This month’s PC-in-Rome blog will have a very special guest editor!
Shortly before I arrived in Rome, I received an email from a former student and current PC-alumnus, Justin Gough. I had come to know Justin over the course of a few of my philosophy courses at PC, and remember how he distinguished himself with his characteristically reflective responses. Justin wrote to me this time not as a student, but as a colleague who is completing his studies at the Pontifical North American College here in Rome. As part of his duties, Justin serves on a team that helps the Apostolic mission of both the PNAC and PC, serving as an ambassador for our students by guiding their individual spiritual journeys as they study abroad in Rome. He and his colleagues at the PNAC have done our students invaluable service over the past weeks, from organizing volunteer activities like distributing sandwiches to the needy around St. Peter’s square, to weekly Bible study, to hosting an ‘American hamburger night’ for students wanting a taste of home. But so far the most special experience, to my mind, was our recent trip to the city of Bologna for the purpose of venerating the holy remains of the founder of the Order of Preachers, Saint Dominic.
In 2015, I graduated from Providence College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and completed the priestly formation program at the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. At that time, Archbishop William Lori assigned me to complete my formation in Rome at the Pontifical North American College and to study sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas “Angelicum”. I am happy to serve the seminary community as one of the house organists, and I enjoy the opportunities to play the instruments in some of Rome’s most significant churches. It is likewise a pleasure to minister to the study abroad students of Providence College as one of the seminarian chaplains. If it be God’s will, I hope to be ordained a deacon in May 2019 and a priest in June 2020.
On 1 November 2017, the students of the Pontifical North American College who serve as chaplains to the Providence College Rome program organized and accompanied some of our abroad Friars to the city of Bologna, in northern Italy. Bologna is home to the worlds’ oldest university in continuous operation and, more importantly for our purposes, to the mortal remains of St. Dominic. Thus, we marked the Solemnity of All Saints (Tutti i Santi––a national holiday in Italy) appropriately with a proper pilgrimage to venerate the tomb of the saintly founder of the Order of Preachers. To Dominic’s heritage, we are indebted; and to his intercession before Almighty God, we continue to rely.
The Pontifical North American College has served as the United States’ seminary in Rome since 1859. There, men from across the country, as well as some from Canada and Australia, are formed to be priests after the heart of Jesus Christ, with the added benefit of firsthand experiences of the universality of the Church and the ministry of the successor of St. Peter, the Pope.
As part of our formation, we seminarians are entrusted with various apostolic assignments across the city, and four––two deacons and two third year seminarians––are assigned this year to minister to the students of Providence College as their chaplains abroad. We also function as chaplains to their classmates at the CEA Rome Center. On a weekly basis, we are happy to offer the students Bible studies to strengthen their faith, as well as various social events to foster friendships and build up Christian fraternity. Above all formal events, the seminarians are pleased to be available to the students in whatever way we can be to their aid, to make their time here in Rome enjoyable and fruitful.
In Bologna, our pilgrimage began with a visit to a few of the city’s most notable churches, known especially for their architectural and artistic innovations. The Cathedral of St. Peter features a painted side-chapel that gives the illusion of being a three-dimensional marble baroque altar and a stunning terracotta sculpture of the “Lament over the Dead Christ,” which emphasizes the wailing agony of Mary and the disciples after the crucifixion.
Time in the marvelous Basilica of San Petronio rounded out our morning. By volume, it is the tenth-largest church in the world and, during the Renaissance, there were plans to expand the church to be larger than St. Peter’s in Rome––plans only to be halted by the Bishop of Rome himself. Today, the Chapel of the Magi, which depicts, among other things, Dante’s envisioning of heaven and hell, remains a ‘must-see’!
As no pilgrimage in Italy is complete without a due sampling of the regions’ culinary delights, our lunch in the city center afforded us the chance to taste some of the many wonderful flavors of Bologna, specifically a proper ‘pasta al ragù alla Bolognese’ and a veal cutlet ‘alla Bologense’!
Back on the ground, we walked through the painted halls of the University of Bologna, in the footsteps of some of its most notable alumni and faculty: St. Thomas Becket, Dante, Copernicus, Michelangelo, St. Charles Borromeo, and many others.
In the evening, we held Mass at the tomb of St. Dominic at the Basilica of San Domenico, a Mass offered particularly for Providence College and its Friars.
The sarcophagus that holds St. Dominic’s remains is itself brilliant and worthy of great study. Around the backside of the altar, his skull is visible behind glass in a reliquary. As one who dedicated his life to the preaching of the Truth and entrusted his Order to the very same, there is perhaps no part of Dominic’s mortal remains more moving to come in contact with than this.
Following a quick pizza dinner, we made the journey back to Rome on a late train.
And so ended an All Saints’ Day pilgrimage surely to be remembered!