ROME — While an ad limina visit literally is to the “threshold” or tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the visit all bishops are required to make periodically to Rome also leads them to Mary.

As Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, California, noted at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major, Pope Francis prays in the same chapel before and after each of his foreign trips.

Vann was the principal celebrant and homilist Jan. 30 as the bishops of California, Nevada and Hawaii celebrated Mass in the basilica’s Borghese Chapel, home of the famous icon, Salus Populi Romani (health of the Roman people).

With the present basilica dating from the 5th century, he said, the U.S. bishops, who are making their ad limina pilgrimages, join an unbroken line of millions of pilgrims who have prayed there.

While many might “take the protection and care of the Mother of God for all of us for granted,” he said, the bishops on ad limina and the pilgrims joining them from St. Mary’s College in Oakland, California, would not.

In the day’s first reading, from the Second Book of Samuel, King David says to God, “Who am I, Lord God … that you have brought me to this point?”

The line “can certainly be our words in these days of our visit ad limina,” Vann said.

As the bishops from U.S. Region XI approached the end of their ad limina, he prayed that they would “stand firm” in their faith, “strong and sure, an eloquent testimony to all that the Lord has done for us.”

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