A group photo of the pilgrims outside St. Peter’s Basilica.
Our pilgrimage to Rome took place from June 19 to July 5. This pilgrimage was of particular importance to us as it took place during the holy Year--a jubilee year. Let me begin by quoting from the letter that I wrote to the pilgrims as I feel it will be of interest to all: "The jubilee. as the Church would have us celebrate it, is an extraordinary indulgence, by which the Church remits all our temporal punishment which are due to the divine justice, for the sins which have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. The jubilee is called Holy Year because the Church makes of it a particular application of the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. These merits are a never ending source of holiness. It is a year of grace and of mercy, more than any other time, because of the munificence and the clemency ofGod our Saviour. It is also called a year of peace because as sincere penitents we are perfectly reconciled with God.
Whilst in Rome we shall make it our duty to receive the plenary indulgence. What must we do? First of all, it is necessary to have the intention to receive the indulgence. The Church, being a good mother, gives us four conditions:
1. Be in a state of grace
2. lave no attachment to sin. even venial
3. Confess our sins. This confession can be done eight days before or eight days after
4. Deceive Holy Communion on the day we wish to receive the indulgence.
Finally we must also pray for the Pope's intentions. This means that we pray for the intentions of the Head of the Church, and not for the personal intentions of the Pope.
What are these intentions?
a) The exaltation of Holy Mother Church
b) The propagation of the Faith
c) The eradication of heresy
d) The conversion of sinners
e) Peace between Christian rulers
f) All other Christian goals for Christ's people."
With these thoughts in our mind we winged our way to Rome.
Archbishop Lefebvre said that for him Rome was the Holy Land. I would like to think that the pilgrims having now visited Rome agree with this
statement, for albeit that Rome today is in a crisis of modernism (and as a result the Church at large), one must never forget that Rome remains Rome and is steeped in two thousand years of history from St. Peter himself to the present. Thus both history and holiness can be seen in the Churches and shrines of the eternal City. One could divide our pilgrimage into three categories: Our Lord, Our Lady and the Saints.
Obviously we had daily Holy Mass. Holy Communion, Confession. and this in itself is the apex of all, but we venerated so much that pertains to Our Lord and that is today enshrined in Rome. The Crib, the table on which Our Lord celebrated the Last Supper. Lie prayed the second sorrowful mystery before the Column of Our Lord's Scourging. We climbed the Holy Stairs on our knees, we genuflected before and adored the largest existing fragments of the True Cross, seeing at the same time part of the inscription INRI, one of the nails, two of the thorns, and pieces of the rock of the Holy Sepulchre.
Vile visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major-the largest church dedicated to Our Blessed Mother (see this feastday in your missals on August 5th). In the same basilica we venerated the image ``salus populi Romani" painted by St. Luke himself. In the Church of St. Alphonsus we venerated the original image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. We prayed before Our Lady of the Miracle, title given to Our Lady for the miraculous conversion of the Jew Alphonse Ratisbonne. In the Church of Our Lady in Via we drank water from the well in which Our Lady's image miraculously appeared in 1256.
In Turin we saw the spot on which Our Lady stood when she showed St. John Bosco that this was the exact place of the martyrdom of Turin's protomartyrs Sts. Octavius. Solutor and Adventus, telling him also that on this same place he would build the basilica dedicated to her and which we know today as the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians. Our Blessed Mother said to him. "This is my house. From here my glory will go forth." At Genazzano we venerated the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel. An image miraculously transported from Albania to Genazzano, arriving there at the hour of Vespers on the 25 April, 1467.
Where does one start? The Apostles. We prayed before the tombs of six of the seven Apostles buried in Rome. i.e. Sts. Peter, Paul, Simon and Jude. Philip and James the Less (the other is St. Bartholomew). Our pilgrimage to St. Peter's Basilica took the best part of a day. There is so much to see and explain on its history. The highlight was walking through the holy Door with the aim of gaining the plenary indulgence. Obviously praying before the tomb of St. Peter was another great grace. In St. Peter's Basilica alone we prayed before the tombs of Sts. Simon and Jude. Pius X. John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great. Boniface IV, Leo the Great, Leo II, III, IV and IX Petronilla (daughter of St. Peter), Processus and Martinianus (gaolers of St. Peter), Josaphat, John Damascene and Blessed Innocent XI.
