Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Arriverderci, Roma!

Well, it's been an amazing 12 weeks of sabbatical in the Eternal City...surely the opportunity of a lifetime...but, as they say, "all good things must come to an end." So, tomorrow morning I'm headed back to Shiner and truly looking forward to being home! This will most likely be my last posting from least until the next sabbatical!
Ciao, bella Roma...and I'll see you Shinerites very soon!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Wake-Up Call for America's Catholics

I couldn't have said it better myself! Read Mr. S. E. Cupp's op-ed piece at

Ave Maria, Gratia Plena!

"Hail Mary, full of grace!"
December 8 is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Under this title, declared dogma of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854 (as depicted above in the Immaculate Conception Chapel of the Papal Apartments in Vatican City), the Blessed Virgin Mary is the patroness of the United States of America. Pope Pius IX proclaimed ex cathedra: "that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
"Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death. Amen!"

St. Gianna Molla Ministry for Life and the Manhattan Declaration

The parish has begun a new ministry, the St. Gianna Molla Ministry for Life. I am so happy that we have done this since, without trying to be overly-dramatic, we are truly in the fight of our lives. Our culture, seemingly daily, continues to spin out of control, headlong into the deep, dark chasm of the culture of death.

Here is what our new ministry seeks to accomplish (from its Mission Statement): In gratitude to God, the author of life, we combine our efforts to protect all of His created life made in His image and likeness from conception to natural death. We pledge to further the joyful culture of life by our positive words and example. We will educate others on the beauty of life, the horror of abortion and the shining happiness that a chaste and virtuous life will bring. In this, our mission, we humbly ask the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and guidance, and the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Gianna Molla.

I am also thrilled that 15 leading US bishops joined in signing an ecumenical "call to conscience" last week that not only decried the "impulse to redefine marriage," but likewise repented "as we have too easily embraced the culture of divorce." Released Friday at a Washington press conference, the "Manhattan Declaration" emerged from a group of 150 Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical leaders, ordained and lay alike. For its part, however, the American hierarchy was represented by a veritable A-list flank that included Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, Archbishops Donald Wuerl of Washington, Tim Dolan of New York, Charles Chaput of Denver, Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, John Myers of Newark, John Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis, Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, and Bishops Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, David Zubik of Pittsburgh, and Richard Malone of Portland, who spearheaded Maine's successful repeal of a law allowing homosexual marriage. Among others, the prelates were joined by several leading lights of the Catholic right, including Ignatius Press chief Fr Joseph Fessio, First Things editor Joseph Bottum, papal biographer George Weigel and Fr Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute. Beyond its treatment of marriage, the signers pledged their energies to "to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion," to "not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent" and "to embrace our obligation to speak and act in defense of these truths."

I encourage, as heartily as I can, each of our parishioners to sign the Manhattan Declaration at their website and to continue to pray and fast for a renewal of the culture of life in our country and in our world; and to wholeheartedly support the efforts of the parish's St. Gianna Molla Ministry for Life!

San Sebastiani

The Church of Saint Sebastian is one of St. Philip Neri's seven pilgrimage churches. I have had the great honor of visiting all seven of these pilgrimage churches while here in Rome (and gaining the plenary indulgence therewith attached, thank you very much!). San Sebastiani is most noteworthy for two things: 1) it sits atop one of Rome's great catacombs, and 2) it contains Bernini's last work. Pictured above are the entrances to the Catacombs of San Sebastiani and the church itself. Also pictured above, just as you enter the Church of San Sebastiani, are Bernini's last work, the sculpture of Christ the Redeemer and the sculpture of the Death of St. Sebastian, designed by Bernini but executed after his death by one of his students. The sculpture of Christ the Redeemer is truly stunning! You may recall that Bernini is probably most famous for two other works of art: 1) the great colonnade surrounding St. Peter's Square and 2) the breath-taking baldachino above the papal altar in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Miracle at Tre Fontani

The Trappist Abbey of Tre Fontani has three churches on the grounds. One church is the abbey church. Another church contains, in its crypt, the cell where Saint Paul was imprisoned prior to his beheading. And the third church, the Church of the Martyrdom of Saint Paul, is the site of Saint Paul's martyrdom where the miracle of the Tre Fontani (the "three fountains") occured. Tradition says that when Saint Paul was beheaded his head fell to the ground and "bounced" three times. At each spot where his head touched the ground, a "fountain" (really, a spring) came forth from the earth. Above are photos of the three altars in the Church of the Martyrdom of Saint Paul under which are the three "fountains" (springs). Also pictured above is the entrance of the Church of the Martyrdom of Saint Paul and a bas relief (inside the front entrance) of his beheading.

