An Evening Adventure

Sorry for too much but my mind is over-active before bed after a cold shower (nothing like on a hot night) and before I pray and try to sleep.

Around 18:30 (we work on the 24-hour clock around here and I will use it from the time out – this is 6:30 pm for those unawares) I headed out of the Casa Santa Maria, affectionately know as ‘the Casa.’  I had been in all day trying to work on my package delay with FedEx, unpack the simple things in the suitcases, try to get a lay of the land and taking an afternoon nap.   The Casa is quite empty, and I mean empty.  Not even the Real Presence remains in the Tabernacle.  There are only odd markings of humanity here and there – an odd sound down the hall, a sleeping bag found in the air-conditioned TV room, things like that.  But not actual people.

I left in clandestine garb, shorts and white shirt.  This was mostly to stay cool as it was about 97 degrees and rather humid so thus clothed I went out into the Roman summer evening.  I was greeting by a group of about 5 Polish girls wearing bright neon colored shorts.  It was jarring to say the least as their faces did not match their bright short.  Indeed, like everyone else, they were red-faced, glistening slightly and looking oppressed by the heat.  As I walked the streets – it was better since the sun was low and the buildings kept most places shaded – most everyone looked the same, red-faced, a wet sheen and looking mostly like they wanted to find some place cool.

A short walk gave lie to the myth that Europeans don’t like air-conditioning.  Not true.  Every restaurant and store has A/C and every apartment building has the units plastered on the back-side.  They don’t like paying for A/C and so it is hot in people’s home but the stores and restaurants are niiiice.  Heck, even the tobacco shop had A/C.  It made sense too since the streets were littered with people feeling the heat.  It was not pleasant.  Of course, it’s better for the weather to be not pleasant when you can have a cool gelato while looking at the Pantheon with a little violin music in the background.  Not pleasant, but not bad – better than sweating in some anesthetized suburban park – but that’s a different post.

My first mission was to search out the cellphone company stores in the area.  With some sound advice from good Fr. Putzer I found the Vodaphone/WIND store and was able to check out their offerings.  I wasn’t sure where the TIM store was but I followed my Roman gut and found it only three blocks away.  In short, I have pretty good options and hope to have an iPhone and a plan that allows me to call home soon.  We will see.

On the walk back I went to the Cartoleria Pantheon, which I love.  It is a store entirely devoted to stationary, pens, seals and every sort of journal, etc.  It is delightful.  I bought some stationary on which to write home.  By now is was about 19:45 pm and the heat was not letting up.  People were looking for places to eat and those walking about seemed mostly like they wanted to be not on the street, which was understandable.

I walked to the Piazza San Ignacio hoping to eat at the restaurant there.  The square is one of the nicest in Rome as it is surrounded by three sides and beautiful baroque buildings and on the fourth side by the church of San Ignancio which, has a beautiful facade and houses the tomb of St. Aloysius, one of my great patrons.  Also, it was big enough that a light breeze was moving through it making heat a bit more bearable.  Sadly, the restaurant was not open – not sure why, it was open yesterday.  Perhaps it is the weekly schedule, perhaps the ferragusto, as they call it.  In fact, many places are closed.  Mostly standard shops, like clothes, etc. and all the ecclesiastical stores are on vacation.  There are even some cafes, restaurants and touristy places that are closed for some weeks as the Romans look to flee the heat.

So, I went to the little restaurant right outside the Casa and sat down for caprese, piazza and insalata pomodoro (that’s a bowl of tomatoes) and a cafe.  I read my book waiting for the courses and tried to mind my own business, which was not easy.

First, the table next to me was an interesting and loud couple.  She was a Swede and he an Italian.  The language of choice: English, loud English and her favorite word was s***.  They were both ex-military (she was a translator) who had met on some NATO missions.  They both agreed that The Congo is the worst place on earth and that the American military was the only group that new what was going on until Obama became president – just reporting what I heard.  The conversation broke only for moments when he would reach over and kiss her fingers.  Ackward?  Sort of, mostly I was reading my geeky book (by geeky I mean awesome) book about Athanasius Kirchner – shout out to Will L.

There was a little reprieve when the nice American couple sat down in the next table over.  They were recent college grads and even more recently married taking their honeymoon in happy Rome.  My heart was a moved to think about a number of the happy couple I recently married and those to be married – EMILY & NICK I LOVE YOU – in coming days.  All in all I kept to myself but was enchanted by all humanity around me.

