A Tale of Three Cities: The Catholic Quest for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that we come to know God through the transcendent qualities of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. From its beginning, the Roman Catholic Church has been on a unique quest to know and serve Christ through these virtues. At times it has stumbled, wandered, or become distracted in its journey, but our Lord and Lady have always called us back to pursue the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
The stories of three cities exemplify this quest. Rome—the city of St. Peter, St. Paul, and their successors—illustrates the quest for Truth. Assisi illustrates the quest for Goodness through the medieval reformation begun by St. Francis and St. Clare. Florence, the capital of Catholic creative genius, illustrates the quest for Beauty—with all its attractions and snares.
We will make a pilgrimage to these cities, learning their stories and listening to how we, as individual believers and as the Church in the twenty-first century, must faithfully continue our ancient quest for what is True, what is Good, and what is Beautiful. In so doing, we will learn to love our Lord all the more, striving to become the salt and light that he calls his Church to be.
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Pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, and Florence
November 4-14, 2019
This pilgrimage is an all-inclusive package (excluding lunches) offered by 206 Tours, a respected and experienced company that specializes in Catholic pilgrimages. Greg Smith will be serving as the group leader under 206’s expert management.
This will be more than a site-seeing tour. Greg will teach, answer questions, and pray with us throughout the experience, providing insights that will make this a perspective-altering, if not life-changing, experience for every pilgrim.
Day 1: Monday, November 4: Depart for Rome
Make your way to your local airport to board your overnight flight(s). Dinner and breakfast will be served on board.
Day 2: Tuesday, November 5: Arrive in Rome
Welcome to Rome, "The Eternal City." We will be staying in a hotel only 400 meters from St. Peter’s Square. After we check in, you will have time to to do some exploring on your own or with Greg (he will give suggestions for the most valuable first stops). Later in the afternoon we’ll celebrate Mass, followed by a welcome dinner. After dinner, you may accompany Greg to St. Peter's Square for the Rosary or explore other locations.
Day 3: Wednesday, November 6: Rome: Papal Audience - Trevi Fountain - Piazza Navona - Basilica of St. John the Lateran and St. Mary Major - Holy Steps
After breakfast at our hotel, we will attend the regular Papal Audience in St. Peter's Square (always subject to the papal schedule). Afterward, we will visit Piazza Navona, including Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and the magnificent tribute to the martyrs in the Basilica of St. Agnes in Agone, and then on to Trevi Fountan. After lunch, we will visit the Basilica of St. John the Lateran, the cathedral church of Rome and home to the Sacra Scala, the steps that Christ ascended to his trial before Pontius Pilate (relocated to Rome in the fourth century by St. Helen). Then a short journey the other papal basilica, St. Mary Major (containing a relic from the manger of the infant Jesus). Following Mass, we will return to the hotel for dinner.
Day 4: Thursday, November 7: Rome: Vatican Museum - Appian Way - Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls - Catacombs
After breakfast at the hotel, we will celebrate Mass at St. Peter's Basilica and tour the inside, including Michelangelo’s Pieta and dome, the tomb of St. John Paul II and dozens of other popes, and Bernini’s baldachin over the altar, itself built only meters directly over the tomb of St. Peter. Then on to the adjoining Vatican Museums, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the Rafael Rooms. After free time for lunch on your own, or to purchase souvenirs from Vatican City, we will begin the short journey down the Appian Way, the earliest road of Ancient Rome, with a stop at the “Domino Quo Vadis” Chapel, where a fleeing St. Peter turned around toward his martyrdom after meeting the risen Christ. We will pass the Baths of Caracalla, the Arch of Drusus, and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, stopping to visit the catacombs of St. Callixtus. The day concludes with a visit to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, visiting the tomb of St. Paul the Apostle. We will then make our way to dinner at a local restaurant, and an overnight at our hotel.
Day 5: Friday, November 8: Rome: Colosseum - Roman Forum - Pantheon - Piazza Navona - Spanish Steps
After breakfast, we will immerse ourselves in understanding the Rome into which St. Peter and St. Paul brought the Gospel and founded the Church by touring the Colosseum, the Forum, the Mamertine Prison (where they both awaited their executions), and the Pantheon, among other landmarks. We will then continue to the beautiful piazza of the Spanish Steps before dinner and a restful overnight.
