A Roman Pilgrimage in Honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Thomas A. Droleskey
[Well, I thought that this third installment would be the last in the series of my travelogue about our trip to Rome in May of this year. The press of many administrative duties for Christ or Chaos, Inc., and Christ the King College, prevents the completion of this series now. However, as I have received a few notes from readers about the series, I am posting part three today. Having failed miserably in my efforts to predict the length of this series, all I can tell you is that it will be over when it is over. It will get written when time permits it to get written. As I have noted in the first two installments, time is being taken here with this series to provide our dear Lucy--and her beloved Turpin cousins--with a permanent record of the pilgrimage to Rome. Those not interested in personal travelogues ought to, as I have mentioned previously, move it along and surf somewhere else on the internet. For all others, however, I hope you will enjoy the narrative that follows. Also, I should add that I am not posting any photographs of ourselves or other family members. As much as part of me would love to show interested readers some of these poignant photographs, It is not prudent, in my estimation, to do this on a publicly accessible website. This is a judgment call. However, I would rather err on the side of caution and restraint. Thanks for your understanding.]
Lucy Awaits the Arrival of Her Beloved Cousins
The long-awaited day of the arrival in Rome of Lucy Mary Norma Droleskey's beloved cousins broke on Wednesday, May 18, 2005. Lucy was very excited by the thought that she would be playing with her cousins once again. She is a very active child. She has strong legs and arms from all of the running she does in parks across the United States. She has no playmates, however, with whom to play. It has not been within God's Providence up until now for Lucy to have siblings. Thus, she has two big playmates when she is not near her Turpin cousins: her mother and father.
"Dada, do you want to play the game of tig-tag?" Lucy asks me sometimes when I am in the midst of writing an article or responding to an inquiry about Christ the King College.
"What's the game of tig-tag?" I ask Lucy
Looking up and moving her arms quite expressively, she says, "Well, it's a game where you," then comes a dramatic pause, "chase me around the motor home." How can I deny such a request? I am her big, fifty years and four months older playmate. "Put down your computer, Dada, and play with me" is another frequently heard request. "Let's hide under the cornstalks," Lucy says when she wants to hide. "Let's go into the confessional and go to confession, Dada." The confessional is our motor home's restroom.
Lucy is sometimes more than a little condescending. "Dada, do you want me to show you how to fly a plane? I can do this if you want to me do." (She is serving me some make-believe food at this present moment. I am glad it is make-believe as another effort to lose some of the weight I have gained in the past few years is now a week old.) She is, though, so precious and so very much in love with the Faith. She knows that being on her best behavior at daily Mass will result in her getting a Holy Card. Her collection of Holy Cards is something that she treasures. She knows the identities of each of the saints (and the name of the various representations of Our Lady.).
We had gone to Rome at the time we did to afford Lucy an opportunity to visit and to play with her cousins prior to our trip to Prague, which I explained in the second installment of this series had to be canceled. Lucy responded very excitedly when I asked her who was arriving in Rome on May 18. "The Turpins!" she exclaimed with great glee and a broad smile, her arms extended as wide as they could reach.
The Joys (Ugh!) of a General Papal Audience
Before Lucy was to see the Turpins, however, we got ourselves ready to see the Vicar of Christ, well, at least to see his representation on large-screen television projects set up at various vantage points in Saint Peter's Square, during the weekly General Audience. Sharon and I were not really looking forward to going to the audience. Both of us were so tired from the first week of the pilgrimage. However, I believed that it was important for Lucy to receive a Papal Blessing at least once during our trip.
Thus, we ventured out from our horrible rented apartment at around 9:15 a.m. to walk down to Saint Peter's Square, having changed our route to walk on the Via Andrea Doria to the Via Leone IV rather than using the Via Candia. This route took us through the wonderful potpourri of food markets that I had described in the second installment. At the end of one of the blocks was a street fountain for which the city of Rome is quite famous. These street fountains pour out fresh water from the aqueducts. Sharon took to using them liberally to fill up our bottles of water to keep us hydrated as we walked throughout the course of each day. Lucy loved to splash her parents with the water that flowed from the fountains, doing so on the morning of May 18. Behind her at one point was an elderly man, dressed in a business suit, who got "back-splashed" by Lucy as she was preparing to splash Sharon and me. The fellow was not particularly amused, muttering some sound of disgust as he passed by.
We could see in the distance as we got closer to the Vatican that there was a huge crowd waiting to get through the security checkpoints, which had been reversed, if you will, to check people as they were flowing into Saint Peter's Square from the Bernini Colonnade rather than from the Square into the Colonnade and thence to the Basilica of Saint Peter. Although there was the usual pushing and shoving that I have come to expect from Europeans (more on that in a moment), the Vatican officials did move the crowds through very efficiently.
It was time for us to find our "back of the bus" bleacher seats once we got into the Square, parking the stroller near us so that it would be out of the way (or so we thought at the time). We took our seats to await the approximately one hour wait for the beginning of the Papal Audience.
