“Top Five” 2016: Week Two

June 7, 2016

1. Silent Retreat in Ars

Week 2 started out in the middle of our silent retreat, with meditations by Fr. Christopher Mahar, daily opportunities to go to the basilica in Ars to pray at the foot of the tomb of St. John Vianney, and the peace of French country life.

In the midst of the retreat, Fr. Mahar emphasized the importance of contemplating the mysteries of Jesus Christ and of cultivating our relationship with Him first, and that when He deems us ready, He will send us out to the world. At the end of the silent retreat, we then were able to go out into Ars, filled with both the many graces He had given us during our days of silence, and with the joy of being able to speak again.

2. Mass at the Tomb of St. John Vianney

On the morning of our departure from Ars, we had a slight modification to our morning schedule. Instead of morning prayer, meditation, and Mass at the Foyer Sacerdotal Jean Paul II, Mass that day was to be at the foot of the Tomb of St. John Vianney in the Basilica. When we arrived at the Basilica, the sisters there were singing their own version of morning prayer in French, the beauty of which was absolutely striking. During Mass, we were able to ask for the intercession of the Patron of Parish Priests who lay entombed before us, and after the Mass we had the opportunity to touch some of our holy cards, rosaries, and other religious goods to the tomb of the saint while the gate was still open to us.

3. Arrival in Rome

Upon our arrival at the Lyon airport, we found ourselves at the opposite end of the airport as our gate. After a hasty trek across the entirety of the airport, into a terminal which was still under construction, we just barely made it to our gate in time to find out that our flight was also running behind schedule.

Our first introduction to Italian culture was at the gate in Lyon, where we encountered the Italian concept of a line, which is most aptly described as a large mass of people crowding around a small point of entry wherever they can find space.

After touching down in Rome, we bused into the city, passing by St. Peter’s Basilica, and we realized that we were finally here in Rome – the city where the streets have been filled both with the blood of the martyrs and with the footsteps of generations and generations of pilgrim faithful; the city at the heart of the Church; the city which is home to the Chair of Peter and the final resting place of that same man who was the first to whom Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We knew that we were in Rome.

4. Class at the Santa Croce

Our first full day in Rome, we made our way over to the Pontificia Università della Santa Croce (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross) where we had our first day of our summer courses. The day’s lectures were with the Rev. Prof. Robert Gahl, who spoke to us about the human virtues we would need for priestly fatherhood. Fr. Gahl not only drew upon the solid foundations of Catholic thought, but also was able to engage the world through the most recent developments of neuroscience which support the conclusions of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John Paul II.

5. St. Peter’s Basilica

On the Saturday morning of our first week in Rome, we had the opportunity to go to St. Peter’s Basilica for the strict purpose of just taking it all in. We didn’t have to look at it analytically, we didn’t have to take notes or pictures, or turn it into any sort of academic enterprise, but simply enter into the moment and let the grandeur and beauty of the place merely wash over us.

Vincent Racanelli
The Rome Experience Class of 2016
Diocese of Madison