Relics and Reunions | HIGHLIGHTS FROM ROME 2024

June 27, 2024
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Just like that, the Rome portion of the program has come to a close! Catch up on some Rome highlights from Charles Wiedenmann:

The past week was unique in both what we did communally (a new class on sacred art, a papal audience, revisiting new friends, day excursions to Roman churches, fantastic Roman cuisine) and in what we chose with our weekend. On the program’s longest free weekend, many chose to take advantage of the flexibility and gift of travelling a bit further. I travelled with a small group to Venice, Italy and made some great lifetime memories. Without further ado, my top 5 highlights of this week were:

5 – Dinner at Bishop Arrieta’s House
Our group first met Bishop Arrieta at the Dicastery for Legislative Texts the week before. He was gracious enough to share with us a bit about what his dicastery is involved in and take some of our questions. After this, he took us on a tour of the Vatican Gardens. However, this week Bishop Arrieta re-welcomed us, by hosting a dinner and social event for us. The food was fantastic, but what was additionally special was to hear him speak about his life working for the Church. It was also just a great occasion to grow closer with my classmates and formators.

4 – Hosting Cardinal Harvey at the Casa
Echoing highlight number 5, we hosted a dinner for Cardinal Harvey this week at the Casa Santa Brigida. Cardinal Harvey is the Archpriest of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome. We first met him when he graciously hosted a lunch at St. Paul’s in Week 2. We reunited with him during our 7 Church Tour in Week 3 where he generously treated us to gelato. It was a pleasure getting to host him for our 3rd meeting. The highlight of the night for me was hearing Cardinal Harvey recount his experiences as the Prefect of the Pontifical Household, particularly his fond memories of both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II. What a gift to hear firsthand stories from a man who lived with and served for a Saint!

3 – Dinner in Venice
As mentioned above, I travelled to Venice and Padua with 2 brother seminarians. While many of the things we saw were life-changing, it was perhaps the quiet dinner we shared after a tiring day that needs a special mention. The food, once again, was delicious. I enjoyed an Arrabiata pasta (spicy red sauce over penne) with a local beer, which helped us forget the 13 miles we had trekked over the day. However good the food was, it was the bonding with my brothers which really made the dinner special. Sometimes, in the midst of all the good and unique things we are seeing, we can forget about the good and unique encountered in the other. I am very thankful for my weekend trip with these men, and our opportunity to share great memories and a fantastic meal.

2 – Rome – St. Cecilia
My number 2 for the week could have easily been a number 1 on most weeks. I spent the Tuesday afternoon break time touring various churches in Rome. One of these churches was St. Cecilia’s in Trastevere. Not only was this church beautiful, but it was built on top of the Crypt of St. Cecilia. The crypt contained ancient walls, floors, artifacts (like pots and oil lanterns), and art. However, the crown jewel of the church (if it is proper to refer to something buried as the crown jewel) is the chapel under the church. It contained beautiful gold mosaics, intricate floor patterns, and exquisite marble pillars and walls. And all of this paled in comparison to the major relic found at the altar of this chapel…the remains of St. Cecilia. What a sight, and what an opportunity to pray before a pious daughter of the Church.

1 – Venice – Church of San Zaccaria
It’s not every week of your life you get to see the relics of the True Cross, the Virgin’s veil, a thorn from the crown of thorns, the 4 evangelists, and countless other holy Saints. However, for me, the most powerful experience was praying in front of the bodies of St. Zechariah and St. Athanasius in Venice. I can’t properly explain the joy I experienced by finding this beautiful church in Venice which contained the remains of both of these great Saints at the same side altar. Every day when praying morning prayer, we pray the canticle of St. Zechariah, which were Zechariah’s first words spoken after the birth of his son John. How am I lucky enough to pray that prayer in front of the Saint who first spoke those words? Not only that, but how was I able to finish it with a GloryBe in front of the patristic Saint who contributed so much to our doctrine on the Trinity? Thanks be to God!

Charles Wiedenmann
Archdiocese of Cincinnati