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.

L'Avvocata

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 Monster of the Holy Rosary, which houses the icon L’Advocata 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.

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:

L'Avvocata

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!

I Listened to my Mother

The last week or so has been extremely frustrating to say the least with delays in shipping, lack of sleep and delay in Italian study.

But, my parents have been the best.  My dad has been doing yeoman’s work in getting my shipping situation worked out.  It isn’t finished yet but we are moving forward.  I am very lucky to have a Dad who always looks out for me and shows me what it is to work hard for people who are not yourself.

But sleepless nights – the worst form of jet-lag I’ve every had – combined with this frustration and delay have made the days difficult.  So when I was on the phone with my parents on Friday, my Dad worked hard for me and was most reassuring.  My Mom was extremely cheerful and encouraging as she could tell how frustrated I was.  At the time I didn’t take it well.  I’m sorry Mom, as usual, you were right.

In short she said, ‘go out, visit the saints, have a little gelato and read a book, let St. Aloysius be a friend since everyone else is away.’  I listened but was hardly receptive and she took all my angst with maternal cheer and showed me a lot of love.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, which is to say when I got out of bed around 6:45 since I woke up at 1:05 and couldn’t fall asleep the rest of the night, which has been par for the course.  I was ornery, upset and rather down to say the least.

First, I chatted via Skype with one of the most beautiful women in the world.  I am lucky to know her and she always brightens my day.  I told her about my chat with my parents and she too encouraged me to take Mom’s advice and so I started the day.  I was tired and irritable but off I went for the morning routine.  It was slow to say the least but after the usual morning I decided I would heed my Mother and go out.

The day was getting hot and was still feeling annoyed and frustrated with life and because of the heat I decided to go incognito, that is to say I wore the black shoes, black pants and light blue polo.  I bought a couple of new polo shirts before I left, the first time in 4 years, and boy they make these things out of some funky stuff, very light and cool which was so helpful.  Thus clad I went out int the Roman morning about 10:30 and headed to St. Peter’s so I could go to Confession, it was time to unload some spiritual weight.

Speaking of weight, I’ve dropped about 7 pounds since I’ve been in Rome, the great effectiveness of the ‘don’t sleep and don’t eat’ diet.

I left the back door of the Casa Santa Maria at 10:36 am, a bit later that I might have wanted to but there were some emails to answer and laundry to do.  It seemed like the mood to take the scenic route to St. Peter’s so I could pass through some of the lovely areas of a lovely city.  You see, I live so close to so many wonderful places, as does everyone who lives in Rome.  First I went past the Pantheon – it is a wonderful building with a beautiful fountain in the square and, while flooded with tourists it is always worth seeing.

While to bus moves faster and there are quicker paths to St. Peter’s, I wanted to go through the great Piazza Navona, the most beautiful piazza in Rome.   It also seemed fitting as the Piazza Navona is the site of the martyrdom of St. Agnes, one of my great loves and whose intercession I very much need.  It’s true that this is a great tourist hub but it’s one of the things I love about the Piazza Navona, the great baroque church of Santa Agnese in Agone, built over the site of her death, the great fountains by Bernini with giant obelisk in the middle.  That doesn’t even mention the beautiful baroque buildings all around, the restaurants the all of the painters, photographers, sketch artists, dancers and various others things.  It is the most fun at night, but even in the morning there is a great beauty.

The Piazza Navona

The Piazza Navona

Even at 10:45 there was not much activity in lovely Rome  but was very nice to walk when it was a bit cooler.  The humidity is way up and it is better to be out while the temperature is cool and the shade is a particular helper.  It is always odd to see this city slow and a bit empty, you realize how much tourism dominates the landscape.  It was a pleasant walk through old street and along the old buildings.  True, one might wonder, why so old, why not modernize more than they have?  But there is more than nostalgia here, there is the hint of a world that paid more attention to interior realities or at least as much to interior realities as exterior ones.  It is nostalgia, but more than mere nostalgia, it is a fallen world’s appeal to beauty and it makes for a nice walk down to the Tiber River.

I was sure to cross the Tiber along the Ponte Sant Angelo, which leads across the river to the Castel Sant Angelo, old fortress of the Popes on the Western side of the Tiber.

