Sustain us O Lord!

A blessed Lent to all!  May the good God aid you in every way as you take up battle against spiritual evil.

I wish to take this holy time to make known something I feel deep in my heart – everything to JESUS, through Mary, with Peter!

This is a refrain, an invocation, that was given by St. Josemaria Escriva.  It is one I have always used but since I have come to Rome I have understood it better than ever.  These are hard times in the life of the Church.  Many waves crash against the barque of Peter and the Faith wains in many parts of the world.  When we hear the words of Jesus from the Gospel, “But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find Faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) it is easy to tempted to dark thoughts and worries as trends hostile to the Faith spring up every where.

Of course, we are filled ever with hope, always with the joy of the Gospel that “fills the hearts of all those who encounter Jesus.”  (Evangelii Gaudium 1)

How did the world come to encounter Jesus?  Through Mary.  Not because of Mary – it was because God so love the world.  The Blessed Trinity is the reason, the cause and the end of all of this joy.  But the Blessed Trinity came to us through Mary.  When the world saw the face of Jesus Christ it saw the Face of God.

Lo sguardo pasquale Kopie

Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  He was seen with eyes and touched with hands and heard with ears and so forth.  Thus does He leave the Sacraments and thus did He leave His image.  He also left her image.


St. Josemaria has another saying, “Love for our Mother will be the breath that kindles into a living flame the embers of virtue hidden in the ashes of your indifference.”  (The Way 492)

The image of Jesus at Manopello is a miracle.  The image of the Virgin Mary at Monte Mario is not.  Jesus is God.  Mary is not.  But Jesus and Mary are inseparably linked – His humanity comes from her humanity.  Her desire is His desire, “Do whatever He tells you.”  Devotion to her will lead you only to love Him more and more and more.

The image of our Lady, which I have posted above, is the mother of all icons, of all images of Mary throughout history (except Guadalupe, which I will write about another time.)  This image was lost to the world for many years.  And that was ok – the world didn’t need it in order to live and love Faith.

In these days the image, through amazing workings of Providence, is known again.  As Pope Benedict XVI went to see the Face of Jesus at Manopello, he also went to see the face of Mary on Monte Mario (to Jesus, though Mary, with Peter.)  I have no doubt that these images will be at the center of the New Evangelization.  To contemplate them is to contemplate the divine – Jesus is Divine and Mary does nothing but point to the Divine.

Today I was able to live the unity of Jesus and Mary in a particular way.

Elevation of the Chalice

I celebrated the Mass of Ash Wednesday at the altar of the chapel in the Most of the Holy Rosary, which houses the icon L’Advvocata of Mary.  To raise the Sacred Host and Chalice is the greatest of act of glory that can be given to God.

Before L'Advocata 3

To look into the eyes of the Virgin Mary does nothing but nourish and magnify that glory in one’s heart.  Look at her and she will have you look at Him.  Do you have trouble with your resolutions?  She will help.  Is the fire of your faith cold, she will breathe on it – wherever she is the HOLY SPIRIT is right there too (Annunciation & Pentecost anyone?)!

Before L'Advocata 2

I am going to work to make these images (Jesus’ image at Manopello and Mary’s on Monte Mario) better known and better love because God used them once in history to renew Faith on the earth and He is going to do it again!

ALL FOR JESUS, ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE!  All through Mary – look to her and soon you will be looking with her and glorifying God with all you have and are.

A blessed Lent to all.

I will be back in Madison in one week – a sad but joyful reality – I kindly ask for your prayers for safe travel and resolution to my health situation.

A Personal Update

On Wednesday, March 12th I will be returning to Madison to seek treatment for my recurring cellulitis infection (from this summer) as it seems to be progressing to a dangerous stage.
The decision has been made with a lot of consultation and all is well here in Rome regarding what has to happen.  I will return to Rome in September and continue my course of study in the normal cycle.
I will be living at a local parish rectory with one of my best friends, for which I am very grateful.  As of this moment I am doing well – the short-term prognosis is good but the long-term is quite negative.  I will be pretty normal until I begin treatment and, at this time, I can’t quite know when that will be.
Last July was the first time this infection sprang up.  It was (and always preceded) by about twenty-four hours of fever & chills and intense pain my lower joints as well as tremendous fatigue.  Roughly at the end of this twenty-four hour period the infection appears – in the middle toe of my left foot.  The infection re-occurred again in late September and again in late December.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that occurs underneath the skin – there is none of the usual manifestations associated with infection, i.e. no pus or open wound.  The infected area becomes bright red, swollen, hot and very painful to touch or pressure.  Untreated, the infection will spread quickly and the immediate danger is if it should enter the blood-stream and cause blood-infection = sepsis.
Last week I was struck with the same symptoms only this time the redness and swelling were not after the fever & chills, but at the same time and the redness was not only in the middle toe of my left foot but also there was a red-line in the middle of my foot.  This was a bad sign.
Since that day I have been in a great deal of contact with doctors and nurses both in Italy and in the U.S.  There is general agreement on the following points:
  1. Recurring cellulitis in the same area of the body is extremely rare in someone who is not elderly, is not diabetic and has never had a surgery.
  2. The infection is obviously not weakening but spreading.
  3. There is a danger that the infection is/will become resistant to oral antibiotics
  4. There is a greater danger of osteomyelitis= bone infection, which can lead to a number of bad things.
  5. I should seek special treatment as soon as I can and especially before another flare-up of the infection.

