Monday, July 4, 2016

Day 11 - July 4

July 4th -- Happy Independence Day!

We headed out of the city to San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence of the Gridiron) who was martyred by being burned on a gridiron and were greeted by a monument to Pope Pius XII, who visited and prayed with his people of San Lorenzo within 24 hours  after it was bombed during World War II.  He was deeply moved by their loss of lives. Unfortunately, a lady of the parish was being remembered at her funeral and we couldn’t get into the Church. We wandered around the porch and noticed a raised tomb to an Italian politician Alcide De Gaspari. His cause for canonization has been opened. This gives us hope for our politicians.  

We moved onto our next holy spot . . . Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (or The Church of the Holy Cross). In this basilica are a variety of relics, mostly related to Our Lord’s Passion.  Displayed were one of the nails that pierced His Hands, two of the thorns from His Crown,  a section of the wood of the Cross and most of the title above His Head. We spent time in quiet reflection before these vivid reminders of His Love for each one of us. Included in this Church are also the remains of two women whose lives ended in dedication to that same Lord, namely, St Helena (Mother of the Emperor Constantine), who brought the relics from the Holy Land, and the remains of a modern saint, Antonietta Meo (1930-37), nicknamed Nennolina. This young girl died at the age of six, after having suffering from bone cancer that led to her left leg being amputated. She had visions, wrote letters (most dictated to her mother) and composed a short prayer to Jesus, dedicating her sufferings to him. At least one healing has been attributed to her intercession since her death, and she is currently being considered for official canonization as a saint. She had been baptized at Santa Croce and her body was moved inside its walls in 1999. (

After lunch four of our pilgrims decided to go back to San Lorenzo. After all our practice we were able to catch the bus that led us back. As we approached the locked gates of the basilica and prayed to St Lawrence and Blessed Pius IX,  the little old sacristan wandered out and opened the doors. We had the whole Church to ourselves for about fifteen minutes-down the steps straight to the altar behind which St Lawrence and St Stephen were buried. The sacristan even put on the lights for us. We knelt to pray, asking these saints blessing on so many, then we went behind the tomb to see the slab of marble Lawrence’s body was placed on after his execution. It remains stained with his blood to this day. Immediately behind  the altar of Lawrence and Stephen is the chapel where Blessed Pius IX or Pio Nono is laid out in splendor. Although his original burial was done in secret due to his difficulties with the Italian government, after his beatification, his new resting place is grande! In a glass coffin, with a silver mask on his face and surrounded by golden mosaics lies a pope whose name we have seen repeatedly at all the major shrines we have visited. Second only to St Peter in length of time as pope, he supported and funded many projects and artistic works. He is also remembered for the declaration of the Immaculate Conception, the convocation of Vatican I, Papal Infallibility, and much more. (Church History 101).

The bus ride back to the Domus brought us to St John the Lateran and the Holy Steps. There was just enough time to slowly climb the steps on our knees, while reflecting on the Passion. These steps, brought by St Helena back from Jerusalem are traditionally associated with the path Our Lord trod during the night of His Passion. Now covered with walnut wood, centuries of pilgrims have made the climb as part of their Holy Year pilgrimage.

Did you notice that this is written on the Fourth of July? Our sisters at the Domus prepared a lovely celebration for us-complete with red white and blue tablecloth and candles! Delicious hot dogs and hamburgers, watermelon and homemade ice cream sandwiches-yum yum! We sang ‘God bless America’ at the beginning of the meal. 

The porch of the Basilica of St. Lawrence

St. Helena, who brought the relics of the True Cross from Jerusalem to Rome

The ceiling in St. Helena's Chapel, at Santa Croce 

Sisters venerating the tomb of Sts. Lawrence & Stephen

The blood-stained marble slab on which St. Lawrence's body was laid

The mortal remains of Blessed Pope Pius IX

Pilgrims at the Holy Stairs

The dinner table, as prepared for July 4th 

Homemade ice cream sandwich