Ponte Sant Angelo

Ponte Sant Angelo

The angels along the bridge all hold the instruments of the Passion of Our Lord and, even though it is full of touristic types and the various persons hocking their junk it’s not that hard to be inspired to meditate on how the suffering of Jesus lead to the beauty of the Resurrection and life therein.  Plus, when you cross the bridge you turn left and get a stunning view and straight walk right up to St. Peter’s Basilica.

Road to St. Peter's

Road to St. Peter’s

Not bad, right?

By now it was a little before 11:00 and the tourists where out, especially around St. Peter’s.  Two groups dominate the scene, Germans and Chinese.  True enough there is every nation, race, language and tribe under the sun in the great Piazza San Pietro, there are special concentration of these two groups.  As I walked up the the queue into the basilica I had a great fortune.  I was trapped between tour groups, the one in back of me was German, the one in front was French.  It is my own opinion that there is no language so strong and forthright as the German tongue and no language so light and cheerful as the lingua Franca.  Were they here for pious reasons?  Who knows.  I listened happily to what seemed an odd yet beautiful symphony of chitter-chatter.

Saint Peter’s was as usual, packed with people and loud.  The ushers try, to no avail, to lower the voices of tour-guides and tourists alike.  There is nothing other than wide eyes and a bevy of camera, smartphones and iPads taking all manner of picture of everything.  Some of this I understand, some I don’t get at all.

There must have been fifty or so people standing around the funeral monument of Queen Christian of Sweden.   Famously and admirably she renounced the crown of Lutheran Sweden when she converted to the Faith in 1654.  Her monument is in the upper part of the basilica while her body is buried down in the Vatican Grottoes.  I wonder how many picture-takers at her monument know or cared about any of this?  Did they have devotion to Queen Christina?  Or did they, rather, see something pretty and take a snap like they did of every other pretty thing?  My guess is that later – my guess is that all of the modern people, so surrounded and all sides by the sterile, technocratic, suburban convenience of their lives that can’t tell the difference between pretty and beautiful and that when they see anything that smacks of one or the other they must gobble it up with their technocratic power so as to posses it.   Thus there is so much picture taking around Rome.  There is a dying capacity to be taken into beauty, such a thing frightens us, it demands of us, makes demands of us.  So we picture take – no need to be drawn out of myself, such a thing is to scary for the sovereign self.

You might find such a reflection odd in a post filled with pictures.  I make a distinction – I have seen and meditated on all of these places I have photographed many times before and what you see are all the pictures I took and took for the purpose of this blog.  Pictures have a great use, they can take us to a place where we are not and so the taking of some photos is a good, wise, even a holy endeavor.  I simply wonder how many people spend their touring of great places behind a camera and in doing so may lose the capacity to enter into the thing before them.

No more sermonizing, for now.  I entered the great basilica, fought the photographs for a dip in the holy water font, greeted our Lady’s image of the Pieta and made for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

This was harder than one might imagine as there was a great line to get in, guarded by the usher’s of the basilica.  This is both a heartening and a sad thing.  Heartening because there are so many who want into Our Lord’s Presence and because the church wants to make sure that place is kept for silence and prayer.  Sad because so many want in to snap a secret picture and get out and it is a great effort to keep this holy place in a sacral sense.  So, I simply stepped to the side to a window where I could catch a glimpse Our Lord through the window, made my greeting and then walked to the transept where confessions are heard.

Blessed be God!  I made my confession to Christ Jesus through a Dutch Franciscan who exhorted me to pray in a beautiful way.  I walked away with deep peace, feeling the humidity, but with a deep peace.  Easily I made my way out as the area of Confessions in the one place where the tourist is kept out.  Oh, there are artistic glories there to be sure, and great saints (Gregory the Great and Josephat) but only those who want Mercy make their way in.

After Confession I did go and wait my turn in line for the Blessed Sacrament chapel as it was only proper to a good deal of time with Jesus after going to Confession.  The line had, mercifully, shrunk down quite a bit and after only about five minutes (including a bit longer delay due to the nuns who butted in line, which is a regular happening) I was in the chapel where I prayed for quite a while, about an hour.  Our Lord was present in Eucharistic Adoration, which was especially beautiful – it is fitting beyond measure that Jesus Christ the Resurrected should be surrounded by all the splendor and beauty that the world can offer and have all that beauty fall into the simple white Beauty of the All-in-All that is Divinity on the altar, Whose beauty no earthly glory can match.