Because of all of this I will return to the United States to seek extended treatment.  In the U.S. I can obtain treatment in out-patient care, which I cannot do in Italy.  Therefore, to return home is also a greater aid to my course of study.

When I get home the first object will be to see if there is bone-infection or not and go from there.
Your prayers are appreciated and know that I will pray for you.

I Fell in Love Today

I have always loved the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Today, I fell in love with her.

This morning my friend Fr. Daren and I met Mr. Paul Badde at a little cafe not far from St. Anne’s Gate at the Vatican.  From there Mr. Badde took us to the Dominican Convent of the Holy Rosary on Mont Mario in Rome.

Mont Mario is a hill in Rome, though not one of the Seven Hills of Rome.  In ancient times it was outside of the city, located on the western side of the Tiber River and a bit north of the Vatican Hill.  It is recognizable to many who have visited Rome as it is the tallest hill in Rome and there is an observatory on the hill which can be seen from most parts of the city.  It is not often visited as there are many private homes and a beautiful nature preserve (which is not a normal Roman tourist destination.)  It is also held that Mont Mario is the place where Constantine had his vision of the Cross in the sky before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.

The Convent of the Holy Rosary has ancient foundations but the current church is a baroque building build in 1725.  The convent is home to an order of cloistered Dominican nuns – about 25 of them.  While Mont Mario is not the original location of this particular convent, the convent was founded by St. Dominic himself when he came to Rome, about the year 1220.  It is a beautiful place that, in addition to this wonderful contemplative order, houses significant relics of St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena.

It is also home to this icon:


The icon is called in Greek Hagiosoritissa in Italian L’Avvocata or The Advocate.  It is sometimes all called Our Lady of St. Luke

I have not had time to research this history very deeply as most of it seems to be in either Latin or Italian and is almost completely lost in English.

In brief, it is a treasure.  It is said to have been painted by St. Luke.  The first established Christian community outside of Jerusalem sent a request saying, more or less, ‘hey, you have the Apostles, you have the Virgin Mary, can we at lest get a picture or something?’  Thus, the first images of Jesus and Mary were sent to this place.  When the Muslim conquests began they were sent to Constantinople.  When Constantinople was first threatened, the image of Our Lady came to Rome and was entrusted to the Dominicans.  That is the super short version.

It carbon dates to the first century, so that claim is clear.  There is an extant record of its being brought to Constantinople, so that is clear.  There is also a record of Greek monks bringing it to Rome, so the line is clear.  It is also a unique type of iconography.  Many iconographers have come to see the image and have testified that the method used to make this icon is unique and has been lost to history.  There is more historical detail but, it seems to have the clearest and strongest of all claims to be, if not the original icon of the Virgin Mary, an icon written by someone who knew Mary personally and looked upon her face.

I looked upon that face today and didn’t want to leave.

L'Avvocata and Me

The eyes of this image pulled me in like nothing I have seen before and filled me with a consolation I have not felt.  it was a window into endless beauty, pureness of love and joy beyond telling.  More to the point, when I looked at and prayed before this icon of Mary, my heart was pulled to love the Eucharist in the Tabernacle like I had never done before.  We prayed the Rosary before this image and all I could think was, ‘I don’t love Jesus enough but I can love Him more and more and more and more and more. . .’  It was a heavenly peace.

In brief, wow!  It is much like the image of Jesus at Manoppello (which I will write about soon.)  How do more people not know about this!

Pope Benedict XVI visited and venerated the image in 2010.  If I was the Pope I would be up there once a week and have that icon in St. Peter’s for just about every Marian feast day there is and twice on Saturdays.

It seems to me that the good God is re-unveiling some of this wondrous images and relics and working many miracles in a time when the world needs it so very much.  St. Faustina is proved true when she talks about the Lord God working  great miracles of the heart in these times.  May He be blessed forever!

As the West declines and the last lights of this once great civilization go off – a bright horizon opens by the work of the Holy Spirit to re-fire Divine Love in souls.

True enough I hope to obtain a doctorate in Liturgy from the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy at the Pontifical Athaneum Sant’Anselm while I am in Rome.  Just as much I hope to help spread the word about these great and holy icons (Manopello and Mont Mario) for I feel that, as He did in the early days of the Church, the good God wishes to use these things to bring people to know the wonder and glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.

