12 September 2013

The days of pilgrimage have come

In his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei in which he announced the present Year of Faith, His Holiness Benedict XVI wrote: "Religious communities as well as parish communities, and all ecclesial bodies old and new, are to find a way, during this Year, to make a public profession of the Credo "(8).  He also wrote that, "Profession of faith is an act both personal and communitarian" (10).

With these words in mind, the Grand Magisterium of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem announced an International Pilgrimage of the Order to Rome to pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and public recite together the words of the Creed. The Order was one of the first to take up the Holy Father's summons to this Year of Faith.

The more solemn events of the pilgrimage begin tomorrow morning with the Holy Mass offered in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.  As I understand it, the opening Mass was to have been celebrated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, but the number of pilgrims has became too great.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Holy Father Pope Francis will received the 3,000 or so Knights and Dames - there are 23,000 members in the Order worldwide - in an audience in the Paul VI Hall, which will be preceded by a conference given by His Excellency the Most Reverend Salvatore Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

On Saturday we will gather for prayer in the Basilica of St. John Lateran and offer the Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter, while on Sunday we will tour the Vatican Gardens and conclude the pilgrimage with the Holy Mass again in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

His Eminence Edwin Cardinal O'Brien, Grand Master of the Order, will preside at the Masses.

Writing to the Knights and Dames in the pilgrimage the Governor General of the Order offers a helpful reminder of the two-fold significance of this pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul:
  1. to strengthen our faith through a trip which is physical route [admittedly, mine will be rather short] but is also and more importantly a spiritual path; and,
  2. at the same time, in the wake of generations of pilgrims who came to Rome to worship at the tombs of the Apostles, to restate our unswerving loyalty to Peter's successor, in the person of Pope Francis, and to his teachings.
These are important spiritual goals for any pilgrimage to Rome, but especially so for the members of our Order.

I am very much looking forward to this pilgrimage and am beginning to grow excited in anticipation of the blessings that will come from it.  I am especially happy that two of my fellow Knights and two Dames have come to Rome from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to join the pilgrimage, with whom I had dinner the other night.

Please remember us in your prayers in these days of pilgrimage, that having visited to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and renewed our own professions of faith, we may return home - they to Illinois and me to the other side of Rome - strengthened in fidelity to the Lord and his Church, and in charity for our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.

I ask you to pray especially that, in the words of the Governor General, this pilgrimage will become for us "the image of Christian life itself, of man, a pilgrim on earth, waiting to reach his heavenly destination."

Thank you, and know that you will be remembered in my prayers at the tombs of the Apostles.

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