Eventually the cafe had been drank (drunk?) and it was time to head home.  Home.   This is is now and, strangely, it feels that way.  As I walked the streets of Rome I didn’t feel like a stranger, I felt like a local, like one who belongs here.  Maybe that’s just sentiment but it’s still true, or at least feels true.

I am home.

But lonely a bit.  No one else is here.  I have the entire palace empty to myself.  When I pulled out my keys I noted the little charm I had attached to it.  My little heart – Libby – had given me a charm she made shortly after she heard I was leaving for Rome and I put it on my Roman room keys.  I hadn’t really noticed it until just that moment as I put the key into the door of the Casa feeling all alone in my huge Roman home.

I realized I am not alone.  There is  a good God Who brought me here.  Parents and family that will always support me.  Friends who will pray for me and help me if I need.  And Libby.

Not bad at all.

There are still a few mountains to cross but I will get there.  Pray for me.

Welcome to Rome

There are no pictures as my technology is not yet up to speed for such endeavors, so you are left with my thoughts.

First – fly Swiss Air if at all possible.  It was the second cheapest flight I found and by far the best international flying experience that I have had, which makes it two for two for Swiss Air.  Check-in was easy, bags (two of them!) flew for free, the plane was clean and actually smelled nice!  The flight crew was beyond friendly and kind.  Airplane food is airplane food but I will say, thank you for a brownie!  All in all, I slept about 5.5 hours of the 8 hour flight and was feelin’ fine.  My trip in the air could no have been more pleasant.

Taxis to Rome are all the same, some are expensive and some are cheap, that’s the only difference.  I did appreciate that the driver took the way down the Ostian Way, past St. Paul’s outside the Walls, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, St. Mary Major and into the old city.  It was a happy welcome.

Rome is hot, hot, hot.  We are into the upper 80’s by 10:00 am and well into the mid-90’s by noon.  The humidity is down a bit so the shade is some relief but the daytime is very hot.  It is a little after 4 pm local time as I write this and the heat is on!

The Casa Santa Maria is a relative ghost-town, no one is here.  I did meet a Croation confrere earlier this morning but otherwise not much happening at the Casa.  The bathrooms freak me out a bit but not hard to get used to since, well, it’s the bathroom.  I made my arrival at the Casa at 11:04 am local time and made my way up to my room and began to un-pack.  When this finished it was the mad dash to find the internet.

You see, there is a little (big) problem.  Namely, the packages I shipped to Rome are stuck in a FedEx warehouse outside of Milan while there is some hold-ups with Customs.  I have communicated many times with the good folks at FedEx but have not received the proper paper-work from them and, as such, do not have any of my packages.  This is an approaching disaster as I am supposed to go to Siena on Sunday and, if the packages are not here, do not have much in the way of clothes, toiletries, etc. for six weeks in Siena.

So we struggle and hope here in the Roman heat.

Around 3:00 pm I hit the proverbial wall and had to take a nap.  It was a fine sleep until 5:30 pm.  I awoke, went to the chapel to pray (note: not even Jesus is here at the Casa, He has vacated for the heat of August) and then try to figure out the rest of the night.  I read a bit and went out.

First I paid a visit to Our Lord in the Tabernacle at the church of St. Ignatius (about 3 blocks away) and then to the tomb of St. Aloysius.  After this I bought some water for drinking in the room and went to dinner near the church of San Ignatio.  Caprese and pizza capriccosia hit the spot and I was back home around.

It was another bought of frustration with the good folks at FedEx and then time to read and go to bed.

I have spent this morning (now it’s almost 4:30 pm) researching to buy a cell phone and waiting for the sun to go down a bit before I head out.

This is perhaps my worst post to-date and I hope to have more interesting things to say during my Roman time but I did make a resolution to post every Wednesday and, well, it’s Wednesday.

All those back home, I love you, I miss you, I pray for you!  Mom & Dad, thanks for everything, I love you!  Your Excellenty, it was great to talk to you, thanks for this opportunity.  Sr. Josephine, it was great to see you!  MoJo, I loved, loved, loved your wedding and was so happy that I got to visit with you on Sunday.  Fr. John – do great things brother, thanks for everything.  Fr. Tait – keep it real brother.  Interns and Maddie and all the St. Paul’s friends, thanks for the smiles.

