Summer Program of Renewal 2018

Domus Sanctae Mariae Guadalupe

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Good-bye with Grace and Blessings

On Friday, July 13, the Sisters each left Rome to return to their local missions.  What a blessing this time has been for us as individuals and communities.  We return with a renewed spirit of faith, hope, and love, and pray we may bring this spirit of the joy of the Gospel, first, to the other Sisters in our communities and, then, to all those we serve in the apostolate and whom we meet.

Deo Gratias!

One of our last meals together

Group picture!
(with a few guest sisters visiting for the afternoon)

The wonderful Missionaries of Charity of Mary Immaculate (MCMI)
Sisters who currently serve in administration at the Domus.
The Sisters were so generous to us in the program
 by providing the meals every day.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Visit to the Excavations under St. Peter's Basilica, the Venerable English College, Mass at the Rooms of St. Ignatius

Adventures from Wednesday, July 11th:

As our second to last day of pilgrimage in Rome, yesterday was filled to the brim with visits to special places of grace. 

We started the day with a visit to the Venerable English College.  In Rome, the word "college" denotes a residence in which seminarians live, pray, and receive formation.  However, it is not a place of studies.  The seminarians from the various national colleges study at one of the many Pontifical Universities throughout the city, for example, the Gregorian (run by the Jesuits) or the Angelicum (run by the Dominicans).

Sign posted on the door upon entrance
to the Venerable English College
The College for seminarians from England has the very unique title of "Venerable."  This is because, during the time of persecution of English Catholics in the 1500's, the seminarians who studied in Rome to become Catholic priests were almost certainly going to be martyred when they returned to their home land to minister to their people after ordination.

Below is a very famous painting of the Holy Trinity is in the chapel of the English College.  Below the image of the Holy Trinity at the top and above the portrayal of famous English saints on bottom, is a picture of an arched gateway.  This is a representation of the North Gate of the city of Rome which the English priests would walk through on their way home to England from Rome. Crossing through this gate forebode almost certain death for the newly ordained priests. 
In front of the Painting of the Holy Trinity
in the chapel of the College
The words in Latin, held by the angel, read "I have come to cast fire upon the earth..."
A quotation of the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (12: 49)

During the time of persecution, it was a tradition that when the seminarians and priests of the College received news of another martyrdom of one of their brothers, they would all gather around this picture and sing the Te Deum (an ancient hymn in honor of the Holy Trinity).

One of the Sisters in our group, Sister Faustina Joseph, CFR, is from England and is also missioned with a group of her sisters in England.  Her personal background made the visit especially meaningful.
Sister Mary Angela giving a brief history of the Church in England in 16th Century.
(Sister Faustina Joseph, CFR, on the right)
Below the altar is a reliquary containing relics of the English Martyrs.
Next, we went to the room where St. Ignatius of Loyola died and were honored to have Mass celebrated for us there by Father Maher, S.J.
The room where St. Ignatius died.
It has now been converted into a chapel.
With Father Maher, S.J.

In the afternoon, we went on a scavi tour, that is, a tour of the excavations under the Basilica of St. Peter.  It was known throughout Christian history that the Emperor Constantine built the Basilica in honor of St. Peter over the site where the Apostle Peter had been buried after he was martyred.  However, there was not much archaeological evidence for this until the middle of the last century. 
Waiting for the Scavi Tour

A plaque on the pavement marking the place where the obelisk originally stood in the Circus of Caligula.
It was in the circus that St. Peter and other Christians were martyred around the year 64 A.D.

When Pope Pius XI died in 1939, he expressed a wish to be buried as close as possible to the tomb of Peter.  As there was not a space easily available, workers started to expand a place in the crypt of the present Basilica to put his tomb.  As they were digging, one worker started to fall in to a surprising hole in the floor!  It turns out that this "hole" was actually the inside of a pagan mausoleum that was part of the pagan necropolis (city of the dead) which Constantine had to cover in order to build the first Basilica.

In this drawing, the current Basilica of St. Peter's is in black (built in the 16th and 17th centuries), the current crypt of the Basilica (on the level of the original Constantinian Basilica built in the 4th century) is in pink, and the pagan necropolis is in blue.

In 1939, Pope Pius XII gave permission for excavations to be carried out. These excavations took place over a period of 16 years.  It was an arduous and delicate task to carry out the excavations since the digging had to be done from the bottom up due to the present basilica being supported in large part by the mausoleum walls in the necropolis. In the third year of the excavations, the bones of the Apostle Peter were found.

The scavi tour is a very privileged opportunity to walk down through part of the ancient street of the necropolis, look into pagan and Christian mausolea, see parts of the the various monuments to honor St. Peter that were successively built over his tomb throughout the centuries, and, most importantly, to venerate his relics and pray at the Tomb of the first pope.

