Hello readers! We have been overjoyed experiencing the Holy Land for the past few weeks, living in Emmaus. Our journey to Israel was quite a memorable one with a 16-hour layover in Rome.
We said arrivederci to the States with Mass in the terminal, and then departed from O'Hare on the afternoon of the 28th of September. Our arrival in Rome was the smoothest landing we have all ever experienced, major thanks to the pilots of Alitalia! Our superb chauffeur dropped us at the front gates of St. Peter's Square.
Our timing was great, as waited in line just long enough to sing morning prayers. We entered the basilica and were given the grand tour by our master guide, Fr. Anthony himself.
Words cannot describe what a wonder it is to behold the beauty of St. Peter's. It is a great blessing to stand in the second most foundational place in the history of the Catholic Church (and what craziness it was to think that this was our stop on the way to the primary, the very place of Christ's humanity made flesh!)
We left Vatican City and headed towards the heart of Rome on foot. Father Anthony reminisced about his many years of living in Italy as he led us through the picturesque alleys and glorious churches. Our path wove through the city to sights such as the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Piazza Venezia, and the Forum, to name a few. With our power-walk tour of the city we managed to make it on time for our own private Mass at San Clemente Basilica.
After Mass, fatigue and delirium were setting in, so rather than suffer through a long lunch we opted for a picnic and a nap at the Parco della Colle Oppio just behind the Colosseum.
Waking to the afternoon shade, we journeyed again through Roman streets to the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran). We were moved by the dominant statues of the 12 Apostles. Looming statues revealed the faces of the churches founding fathers, each man standing with a symbol for his works and a mark of his martyrdom (all but John, of course, who was left to write the gospel and the book of Revelation before dying of old age, secluded on an island).
From there we made a stop for Gelato, a much needed energy boost, and truly vital part of any trip to Italy. With frozen sugar in hand we began to walk through a part of town that encompasses the Jewish ghetto. As we walked pasted the Great Synagogue we were able to practice some Hebrew as we read the passages adorning the archways.
We again crossed the river into a neighborhood call Trastevere. Here we found a more local and enchanting vibe. Under the evening light, we ate dinner in the piazza outside the Basilica di Santa Maria. Just before leaving, we stepped into the beginning part of their community mass. Santa Maria is home to the San Egidio Community whose liturgy is inspired by the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, and who are known for their work serving the poor.
As the evening wound down, our trusty chauffeur arrived to take us back to the airport. We departed Rome around 11 that evening and awoke in Israel around 4 the next morning. The morning light was just coming up as we crawled into our beds in Emmaus. Sunday after Mass we rested, and begin right in on the adventure the next day. Monday we went up to Jerusalem to celebrating Simchat Torah at a Jewish Synagogue. This feast is the Joy of the Torah, and there was lots and lots of holy dancing around the Scrolls.
What a full few days of transition it had been, we were so grateful for all of our safe and smooth travels. Thank you for all of your continued prayers along this pilgrimage!