‘…On this rock I will build my Church”

‘…On this rock I will build my Church”
Students give a day-to-day reflection on a recent pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi by the Catholic chaplaincy at Queen’s University, Belfast, led by Fr Gerard Magee


DAY 1 – Oisin McHugh

We started off our day with a trip to the St John Lateran Cathedral in Rome. Known as the “Mother and head of all churches” it was an amazing experience to visit this building.

I then really enjoyed the celebration of Mass in the Irish College of Rome with my friends from the chaplaincy, the mosaic icons and the music in particular I enjoyed. It was great to see the building in which my home country is represented and is preparing men for the priesthood in Rome.

Visiting the Colosseum and Catacombs allowed us to get a small insight into the persecution of Christians within Rome and gave us some perspective. Another highlight was visiting St Paul’s Outside the Walls Basilica also which was an incredible example of how architecture can be used to glorify God immensely.

Our evening vespers session in the beautiful San Benedetto church followed by dinner was a great way to bring us all together in prayer and end a busy but very satisfying day in Rome with my friends.

DAY 2 – Claire Gibbon

Today we were up early for an audience with Pope Francis at St Peter’s Square. We had breakfast and then headed off towards the square to try to get good seats and miss the worst of the queue! I was so excited as I had been looking forward to the papal audience for months. It did not disappoint!

We were lucky enough to get front-row seats in our section so that we were right up close when Pope Francis drove past us. The QUB chaplaincy even got a shout-out before the Pope’s reflection began! It was a great morning, and despite the heavy rain, we were joyful!

Later on, we visited the Basilica of St Mary Major, where we celebrated Mass in a beautiful side-chapel. This is something I was really looking forward to after stumbling upon a beautiful picture of this basilica on Instagram many months ago! This was my favourite part of the day.

Within his basilica, we saw the icon where Pope Francis goes to pray and a piece of what is said to be the crib from Bethlehem. It was an incredible visit.

Finally, we spent our evening visiting the sights such as the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon before heading to dinner, where we had live music and great food. Even Fr Gerard got up to sing a song or two! It was a great way to spend our last full day in Rome. I will be sad to leave Rome but am excited to see what Assisi will bring!

DAY 3 – Davog McCaffery

Thursday marked another action-packed day starting off in Rome. It was a really beautiful morning and after breakfast we made our way to St Peter’s Square and Cathedral.

St Peter’s is the largest Church in the world and is so central to our Catholic faith with Jesus telling Peter, “upon this rock I will build my Church”. I had been to St Peter’s before but this visit was particularly special with our tour guide Kieran passing on so much information on the life of St Peter, the Cathedral and its architecture and the Vatican.

For me, the highlight of our time in Rome was having the opportunity to visit the tomb of Pope St John Paul II and the body of Pope John XXIII before getting to pray in front of the tomb of St Peter which was a wonderful privilege.

Arriving in Assisi, it was worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of inner-city Rome. We first visited the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi and took some time to remember the life and works of this central figure in our faith. We celebrated Mass just beneath the main Basilica in a lovely little church.

DAY 4 – Shannon and Amy

After a beautiful evening in Assisi, we headed into the town again this morning to visit the San Damiano, the place where the cross spoke to Francis and where he is said to have written ‘Canticle of the Creatures’, a hymn of thanksgiving to God, revealing Francis’ brotherly relationship with all of creation.

We celebrated our last Mass in a lovely little side chapel at the San Damiano – The Crucifix Chapel. A beautiful start to the day!

After Mass, we walked along the scenic streets of Assisi to the Basilica di Santa Chiara where we were able to see the tomb of St Clare and the place in which she died. We were inspired by her last words: “Go safely in peace my blessed soul…and you, Lord, be blessed for you created me.”

We were able to gain an insight into the inspiring life she led, with the help of our wonderful and insightful tour guide, Kieran. St Francis and St Clare are both wonderful examples of faith and we can learn a lot from them!

We were lucky enough to see some relics associated with both St Clare and St Francis, including their vestments. This was the highlight of the trip for us as it is incredible to see possessions over 800 years old.