AUSTRIA COLUMN: Connecting with the tangible ‘root’ of the Catholic Church in Rome



I begin to write by first expressing my heartfelt grief for the terrorist attacks in Paris and offering of prayer for France and its people.

These past 10 days, I was on a pilgrimage to Rome along with most of the Austrian Program students and faculty. My trip began with the question, “What is a pilgrimage?” The word pilgrimage is defined as a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance through a voyage to religiously significant places; it is also an opportune time to step back from strenuous everyday life and reflect on the deeper meaning of faith.

The destination of our pilgrimage was Rome, the capital city and birthplace of the Catholic Church. There are four Major Basilicas in Rome, which are the highest-ranking Roman Catholic churches and papal basilicas. We prayed and attended Mass in all four of the major basilicas: St. Peter’s, Santa Maria Maggiore, St. Paul’s and St. John Lateran.

Words cease to adequately describe the beauty and majesty of these basilicas; these churches are simply enormous in size and absolutely, breathtakingly spectacular. It is not hard to imagine both believers and non-believers (being) overwhelmed by wonder and awe once they (step) in the basilica.

Despite the magnificence of the buildings, where countless people would have come and prayed (for) centuries, what touched my heart the most is the realization that God through his Son, Jesus Christ, built his church, which still stands strong after 2,000 years spread through the whole world.

I also had a chance to tour the Scavi underneath St. Peter’s Basilica where I saw the bones of St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome. I was exhilarated and overjoyed to see with my own eyes (the) Gospel passage, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” (Matthew 16:18) having been fulfilled physically and spiritually.

Quite literally, the most significant Roman Catholic Church in the world is built right on top of where St. Peter was buried, and theologically, through St. Peter’s ministry and martyrdom shape the Catholic Church. The experience was incredible.

For me, this pilgrimage was a wonderful period of time of growth through both spiritual and physical components. On one hand, I saw tangible confirmation of what I believe in and (the) grand institute of my church. I was able (to trace) back to the root my church and came to appreciate it.

On the other hand, I journey inward in my faith to the deepest part of my being, which long(s) for the grace of the Lord. I felt as if my soul is set on fire to understand and love God. So God help me.

All pilgrimage comes to an end. Just as after Jesus’ Transfiguration he and his disciples came down from the mountain to spread the Gospel, I must also accept the fact that I am going back home. I must not forget what God has revealed to me during this pilgrimage but live out the Gospel in my life. May God be with all of us always. Amen.