When the time of prayer was finished I walked out again, a bit sweaty but full of goodness in my heart.  The basilica was a bit un-comfortable you see.  The temperature was much cooler than outside, the thick stone kept things quite cool.  But the humidity was also much higher.  The doors and some windows were open and many, many people came in so as the humidity seeped in it had nowhere else to go and so hung in the air.  By the time I was heading out and had a clear sense of that cool, clammy humidity.  Plus, it was nearly 13:00 and so the heat outside was up and the full flood of pilgrims and tourists were filling the basilica.  So I left the Light of the World and entered the light of the world to make my way home.

Brother sun was at full force by this time, it reached about 95 degrees and the humidity could certainly be felt.  I had not eaten or drunk anything since I woke up and was feeling a bit un-comfortable.  It was good to keep a little fast until confession and I have to say that my heart was full but I needed to find a little something to drink and so I did.  It is fortunate that there are endless places for this right out of the square.  I had three worldly goals that day; 1) buy soap, 2) buy a candle and 3) buy some flowers.  The first was easily accomplished as I stopped at a place outside the square that sells many this’s and that’s made by various monastic orders from around Italy.  I bought some very manly-smelling soap made by Trappist monks somewhere up north and felt that contemporary sense of moral goodness that comes from buying organic and went out into the Roman sun.

Shade is a great friend on such days and I have become quite adept at finding the shade.  It isn’t that hard once mid-day has passed as there are many buildings around the city and so you find the shady side (I look so forward to the day when, “The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat.” Rev. 7:16) and walk close to the buildings.  I walked back a different way than  I came so as to go through and old part of the city and come to the Campo de’ Fiori, another one of the more famous squares (it’s more of a rectangle) in Rome.  It was a bit sad as most shops were closed for the August holiday.  I don’t begrudge them vacation but there are many art shops and other like places along those roads.

They are also very old roads with many of the old buildings.

Via dei Cappellari

Via dei Cappellari

I made particularly sure to walk down the Via dei Cappellari, which comes right into the Campo de’ Fiori and has this tavern right near the end.

Crusader Pug

I hope to one day to have a drink at the Crusader Pub, just to what it is like.

Campo de' Fiori

Campo de’ Fiori

While the Campo de’ Fiori was full of happy people, there were no flowers (fiori is Italian for flowers) and I suppose this made sense as it was about 13:30 and quite hot so I suppose that, if there had been any flowers, they would have wilted out in the heat so long.  I thought I might search a couple of the local markets for some spirits and came to learn that Italians apparently do not have any affinity for bourbon so out I went back to the streets heading back to the Piazza Navona so that I might eat and then visit St. Agnese in Agone.

Very near the square, almost on it but not quite, the is a restaurant called 4 Colonne that had caught my eye a couple of years ago and has been highly reviewed by the Roman restaurant critics.  Previously the expatriates I was with that it would surely be ‘too touristy’ because it was so close to Navona.  Indeed, I  have found that, while there is truth to the clear tourist restaurants that only the expatriates – the long standing tourists – complain about touristy restaurants.  Here is a little secret: there are nice restaurants near the famous places too.  Why?  Because the beautiful places are beautiful to both locals and tourists, why shouldn’t the locals want to eat while looking at something beautiful.

So in I went and found a beautiful place.  It was small and very clean with high walls and simple decor that was an interesting combination of classic and contemporary feel.  Outside was a small deck with only about seven or so tables and from where I sat I could look out and see about half the Piazza Navona, including the great fountain in the middle.  It as shaded and a light breeze was going which made for a comfortable place.  Plus, it is just off the square and so it was rather more quiet.  I read from the fiction I am currently enjoying and had a lovely lunch.  It was excellent!  The table setting was classic yet un-complicated the service was the best I have ever had in Rome and until that moment I had no idea how good carbonara could be.  The only thing that could have been more pleasant would have been good friends about.

