Ad limina pilgrimage: Impressions of hope and love
ROME — When I woke up this morning before sunrise to prepare for my morning at St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican, I had no idea what awaited me, whether my hopes for the moments with our bishops that I wanted to capture in these places would materialize or not.
I have to say that Divine Providence exceeded my expectations.
One cannot adequately describe what it is like walking into St. Peter's Basilica first thing in the morning when it is prayerfully silent, when priests are celebrating Mass at all of the altars around the church that is the heart of our Holy Mother Church.
The ringing of the bells at the Consecration and the singing of the Alleluia all over the basilica at different times are some of the most joyous and holy sounds one can experience.
Pictured above: North Carolina Bishops Peter Jugis and Michael Burbidge pose for a picture after meeting with the Holy Father. (Photos by SueAnn Howell, Catholic News Herald)
And everywhere you look, there is Our Lord in the hands of our priests.
It takes your breath away.
When you pray before the altars of the beloved Popes and look up at all the statues of the saints and the intricate mosaics that fool the eye into thinking they are paintings...It's just stunning.
Nothing can prepare you for the tidal wave of grace that sweeps over you. You feel like you are home.
That grace also came today in the form of being able to accompany the bishops down to the Tomb of St. Peter for Mass. Descending the narrow marble stairs, listening to them sing as they entered the tomb was something I will never forget.
Our shepherds, gathered together at the tomb of the first man Our Lord commissioned to lead His flock, coming to share Our Eucharistic Lord before meeting the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, was an incredible sight to behold.
I felt such a two-way flow of fatherly love at that Mass as they gazed at Him and He gazed upon them.
And later in the morning, when we were travelling to meet the Holy Father, I marveled at how we had been in the Father's house just hours before and now we were headed to see our beloved "Papa."
As I waved to them as they entered the doorway to take them upstairs to see the Holy Father, I was overjoyed that these sons of God were being given such a special gift, a few moments of the Holy Father's undivided attention.
I was then allowed briefly into the waiting area in the Papal household, just outside where they had gone in. I had such a sense of peace there as I gazed at the artwork and the statue of Christ at the end of that hallway.
It was like being enveloped in a warm hug. I felt the Lord's presence, even though I had not gone into the other room. There was an overwhelming sense of being in the presence of holiness, just standing there.
After I was escorted back down to the courtyard, I prayed a rosary and waited with great anticipation for them come out so I could capture their reactions of their time spent with the Holy Father.
When they came out, I saw joy. I saw gratitude. I saw controlled emotion.
I saw love.
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
See a gallery of photos from these events.
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