On Sunday 12th October thirty-five members of the Holy Family Church, Dunblane, and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Auchterarder, met at the Holy Family at 4:15am. Although it was exceptionally early, most of the tiredness was masked by the fact that every single one of us was overwhelmed with excitement.
We arrived in Rome and went to our residence where we had just enough time to unpack and say Mass before we were then whisked off to a tour of the Vatican City, then to a three course Roman meal. After a long day of travelling the tiredness had finally caught up to us all and we retreated to our beds to recharge ourselves for, the long anticipated, first full day in Rome.
First we visited the Catacombs of San Callisto, it was amazing to hear about the history and to see the different markings that had different meanings. An extra bonus felt by everyone was that it was a lot cooler so it gave us a break from the heat that we weren’t quite used to yet. We were also fortunate enough to be able to celebrate Mass down in the Crypt Partenio in the catacombs, which was an experience we all valued hugely. From there we visited both the Basilica of St. Pauls outside the Walls and the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Seeing all the past Popes on the walls of St. Pauls outside of the Walls was so surreal, it’s a reminder that Catholicism goes beyond our lives.
After lunch we visited St Mary Major Basilica, which according to legend Pope Liberius had a dream where the Virgin Mary appeared to him and told him to build a church where he found snow and snow fell on the 5th of August in the height of Rome’s summer. We then had a bus tour of the city in order for us to gather our bearings and see this beautiful place we were in. During this tour we were able to see historic landmarks of Circus Maximus, Roman Forum, Piazza Venezia and the Castel Sant Angelo. We then had our evening meal together which concluded our first jam-packed day of sightseeing. The following morning we left the residence at 7:30 and headed to St. Peter’s to celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s tombs. Once the mass had finished we were able to wander around the St. Peter’s Basilica and see the great artwork and the graves of all the saints including St. John Paul 2. The rest of the afternoon was free to stay in the Vatican or to go shopping in the Borgio Pio. We all had dinner together again that evening and then met in the Vatican for night prayers. We all then discovered that by night the Vatican is even more peaceful and beautiful in contrast with the loud, busy city.
On Wednesday we attended the Papal Audience and for the majority of us we saw Pope Francis for the first time! We took some amazing photos and were about only 4 metres away from him. After this extremely eventful morning we went for a walking tour, in true pilgrimage fashion, to the Piazza Novona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps. As our feet were aching we had Mass in the residence chapel then headed out for dinner and hoped for an early night to cure our exhaustion.
The following day we had a guided tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. We saw the works of many different artists and heard of the history and feuds behind each painting. The Sistine Chapel was beautiful and very detailed. It seemed a shame to me that they didn’t allow you to spend much time in it. We then had Mass in the beautiful Vatican Parish Church of Sant Anna, the paintings here were also gorgeous.
On Friday we spent the day in the heart of Ancient Rome. We visited the 12th century Basilica of San Clemente, which is administered by the Dominican order. We then continued to the Colosseum, which was the first amphitheatre to be built in Rome. Some of us also got the chance to walk through the Roman Forum. We returned to the residence for Mass and then went out for dinner.
On Saturday we had the amazing opportunity to visit the Scots College, the Roman seminary for young men preparing to serve as priests in Scotland. Here we celebrated Mass in their modern chapel and then we were given a tour of the college. We got to meet some of the young men there and ask them about their time at the Scots College which was great as it’s not often we are presented with that chance. We then had our final meal together where we could discuss our individual experiences of the trip. To round up the already perfect trip we took a tour of Rome by night and we were able to see this fascinating city light up.
Overall it was a spiritually enhancing trip and we had a great time. It is a trip that we would both hope to be privileged to experience again and return this ever-changing city all over again.