By Harry Scherer, C’22
From July 12 through August 4, I had the opportunity to join 35 young adults from around the country and 10 Mounties on a pilgrimage through Italy. We were led by Fr. Diego Ruiz, IVE through the streets of Rome, Orvieto, Milan, Lucca, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Bolsena, Turin and Assisi. At the end of the two-and-a-half-week pilgrimage, all the American pilgrims attended the first international meeting of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, the religious family of which Fr. Diego is a member.
This pilgrimage allowed all who were present to understand, in a deeper way, the mystery of the Church through a physical exploration of Her history. By the end of the trip, we all must have visited over 75 churches, monasteries, seminaries and museums. We were able to see in a new light the universality of the Church as we witnessed pilgrims from around the world flock to these locations of unknown grace. They all, like us, embarked on a journey the result of which was unknown. Out of filial piety, these thousands of pilgrims traveled to a small town in the Umbria region called Assisi in order to come as close as they could to the place where St. Francis received the call from God to “rebuild [His] Church.” They came to the bustling city of Turin to come closer to the place where wise St. John Bosco led his young boys closer to Christ and where Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati gave his life to the poor. They approached the Urbs Sacra to see the Vicar of Christ lead the faithful in the Angelus and the crypt that houses the bones of the current Vicar’s preeminent predecessor.
It was a true privilege to walk these roads with strong pilgrims who were particularly intent on learning about the faith so that they more fully live it. One of the most impactful moments for me was in the Pazzi Chapel, a 15th century chapel attached to the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence. The chapel was built by the Franciscans in such a way that every friar, no matter his age, could hear a friar at the other end of the chapel during chapter meetings. Recognizing the angelic acoustics, we chanted the Ave Verum Corpus, Salve Regina and Alma Redemptoris Mater. These celestial hymns gave us the peace we need to continue on our journey.
Some other highlights from the pilgrimage include Mass at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi in the Papal Basilica of St. Francis, Mass at the tomb of Pope St. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica and a visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, an art museum that contains the works of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raffaello, da Vinci and Caravaggio. In addition to these awe-inspiring works of art, we were able to partake in the al dente goodness of Italian cooking. The large portions of pasta, pizza and poultry gave us the physical energy to continue on our exhausting journey. It was always a delight to recognize that we had sat down to eat a sandwich and some fruit on the steps of the Duomo in Florence or Orvieto, to name a few.
The entire three-week trip provided a comprehensive spiritual, academic, historical, artistic and culinary overview of Italy. I would like to give my heartfelt gratitude to the Office of Competitive Fellowships at the Mount for generously providing a grant for this pilgrimage. In addition, my thanks go out to Fr. Diego Ruiz, IVE for leading us through his knowledge and the Institute of the Incarnate Word for organizing such a rich pilgrimage. I learned much more from the daily experiences of this trip than I could have ever imagined, especially in the frequent encounters with the Italian people and in recognizing what it means to have the joy of a pilgrim.