This morning, I had the privilege to do my favorite activity in Rome. I woke up at 6 am and then George Martell and I proceeded to St. Peter’s Basilica by 6:45. I like to be at the big central gate of St. Peter’s when it opens at 7:00.
Often in the afternoon, St. Peter’s can become so crowded that it may feel like a holy museum. It is understandable how that can happen since it is Rome’s top tourist destination and the beauty is overwhelming. But St. Peter’s never feels like a museum at seven in the morning. At that hour it is a holy house of prayer, in many languages.
The pilgrims present then recognize the privilege of praying near the bones of St. Peter the Apostle, as well as near the tombs of so many of his successors, including all the popes of the last 100 years through Blessed Pope John Paul II. On the plaque shown below, I count that 148 (of the 264 deceased Popes) are buried at St. Peter’s.
Today, George Martell and I were among the 50 individuals there at the opening of the gates. We were blessed to be able to attend the Mass celebrated by Father Gerald Murray of Holy Family Parish in Manhattan and concelebrated by my brother Father Roger Landry of Saint Bernadette Parish in Fall River, Massachusetts. They are both here in Rome this week to provide commentary on Raymond Arroyo’s EWTN television and radio show.
As I entered Saint Peter’s for the first time in nearly seven years, I became aware of how much it feels like home. It is a massive Church in its scope and significance, but the size and proportion of the columns and the baldacchino (canopy above the main altar) allow the Church to often seem visually smaller and warmer.
George and I followed Fathers Murray and Landry into the beautiful sacristy where the priests checked in, put on their liturgical vestments, and selected a English Roman Missal and a Lectionary. When everything and everyone was ready, a sacristan led us in a procession to a particular altar on the main level of the Church. The website SaintPetersBasilica.org indicates that there are 25 altars on the main floor, including the Papal Altar and the Altar of the Chair. Today, he chose to bring us to the Altar of the Sacred Heart, which is to the left and back of the main Papal Altar. Above the Altar of the Sacred Heart is a stunning mosaic of the apparition of Jesus to Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque. This mosaic was blessed in 1923 when Sr. Margaret Mary was canonized.
After the beautiful Mass today, George and I proceeded to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The main purpose of our visit to Rome is to try to cover these events in a way that Catholics back home in the Archdiocese and beyond can experience what it is like to be here. Because prayer at St. Peter’s is a major activity of a pilgrimage to Rome, we have invited prayer intentions to PrayerRequests@PilotNewMedia.com.
Today, I had the honor to bring 40 of those prayer requests and ask them of the Lord through the intercession of our first Pope, St. Peter the Apostle, who was crucified on Vatican Hill, and who we believe is buried just steps away. I look forward to bringing prayer requests to St. Peter’s nearly every day; so if you have a particular intention, please email it to me.
After breakfast back at our hotel, which is about a ten minute walk from the Basilica, George and I returned to St. Peter’s to interview Francesco Cesareo, the president of Assumption College in Worcester, for a segment on The Good Catholic Life radio program. Francesco was in Rome to inaugurate Assumption’s new satellite campus in Rome, which gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a classic liberal arts curriculum, which is woven into the experience of living in Rome and visiting its many educational and formational destinations.
Francesco is also a Church Historian and provided some great insights on the possible impact of Pope Benedict’s resignation on future popes, and he shared what characteristics he thinks the Church needs most at this point in its history from its next Holy Father. Please tune into Wednesday’s episode of The Good Catholic Life to hear the entire interview.
Immediately after our interview was over, we were able to see the Cardinals entering the Petriano Gate in front of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. There were a lot of media assembled and most Cardinals who walked to the Congregation meetings were quickly mobbed.
George saw the bus with the American Cardinals and was able to get a photo of Cardinal Seán and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick behind the reflection in the glass.
We were then able to prepare a video update.
From there, we headed into the square to meet up with a group of twenty from St. John’s Seminary’s Master of Arts in Ministry program that is on a pilgrimage “retracing the footsteps of Blessed Pope John Paul II” through Poland to Rome. After George snapped a group shot, I was able to interview four of the pilgrims (Fr. Chris O’Connor, Mary Jo Kriz, Beth Joyce and Aldona Lingertat) for Thursday’s episode of The Good Catholic Life.
Aldona was very proud to show her new “sede vacante” stamps for her growing stamp collection. Those stamps are only on sale for the short time of the sede vacante period, so they will be very rare.
I returned to the hotel to finish a column on our experiences thus far for this Friday’s edition of The Pilot newspaper. Then George and I proceeded to the North American College in anticipation of another daily briefing by two American Cardinals with the media. However, upon our arrival, we were told that the Cardinals had just opted to impose a period of silence from the media after a breach on Tuesday in which details from their confidential discussions on Monday were leaked to the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
The USCCB press office issued a statement that read, “The U.S. cardinals are committed to transparency, and have been pleased to share a process-related overview of their work with members of the media and with the public.”
Prior to the Cardinals’ prayer session in St. Peter’s at 5pm Rome time, I was able to visit with my brother, Fr. Roger Landry, and complete an interview for Wednesday’s radio program. The interview covered his joy in celebrating Mass within St. Peter’s, his work on behalf of several media organizations while in Rome, the reasons for the Cardinals’ Prayer Service, and the qualities the Cardinals have indicated publicly that they hope to see in the next Pope – and how many current Cardinal-electors meet those criteria. You can listen to the entire interview on Wednesday’s episode of The Good Catholic Life.
Due to the very long lines for the prayer service, George and I decided to watch it live on CatholicTV.com and then finish up our preparations for the radio show. We will embed video of the prayer service right here if it becomes available, so we encourage you to check back if you would like to watch it.
We look forward to sharing additional updates from Rome tomorrow. We appreciate your interest in this Blog. Please consider sharing it with others so they can also experience Rome from a pilgrim’s perspective.