Time to shower (boo-ya-ka-sha to afternoon showers) and head out for the evening doings.

O sweaty Rome!

Rome Experience – Friday was a good day

I know that it’s a day late but I only now had time to write – it’s a lovely day in Rome and I am doing a great deal of simple things so now, after lunch I have some time to write before a little siesta.

Yesterday, Friday, was a lovely day and I don’t know if it was just me, but everyone seemed happy.

The seminarians were off to class in the hot, hot, hot, humid and did I mention weather with big smiles on their faces. The priests were humming little tunes as we walked along, and the ones who teach classes were all fired up. All the good folks at PUSC we as friendly as could be. The tourists we gentle and happy, the streets seemed particularly clean and even the street-folk, the beggars and gypsies were smiling, laughing and talking, letting their children play with one another. My Italian is bad but the poor would talk to me a bit and there is always a little happiness when that is the case.

Why was this so?

Maybe it was because, though hot it was still a bit cooler than yesterday. Maybe it was because we are preparing for a long weekend. Maybe it was because tourists are leaving the city on Fridays and the city is a bit less hectic. Maybe it was because I went to Confession. Maybe it was because it was the feast of St. Aloysius and I am in my patrons great city.

Who knows, but here’s to a good day, gratias tibi Deus!

I will contribute much to St. Aloysius, who I was very happily able to visit!

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The above picture is of the altar of St. Aloysius in the great church of San Ignazio de Loyola on Rome. The central altarpiece is a beautiful marble relief of St. Aloysius in glory that fills the heart with hope and draws the eye down to the altar, beneath which, in a lapis lazuli sarcophagus, is the body of the saint. And be not mistaken – none of this distracts from the glory of God but only calls, moves and lifts the soul to desire holiness and glorify the one God and Father of all. I prayed for my home parish, my parents and my priesthood. Then I had to leave to be with the men of the Rome Experience.

On the way out I found something I have searched years to find – a decent image of St. Aloysius. It is a very old sketch of St. Aloysius in glory surrounded the words of Psalm 24:3 – ‘Who shall climb the mountain of The Lord. . .’

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The paper was yellow at the edges and very dry, clearly they hauled these beautiful images out of the basement for this happy day. Why they don’t sell them regularly is beyond my but I this was one more happiness on a happy day!

Anyway, the rest of the day was simple, a little work, pray, a wonderful chat at dinner and then off to bed.

I won’t deny that I miss my family and my friends immensely, I will be home soon (one week!) and I love you all like Jesus!

O felix Roma – O Roma nobilis!

Rome Experience – Day XVIII

Well, we saw a ton today! I have pictures from my morning adventure but not from the afternoon, for those you can visit the Rome Experience blog.

The Morning – Casa Santa Maria

Once Dr. Liz Lev was off and running with her class I departed for the Casa Santa Maria, the house in Rome for priests in graduate studies. A happy religious sister greeted me at the door and took me to see Elizabetta who coordinates the doings of the house. Now, by house I mean old palazzo of one of the minor noble families. It had four levels, with the chapel, refectory, library, offices on the first floor and rooms for the men on the other floors. I was taken to Elizsabetta’s office and, after some Italian shuffling of papers and looking very confused, the proper paper is found and the key to room #320 was found.

She summoned one of the cleaning ladies, who was entirely pleasant, and took me up to my new room

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It was small to be sure and I will have to rearrange the furniture, but it is home. I have only one window and it looks out to the Biblicum, but it faces north and does not get direct sun (which is nice because of the heat) but always has some light. I was grateful for the smallness of the room and while a bit distraught at first but think I have found a way to arrange things in a decent way.

I went up to the storage area to get some of the things Fr. Tait Schroeder left for me. Chief among those was the air-conditioning unit which will make life much more pleasant. I clearly got one of the smallest and least desirable rooms, but I hope that I will have a large enough heart to set good example and remain in this small room.

However, I was shocked at the poor quality of things. Much of the furniture was broken. The sink was dirty and did not work well. The hallways are poorly painted, cracked and crumbling. The bathrooms were terribly kept – they clearly do not have enough staff. The first floor (where all the public offices are) were very nice but I was surprised at the poor quality of the places where the Bishops of the United States ask their priests, who are to give years away from family and friends, to live and give themselves to study. I don’t care about large or fancy, I don’t want the big room or best location, but dirty and falling apart was surprising.

