“Postcards” from the Class of 2014
Week 6 Highlights
The first highlight; On Monday, June 23rd myself and 12 other “Rome Experience men” along with Father Eric Nielsen embarked on “the way of the 7 churches”, a traditional pilgrimage started by St. Philip Neri in the 16th century. Along the way we prayed all four mysteries of the rosary, spent time in the Churches for mental prayer, laughed, sweated a lot, and returned home exhausted after walking a total of 19 miles! Before we started I had thought “it’s only walking, it won’t be too hard.” In reality, it was pretty difficult, and I think the Lord will reward us with some special graces! It was a great day, and I know St. Philip would have been proud of us. I cannot fail to mention that among the many churches we visited were the four major basilicas: St. Peter’s, St. Paul outside the walls, St. Mary Major, and St. John Lateran (The place of the Holy Father’s cathedra). We also visited St. Mary in Trastevere, St. Lawrence, and St. Sebastian. What a great experience to walk many of the streets of Rome on pilgrimage, following the example of so many Catholics who have gone before us.
The second highlight of the week was unforeseen, but especially sweet for me. On Tuesday morning we were going through various churches and learning about their art and architecture. Inside one of the churches, we were told that Mary had appeared in an apparition at one of the altars, and that the apparition had been approved by Rome. If this was not amazing enough, we were then told that St. Maximilian Kolbe, the “saint of Auschwitz” who had great devotion to the Blessed Virgin later came to this church and celebrated his first Mass at the altar where the apparition occurred. Since my first year of seminary, my rector gave me a biography of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and since then he has been a great inspiration for me in following the Lord’s call to the priesthood. He was a young man who struggled in discernment, but ultimately decided to consecrate his life completely to God as a Capuchin friar. He voluntarily gave his life for another man who had been chosen to be executed by starvation. When Maximilian was asked who he was by the soldier in charge he said, “I am a Catholic Priest, old and good for nothing.” Maximilian thus convinced the soldier to take him and spare the life of the other man. While in the starvation bunker amidst some other prisoners, it is said that Maximilian turned the space of the bleak starvation bunker into a chapel, filling the air with prayers and songs and encouraging the other prisoners to not lose hope, to trust in God. At the altar I touched my rosary to the altar stone, and asked Mary and Maximilian to pray for me, that I may be holy and courageous.