This is one of my favorite weekends of the year at Saint Bernadette. Oktoberfest, Becca’s Run, and the Fall Festival combine with (please God!) fabulous weather to bring our parish and many of our neighbors and friends together for fun. I love it. But this year I am missing it!
Patrick Lewis, who grew up here in our parish and is now a seminarian for our Archdiocese, will be ordained a Deacon in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Thursday, October 6. This is a great moment not only for him, but also for the parish, and I wanted it to be the occasion for a pilgrimage of our parishioners to Rome.
I have seen this conflict coming for years. The diaconate ordinations for the Pontifical North American College in Rome are always the first week of October; mine was October 3, 1996, and Father DeRosa’s was October 4, 2007 (I was there). The Fall Festival and accompanying events always fall on the weekend before Columbus Day. Rather than try to fiddle with the schedule, I reluctantly decided I would have to miss the big weekend.
Never before have I taken a group on such a pilgrimage, though the better part of nine years of my life was spent in Rome. I know how much a visit to the holy places there can strengthen one’s understanding of the Faith and the Church. We will visit the tomb of Saint Peter, and attend an audience with his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Before we make our way to Rome, our group will visit Siena, and the shrine of Saint Catherine there; Assisi, and the Basilicas of Saint Francis and Saint Clare; and Orvieto, where we will see evidence of the Eucharistic miracle that gave birth to the Feast of Corpus Christi.
In the time left over from the official tour, the few, the proud, and the foolish will accompany me on a little wander of my own devising called “The Bataan Death-March Tour of Early Christian Rome.” That exaggerates slightly its difficulty, but it does take effort to touch the first, third, and fourth centuries of Christian worship and life, walk through a door that was carved and hung in 432; pray beneath mosaics from the sixth and seventh centuries, as well as some from the twelfth century designed to resemble those “old” ones; and stand nose-to-nose with frescoes painted in the ninth century that depict Christ’s descent among the dead and Mary’s Assumption into heaven – all in the same day. Especially when you remember that Rome is a city built on hills – seven of them.
So please, in addition to your prayers for good weather for the festival weekend, please pray for soon-to-be-deacon Patrick Lewis and his classmates, that their hearts be disposed to receive the full grace and power of the Holy Spirit as they enter Holy Order. Pray too not only for the safety of us who are on pilgrimage, but also that our hearts be touched and opened by our experience of the Faith and the Church, and we be drawn closer not only to one another but to the saints of God, and Him toward whom our entire earthly pilgrimage is directed.
I am sorry not to be with you this weekend, but heaven knows it is not as if you cannot enjoy yourselves without me! As I pray at the shrines of the Apostles, and in my pastor’s heart as I join our Supreme Pastor, you will be in my prayers.