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Marie Mischel of The Intermountain Catholic visited Rome during the Canonization of Saint Teresa. She shares her experiences in this blog.


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Top tags: Rome  Archbishop Wester  Assisi  Blessed Teresa  Marian  monster  Mother Teresa  San Damiano  shrine  Spanish Steps  St. Francis  St. Paul  St. Peter  St. Rita  Tre Fontane 

Listening for God

Posted By Elise Freed-Brown, Thursday, September 8, 2016

Waves are crashing on the shore of the Adriatic Sea outside my window as I write this. The serenity is a welcome respite from the frenzy of Rome.

Our pilgrimage has brought us to Loreto from Rome by way of Assisi, where I fell in love with St. Francis, for in his words I found the formless prayer I have been struggling to say since I arrived.

I cannot express how frustrating it has been to be unable to articulate my prayer--after all, I am a wordsmith by both vocation and profession. I should be able to verbalize my thoughts, but this particular yearning of my heart remained unwilling to be formed into words, and so I was forced to mumble, as I knelt before the Lord, "I can't ask for what I want. Please help with this that brings me to you. You know what I mean."

Then, there at San Damiano, where St. Francis received his commission from God to rebuild the Church, I found my prayer had already been articulated by the most famous son of Assisi: "Oh most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me a right faith, a certain hope and a perfect love, understanding and knowledge, I Lord, that I may carry out your holy and true command."

It is indeed the enlightenment of the darkness of my heart that I seek. Thank you, St. Francis, for your eloquence. You were known to apologize for the simple style of your words, but they are so powerful that they need no embellishment.

In his homily that day at the Basilica of St. Francis, Archbishop Wester suggested that we listen for God just as did St. Francis. He said God is calling us every moment of our existence, and the question to ask is whether we are listening, and if we are listening, whether we have the courage to trust the Lord.

One message I am hearing over and over again this pilgrimage is to listen. I am trying to heed that advice.

The next day I prayed St. Francis' prayer in front of the crucifix where St. Rita received the wounds on her forehead that resembled those of a crown of thorns. (I never knew about St. Rita before. This pilgrimage has introduced me to so much about the faith I never knew.)

God has not spoken to me as he did St. Francis nor marked me as he did St. Rita, but I think he may be enlightening my heart. For now I am content to sit here by the seashore, listening to the waves and reading the words of St. Francis, knowing that for the moment at least I am blessed to be where God intended.

Tags:  Archbishop Wester  Assisi  San Damiano  St. Francis  St. Rita 

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Trust that God will provide what we need.

Posted By Elise Freed-Brown, Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Updated: Thursday, September 8, 2016

Day 5 of our pilgrimage was one of learning to accept that we have no control of our lives, but yet we need to trust that God will provide what we need.

We were scheduled to attend Mass at the Basilica of St. Peter, but when we arrived the security personnel said no, the basilica was closed because of the visit of a "VIP with a capital V," as our guide put it. (Someone later said it was because of the Mass with the cardinals who came for the canonization; don't know if that was the reason, but it sounds right.)

Then came some negotiations in Italian, and after a short but tension-filled wait we were in fact allowed in to the basilica, and the homily reminded me that back home it was Labor Day-a fact that I had completely forgotten.

More to the point, Fr. Marty said that when we return from this pilgrimage people will be watching us closely to see if the experience has changed us, which made me ask myself if it has. The answer? I don't know, but I hope so.

After the Mass we were supposed to have had time to look around St. Peter's, but security hustled us outweigh also were supposed to go through the Holy Door, but that was closed until 1 p.m. as well.

Then we went to the Spanish Steps, but they were closed for cleaning.

The schedule called for us to have the rest of the day free, so I found my way (after a few wrong turns) to Palazzetto Zuccaro, a house with the facade of a monster 's face designed by Federico Zuccaro. Then I sat in the Piazza di Spagna for a while, hoping to be inspired by the same air that had so inspired Keats (but didn't heal him of his tuberculosis.) When inspiration declined my invitation to strike, I had tea and a biscuit at Babington's and plotted my next move.


