This is the fourth in my series of posts from my family’s trip to Italy with the St. Mary’s of the Lake Choir from Skaneateles, NY. If you’d like to check out the earlier posts, you can find them by clicking these links – PART1, PART2, PART3
Word of the Day:
Father Bob started us off with his word of the day which was Communicate. It was an appropriate word as we set off for the Vatican to join people from all over the world in a common form of communication through the mass that would be celebrated.
Mass for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul at the Vatican
On this day we returned to the Vatican in the morning for a mass celebrating the feast days of Saints Peter and Paul. The level of pomp and circumstance, and security, was at a much higher level than two days prior for our audience with the Pope.
We were given program books for this mass (Pictured above) that announced the names of the newly promoted archbishops and had the music and readings for the mass. During this mass, the choir from St. Mary’s of the Lake did its best to join the Sistine Chapel choir in singing the parts of the mass. The interesting thing about it was that the music was in the notation that was used for Gregorian Chant. I hadn’t seen this since my days in music school.
The mass itself was incredible. There was an orchestra accompanying the singing. A young boy with a voice as clear as a bell sang the responsorial psalm. Then, when it was time for communion, an army of priests descended on the square and gave communion to the thousands that were gathered for the mass. It was a powerful experience.
Calling and Audible – Back to St. Peter’s Basilica
After the disappointment of missing a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica because of the early closure on the previous day, our fellow pilgrim, Mickey Lord, called us together for a quick group meeting. We were to tour multiple other basilicas around Rome on this day, but she asked if we would rather forego two of the three basilicas in favor of touring St. Peter’s. The group agreed unanimously to do this. It was a good call.
The church itself is breathtaking. Again, the influence of Michelangelo is everywhere from the famous dome to one of his most famous works, the Pieta.
The Basilica of St. Mary Major (Our Lady of the Snows)
This basilica is one of the oldest and most important shrines in the world dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, it was said to be built at her request.
According to tradition, a Roman Patrician, Giovanni and his wife, were childless and prayed to the Blessed Mother that she would designate an heir for them to bequeath their wealth. They had a vision in which the Blessed Mother told them that she wished to have a church built in her honor on the Esquiline Hill and the sign to verify this dream the prospective layout of the church would be outlined in snow. This in the month of August.
When Giovanni approached his friend, Pope Liberius, with this news he was amazed to find out that on the night of August 4th, 352, the Virgin Mary had appeared to Pope Liberius (352-366) as well. She said a miraculous snowfall would occur that would outline where the church was to be built in her honor.
The next day August 5th, snow indeed did fall on the Esquiline Hill in Rome in the middle of a heat wave. The people staked off the outline of the future Basilica before the snow could melt. Pope Liberius immediately ordered the basilica to be built. The event provided us with one of Our Lady’s oldest titles, Our Lady of the Snows.
This church had beautiful artwork and also had a relic that was wood from the manger in which the newborn Jesus was laid.
The Trevi Fountain and The Spanish Steps:
We were on our own for a bit and ventured around Rome to two other famous landmarks. First, was the Trevi fountain. The fountain has appeared in several notable films, including Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the eponymous Three Coins in the Fountain, and Roman Holiday.
The Spanish Steps are a set of steps climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top.