Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Auguri!

A few weekends ago, it was time to party....Italian style! Over the past few years, I have gotten to know an Italian family who, in their own words, tell me that their house is always open! And I believe it! Last spring when my family was visiting, they had all of us over for dinner one evening. With other guests, we totaled 17...and we all fit around the table.

This year, Fabrizio and Emanuela are celebrating their 25th Wedding Anniversary. So I joined them and their family and about 200 other guests to celebrate! I was full after the antipasti (appetizers) but gathered all my strength to make it through the pasta course and onto the dolci (desserts - there were 5!) Of course, there was plenty of wine and prosecco to go around as well. The Italians might not be all that good at bureaucracy, but they sure know how to throw a good party!


With my Italian Mom and Dad

Fr. Antonio and Fr. Loris joined us as well  

The happy couple

From last year

The whole family

ALL the family
 Ciao!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Community Gita

Well, it's that time of year again.  Classes start (finally) on Monday (yes, that would be October 6.)  Rome is on its own schedule!  So, as one last hurrah, the Seminary Community took a "gita" (like a field trip) to Monte Cassino and Casamari.  Now, some of you might be thinking, "Didn't Bob go to Monte Cassino already?"  The answer is "yes."  But it's always good for a refresher after a few years.  So, here goes...

Montecassino is the sight where St. Benedict founded a monastery around the year 529.  He is considered the Father of Western Monasticism, and his Rule of Life has been guiding religious orders for nearly 1500 years.  (Fr. Chaminade based the Marianist Rule of Life on Benedict's!)  Unfortunately, the site has had some problems...sacked by the Lombards, then the Saracens, destroyed by an earthquake, attacked by Napoleon, and bombed by the Allies during World War II (using bad information, they thought the German army had sought refuge there.  However, it was really the monks and townspeople.)  But after each catastrophe, the monks have rebuilt the abbey.  Today, it is a replication of what was there before WWII.  So, here's some pictures from the day.

The Basilica at the Monastery

The inside of the Basilica - very Baroque.  The tombs of St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica are in the main altar.

We had mass in a crypt chapel under the main altar, where the tombs of St. Benedict St. Scholastica were originally placed.

Inside of the Basilica

What is thought to be St. Benedict's room.  He probably finished writing his Rule of Life here.  I really like this room.

"Monte" means "mount."  As we were driving up, we got above the fog.

The view of the modern city of Cassino.

At the monastery garden.

Part of the cloister.

Heading up to the monastery and basilica.

Monastery in the background.

The Polish Cemetery from World War II.  Over 1000 Polish soldiers are buried here.

A statue commemorating the death of St. Benedict, probably in this spot.

St. Scholastica

The box that originally contained the bones of the two saints.

The present day tomb of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica


Then we headed off to Casamari to a Cistercian Abbey.  They are the same group that is found in Kentucky at Gethsemane Abbey.  Also, the don't talk much, and they pray at all hours of the day (including 3 in the morning!)  The foundation of this Abbey dates from the 11th century.  We listened to the monks chant "Nones" (prayer in the afternoon) and then had a tour from the Abbot.  Hope you enjoy these pictures.

The inside of the church - very different from Monte Cassino

The outside of the church.

You can find ruins everywhere.

The parish festival is this weekend, so the piazza was decorated.

Inside the cloister.

The monks' refectory (dining hall)

Doorway leading into the cloister.

The monastery library.


Bro. Armando trying out the monks' technology.
Window of St. Robert of Molesme, one of the Cistercian founders.

Ciao!



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Discipleship and Basketball

A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the 26th Week of Ordinary Time
October 1, 2014, Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus
Job 9: 1-12, 14-16; Ps 88; Lk 9:57-62

As many of you know, last year the University of Dayton Mens Basketball Team played very well in the NCAA Tournament, making it to the Elite Eight. For two weeks, it's all Sean and I talked about. Some placed signs (I 'heart' UD) by their doors. 



UD made national headlines. Fans traveled all over the country to watch them play. But, their tournament success didn't reflect the whole season. In the middle of the season, the team was losing. They were disorganized and not playing well. Fans were losing confidence and getting discouraged. But, then, something happened. The team had a change of attitude which was described in UD Magazine as a “'True Team' dedication, when starting pride took a backseat to an all-in enthusiasm and unwavering faith in one another.” In the end, this “all-in” attitude was important for their success. This all-in attitude helped to turn things around.