There remained hundreds of sites in Rome I had not yet visited, and I wanted very much to see them, but the driving force behind this pilgrimage for me was to go through all four Holy Doors in Rome. We had gone through three but because they had closed St. Peter's that morning we hadn't been able to go through the Holy Door there. 

So I returned to St. Peter's and did just that. Then I prayed in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Words cannot describe the beauty of that room, with its massive golden tabernacle and inspiring paintings, the beauty enhanced by the silence. Outside the curtain are the noisy throngs of camera-wielding tourists, but inside the chapel there is the silence of prayer undisturbed by clicking shutters or the blink of camera flashes, because photos are forbidden there.There remained hundreds of not thousands of sites in Rome I had not yet visited, and I very much wanted to see them, but the driving force behind this pilgrimage for me was not the canonization but rather the chance to go through all four Holy Doors in Rome. We had gone through three, but because they had closed St. Peter's that morning, we hadn't been able to go through the Holy Door there.

Afterward I tried to go to Trastevere and the Ghetto, but got lost. By then it was getting toward dinner time, and I happened upon four members of my pilgrimage group seated outside a restaurant. They invited me to join them, and as we shared notes about our day a priest took the table next to us. We invited him to join us, which he did. Fr. Matthew from Pennsylvania said he had come to Rome for just three days, specifically because of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, and he meant to spend most of the next day in prayer in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

Somehow his words consoled me, because I had been feeling as though the day, with its various disruptions to plans and wrong turns, had been wasted, but instead I had apparently done what I needed to do and what Fr. Matthew was planning to do, and that was to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.


Tags:  monster  Rome  Spanish Steps  St. Peter 

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Acts of kindness Blessed Teresa's canonization

Posted By Elise Freed-Brown, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The morning of Blessed Teresa's canonization found our pilgrimage group on the bus at 5 a.m., headed to St. Peter's Square. Our tour guide told us that the lines already were so long that we would have to be dropped near Castel Sant' Angelo, (about a half mile from St. Peter's Square) but then the bus driver said because we were such a small group (13 of us) that he was able to let us off much closer.

That was the first of many small acts of kindness I noticed throughout the day.

Another such occurred as we were standing, packed like sardines, waiting the 90 minutes until the Square was opened. Near our group were a couple of Missionaries of Charity, in their distinctive blue-lined white saris. One of them was somewhat elderly, and not up to the stress of standing so long, so one of my fellow pilgrims loaned her the folding chair the tour company had thoughtfully provided for us.

As a thank you, the sister gave Susie a prayer card with a picture of Mother Teresa, and embossed in that card are a few threads from a sari that saint had worn - a second-class relic.

"I just stood there and almost cried," Susie said.

Then, during the rosary that preceded the Mass, Diane couldn't find the rosary she had brought. The rosary has special significance because it was the one her daughter had when she died. This is the second anniversary of her daughter's death, and for Diane this pilgrimage is a commemoration of sorts.

When Diane couldn't find her rosary, she asked if anyone had an extra one. Susie handed her one in a box with a picture of St. Therese the Little Flower, and Diane's daughter Patricia was born on the feast of St. Therese.

"I felt Patricia's presence so strongly right there," Diane said.

Another kindness occurred during communion. You have to imagine the crowd-thousands upon thousands of people all massed together. We were outside the neat rows of chairs, so there were no orderly lines. One of the pilgrims in our group is quite petite--she stands perhaps 4'8" tall--and she was having difficulty finding her way to one of the priests who were distributing communion. She asked a complete stranger, and he guided Charlotte through the crowd to a priest.

Some of our group found themselves at a spot on the route that Pope Francis drove, so they were able to get his blessing as he went past.

For Julia, who has faced some difficulty recently, seeing the Holy Father so close and receiving his blessing was "a God moment," she said.