Hordes of people flocked into the bleacher seats way in the back of the Square, moving ruthlessly as they toppled over the plastic chairs to get to the vantage point from which they reckoned they could best view Pope Benedict XVI. I had gone over to the Sala Stampa della Sancta Sede at one point to see if I could get an advance copy of the text of the Pope's address in English, thinking that I had accomplished my mission. Alas, I had taken the press release from the week before, a little detail I did not realize until after I had returned to the seats and started to follow the Audience once it had begun. It made little difference. The format was, as will be detailed below, the same as it had been during the pontificate of the late Pope John Paul II. The whole thing was very predictable.
"I Think I Just Saw Flipper"
What was not predictable, however, was the burst of rain from the Mediterranean Sea that burst overhead about thirty minutes before the beginning of the Papal Audience. We had no radio or television, not that it would have made a difference given the fact that our efforts to communicate in the Italian language were comical at best and pathetic at worst. Sharon did have an umbrella that she used to cover her own head and the entirety of Lucy Mary Norma. Penance the Stroller got a very good soaking. And yours truly, who many people believe has been wet for a long time, was completely drenched from head to toe. After a week of walking in the heat and humidity of Rome in the same suit jacket, I assayed the situation and said, "Well, this thing needed a good cleaning." Water just poured down from the Mets' cap that I was wearing. Lucy thought the rain was fun at first. She began to cry after a little while as it continued to make Saint Peter's Square look like a prop from the late Lloyd Bridges's Sea Hunt television series. "Don't look now," I told Sharon. "I think I just saw Flipper go past us." I then broke out into a chorus of the theme song from Flipper.
The downpour lasted a considerable length of time, probably about fifteen minutes. As Sharon said, "It came down heavy, and then it came down heavier, prompting the crowd to "ooooh" and "aaaaah" as the monsoon like rains thoroughly soaked everything and everyone in sight. The sun did not emerge until the Holy Father started to make his way in the Popemobile to the center of the steps in front of the Basilica of Saint Peter where the canopy covering his Papal Throne stood. The sun stayed out for a short while until it began to rain a bit more, although not as heavy as before, after the Pope had begun the Audience.
The real jostling and pushing and shoving began when the Pope was speaking. I was holding Lucy in my arms so that she could she the speck of a white in the center of the canopy that represented Pope Benedict XVI from where we sat. This mattered not to some really rude and nasty Europeans who almost knocked over the unstable chair that I was standing on. This continued throughout the course of the General Audience, as did the phenomenon of other thoughtless people who moved their chairs out of any semblance of order in rows to stand where they desired, oblivious to the fact that they were within millimeters of Lucy, who was trying to see the Holy Father as I held her in my arms. Lucy got tired of this and sat down with her mother for a little while. Lucy was almost elbowed on several occasions as people moved hither and yon during the Papal Audience.
Penance the Stroller did not fare much better. It got tossed and tumbled as people continued to pour into the Piazza throughout the Audience. Truthfully, we did not mind all that much. However, the disregard for other people and their effects is very typical of Europeans in crowds. I remember a group of nuns meeting in a huddle, I kid you not, prior to a Papal Mass in 1995, flanking out to the left and to the right to secure for themselves the best ways to enter the Basilica of Saint Peter as soon as the doors opened (security in those days was at the doors themselves). The lead nun gave directions in what appeared to be the Polish language as the others listened attentively. They executed their game-plan flawlessly, positioning themselves in the front row for the Chrism Mass on the morning of Maundy Thursday in 1995. I was tempted to break out in song as follows: "They call her Sister Touchdown......." Alas, I demurred. Well, the scene on May 18, 2005, was little different, believe me.
Everybody Wants to Get into the Act, Cha, Cha, Cha, Cha
The Papal Audience itself, as I noted in an earlier installment, is an exercise in cheerleading that has no relationship at all to catechesis, all protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. It starts with some Vatican prelate introducing all of the numerous groups from Italy. A priest speaking other languages (French, German, Polish, English, Spanish) does the same with the groups from countries speaking in his tongue. The people in each language group is reminded of the fact that the Holy Father intends to impart his Apostolic Blessing on any items they want to be blessed and that all of their family members and friends are included in the Holy Father's benediction. This goes on before the Pope arrives to take his place in the Papal Throne. "Everybody wants to get into the act," I quoted the late Jimmy Durante (who has been dead now for twenty-five years, believe it or not). "Cha, cha, cha, cha." Sharon, rather upset with the undignified nature of the Audience, sat down the entire time, knowing that the whole thing was a gigantic exercise in showmanship.
