Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, STL, is a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, SC. He served as the Vicar of Vocations for five years as well as helped to found the Drexel House: Catholic Residence for Men. Fr. Kirby is a doctoral candidate at the Holy Cross University and holds Masters Degrees in Bioethics and Philosophy. He is the author of several books, including newly released 101 Surprising Facts About St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. For more information on Fr. Kirby, visit frkirby.com.
Day 1. Monday, February 29: USA – Malta
Embark on your transatlantic flight to Malta.
Day 2. Tuesday, March 1: Malta
Welcome to Malta! Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Tonight mingle with travel companions over a welcome dinner. (WD)
Day 3. Wednesday, March 2: Malta
Christianity has almost 2,000 years of history in Malta. According to tradition, it was brought to the Islands by the Apostle St. Paul himself around 60 AD. Discover the beauty and charm of the fortified city of Valletta, also Malta’s capital, built by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John in 1556. The Order of St. John ruled over the islands for 268 years and left a unique cultural legacy of which Valletta is the prime example. Enjoy a breathtaking view of the Grand Harbor from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Then visit St. John Co-Cathedral, built in 1572 as the conventual church of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John, a gem of Baroque art and architecture. Its Oratory houses the famous Caravaggio paintings, The Beheading of St. John and St. Jerome. Afterwards, continue to the Church of St. Paul Shipwreck, one of Valletta’s oldest churches. The church houses the relic of the right wrist-bone of St. Paul, and part of the column on which the saint was beheaded in Rome. Afternoon at leisure to explore this beautiful town or to tour by boat, on your own, the colorful harbor inlets. (BB)
Day 4. Thursday, March 3: Malta
This morning in Rabat, visit the Wignacourt Museum. It forms part of a Pauline complex just outside the walls of the old Roman City and is materially linked to St. Paul’s Grotto, the cradle of Christianity in Malta. This is where St. Paul the Apostle is believed to have founded the first Christian community on the island in 60 AD. Under the main Church of St. Paul, there are two small chapels. It is said that here Publius, the Governor of the islands at the time, was baptized and was also consecrated bishop of Malta. The Museum houses an impressive picture gallery with works by Maltese and European artists. Next, visit the Catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha. According to tradition, St. Paul stayed in these catacombs for three months. The martyr St. Agatha is said to have hidden here during the persecution of Emperor Decius in 249 AD. The Catacombs have remarkable medieval frescoes, some dating from the 12th century. Afterwards, visit the medieval fortified city of Mdina, Malta’s former capital. The narrow winding streets lead to the imposing bastions, commanding a magnificent panorama of the island. In Mdina, visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, built on the site where St. Paul healed Publius’ father and converted the grateful governor himself to Christianity. Enjoy free time in Mdina before returning to your hotel. (BB, D)
Day 5. Friday, March 4: Malta
St. Paul’s Bay has always been pointed out as the bay in which the Apostle’s shipwreck occurred. There, visit a small church – St. Paul Tal-Huggiega – built to commemorate the site where the Maltese kindled a fire to warm the shipwrecked company. Close to the church, visit Wignacourt Tower built in 1610 by Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt. It is the most ancient coastal defense fortification that endured the active Maltese history. Next, visit the idyllic fishing village of Marsaxlokk. Its colorful luzzus and unique character create the perfect setting for the local Sunday market. Continue to the Blue Grotto (weather permitting) and the nearby cave. (BB, D)
Day 6. Saturday, March 5: Malta – Rome
Today, fly to Rome where, upon arrival, your guided sightseeing includes Domine Quo Vadis Church, located where St. Peter had a vision of the risen Christ while fleeing persecution in Rome. Close by, visit the Catacombs of St. Sebastian, also located on the Via Appia. This cemetery is named after the Roman soldier and martyr, St. Sebastian, who is buried here. Tradition says that the remains of Sts. Peter and Paul were temporarily interred here. Dinner and overnight in Rome. (BB, D)
Day 7. Sunday, March 6: Rome
After breakfast, visit St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of Rome’s major basilicas, which houses the Apostle’s tomb and his prison chains. Continue to Tre Fontane Abbey, a delightful complex on the Via Laurentina built on the site of St. Paul’s beheading. The name derives from the tradition that three springs gushed forth on the sites where St. Paul’s head bounced. These still flow and are located in the sanctuary. Next, visit the Coliseum, commissioned in 70 AD by Emperor Vespasian and where early Christians were martyred. Afterwards, visit the Mamertine Prison where St. Peter caused a spring to miraculously gush forth in the prison so that he could baptize his fellow prisoners. This spring is said to have miraculously cured the illnesses of pilgrims. Last visit of the day is to S. Maria in Aracoeli, built on the highest point of the Capitoline, one of Rome’s seven hills. This church houses a miraculous ancient portrait of Our Lady, a miraculous painting of St. Anthony, the statue of the Santo Bambino, the tomb of the Empress St. Helen, relics of Bl. John of Triora, and the banner that St. Bernardino of Siena used when traveling on his missions. The ceiling of the church commemorates the Battle of Lepanto. (BB, D)
Day 8. Monday, March 7: Rome
The great Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest of Rome’s four major basilicas and the cathedral of the Church of Rome; it is thus the official seat of the Pope. It is also known as the Redeemer, because of the apparition of the face of Christ on the day of its consecration. Above the altar are two silver reliquaries containing the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul. Close to this basilica is the largest relic in the Christian world, the Scala Santa. These Holy Steps are the staircase from the Praetorian Palace, where drops of Jesus’ blood fell after He was flagellated. Afterwards, visit S. Pietro in Vincoli to venerate the chains that bound St. Peter in the prisons of Jerusalem. The statue of Moses by Michelangelo is on the right side of the altar. Afterwards, visit the Church of St. Praxedes which houses the Column of the Flagellation brought from Jerusalem in 1223 and a reliquary containing three thorns from Christ’s crown. Next stop is St. Mary Major, called Our Lady of the Snows, where the actual crib of the Baby Jesus is carefully preserved. In one of the chapels is the “Salvation of the Roman People”, a miraculous painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then, visit Holy Cross in Jerusalem, founded by Emperor Constantine in 320 to house the relics of Christ’s Passion, brought back from the Holy Land by his mother, St. Helen. Dinner and overnight in Rome. (BB, D)
Day 9. Tuesday, March 8: Rome
This morning, attend Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, followed by a guided visit to the Vatican Museums including the Sistine Chapel, the renowned masterpiece of Michelangelo, and the Raphael Rooms. Afterwards, walk through the Holy Door to gain the indulgence of the Jubilee Year, and have a guided visit to the magnificent Basilica of St. Peter constructed on the site of the hallowed tomb of the apostle, resplendent with mosaics, art treasures, and gold. Among the basilica’s most precious relics is a portion of the wood of the True Cross and part of the lance that pierced Christ’s side. Touch the beloved statue of St. Peter and admire Michelangelo’s Pieta. Visit the crypt to render homage to the many buried popes. A free afternoon with dinner on your own. (BB)
Day 10. Wednesday, March 9: Rome
This morning at the Vatican, attend the weekly Papal Audience. Free afternoon to explore on your own this breathtaking city. Tonight enjoy a farewell dinner to celebrate the success of your beautiful pilgrimage. (BB, FD)
Day 11. Thursday, March 10: Rome – USA
Early transfer to Rome Fiumicino airport for your homebound flight.
Buffet Breakfast (BB), Dinner (D), Welcome Dinner (WD), Farewell Dinner (FD)
* In case of unforeseen events, this itinerary is subject to change.
For more information on this pilgrimage or to register, please contact Catholic Heritage Tours.