So, what does UD basketball have to do with the path of discipleship? In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus (our coach) invite us (the team) to this same dedication and “all-in” attitude. He says that disciples will have no place to rest, “Let the dead bury the dead,” and there is no time to say farewell to your family. Jesus isn't being mean or unrealistic. No. He is telling us what it means to be a disciple. It requires giving your whole self to the Reign of God. It means to make the Reign of God the sole focus of your life. It needs dedication and an “all-in” determination. There is no place for a half-disciple. (Fr. Chaminade liked to use this phrase when speaking about the religious of his foundation – there was was no place for a “half-religious.”) Jesus calls us to follow him with our whole hearts and minds and bodies – our whole self. We must be “all-in.” This is the path of discipleship.

We see this “all-in” attitude in the person of Job. All is taken away from him. His life is totally destroyed, but he doesn't give up. He remains totally dedicated to God. He acknowledges God as all-wise, all-powerful, always present. God is in control of Job's life because God is God. Job continues to trust in God against insurmountable odds. The journalist might describe Job as having “true dedication, when self interests took a backseat to an all-in enthusiasm and unwavering faith in God.” Job gave literally everything he had to God. Job was “all-in.”



We also see this in St. Theresa of Lisieux whom the church remembers today. At a young age, all she wanted to do was to dedicate her life to God as a Carmelite nun, going so far as to petition the Pope to let her join when she was only 15. Through her “little way” and with great simplicity, she trusted in God. Even in the midst of several dark nights, she remained faithful to God. At the end of her life, she offered her terrible sufferings from tuberculosis to God for the salvation of the world. She, like Job, was totally dedicated to her mission. She was “all-in.”



Dear friends, discipleship requires that we give our all, that we give all of our selves to the path and mission of Jesus, that we are “all-in”. It is not easy. It can be quite difficult. But it is what Jesus asks of us, and it is the path that will lead us to new life and freedom. And so today, you are left to answer for yourself: Will you follow Jesus with your whole heart and being? Will you be “all-in?”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blessed Martyrs of Ciudad Real



September, 1936. The Spanish civil war was spreading across the country, and the "red terror" (an anti-church campaign) saw many clergy killed by firing squad. Marianist brother Jesus Hita had recently been assigned to Ciudad Real. On the morning of 25 September, he was arrested at the boarding house in which he was staying. That evening, he was driven outside the city and shot in front of the walls of the cemetery. Later, his body was thrown into an abandoned well. One week earlier, a similar scene had been played out with the death of Bro. Carlos EraƱa. Three weeks later, it was repeated with Bro. Fidel Fuidio. Their crimes: being Religious.


Today we remember and celebrate our Brother-Martyrs from Ciudad Real. Jesus, Carlos, and Fidel, and others who, while not officially recognized by the Church, shared their same fate. As I read their biographies, I was struck by their "normal" lives. We could easily call them just regular Marianist Brothers. They were good teachers and community members. They were faithful to their vows and were doing the best they could. Perhaps, there was nothing extraordinary about them - no mystical visions or ascetic penances. I imagine that if they were seminarians they would fit in well, and we could relate to them. Carlos and Fidel had difficulty learning a new language. Jesus was anxious and serious, but always helpful. Fidel didn't like math, but loved jokes. Normal, simple, practical, ordinary Brothers.


But, in the end, when asked by God, they did something very un-ordinary, something extraordinary. Given the circumstances in Spain at the time, they must have known that death was just around the corner, but they didn't flee. They continued their educational work, basing their lives on complete trust and faith in God, living life in the Spirit. And it is for this faith of their whole hearts and lives that we remember them today.


The lives of our Brothers and their acts of faith are reflected in the mass readings given for their feast. St. Paul reminds us that "we have a treasure in earthen vessels so that the immensity of the power is God's and not our own" (2Cor 4:7). Pots made of clay are fragile and easily broken. Like them, we too are weak. We will struggle and not always be as strong as we would like. But at the same time, it is a reminder that God is ultimately in control, it is in God that we find our strength and victory. Our Blessed Martyrs show us that even when we are weak, God is strong. God has the power to give us new life even when others try to take it away. As we place more and more trust in the God who can save us, our life grows more abundant.

St. Matthew speaks of a time of great trial. But he also says that the Holy Spirit will come to the hearer's aid in how they should speak and act (cf Mt 10:19-20). It is told that just before Blessed Fidel was shot, he cried out, "Long live Christ the King!" Just as the Holy Spirit came to the aid of the Martyrs, she will come to our help. The Holy Spirit can increase our faith as we listen more closely to her gentle whispers. The Spirit gives us comfort and hope by helping us be people of faith in the Christ who is King.


