In May I went on vacation to Italy to walk in the footsteps of the Saints. My trip was carefully planned. I had a very ambitious itinerary, which had been prepared for years. Every day, I would go to several churches and walk through different neighborhoods. Unfortunately, I did not get to the Great Synagogue, the Roman Ghetto, St. Paul Outside the Walls, or the Catacombs of the Appian Way. What did I see, then? I let myself be carried away by the saints themselves who were calling me.
Following in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, I visited his father’s house and the chapel where his mother prayed for him. I prayed before the San Damiano Cross where Jesus asked Francis to reform the Church. I prayed fervently for our Pope Francis, who took his name with the idea of also reforming the Church and is currently attempting to carry out this mission with the Synod on Synodality. I also asked Jesus that those of us who read this page may be faithful builders of our faith.
In Assisi, the saint that struck me the most was Carlo Acutis.* I had hoped to visit his tomb in order to entrust him with the faith of my nephews and all the teenagers I know, along with the success of the Eucharistic Congress that we are about to end in June. I thought he was laid to rest in Rome, but he came to me as I was going out through a side corridor which led me to a white tomb. St. Carlo wasn’t in Rome after all; he was right there in the old cathedral!
There were a lot of people gathered around the tomb. As I was standing there, a married couple arrived with their children. The mother knelt down and put her head on the floor as a sign of veneration. She encouraged her kids to kiss their hands and lay them on the sarcophagus. Witnessing this gave me goosebumps! That is praying with faith! It made me realized how poor my faith is and how I sometimes pray without actually praying; do I really believe the saints are listening to me and performing miracles in my midst?
Next I visited Rome. The first stop was the Church of St. Gregory the Great on the Caelian Hill, originally the home of Pope Gregory the Great who was born in Rome around 540 AD.** There was a fresco of the Virgin and Child there through which Mary spoke to Gregory when he was named Pope. It seemed to me that at any moment Our Lady would speak to me too!
Even though I didn’t get to all of the destinations on my list, I was able to walk in the places where the Apostles, St. Paula, St. Frances of Rome and St. Cecilia all walked. I prayed at the tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola. In the Basilica of St. Peter, I prayed at the tombs of the holy Popes of our century: John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II. I also attended the Catechesis of Pope Francis where I saw him up close and felt that vibe that men of God leave around us. That day, he taught about Judith. I will never forget his words which ignited in me the desire to be able to “leave an inheritance of good and not just goods.”*** Thanks to the gift of St. Benedict, I ended my day praying Vespers in Latin at the Saint Anselm Benedictine Monastery. This brought back fond memories of my monastic life!
Everywhere I went, I felt Our Lady walking with me in the footsteps of the saints. This strengthened my faith – a faith that confirms the certainty that the saints always listen to me and are present in my life.
** https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/es/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20080528.htmly https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/es/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20080604.html
Paula Gomez Victorica was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was a contemplative nun of the Order of Saint Benedict for 20 years. Since 2001, she has lived in Natick, Massachusetts.
Paula is a Certified Spiritual Director. She currently teaches Biblical Spirituality in asynchronous courses online at Boston College. She is the Coordinator of the Hispanic Community at Saint Ignatius Parish, Chestnut Hill, MA. She is also a Eucharistic Minister and collaborates in the pastoral and enrichment commissions in two parishes of the Metrowest.