Day 10 – Sunday, July 3, 2016
There are 690 churches in Rome! The 7:30 a.m. Mass we attempted to attend this morning had been suspended for the summer, so we retraced our steps back to the Gesu for an 8 a.m. Sunday Mass. The homily was a reminder to celebrate the graces of our Baptism (translated by our Italian-speaking Sisters.) Then we joined Mother Regina Pacis and Sr. Maria Socorro and they led us over the steps designed by Michelangelo to impress King Charles. Mother Regina Pacis gave a running commentary on the history of Rome as we made our way to the Roman Forum. We entered the forum and went through a maze of ruins of where the Romans had their judgment seat, which the Church later saw as the Judgment Seat of the One True God. The Romans built everything very efficiently, so as they subjugated a people, they invited them to adopt their laws, roads, and other aspects of “civilization” – and thought they were being very gracious in allowing their subjects to practice their own religions and worship their own gods – as long as any of the Roman gods were worshipped as well. For most polytheistic religions, this was no problem. Only the Jews and the Christians refused to worship the Roman gods (which, in later times, included the emperor as “god.”)
Constantine’s conversion allowed for the building of the first Christian churches, and in the forum area between the Palatine and Capitolino hills, a Christian Church was built and rebuilt. This church, St. Mary Antiqua, was only recently re-opened after years of restoration. The multimedia presentation is quite amazing – frescoes on the walls which are only partial now, are shown in vivid colors superimposed on the walls: martyrs, the Blessed Mother, icons, mosaics – over the centuries various holy art decorated the walls. Then rubble filled in the church and it was only rediscovered and carefully restored recently.
We took the bus to St. Peter’s Square and experienced our Holy Father giving his Angelus address. He told all present to be missionaries now, and for all young people to be willing to answer the call as he exclaimed, “Do not be afraid!” He looked so small from the window, but his booming voice made us feel like he was speaking to each of us individually.
Some Sisters later on journeyed to the Coliseum and met again our wonderful tour guide, Mother Regina Pacis, as well as Sister Maria Socorro. She gave us a history of the persecution of Christians, and explained how there were only two Christians known to have been killed in the Coliseum, and one was St. Ignatius of Antioch. The Coliseum was mostly used for wild animal fights as well as gladiator battles. We were able to circle around two levels and see the Palatine Hill in the distance, which was where we headed to next. We journeyed through the many ruins that led us to the top of the hill, which included the emperor’s palace. Mother Regina Pacis pointed out to us the Circus Maximus where Christians were killed during the persecutions of Nero. From the top of the hill, we could see the beautiful city of Rome – the new as well as the ancient, as Mother explained to us further aspects of the Roman Forum as we gazed at it from up above. The city was so immense and has such a beauty and richness.
Today the Sisters who took part in everything tracked walking 10.8 miles!
The ancient Roman Forum (over several centuries)
The earliest known icon of the Blessed Mother
The Sisters of Life ran into a priest-friend from New York
Pope Francis at the Sunday Angelus
Sister Maria Socorro in front of the Paletine Hill
Pilgrims at the Coliseum