I’m back home from my pilgrimage to Rome, and six days after, barely starting to feel a bit normal again. After being gone for so long, I returned with a whole lot of jet lag, and little interest in doing the laundry, dishes, or even cooking dinner. (Been a big promoter of takeout lately.) I’m finally starting to feel back on track.
There is just so much to say about the pilgrimage. The whole trip was a whirlwind, and it’s left me feeling a bit overwhelmed looking back. How do I describe everything that I saw? It’s been a struggle to put it all into words.
Of course, there’s plenty to talk about concerning the cultural differences and my adventures in travel. I also have plenty of stories to share when it comes to all the grittier experiences of my trip (like racking in forty-five miles of walking, or getting stuck on a non-moving plane for four hours). There were so many wonderful new things I encountered, like endless gelato, prosciutto-filled paninis, the smell of leather in Florence, cappuccinos, and great Italian wine. All of that was incredible.
The things that we jam-packed into one week and a half are all there in my memory, but it’s taking me a while to decompress and revisit everything we accomplished in such a short amount of time. I’m still sifting through the +500 pictures I took, which serve as a reminder of how arduous our days really were. I must admit that for the most part of my trip I was downright exhausted, red-eyed (due to allergies?), and sick with a stomach ache. I felt pretty overwhelmed with all the walking, the lack of sleep, and the many, many locations we visited–not to mention the ache of missing my family. However, I pushed through all of that because I knew it was a chance of a lifetime.
A super exhausted selfie, after walking the streets of Rome all day.
It’s taken me almost a week to sort through my many pictures and two small filled journals because we visited countless Churches, over 50 Saints, Pope Francis, the Catacombs of Callixtus (where many Christians, Popes, and martyrs are buried), Assisi, and Florence. It was a glimpse at the great scope of Catholicism, and I loved every minute of it.
While I was there I learned many lessons, particularly about our faith but also about life itself. Through it all, the primary thing that stood out to me on my trip was the magnitude of our faith. Everywhere we went I was struck by the Catholic Church’s greatness. In Rome, the scale of our faith is highlighted by all the glorious churches, art, and holy places. I can’t express how truly humbling it was to pray at the tomb of my favorite Saint (John Paul the Great), or bring my petitions to all the various holy sites we visited. Some of the things we saw were beyond my comprehension. They were incredible depictions and manifestations of our faith, and seeing them was practically transcendent. In the presence of such beauty, I was truly humbled and stretched to a new level of thankfulness that I am a part of such a Church.
One thing that struck me as we traveled from church to church was my encounter with so many different people who weren’t Catholic. With little knowledge of the faith, they nonetheless waited in long lines to catch a glimpse of the beautiful and historical sites. To me it was significant that these incredible displays of our faith were drawing people from all over the world. If they only knew the wonder that can be discovered in the Church, through the eyes of faith. It was a telling reminder that people are starving for an encounter with beauty of that scale. I wondered if they had any idea that all of that beauty is profoundly rooted in the truth of God’s love for each and every one of us…the truth made tangible in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I think that is what made my trip so worthwhile. While seeing all the frescos, magnificent Churches, and holy sites was an incredible experience, it was that deeper reality that will stay with me the longest. Through my pilgrimage I came to see in a new way how God is truly with us in the Church. I’ve always understood this through faith, but going to Rome helped me understand how far the scale of our faith reaches, and just how tangible it really is.
Coming home was bittersweet. Though I was in every way ready to hug my family again, it was difficult to leave all of that behind. However, looking back now, I remember clearly that the primary place where I encountered God’s love the most while I was away was in the Masses we celebrated each day. It was there that I truly felt the beauty of our faith personally come alive.
We are so blessed that we don’t have to travel to such extreme lengths to experience the depths of God’s love for us. He comes to us directly in each holy Mass. How great is it that through the Catholic Church we have access to the magnitude of God’s love?
BIG thanks to those who made this trip possible, especially you Joe. I would never have gone without your motivation and encouragement. You are absolutely, hands down, the best husband in the world. If I ever get to go again, I only hope that I can walk the Eternal City hand in hand with you. Thank you Caitlin, Erin, (and my wonderful in-laws) Mary, and Dennis for taking such great care of my babies while I was gone. Knowing they were with loved ones made the trip so much easier.