The Pope himself gives an allocution in Italian for about ten minutes or so. He then recognizes all of the groups from Italy, repeating exactly what had been announced by the Vatican official before his own arrival. Cheers burst out when the names of their groups, parishes or communities are mentioned by the Holy Father, reminding me of what happened at Shea Stadium when groups of people that had bought large numbers of tickets to a Mets' game saw their names displayed on the scoreboard in right centerfield. The Pope follows the Italian allocution with a shorter allocution in each of the other languages, although he did go on for a bit longer in his native German (and there were lots of Deutschlanders in attendance to cheer on the first German Pope since the Tenth Century, Pope Victor II) than in the other languages. Pope Benedict spoke in Polish to the pilgrims from the late Holy Father's homeland, pointing out that that day, May 18, would have been Pope John Paul II's eighty-fifth birthday. I noted to Sharon how difficult it must be, humanly speaking, for the Polish pilgrims, so used to having the onetime Archbishop of Krakow as the Successor of Saint Peter, take a backseat to others.
The English allocution was very short. Pope Benedict greeted each of the groups from English-speaking countries. Included in this greeting on May 18 was a "special and warm" greeting from the Holy Father to a group of Buddhists from Japan! That's right, Pope Benedict, who recently addressed the militantly anti-Catholic World Council of Churches and stressed the need to continue the error that was condemned so strongly by the likes of Blessed Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII and particularly Pope Pius XI (ecumenism), went out of his way to greet the Buddhists. We must pray, pray, pray, pray to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart for the needs of the Holy Father so that he, a son of Vatican II and its novelties, may embrace the sure ramparts of the Catholic Faith that he himself wrote in 1982 had to be "razed," and that he will fulfill faithfully Our Lady's Fatima Message for the proper consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart with all of the world's bishops.
We stayed until the Holy Father had imparted his Apostotlic Benediction in Latin, kneeling as he did so. Lucy Mary Norma Droleskey finally had her first in person Papal Blessing (we were listening in the car radio when Pope Benedict imparted his first Blessing on the Balcony of the Basilica of Saint Peter on April 20, 2005, and the Holy See ruled years ago that such blessings pass through the airwaves to those who listen and are disposed to receive them). The Holy Father intoned the Salve Regina to conclude the audience, staying for over an hour, if not more, to greet the dignitaries in the VIP sections before he returned to the Papal Apartments in the Apostolic Palace. We made our way out of the Piazza back onto the Via della Conciliazione, trying to look for a place to call our brother-in-law, Benoit Turpin, to see if the Groupo Turponi, as we called them (in other words, the Turpins), had arrived. I had no success using a local calling card to call an international cellular phone number based in France on any of the pay phones on the Via della Conciliazione. It was also not possible to use the phones inside of the Sala Stampa della Santa Sede to make such a call. Unable to see if Lucy's cousins had arrived in Rome, we decided to walk back to the apartment.
The Via della Conciliazione was closed to vehicular traffic. We could walk freely in the middle of the street, coming upon the official band of the Holy See, playing marching tunes on horseback in their tri-cornered hats near the offices of the Congregation for the Bishops (Congregazione per il Vescovi). Lucy was quite taken with this sight and with the music, to which she danced most happily. (We would make quite a pair at Shea Stadium if I was still attending ball games and performing in the stands as I did between 1976 and 2002. She comes by her "hammishness" quite naturally and without any prompting at all.) We then walked to the Trattoria al Cupolone for a bite to eat prior to completing our walk, finding that the restaurant crew there was most hospitable to us, especially to dear Lucy.
A religious articles store was located across the Borgo Pio from the Trattoria al Cupolone. Lucy just loved to stand in front of large statues of Saint Joseph, holding the Baby Jesus, and Our Lady of Grace. Lucy would protest quite strongly if I ever inadvertently passed by that store without stopping the stroller to let her out and to touch and kiss the statues. She did so on the afternoon of May 18 as we headed back to the apartment, hoping to make contact with the Turpins en route back to Via Andrea Doria 79.
A Reunion of Cousins United by Bonds of Blood and the True Faith
An internet/phone shop in the Via Leone IV turned out to be the place where I made contact at last, around 2:00 p.m., with Benoit. I must admit, though, that I have yet to figure out the complexity of European phone numbers. After several tries, though, I managed to reach him on his rented French cellular phone. The Turpins had arrived several hours earlier at the Stazione Termini Rome after an all night train ride from Paris. They were beat from the Chartres Pilgrimage. They were bedraggled from their travels, having lost two of their suitcases on the train from Chartres to Parish after the Pilgrimage had ended on Whit-Monday two days earlier, May 16. Benoit told me that they were settling in the apartment that they were renting directly from Michele, who locked out a group of nine people, including Father John Murphy and the young daughter of friends of the Turpins, from his kitchen, consigning them to the use of a toaster-oven in the living room! Benoit promised to come over for a visit to our apartment shortly after they had finished eating. Lucy was happy to learn that her cousins were in Rome.
As it turned out, though, Benoit came with his five children but without his wife, Sharon's sister, and Father Murphy. The cousins are: Claire, who will turn twelve years of age on July 4, and Elodie, who will turn eleven years of age on September 29. Accompanying them were their sisters Zelie Louise Marie, who turns seven on June 27, and Adelaide Anne Catherine, who is now five years old and their brother, Gabriel, who is a little bit more than four months younger than Lucy Mary Norma. Along with them was young friend, Maureen, who was fourteen years old.