While pictures were not allowed in the tour, these images have been found online and correspond to what we saw yesterday:

Before the Basilica of Constantine was built, this street would have been open to the sky above!
The right shows a row of mausolea fa├žades facing a street in the necropolis.
We walked down this street in the tour.
The inside of a pagan mausoleum.
The colors on the wall and mosaic on the floor, as well as the bodies of those buried here,
were very well preserved by the dirt Constantine used to fill in the inner space.
You can also see at the top of the picture that the roof of the mausoleum was cut off.
This is the Confessio of St. Peter, below the high altar in the current Basilica.
The bones of the apostle are conserved where they were found,
behind the red marble wall to the right of the mosaic of Christ.
On our tour, we were on the other side of this Confessio, under ground.
Clementine chapel
This chapel, build by Pope Clement VII, is at the level of the crypt of the Basilica
and on the opposite side of St. Peter's relics as the Confessio in the picture above.
The bones of St. Peter are behind the altar, on the left.

It was a deeply moving experience for all.  Our tour guide, Karen, was clearly a woman of great faith who takes her position seriously as a way to help others to grow in faith too.  She was very generous in taking extra time with our group to answer questions and give us more time to pray at the tomb.

St. Peter, pray for us!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Yesterday (Tuesday, July 10), we had the wonderful privilege of taking a two-hour train ride to Assisi to visit with St. Francis and St. Clare.  It was a particularly providential trip because one of our Franciscan Sisters, Sister Veronica Catherine, CFR, celebrated her feast day yesterday!

We started the morning with a 7 a.m. Mass at a beautiful church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that is located a block away from the train station.
The Church of the Sacred Heart
We then took the train to Assisi, enjoying the view of the quaint Italian countryside on the way.
On the train
 We have arrived!!
Sister Mary Victor, IHM (left)
with our three Franciscan Sisters (left to right):
Sister Mary Katherine, OSF
Sister Veronica Catherine, CFR
Sister Faustina Joseph, CFR
Arriving in Assisi, we went first to the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.  Conserved within this Basilica is the portiuncula, the little chapel where St. Francis and his brother friars first began to gather to pray and near which they first lived.  Within the walls of the Basilica is also the chapel of the transitus.  The transitus chapel was built over the spot where St. Francis of Assisi died. 

Rose Garden at St. Mary of the Angels

Statue of St Francis in the corridor before the Rose Garden.
There are doves that nest in St. Francis' hands
and do not usually fly away when approached.
Can you see the dove there?

For this one, it seems the doves have flown the coop...
The next stop on our Franciscan adventure was to visit the Basilica of St. Francis which is a bus ride up the hill to the town proper of Assisi.  St. Francis is buried in the crypt of this Basilica, as well as are many of his first followers.
Basilica of St. Francis, where he is buried
A beautiful part of our day was celebrating the Feast Day of Sister Veronica Catherine of the Pierced Heart of Jesus, CFR. She is named after St. Veronica Giuliani, who was a Franciscan in the Capuchin tradition. What a blessing to be in Assisi on this day of all days!

A sweet dessert (including a lit candle) to celebrate the Feast Day!
Visiting Assisi is a true pilgrimage because in order to go anywhere in the town, one must traverse the many steep hills of the town.  The Basilica of St. Clare is on the other side of the town and it is truly a trek to reach her.

Traversing the town streets

Basilica of St. Clare
In the Basilica of St. Clare is her tomb, as well as the famous San Damiano Cross.  This cross, now kept in this church, was originally in the small chapel of San Damiano, located slightly below the walls of the town.  It was when St. Francis was praying before this cross in San Damiano that the Lord spoke to him from the cross and said, "Francis, rebuild my church."
St. Clare's tomb

San Damiano Cross
At first, St. Francis interpreted this request of the Lord literally.  He began to restore the actual church building of San Damiano, even going through the town begging for stones to use to restore the collapsed building.  Eventually, however, St. Francis began to realize that the vocation to which God was calling him was to spiritually bring new life into the church which had grown overburdened with concerns of the temporal world and had largely lost the true evangelical spirit of the Gospel of Christ.

The Basilica of St. Clare is also a very special place because there are many relics of St. Francis and St. Clare conserved in the museum below the Church.
On the right and left are two garments worn by St. Francis
In the middle is a garment worn by St. Clare
It was an incredible day!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sant'Andrea delle Fratte and Visit to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

We began our day at Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, the church that Alphonse Ratisbonne was visiting when he had his miraculous conversion when the Blessed virgin Mary appeared to him at this exact site. It is also the same church that St. Maximillian Kolbe celebrated his first Mass and a church St. Therese of Lisieux visited as well. 
Then, we went to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. We met Rev. Joshua Ehli, and he gave us a presentation on the wonderful work the Congregation does. The Congregation's primary focus is helping mission territories to spread the Gospel message. 
The dream of every librarian :)

Can you imagine having a book like this for class?
Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman's relic and picture is in a small chapel of the Congregation. He celebrated his first Mass in this Chapel.