Dear Friends, we have before us today our Blessed Martyrs: Carlos, Jesus and Fidel. Let us pray that we might heed their example, not as martyrs ourselves, but as witnesses to strong faith and life in the Spirit in our very ordinary experiences. Let us pray that Mary might help us on this journey so that we too might be counted among our beloved Blesseds.

+++++++

Today, our Marianist communities also remember Bro. Miguel Angel Quiroga.  He was a young Marianist Brother from Columbia who was killed in 1998 by para-military forces while he was defending the rights of a group of peasants who were traveling to a festival.  May he, with our Blessed Martyrs, pray for us!



Ciao!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Two new saints

So, I made a game-time decision this morning.  I decided at 8:30 to head towards (I won't say "to" because...you'll see why) the Vatican.  Today was the Canonization Mass for two Popes: John XXIII who is most famous for opening the Second Vatican Council and John Paul II who is most famous for being himself.

For the past week, the city has been nuts - more people than normal, tour buses all over the place, and tour groups - all with matching scarves and a leader holding an umbrella up in the air. 

I was at St. John Lateran on Saturday, and I've never seen it this crowded.

St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome (aka the Pope) getting into the spirit.
So, probably against my better judgment and prudence, I decided to head across town to see what I could see.  Of course, the public transportation was a zoo because so many streets were closed.  And for security reasons, the nearest subway stop was closed.  I was able to get to the center of the city, and then walk towards the Vatican.  Actually, it wasn't all that bad

I knew getting into St. Peter's Square was out of the question.  On Saturday, people had started camping out around the Vatican.  (Unfortunately, Rome had a thunderstorm and downpour yesterday evening.) And on the bus, a woman told me that the Square opened at 5:00am, and by 7:00am it and Via della Concilizatione (the street that goes into the Square) were totally full.

Bro. Sean was in the Square Saturday and snapped this picture.



The Square and Via della Conciliazione at 6am (from the Vatican News).

My only hope was to find a spot with a big screen tv.  After scoping out some options and wrangling through the crowd, I found just what I was looking for.  I was on Ponte degli Angeli, a bridge over the Tevere River, and off in the distance there was a jumbo screen.  Not the most ideal of situations, but also not all that bad.  I plopped myself next to some Polish nuns - seemed appropriate for the day.

Making my way through the crowd.


On the Ponte degli Angeli (with Castel Sant'Angelo in the distance)

Believe it or not, the view was better than it looks.
And this view was nice.

It was almost like I was in the Square (sort of).


One thing that impresses me at these big Vatican ordeals is the sound system.  We had a great audio feed where we were.  You could hear the Pope and the choir just fine.  So, let's get ready to make some saints.  (The pictures are a little small, but you'll think that you were there!)

Enter Benedict.

It rained for about 10 minutes.

Enter the Bishops

Enter Francis.

Seeing double - Francis and Benedict together.


The canonization ritual is pretty simple. After singing the Litany of the Saints and the Veni Sancti Spiritus, the head of the Congregation of Saints asks the Pope to inscribe the names of the Beatified into the Book of the Saints.  The Pope says yes, he'll do it.  And that's that!  (There's a little more pomp involved, but that's pretty much it.)  Then relics are brought forth.  Some blood of JPII was carried by a woman from Costa Rica who was cured through the pontiff's intercession.

The head of the Congregation of Saints presents the Beatified to the Pope.

The Pope accepts.


Relics are brought forward.
Then, the mass continues as normal with the Gloria.  In his homily, Francis talked about the two Popes.  He called John XXIII as the "guide who was guided" referring to his docility to the Holy Spirit in calling Vatican II.  He also talked about John Paul II's interest in the family, and recommended that we entrust families to his intercession.  All in all, the homily was under 10 minutes.  I think there's a lesson there for priests!  I left after the homily so that I could get home for lunch.  But, don't worry mom, I went to mass last night.

The homily.



Several news agencies are calling this a historic day.  Evidently, two former Popes haven't been canonized together since the Middle Ages.  And to have two living Popes celebrate the mass, well, never happens.  It was also special since I saw John Paul II when I was in Rome several years ago with my mom.  So, even with the craziness of the city, it was a good morning.  And, as always, it was good to carry all of you with me in spirit!

St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, pray for us!


Ciao!