Day 16 – July 9, 2016
It was a day rich in saints: On our way to the Forum area where we would be visiting churches, Mother Regina Pacis told us that St. John Paul II visited the first floor of Domus Guadalupe to see the Polish Jesuit library, both before and after he became pope.
We first met with closed doors at the places we planned to go, so many of us trekked further up the hill to St. Peter in Chains. We were able to see the sculpture of Moses that Michelangelo thought so life-like that he urged it to speak. Then we venerated the chains from St. Peter’s imprisonments where he was miraculously rescued by angels. Beautiful acapello singing created a beautiful meditative atmosphere as a group chanted Taize music.
The doors were then open at the Basilica of St. Frances of Rome. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Basilica incorporated a wall from a temple to Venus that the Emperor Hadrian had built centuries before.
Many weddings are held in this beautiful church, and part of the reason is that St. Frances of Rome was a wife and mother. She was the first Oblate of the Benedictine order, and exercised many works of charity. We prayed at her tomb, where she was clothed as an Oblate – although she died in the 15th century, her skeleton is still visible. Romans love her so much that St. Mary Nuovo, built in the 10th century, was rededicated to her in the 16th century.
Then we returned to the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, twin medical doctors who refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and were martyred in 303. The site used to be a medical library during the time of the Roman forum, and was built with perfect acoustics for the physicians to give lectures. This serves well those who chant the Divine Office, as well as priest celebrants. Brother Mark, a Third Order Regular of St. Francis, gave us the fascinating history of the Basilica. Highlights included the mosaic from 525 AD depicting Christ using Romanic symbolism, with Sts. Peter and Paul dressed in Senatorial garb; and the relics of many martyrs, including Cosmas and Damian and their three brothers; and wooden choir stalls carved in 1635 by hand with unique embellishments. Catholic artists created for beauty to raise our hearts and minds to God, Bother Mark emphasized. The Third Order Regulars were given the church in 1503, and have been able to maintain a presence there even during times of persecution.
Sr. Rosemary, a Nashville Dominican, provided a multimedia debut of her Oratorio of St. Cecilia, accompanying her stirring musical composition with beautiful images of St. Cecilia’s martyrdom. She led with a prayer to deepen our appreciation for the religious consecration of which St. Cecilia gave testimony with her life and death. It was a fitting way to enter into our Eucharistic Holy Hour.
In the afternoon, Sr. Rafael and Kateri experienced the Gospel reading of being “little sparrows” under the protection of God as they visited the Vatican Museums. At dinner they recounted their adventures, and then Sr. Mary Angela read to us selections from Ratisbonne’s conversion story to whet our appetites for Monday’s visit to the church where he experienced a vision of our Blessed Mother. More adventures to come.
An image of St. Frances of Rome and her guardian angel
Sisters venerating the remains of St. Frances of Rome
The high altar in Sts Cosmas & Damian Church
Close up of the mosaic above the high altar
Sisters venerating the relics of Sts. Cosmas & Damian
A group picture with Brother Mark