Claire and Elodie are the quintessence of what Catholic girls should be like. They love the Faith. They love to learn about the Faith. They love the Mass of all ages. They dress modestly and comport themselves as young ladies conscious that they are to image the dignity of Our Lady herself. Oh, they have great senses of humor and have a lot of fun. They are, though, first and foremost exemplars of authentic Catholic girlhood who are showing their own sisters, Zelie Louise Marie and Adelaide Anne Catherine, how to sanctify their souls on a daily basis--and who are really admired and loved by their Droleskey cousin, our own precious Lucy Mary Norma. Each of the Turpin girls dote on their brother Gabriel.
Indeed, Benoit and Bridget Turpin are Catholic parents who are conscious that their first responsibility is to cooperate with the graces available to them in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to raise their children to aspire to the heights of personal sanctity. They shield their four daughters and one son, Gabriel, from the rot of the culture of death, both physical and eternal, that is all around us, making sure to provide them with the support offered by other like-minded traditional Catholic families in the bear-filled woods of northwestern New Jersey. To this end both Benoit and Bridget are serious about making the Chartres Pilgrimage every year and participating in the entirety of the Pilgrimage for Restoration that runs from the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament (Lake George) in upstate New York to the Shrine of Our Lady of the North American Martyrs each September. They also teach their children the meaning of Catholic self-giving, pitching in frequently and without a moment's notice to come to the aid of their friends and family members. Theirs is a mission of Charity in prayer and in deeds, carried out as one of the fruits of their total consecration to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. I would not have met Bridget's sister, my wonderful and long-suffering wife, Sharon, if Benoit had not insisted to a reluctant group at Saint Mary's by the Sea Church in Huntington Beach, California, four years ago this past February that I should be permitted to give my "Living in the Shadow of the Cross" lecture program there, which began on March 11 that year, the date I met Sharon. I owe the Turpins so very much.
Benoit is a relatively young man, having just turned forty on May 12. He is very strong and fit, having grown up on a farm in the Normandy region of France. I had never seen him as tired, though, as I saw him on May 18, 2005, especially after negotiating the steep flights of stairs that led up to our rented apartment. He explained that the Chartres Pilgrimage had gotten off to a rather soggy start. Never before in the recent history of the Chartres Pilgrimage, which traverses through fields and forests and paths, had there been such a downpour of rain. It rained for three solid hours without letup, prompting a priest associated with the Paris-Chartres Pilgrimage to telephone all of the Poor Clare convents he could to ask them to pray for an end to the rain. The Poor Clares instructed the priest to gather the children together and to sing the Regina Coeli three times, doing so with complete confidence in Our Lady's intercessory power to end the rainstorm so that the pilgrimage made in her honor would end. The priest did so. The children sang the Regina Coeli three times. The rain ended immediately after the children had concluded singing the Regina Coeli three times, reminding us once again to have the simplicity of child-like confidence in Our Lady, trusting with total confidence that she will answer our prayers favorably. A truly remarkable story.
Thecontingent of Turpins left after a short visit. We would make our own way to their rented apartment a short while later to hear the Immemorial Mass of Tradition offered by Father John T. Murphy, who is a courageous champion of the preborn. While approaching the apartment house, which was about a mile from our own rented apartment, Lucy saw something that we had not seen: a playground in a lot right across from the apartment house where the Turpins were staying. "I see a slide," Lucy said in her sly, rascally manner, smiling from ear to ear. I told her that that would have to wait until some other time, which turned out to be the next morning.
The grand reunion went very well. It warmed my heart to see my daughter so happy with her beloved cousins once again, to say nothing of how much it meant to Sharon and Bridget, who are in frequent phone contact, to see each other in person. The whole scene was wonderful, filled with joy. In other words, it was a very Catholic scene, a little foretaste of the blessed reunion that awaits the just in Heaven.
Father Murphy offered Holy Mass a little after 5:00 p.m., Rome time, which was about a half hour before daily Mass was to begin at Our Lady Help of Christians in Garden Grove, California, at 8:30 a.m. the same day. (I have always been fascinated by the time zones.) When distributing Holy Communion, however, Father Murphy did not bless Lucy, who has grown accustomed to the practice, which I realize is not at all mandated, of priests imparting their priestly blessing at the communion rail upon children who are too young to receive Holy Communion. Indeed, Lucy was very upset at the "indult" chapel in the back alleyway of Rome on the Via Leccosa when a priest there did not give her a blessing. I mean, she was very upset. She knows the importance of a priestly blessing. We mentioned this after Mass to Father Murphy, who was most kind as to give Lucy and each of the other children individual blessings.
