By: Jack Terzian CWF '18
Arrivederci! Meaning, see you later! In other words, I will be back.
This trip has been so amazing, so fruitful, and just as all gifts that come from our Lord, it will continue to unfold.
So this last week was pretty amazing. We saw so many beautiful churches.
St. John Lateran (1 of 4 major basilicas)
St. Peter's Basilica (2 of 4)
St. Paul Outside the Walls (3 of 4)
St. Mary Maggiore (4 of 4)
Church of the Gesú
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Sts. Cosmo and Damian
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Basilica Di Santa Sabina
and a number of others...
Some of the experiences I remember:
At Paul Outside the Walls, you approach from the outside, a massive green courtyard, enclosed by 50 foot white pillars. In the center of the courtyard is St. Paul with a sword in hand, representative of his execution by beheading.
Within the massive Church are masterpieces of art, one of which I happened to stumble upon right in the beginning to the left of the main altar. It was a depiction of St. Paul, knocked off his horse, looking up in awe at the Lord Jesus Christ.
Almost providentially, I dropped to my knees in front of the altar, and as I did so horns started blaring. Did I forget to mention they were doing soundcheck for an upcoming concert in the church??
Anyway, tears of joy started kissing my cheeks, as I thought about the glory of God’s redemptive work, and how impressed I am of St. Paul’s zeal for the Lord.
Later, I went into the blessed sacrament chapel to the left of the altar. In the chapel, a few feet to the left of the tabernacle was a beautiful mosaic of Our Lady and Jesus. It was in front of this same mosaic that St. Ignatius and the first Jesuits professed their first vows. I meditated there and eventually entered into a deep state of contemplation when I sat down.
This has been happening to me in prayer recently, after being quiet and present for a little while, I enter into a deep state of meditation in which time ceases to exist, and the only thing I feel is presence in front of the Lord.
The only downside is that something always seems to bring me out of it! Haha, like as soon as it gets going, boom, I’m taken out. I think this is the Lord telling me to seek him out more on my own time rather than only using the 15-45 allotted minutes for prayer at each Church.
Rome was filled with walking, like literally non-stop, and all the churches are so big there that even getting around inside of them takes a toll on you. I recommend a nice pair of walking shoes, something with a lot of toe room and good shock absorption.
We had some wonderful times going out, and I bonded here so deeply with a lot of the fellows. Whether it was late night drinks with the whole squad, eating the wonderful prepared dinners by our caterer Maximillian, grabbing lunch with a bro with some delish pasta and a panino, having high-point on the villa terrace, or singing on the bus-ride back from the catacombs, this trip was filled, and I mean filled with absolute joy.
I was definitely tired and cranky a bit, but the Lord always gave me enough strength to make it through the days.
Another big moment for me was the tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. Besides the massive statues, altarpiece canopy, Bernini stained glass, and mega-bronze throne, oh and the Petrine passages that line the upper walls of the Church, I had a very deep and moving experience below the floors.
It was underneath the center of the dome, with a masterful design by Michelangelo, that the remains of St. Peter lie. Looking at these bones, which I learned one of which to be the mandible, ie Jaw bone, I entered into a deep understanding of Peter’s mission and his sainthood. It was that jaw that uttered the words I Love You to Our Lord in flesh. The eyes that were part of that body looked deep into the eyes of Jesus, into the eyes of God, and here those bones were in front of me. I understood Peter’s brokenness but also understood his redemption, the call to sacrifice, and the cross which He bore as a result of the True Liberation which is Jesus Christ.
Other moments of profound faith experience included, walking into the Church of the Gesú, where St. Ignatius is buried. Within this Church I felt the utter and raw warrior that Ignatius was, and his FIRE for Jesus. I felt the raw power of Jesus Christ in that Church, and as I sang at the top of my lungs, the song Here I Am Lord, with the mass congregation, and I truly understood His Kingship.
In St. John Lateran I prayed before an image of St. Francis. I contemplated his poverty, and admire his complete sacrifice for Jesus. I admire the fact that he was a Catholic leader, and that people saw what he was doing, and desired to be like him. He is a true role model of what this program sought to develop in us.
There were numerous other beauties in Rome, but continuing to talk about it would take about 100,000 words. It’s a good thing pictures are worth a thousand!
