Friday, October 30, 2009

St. Mary Major and Shiner

One most likely would never consider that there is a connection between The Liberian Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, Italy and Shiner, Texas but there is...of a sort!

As we all know, the two Greek brothers who came to be known as Cyril and Methodius, are called the Apostles to the Slavs because of their evangelization and catechesis of the Slavic peoples. To accomplish this great task of evangelization and catechesis, Cyril and Methodius were responsible for the development of an alphabet and the translations of things like sacred scripture, theological and philosophical texts, and even the Latin Rite's Roman liturgy into the Slavonic language. It was not licit at the time for Holy Mass to be celebrated in the Latin Rite in any language other than Latin. So, Cyril and Methodius eventually made their way to Rome to see the Holy Father and ask for permission to celebrate Holy Mass using the Slavonic language. There was much opposition to this and at times, Cyril and Methodius were confronted with accusations of heresy.

However, in 869 A.D., Cyril and Methodius received the necessary permission from Pope Adrian II, who signed the edict of permission in Cyril and Methodius' presence in the Basilica of St. Mary Major! Almost simultaneously, Pope Adrian II ordained both Cyril and Methodius as bishops. Cyril never left Rome, dying later that same year. However, Methodius returned to missionary work amongst the Slavs.

Saints Cyril and Methodius are the patron saints of our parish in Shiner and so, we in Shiner, have a connection to the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome!

The photos above show a plaque in the baptistry at St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome commemorating Pope Adrian II's edict (signed in the basilica) in the presence of Cyril and Methodius. By the way, Saints Cyril and Methodius are not buried at St. Mary Major Basilica, rather they are interred at San Clemente Church here in Rome.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Liturgical Music and Film

I subscribe to First Things magazine and hope I'm not breaking any copyright laws; but I wanted to share this piece from the August/September 2009 issue:

"Jeffrey Tucker [not sure who this gentleman is?] notes that watching Angels and Demons wasn't an altogether unpleasant experience. The movie had a better sense of liturgical music than most Catholic parishes:

'Actually, the real reason I like to see any film in which the Catholic Church is featured prominently concerns the music. Let's just say that "On Eagles' Wings" is never featured at a Catholic funeral on film. And it pleases me to see confirmed that even the most secular parts of the industrial media sector understand what sacred music probably sounds like. Sure enough, this movie opens with the Introit of the Requiem Mass playing at the funeral. Indeed, whenever there is a need to call forth some sense of solemn liturgy, a modal piece comes on featuring vague outlines of Kyrie Eleison and Agnus Dei. There were several peoples' chants featured here and there--probably more than most parishes hear in the course of one liturgical year, sad to say.'

Sad to say indeed, but it all comes down to how you view the Church. If the Catholic Church is a large institution full of tradition, majesty, and mystery, the music one associates with it will reflect that. Whether or not that mystery is redolent with Illuminati conspiracy or the source of grace and truth, it nonetheless exists and will be reflected in the art associated with the deep traditions of Christianity. But if mystery and tradition are thrown away, there is no reason to have majesty in art. Gather us in on eagles' wings because the whole thing is just about us and our experiences, not anything deeper.

Of course Ron Howard knows that that's not true. But it would be nice if more Catholics did, too."


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


A large, vibrant, exciting, eclectic, fascinating city...the capital of Spain, Madrid! We spent one whole day in the Museo Nacional del Prado...truly an amazing and outstanding collection (I'm told it's one of the best in the world!) of art ranging from the 14th to 19th centuries. Stunning collections of El Greco, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velasquez, Murrillo, Goya, and perhaps my favorite, Ribera. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed (I think they want you to buy the books in the museum store!). We also attempted a day at the Reina Sophia Museum; however, it's all very modern art and I couldn't quite stomach more than an hour or so. Although I did spend 20 minutes or so gawking at Picasso's famous Guernica??? Anyway, Madrid has much to see and do...beautiful parks, amazing architecture, delicious paellas (y otras comidas muy sabrosas!), intoxicating sangrias, and much, much more. Quite an experience...Madrid!