Day 6: Saturday, November 9: Rome - Orvieto - Assisi
Following breakfast, we will leave Rome in an air-air-conditioned motor coach through the Roman countryside of vineyards and villas. We will make a lunch stop in Orvieto and visit one of most remarkable Gothic cathedrals, where a Eucharistic miracle from the 13th century is preserved. The cathedral also has some of the most magnificent frescoes to be found anywhere. The frescoes depicting visions of heaven and hell in the San Brizio Chapel rival those of the Sistine Chapel. After lunch, we will continue on to Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis. Our hotel is in the walled medieval city, only 300 meters from the Basilica of St. Francis. After dinner at the hotel, join Greg for a walking and teaching tour around the twisting medieval lanes.
Day 7: Sunday, November 10: Assisi
After an early breakfast, we will immerse ourselves in understanding the Franciscan reformation begun in 1208 by St. Francis (Francesco) and his friend, St. Clare (Ciara). We will walk the narrow streets that haven’t changed much in 800 years, visiting all of the key locations and the tombs of these saints.
Day 8: Monday, November 11: Assisi - Siena - Florence
After breakfast, we will take a scenic drive through the provinces of Perugia and Umbria on our way to the city of Florence in Tuscany. On the way, we will stop at the city of Sienna, the birthplace of St. Catherine (Doctor of the Church, and one of the two patron saints of Italy, with St. Francis of Assisi) and St. Bernardine (known as the "Apostle of Italy" for his efforts to revive the Catholic faith in the fifteenth century). Siena is also one of Italy's loveliest medieval cities. Here we will stroll the Piazza Del Campo, one of Italy's finest squares, and visit the Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Francis, containing the miraculous consecrated hosts that have remained intact since 1730. After lunch, we will continue on to view the incorrupt head of St. Catherine at the Basilica of St. Dominic (her body is preserved in Rome in the Basilica St. Maria sopra Minerva). We will continue to Florence and arrive in time for check-in and dinner. After dinner, you have the option to accompany Greg by cab for a preview of downtown Florence after dark.
Day 9: Tuesday, November 12: Florence
After breakfast at our hotel, we will visit the major sites in Florence, seeking to understand this cradle of Catholic creative genius. We will visit the the Santa Croce, the Church of the Holy Cross, with the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and others. We will continue to walk by Piazza Signorina, Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio, and Republic Square to the Santa Maria del Fiore. This cathedral is an iconic piece of architecture of the city of Florence. It was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in the thirteenth century. Next, a visit to L'Accademia, the well-known art gallery. At this gallery, you will have the opportunity to view the work from artists such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, and the ever-famous sculpture by Michelangelo, David. This afternoon you will have time to explore Florence on your own. We will return to the hotel for dinner and a restful overnight.
Day 10: Wednesday, November 13: Florence
On our last full day in Italy, we will take a break to reflect and bond over what we’ve experienced by visiting a Tuscan vineyard for wine tasting in the morning and free time to stroll and shop in the afternoon. For those interested, Greg will accompany you to see some additional interesting locations in Florence, such as the home of Dante or (if time permits) climbing the stairs to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome. Over and after dinner that evening, we will bond over prayer and reflections on what the Lord has shown us on this pilgrimage.
Day 11: Thursday, November 14: Return Home
After an early breakfast and heartfelt farewells, we will travel to Florence’s airport for our return flights home.
DOC 301: Catholic Identity
Prepare for the Pilgrimage
DOC 301 may be taken on its own or as a way to prepare for the pilgrimage to Italy. This seven-week class will explore what makes Roman Catholicism unique, not only among world religions, but also among Christian denominations. It will encourage us to find our identity in this heritage and quest for truth, goodness, and beauty, and it will equip us to explain and defend it in a culture that is increasingly hostile to these foundational principles.
Meet Greg Smith
Greg Smith has been writing and teaching, leading and discipling, for more than thirty years. First a convert to Christianity while in college, he earned a Master of Divinity at Calvin Theological Seminary. For twenty-five years he was a Protestant pastor, writer, and speaker with churches, colleges, and conferences around the globe. Greg specialty is biblical studies and Church history, focused on following the story of God’s people through the Old and New Testaments and down through the ages to today. Those studies brought he and his wife along the “Road to Rome,” and five years ago they “crossed the Tiber,” joining the Roman Catholic Church through RCIA. Greg now serves the Church as the founder of the Lakeshore Academy for the New Evangelization and the Director of Ministry Strategy at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Holland, Michigan. He is also in the discernment process for the permanent diaconate within the Diocese of Grand Rapids.