Of Natural Attachment and Supernatural Detachment
Father Murphy is, like me, a native Long Islander. Although I am in permanent exile from the place where I grew up and have spent two-thirds of my adult life, I will always think with fondness of heart of my native place. As I wrote in Christ or Chaos six years ago now, the attachment we have to the familiar people and places in our own lives is quite natural. We would be monsters if we did not have an attachment to the people we know and the places with which we are familiar, especially those of our childhood. That natural attachment to the things of this passing earth is meant to remind us, though, of the overriding and surpassing attachment that we must have first and foremost to the things of the Faith, that is, the things of Heaven. We have not a permanent home here in this vale of tears, as I have come to learn from my vagabond, nomad existence in the past thirty years, especially now after having committed myself exclusively to assisting at the Traditional Latin Mass. We are therefore called upon to be so attached to the things of Heaven that the thought of giving up the people and the places that we are attached to in this mortal life becomes no sacrifice at all. A supernatural sense of detachment from those things of this earth to which we are rightly attracted and attached results in our longing for Heaven more and more, realizing that it is only there that will find the lasting happiness for which we seek and of which any measure of happiness that results from our familiarity with people and places here below is seen to be only as an incomprehensibly small foretaste.
Indeed, while we would like to give Lucy Mary Norma more regular contact with her cousins, of transcending importance to us as parents is having relatively easy access to the daily offering of the Traditional Latin Mass offered by priests who are committed without compromise to the totality of the Catholic Faith and who see the harm caused to souls by the unjust and illicit conditions imposed by the Holy See and diocesan bishops upon the offering of the Mass of all ages.. If things were otherwise I would have a nice, cushy position teaching political science at a university on Long Island, where the Traditional Latin Mass would be offered in each parish, and Lucy would be reasonably close to her cousins in New Jersey. Such is not the case. We must be attached first and foremost to that which is most conducive to the right formation and sanctification of our immortal souls unto eternal life.
All of that having been noted, though, it was good to catch up with Father Murphy and the goings-on on Long Island! Oh, for a popover at the Milleridge Inn or some clams oreganata at Major's Steakhouse or a toasted everything bagel with gobs of butter at Bagel Boss (the original) in Hicksville. I guess I'm not totally detached from my attachments, both natural and acquired, to my native place. More prayer, more penance.
Three Basilicas, Three Churches and One Coliseum in Seven Hours
Well, we returned to our rented apartment several hours later, returning the next morning, Thursday, May 19, 2005, to hear Mass offered by Father Murphy, who was itching to leave Rome to go to the land of his own family's roots, Ireland, before experiencing one of the most tiring but altogether exhilarating days of our Roman pilgrimage in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Whit-Thursday was the feast in the liturgical calendar of Tradition on which Sharon and I were married at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in Pequannock, New Jersey. Although we do commemorate the actual calendar anniversary, June 7, our primary stress is on commemorating the liturgical anniversary. Thus, the Mass offered by Father Murphy in the Turpins' rented apartment was the same as on the day of our nuptials (the Nuptial Mass was commemorated, taking second place to the liturgy of Whit-Thursday). I am so very blessed to have a wife with a purity of soul who is willing to make endless (and I do mean endless) sacrifices to live precariously and uncertainly, materially speaking, doing so most penitentially, understanding full well that the stands I believe in good conscience need to be taken both ecclesiastically and civilly close off avenues of financial support for our work and even end cherished friendships with others. She has helped me so very much. She has a soul that is truly detached from the things of this world. She is an inspiration to me, a sinner who is so undeserving of her love and support.
After visiting for a while after Mass and getting provisions for our day of visiting various churches and historic sites, the group of eleven people on a day to remember. Father Murphy went off to Saint Peter's Basilica after Mass, foregoing yet another excursion with the Turpins. "Boy, these folks will wear you out." That's what Groupo Turponi was saying about me at the end of May 19.
San Paolo fuori le Mura
We headed off on the Metro Linea A from the Cipro station to transfer at Stazione Termini for the Metro Linea B to take us to the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura, Saint Paul outside of the Walls. It was quite a struggle to go up and down the stairs in the subway stations (from the street to the turnstiles and then down to the train level and back up again) and to negotiate our way as a group through Stazione Termini. We arrived at the stop for the Basilica of San Paolo, on which site the Apostle to the Gentiles was martyred by means of being beheaded by a sword, and walked from the stop to the side entrance of the Basilica, which was the only one opened when we arrived around 2:00 p.m. Saint Paul's outside the Walls is located in a rather dingy part of Rome. No one would want to go there except for the fact that it is where the fire-breathing hater of Catholics, Saul of Tarsus, who converted and became the fearless Apostle Saint Paul, gave up his life for the Faith and where rests his own mortal remains.
The Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura is truly breathtaking. The basilica was built by the Emperor Constantine and that structure remained standing for fifteen centuries until its interior was destroyed by fire on July 15, 1823. The existing basilica was re-consecrated in 1854 and features a marvelous front facade with features that are too grand to even begin to describe. The pictures below tell the tale. All I can tell you is that we spent a good deal of time inside of the Basilica in prayer, both before the Blessed Sacrament and at the tomb of Saint Paul himself. It is at the tomb of Saint Paul that we remembered in a particular way that courageous apostle of Tradition without compromise, our good friend, Father Paul Sretenovic, who is offering the good people of Our Lady Help of Christians what is their absolute baptismal birthright: the Traditional Latin Mass without any preconditions whatsoever. I explained to the Turpin girls and their friend Maureen that which they already knew: that one gains a Plenary Indulgence when praying the Creed and the Our Father and a Hail Mary for the intentions of the Holy Father at one of the four patriarchal Roman basilicas, making sure to go to confession and to receive Holy Communion worthily within eight days of the indulgenced act and to be free of any attachment even to venial sin. (It is that last condition that keeps us trying to gain indulgences over and over again. Do any of us really know how free we are of such attachment. The inestimable Father Stephen P. Zigrang put it this way a few years ago, "If you put your head down and pray really hard you might have a fifteen minute window in which to show your detachment from all sins, venial or mortal.") Saint Paul's outside of the Walls represented the fourth and final of the major basilicas that we had visited, although we went to Saint Peter's four times, San Giovanni in Laterano three times and Santa Maria Maggiore twice on this pilgrimage. It was, though, the first for the Turpins and their young friend.
The group then trod its way back to the Metro station near the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura, encountering some ruffians in the making who had just been released from the Masonic daycare centers known as the Italian state-run system of civil indoctrination (public schools). We had to shield Lucy's eyes and ears from the behavior of these poor, abused children, most of whom were obviously clueless about the dignity that is theirs as a result of the Redemptive Act of the God-Man on the wood of the Holy Cross. They were oblivious to the fact that one of the very men responsible for the spreading of the Catholic Faith in Rome, Saint Paul, had been martyred right near the location of their school.
When you think about it, though, it is really the same in our own country, is it not? How many Catholics here in this country realize the hallowed nature of the ground at Auriesville, New York? How many Catholics here in this country understand the significance of the work by Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet with the Indians of the West or the fact that Blessed Junipero Serra walked with a bad leg up the coast of California to establish missions for the conversion of the native people in the very area from which this travelogue is being written? How many Catholics here in this country appreciate the sanctity of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton or Saint John Neumann or Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne or Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini or Saint Katherine Drexel? How many Catholics in North America appreciate the stirring witness given to the Social Reign of Christ the King by Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro and the other Mexican Martyrs? Yes, the phenomenon of those Italian youngsters was an all too eerie echo of the secularism to be found in formerly Catholic countries and among peoples who are themselves nominally Catholic in the dens of iniquity known as "pluralist" nations such as ours.
The Place of Martyrs: The Coliseum
We got back on the Metro, getting off at the Colosseo stop to pay our respects to the hundreds upon thousands of Catholics who gave up their lives for the Holy Faith in the Roman Coliseum. If you haven't already done so, folks, please read Father A.J. O'Reilly's The Martyrs of the Coliseum, published by TAN Books and Publishers. The stirring stories that are recounted therein will inspire each of you to aspire to martyrdom, both of the white and the red variety.
The Roman Coliseum is of interest not only to believing Catholics. Those who are steeped in the "glories" of pagan culture and architecture and engineering make it a point to stop at the Coliseum. To wit, a man dressed as a Roman centurion was standing outside of the Coliseum, which prompted Bridget Turpin to say, "Guess what? You guys lost!" Her son Gabriel, though, was enthralled with the man holding the sword and dressed with an armored helmet and equipped with a shield.
I have been to the Coliseum many times, the last time before May 19, 2005, having been on Good Friday, 1995, when the late Pope John Paul II prayed the Stations of the Cross there. As you will see written on this site in the next however many installments it takes to complete this series, the only word that can describe the Coliseum is numbness. I, a terrible sinner whose soul has indeed been damaged by the sins of a lifetime, cannot even begin to comprehend or to fathom the depth of the profundity represented by the martyrdom of those who offered their lives for the Faith rather than worship the emperor as deity. It was the very blood of the martyrs that served as the seed of the Church. It was the sacrifices made by the martyrs in the Coliseum and elsewhere in the Roman Empire from 67 A.D. to 313 A.D. that made possible the rise and the flowering of the first Christendom, which gave expression over the course of the centuries to the Social Reign of Christ the King, wherein rulers and ruled understood that there were limits that existed in the nature of things and that had been revealed positively by God that bound all human beings at all times and in all circumstances. It was the witness given by the martyrs in the Coliseum and elsewhere that should continue to inspire us to count anything as utter loss if it involves gaining something in this world at the expense of any part of the truths of the Faith, if it is involves conceding something that is abjectly false (such as conceding the false premise that the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass depends upon conditions laid down by a pope and diocesan bishops that ignore entirely and completely the perpetually binding nature of Pope Saint Pius V's Quo Primum), if it involves the winning of friends and esteem at the cost of not bearing a full and total witness to the Catholic Faith in all circumstances at all times, yes, even in "respectable" "conservative" circles of powerful political influence in these our own days. We cannot compare ourselves and the miniscule sacrifices we are called upon to make to the courage and the fidelity of the martyrs in any age of the Church, especially in those first centuries when the forces of this passing world did all when their considerable earthly power to wipe Catholicism and Catholics off of the face of the earth.
