It has been a day designed by Divine Providence. We began with Holy Mass at The church of St Bridgid of Sweden, and then headed off to St Paul Outside the Walls where we saw the Crucifix that "spoke" to St Brigid and the image of Our Lady that St Ignatius and companions made their vows in front of. It's like Our Lord is bringing many strands of the church together during our visit as He brought the bright threads of several communities here at the heart of His Church.
Cardinal Harvey (the ArchPriest of St Paul Outside the Walls since 2012) met us, and had a short prayer service prepared, then we entered the Holy Doors, and then he shared personal insights about the Basilica.
Cardinal Harvey has amazing knowledge of the history of the basilica - the first building, small and oriented opposite of this one, built in Constantine's era. In the 4th C, it was clearly falling down and much too small, so they turned it around and built a larger one - which was rebuilt at the turn of the 7th C. In 1823 there was a massive fire that destroyed the basilica nave, but the tomb and the sanctuary were saved. The current basilica was built then. A plea went out to the entire world for donations to build a new church, and contributions came in from everywhere in the world - including 4 large alabaster pillars from an African Muslim Sultan. Other precious stone include malachite (bright green, adorning the high altar) from a Russian Orthodox Czar and alabaster which was cut very thin to create translucent windows.
We prayed the rest of the prayers for the Holy Father and Creed at the tomb. Then he continued his tour through the cloisters, chapel of Relics and picture gallery. He then took us to the snack bar where he treated us to a tremendous lunch - panini, pizza, pasta, gelato, a mixed fruit juice and espresso or cappuccino. It was a kind, informal, relaxing and extended (which is normal for Italians) lunch - extremely nice! We had a half hour to visit the gift shop or return to the Basilica before we rode the bus home.
At supper, we celebrated the feast day of Sister Maria Socorro, the administrator of the Domus. It is the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The Sisters pause for a moment before entering the Basilica
The Holy Water font and jubilee cross
Holy Doors from the 11th Century - new Holy Doors were put in for the Holy Year 2000.
Cardinal Harvey heads a tour of the Cloisters
Cardinal Harvey treated us to an amazing lunch!
Sister Maria Socorro and a beautiful, intricate home-made card from Siister Angelica, for her feast day.