ST. BLAISE AND A DOUBLE BLESSING
I spent such a lovely and most unexpected morning in St. Peter’s Basilica and want to share some of the photos I took. I did not bring a camera so thank the Lord for phones!
My main intention was to attend the 10 am daily Mass at the St. Joseph Altar and to have my throat blessed afterwards as this is, as you know, the tradition on the February 3 feast of St. Blaise. There was no indication that the priest was going to bless throats following Mass and so I started to follow him on his way to the sacristy, asking in a soft voice where I could get the blessing. He smiled broadly and sent the young man accompanying him to the altar to get the double candles,
We chatted briefly in the meantime, and Father told me he did not start the blessing as he had the impression no one at Mass spoke Italian and thus would not understand his announcement about the blessing.
The young man returned and Father blessed me, reciting the prayer that is always said in this circumstance. I was quite happy and told him I did not even remember the last time I missed having my throat blessed on St. Blaise’s feast day.
Given that I was in the basilica, a place in which I always experience great peace, I decided to stroll around and eventually pray a bit at the chapel where St. John Paul is buried, and this was my second blessing!
I was delighted to see that the papal altar and confessio were still bedecked with the flowers from last night’s Mass for the World Day of Consecrated Life:
I then noticed some of the floor plaques on which I have reported a number of times…
The next time you walk down the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica – unless you are being escorted to your seat during a liturgy! – look down at the stunning marble floor and try to find some of the several dozen bronze inserts. With all the beauty and the gigantic size of the basilica, it is amazing that people even notice these plaques but they are important. To give the visitor some idea of the size of St. Peter’s Basilica relative to other major churches in the world – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – there are inscriptions in bronze that indicate the size of the world’s largest churches relative to St. Peter’s, the largest of all.
These bronze inscriptions are about a yard wide and 6 or more inches high. The name of each church and where it is located are in Latin – most are easy to understand – and the length of that church is inscribed beneath the name. The measurements are given in meters. A meter is 39 inches. St. Peter’s Basilica is 186 meters in length – or 611 feet!
St. Paul’s in London holds SECOND place at 158 meters or 518 feet long. THIRD place goes to Florence’s Duomo at 149 or 489 feet. FOURTH place: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Brussels, Belgium: 140.94 – FIFTH place: Washington’s Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 456 feet.
Three of the final four out of the over 30 descriptions belong to U.S. churches;
Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston at 103 meters, Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles at 101.2 and St Patrick’s in New York at 101.1 meters.
As you can see, Santa Sophia in Istanbul is just a bit longer that Holy Cross in Boston.
This is for the Basilica of the Virgin Mary, Gdansk, Poland
St. Patrick’s, New York City
This is not one of those plaques but simply one of the many marble floor designs in the basilica
As I entered the chapel where St. John Paul is buried, I noticed a sizeable group of people, all of whom were wearing mustard color scarves. I asked a man standing next to me who they were and he said they came from all parts of Italy and were members of a national antiusury group and they were touring the basilica before their noon audience with Pope Francis!
I stayed in the chapel for quite some time to pray before the tomb of my hero and, in so many ways, spiritual mentor. I often get requests from people to pray for their special intentions before St. John Paul and I did so today.
As I made my way out of the basilica, I noted the nativity scene was still up so I took some pictures and also posted a Facebook live video, whispering just a few words about where I was. For me, St. Peter’s is and always will be, first and foremost, a church.
In this scene, when day turns to night, those who are ‘working’ via animation stop working when the sky and stars appear. When it is morning, they resume their work.
I exited the basilica and walked along the south wall where there is a bookstore, post office, etc, before you actually reach the colonnade.
I don’t know how many of you know there are Stations of the Cross in St. Peter’s Square! The first seven are on this south wall and the final seven are on the opposite side of the square – the side you will be on after having gone through security to enter the basilica.
It was an unexpectedly wonderful morning for me – as I hope it is now for you as you read this column!