Monday, June 19, 2017

Do You Have a Rich Family History and You Don't Know It?

When my mother was up in years, I realized I didn't know much about her history -- stories about her 12 siblings, what it was like living in a large family, how their parents were able to support them financially, how she met my dad, and what it was like for them to have children, etc. What a shame it was that I waited so long to find out. I realized that I was so "me" focused that I didn't treasure and appreciate where I came from, so I took my camcorder and set it on a tripod and spent many hours (a few at a time) and days interviewing her. Oh, how precious and dear were her stories. Fortunately, I finally stopped to spend quality time with her that resulted in VHS tapes that I could give out to my siblings and their kids when mom passed away at age 94 in 2004.. I was able to pass on to my kids and siblings the rich (not in money, but in faith and fortitude) family history.

That's the message I received yesterday as we continued on our Day 4 Rome pilgrimage. The more we have delved into the rich history of Christianity in our tours that explained so many of OUR "God's" family history, the more I realized how much I need to be living everyday with great appreciation and gratitude for what our forefathers and foremothers gave us. How can I do that unless I make the effort to know that heritage?

Our day, yesterday, started out with Holy Communion in St. Peter's Basilica before the crowds started. The songs we sang were heaven-on-earth with the spectacular acoustics in that magnificent Holy Place that took 120 years to complete. The scriptures we read came alive in that place of history that is dedicated to keeping the Church alive and the Gospel message declared. It is arguably the greatest achievement of late-Renaissance architecture. I assure you that my Christian walk has become richer because of the traditions and symbols that opened my eyes to the reality of God's incredible plan to perpetuate His word to the world.

It is like that "city on a hill" that Christ talked about when He was speaking about letting our lights shine. Peter the Apostle, now St. Peter, is buried in a tomb under St. Peter's. Remembering St. Peter moves us to remember the earliest days of the church. After the Council of Jerusalem in AD 49, Peter returned to Rome. There he served as the bishop of the small Christian community, holding mass in homes. During this time, he also dictated the Gospel, ascribed by name to his secretary, St. Mark, and his two letters are included in our New Testament.

Tradition holds that when the Roman Emporer, Nero, arrested Peter for his faith, Peter protested that he was not worthy to die as the Lord and so was crucified upside down. After his death, the faithful recovered St. Peter’s body and buried it in what is the present site of St. Peter's Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica houses the grandeur of the magnificent marble sculptures, one of which is Michelangelo's statute, the Pieta (Mary holding her son at his death), the solemnity of the many chapel areas where you can hear pilgrims from all of the world in their native languages praying, praising and bowing before our Holy God.
The message that resonated with me is "The Lord is the same yesterday (the Church's history), today (continuing today the purposeful sharing of the good news of Christ's love for us), and forever (loudly communicating that the Lord really is the same yesterday, today, and forever more).

In Rome, you hear the bells echoing through the ancient streets with a crispness of joy and thanksgiving. The bells somehow ring in our hearts that He is alive, and that we are His people, coming forth in the name of the Lord. The art in the church — enveloped in paintings, stained glass windows, sculptures, and the like — caused me to meditate and bring to life the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I find myself observing others prayerfully taking in these images, which so vividly remind me of Jesus. To me this experience is not even close to becoming boring or a ritual, but instead breeds life. He is far from boring.

I started this post with talking about my own family history and how it has affected my life for so much good. But on this faith journey and pilgrimage, the history of our faith isn't OLD NEWS. It is the yesterday, today and forevermore news and if we continue to review it, rehearse it, and make it known to our children and our children's children, we will all be living in the plans and purposes of God's great love for mankind.

Much more to share about yesterday, but for another day. Today we're heading to Assisi to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Love to you, until tomorrow!