Our own trip to the Coliseum on May 19, 2005, was just as numbing for me as it had been in the past. Oh, I walked around, alternately pushing Lucy in Penance the Stroller and carrying her in my arms, looking at the sights below me, imagining what the cheers of the crowds must have been like as our spiritual ancestors were put to death. I was reminded of the scene from the wonderful 1983 television movie, The Scarlet and the Black, in which Gregory Peck, playing Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, tells Christopher Plummer's S.S. Colonel Herbert Kappler that he, Kappler, was standing in the same place, the Coliseum, that his own ideological ancestors, the Roman emperors, delighted themselves by feeding Christians to the lions. "Look around. This is what is left of the Roman Empire. Soon it will be the same with the Third Reich. But the Church, yes, the Church will always remain." Yes, the Church will always remain. We must be willing, however, to do our part as martyrs, starting with our willingness to die to self and to let Our Lord increase in us with every beat of our hearts, consecrated as they must be to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The petty emperors of today will be but footnotes in the pages of history. Who other than truly serious students of history remembers the names of Diocletian or Trajan? Nero, yes. The rest, no. It will be no different with those of today who believe that they can govern civilly with utter indifference to the fact of the Incarnation and the necessity of subordinating all things to the Deposit of Faith the God-Man has entrusted to the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Most of us just walked around the Coliseum in silence. Zelie Turpin kept asking, "Where is the blood?" not comprehending that the deaths of the martyrs took place centuries ago. Lucy Mary Norma was looking for the lions, knowing that they had torn apart a fair number of martyrs. We overheard occasionally the disinformation being spewed by English speaking tour guides to groups willing to subject themselves to such disinformation. One of these dimwits was explaining how the archers were very careful to keep from hurting people. "Accidents did happen, though," the tour guide said in heavily accented English. Accidents, indeed! We heard more disinformation there, and yet more at the Catacombs of San Callisto on Monday, May 23, 2005, about which I may write before the end of the world (possibly).
Benoit Turpin, truly exhausted from all of the family's travels, caught a nap with his son Gabriel on the lower level of the Coliseum as we took an elevator up to its topmost reaches accessible to the general public. There was a rehearsal going on for some kind of hideous kind of rock concert on a stage in front of the box seats from which the emperors would amuse themselves with the "games" of the Colosseo. "The pagans have recaptured the place," I noted to Sharon. We just walked around and around as we prayed to the Holy Martyrs of the Roman Coliseum. Words are just too inadequate.
"Come on, Keep Up With Your Brigade!"
Any sensible person would have called it a day at that point. However, it was only around 5:00 p.m. There was still time to walk up from Colosseo to the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano. What could the troops say, no? Well, they could have. They did not. Wearied and bedraggled, they followed me to and then up the hilly Via San Giovanni in Laterano from the Colosseo to the Basilica itself. A very bad blister on my right foot, that had impeded my walking for several days, burst as we were walking to the Via San Giovanni in Laterano, thereby making it possible for me to once again stride at full speed, which I did. Pushing Penance the Stroller, which contained a sound asleep Lucy Mary Norma Droleskey, and leaving the others, including my dear wife, in the dust, as this overweight man, just five days away from reaching the halfway point in his fifty-fourth year of life, marched up and up and up the seemingly endless hill leading us to the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano. None of this was my doing. I was the recipient of Our Lady's graces to even want to do things that are against my particular, sedentary nature! I was, though, kind and thoughtful enough to let everyone else catch up with me. As the group was walking up the Via San Giovanni in Laterano I could not help but said, "Come on, keep up with your brigade!" a phrase that the Turpins' young visitor might have heard now and again in her life. All kidding aside, we did sit down for about thirty minutes to let everyone have something to drink and to give the children some gelatto at a cafe near the Ospedale del Salvatore, continuing on to the Basilica after the rest stop.
It was nice to return to San Giovanni in Laterano and to pay our respects once again at the tomb of Pope Leo XIII. The Turpins were impressed with the beauty of this great church, the Pope's Cathedral as Bishop of the Diocese of Rome. Lucy loved the statues of the Apostles then just as much as she had five days before, returning once again to a painting of Saint Lucy, to whom she has a special devotion and of whom we are privileged to have a relic (which was given to Lucy by friends here in southern California on her third birthday, Easter Sunday, March 27). Considerable time was spent at San Giovanni in Laterano before we went across the street to the Church of the Scala Sancta once more.
