By: Alex Scheibner, Graduate Student, Baylor University School of Social Work
In June, Alex Scheibner joined Fr. Anthony Odiong and others on a 13 Day Pilgrimage to holy sites in Italy, ending in Rome. Prior to their departure Alex shared his hopes and excitement about his trip on our blog. He also promised to give us his post-pilgrimage thoughts upon his return. Alex and his companions are home safely and he shares with us those things that had an impact on him below.
For many Christians, the names we read in the Bible are little more than characters in a story. It is difficult to imagine them really walking where we walk, experiencing life as we experience it. For many, it is as difficult to imagine Jesus, Mary, Peter and Paul living among us as it is to imagine the heroes of comic books being a part of “real life”. However, after spending almost two weeks traveling through Italy, I can tell you that Jesus, Mary, Peter, Paul, and so many other Saints and heroes of Christianity really did exist and the proof is in the hands of the Catholic Church. Here are some of the things I’ve seen with my own eyes during the course of this pilgrimage:
– The house Jesus was raised in by Mary and Joseph in Nazareth – I touched bricks Jesus touched!
– Wood from the table of the Last Supper.
– Wood from the true cross and one of the nails from the crucifixion.
– The steps Jesus climbed to his trial before Pontius Pilate.
– The chains which bound Peter in prison.
– Eucharistic Miracle at Lanciano in the 8th century in which the bread and wine in Mass transformed into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus. More than a millennium later, scientific study has shown the flesh and blood to be genetic matches to each other, blood type AB, and most incredibly, the flesh was identified as belonging to the left ventricle of the heart. I knelt in front of the actual heart of Jesus.
– Many, many tombs and belongings of the Saints, including St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Filomena, St. Benedict, St. Scholastica, St. Pio, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Rita, Blessed Pope John Paul II, and many more.
Some may read this incredible list and regret the fact that they may never visit Europe and see these things for themselves. My response is this: The most beautiful and most comforting thing God has given us is not on the other side of the world. The fact is that when I was in the presence of these incredible relics I would often fall to my knees and pray, but the only time I actually bowed and put my face on the ground was when I saw that little red flickering light by the tabernacle and I knew that I was in the presence of God. The Body of Christ is waiting for you in the tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the world and you can go to visit Him any time. If you are looking for a sign that our faith is real, if you hunger for something from God that you can see and touch, go to your church and approach the tabernacle with reverence and awe. Kneel and reach out, touching the cool metal holding the Body of Our Lord. Whisper the words of the man in Mark 9:24, who says to Jesus, “I do believe, but help my unbelief!” Finally, go and attend Mass and receive Him for yourself.
“It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in his heart.” –Blessed Pope John Paul II
Thank you and may God bless you for your prayers on this journey.