Sunday, October 5, 2008

St. Paul outside the Wall

This morning I had the opportunity to go out to the Church which was built over St. Paul's burial place to attend mass with the successor of St. Peter.  St. Paul outside the Walls is actually my favorite Church in all of Rome.  There is just something about it that draws me to it.  Of Course St. Paul is considered one of the two Princes of the Apostles.  He along with Peter are the most prominent evangelizers of the world and of Rome.  And of course it was the blood of these two martyrs which was the seed of the faith planted in this hallowed ground.  
Now this year happens to be dedicated by Pope Benedict as the year of St. Paul.  St. Paul is responsible for a large number of the books in the New Testament in the form of his letters to the various churches he had evangelized as well as to particular people whom he knew.  He even wrote a letter to the inhabitants of this very city (which would later be the place where he gained the crown of martyrdom).   Here is a picture of St. Paul's Facade and his statue which dominates the entrance cortile:

We were all waiting to in the basilica for the opening mass of the Synod of Bishops being held here in Rome.  They are studying the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church - no better place to start than at the tomb of the Word's most prominent and prolific expositor in the written form.  Here is a picture of the crowd gathering and waiting in this beautiful basilica:

Rome is truly a Catholic City.  I mean this in the sense of universality - the world becomes small when you enter the eternal city.  This is the place where Catholic Christians from all over the world converge and intermingle.  Every tribe and nation and tongue is represented in the Church, all the corners of the Earth find their center in the mission and ministry of the Holy See.  But even for me it was a chance to reconnect.  I ran into a ton of people I knew back when I was studying on the hill.  One group in particular is the Little Sisters of the Lamb, a religious group coming out of France, whose charism is reliance on Divine Providence.  They are extreme mendicants in that they won't accept monetary donations and live off begging for their sustenance.  To travel around Europe that actually hitch-hike (in groups of course).  A good friend of mine is associated with this order and has invited a group of them to Kansas City where he is a priest.  It sure was good to see them, and they have invited me out to say mass at their chapel near the Santi Quattro Coronati church over past the Colosseum on your way to St. John Lateran.

The Pope entered and our hearts swelled knowing that here was Christ's vicar on earth passing by us.  What an awesome reality to be so close to the visible sign of our unity as Catholic Christians!

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