! We will continue to share their highlights and reflections over the coming weeks, as there is much to tell! Peter Trossbach reflects on the last week of the program:
“You have kept the good wine until now.”
– Jn 2:10
The beginning of our last week began with class with Fr. Loya, teaching about Theology of the Body and what that means for us as future priests, powerful and loving men sent by Christ as friends of the Bridegroom to share in His mission of redemption. All of the brothers dispersed after each of these last days of class to explore Rome further and revisit sites that moved them. The days flew by, and we finished our last day of class and had an informal commencement ceremony, accompanied with a fancy luncheon at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
In the midst of this, we also had the opportunity to tour the barracks of the Swiss Guard led by two of the young guards. I was moved and encouraged by their strong fraternal and faithful culture among the men of the Swiss Guard; they were young men like us, ready to die to serve God and the Church.
All of this built up to celebrating the Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, the Pillars of the Church, at Mass at St. Peter’s with Pope Francis. What a blessing! It was such a witness of the universality of the Church. I stood praying and singing in Latin surrounded by my brother seminarians from around the country, a young couple from Turkey and Ecuador, two young women discerning religious life from Austria, a mother and her son from California, an old Italian couple, and many more. None of us knew each other, but we all knew we were at home and we belonged. We belonged there in St. Peter’s surrounded by beauty that lifted our hearts to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
That same evening, after grabbing Peronis to celebrate, some brother seminarians and I met a middle-aged couple and two young women from the USA. Conversation struck up, and each person left with an encounter of the love of God in the Church. The couple were moved by our witness and encouraged us to be holy priests, and we were able to thank them for their vocation and express our deep desire to be holy and save souls no matter the cost. The two young women had come as long-time friends to experience to beauty of Rome, one having just entered the Church with St. Elizabeth Hesselblad as her saint, and the other not Catholic while having a deep love for Jesus and searching for His Church. We shared our testimonies and then prayed together before the Blessed Sacrament and the tomb of St. Elizabeth in the Bridgettine convent. There couldn’t have been a better last night in Rome than to share the gift of our love of Christ and His Church.
At last, after scurrying through planes and automobiles, we made it to Ars to be immediately struck by the silence, peace, and cool fresh air. I think I can speak for all of us that praying with the holy Curé, St. John Vianney, for Mass and learning about his life, including his simple and austere presbytery was an experience we will never forget. There is something in each of our hearts that burns to be something of a priest as holy, humble, and fruitful as him.
To close it all, we had a day of recollection led by Fr. Jacques Philippe, focused on “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” This poverty of spirit he himself exuded and also explained as the source of the holiness of the Curé and all the saints. We gave thanks and made our resolutions. We said our goodbyes, now realizing that we all had really become brothers. We are excited to go home or adventure further, but what we have experienced — experienced together — we will never forget. We all leave a little different than when we first arrived: a little more alive, a little more like Christ.
After all of this time in Rome, what struck me personally the most was developing in prayer a unique aspect of friendship with Christ: sharing in His Heart. In Rome there is simultaneously all of the beauty, splendor, and victory of the Church throughout the centuries along with all of her pain, sin, and indifference to Christ. I felt Christ’s thirst for souls in a new way, and took this to prayer, trusting that the Father is drawing them into the Church and mercy through the sacraments because He “never ceases to gather a people to Himself.” The Church is about to begin a new springtime the same way Christ has always brought it: fierce men and women divinized through a deep prayer life and a readiness to suffer for the sake of love, fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel “whether at home or abroad, busy or at rest.” I hope we have the grace and courage to continue to say yes with everything that we are; Jesus thirsts and desires that all of us be saints: “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me” (Jn 17:24). “The only real tragedy in life is to not become a saint” (Leon Bloy). We were made for nothing less. Please pray for the men of The Rome Experience that we follow God’s call without reserve, and if He so desires, like the wound of His Sacred Heart, be fruitful mouthpieces of God’s mercy as His priests.
Archdiocese of Washington