Those Who Seek the Lord | Postcards from Rome 2022

July 6, 2022
  • Assisi

The Rome Experience 2022 arrived back to the United States after six full and exciting weeks in Italy! Adam Lewis reflects on some memories…

Piazza Farnese
Every morning for the past week I’ve been waking up to do the St. Josemaria heroic minute. Then after the morning offering and Office of Readings, I make my way through a relatively tranquil cobblestone piazza called Farnese. During the afternoon, it is filled with market stalls and sweaty people. Quarter after 6am, it is a quiet place. I have been frequenting Bar Farnese, which is the only local café that opens early enough before Liturgy. A few of the other seminarians are often there too, Joe of Nash., Dcn. Kevin, Kirby, and Connor. It’s quite an edifying scene to see the brothers there in clerical suits quietly going through their disciplines of spiritual readings with a cappuccino. When I walk into the little shop, the old man with the red vest behind the bar gives a cheerful, “Buongiorno!” We guess he’s in his mid-70s. I reply with the same morning greeting and then ask for a café doppio (double espresso). The owner has taken a liking to having all us young seminarians frequent his place alongside his typical company of hurried Roman businessmen. This has been and will be a memorable routine.

This past week we had the opportunity for a private tour of the Venerable English College. It just so happens to be a couple of doors down from our homebase at the Santa Brigida. The Vice-rector was classmates with one of my diocesan brother’s formator. He was our connection. The VEC has a rich history of martyrs. During the English Reformation the seminarians had to flee their native land to continue priestly formation. They came to the VEC to prepare for the sacrifice. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” In their chapel they have frescoes dating back to this early period depicting their older English brothers who had recently gone before them to minister to the Faithful. Men whom they likely knew were shown racked, hung, drawn, and quartered by their fellow countrymen who were fevered with the virus of the times. Sobering paintings stirring up heroic resolution in the young seminarians line the chapel walls. When news would reach the VEC of another martyr, sometimes only having ministered in England for 2 weeks, the seminarians and faculty would enter the chapel and sing the Te Deum before The Martyrs’ Picture – a holy image depicting the Holy Trinity and St. Thomas of Canterbury (Becket; great movie btw) and St. King Edmund.

We just wrapped up two weeks of studying Liturgical Architecture under the tutelage of the master himself, Dr. Denis McNamara. He is the author of Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy and one of the hosts for the podcast The Liturgy Guys. All the seminarians are holding on to his teaching as a powerful tool for evangelization and as a technological leverage for the future. As potential future pastors, we have now been equipped with the science of constructing a church building and the language necessary for guiding a project with a community and architect. We can now put words to gut reactions of what does and does not belong in the Church. The students can now ask fitting questions such as: is this liturgical or devotional art? Is it doxological, eschatological, and cosmological? Does it reveal the ontological reality of the thing – is it beautiful? Ought these be Doric, ionic, Corinthian, composite, or Solomonic columns? These simple tools have a great deal of force for us attempting to show the mystery of the Glorified Mystical Body of Christ manifesting herself as a lovely Bride in the midst of an oftentimes ugly world. Yet, beyond just the classes, DMac became a solid friend. He journeyed with us everyday, sweated through the 7 Churches Pilgrimage alongside us, prayed with us, ate with us, and bore a holy witness to the Spirit of the Lord and His holy operation. Thank you, good sir!

11 of us made the much anticipated pilgrimage to the native place of a couple of the Church’s most beloved saints: Francis & Clare. And to my surprise, Bl. Carlo Acutis now rests in the medieval yet ever serene town as well. Just a few weeks ago his corpse was put on display for veneration. I’ll need to look into this further, but it appears that he is incorrupt. When we entered the church of his resting place, one strongly sensed his presence. It was profound. He looked like a typical teenage boy who had fallen asleep with his Nike’s and bluejeans on. A testament to the universal call to holiness. The following day we were able to visit the tombs of Sts. Francis & Clare – holy. I knelt down for a lengthy period of time before Clare and quickly received her tender consolation. During this time a woman was kneeling next to me quietly weeping. It was such an honor to pray in that place. Before Francis I remained for an even greater period. His place of rest was surrounded by heavy foot traffic. It took much perseverance in prayer there, but he too provided manifest consolation for the sojourner. We also visited and prayed at San Damiano, the portiuncula, and the place of the saint’s baptisms at San Rufino Cathedral.

After Assisi, the same 11 pilgrimmed to Orvieto for the celebration of Corpus Christi. This is where the famous corporal of the Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena resides. I have not yet done reading on my own concerning this matter but the brothers tell me that at the time of this miracle the priest was doubting the Real Presence of Jesus and so the Lord bled onto the corporal used to hold the host. Apparently the Sacred Blood has been empirically verified as that of a human with the same blood type found in the Shroud of Turin. Out of this came the gift of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which St. Thomas Aquinas was asked to pen. Evidently he was requested by the pope to write the Mass parts as well as our treasured Eucharistic hymns such as Pange Lingua. Truly remarkable. The Mass on Sunday was very beautiful. We sat in the sanctuary with roughly 150+ bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians. It was a powerful witness to the call. The Eucharistic procession through the city was over 2.5hrs long.

May the Lord continue to pour out His sanctifying presence on His people and those seeking Him.

Adam Lewis
Archdiocese of Cincinnati