Sorry to complain, because there are some very nice places. There two rooms ones the first floor that have been turned into Latin-rite chapels and one Byzantine chapel. Neither are fancy but both are are clean and very nice. Then one comes to the library.

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It is nicely decorated and seems to have a large collection. I was rather spoiled by the library at Mundelein Seminary so it is not quite what I am used to, but looks nice. There was also a terribly decorated but very roomy study room next door.

Then I walked down the hall and found the refectory (an ecclesiastical word for dining room.)

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As you can see it is wonderful. The room is well laid-out, nicely painted and was very clean and ordered with a great picture of Pope Pius IX at the back of the room.

The best is the chapel:

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As you can see, it is a baroque gem, absolutely beautiful with a great tabernacle, lovely side chapels, an image of Our Lady of Humility above the altar and statues of some of the virgin martyrs above the doors. Speaking of, look who I found:

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What happiness to know that every time I walk out of the chapel I can take a little strength from St. Agnes!

By this time the need was to get back to CIAM, so I thanked Elisabetta for her work and had a pleasant ride back to CIAM. It was surprisingly nice since the heat was up, namely the humidity was way up!

The Afternoon – Baroque beauty

So, as mentioned above, I don’t have pictures so a brief run-through:

First was the beauty of the fountains in the Piazza Navona by Bernini which are an homage to the ancient world, a return to the glories of the baroque and a clear symbol of the triumph of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

This probably blog heresy, but I just finished with a couple of Skype calls and am off to bed because I am tired. Perhaps more tomorrow.

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.

Rome (SUPER) Experience – Day XII & XIII

This one will be long but there pictures and everything! I just the best two days in Rome and did things that never usually happen!

First, Tuesday the 11th. It was the 35th anniversary of my holy Baptism. Thank you Mom & Dad, thank you to the priest who baptized me and all glory to the Holy Trinity.

In the afternoon we visited some amazing churches. First up, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, one of only two gothic churches in Rome and housing the relics of St. Catherine of Siena under the main altar and the body of Fra Angelico in a side chapel.

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Not bad. After a short tour and a visit to the Blessed Sacrament all the men did 30 minutes of mental prayer together in the main area of the nave. O how the Lord did speak to me and how full my heart was to be able to be an little apostle in this city, to strive to be holy in this city – fiat!

After prayer I gave the men an hour of time free to explore the church, visit other churches or the area nearby. I had a lovely walk with another priest and was able to visit the church where St. Aloysius, my home parish’s patron, is buried and pray that he intercede for my holiness. He died before he was ordained a priest and I have always felt that my priesthood was, in part, his and that I must live up to it. Next year I will live only two blocks way and hope to say Mass at his altar frequently.

We all came back together in good spirits and hopped the #8 to the Trastevere district to visit first
Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome.

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Obviously also one of the most beautiful as the ancient mosaics are still well- cared for and and preserved in this church with a very active parish life. Again, we toured briefly and then had 45 minutes to visit the church privately and to pray. I knelt down with great peace in my heart as I prayed my Rosary while looking at the huge image of Jesus & Mary there in the central apse. To dwell in that heavenly land with such beauty of heart and soul and image. The mimic, no, the incarnation of that beauty on earth so well reflected in this church is beautiful and good and true. How much more will the reality be! This thought can only spur one on to be a better Christian and do a better job of serving one’s neighbor.

Providentially, as our time was ending all the church lights came on and the gold of the mosaic came to brilliant life! Mass was about to begin and it was a providential way for the visit to end with the glory of the heavenly representation lit like Heaven. Praise God and all those who worked and sacrificed to keep this church bright.

Then it was off to Santa Cecelia in Trastevere, the church built over the tomb of that great saint. I had never, in 12 trips to Rome, been to this church and cannot figure out why. It is a baroque beauty built around an ancient temple to the glory of God and His saints!

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Just beneath the high altar is the famous sculpture of the saint showing the way they found her when they opened her tomb, serene, beautiful, a saint.

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It was a beautiful a moving place to pray, but the best was yet to come. I found one of the sisters who keep the church and with a little smile and some bad Italian she opened up the crypt and we all went down to be as close to the saint as we could.