Man's Inhumanity to Man

Today I visited Italy's most important and sacred World War II memorial. At this site, 335 Italian citizens were shot and, after being dumped in several caves of the Fosse Ardeatina area outside Rome, buried by the Nazis. These were "revenge executions." Hitler ordered that 10 Italians (many were priests, religious, and seminarians but others were randomly chosen from the streets) be killed for every one of the 32 Nazis killed by the Italian Resistance. That would have made 320 executions; however 15 more were added for "good measure." The Nazis responsible for carrying out the executions were eventually tried for crimes against humanity at the Nuremburg Trials upon the completion of WWII. However, their crime was not the execution of the 320 innocent Italians. Their only crime was that they exceeded their orders and killed an additional 15. Truly's inhumanity to man. God help us! God save us!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Viva Cristo Rey!

In 1927, two years after Pope Pius XI gave the Church the Solemnity of Christ the King (the feast we celebrate today), the persecution of the Church in Mexico was in full furor. A Jesuit priest, Father Miguel Agustin Pro, knelt in prayer before the firing squad that was to take his life for being a Catholic priest. As Father Pro rose from his prayers, he threw out his arms in the form of the Cross and proclaimed: "Viva Cristo Rey!"..."Long live Christ the King!" Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mysterium Fidei...An Ineffable Wonder

As we enter into the Advent Season next Sunday (November 29), perhaps the most important thing we can do is work on "recapturing" the mystery of our life with God (the one and only purpose of genuine Catholic liturgy)...the mystery of Emmanuel ("God with us")...the mystery of God's unbounded and unconditional love for us. Most things in our world conspire against us...against the sense of mystery...ineffable wonder, awe, and marvel. The kind of thing in which we can only marvel. We cannot understand it. We cannot truly "know" anything about it. We cannot explain it. We can only experience it. Yes, this Advent, let us work on "recapturing" the mystery of our faith, of our lives, of our existence..."for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Happy Advent!

Truly A Sight to Behold

Is that a beautiful sight or what? Downtown Kansas City literally "closed" for a Eucharistic Procession...courtesy of the over 22,000 Catholic youth participating in the National Catholic Youth Conference which ends today. "What's the matter with kids today?" Looks to me like they're doing just fine! Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Assisi at Its Finest

Beautiful...spiritual...medieval...rustic...prayerful....wonderful Assisi! This morning, to end our retreat, we celebrated Holy Mass at the tomb of Saint Francis. We also celebrated Holy Mass in the Church of San Stefano, the Cathedral of San Ruffino, the Chiesa Nuova (built upon the site of St. Francis' boyhood home), and the Basilica of Santa Chiara (in the Chapel of the Cross...the San Damiano cross that "spoke" to Francis). What a marvelous retreat and five days of unseasonably warm and sunny weather! November is definitely the time to go to Assisi...almost no one there but the peaceful, so quiet, so Franciscan!
The photo above of the church in the mist is a shot of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the location of the "Portiuncula"...St. Francis' "little portion" chapel.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Week with Claire and Francis

I'm off to Assisi, the home of Saints Francis and Claire, tomorrow morning for a week-long retreat; my last respite before returning to "work." But, I gotta say, "Shiner, never looked so good!"
Please pray for me while I'm on retreat as I promise my prayers for you!

Friday, November 13, 2009

To the Tomb of Cyril

Today, on behalf of the people of the parish, I made pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Clement, the burial place of St. Cyril. St. Cyril died in 869 A.D. and was buried in the 4th century basilica that now is the lower basilica of the present-day basilica (built in the 12th century). St. Cyril was buried in this basilica at the request of his brother, St. Methodius. Pope Paul VI placed St. Cyril's relics in the altar of a side chapel (shown above) of the upper basilica in 1969. At this altar I lit a candle for the people of SS. Cyril and Methodius parish in Shiner.

