As the Cardinals in Rome were discussing the Cause of Mary Aikenhead and then presenting her Cause to Pope Francis, two Sisters of Charity from the English/Scottish Province were in Rome awaiting news! Here Sr Patricia Byrne recounts her experience:
I joined Sr Frances Pollard and members of her parish on a pilgrimage to Rome on 16th March. This trip had been planned since last May. When we learned that the cardinals were to meet while we were in Rome to discuss the Cause of Mary Aikenhead we intended to walk to St Peters first thing on that morning to pray for their deliberations. However, as it turned out, a tour had been organised for our group for that day and we were to make a very different journey to St Peter’s and a very different prayer pathway. Instead of beginning our day in the splendor of St Peter’s Basilica we spent it underground in the Catacombs, that holiest of sites, the first Christian burial site in Rome and the burial place of several martyrs and popes. What a place to pray that our Foundress would be recognised for the great woman that she is!
When we emerged from that subterranean world it was to visit the Basilica of St John Lateran. This basilica is the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome and was the residence of the popes until 14th century. This again was an awesome place to pray for the discussions of the Cardinals.
The afternoon took us underground again, this time to the Scavi. The Scavi is just under St Peter’s and consists of excavations of sites which go back to Roman times and include different levels particularly of burial sites both pagan and Christian. There are also remains of a basilica built by Constantine which once stood there, but the most important treasure is the tomb of St Peter which you get the opportunity to be quite close to. Here again we prayed conscious that by this time the Cardinals’ discussions must be well under way.
It was almost 5pm when we completed our circuitous journey to St Peter’s Basilica and emerged from beneath into the Basilica itself where Mass was just about to be celebrated. This took place in the chapel behind the main altar. A visiting choir from the US sang at Mass and this added to the beauty and solemnity of the occasion for us. Having decided that the Cardinals had completed their task by this time we turned our attention to the next step in the process…. the Holy Father.
As Pope Francis passed us by in his popemobile the next morning prior to his General Audience one could not help but wonder if Mary Aikenhead had been on his mind that morning and if he had yet taken any action in her regard. We know that sometime during that day he had and we felt that it was a great privilege and joy for us to be in Rome at that time.