Monday, November 21, 2011

Touring Rome

I arrived in Rome yesterday and spent the afternoon touring some of the places that I wasn't able to visit on my first trip here in February, 2010. It was a long walk from the Jesuit Curia, which is right next to St. Peter's Square, to the first church I visited--the Basilica of Saint Mary Major or Santa Maria Maggiore. This church figures into Jesuit history because St. Ignatius, when he wasn't able to get to the Holy Land to celebrate his first Mass, came to this church for that celebration because there is a relic of the manger of Jesus here.

On the way to the next Church I wanted to see--the Basilica of St. John Lateran--I stopped at the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori where the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is venerated. St. John Lateran is the Pope's church, his cathedral where his "chair" or "cathedra" is located. I also discovered that it is the largest church in Rome. Perhaps you're thinking--but what about St. Peter's Basilica? Yes, that's larger but, strictly speaking, it's located in Vatican City, not in the city of Rome.

Lastly, I walked to the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem or Santa Croce. There are numerous relics of Christ's Passion there: pieces of the Cross of Jesus, one of the nails, two of the thorns, the board which Pilate had placed on the Cross declaring Jesus' crime, and a large piece of the cross on which the Good Thief hung. There is also the bone of the index finger of St. Thomas the Apostle who touched the wounds of Jesus with this finger and came to believe in the resurrection.

But after seeing these relics, a great surprise awaited me. In Santa Croce there is also the tomb of little Nennolina, a six year old Italian girl whose cause for canonization was opened a few years ago. I'd heard about her and so coming upon her resting place was a good surprise. This heroic girl was diagnosed with bone cancer when she was five and in time had to have a leg amputated. She made an offering of her sufferings and wrote letters to Jesus that are quite remarkable. Coming upon her tomb was the highlight of my day. It's one thing to visit churches, the beautiful buildings filled with history. It's another thing to come upon a holy "living stone" who is a special part of the Church, the Body of Christ, the Communion of Saints.

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