Rome Experience – Catching Up – June 13 – 16

So there have been some full days, all good, but full.  Here are some brief notes:

Thursday, June 13th.

We headed off to the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, also known as Santa Croce. It is the alma mater of my dear friend and the Diocese of Madison’s newly minted Judicial Vicar, Fr. Tait C. Schroeder, J.C.D. It is a lovely walk, though the heat has arrived and so it is a little less pleasant, through the streets of happy Rome. Once the men were in class I went to chat with the vice-rector about some less than perfect things and when that was finished enjoyed some cafe e postre with Fr. Kime in the Piazza Navona.

We had a bit of free time in the afternoon and then took a little adventure to Villa Tevere, the headquarters of Opus Dei and the place where St. Josemaria Escriva is buried. It took a while to get there but the men were in good spirits and we were ushered into a lovely room and had a had a young numerary tells us about Villa Tevere.

While there I saw this picture:

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It is a representation of the founding of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross (of which I am a part), the branch of Opus Dei to which secular (diocesan) priest can become a part.  It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life to get to know St. Josemaria Escriva and the spirituality of Opus Dei.

After the presentation we were able to visit the chapel in which St. Josemaria is buried under the altar.  It was an immense blessing to have about 40 minutes there to pray with the men of the Rome Experience.  When we left that place there was a more pleasant spirit than on any other day of the Rome Experience and we had a long but joyful ride home.

Friday, June 14th

Another day off to PUSC.  I did not join as I had to 1) acquire funds, 2) pay for headsets, 3) contact Cardinal Burke’s secretary and 4) make preparations for the arrival of  James Francis Cardinal Stafford.  The men returned warm but feeling warm but ready to host a Cardinal for lunch.

Cardinal Stafford arrive a few minutes late bur ready to go.  We had lunch and then a fine get-together.  Cardinal Stafford is the Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary – the dicastery of the Roman Curia that deals with matter of conscience (mostly involving the Confessional) that are reserved to the Pope.  He spoke to the men about his work in Rome and then gave them a strong exhortation to live lives of prayer and deep community.  He also took questions for about 25 minutes before time was up.

The Cardinal was very kind to give me a ride to St. Peter’s Basilica as I had to pick up tickets for Sunday’s Papal Mass and it was very hot.  He was particularly encouraging when I told him I would be moving to Rome – it’s nice to have a Cardinal’s contact info. when you are preparing to move to Rome!

I had a restful afternoon , prayed and then went out to a very fine dinner with Frs. Kime and Mahar, three seminarians from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati along with Fr. Ryan Ruiz who is from Cincinnati and is currently in the Liturgical Theology program at San Anselmo (the same one I will enter) and live at the Casa Santa Maria (where I will live.)

Saturday, June 15th. 

It as a clear and beautiful morning.  At 10:30 we started walking down the happy street to the Palazzo Cancellaria to visit His Eminence Raymond Leo S.R.E. Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.  In short, it was wonderful.  We stopped in the church of San Lorzenzo a Dammaso to visit our Lord Jesus in the Sacrament.  Then we went up the to the Signatura where Cardinal Burke greeted us, spoke for about 10 minutes regarding his work in Rome and then 40 minutes of Q & A.  It was awesome – he was clear, direct, kind and brief in each instance.  The men loved it!  We took a fun picture and then were on our way happy as clams.

The rest of the afternoon was free and I used it to meet up with one Stephanie Dunbar, former FOCUS missionary extraordinaire and a good friend to me.  We met at St. Mary Major to pray the Rosary and then walked down the Via Merulana to St. John Lateran for a little prayer.  It was a lovely afternoon and very nice to catch-up with Steph.

The walk back was interesting as we got about three block back up the Via Merulana when we ran into Rome’s gay-pride parade.  Quite a place for a priest indeed!  My heart was sad but my soul was hopeful as I could see the Our Lady’s basilica the whole way up and was reminded how much she loves us all and prays for us!

I got home for a shower (I was a bit damp) dinner and a nice Skype chat with the future Mrs. Josh Eckl which ended just minutes before I got a message from the good Fr. Tait Schroeder, we chatted about all doings Roman, Madison and beyond.  It was great.

Then I prayed, went to bed and slept like a stone.

Sunday, June 16th

Today as a sad (I miss my Dad) but lovely Father’s Day.  I did get to Skype with Mom & Dad for about 30 minutes which was wonderful.

In the morning I trotted off to the Basilica of St. Paul’s outside the Walls on a pilgrimage to pray for my parish (St. Paul’s University Catholic Center) and concelebrate the main Mass with the monks.  The pilgrimage was humid and a bit sweaty, so I had something to offer.  I prayed, vested and got ready to concelebrate.  In brief, the basilica is beautiful and easy to pray in.  You can’t help but be moved celebrating Mass 20 feet from the tomb of the Apostle St. Paul.  However, the liturgy in Italy has a long way to go, may Msgr. Guido Marini live forever!  At this Mass – Vestments: D-, Music: B, Ars Celebrandi: C-, Vessels: C, Reverence: D, Homily: D-.  Still, the monks were very nice to meet and I got to chat with Abbot who as also very encouraging about my studies.

After Mass I stood dead-center in the basilica, staring at the huge mosaic of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the main apse and at the tomb of His chosen Apostle to the Gentiles and recited None (also lamely known as Mid-day Prayer.)  It probably didn’t look like much but my heart was full.  Then I bought some soap in the bookstore (I’m out and sweat a lot) and then got back on the happy Metro on the way back.

The return trip was much nicer as I was heading toward’s St. Peter’s when everyone was heading away as the Papal Mass had finished about 30 minutes earlier.  I sat the whole way home and got two of the air-conditioned trains which was really good since by now I had already perspired a decent amount.  It was interesting walking by St. Peter’s Square.  All of humanity was spilling into, out of and all around the square.  There is something beautiful about the throng of humanity all embraced by the arms of the church so beautifully symbolized by the colonnades of St. Peter’s.  Now, scripture says that while man sees the outside, God looks at the heart – which is a good thing since on the outside the mass of humanity was sweaty, poorly-dressed, bawdy and smelled a lot like perspiration and urine.

On a celebrity note, I spoke briefly with Msgr. Guido Marini (mentioned above), the Papal Master of Ceremonies.  He was standing outside St. Anne’s gate signing autographs for a bunch of noisy American college kids for whom I had instant respect since their Catholic nerdiness was up enough to know who Msgr. Guido Marini is.  The future is bright!

I went home to cool off, call Mom & Day, a surprise happy-chat with Mr. & Mrs. Stabo, shower and prepare for Adoration.  At 6:00 pm we gathered in our little chapel for Adoration, Vespers, a preached meditation, silent prayer and Benediction.  After prayer we had dinner together, a short get-together, said the Rosary and then off to finish this post, which is now done.

I’m going to bed.  Thanks for all the Father’s Day wishes from everyone.  I love you all with my priestly heart and can’t wait to be home, which is odd since tomorrow I’m picking up the keys to my new Roman home.

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