Living "In Umbris Sancti Petri"

Yesterday morning, the incoming class of seminarians here at the North American College began our orientation in the traditional manner: by making a trip to the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle, in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. One of the greatest “features” of going to school here in Rome is the proximity of everyday life and the reality of the universal Church. This occasion was no exception.

Led by our Rector (the priest in charge of a seminary), we all piled out of the college a little after 7 o’clock in the morning and made our way over to the basilica – about a 10-minute walk. For as busy as it normally gets during the day, the morning provides a great chance for prayer since virtually none of the regular tourists are there yet. The people who were there got quite an eye (and camera) full, though; fifty-four seminarians walking in, dressed in Roman collars, is exactly the sort of thing people dream of catching on film when they go to visit the center of the Catholic Church. For some of our number, it was the first time they had ever laid eyes on the enormous, magnificent Basilica of St. Peter. Even more impressive than the architecture, though, is the reason why it was built in the first place...

In the confessio, under the high altar, are the bones of the first pope, Peter. It was exactly in front of these bones that we had the great privilege to participate in the Holy Mass, an honor which I will not soon forget. The Mass alone is enough to transform hearts, but knowing that you are present at the Paschal Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in the physical presence of both Him (in the Real Presence of the Eucharist) and one of the greatest saints ever – Peter – really makes you see what being Catholic is all about. The Lord did not simply give us a memory of Himself, but rather a Church, founded upon the “Rock” of Petrus and called to continually make the same Christ present throughout the world until His coming again in glory.

Yesterday morning, fifty-four seminarians got a little better taste of what being a priest of Jesus Christ entails; just like Peter, we must be willing to suffer at the side of Christ (even confessing to Him our unworthiness after denying Him through our sin) and even be willing to suffer physical and spiritual martyrdom for the sake of the Kingdom, even as Peter was crucified in the footsteps of His Savior. However, in the end, and like Peter, we can be assured of God’s loving and saving plan for our lives, and be assured that if we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with Him in heaven. Sanctus Petrus, ora pro nobis!