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The lights were a bit too bright but the chapel was simply beautiful all pointing to the tomb and image of St. Cecelia looking up to the image of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We chanted Vespers together in the chapel and then had time for silent prayer. During this time I prayed for some of the young women I know who are seeking God’s will and was filled with such grace and consolation for one of the in particular – laus Deo!

Hey, look who I found on my way out of the crypt!

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I love you Agnes and always will – keep a spot for me in glory!

After all this we let the boys loose for dinner in the Trastevere. Frs. Kime and Mahar and I went out to a little place and enjoyed pizza and conversation. At 9 pm we all met in the square in front of Santa Maria in Trastevere, had a little gelato, watched a fire dance and both took a picture and was in about 40 other people’s pictures – nothing like 34 roman collars out at night for a little tourist scene. Then we walked home, happy and sleepy.

Today was pretty good too – classes and then a trip to the Vatican Museum. It was the first of an numb of near miracles.

First, we were ticketed and inside the museum 50 minutes after we left the front door – huge since the walk alone is 30 minutes. Second, we go the group counter with no reservation, just two letters a smiling priest and a cheeky Irishman. In short, ordinary prices: €16to enter, €3 for headphones. We paid €4 to enter and €1.25 for headphones. Boo-ya-ka-sha!

More to come. Fr. Kime and I left the group and took long way to the famous clerical store
Barbiconi, my favorite. We took the train to the Piazza Barberini where Fr. Kime spotted an cafe. We had a little tea (I had caffe latte) and chatted while the world went by. Then we walked to the Palazzo Quirinale and down, down the streets to the great Gregorian University, past the Casa Santa Maria (where I will live next year) and down the Via Santa Caterina to Barbiconi which was, sadly, closed.

So down to the bus stop. Fr. Kime wanted to stop in the store Ghezzi, a church stop at the end of the street where more wonders were found. Now, the famous Roman church store is Gamarelli. They sell birettas for €50, I had checked them out the previous day. I check out the birettas at Ghezzi – better material, better cut, better stitching. Cost: €37. What! There’s more. I was checking out a rack of vestments and find a great surplice with lace for €86. Why so cheap? Part of a larger set made for the Sagrestia Pontifice (that means the Papal Sacristy) and was not taken to St. Peter’s. Original price: €170. Something rarely found in Rome, real deals!

Sorry for the church nerdery but it was fun. Also, I also have a new surplice, which they sold to me for €80 but not a new biretta. We came back to CIAM, got cleaned up, had dinner, get-together, Rosary, Complime and getting to bed ready for a new day.

O felix Roma!

Rome Experience – A Roman Weekend (June 8 & 9)

Truly there is no greater city in the world than holy Rome! There are more beautiful cities, more powerful cities, cleaner cities but none greater. Where else has the genius of humanity intersected with the glory of the Divine for so long and with such brilliance and vigor?

Here is my little taste of it.

Saturday morning we had the regular time of Lauds at 6:45, 30 minutes of mental prayer and then the celebration of Mass followed by a leisurely breakfast. At 9:30 we walked down to the offices of the Congregation for the Clergy and had a wonderful 2-hour visit. First we were greeted by the Secretary, Archbishop Celso Morga who spoke with us briefly and gave us his blessing. Then we had a presentation and Q&A with two officials, Msgr. Kevin Gillespie and Fr. Ed Losey. In short, let me tell you how up-lifting it is two know that there are men of such quality as Msgr. Gillespie and Fr. Losey in the Roman Curia. They do hard and thankless work, but work of great importance and benefit to many, many souls.

At the end of our time we all together prayed the consecration to Mary that was offered by Benedict XVI when he went to Fatima during the Year for Priests. Also, I was given a copy of the new Directory for the Life and Ministry for Priests in Italian. The English translation is not out yet and it will help me to practice the language.

Both Msgr. Gillespie and Fr. Losey were very kind and encouraging when they heard about my impending move to Rome. It is good to meet priests who, while they clearly love and miss their homelands, do not suffer from the small-minded parochialism that I find in a lot of clerics. Speaking with Msgr. Gillespie and Fr. Losey was a great benefit to the calmness of my mind.