Las Floras de La Alhambra

The Generalife gardens at the Alhambra had such beautiful gardens that I couldn't help taking a few floral shots. I'm thinking of publishing a coffee table book!

The Jewel in the Spanish Crown

Surely, Toledo is my favorite Spanish city! It is like stepping back into the 13th and 14th centuries!! Every turn of a corner brings a new feast for the eyes and it only gets better as night falls. Te quiero much, Toledo!!

Tu es Petrus!

"On this Rock I will build My Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it."
These words tumbled through my mind as we saw the 265th Vicar of Christ today in general audience. This is extremely reassuring in difficult and uncertain times (when is the world not in "difficult and uncertain times"?). Perhaps that's precisely why our Lord created the Petrine office in and for the Church. It's all part of His not leaving us like sheep without a shepherd. We have no need to fear the wolves...who or whatever they may be! His Holiness, Pope Benedict multos annos!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Que Hermosa...Espana!!

Avila...Salamanca...Sevilla...Granada...Toledo...Madrid...certainly a whirlwind tour of southern Spain but oh how marvelous a whirlwind it was of an extremely beautiful country!! I can't begin to describe how grand and wonderful Spain old, yet so modern; tremendously friendly people; deliciously exotic food; so much history (both ecclesiastical and civil); a true feast for the eyes!!! I took so many pictures I hardly know where to begin posting. These are just a few of the photos I took...hopefully they will give you a feel for the wonder that is Spain! So most definitely, if the opportunity ever presents itself, be sure to include Espana on any future travel itineraries!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Arriverderci, Roma...Hola, Espana!

This will be my last post for about 10 days as I leave in the morning for a "vacation" in Spain. Flying from Rome to Madrid, renting a car, and driving around southern Spain for 10 days! Looking forward to it very much since I've never been to Spain before. Might even get to use my Spanish a bit, something which doesn't happen in Shiner (or Italy, for that matter) very much! After I return to Rome from Spain, it won't be long before I come home (about 3 weeks)...something to which I am more and more looking forward. So, we'll talk again when I return from Spain...and hopefully have a lot of pictures to post!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rainbow over the Eternal City!

"When the bow is in the clouds I shall see it and call to mind the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth, that is, all living things." (Gn 9:16)

And so, after class this evening, this is the rainbow that greeted us as we returned to our rooms. It also marks a drastic change in the temperature! A front has blown through and the temperature has dropped from close to 80 down to around 50. Fall has definitely arrived in Rome! Good thing I'm headed to the south of Spain on Thursday.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"Credo in...sanctorum communionem"

"I believe in the...communion of saints." Today Pope Benedict XVI canonized five new saints! About the "communion of saints, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself (#957).

And so, today we ask St. Zygmunt Felinski, St. Francis Coll y Guitart, St. Joseph Damien de Veuster, St. Raphael Baron, and St. Mary of the Cross (Jeanne) Jugan to better join us to Christ!

All holy men and women, pray for us!

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Mentality of Sterility"

Came across this most interesting and thought-provoking article. What a prophet Pope Paul VI was in Humanae Vitae!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"When the Moon Hits Your Eye...!"

Remember Dean Martin? I'm really dating myself...but on the terrace tonight I couldn't help humming to myself "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore." Yes, Rome has a harvest moon, too...and what a really beautiful site tonight as we get ready for the ordination of about 25 PNAC deacons tomorrow at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, MO will be the ordaining prelate. We've been invited to concelebrate the Mass.
So, I don't know if the moon really hits your eye like a big pizza pie (when experiencing "amore") but it certainly portends a great harvest of new, young priests for our church in America. A few more workers for the vineyard of the Lord!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Catacombs of Priscilla

This morning we toured the Catacombs of Priscilla and then celebrated Holy Mass (in the chapel in the above photo). It is always amazing to walk through the catacombs, the burial places of so many first century Christians. It turns out that seven popes and many cardinals and bishops were also buried here. What's truly wonderful about the catacombs of Priscilla is the first and second century artwork (we were not allowed to take pictures), so most definitely add the catacombs of Priscilla to your next Roman itinerary!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Padre Nostro

Ever wonder what the "Our Father" is in Italian? Well, I didn't think so! But here it is anyway:

Padre nostro, che sei nei cieli, sia santificato il tuo nome, venga il tuo regno, sia fatta la tua volonta come in cielo cosi in terra. Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano, e rimetti a noi i nostri debiti come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori, e non ci indurre in tentazione, ma liberaci dal male. Amen.