When lunch was finished, it was a little after 15:45 I walked through the square and went into St. Agnese in Agone, visited or Lord in the Tabernacle and then went to the back chapel which contains the skull of St. Agnes.  I must confess that I find the church of her burial, the basilica of St. Agnese fuori la Mura, to be a much more consoling place and easier to pray.   But I wanted to greet my little saint – some have heard me say that, while I am completely celibate I do have a girlfriend, St. Agnes, who always does something to help me out or make me smile.  There are always so many people who come in to see the great dome of the basilica and wander about that it is not easy to pray there, so I visited Our Lord who remains where He belongs, dead center in the sanctuary of the church, and then to visit St. Agnes’ relics and ask her help in keeping a pure heart and chaste life.

It is a beautiful thing too when you step out of that church as you open right on to the great Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini.

Fountain of the Four Rivers

Fountain of the Four Rivers

From there it is not far back to the Pantheon.  I hoped the Vodaphone store might be open and I could finish the work to obtain a cell-phone but it was not so, another time.  I did wander about some shops and look at many of the fun things but had no intent to buy.  What a great area of Rome I live in, in the picture below you see the Pantheon just on the right and straight ahead the street that leads up the the Piazza San Igancio and then to the Casa Santa Maria.

My mother had suggested I go pray by St. Aloysius and so I thought to do so.  It didn’t take long to get to the church of San Ignacio (St. Ignatius) which does not have the relics of St. Ignatius but rather the bodies of St. Robert Bellarmine, St. John Berchmanns and St. Aloysius Gonzaga.  I love this church, above the central nave is a painting that represents the evangelization of the world, there is an amazing side chapel of the Crucifixion, the Tabernacle remains in the center of a beautiful sanctuary and just off in the right side transept is the altar of St. Aloysius under which is his body.  I sat down to do my afternoon mental prayer there.  It was a bit difficult as the church as quite humid and I forgot that the late afternoon is particularly full of visitors and so it was a bit distracting with all the goings on.

Nonetheless it was good to be there and pray and after the time of mental prayer go to the Marian chapel to say my Rosary.  It all made for a great sense of peace in my heart, my mind and my soul.  I walked out into the beautiful square, which I have tried to capture in photos – it is an amazing baroque square and only about three blocks away from the Casa Santa Maria and two blocks from the Pantheon.

Look outside the front of San Ignacio

Look outside the front of San Ignacio

Facade of San Ignacio

Facade of San Ignacio

San Ignacio on the right, road to my house straight ahead.

San Ignacio on the right, road to my house straight ahead.

By the time I was walking home I thought, why not head up the the Trevi Fountain, it’s not far from my house and I might check out the stores in between.  What great idea that was!  True, it was hot and the day was getting long.  All around me were the red and glistening faces of the tourists who had been running all around holy Rome and, no matter how much shade you might find, it wears on a person, a day of walking everywhere up and down the hills in the heat and humidity.  I was so amazingly pleased at the following:

1)  There are all kinds of super-neat stores that sell all sorts of stuff I was looking for!

2)  Rome is full of stores selling terrible liquor and finally I found two, less than a block away that sell the good ones!

3) The Trevi Fountain is about three minutes away from my front door!  Sure, it is packed with people all of the time, but it is really very beautiful and a fun place to be.

What a day, and by now it was after 17:00 and I was feeling rather tired.  I walked back home and took a long, cold shower.  After that I made some coffee – needed to stay away until at least 21:30 – and read from my novel.  I had a lovely Skype with the Fassino’s and my parents, started writing this post and then went to bed.

Laus Deo, I slept for the first time in ten days!  Seriously, I have had a terrible time sleeping and last night I slept  twelve and a half hours!  Today has been a very smooth day – prayer, Mass, a short walk, lunch, reading, typing, about to Skype with some friends.

All thanks to the good work of my parents and some particular enouragement from my Mom.  Thank you, I love you!

Listen to your mother, things might work out, at least if she is as good as my Mom!  So many beautiful things are all around us.  True, Rome has things more famous and many saints, but I bet there are beautiful things near you as well.

Buon Domenica to you all, I love you from my priestly heart all the way from felix Roma!

(sorry if there are spelling/grammar errors, I did’t edit the post.)

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.

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.