The Last Full Day in Rome - St. Paul's, St. Catherine, and the Madonna of Childbirth

Last full day in Rome!  I know.  You thought you were done with me sitting you down in my virtual living room while I run the slide projector, didn't you?  Not just yet. :)

Another very full day of lots of stunning churches, dirty subways, and a whole lot of walking.  
Brian really wanted to see San Paolo Fuori le Mura which is fancy Italian speak for Saint Paul Outside the Walls.  And so we did.

Mosaic.  The boys really liked it and Michael declared it his favorite part of the day.

Huh.  This didn't look blurry in the camera.  The place is massive and felt sort of like a really gorgeous gymnasium.  

They have the portrait of every single pope since Peter lining the walls in those gold frames.  It really is awesome to see.

There are about ten or fifteen spots left open.  And after that we decided is the end of the world.

You know why it's called St. Paul's, right?  I say that like I knew.  It's because St. Paul, THE Saint Paul, is buried here.

Down here.
Above the tomb you can see his chains in that golden box.

What an incredibly holy place.

We told John Paul he could stay down there as long as he wanted and he stayed a good five minutes looking and praying.  It was so beautiful.

We were able to make it there for Mass, and what a gift it was that we stumbled upon a group from a seminary near Boston that was having Mass in the side chapel!  It was so so great.  The homily was really powerful and the voices of all of us praying and singing with such a devotion filled the room.  There were about fifteen concelebrants. Their bishop was even there and sat right in front of us!  We talked with them for a good long while afterwards.  The seminary is named after Saint John XXIII and it's geared toward "late" vocations.  

I snapped this quick shot through the door afterwards when another group was starting Mass :)

The Jubilee Doors!  Remember how awesome the Jubilee Year 2000 was?

 We stopped at several other churches that we really wanted to see, including the one where THE pillar of Jesus' scourging is and another that has the breathtaking statue of St. Teresa of Avila in ecstasy, but Rome has this strange custom that most churches and many businesses close for like four hours during the middle of the day.  It's so weird.  And incredibly disappointing when that's prime time for most of us people.  So we kept going to the next stop, Santa Maria Maggiore, which because it is one of the four major basilicas in Rome does stay open.

They were setting up for a big concert this evening in honor of the canonizations so it was roped off and we couldn't get too close to venerate the relics of the manger they have under the altar or see the famous Salus Popluli Romani painting of Mary and the Christ Child, purportedly done by Saint Luke and hanging in the Borghese Chapel.

Mary's hand made me laugh a little.  It looked normal in person but in the photo she's all, "Just stop.  It's been a long day."  I hear you, Mary.

We walked and walked and stumbled upon a street of very official government looking buildings guarded by men with large guns.  

See St. Peter's in the background?  That's how far we walked.

Then we walked some more.  (This is a very descriptive post, isn't it?)

We made it over to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which by this point was open again.  Underneath the altar St. Catherine of Siena body is buried.  Her head is in Siena, though.  For real.

Our plan was to come here for Mass tomorrow for her feast day (how cool would that be?) but unfortunately, I don't think the timing will work since we have to leave to catch our flight.  But we got to be here on the eve so that's pretty cool, too.

This boy has developed a devotion to St. Anthony of Padua over the last year or so which I find so awesome and so random.  I showed him that side chapel with his picture and he immediately went over and said a prayer.  See that statue on the wall?  There are so many people buried in these churches of Rome.  I think that might have been another pope?  You see tombs and engraved floor stones everywhere.

The tomb.  I said a prayer that she would keep me from saying or writing stupid things.  I wish I could say I put it more eloquently than that but my prayers don't sound as pious when my blood sugar is plummeting and I've walked five thousand miles.

We finally hit up a place for dinner.  And of all the places we could have picked we chose for our last dinner in Italy a place that catered to cheap Americans.  Note all the burgers on the plates and the eggplant parmesan in front of David.  Because he's the awesomest and I was really craving meat after many days of peanut butter and jelly and pasta.  But I got the Italian beer, so that's something.  Also, I'm fairly certain this restaurant was a Mafia front.  

