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"'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!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pisa! Pisa!

I have learned that there are several traditions surrounding the Monday after Easter.  Here in Italy, it is a national holiday.  Some of the older Marianist Brothers call it "Emmaus Day" after the story from the Gospel of Luke where the newly risen Jesus meets two disciples on the road...the brothers recount stories of taking a 20 mile hike in the Novitiate.  Some people call it the "Monday of the Angel" because it recalls the meeting of the angel and the women who went to the tomb of Jesus (thanks Fr. Pachi for the info.)  However you want to think of the day, it's a good excuse to continue celebrating Easter.

So, in this spirit (and because it was really the only free day we could find) the community took a "gita" (trip) to Pisa - famous for its leaning tower and, evidently, tons of people!  (I think others had the same idea as we did.)  So, here are a few pictures from the day.  I hope you enjoy them.

The Duomo (Cathedral) with the Tower in the background.

Ahhh, there it is leaning.

Laugh if you want, but this is a must-have photo.

Almost there...

Bro. Les getting into the fun.

And the casual shot.

Really, no joke, the tower is leaning. (5% inclination for all you trigonometry nerds out there.) 
We had mass at Santa Caterina d'Allessandra.

I think St. Thomas Aquinas preached from here

The church was very simple, but beautiful.

Holy Monks.

Fr. Mike preaching.

Looking up the tower from inside. 

Whooooaaaa, it's leaning.  So, again, all joking aside, it was very cool to climb the steps of the tower and get a feel for how much it is leaning.

The Tower is the bell tower for the Cathedral. 

This picture was Bro. Javi's idea.

The city of Pisa.

The view of the Cathedral and Baptistry from above.

Inside the Cathedral.

The mosaic in the main apse was very nice.

This icon of Mary is popularly called "Our Lady Under the Organ" so I had to take a picture of it.  Yes, the organ pipes are just above here.

This isn't Italy unless you have the body of a saint in the church.  This is St. Ranieri, a layperson from Pisa.

Next door in a separate building is the Baptistry. 

The font.

Fr. Pachi having fun.


Sunday, April 20, 2014



by: Josef Žáček

as if all hope has been lost.

A strike of flint, 
a spark of hope, 
new fire blazing in our midst.

One light pierces the darkness
and then spreads
until all is aglow with new light,
rekindled hope.

This is the night!
Adam's sin 
gives way
to so great a Redeemer!
Work of the mother bees,
heaven weds to earth,
morning star that never sets,
hope for a broken world.

Ancient stories shared and told,
yet seem so present to us.
prophetic call,

Glory to God in the highest
sung by bells and organ.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Never again
must we forget
the refrain. 
They are our songs,
the songs
that sing out "Hope."

An empty tomb,
And then 
good news,

They say that 
water and oil
cannot mix,
but tonight
they cannot separate.
New life,
sealed in the Spirit.
We are bathed
in new water,
hope for eternal life.

Bread and wine
placed on a table,
our gift of self
is present there, too.
Now body and blood,
gifts transformed,
just as our lives
are transformed, too.

But now 
it is the tomb.
Hope is never lost,
but always found
ever anew.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Living in the In-Between

Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Holy Saturday
Easter Sunday
"Lamentation at the Tomb" icon.

I've always found Holy Saturday kind of weird.  We find ourselves in a liminal space, an in-between time.  At a spiritual level, we have remembered the death of Jesus, and he is now in the tomb.  At the same time, we know, fortunately, how the story ends.  But we can't really go to the empty tomb, yet.  It's just not the right time.  On a more personal level, our Friday of fasting and abstinence is over and we need to start making plans for the grand feast tomorrow.  But we can't really start to celebrate, yet.  It just might not seem right.  In both of these, tt just seems that we should wait.

I think that Holy Saturday is about waiting.  In the liturgical life of the Church, that's what we do - we pause and wait for a bit.  There are no liturgies today, other than the regular chanting of the psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours.  There's no morning mass or special service until the night falls.  We are invited to sit at the tomb, to see the stone still rolled in front, and just wait.  In fact, maybe that's all we can do.

"Jesus is Laid in the Tomb" by Gwyneth Leech

Friday evening, I attended a Way of the Cross with the Community of Sant'Egidio, a lay organization committed to works of justice and peace.  It took place on a hill that sits just above the Colosseum and a very busy section of the city.  The meditation began with noticing that as we prayed we would encounter the noise of the city below - the traffic, tourists, trams, ambulance sirens, and even the choir practicing for the Pope's Way of the Cross later in the evening.  But, we were also asked to encounter the noise that is within ourselves.  While we can't do anything about the incessant noise that is Rome, we can do something about the noise from within.  It was an invitation to pause and quiet ourselves so as to enter into the mysteries upon which we would reflect.

I think there is a lesson here for us on Holy Saturday.  Today is an opportunity among all the preparations for tomorrow and the daily noise we encounter every day to pause and to quiet ourselves.  Today is an invitation to sit outside the closed tomb and ponder the great mysteries which we have experienced and will still experience.

Mosaic of the burial of Jesus

The Gospel of Luke tells us the story of the boy Jesus being lost in Jerusalem and finally found in the Temple.  For three days, Mary and Joseph waited.  I can't imagine that they were too calm or quiet during those days.  But at the end of the story we are told that "Mary pondered all these things in here heart."  Mary, once again, is our model - of quieting ourselves and reflecting on our experiences in our hearts.  In her Stability, she shows us how to be quiet, to sit and ponder, to pause and take in everything that has happened.

"Mary, Seat of Wisdom" pondering.

At the Way of the Cross, the final song was quite touching, and I think it encapsulates our invitation to ponder and wait in this in-between moment.

Non piangere, Madre di Dio,                                     Do not cry, Mother of God,
presso la croce del Signore                                        standing near the cross of the Lord
e gioisci perche` egli e` risorto.                                   but rejoice because he is risen.
Nel suo corpo e` nascosto                                         In his body is hidden
tutto il riscatto e la salvezza                                        all the redemption and salvation
d'ogni uomo.                                                             of every person.

Blessed Triduum, my dear friends.