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.