Pilgrimage to the Catholic Churches in Europe (Part 2)
London, England—As a continuing pilgrimage to the different Catholic Churches in Europe, particularly London, France and Italy, I am very thankful that the Lord still gave me the opportunity and good health to go to these Churches. Sad to note, most of the Catholic Churches are now converted into Anglican Church, the national religion of England, where the head is the Queen.
Our next stop was the Church of St. Severin in Nice, France. One thing I noticed, most of the churches in Nice has the image of the rooster on its rooftop. At first, I thought it was not a Catholic Church. The images of St. Therese of Lisieux were exhibited here.
We then took the train to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdesin France, one of the most visited pilgrimage churches in Europe due to the healing of most of the pilgrims. It was my second visit and aside from having the bath, I was able to attend the 9:00am Mass, did the Stations of the Cross (near the Grotto, not the ones in the uphill climb) and joined the 8:00pm Marian procession in front of the Church of the Rosary. The congregation prayed the rosary and sang “Ave Maria” in the midst of rain shower. It was here where I offered prayers for my families, relatives, friends, for our bishops, clergies, deacons, seminarians and those who requested prayers. I put one by one into the petition box by the Grotto the prayers-petitions of those who entrusted them to me. We also visited the house of St. Bernadette.
Riding the train is the best way to travel in Europe. After almost one day of train transfers, we reached Vernazza, Italy. Unfortunately, the Santa Margarita d’ Antiochia Church was already closed when we reached it. Luckily, we were able to visitSan Giovanni Battista Church in Monterosso, one of the five islands we visited. It was a 13th century Ligurian Catholic Church on top of the hill. The Baroque Altar dates back to 1744. We used the lift (as they call the elevator in Europe) to see the surrounding areas by the beach.
Then we proceeded to Pisa Cathedral, a Romanesque-style Church in its white splendor with the Leaning Tower of Pisa at the background. Its patron saint is Santa Maria Assunta. There was a long queue of pilgrims and due to lack of time, I prayed for everyone in front of the Cathedral.
Then, we went to the famous St. Mark Cathedral in Venice, my 3rd visit, surrounded by the waters from Adriatic Sea. it is the best example of Italo-Byzantine architecture. The image of the Virgin Mary and St. Mark could be seen in the facade of the cathedral. Again, due to long queue, we said our prayers in front of the Cathedral.
Luckily, we were able to hear the Holy Trinity Mass at Milan Cathedral where the patron saint is St. Ambrose. The guards allowed us to enter the church, skipping the line, because we are going to hear Mass (Ambrosian Mass). I noted that the offering of peace was done after the homily. It is in this Church where the Gold Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was enthroned on the roof.
Finally, we reached Rome where I had my 3rd visit – the 4 pontifical basilicas of the Vatican. First was of St. Peter’s Basilica. It is here where we climbed the 351 steps up to the Dome, with the first 200 steps via elevator. We also paid tribute to the tomb of St. Pope John Paul II, at the left side of the image of the Pieta. We also had our sacrament of reconciliation (confession) before an English-speaking priest. We were so blessed that during the Wednesday General Audience with Pope Francis, he passed by our area twice. I called “Lolo Kiko, Lolo Kiko, we are from Pilipinas.” He looked at our direction, he smiled and we had eye contact while he gave us his blessing. By the way, through thr invitation of Fr. Reupert Garcia, I was able to get inside the Crypt of St. Peter where Fr. Phillippe Garcia of the Diocese of Kalookan celebrated Mass. Unfortunately, I had to skip the Mass due to our flight back to London.
Next is the Basilica of St. Paul Outside of Wall, meaning it is located outside the Vatican.
Then to the Minor Basilica of Baroque style Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, one of the pilgrim churches in Rome, where the relics of the Passion of Christ are located – the piece of wood of his cross, the nail, a piece of thorn in the crown brought to Rome by Empress St. Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine. At that time, the Basilica’s floor was covered with soil from Jerusalem. It is the origin of our Santacruzan in the month of May.
Then, we went to Scala Santa, the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs where we climbed on knees the 28 marble steps stairs. The Holy Stairs are said to be the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus stepped on his way tomtrial during his Passion. It was really a sacrifice climbing the steps due to sweat of pilgrims that males the marble slippery. The stairs were reputed to be brought to Rome by St. Helena.
Next is the Basilica of St. John Lateran, also of St. John the Baptist where the Chair of St. Peter is enthroned at the Altar.
We stopped by the Basilica of Santa Prassede located near Santa Maria Maggiori. One can find here a portion of the pillar where Jesus was flagellated.
Then to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiori where Pope Francis goes before and after his pastoral visits to different countries. The last time we were in Rome, we had our confession at this Basilica.