Meanwhile, Daphne was struck by the thought that there in St. Peter's Square, ringed by the statues of saints and martyrs, we were "surrounded by a cloud of witnesses," and for the canonization there was both "a heavenly ceremony and an earthly one," she said.

For myself, I had no spiritual revelation. My personal experience was that of the flesh--the discomfort of standing pressed shoulder to shoulder for two hours, annoyance of being shoved along through the crowd, the distraction of the tailgate atmosphere as some of those attending the canonization took selfies as the rosary was recited, or talked and ate during the Mass.

I confess disappointment in my experience because I am oddly accepting of it. Would I have liked to have had a "God moment," as did Julia and some of the others? Yes. And in fact I had prayed that I would. But that prayer wasn't granted. What I did receive, however, was the need to hear the stories of others, which in a way was its own revelation, because it showed me how God works in such different ways in other people's lives. It was a humbling experience as well because it made me realize again is that this is not my story, much as I like to think that it is; rather, it is our story, and I don't even have a starring role.

Tags:  Blessed Teresa  Mother Teresa  Rome 

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St. Paul Outside the Walls, Our Lady of Revelation and Tre Fontane

Posted By Elise Freed-Brown, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Just three sites into our pilgrimage and I am already overwhelmed by sensations. Faith, history and art combine here in Rome to flood the heart, mind and eye, bringing the stories from the New Testament to life, many of these stories rendered by the most talented artists ever to live.

Today we went to St. Paul Outside the Walls, where the body of the apostle was buried after he was beheaded. This is the man responsible for carrying the Catholic faith to the Gentiles, who wrote much of the New Testament, the man famous for having poured out his life for Christ.

Standing in his basilica, and later, visiting Tre Fontane, where he was beheaded, brings that history to life more than any reading of the Scripture.

If the religious aspect wasn't enough, there were the dazzling 5th-century mosaics, the Easter candlestick by Vassalletto, the 13th-century tabernacle by Arnolfo do Cambio. 

Our guide at the basilica was Sister Emanuela Edwards, a Missionary of the Divine Revelation, who said that nothing you see in Rome is incidental, and at the basilica, seeing detail upon stunning detail, made me realize just how much care and craftsmanship has gone on for centuries to provide what we now hurry past. 


For example, Sister Emanuela said the garden there is one of her favorites. "It's quite restful on the eyes, isn't it?" She asked, and indeed it is, a beautiful swath of green dotted with colorful flowers and dominated by a statue of St. Paul,  but we didn't have time to stroll through it because we were headed to the the holy door.

As we passed through that portal into the basilica, I touched the carving on the door of the Crucified Christ and as I did so I was overwhelmed with the feeling that he was taking on all of the concerns I have brought with me to pray for on this pilgrimage.

Details upon details in the Basilica - there are all of the portraits of the popes surrounding the wall, artworks too numerous to mention. I could have stayed for hours, but we headed to the shrine of Our Lady of Revelation, where Mary is said to have appeared to a Protestant man and converted him even as he was preparing to assassinate the pope.

The Virgin appeared dressed in green, which is why the missionary sisters of Sister Emanuela's order now have wear green habits.


Many miracles are attributed to that shrine, which I had never before heard of. It is not one of the seven Vatican approved Marian apparitions, and yet the pope approved a religious order based on the events that occurred there, and the shrine is full of mementos from those who attribute miracles to  our Lady of Revelation.

From there we went to Tre Fontane, which is just across the street and down a bit from the shrine. We were unable to see the cell where Saint Paul was held the night before his execution, but we were able to walk down the road that the Apostle would have taken from the cell to the site of his beheading.


A portion of the old Roman road is still visible, and it chilled me to think that I was walking in the footsteps of St. Paul. Sister Emanuela said that today we think that we should have an easy life but she said to be a Christian is to be a witness the road to Heaven is it difficult path and we should continue on it despite the difficulties. These are words for me to pray over as we continue our pilgrimage tomorrow.

Tags:  Marian  Rome  shrine  St. Paul  Tre Fontane 

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