And how about the "Hail Mary"?

Ave, o Maria, piena di grazia, il Signore e con te. Tu sei benedetta fra le donne e benedetto e il frutto del tuo seno, Gesu. Santa Maria, Madre di Dio, prega per noi peccatori, adesso e nell' ora della nostra morte. Amen.

And finally:

Gloria al Padre e al Figlio e allo Spirito Santo. Come era nel principio, e ora e sempre nei secoli dei secoli. Amen.

There...your free Italian lesson for the day! Buon giorno!


I had the most interesting experience in Lourdes! No, unfortunately I experienced no physical healing; but upon reflection I am truly amazed. You see...I was with about 150 Italian pilgrims, so the entire pilgrimage was in Italian...of which I barely understand a word or two. All the directions, all the prayers, all the Masses...everything was in Italian. Yes, I was with another English-speaking priest and we did find one couple from New York on the pilgrimage with us, too, but other than that...everything was in a language I really didn't understand. To top it all off, we were in France so we were surrounded by French speakers, signs in French, etc. Again, I barely know a word or two of French! So, in effect, I spent three days hearing a lot of talking and reading a lot of signs but not able to understand a word of it. I said, more than once on the pilgrimage, "Huh?"

Well, as it turns out, it was an amazing experience. Words did not get in the way of the experience! In fact, I slowly discovered that not understanding a word of what was usually being said made me really sensitive to the actual experience of what was going enter into the experiences more deeply, one might say. For example, I had the great honor of concelebrating Holy Mass at the Grotto in Lourdes. The main celebrant was an Italian bishop. The entire Mass was in Italian...the readings, the prayers, the bishop's homily...everything. Yet, right behind me was the spring of water that the Blessed Mother had caused to spring from the rocks. I could hear it flowing throughout the whole Mass. I found myself reflecting on the "life-giving" water that flowed from our Lord's most Sacred Heart as He hung upon the cross...the very same action we were "re-experiencing" in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I'm pretty certain that had I been trying to "listen" to all the words, I would never have "listened" so deeply to the experience. It was pretty amazing!

This same thing happened time and again. As we participated in the Eucharistic Procession at the Shrine...again everything was in Italian. Since I couldn't concentrate on the meaning of the words, I could better appreciate the experience. I could better "enter into" the Real Presence of our Lord and the looks on peoples' faces as they gazed upon the monstrance was worth more than a thousand words! Again, during the candlelight Rosary Procession that same evening, I understood very few of the words (the prayers were offered in what must have been 20 or 30 languages...oh how I felt at home when I heard "Zdravas Maria"!!!) but could better appreciate what we were doing.

As most of you know, I have a love for the traditional Latin Mass. How often I hear, "But, Father, we don't understand Latin." Don't get me wrong, words and their meaning are very important...BUT, I think more and more that they really tend to get in the way almost more than they help. Consider how most of our deepest and most meaningful experiences in life find no words that can adequately describe them. It's not the words that matter, it's the experience. I think of this often when I think of the Apostles and our Lord. How little they really understood of what He said (how often we don't really understand!). But, their experience of the Lord is what sent them into the world to proclaim the Good News! I certainly would never advocate that everything we do should be accompanied by words we don't understand...but there are times when our words do not work too well. More and more, I'm feeling that this is so true of Holy Mass where we stand at the foot of the Cross and "experience" our Lord's ineffable Love for us.

Lourdes was truly an amazing experience...for many reasons. But, surely a big part of it was what I "experienced," not what I understood...for ultimately, who can really understand the depth and breadth of such Love? Maybe we need to be much less concerned about the meaning of the words and much more concerned with the meaning of the WORD, our Lord Jesus Christ.