Assumpta est Maria in Caelum – and she will help us get there too!

“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.” – St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way #492

When I was younger, an early teenager, my family was on vacation at Pennisula State Park in Door County, WI.  We camped there most summers for vacation and some of my happiest memories took place at that wonderful park.

One day in the late morning, around 9:30/10:00 the old man who was camping next to us called my brother and me over to his site, he wanted to show us something.  Like us, he and his wife had a large fire the night before and had stayed up rather late watching it burn down.  By this time in the morning all you could see was a pile of grey ash.  It smelled like nothing and, of course, you couldn’t breath in deeply lest the ash choke you.  There was no heat, no real warmth at all coming from this dry heap.

The old man brought over some dry leaves and small sticks.  He put his hands into the pile of ash and gently pushed them to the side until he found, deep near the bottom, a small white ember on which he blew very gently, turning it the vibrant red to tell us fire was contained therein.  Slowly and methodically he showed us how to pile the dry grass, then leaves, then small twigs until a fire was going and we could place on the logs and had a huge fire going that seemed to add light even to the morning sky.

As you can tell, this memory always stayed with me and when I first read the above quote from St. Josemaria some years ago it came immediately into my mind.

The Infinite God flooded our hearts with Spirit and fire on the day of our baptism and fanned into a burning flame when we were confirmed.  This is divine truth, a cosmic reality.  But it does not always feel so.  The Maker of all comes into our souls during the night-time of the stain of original sin and lights a huge and undying fire.  Yet, you may say, it seems to have died out.  There is no bright light, no warm heat, nothing to ward off the darkness and shadow all around me.  Indeed, there is nothing in my soul but a pile of ash.  O, perhaps in my youth the fire burned bright, when I was good, when I was child-like, when I believed in goodness of God and His creation.

Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity, and chasing after the wind.

Yet there is one who knows a greater truth and has been given the power to show it.  “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and shall name him Jesus.”  The flame was first burning in her, as a secret, in a hidden place, not yet for the world to see.  Even after His birth He “went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. ”  He was hidden with her until the time of His manifestation before all Israel.

“Behold your mother” He says from the Cross.  She, the Virgin Mary has been give a particular power – to bring Christ Jesus to birth in souls until the end of time.

Statue of Mary in the Garden at the Casa Santa Maria

Statue of Mary in the Garden at the Casa Santa Maria

 

Mary know the pathway through the ash-heap of life down to the bright fire within.  You see, there is nothing we can do the will put out Jesus Christ.  Oh, we might cover over His light and fire with all manner of things, all the dust and ash of the world but He is never utterly gone from the baptized soul.  Does He seem far away, hard to see, hard to follow, hard to trust?  Well call out His name, Jesus!

Is it hard to even call out His name?  Mary will help, she will clear off the ashes.  God will never force anything but He is the All-Holy One, the  burning fire.   Mary can clear the way and give a gently breathe to fan the little flame in your heart.  Devotion to her will make you, and me, and everyone a great and burning fire of Jesus Christ.  Do we wish to be burning like the Holy Spirit?  Well, imitate the Apostles before Pentecost who were “gathered in prayer, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.”

Tomorrow, August the 15th, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.  I am rather alone in this huge building in this huge city.  The humidity is up.  My packages still haven’t arrived and probably won’t until Monday (thank you ferragosto.)  I’ve asked a few time, “God, what am I doing here?”  It’s hard to pray, hard to focus, hard. . .

Why complain, why stare at the ash heap of my whining and indifference?  Mary will help, she will help to breathe these things into a living flame – the flame that is Jesus Christ.

Not the Best Day but Not Bad

So it was out into the Roman morning around 8:45 am as I had woken up early – namely I didn’t sleep a wink last night – did my thing and turned in my papers for the famous permisso soggornio (sp?)  The permisso is one more nonsense Italian rule to bilk people out of money.  It is like a visa that says you have a visa, which you already have and paid $140 for so that now you get to pay 160 euro for the second visa that doesn’t say anything your actual visa doesn’t say.

The morning was very nice, it was humid but very cool and there was NO ONE out and about.  True, most of the stores were closed but I got to stroll the Roman streets in peace and a bit of cool.  I returned about 11:00 and was really tired since, as mentioned above, I didn’t sleep at all.  I was to wait for a phone call between 12:00 – 13:30 from my Italian helper at the Casa to go out and actually send in the stuff to obtain the permisso.  The phone rang promptly at 13:13 and down I went.

I will spare you the details of our very, very Italian adventure as it would be very hard to maintain charity.  But a few notes.

1.  It was hot – not like yesterday (which was a balmy 104 F) but today was only about 90 F today and thus a bit more bearable.  However, the humidity was not fun and the plastic on plastic clerical collar was un-fun.  Also, side note: I have not seen ONE cleric since I have been here.  Clearly the Roman clergy are smart enough to get out during ferragosto.

2.  I think I know how to get around Rome better than my Italian helper.  Don’t get me wrong, I would not have been able to do it without him as the whole permisso thing is an arcane circus but he was all over the place for no clearly discernible reason.  The heat did not make things better.

3.  People are different.  When we finally got to the desk at the Post Office with all my materials official, the lady at the desk took issue with our presentation.  My Italian handler took issue with her taking issue and it was on!  I mean these two were pointing and shouting and yelling and fist-pounding right there in the middle of the office.  I can take a lot but soon uncomfortable took hold.  Of course, she held all the cards and my handler stormed out to the photocopy place across the street, made one more copy of my passport and returned.  Amazingly, the gal at the desk let us in a head of the line and processed my permisso application while the two of them had a pleasant chat about the cafe down the street sharing a few laughs.  WHAT!  Five minutes earlier they were at each others throats, now, having a pleasant chat.  Moral of the story, people are crazy beautiful and I’m out 160 euro.   Political side-bar: this is what the nanny state costs.

When I returned it was to the horror of Italian customs.  In short – my shipment to Rome (clothes, toiletries, books) has been held up in Milan since Monday.  Why?  Because one box has TOO MANY ‘personal sanitary items.’  Really?  Do they hate people coming into the country who keep themselves clean and well groomed?  It has taken 5 days to get the blessed email, yikes!  It has been a huge headache, costs money and will delay my trip to Siena, which bums me out immensely.  Please pray.

I did go out to dinner with young Fr. Andrew from Chicago who arrived at the Casa today.  He is as pleasant as pleasant can be and we had a nice walk in the warm Roman evening and enjoyed dinner.  It was great to take one’s mind off of disappointing things.

This city is so beautiful with such great architecture, character, beauty, the glow of the river the ambiance of the buildings all lit up.  You have to love it.  Home sweet home in my little room in my huge house in my Eternal City.  I really wanted to yell and shout today but a look at an image of the Virgin Mary helps and chatting the spiritual life over penne puttanesca in the Roman nightlight can sooth the soul.

Nick and Emily, many blessings to you I will be missing you and praying a great deal for you.  My whole heart is for you.

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 – 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 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!