O, and they have the hand of St. Catherine of Siena.

Daren and I with the hand of St. Catharine

O felix Roma!

Biblical Foundations of the Church

Here are the scripture citations I was going to give at the Alpha/Omega event on May 9th.  (Thanks for a great night everyone!)

I.  John 21:24-25

– Many things Jesus said and did were not written down

 II.  Acts 1:1-3

– Speaks about the kingdom of God which is not written down but kept by the Apostles, shows that the Church teaches the full truth.

 III.  Matthew 16:17-20

– Confession of Simon’s faith is the foundation of the Church, Simon is renamed Peter (because that faith is not from him but from God) and he (Peter) is given the power to bind and loose.

IV.  John 16:12-13

– There is more teaching to come (after the Passion) which will be taught to the Apostles (foundations of the Church) and will be ‘all truth.’

V.  Luke 22:31-34

– During the Last Supper, Jesus grants protection to Peter’s FAITH – the guarantee of the power given in Matthew 16.  Note, Jesus does not guarantee that Peter will remain morally upright, thus the Pope will always be protected to teach the right faith even if there is failure in his moral life.

VI.  John 21:15-19

– Jesus confirms the love of Peter and His love for Peter and prophecies the future of Peter and of the Popes.

VII.  Acts 2:42-43

– The teaching of the Apostles is a key part of the worship of Christian because they, 1) have the power of the Holy Spirit to teach and 2) were with Jesus after the Resurrection.

VIII.  1 Corinthian 15:9

– Saul (Paul) persecuted the Church of God, meaning that the Church was alive, up and running before the Bible came into existence.

IX.  1 Timothy 3:14-15

– The church is the pillar and foundation of the truth.

X.  Acts 15:1-29

– Representatives of the Apostles are sent to teach the truth from ‘the Holy Spirit and us.’

XI.   Revelation 21:10-23

– The heavenly Jerusalem has the Apostles as its foundation.

I’m leaving St. Paul’s

This past Sunday, April 7th, it was announced that at the end of the current semester my assignment at St. Paul University Catholic Center will come to an end and I will be transferred to a new assignment.

I came to St. Paul’s on 1 October 2008 and I anticipate formally leaving by 29 May 2013.  Spending the past 5 academic years with the students and the last 1651 (as of today) days with the Staff of St. Paul University Catholic Center has been a great challenge, a great joy and a great privilege   My gratitude to God for making me a priest knows no bounds.

My new assignment will be to study.  Sometime near the end of this summer I will move to the city of Rome where I will begin the pursuit of a doctoral degree in liturgical theology at one of the Roman ecclesiastical universities.  I will post more information as it becomes official.

Please offer prayers for me and especially for the priest who will take my place at St. Paul’s.

A Dying Culture?

In my humble opinion, anyone who wants to participate in the conversation about the state of contemporary culture with any usefulness needs to have read and reckoned with the book After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre, the third edition of which was published in 2007.

MacIntyre (an emeritus professor at Notre Dame University) ends the book thusly:

What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.  And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope.  This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for some time.  And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.  We are not waiting for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.

This closing passages gives sound voice to the situation as I see it.  Let no one think that this blog is for depressives or apocolyptics.  I do not believe the world is about to end – that is in God’s providence, not my own.  However, it seems clear that the foundations stones of what was known as Western Civilization are gone and are not coming back.

Some compare our time with the time of the Christians of the first and second centuries.  I disagree – as does MacIntyre – for it seems much more akin to the time of the fifth century.  The first Christians were dealing with a wholly pagan empire and civilization that had heard of virtue but not of Christ.  Those of the 400’s, men like St. Benedict, were living in a culture that had known virtue and had heard of Christ but rejected Him in favor of materialism and hedonistic pleasures.

This is like unto our age.  The Roman Empire fell into disarray after 476 and fall of the last Emperor.  This lead the the wider political, social, economic and educational fall-out popularly referred to as the Dark Ages.  I submit that we are wandering towards that day in our own time.  Certainly there is enough political, social, economic and educational strength left in the contemporary West.  However, the communal virtue, ethic, the transcendent upon which these things were founded is utterly gone from the public square.  As MacIntyre argues so forcefully and so well, there is no virtue left governing the social order.  What will happen when that political, social, economic and educational strength are challenged?

But we are not without hope.  We who have hoped in Christ and have put our will into ordering our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor to the mind of Christ have the power to undertake, “the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained. . .”  This is the temporal goal of my life and indeed the worldly end of the Church.  Our eternal goal is God Himself and these goals on earth push us towards that end.

MacIntyre points out rightly that the only real threat is, “our lack of consciousness of this. . .”  We must not fall further into this lack, for we have been granted the tradition and the power to rise up and build a civiliation, a culture that will endure unto eternity.

More to come – I hope this has been a not-too-long introduction.