Here’s a little toast to my Fellows, and something I love about each of them:
Gabby’s smile and laugh
Nick’s boldness and courage
Fr. Ryan’s excitement for the future
Deacon Gabriel’s Vision
Fr. Michael’s love for the priesthood
Jack’s openness to the truth
Jocelyn’s happy and joyous humor
Alex’s excitement and friendliness
Michael P’s courage in manhood
Michael S’s openness and confidence in speech
Marie's easygoingness and approachability
Kelli’s upstandingness and leadership
Caroline’s love for life and sacrifices to help others
Addie’s joy and motherlike leadership
Christina’s humility, respect and patience for others
Luis’s deep love and respect for others
Joe’s happy-go-luckiness and his ability to learn Italian
Rachel’s simplicity and deep spirit
Jackie’s courage and zeal and comic humor
Diego’s handsomeness and likability
Kate’s humility and honesty
Jono’s cultured vision, and openness to fun and goofiness
Julian’s ease to relate to people and soccer skills
Julia’s simplicity, gentleness, and approachability
Rebecca’s down-to-earth and prayerful heart
Tommy’s laughter and joy and deep heart
Kimi’s courage and strength and her eye contact
Lauren’s honesty and desire for change
And last but not least, Raquel’s ever-present smile and bursting heart
To get to know each one of these people is like understanding each masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel, it simply is a massive task with not enough time, but thanks be to God, the most beautiful things stuck out and the time I had was enough to say I’m going back, or in this case to say, I’m gonna stay in touch.
My trip concluded with a visit to one of my personal favorite saints, the Servant of God, Padre Pio.
After a 6 hour scenic bus ride, I arrived in the quaint and humble town of San Giovanni Rotondo. The night I got there however, the streets were packed, and I was informed that this was the norm for summer nights. Everyone I met greeted me with a smile, and you could feel the peace there. The emphasis is on the family. Family time takes priority over all things, and love for each other is of utmost importance. It was so beautiful to see also the love and devotion that these people have to the wonderful Saint Padre Pio. As I knelt before his saintly body, I asked for His intercession and prayers, and I felt a friend there. I went into another one of those deep meditations but it only lasted a few minutes due to the fact that Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was about to happen! Can’t complain about getting up for that one!
Anyway, I was with a couple friends from the fellowship, but we broke off towards the end, and I got a little alone time around the Church he lived and preached at. I saw the crucifix before which he received the gift of the stigmata. I saw his cell, and the desk that he wrote and studied so much on. I saw the gauze that patched him up after surgery. All this in honor of a man who only wanted to be “…a friar that prays.” As I left this church, I felt the beauty and peace of this life, and I thought, wow, I want to be Holy like him. No matter how the Lord calls me to it.
After, I went down to the bus station to leave, I was approached by an older woman, who was distraught. She was in pain and talking to me in Italian that I could barely understand, but somehow the Lord allowed her to communicate well to me. As I was playing guitar, I was interacting with this woman, named Anna. Her husband had beat her, she had two black eyes, and all she wanted was relief. She may or may not have been homeless, and she was upset.
She asked me to pray for her, for her head, and for her relief. She admired some of of my religious objects, and asked for them, so I gave them to her. She gave me a beautiful magnet with none other than two of my favorites, St. Pio and St. Michael with “Bless this House” written in Italian. It was in the shape of a heart.
She grabbed my neck pillow from off my suitcase and put it around her neck. When she asked if she could have it, I said yes.
As I looked into this woman’s eyes, despite the fact that those around her were gesturing that she might’ve been a little crazy, I saw Christ. I saw Jesus, and I knew that He had brought this woman before me in testimony of his mission. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me” rang in the back of my head. I left San Giovanni with a sense of love, and of peace. The beautiful ride back brought me peace, joy, and prayer. We stopped at a gas station and a little boy just threw at me the biggest smile. The faces of children hold the key to the heart of the Lord. I got back to Rome last night, and got on my plane this morning. I arrive in Philly in 30 mins, and I am excited to see my family.
I am excited to live out my Catholic Faith, and to be a leader in this changing culture. I pray for strength, I share my joy and love, and I ask for your prayers for me and my mission as I pray for you and yours. Let us share this love and joy we have found with all others so that the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ may be made manifest with in us. Through the same Christ Our Lord.