Friday, May 30, 2014

The Final Thoughts, by Tony Smela

6am Mass was striking for me this morning.  Three of our members had already taken off for more adventures in Switzerland, England, and France.  Five more of our members will stay in Rome until Tuesday.  Eleven of us are now sitting in the airport in Rome awaiting our flight to Detroit.

This Pilgrimage is over.

Thirty days of sweat, pain, lack of personal space and time, headaches, stomachaches, dehydration, sore muscles, sleep deprivation, living out of a suitcase, constant travel, and death to self.

Thirty days of prayer, amazement, wonder, closeness to the humanity and divinity of God, fraternity, joy, beautiful liturgy, intercession, etc.

Once we step off the plane in Detroit, we will be back.  Back where everyone speaks English.  Back where you don't have to pay for bottled water.  Back to where we don't have to live out of a suitcase.  Back in our comfort zone.  Back to our friend and family.  Home.

But Israel and Rome will never leave us.  We will take our experiences and share them with all of you.  The way we pray will never be the same.  The way we experience our faith will never be the same.  The way we read Scripture will never be the same.  And hopefully, some of what we have experienced will rub off on you.

For a pilgrimage is never meant just for the one who travels the roads, sees the places, and goes on the tours.  The pilgrimage is meant for everyone the pilgrim returns to.  The pilgrim experiences God so that he may share that experience with those close to him.

But we also know that none of this would have been possible for us without your support.  This incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience that many people will never have the opportunity to experience is made possible to us because of you.  So, from all of us, thank you.

Thank you for all the sacrifices you made to make this possible.

My name is Tony Smela, and I have been the man behind the blog.  I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have enjoyed creating it.  This will be the last update to the blog.  God bless!

Tony Smela, signing off.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We See the Pope by Michael Kowalewski

We left the North American College today at 6am for St. Peter's Square to attend the Holy Father's Wednesday Audience Address.  There were many people excited to see the Pope. At 10am the Holy Father came out. He smiled and blessed all the pilgrims he passed. Following his audience address on the hope for peace, we took a tour under St. Peter's and saw the box containing the bones of the Apostle Peter.  He was martyred in Rome.

Who would have thought that the body humbly buried here almost 2000 years ago would flower into a city filled with churches with the biggest church honoring his name.  I felt so blessed to be near our Holy Father Pope Francis, who brings the joy of Christ to my heart.  As a future priest, I hope to bring that same joyful message of Christ to others. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rome By Mark Owdeesh

Heading down the Gianacolan hill with the crew, grab tickets to the metro and after a 20 minute bus ride make it to the Basilica of St. Paul. Walking up to the property, you are greeted with giant colonnade pillars with a beautiful green courtyard, before finally entering the church. Then there is the reaction to what you see. A glaring sigh of awe and grandeur seep through your jaw dropping expression. You do not expect to find such an open and elegant, hall-like Basilica as this one. The narthex and nave of the church is just one giant ballroom of a building, with a gilded ceiling, facial portraits of all the popes on circular frames and off course as you approach it, the open air crypt of St. Paul's tomb and encased above, one of the chains that once tied the Apostle from when he was imprisoned. Being able to pray at this spot, you recall to mind the words of St. Paul about how nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and to remember that we pick up our crosses gladly for Christ, that we may be made more in his likeness, so that all may be complete in Him.

Next we journeyed to St. John Lateran, the Mother church of all Christendom and the Pope's actual Cathedral. The word "Cathedra", meaning chair, refers to the special chair in the church as with all Cathedrals around the world, identifying the Bishop's pride of place, the chief exercise in the pastoral care of those assigned to him. At the foot of the central apse or dome is the 'chair' of Peter's successor, the traditional cathedra for the pope. As with other churches in Rome like St. Peter's, St. John displays majestic and spirit filled statues of the apostles, meant to proclaim the consistent message from the Renaissance as we see again and again in the city, that 'God has become man and so the depiction of the human form and of nature is a fitting instrument to the glory of God'.

Our final itinerary for the day was a tour by Msgr. Gallagher (from the Diocese of Gaylord) of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, the place where he works as one of the Secretaries for the City State, an administrative role requiring mastery of Latin. The tour and q&a was unforgettable; we are one privileged group indeed!

Overall, the experience and impression you get from Rome is that it truly breathes "Catholicity", i.e. the embracing of life in all of its dynamic aspects; passion, love, folly, grandeur, beauty, ingenuity, and most of all - Redemption and its fruits. As our tour guide the other day mentioned, all this here was made possible by the seed of faith and love that Our Lord implanted in Simon Peter, an ordinary fisherman from an obscure part of the world. Its beautiful to see how Peter's response to Christ's command to feed and love his sheep would show in the volumnious flowering of life and the spirit as has been and continues to be in Eternal City, for you, for me, for the world. Now I understand a lot better how this place plays such a pivitol and crucial way in both engaging and uniting the universal church for the sake of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

We've arrived in Rome!!!!!!!!! More to come......

Arrival in Paris!

We are one short flight away from landing in Rome!  I can almost taste the Gelato!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

At the Airport Again

We are currently sitting at our terminal waiting for our flight to Paris, and then Rome!  The 3:30am wake up call was hard on some of us.

Highlights from Yesterday

Here are some highlights from yesterday!  Pray for us as we spend a difficult day walking all the way to the beach to go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.

Mediterranean Sea One
Mediterranean Sea Two
Mount Carmel
Cesarea Walk
Walk to the Mediterranean Sea

Walk to the Mediterranean by SirGuy1001 on Photosynth