|A view of the interior of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, officially the cathedral of Rome. It is the oldest of and has precedence among any of the four Papal Basilicas. Because it is the official cathedral of Rome, it houses the pope's cathedra, or ecclesiastical seat. (Shutterstock.com/Tupungato)|
I'm currently writing this on the bus ride to Assisi where we will be spending our second day of the pilgrimage. Yesterday, we visited the major basilicas in Rome: St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran, St. Peter in Chains, and St. Paul Outside the Walls. We also visited some catacombs. It was a very jam-packed day visiting and learning about these places with guided tours.
On the nine-hour flight from DFW to Frankfurt the other day, I ended up watching a few shows and movies. I usually like watching something during meals on long flights.
I watched “Kung Fu Panda 3” first. It's been a long while since I've seen the first two movies. Without spoiling it too much, the background of the story is that Po is the last panda and is destined to be the great Dragon Warrior of legend. In the third movie, he meets his biological father and learns that a secret panda village still exists. Meanwhile, a spirit warrior named Kai threatens the existence of kung fu masters by stealing their powers.
I also watched the live-action “Jungle Book” on the flight. I actually haven't seen the animated version in a very long while. I've forgotten what happened so watching the live-action one felt fresh. As I'm sure most everyone already knows from the animated movie, Mowgli is a young boy who was left in the jungle to be raised by wolves. He makes friends with other animals as the tiger, Sher-Khan, hunts him down.
I think Po and Mowgli share a similar story in that both grow in embracing their individual identities. Once they arrived at knowing who they are and where they come from, they thrived and grew in courage. And with this newfound courage, only then they were able to confront evil in their respective worlds.
When we were touring the basilicas and catacombs yesterday, I got to learn some of the history of Christian martyrs who came before me. Rome is so essential to Christian history!
Tying “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “The Jungle Book,” and the first day of our pilgrimage together, I realize the importance of learning where I come from as a Catholic. Po had to learn to embrace who he is as a panda and his unique talents. Mowgli had to learn that he is human, and embrace the gifts that are part of being human. Villains Kai and Sher-Khan became powerless when Po and Mowgli became who they were made to be. For me, learning my Christian heritage by visiting major Catholic sites in Italy helps me embrace my Catholic identity.
And why is that important? As long as I call myself Catholic, I simply desire to fully embody what it means to be Catholic. The devil is real. Evil is real. And I can't think of a better way to confront the evils of this world than to be a Christian fully alive in the faith knowing full well where I come from. And to be the man created in the image and likeness of God and to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
- Randell Labio
Randell is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Young Catholic Professionals Fort Worth Chapter, and volunteers as an acolyte, reader, and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He also teaches high school youth as a catechist.
I'm currently writing this on the bus ride to Assisi where we will be spending our second day of the pilgrimage. Yesterday, we visited the major basilicas in Rome: St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran, St. Peter in Chains, and St. Paul Outside the Walls. We also visited some catacombs.