I was asked numerous times what my favorite part of my trip to Rome was, even with just being home less than ten hours. In my exhaustion, I was unable to answer. What makes me able to answer this after just four hours of sleep, I have no idea.
Thinking back on the past week, it is difficult to pick out just one favorite part of the trip. Being that this was my first real trip outside of the United States, it held lots of first for me. First time through international security; first time in a country that does not speak English majorly; first time traveling over 6 hours on a plane; first time in the home of the Church; many other firsts.
So after thinking this for all of 8 hours, my top three favorite moments of the trip has to be the following:
- Being in a new country, a country that has ancient history
Being that I have never traveled outside the United States, I have only ever studied the history of the world through textbooks and through other’s experiences. For the first time, I experienced a new country, a new people, a new world with my own being. I visited some amazing places, such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and numerous other amazing artifacts.
I had the opportunity to visit so many holy sites to pray for and with our Church. I visited the resting place of numerous holy people: Saint Benedict, Saint Scholastica, Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Andrew, Saint James the Lesser, Saint John, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint John Paul II, and many others. I experienced Christ in a new way when I had the opportunity to pray at the side of these holy men and women, knowing that their faith keeps their lives still relevant to today. I experienced in a new way the universality of our church, visiting the Vatican, the earthly home of the Church.
- Visiting my classmate from the Diocese of Greensburg
A classmate of mine from Saint Mark Seminary is now studying at the North American College in Rome. I mentioned him numerous times throughout the past week, and I feel that visiting with him made the experience of Rome even greater. I was able to share with him my own experience of seminary as well as our joys and excitement for ordination and ministry in the church. I haven’t been able to chat much with him since he left for Rome, so it was a great joy to spend time with him this past week.
I was also able to visit the North American College in Rome. For me, this was a cool experience. I have heard about the NAC from numerous people over the years, so I had an image in my head which, not surprisingly, turned out to be false. I have heard about the NAC from past students there, visiting priests, even Cardinal Dolan, both in person as well as his book “Priests for the Third Millennium.” Visiting this college has completely changed my understanding of the NAC. I am grateful for this experience, enjoying this opportunity.
- Visiting Assisi
Assisi is the image of Italy I have always had in my mind. What I was expecting to see in Rome, I saw in Assisi. The beauty of the town, the friendliness of the people, the architecture, everything about the town was beautiful. A seminarian brother mentioned something to me about Assisi, which I believe to be absolutely true. He said that there is something fundamentally different in Assisi, that even the air is different in Assisi. While walking around Assisi, this was extremely evident. The skies were brighter and clearer than anywhere I had ever visited; the people friendlier that I have ever experienced; the view from the town was even more dazzling than other vista I have seen before; the presence of God in His Holy People, His Holy Saints still lasts to this day here. I wish I could have spent more time in Assisi. I loved my time there, but I didn’t get enough time to see everything. I hope to return someday to visit Assisi longer and take in the sights.
Even though I have boiled down this trip to three major points, I don’t think I could ever put into words my entire trip to Rome. It was truly an encounter of God through His Holy Church and His Holy People. I am definitely not a fan of traveling, but in the end, I enjoyed the trip. I had numerous hold-ups while going through security yesterday, and it really makes me not want to ever travel again, but while in Rome, I enjoyed the experience.
Thank you all again for joining me on this pilgrimage. Know that I prayed and still do pray for you all every day. Thank you for your prayers for me and my brothers while on this journey.