Virtual Pilgrimage | Day 4 - Just Another Day In Rome
We began our day just down the street from the hotel with a tour of one of the most famous and easily recognizable sites in Rome - the Colosseum. The Colosseum was built by emperors for the Roman citizens to hold cruel sports and gladiator fights. The colossal size of the building is what gave origin to the name. It was an amphitheater with marble seats for 50 thousand people and room for 20 thousand more to stand. Each year on GoodFriday night the pope comes to the Colosseum for the Stations of the Cross. Just a short walk away was the Church of St. Peter in Chains. Below the altar of the church you can see a glass case that holds the chains that Scripture and tradition say held St. Peter while he was imprisoned. Also of note in this church is the statue of Moses carved by Michelangelo from one piece of marble. It was to be one of 40 statues that Pope Julius II had commissioned Michelangelo to carve as part of his grand funeral monument but is the only one that was completed.
With a short bus ride to our next stop, we soon entered through the Holy Door of the first of the four major basilicas of Rome - St. John Lateran. The first church on this site was built by Emperor Constantine making it the oldest basilica in Rome. It is the cathedral church for the Bishop of Rome who is also the Pope. The popes lived at the Lateran for 1300 years before the move to Avignon in France. When the papacy returned to Rome this church was in ruins, and this is the reason why the pope moved to St. Peter's. A Latin inscription describes St John Lateran as the "mother and head of all churches in the city and the world". A nearby building in the Lateran complex holds the Sancta Scala or the "holy steps" which consists of 28 marble steps from the house of Pontius Pilate which Jesus climbed. Pilgrims often climb the holy steps on the knees while praying.
We had one more holy door and one more basilica before lunch at Santa Maria Maggiore - St. Mary Major. This is the largest church in Rome dedicated to Mary. Its history goes back to Pope Liberius in the fifth century who had a vision the Mother of the Lord desiring a church to be built in her honor in Rome. The pope prayed for a sign, and on August 5th it snowed on the hill where Mary Major now sits. It has the highest bell tower in Rome. Beneath the altar in a reliquary one sees the wooden relic of the manger.
After another great lunch together at Mino's restaurant, we went to St. Peter's Square to attend a Prayer Vigil with Pope Francis. We had registered our pilgrim group with the Jubilee Year Office and were given tickets for seats in St. Peter's Square. This weekend is the official Jubilee Year celebration of Mary and Pope Francis marks these special Jubilee weekends with prayer vigils. After a long procession of Marian groups from around the world carrying a statue, icon or banner of the Blessed Mother, Pope Francis entered the Square for the Rosary. We reflected on the Glorious mysteries as we prayed, and the pope offered a brief reflection on Mary as the Mother of Mercy. We all cheered when we saw 11 year old Ellie greet the Pope. Ellie and her mother from Uxbridge are part of our pilgrim group and were chosen as our representatives to greet the pope at the end of the Vigil.
It was another full but rewarding day for us in Rome as we returned to the hotel anticipating the Papal Mass tomorrow in St. Peter's Square.
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St. Mary's Parish ~ 20 Summer Street ~ Shrewsbury, MA
on Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 7:14PM