After lunch I prepared myself for a decent hike from CIAM to San Anselmo (the place where I will study) which are about 2.5 miles apart. It was a beautiful day and I had a little over a mile walking along the banks of the Tiber river. The river is a pale green but was moving fast and had the gentle sound of a fast-moving river. There is not much more peaceful than strolling in the shade as you follow the sound of the water.

Eventually I crossed the river on the Ponte Palatino and came to the foot of the Avventine Hill. What joys awaited! The road up the hill was very steep and so I had a decent sweat, especially since this part was in the sun but it was more than worth it. The first sight was a beautiful park across the street from the Camaldolese monastery; it was beautifully manicured and cared for with flowers, shade trees, nice pathways, benches and a view of the Circus Maximus and all of downtown Rome.

A short walk up the street and I got to San Sabina, the great Dominican church in Rome. Of course, not before I passed another park, less well cared for and shaded, but with a tremendous view over the Tiber looking at St. Peter’s! I made a brief visit to the church, which was not in very good shape in my opinions. The Blessed Sacrament chapel is a baroque beauty but the rest was in-impressive.

Nearly next door was San Alessio, a falling apart baroque wonder with all sorts of little treasures that were less than well taken care of. Here I might note that every church I visited on Saturday was preparing for or celebrating a wedding and, oh my, the Romans do it up. Beautiful in terms of decoration but that’s where it ends.

Then around the corner to San Anselmo, the Benedictine monastery and home to the Pontifical Athaneum of the same name, at which I will study. I was a treasure – leave the street through a small doorway and center a larger gravel covered area which leads to another small door. This takes you into a lovely courtyard. On the left, the entrance to the university, straight ahead, the church. I was taken aback at the simplicity of the university entrance – a single door with a little brass sign that had the name of the school on it.

I went to the church to do my mental prayer. The church of San Anselmo is very clean and well cared-for. It is not a wonder of art or architecture but is clean, simple, and lovely. I went to the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament prayed. Now, I saw that there was a set-up for a wedding, but only when my prayer just finished did I realize that the church had received guest, including the bride, who was coming down the isle as I was heading out – quite a visit!

A sidebar on weddings in Rome: they look great but are totally un-impressive. There is tons of commotion, noise, distraction, the priests looked completely lost and a general hodge-podge of irreverence and silliness.

I stepped into the bookstore, which was a pleasant combination of academics, liquors and every lovely things that monks have made. I enjoyed it immensely and, in a great act of detachment, bought nothing.

On the way home I stopped at the Basilica of San Bartolomeo alla Isola, where the relics of St. Bartholomew are kept and also Cardinal George’s titular church. It was a nightmare of wedding helter-shelter during which I tried to pray the Rosary and get away from that insanity. I think I venerated St. Bartholomew’s relics but can’t really be sure.

I went home, showered, prayed and went out for a fabulous dinner with Frs. Kime and Mahar in th Trastevere district. It was a beautiful night and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

On Sunday it was a quite morning of prayer and silence with a few cups of strong coffee while staring at St. Peter’s on a cool morning. I left CIAM in the middle of the Holy Father’s Angelus address in order to get to Piazza Navona to meet Fr. John Putzer.

On the way to Navonna I stopped to pray at Santa Agnese in Agone – I could to get to the relic of her head, but prayed while the congregation was celebrating Mass. Again, the liturgical life of your average Roman parish is a mess and totally in-inspiring.

Lunch with Fr. Putzer was at a little place a few blocks of the Piazza Navonna. We had three courses and then dessert (first time since I have been in Rome that I had dessert) and ended with a little limoncello. It was delicious and the waitress was as pleasant as could be. I was most grateful for Fr. Putzer’s kind demeanor, help with questions and willingness to talk spiritual things. As some of you know, Fr. Putzer is studying to become a member of the papal diplomatic corps and has all sorts of neat stories to share. I think we are both looking forward to being in Rome together.

When the 2 hour lunch ended I came back to CIAM, read, showered (it got rather hot today) and then had a Holy Hour with solemn Adoration with higher men. We are back on schedule and looking forward to a great day tomorrow.

I love you all like Jesus!

Rome Experience – Day VII (June 6)

So many ways to begin a Roman morning, especially when the humidity is picking up and there is no laundry in the house.

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A little analogy for the spiritual life I suppose – we are looking at and walking towards glory but sometimes need to clean our clothes before we get there. Never let your troubles or sins get you down. Repent – yes, shame, depressed, sad – no.

