My favorite activity in Rome

Father Gerald Murray of New York lifts the chalice during the consecration during Mass March 6 at the Altar of the Sacred Heart within St. Peter's Basilica. Pilot photo/George Martell, Pilot New Media

On Wednesday morning, my first full day in Rome to cover the conclave and the papal inauguration for The Pilot and The Good Catholic Life radio program, I had the privilege to do my favorite activity in Rome. I woke up at 6 a.m. and then proceeded to St. Peter's Basilica by 6:45. I like to be at the big central gate of St. Peter's when they open it at 7:00.

Often in the afternoon, St. Peter's can become so crowded that it may feel like a holy museum. It is understandable how that can happen since it is Rome's top tourist destination and the beauty is overwhelming. But St. Peter's never feels like a museum at seven in the morning. At that hour it is a holy house of prayer, in many languages. The pilgrims present then recognize the privilege of praying near the bones of St. Peter the Apostle, as well as near the tombs of so many of his successors, including all the popes of the last 100 years through Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Today, George Martell and I were among the 50 individuals there at the opening of the gates. We were blessed to be able to attend the Mass celebrated by Father Gerald Murray of Holy Family Parish in Manhattan and concelebrated by my brother Father Roger Landry of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River. They are both here in Rome this week to provide commentary on Raymond Arroyo's EWTN television and radio show.

As I entered St. Peter's for the first time in nearly seven years, I became aware of how much it feels like home. It is a massive church in its scope and significance, but the size and proportion of the columns and the baldacchino (canopy above the main altar) allow you to see the major elements of the church clearly.

George and I followed Fathers Murray and Landry into the beautiful sacristy where the priests checked in, put on their liturgical vestments, and selected an English Roman Missal and a lectionary. When everything and everyone was ready, a sacristan led us in a procession to a particular altar on the main level of the church. Today, he chose to bring us to the Altar of the Sacred Heart, which is to the left and back of the main Papal Altar. Above the Altar of the Sacred Heart is a stunning mosaic of the apparition of Jesus to Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque. This mosaic was blessed in 1923 when Sister Margaret Mary was canonized. The website SaintPetersBasilica.org indicates that there are 25 altars on the main floor, including the Papal Altar and the Altar of the Chair.

After the beautiful Mass today, George and I proceeded to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The main purpose of our visit to Rome is to try to cover these events in a way that Catholics back home in the archdiocese and beyond can experience what it is like to be here. Because prayer at St. Peter's is a major activity of a pilgrimage to Rome, we have invited prayer intentions to PrayerRequests@PilotNewMedia.com. Today, I had the honor to bring 40 of those prayer requests and ask them of the Lord through the intercession of our first pope, St. Peter the Apostle, who was crucified on Vatican Hill, and who we believe is buried just steps away. I look forward to bringing prayer requests to St. Peter's nearly every day; so if you have a particular intention, please email it to me.

We encourage you to follow our coverage from Rome. We are broadcasting The Good Catholic Life radio program from here each day (4 p.m. on 1060AM or on WQOM.org). We are sharing a blog post each day on TheGoodCatholicLife.com. George is photo-blogging at BostonCatholicPhotos.com. Jay Fadden and Tim Stonesifer from CatholicTV are also here providing content for CatholicTV's continuing coverage. Finally, we are preparing Monday's episode of Catholic Faith Essentials, an online course for adults, and encourage you to view it at 7 p.m. on YearofFaithBoston.org.

Before we say "ciao," I ask for your continued prayers for Cardinal Seán and all the cardinal electors as they prepare to enter the conclave.

Scot Landry is Secretary for Catholic Media at the Archdiocese of Boston and host of The Good Catholic Life radio program that airs each weekday from 4-5pm on 1060AM, WQOM.

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