Our last stop was somewhere I felt really called to go to.  It was San Agostino and it's where St. Monica is buried.  It's known as "the mother's church" because she is there and because many people come to pray for their children and many many people come to pray to be blessed with children.

I thought some of you might enjoy this in one of the side chapels.  I don't know the full story but that lady represents charity and as you can see she doesn't use a nursing cover :)

Below that altar are St. Monica's remains.  I prayed for all of you here but especially for those of you who have lost babies or are praying for the blessing of a child.  There were so many people that asked for that specific intention.  
And I also prayed for that intention here:

In the back of the church sits the Madonna of Childbirth.  For over five hundred years women have come here to pray for the blessing of a child and a safe birth.  On the right you can see all the blue and pink holding names of babies born due to her intercession and in the foreground is an album filled with pictures of babies.  It made me tear up to see all those sweet faces and prayers answered.  Both Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII even came here.  I found it especially powerful as a doula that the church even in a small way recognizes the importance of a happy and holy birth and I begged her to intercede for all of you praying for that intention.

We're packing up tonight to head out tomorrow afternoon.  It's been an amazing grace-filled trip in so many ways and I know we'll be unpacking the graces for months if not years but we're also very ready to be home, I think.  

Other Notes from Today:
-So many miles.  So many.
-John Paul decided the other day that he would really like to buy a nice crucifix.  After checking out dozens of shops, we finally found The One.  It was so sweet.  He chose a blue St. Benedict cross.
-Michael is still on the lookout for two Roman soldier helmet keychains to match the one he already bought.  I'm not sure why or what he plans on doing with them but it is of the utmost importance.
-David decided he'd like to use the rest of his pocket money to get "all the gelato I can eat."
-Homemade gelato beats the other stuff hands down.  If you're ever here, make sure to visit the places that make it themselves!
-We're slowly learning to differentiate the people who are truly in need versus the very theatrically inclined gypsies who are begging in the streets.
-Meeting Father James in the street the other night.  I don't want to forget that.  His eyes were so clear, so...holy?  And how he claimed to remember us from Assisi but neither Brian or I had any recollection of it at all.


  1. My brother in law went to that seminary! Did you meet Cardinal Sean? He's the best. :) And I would LOVE to go to San Agostino someday, maybe take my little Monica.

    1. Oh, neat! No, not Cardinal Sean! I can't remember what his name is already. How pathetic is that? He was shorter with dark hair. I'll have to see if Brian remembers but none of the pictures from their site look familiar... I love that your daughter is named Monica!

  2. I have absolutely loved following your trip. I can't imagine doing all of that with little ones, but I think it is great that you did! It has all reminded me of the Rome-Assisi trip when I was studying in Austria.

    It is too bad you did not get to see St. Teresa in Ecstasy; it is a really powerful statue. I will pray for your safe journey home, and I hope the boys sleep better on the flight home. :)

  3. I have enjoyed reading about your trip . Such wonderful memories that you will cherish dearly. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless and a safe return home.

  4. You've been a great tour guide! Thank you for remembering our prayers. Such a great gift.

  5. What an amazing trip! Travel safely!!

  6. Was it a group from St john's Seminary in Brighton, MA? That's where our dear friend, and Maggie's godfather, teaches. His name is Fr. Dave Pignato. What a small world! I haven't commented yet (newborn in arms makes it hard to type!) but I have been loving your recaps of your trip. What an amazing opportunity you all had :-)

    1. We did meet a seminarian named Dave! I wonder if it's him?!? I don't know his last name but the seminary website says it's in that the same one? How cool would that be?

  7. Thank you for including us in your awesome adventure! I have really enjoyed reading your posts and viewing your beautiful pictures! Thank you also for including us in your prayers! Have a safe trip back to the States! =)

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this...for the pictures...for praying for the intentions at such special places. Safe travels to you & your family. God bless you!


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