This is St. Therese of Lisieux's second habit. It is kept in the main chapel of the Congregation. Her first habit is in Lisieux. St. Therese is co-patron of the missions along with St. Francis Xavier. Fun fact: The donning of a religious habit signifies taking on a new life in Christ and the recipient is exhorted to “put on the new man who is created according to God’s image” (Col 3:10).
We'll be back! A Roman tradition is to throw coins into the Trevi Fountain to ensure that you will return to Rome in the future.

Sr. Brigit from the Spiritual Family of the Work came in the afternoon to teach us about the excavations under St. Peter's Basilica, which is where St. Peter is buried. We will be touring the excavations on Wednesday!
Today Sister Mary Hanah celebrated her birthday...and a birthday is never complete without a piece of birthday cake!

Sunday Mass at Santo Spirito, Angelus Address, St. Cecilia

On this glorious Sunday, the day of the Lord's Resurrection, we enjoyed sleeping in a bit and then attending Mass once more at Santo Spirito in Sassia where Mass is celebrated for English-speaking pilgrims each Sunday.  St. Peter's was just a short walk away, so we waited in the shade for the Pope's Angelus address.  In the meantime, it seemed like a great opportunity to take a photo of our three "Gunnison natives."  At supper one night last week, it came up that Sister Mary Hanah, RSM, (center) and Sister Mary Faustina, SJW, (right) discovered that their dads were from the same small town of Gunnison, Colorado.  To which Sister Veronica Catherine, cfr, (left) exclaimed, "My dad's from Gunnison, too!"  This just goes to show that the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways and that His call can be heard anywhere!

Clock above St. Peter's Basilica
Pope Francis giving the Sunday Angelus address.
 As the clock struck 12:00, Pope Francis appeared at the window. Although we had already seen him on a couple occasions now, it didn't dampen our enthusiasm.
The Holy Father spoke of the Gospel of the day and how Jesus was not accepted by the people of His hometown.  In the same way, we can sometimes miss Jesus' presence and workings in our lives because He comes in unexpected and surprising ways.
Sisters listening intently to the Holy Father.

The afternoon held more "holy adventures" as we have been calling them.  One that was particularly fun was crossing paths on our way to St. Cecilia's in Trastevere.  Several Sisters decided to take the bus while others walked.  As the walkers came up to a stoplight, we spotted those riding on the bus and waved enthusiastically.  (So what if the Romans think we're crazy!)
On the bus to St. Cecilia's

En route to St. Cecilia's along the Tiber River

Praying at the tomb of St. Cecilia in the crypt.

Marble statue of St. Cecilia in the position she was found in the 1500's when her incorrupt body was exhumed.  The artist captured her head turned to the side showing the wound in her neck where they unsuccessfully tried to decapitate her.  Her hands demonstrated her faith in the Trinity with one finger extended on her left hand and three fingers extended on her right hand.

A little fun on the way home!  Sister Mary Hanah demonstrates how to plug the flowing fountain to shoot out a spring of water.  Watch out, passers by!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Mass at the Tomb of St. Pope John Paul II and other Adventures

Our day of adventures began with Mass at the tomb of St. John Paul II, celebrated by Cardinal Stafford, located in a side chapel in St. Peter's Basilica. After Mass, the sisters split up into pairs or small groups to go to various locations around the Vatican and the City of Rome. 

Tomb of St. Pope John Paul II
A few sisters braved the long climb to the top of the cupola or the gigantic dome of St. Peter's Basilica. When reaching the first level, the view is from a walkway inside the base of the cupola.  The size of the mosaics can be viewed from a different perspective than from the floor of the Basilica.   The images and words are large for people to be able to view it from the ground.  As the viewing distance increases that size of everything increases so things do not appear as far away as they are. 

View inside St. Peter's across the base of the cupola
 From the top level of the cupola, the view is only on the outside of the Basilica.  The view includes the city of Rome, the Vatican Gardens and all of the visible parts of the Vatican City.
Pope Francis's coat of arms located in the Vatican Gardens that is created by plants and flowers of various colors.  

A view of the door to the living quarters of Pope Francis
A couple groups of sisters went to Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini or the famous "Bone Church" of Rome.  The church and the attached crypt and museum is administered by the Capuchin Franciscans.  The church is the home of the relics and remains of St. Justin, Martyr and the Capuchins St. Felix de Cantalice and St. Cryspin.  The lower level contains a museum of Capuchin history and the crypt holding the rooms of the bones of some 4,000 friars. 
The Tomb of St. Felix de Cantalice at Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini
After the visit to Santa Maria della Concezione,a couple sisters journeyed further to the  small Carmelite church of Santa Maria della Vittoria which is the home of the famous Bernini statue of the Transverbertion of St. Teresea of Avila. Unfortunately, the church is undergoing renovations and the statue can only be seen through the scaffolding.
The Transverberation of St. Teresea of Avila at Santa Maria Della Vittoria