Legates participating in annual pilgrimage are Christ in disguise to one another . . .
Following in the footsteps of saints, Legates traversed Italy from Rome to Florence to Venice during the annual Legatus pilgrimage Oct. 8-17. These three cities also served as stepping stones to holy sites associated with some of the Church’s most important saints.
Pilgrims attended Mass at all the sites, often celebrated by the group’s spiritual guide, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.
Keith Armato, a member of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter and Legatus’ board of governors, went on the pilgrimage with wife Mary and 21 others. He also helped plan the event.
“What we wanted to do was not only experience our own spiritual thoughts by being near saints and praying at the sites associated with them, but also to experience other religious communities and see what they’re doing and how they’re being formed,” he said.
Sanctity in spiritus
The Benedictine monastery at Norcia occasioned one such experience, combining a perspective on contemporary sanctity with the aim of visiting a site associated with saints. The lively monastery is built on the ruins of the birthplace of Saints Benedict and Scholastica.
“The priests and monks were very pleasant,” explained John Radick of Legatus’ Twin Cities Chapter, who was accompanied by wife Martha and son Logan, 12. “And it was very interesting for our son to see young men living an austere life but pretty darn happy.”
Other highlights included:
• In Rome, Mass at the miraculous side altar of Santa Andrea delle Fratte (St. Andrew in the Thicket). Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wis., celebrated Mass for pilgrims at that altar.
• In Venice, the rare experience of having Mass in the crypt below the Basilica of San Marco, where the bones of St. Mark once rested. The Patriarch of Venice intervened to secure this privilege.
• In Assisi, walking in the footsteps of Saints Francis and Clare.
• In the traffic-free centro storico of Florence, traveling back in time to absorb the beauty of the Renaissance’s birthplace.
And of course, the hallmark event of the Rome segment of any Legatus pilgrimage — presenting the Holy Father with a gift consisting of 10% of Legates’ annual dues.
A gift for Pope Francis
At the Oct. 9 general audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, Radick and son Logan were presented to the Holy Father on behalf of Legates worldwide.
“I was told that the Holy Father is not comfortable in English,” Radick said. “I greeted him in Spanish and then gave him a very short message that a friend from Chile helped me phrase properly.”
In English, that message read: “Holy Father, we are honored to present this gift to your missions on behalf of all of the members of Legatus. We pray for you and our Church every day and ask that you bless our family and pray for us as well.”
Son Logan was in awe. “It was almost like being closer to God, by being near the Pope,” he said. “It was very personal, because I was the only person I could see [in the receiving line] who had his head, hand, and rosary blessed by the Pope. He also gave me a thumbs up!”
Accompanying his parents on pilgrimage was also a birthday gift: Logan turned 12 shortly after it officially ended. An additional gift was the friend he found in Br. John Yep, son of Chicago Legates Chris and Mary Anne Yep. A seminarian studying in Rome, Br. John spent time with the pilgrims and turned a boy’s disappointment — Logan was not admitted into the scavi, the Vatican necropolis, for being underage — into an impromptu Roman holiday.
Christ in disguise
“It’s amazing what happens when you bring Legatus members together on pilgrimage,” noted Legatus’ conference director Laura Sacha, who organized the pilgrimage and accompanied the pilgrims. “You see transformations, mere acquaintances develop into lifelong friendships and faith experiences that are so private, yet people are willing to share.”
For Keith and Mary Armato, this pilgrimage had added significance. They’ve taken more than 50 trips to Italy. During this trip they celebrated their 39th anniversary.
Mary Armato believes she and her fellow pilgrims experienced the essence of pilgrimage: “The destination of every pilgrimage is ultimately Christ. He is the way we follow, and he is our light along the way. Our companions on this journey were Christ traveling with us in disguise, and we were Christ in disguise to each of them.”
MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.