Pilgrimage to Rome: Once-in-a-lifetime experience

Author: Mr. Andrew Solkshinitz

Banner of Saint André Bessette on St

Here is the first post from Andrew Solkshinitz, a Holy Cross College student, who is on pilgrimage in Rome for the canonization of Blessed Brother André with the group from the Holy Cross Office of Vocations.  Visit our Vocations Flickr account for more photos of the celebrations in Rome.
On Friday morning Holy Cross Office of Vocations took 12 men from Notre Dame and Holy Cross College on a vocations pilgrimage to Rome. We made it safe and sane after a 9-hour flight, and then we took the craziest ride of our lives in a Roman bus. The hotel that we are staying is fantastic, and we are in eyesight on the Vatican. Literally we are right outside of the walls.

Procession with the image of Brother André at Sant Andrea della valle

For the first day we found out that our rooms weren’t going to be ready for another 4 hours. It was decided that we were going to get breakfast and then head up to the top of the dome on Saint Peters. The oddest thing was the walk up to the top: The walls started to slant sideways and the paths got narrower and a bit steeper. Our group made it to the top and we were blessed with a wonderful view of the city. In all directions were found spires of churches and mountains.

Veneration of Brother André's relicsat Sant Andrea della valle

When we all got cleaned up at the hotel we made our way over to Sant Andrea della valle for a pre-canonization evening prayer. People came from all over the world to be a part of this historic moment for the Congregation of Holy Cross. Relics of the soon-to-be-saint were processed around the basilica for all to see. It was so nice to see so many Holy Cross religious in one place.
We decided to meet up for dinner since by this point many of us had not eaten since breakfast. After a “real” Italian meal we decided to go to an Irish pub to cheer on Notre Dame. Then it was time to hit the hay as we had been up for over 24 hours by this point, and we were ready to sleep! Personally I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
Today (Sunday, October 17), it was a bright and early wakeup call with us needing to be at Saint Peter’s square by 7:30a.m. After a quick breakfast the group was off to push our way through the thousands of people there to honor the six new saints. We had to elbow a few nuns to get in – I know what you’re thinking, but they pushed first! – but we made it to our seats. We were really close to the front and we lucked out with our seating being so good.  Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C., led us in morning prayer while we waited.

Pope Benedict XVI processing intothe Mass of Canonization

The pope made his way out following a long procession of cardinals and bishops. The Mass for the Canonization was a true meeting of culture, and now we can officially say: Saint Andre Bessette, pray for us! We had saints being beatified from Poland, French-speaking Canada, Australia, Italy, and Spain. The amount of foreign language that was used may have confused some of us, but the Mass transcended all language barriers. Each and everyone there knew what was going on and were joyfully waiting on our pope to consecrate the bread and the wine into Christ’s Body and Blood.

Mass of Canonization, St

After the unforgettable Mass was over, the Holy Cross religious extended an invitation to join them for the longest meal that I ever sat through: seven courses! The food just kept coming, it was wonderful! It was also a great chance for some of the guys that are considering the call to religious life to talk with some of the priests or brothers that were there. We were in very good company with two bishops, the president of Notre Dame, and the United States ambassador to the Holy See.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for many of us to get to meet and talk with these very busy people in a one-on-one environment. For that I am very grateful.
After the meal, our fearless leader, Fr. Jim Gallagher, led us onward to the Basilica of Saint Paul’s outside the walls.  We prayed and explored our church’s great history with the chance to see Saint Paul’s tomb and the chains that Saint Peter was arrested with. We concluded our day by saying evening prayer and going our own ways. Some of us went out to get more food; some of us went looking for bone vinum rubrum (good red wine); and some decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel to get some sleep. All in all these first few days have already impacted us in some great ways, and we already have some great memories.  We still have the rest of the week!
Saint André of Montreal, pray for us!
Stay tuned for more posts from our pilgrims in Rome the rest of the week.


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