Corpus Christi Blog

Italy Pilgrimage

10-27-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. Chad King

A couple of weeks ago, I, along with 20 Corpus Christi parishioners, Fr. Axline from St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert, and 20 of his parishioners, returned from a 12-day pilgrimage to Rome and other nearby Catholic sites. I wanted to share some of my highlights from it.

Primarily, we went to support our seminarian, Nathaniel Glenn, as well as Gabriel Terrell from St. Mary Magdalene, and Marvin Soto, as they were ordained transitional deacons for the Diocese of Phoenix in St. Peter’s along with 32 other young men from various dioceses in the United States. Many parishioners said they saw the ordination on EWTN, and how beautiful it was. For me, one highlight was being in the procession with what seemed like at least 200 other priests from the US – a testament that the Church is in good hands with many young priests and many good seminarians. It was also great to see 10 Phoenix priests there to support the three Phoenix seminarians being ordained – a true witness to the fraternity of our presbyterate. I know that Jeff and Tina Glenn, along with Nathaniel, were greatly honored by the support of the parish, as well as Chuck and Alice Wold and the East Valley Serra Club, and our parishioners who were there in a special way to offer our love, gratitude, and prayerful support.

In the days following the ordination, seeing and celebrating Mass in the four major Basilicas of Rome was worth the several miles of walking each day. One highlight in Rome for me, was the Scavi (Excavations) tour under St. Peter’s Basilica. There we saw remnants of the first Basilica built by Emperor Constantine in the early 300s. Hearing the story and seeing where they discovered St. Peter’s bones directly under the Altar was a true testament to the history of the Catholic Church and the reality that God really did build His Church upon Peter and nothing shall prevail against it (Mt. 16:18). For those who hadn’t been to Rome before, that tour was quite remarkable. A significant moment for me, personally, was being able to con-celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s on top of Pope John Paul II’s tomb. It was a time of great heart-felt prayer of gratitude. I also heard many were awe-struck by how beautiful Assisi was, even though we did not have as much time there as many of us would have liked.

After about a week in Rome, we took a bus to San Giovanni Rotondo where Padre Pio lived, served, and died. It was an honor for Fr. Chris and I to bless each of our pilgrims with Padre Pio’s cross and a glove that he wore. One aspect of that Church that stood out to me was all the gold on the walls and ceiling. It wasn’t like the gold in the churches in Rome that had been bought, though. The gold at Padre Pio’s church was from the thousands of pilgrims who would leave gold jewelry and other items in order to show their gratitude for what God had done through Padre Pio. That gold was melted down and then put on the walls and ceiling in a simple but beautiful way (quite the opposite of what Aaron and the Israelites did when they took their gold jewelry, formed the Golden Calf, and started to worship it in Exodus 32).

A few miles outside of San Giovanni Rotondo was St. Michael’s cave. In 492, St. Michael the Archangel appeared to the bishop and said that the Christian city of Siponto would be saved from the attack of a nearby pagan city. St. Michael asked that an Altar and Grotto be built in the cave, but that he would not need to bless and dedicate it because St. Michael himself already had. Again in 1656, the local bishop invoked St. Michael’s protection from the great plague that was happening that year. St. Michael said that anyone who would use the stones of this grotto would be liberated. I got a stone for myself and Fr. Rey and have started wearing it every day for protection. When pilgrims were flocking to Padre Pio for confession, he asked that they first go and pray in the cave before going to confession. Indeed, St. Michael provides great protection from evil in our lives. Somebody recently asked me why we pray the St. Michael prayer after daily Mass, but not after Sunday Mass (reciting the St. Michael Prayer after every Mass was a tradition started by Pope Leo XIII. Vatican II established that it was not required, but not forbidden either.) I told that parishioner that I didn’t know, other than that was the tradition from before I got here. However, there is no good reason not to pray the St. Michael prayer after every Mass, because after Mass we are sent out into the world to proclaim the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ, and so we need St. Michael’s intercession and protection from evil to go out into the world. Therefore, I would like to begin praying the St. Michael prayer after Sunday Masses also, immediately after the final blessing and before the Recessional song.

About an hour or so from San Giovanni Rotondo is Mugnano, Italy where devotion to St. Philomena began. Although I had heard of St. Philomena, I didn’t know much about her. She was a virgin and martyr in the 1st century, but devotion to her spread in the 1800s. Popes and many saints have all testified to Philomena’s powerful intercession. For instance, Padre Pio called her the “Princess of Heaven” and St. Jean Vianney, the Cure (Healer) of Ars, who had a deep devotion to Philomena, attributed all the miracles in Ars to her.

Another fascinating highlight was visiting the Veil of Monopello, Italy. It is the veil that was wrapped over Jesus’ head when He was buried. If you remember, Peter and John saw the burial wrappings of the head in a separate place (Jn 20:7). Many people are familiar with the Shroud of Turin, the burial cloth which depicts the whole body of Jesus. The veil of Monopello (head wrapping) was what was put over the Shroud (entire head and body wrappings). It gives even more fascinating features of Jesus’ face, which, with the Shroud, we have a very accurate depiction of what Jesus looked like. One can read on the internet about the fascinating facts that this Veil reveals to us about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

Finally, the culmination of the trip for many of the pilgrims, especially those from Corpus Christi, was Lanciano, Italy, where the first Eucharistic miracle took place and is still located. What I found fascinating was the story of how Lanciano got its name (Lanciano means Lance). The town was originally known as Anxanum, but Longinus, the centurion soldier who thrust the lance into the side of Jesus – piercing Jesus’ heart, from which blood and water gushed forth – was from this town. After seeing the events of what happened to Jesus, Longinus converted to Christianity (Catholicism). So, the same hometown of the soldier who thrust the lance into Jesus’ heart is the same town in which the heart of Jesus is first realized in the First Eucharistic Miracle. In the year 700, a priest was having a crisis in his vocation and was doubting the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. While he was celebrating Mass, the Host turned into a living piece of Flesh, and the wine had turned into real Blood which thereupon coagulated and split into five globules. The priest “frightened and confused by so great and so stupendous a miracle, stood quite a while as if transported in a divine ecstasy; but finally, as fear yielded to the spiritual joy which filled his soul with a happy face, even though bathed in tears, having turned to the congregation, he thus spoke to them ‘O fortunate witnesses to whom the Blessed God, to confound my unbelief, has wished to reveal Himself in this Most Blessed Sacrament and to render Himself visible to our eyes. Come Brethren, and marvel at our God so close to us. Behold the Flesh and the Blood of our Most Beloved Christ.’” Amen!!! May all of us do so in every Mass!!!!!