June 6, 2017
  • re-2017-maria-maggiore

Top-Five Highlights: First Week in Rome

Simply arriving in Rome was a highlight in itself. It was amazing to see the Eternal City for the first time, and bask in the grandeur of our surroundings. We discovered that our lodging is located in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, with an incredible view of its magnificent façade. That evening we took a stroll down to the square and had an introduction to Italian gelato. It was an amazing night.

The next day, we had an incredible period of our class on human virtues for priestly fatherhood, with our instructor taking us on a tour de force of the philosophical tradition, and introducing key concepts in the quest for true fatherhood. Simply the walk to and from class was wonderful. It seemed that around every corner of the narrow winding streets there was another beautiful baroque façade or some quaint courtyard to attract the eye.

Due to a change of schedule, our next day was an amazing walking tour of the city, focusing on the area around the ancient Roman forum. Having studied Classics in college, it was quite a thrill to walk in the footsteps of the ancient Roman authors, statesmen, and orators whose works I had read. Along the same tour we were able to stop in several beautiful churches of different periods. What a joy it is to see the triumph of the Church over all odds in a city that was once the center of the world!

On our first weekend in Rome, we had the incredible privilege of assisting at Holy Mass said at the altar of the tomb of St. Pope John Paul II. It was a wonderful experience to pray in such a magnificent space, surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. I also enjoyed strolling around St. Peter’s very much, seeing the many magnificent works of art displayed there for the glory of God. Later the same day, a few of us wandered around to several other beautiful churches, including the Pantheon, St. Ignatius, and the Gesu, which were all incredibly beautiful in their own way.

On Sunday, a group of us attended Mass at Chiesa Nuova, the Oratorian parish in Rome founded by St. Philip Neri. Thereafter, we went on another church tour, seeing one after another beautiful church. Of these, the most magnificent by far was Santa Maria Maggiore, which combines the best of many architectural styles, as it was built and added to over such a long period. It houses the famous icon of our lady known as Salus Populi Romani, or help of the Roman people, as well as relics of the crib in which our Lord would have spent much of his time as an infant. It is wonderful to be in a place where so many ancient things of such significance to the Church surround one at every side.


In our reading in the Office of Readings, a portion of the Liturgy of the Hours, practiced by the clergy of the Catholic Church, we read on Saturday about the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. The author identifies the source of many a pun among Seminarians, connecting the Holy Spirit to the more profane spirits of alcohol. But he does so in no jocund manner. He looks to the parable of our Lord, in which he remarks that new, strong wine is put into new wine skins. The author (an anonymous sixth century writer) notes that the newly ordained apostles were those new wineskins, and they were filled with the new wine of the Holy Spirit. New wine is powerful and strong, and it works somewhat roughly, even violently. Just so, the Apostles were filled with a spirit that led the crowds to think that they were drunk!

If we do not experience the same violence of extraordinary action today, let us not despair. Let us rather remember the second part of our Lord’s parable. That old wine is put into old wine skins. Now anyone who has known the pleasure of a good old wine knows that while it lacks the rough strength of the newly fermented fruit of the vine, it has an accumulated heritage of nuance and beauty that makes it richer with every passing year. Here in Rome, I have come to see the old wine of the Church in her mighty grandeur. And a sight it has been indeed.

Eddie Hoffman
The Rome Experience Class of 2017
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
Mount St. Mary’s of the West Seminary

[About the Photo:  Image of Our Lady, Protectress of Rome at Basilica of Sta. Maria Maggiore in Rome.]