We professed our faith in the One True Church whilst in, the Mamertine Prison. This was the Roman prison in which were incarcerated many saints, especially Sts. Peter and Paul. St. Peter converted his two gaolers, Proeessus and Martinianus and struck the ground to bring forth a miraculous fount of water with which he was able to baptize them. They died as martyrs and are now venerated in the altar opposite the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica.
In other churches we prayed before the tombs of Sts. Pius V, Pudentiana. Praxedes (in this church is to be found the Column of the Flagellation as well as the bodies of 1,200 martyrs) In the Church of St. Sylvester we venerated and prayed before the head of St. John the Baptist. We prayed especially for our school in Roodepoort.
Outside Rome we went to Assisi and prayed at the tomb of St. Francis. At Monte Cassino before the tomb of Sts. Benedict and his sister Scholastica. At Nettuno we venerated the remains of St. Maria Goretti. At Fossanova we saw the room where St. Thomas Aquinas died. In Turin we prayed before the tombs of Sts. Joseph Cafasso, Joseph Cottolengo. John Bosco, Dominic Savio, and Maria Dominica Mazzarello. Yes, we prayed. We, offered up the heat. fatigue, tired feet in a spirit of penitence for God's greater- glory and for the good of our souls. All a very important part of a pilgrimage.
For many though the highlight of the pilgrimage was our two-day stay in Sion. Switzerland. This for the priestly ordinations at Ecône. On the 29th June seven young mien received the Holy Orders and nine others the diaconate. With these ordinations and those at our other seminaries of Winona and Zaitzkofen, the Society now has 401 priests. Deo gratias! A great blessing was also to assist at the first solemn Mass of one of these new priests. He celebrated his first Mass in the seminary church. All were in admiration at the beauty and solemnity of our liturgy.
There were times of disappointment and hardship. Disappointment for two of our parishioners who were pick pocketed.
Trying to get into the Colosseum (which we eventually did) was difficult to say the least. I think it was easier in the time of the Caesars than for today's tourists.
It was disappointing at Assisi, climbing up a seemingly never-ending hill in the heat only to find the Church of St. Claire closed. Unfortunately this church is closed because of the earthquakes at Assisi in 1997. We did not know this detail.
And the walking was trying on the feet and ankles! "Did you say walking, Fr. Esposito? *#@£! *#@%f!!! A walk for you, perhaps, but it felt like the Durban July for the rest of us!" Thank God though for the drinking fountains in Rome, they are a godsend.
Then there were also the relaxing, good times. Walking; up the hill after supper at Albano to buy an ice cream. The poor lady in the shop, when she saw this horde of English-speaking people descending upon her! But the choice of flavours has to be seen to be believed. Incidentally the shop is called Peccati di gola which means, “sins of gluttony".
Birthdays and anniversaries were celebrated by some of us, and what a nicer way to celebrate them than with lovely cakes and champagne to end our evening meal.
Louis had us in laughter with his jokes and he had us marvelling at his card tricks.
It was also fun (for; the men at least) to watch the European Soccer Cup Final on the TV in our bus. Let me say right now that this was the only time that we used that machine. And we all enjoyed a beer or a coffee or an ice cream in the heat of a Roman afternoon….and the pasta….and….the pizza....and everything.
A special mention of thanks must be given to our chauffeur Fabio, a young Italian from Maples. He befriended all of us and was able to speak a little English, which helped. He is an excellent driver who negotiated the mountainous curves of the St. Bernard Pass and the mountains leading to Subiaco as easily as one twirls spaghetti on a fork (if you are Italian, that is!).
Coming from Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth enabled the pilgrims to seal friendships, a small proof that Rome truly is the communis patria-the country of everyone. We were united not only in our friendship but especially in our Faith.
I am sure all of us came home spiritually enriched. What we saw in Rome is but a drop in the ocean. There is still so much more to be seen which might entail another pilgrimage in two years time if God wills. After all, we are spiritually ready and, after three weeks of walking, physically ready too. " Did you say walking, Fr. Esposito….?”
Outside the Church of St. Alphonsus in which is venerated the original image of Our Lady of Perptual Succour.