The final day of the pilgrimage would prove a very long one! It began with an early morning Mass at St. Peter’s – over the tomb of Pope St. John Paul II. Once the clergy had been properly vetted, by presenting their celebrets in the sacristy, the stewards led us into the chapel where we were joined by a few lone pilgrims.
After Mass some of our group opted to take breakfast in the nearby cafes whilst others ascended the roof of St. Peter’s and visited the museums. Meanwhile I went hunting for a suitable gift for the parish as the group had surprised Fr. Nicholas and myself the day before by presenting us with a tidy sum as a token of thanks. It is being posted to Pembury and will remain a secret until it is unveiled…
Celebrating Mass at St. Peter’s is not always a peaceful experience- it is always busy with so many groups doing the same- but it is always deeply significant. How long I laboured within the Church of England never quite certain as to the validity of my orders. How different to be welcomed in Rome as a priest like any other! Here was a testament to what was achieved via the Ordinariate. Unity in action and not just in words. We retain our distinctiveness- as witnessed by our use of Divine Worship- and yet we are undeniably one!
After Mass I wandered back to the hotel alone following the river and watching the leaves dropping from the trees. Once at the hotel it was time for administration- helping Father Nicholas book taxis to the airport. Then- to say thank you- I took him and Mary, has wife (who also needs recognition for much hard work in helping organise this pilgrimage) for lunch. It was a good time for us to reflect and laugh and enjoy the final moments together. There was even time for a quick visit to the church of St. Cecelia, just moments away from the hotel. Then in the afternoon we rounded everybody up and heading off for our flight home. Some were easier to spot than others….
This being the pilgrimage cursed by public transport the journey, but of course, took far longer than anticipated. A four hour delay meaning we arrived back in Pembury just short of 4:30am!!! I only had time to shower and have a cup of coffee before the children woke up and hunted me down demanding to know if I had purchased them gifts. Three football shirts- belonging to Roma, Juventus and Lazio- were pulled from the bag and three children were happy indeed. Huge thumbs up to grandma and grandad who had looked after them so well.
And that then was that. A truly memorable trip to Rome with a fantastic group of people. Our two pilgrims from Essex having remarked at how welcome they felt amongst us. And once we have all recovered from the return journey then I am sure we will want to know when the next one takes place. Watch this space….
What then did we take home with us? A massive appreciation of the joy of being in communion with Peter. A delight in having celebrated our English heritage and spirituality with a focus on its roots in the eternal city. The fun of being together in such a beautiful and holy place. And the deep blessing that came from the services we shared together. A tour of the eternal city for Divine Worship and the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham. Oh and Father Joe- we always love being with him and delighting in his joy and warmth. A final picture shows him exercising both charity and patience as he finds himself trapped in a local bar…..