Editor’s note: The following is from Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne’s blog. It is part of his ongoing reflections about his journey to Rome to receive his pallium from Pope Francis.
Each day of this pilgrimage has been packed from early till late, leaving only precious sleeping hours for blogging – thus the site has been quiet since our arrival on Sunday, other than a brief word of gratitude Tuesday for 25 years of priestly life and ministry.
I continue to be impressed with the tenacity and good disposition of all our pilgrims (Team Pallium. We have had 90-plus degree heat each day we have been here, and we have done a great deal of walking. Today’s Mass was outside also, but we were blessed with milder temperatures and sporadic cloud cover.
I will share with you that the days have been grace-filled. We have visited the tombs of the great Apostles, Peter and Paul, whose Solemnity we will celebrate today. We also visited the other Major Basilicas of Rome; St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran, which is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. The Pope, of course, is the Bishop of Rome.
Other churches and saints include Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, where St. Catherine of Siena is buried. We also visited Chiesa Nuova, the burial place of St. Philip Neri, and the Gesu Church which included a tour of the rooms of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Yesterday we had a lovely visit to Assisi, with stops at the burial sites of both St. Clair and St. Francis.
Tuesday I had a unique opportunity to celebrate Mass at the church of St. Alphonso – the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Some of you may recall that June 27 is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This was the first time for me to celebrate Mass in this Church where the original icon of Our Lady resides behind the main altar – and to do so on my 25th anniversary was a true grace. I am grateful to the many ways that Our Lady has touched the life of my family, and my own personal life and priestly ministry, and it was a great opportunity to give her thanks on this very special day.
Today, 29 Archbishops received the Pallium, three of us from the United States, all having ties to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Cardinal Joseph Tobin was Archbishop of Indianapolis when he was named a Cardinal last fall, and then he was transferred to the Archdiocese of Newark – thus he has returned to Rome to receive a new Pallium for his new Archdiocese. Just two weeks ago the new Archbishop of Indianapolis was announced, bishop of Evansville for the past six years, (today is his anniversary of episcopal consecration) Most Reverend Charles Thompson, who is also here. And, of course, I was a priest from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis when I was named a bishop. I enjoyed being with my two brother Archbishops these past few days. As you can see from the image of the Pallium (below) the joke today was that the pallium does somewhat resemble a checkered flag.
In these past few days, several themes have captured my attention in the daily readings for Mass – and are deep within my heart as I carry with me now the Pallium. The Scriptures speak of unity, peace, truth, and love – all in relationship to Christ and to the Church.
As I stood before the ‘confessio’ of St. Peter beneath the papal altar this morning (pictured above) I prayed for these gifts – within my own ministry, archdiocese and in the universal Church. The Pallium (Right) is a symbol of unity, and when we live that unity in truth and love, we experience a peace that only Christ can give.
In the homily today, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke of the importance of ‘confessing faith in Christ’, of persecution and prayer. I have prayed during this week’s pilgrimage that we will all better witness to Christ – confessing him to the world around us by the lives we lead, our values, priorities, virtue and charity.
I am also more and more aware in my life that to know Christ is to be equally identified with his cross, and any trials or persecutions that result in our association with Christ and his Church. This is the great example before us today on this solemnity of the great Saints, Peter & Paul.
The saints teach us many things, and the one thing that I find myself appreciating during this week’s pilgrimage is that they teach us how to gaze upon the glory of God, while at the same time to reflect the goodness of God in our daily life.
Once again, please know that I carry each and everyone of you in my heart during these significant days. As I met Pope Francis today to receive from him the Pallium, I assured him of my love and prayers, along with the love and prayers of my ‘entire family’ and the people of Alaska. In no small way, all of you were with us today at the altar, for it is Christ who makes us one!
Saints Peter & Paul, Pray for us. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Pray for us.