Up the Scala Sancta Once Again
The Turpin children were reminded of Saint Helena's bringing the steps that Our Lord walked to be judged in our place by Pontius Pilate from Jerusalem to Rome. Lucy looked forward quite eagerly to climbing up the Holy Stairs for the second time in five days. And thus it was that all eleven members of the group went up the Holy Stairs on their knees, including Lucy's youngest cousin, Gabriel, who went up the stairs very devoutly. We went up the stairs slowly, placing our hands in the slits that permitted pilgrims to touch the actual marble stairs that are covered by the wood on which they go up to the top of the staircase. It was another very moving experience, especially to see Lucy share this event with her cousins. You see, folks, we must be very careful to give our children exposure only to those children who will fortify them in the Faith. This is not snobbery. This is not arrogance. This is not pride. No, this is the simple recognition that the souls of children are impressionable: we must do all that is possible to avoid regular contact with those who might, wittingly or unwittingly, serve as a deterrent to the right formation of our children's souls unto eternal life. How blessed Lucy is to have the good example of her prayerful and devout Turpin cousins. How blessed was this moment in which each of the children was able to share a supreme union with Our Lord's love for us as He ascended to be judged in our place!
Our Lady of the Snows
After a visit to the chapel at the top of the Holy Stairs we descended and made our way up to the Via Merulana, intending to see if we could get to the third major basilica of the day, Santa Maria Maggiore. Again going up hill (what else is new in Rome?) we made visits to the Church of Saints Marcellinus and Peter on one side of the Via Merulana and then backtracked on the other side to make a visit to the Church of San Antonio. We processed down steep flight of cement steps from the church to the sidewalk to continue our trek, dodging a few construction zones as we did so, to make our way up the Esquiline Hill once more to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Snows, Santa Maria Maggiore. Lucy, sitting in Penance the Stroller, and I awaited at the top of the hill (along with Claire and Elodie and their friend Maureen) as the others seemed unable to keep up with their brigade.
Even though it was approaching 6:45 p.m., the Basilica was still open. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed for Adoration on the main altar. Each of us knelt to pray, grateful for the wonderful day of having visited three major basilicas and three other churches (and the Coliseum) after having heard Holy Mass offered by Father Murphy. The Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament evidently had something to do with some Polish group that was in Rome, probably to venerate the tomb of the late Pope John Paul II. The Archpriest of the Basilica, Bernard Cardinal Law, was standing in sacristy as the Adoration was taking place. Sharon, whose attempts five days before to take a picture of His Eminence resulted in blurry photographs, was able to take one good photograph of the former Archbishop of Boston, which might appear in the July issue of Catholic Family News. (The reason why the photograph was taken is made clear in that particular article). We continued to pray for a time before leaving around 7:30 p.m.
The Turpins wanted to take a bus to visit the Trastevere section of Rome at night. We needed to get Lucy fed. Thus, we parted ways for the evening a few blocks west of Stazione Termini, seeing them early the next morning for Father Murphy's farewell Mass prior to his departure for Ireland and his return thereafter to the United States. We attended to the needs of Lucy Mary Norma for nutrition and thence tried to take the Metro back to the Cipro Station from where our day of travel and prayer had begun some seven hours before. Alas, after descending the escalator in Stazione Termini to the entrance to Linea A we discovered that the Metro closes up shop at 8:00 p.m.on weeknights as well as weekends. It was back up the escalator and out onto the stet to look for a taxi cab.
Unlike our experience of five nights before, there were plenty of volunteers to offer us a ride. One fellow whose cab did not have a meter was a bit offended that I would ask him about its presence. We finally got into a metered cab, equipped with a global positioning monitor that displayed our exact location all the way on the trip down the Via Nazionale to the Corso Emanuele Vittorio over the Tiber River to the Via della Conciliazione up to the Via Leone IV and the Via Andrea Doria, dropping us off with pinpoint precision at our rented apartment. A long day was over. Our liturgical wedding anniversary had been a wonderfully penitential and prayerful experience. All was given, as it is every day, freely to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart as her consecrated slaves.
The next day, Friday, May 20, 2005, saw Sharon and Bridget return together to the Basilica of Saint Peter for the first time since they cried and cried and cried at the Pieta in 1989, beginning their separate paths to converting to the true Faith, uniting them even closer in the bonds of the Faith as sisters than they had been theretofore as sisters by their blood. More on that day and the one that followed, the day on which Lucy had to be taken to Ospedale Bambino Gesu, in the next installment of this series.
Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist pray for us.
Saints Marcellinus and Peter, pray for us.
Saint Anthony, pray for us.
There is a man dressed in white under the red canopy. He is Pope Benedict XVI. See him?
Is the Holy Father more visible in this photograph? You can see why Sharon sat down the whole time!
The Members of the Papal Band, playing after the General Audience, May 18, 2005
The Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura, May 19, 2005
Various vantage points of the Coliseum, May 19, 2005
The tomb of the great Pope Leo XIII, who reigned (as in wearing a Triple Tiara) from 1878-1903, San Giovanni in Laterano, May 19, 2005
A Side View of the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, May 19, 2005
A Grotto of Lourdes, Church of San Antonio, Via Merulana, May 19, 2005
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, May 19, 2005