Yesterday, the Church celebrated the feast of the dedication of two of the four Roman basilicas: St. Peter's and St. Paul Outside the Walls. Among those in attendance at the celebrations were pilgrims from St. Anselm's parish in Philadelphia, Pa.
CNA met with Father Keith Chylinski and 23 of his parishioners as they celebrated this event as part of a 10-day pilgrimage planned in large part to follow the footsteps of Padre Pio through Italy. Fr. Chylinski said they put the trip together for the "benefit of the parish" and St. Paul's was one of the final stops on their journey.
The group from St. Anselm's began planning the trip a year ago, including the stop for Mass at the Chapel of San Sacramento at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on November 18 in their plans, not knowing at the time that this was the anniversary of its dedication. Fr. Chylinski said it was "God's providence that we had Mass here” on that particular day.
The pilgrims had already visited Padre Pio's home in Pietralcina and the Capuchin monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo where he lived for 42 years. The group had also stopped in Assisi as well as Lanciano, the site of a Eucharistic miracle in the 8th century. St. Paul's was on the schedule in addition to other Roman sites.
Pilgrims have visited the site since pre-Constantinian times, as it is believed to be where St. Paul was beheaded in the year 66 or 67 AD. His tomb is located below the central altar.
Fr. Chylinski provided those in attendance at Mass with some parting wisdom for the end of the pilgrimage, emphasizing the importance of being like St. Paul, to share the faith, if only by telling the story of the pilgrimage. Likening the human experience to their journey, he said, "Have always in mind that life is a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of faith that is meant for every human being in the entire world."
The group went two-for-two yesterday, attending the papal audience just off St. Peter's square in the morning where Pope Benedict XVI addressed a greeting directly to all English-speaking pilgrims, saying in English, "Upon you all I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings!"