Friday, September 25, 2009

Chiesa Nuova and the Pantheon

Just a few pictures from our excursion yesterday to Casa Santa Maria. The "churchy" pics are from St. Philip Neri's Chiesa Nuova; the other two are of the Pantheon (formerly a Roman temple to all the gods, now a Catholic church). Sunday I'm off to Lourdes for a 3 day "mini-pilgrimage."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

This One's For You, Mom!

Above is a picture of the tomb of St. Monica located in the Church of St. Augustine in Rome. As we all know, St. Monica endured many years of pain and heartache as her son, Augustine, lived a very pagan and, by most accounts, rather dissolute lifestyle, even siring an illegitimate son he named Adeodatus (meaning "given by God"). We are told that St. Monica prayed ceaselessly for almost 30 years for the conversion of her son. We know well how St. Monica was rewarded by God! Augustine didn't just convert to the Catholic faith but became one of her greatest disciples, theologians, scholars, bishops, doctors of the Church, saints. What a grand witness to faithfulness is St. Monica, especially when all seems hopeless.

While I hope I did not cause my mother quite the same pain and heartache as St. Augustine caused his mother, I knelt at St. Monica's tomb and prayed that Mom, like St. Monica, would be rewarded one day for her maternal love and care. As Mom always reminds me, "No matter how old you are, I am still your mother!" Somehow I have to imagine St. Augustine may have heard the same thing from time to time! May God reward each of our mothers for giving us life and nurturing that earthly life unto life everlasting! Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Casa Santa Maria

We're off on another field trip today! We're headed to the Casa Santa Maria where American priests live while they're pursuing graduate degrees here in Rome. On the way, we're scheduled to visit the Chiesa Nuova (St. Philip Neri's church and where he is buried). We also swing by the church where St. Monica (St. Augustine's mom) is buried to pray for our mothers. We also tour the Gregorian University (run by the Jesuits and where many of the seminarians at the PNAC take courses) and the Biblicum. Looks like a full day of Roman site-seeing and adventure!

"Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church!"

Well, I must admit that my brother priest, Father Matthew Huehlefeld (pastor of St. Joseph Church in Yoakum, Texas) was correct when he told me that the scavi (excavations of the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica) would be the highpoint of my visit to the Eternal City! It is almost impossible to put into words one's thoughts and feelings as one stands at the tomb of St. Peter and gaze upon the bones of The Fisherman...the man chosen by our Lord Himself to be His Vicar on earth; the Rock upon whom the Catholic Church is built; the lowly disciple whose life, teachings, and martyrdom won him the crown of the Prince of the Apostles. The man (after our Lord Himself, of course) who has brought countless generations (almost 1.3 billion Catholics in the world today...and I think most of them were in St. Peter's Square today for the Holy Father's audience!) to Christ and their salvation almost 2,000 years later through the ministry of the 264 Bishops of Rome who have followed him in an uninterrupted and unbroken (despite the many things the world has and continues to throw at it!) apostolic succession; all so that man could one day live in total and complete friendship with God!! If this does not show forth the Hand of God in human history, I don't know what will!
The photo above shows a replica of St. Peter's tomb as discovered under the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica when excavations began in the 1940's.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fr. Donald Hayden, O.SS.T.

I just received word of the death of Father Donald Hayden, O.SS.T. before concelebrating Holy Mass with the PNAC community this Sunday morning. I was terribly saddened. Father Donald was my associate for a time several years ago and I always found Father Donald to be a wonderful housemate...kind, thoughtful, spirited, very positive in nature...a real joy with whom to live. It is my earnest prayer that he rest in peace until the day when Christ calls us all to Himself. Requiescant in pace.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ora et Labora

What a truly wonderful day at the abbey of Monte Cassino, the site where both St. Benedict and St. Scholastica are buried! We celebrated Holy Mass next to their tombs...more on that in another post. The photos above include 1) the decorated spot behind the main altar in the abbey basilica marking the tomb (below the altar) containing both St. Benedict and St. Scholastica; 2) the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the abbey basilica; 3) view from the entrance to the abbey basilica; 4) the steps leading to the abbey basilica; and 5) the entrance to the abbey itself (note the window above the large was St. Benedict's very own cell, now a chapel).
As most of you know from history, the Monte Cassino abbey was destroyed 3 times during its history; the latest and most devastating attack by the Allied Forces during WWII. They mistakenly thought the Germans were occupying it and using it to defend the valley below. The Allied Forces bombed the abbey destroying almost everything you see in these pictures except St. Benedict's cell and a few other parts. The abbey was totally rebuilt (as faithful as possible to what had existed there before) in sixteen years upon the completion of WWII.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Castel Sant'Angelo at Night

A beautiful view of Castel Sant'Angelo from a PNAC balcony at night. For a better nighttime view, click here.

Staying Busy!

We have almost finished our first full week of the sabbatical. How time flies! Before leaving for Rome, I was asked by many, "Father, what will you do the whole time?" Well, by way of illustration let me tell you what we've done and what we will be doing next week.