But in the afternoon a little more towards the glory. . .

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We visited the Cathedral of Rome, the Patriarchal Archbasilica of Christ our Savior and Saints John in the Lateran. First a visit to The Lord of the house present in the Blessed Sacrament, prayed for the Pope at the confessio and then had a tour. After the tour there was a half-hour of mental prayer.

There is very little as moving as 35 men singing the Tantum Ergo in the Presence of the Sacrament and it was a little bit of apostolate to those visiting the Basilica.

After we saw the great church of San Clemente and prayed before the beautiful mosaic above the sanctuary and the relics of Ss. Cyril & Methodius. The men were free until dinner after which was a great get-together and off to bed after a little work and some time on Skype.

Thanks those who chatted with me, hearing your voices and seeing your faces was a great joy.

Rome Experience – Day VI

Let me be brief.

After a morning of great lectures by Dr. Liz Lev and Fr. Anthony Robbie we enjoyed lunch and headed out to two great places.

First, a tour of the catacombs of Priscilla where one finds some or the oldest examples of Christian art in all the world, including the oldest known depiction of Our Lady. How beautiful to experience and what depth of formation given to these men regarding the history of Christian iconography.

Next, walk to the Basilica of St. Agnes through a wonderful Roman neighborhood. Never have I seen so many children in one place in Italy. It was such a heartening experience in a nation with one of the lowest birth-rates in the world. One more reason to love St. Agnes, her neighborhood is alive and her parish is hoppin’.

All I will say about visiting the Basilica of St. Agnes outside the Walls is that it was good to be near her. She has taken good care of my priesthood, of my soul and always helps me out. After a brief tour of the basilica and mental prayer together upstairs I had only about 5 minutes with St. Agnes in the crypt. All I needed for a good day.

We came back to say vespers, eat dinner and have a nice get-together, ending with a blessing from newly ordained priest.

After a nice chat with my Dad and a conversation with Mrs. Stabo it was off to write and to bed.

Love you all from Rome!

Rome Experience – Day IV (a real Rome experience)

Today was a really Roman experience to be sure.

After a beautiful morning of prayer and breakfast looking at St. Peter’s we said good-bye to Fr. Eric Nielsen and Fr. Jerome Kish. Then I took the men down to the Basilica where we met the great Dony MacManus who gave the men a fantastic art tour of the great shrine of Christendom.

Seemed like a perfect time for me to undertake a needful task, get bus tickets for the men. So, across the square and a walk to the metro station Ottaviano.

Now on the way there one passes one of the Roman shopping districts and I had the opportunity to notice something, the Romans have a fanatics selection of clothes for women. Stylish cuts, many different colors and patterns, variety of design, modest tops, nice length on the bottom. True there is plenty of immodesty to go around, but so much selection that is modest, stylish and attractive. Ladies of America, take heart, there is much sartorial hope.

But then I got to they metro (subway) stop and what to I learn. Metro strike, no service. Awesome. So, a length walk back to the right bus stop and on to a packed bus. My favorite was the smell of sweat and cigarette smoke. Arrive at the central station, Termini and learn: Atac (public transit) offices closed. Why? Who knows. So, down to a local shop for the special monthly tickets (which they miraculous have) but, they only take cash. Ok – off to the bancomat (ATM) but, uh oh, all the bancomats in Termini are not working. All of them? O yes. So, trek to the nearest bancomat which, as you might imagine is a lengthy ways away. By the time I get money I am a great distance from Termini and starting to run late, no time to get to Termini and back. So, into every store, with the ‘do you have the monthly tickets?’ Answer, ‘no.’ Finally place has them, 20 of them, and I need 34. So, particular success and a truly Roman morning. What was a pleasant morning when I might have covered 3 tasks but ended up rushed and hurried and covering about 2/3 of a task. O felix Roma!

As reward I sat at the Borgo Pio for lunch and met some of the men and Dony for pleasant chat. I also found a great picture of Pope Francis that is sitting on my desk now.

The afternoon was free for the men. Two great priest, Fr. David Kime and Fr. Christopher Mahar arrived to serve as Spiritual Directors – great news for us and the men. We prayed, had dinner, a get-together, Rosary, Night Prayer, figuring out how to get to the American Embassy and off to blog.

Love you all, pray for the Rome Experience!