Day 15 - Friday, July 8, 2016
After the Holy Eucharist, we walked to St. Cecilia’s Basilica and had an amazing tour, given by Sister Maria Giovanna. She took us everywhere and explained details about the life of St. Cecilia. She took us to the crypt, and showed us where St. Cecilia and her family lived. We prayed at the tombs of martyrs St. Cecilia, her husband and brother-in-law who converted to Christianity, and another Christian convert. We visited the fourth-century Baptistery where many people embraced Christianity. It is evident that it was a baptistery because of the inscription written on the marble which says, “Those who are washed here in this font will become new.” Then we went to the place in which she actually was martyred. We were very fortunate to visit these interior places of the basilica because of Sr. Maria Giovanna. She took us to the cloister garden made in the form of a cross, and divided into four sections, each with key trees in salvation history—fig, olive, pomegranate, and palm. After we climbed many stairs, we were privileged to visit the choir loft where we saw beautiful fourth-century frescoes created by Pietro Cavallini, who was the teacher of Giotto. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music.
In the afternoon, we met Fr. Oxley again at St. Peter’s for a tour of the most magnificent and beautiful basilica in the world. We began our tour outside, where he explained the main door of the Basilica, which is from the original basilica built by Constantine. It depicts Jesus on the throne, Mary, Peter and Paul and their martyrdoms, signifying that Rome is crowned by the blood of the princes of the martyrs. Then we entered through the Holy Door once again and went into the center of the Basilica, after viewing Michelangelo’s beautiful Pieta. Fr. Oxley explained that there are 38 statues of Religious, and told us that this is significant because of a new document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith stating that both the hierarchy and the charismatic gifts are essential. As we walked through the basilica, we stopped at various tombs of the Popes and prayed. We also spent a little time with the Lord in the Adoration Chapel. Then Father pointed out the actual chair of St. Peter in the back of the basilica, under the Holy Spirit window. At the end of the tour we stopped at the Baptistery, where the Pope baptizes catechumens at the Easter Vigil. Father remarked that this Basilica is “our church.” It belongs to everybody; especially the poor can say, “This is my church.” The poor need something beautiful like our church. Thus, each one of us can truly say, “This is my church.” Here all are welcome to sit at the table of Jesus. Jesus accepts everyone and everyone is thirsting for His love. We concluded with a prayer and a blessing from Father Oxley.
A group photo with a sculpted image of St. Cecilia under the altar
The front of St. Cecilia's tomb
The back of St. Cecilia's tomb
The location of St. Cecilia's actual death
Sr. Maria Giovanna
Father Oxley explaining St. Peter's
A group photo after our tour of St. Peter's