Tomorrow morning we finish our first week-long theological presentation given by Father John Fuellenbach, SVD. His topic has been "Following the Lord," an examination of Jesus' requirements of discipleship (primarily taken from St. Mark's gospel). Saturday morning we're going to Monte Cassino for the day where we will celebrate Holy Mass at the tomb of St. Benedict, the father of Western monasticism.

Next week, our theological presentations include "Eastern Christianity" by Father Bernard J. O'Connor from the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches; "Vatican II Commentary" by Father Wojciech Giertych, OP, Theologian of the Papal Household; "Christian Art & Architecture" by Liz Lev of Duquesne and John Cabot Universities; and "Orientation to Catholic Rome" by Msgr. Daniel Mueggenborg, Vice Rector for Administration of the Pontifical North American College.

Next week we will also tour the SCAVI below Saint Peter's Basilica and do a tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. We will end the week with a day at Casa Santa Maria where many U.S. priests live while pursuing graduate degrees in various theological disciplines. Our day at Casa Santa Maria will include a visit to the tombs of St. Monica and St. Philip Neri (sometimes referred to as "the second Apostle of Rome") which are near the Casa Santa Maria. We will also tour both the Gregorian University and Biblicum, also near the Casa.

So, as you can see, we stay busy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Roman Colosseum

Obviously, these are photos of the quite famous Colosseum here in Rome. It is truly amazing what human beings were able to accomplish without heavy earth-moving equipment, computers, or iPhones!! Imagine?!

Saturday's Tour of the Forum and Colosseum

A few photos from our walking tour of the Forum and the Colosseum this morning. These are from the Forum itself.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Holy Mass at the Confessio

Today we celebrated Holy Mass near the tomb of St. Peter and right next to the tomb of Pope John Paul II in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica (actually the first floor of the first basilica built by the Emperor Constantine who legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire). I didn't take any photos...much too unseemly in such a sacred place, I felt. But to celebrate Holy Mass so near the Prince of the Apostles (the Rock on whom Jesus built our church) and his 264th successor was quite something indeed!! No doubt the experience will always be one of the highlights of my priesthood!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chair of Peter

These are two photos of the Chair of Peter reliquary from our tour of St. Peter's Basilica today. We had a truly EXCELLENT guide, Liz Lev, who teaches Roman art & architecture to the seminarians here at the NAC. What this woman knows about Roman history...amazing! Anyway, the reliquary contains the wooden chair used by St. Peter before his martyrdom in 64 A.D. I didn't take many other photos since most people have seen photos of the outside of St. Peter's and inside the basilica was crammed with people...not much walking space as the chairs were all set up for an ordination of Italian bishops coming up this weekend.

Seminary Life

Just in case you were wondering what life can be like in the seminary, here are a couple of photos of my room at the NAC. And the most important part...the food is wonderful! Nothing fancy but basic Italian, for sure. Lots of pasta, veggies, and fresh fruit...oh yeah, and wine with every meal (except "colazione"...breakfast)

More NAC Photos

The first photo above is the inner courtyard at the NAC. The 48 orange trees were planted to represent each of the 48 states in the Union (when they were planted there was no Hawaii or Alaska yet and, unfortunately, there is no room for two more trees!). The "Crown of Thorns" fountain in the middle of the courtyard was donated by Cardinal Cushing.
The second photo is the sculptural relief outside the Immaculate Conception chapel here at the NAC. It was donated to the college by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in memory of Cardinal Dougherty.
The third photo is the view of the dome of St. Peter's from another balcony here at the NAC.
Today we go to St. Peter's Basilica for a tour. Part of our group has already left to climb to the top of the cupola. Since I don't care to die in Rome, I'm waiting for the "on ground" portion of the tour! Tomorrow we return to St. Peter's Basilica (a 20 minute walk from the NAC) for Holy Mass in the crypt; then we pose for our group picture at the obelisk.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Photos from the NAC Balcony

Here are a couple of the photos I promised...from the view off the balcony at the NAC. In the first picture you can see the dome of St. Peter's peeking through the trees just above the roof line. In the second photo you can see the Castel Sant'Angelo (also known as Hadrian's Mausoleum).


Well, I've arrived safe & sound! No problems with airlines, flight schedules or baggage. Everything arrived in Rome just as it was supposed to. It's a bit eerie being back in a seminary setting...thought those days were behind me! But I think I'm relaxing already...or maybe that's just jet-lag at this point! We've just been told that enrollment here at the North American College this fall term is at 225 seminarians...the largest enrollment here since 1946! Praise God!! Maybe all those prayers for vocations are actually paying off?! Haven't had the chance to take any pictures yet but will be posting some soon. It's wonderful to go out on the balcony and look out upon the Castel Sant' Angelo and to see Michelangelo's great dome atop St. Peter's Basilica peeking through the trees just over the roof lines! I think I'm really going to enjoy this sabbatical!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Catholic Plan

This has nothing to do with my sabbatical or Italy, but this short video bears watching as some awfully interesting things have been occurring since January.