Vatican Insights | POSTCARDS FROM ROME 2024

June 18, 2024
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Week 3 Highlights

1. Vatican Museums: My favorite part of this trip was visiting the Sistine Chapel. It was absolutely surreal to be standing in the very spot where so many Popes had been elected to the papacy, where the will of the Holy Spirit had been carried out so many times on the part of the College of Cardinals. It was hard to believe that the same place where I was standing was the same place where they would’ve stood. There was something very striking about being in such a monumentally important place. It was at once a place that testified to the reality, the concreteness, the historicity of the Faith, while at the same time still making clear the celestial quality of the Church, since it was, after all, still a beautifully adorned chapel.

2. Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: Over the course of my seminary training, I have read many documents put out by this particular Dicastery, and I have learned so much from those documents. I find myself citing such documents without even realizing I’m doing so when I explain certain doctrines of the Faith to others. Getting to see the inside of the Dicastery and talk to a priest that is a member of the doctrine part of the Dicastery was especially fun. It helped make these documents I had read much more real. To see where they were discussed, where they were written, was an experience that helped me understand the Universal Church in a way I don’t think I ever could’ve simulated with mere reading.

3. Dicastery for Legislative Texts: We were guided by Bishop Arrieta, who was a great guide and extremely friendly to us. He was also very helpful in understanding how all the different Dicasteries aid the Holy Father, what goes into the governance of Vatican City itself, and many other things. We were also able to see the archives in the Dicastery, which was very interesting.

4. Vatican Gardens: This tour was given to us by Bishop Arrieta, who was clearly very knowledgeable about the Vatican Gardens and did a phenomenal job making them come alive as he explained them to us. We were all having a wonderful time just walking through the Gardens, seeing all of the greenery. While the city of Rome is undeniably beautiful, I must also admit that I missed seeing trees and grass and all the other plants, so to see the Gardens was a very peaceful and relaxing experience for me. I think we all felt that way. We were all very surprised by how large the Gardens were, as well.

5. 7 Church Pilgrimage: While I immensely enjoyed all 7 of the churches, I must admit that there was an especially cool moment for me during one of the many long walks. We were walking from St. John Lateran to St. Sebastian, and we were all walking down the side of the road with high retaining walls to either side of us. It was very hot, and we were all feeling the heat, but Fr. Nielsen had us start praying the rosary. Once we started praying the rosary, all in a single file line, there was something that struck me as very special about that moment. There we were, a group of men all discerning the priesthood of Jesus Christ, in the middle of a very hot day with the sun beating down on us, in the middle of a long journey and we were praying to Our Lady together. It was a great moment of fraternity and camaraderie all under the banner of Our Lady, and I could truly feel that we were all brothers marching for Our Blessed Mother. In that moment, the heat stopped being something that felt oppressive and burdensome and transformed into something that was joyful. There was something about all of us marching through the heat praying together that I just found so simple, yet so profound.

Evan Sharp
Archdiocese of Cincinnati