The Basilica of San Clemente is a remarkable site and should not be missed on any pilgrimage to Rome! By simply walking down a few stairs, one goes from the 21st century to the 1st century in just moments. Many excavations of the 4th century basilica and below have been done since the 1850's. Work on the excavations continues to this day.
Below the 4th century basilica is an entire 1st century Roman alleyway including several homes...complete with running water! The water continues to run to this very day 2000 years later. How's that for reliable plumbing?!!
This level also contains a Mithraic temple and school. The cult of Mithra was outlawed in the Roman Empire in 395 A.D. and it was at that time that its property was taken over by the Church for the building of the 4th century basilica. Prior to that, the Christian church was meeting in the home of someone named Clement; hence, the name of the basilica, Saint Clement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Worth A Thought

As you may have heard in both the ecclesiastical and secular press, the Vatican is conducting a visitation of women's religious orders in the United States. Women religious in the United States are represented by two organizations: 1) Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and 2) The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR). The LCWR claims that it represents 95% of women religious in the U.S. and, unfortunately, has sometimes been at loggerheads with the Vatican.

Thomas Peters, on his American Papist blog, reports receiving an email from a sister who belongs to CMSWR. The email said:

The LCWR represents approximately 80% of women religious in the USA. CMSWR represents 20% (about 10,000 women religious). We represent 80% of new vocations; LCWR 20% of new vocations.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm, could the Holy Spirit be trying to say something?!
Father David Berger and Father Bryan Heyer of the Diocese of Victoria in Texas will lead a pilgrimage for all young adults over the age of 18 (must be over the age of 18 by June 1, 2011) to WORLD YOUTH DAY 2011 MADRID. The pilgrimage will take place August 10-23, 2011 (dates are tentative at this time due to possible site-seeing excursions to be discussed). The deadline for sign-up is Thanksgiving 2009 with a $100 non-refundable deposit needed to secure your spot. Registration is available to the first 20 persons who send in their deposit. The approximate cost of the pilgrimage is $3500. Fund-raising opportunities will be available to help defray part of the cost of the pilgrimage. For further information and to register contact or call Wendy Eggert at 361-575-8132.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Lateran Basilica

Known as St. John Lateran Basilica, the pope's cathedral church, is a magnificent site containing the relics of the heads of both St. Peter and St. Paul in the most beautiful reliquary above the papal altar. The Lateran Basilica was the first "official" Christian church built in Rome (by Emperor Constantine) and for over one thousand years served as "the Vatican," the central offices of the Catholic Church until the Avignon Papacy in the 14th century, when the popes lived in and worked from Avignon, France.

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

The Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem is the sight of the relic of the True Cross on which our Lord died found in Jerusalem by St. Helena (mother of the Emperor Constantine). The church contains not only the relic of the True Cross but also soil from Calvary in Jerusalem...hence, the name of the church, The Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The feast of the Cross is celebrated every year on September 14, under the title "Exaltation of the Holy Cross." Xaltatus a terra, omnia traham ad me ipsum (John 12:32)!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Maybe I Shouldn't Come Home?

First, I leave Shiner and the drought breaks...pours buckets of rain. Second, I leave Shiner and the Cardinals beat the Indians. Hmmmm...maybe I shouldn't come home!!!!

But I'm very proud of the Cardinals and wish I'd been there to see their victory. Oh well, if I help best by being out of town, so be it!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A First!

Today we had rabbit for pranzo (lunch). First time in my life...and not too bad, actually. Father Tommy may just need to keep better count of his rabbits when I get home!

Now, the only thing left on my "bucket list" is squirrel stew!! Yummy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Requiem Mass in Shiner

The beautiful Missa pro defunctis (Requiem Mass) in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Latin Rite made its return to Shiner on the Feast of All Souls, November 2. Father Tommy Chen, parochial vicar, was the celebrant. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Leininger who owns their copyright.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Doctor's Prescription on Prayer

Canonized in 1622, St. Theresa of Avila was proclaimed a "Doctor of the Church" by Pope Paul VI in 1970. To be a "Doctor" of the Church one must be canonized, renowned for learning, and proclaimed a doctor of the Church by a pope or ecumenical council.

Here is how the Doctor of Prayer defines prayer: "Taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us." Sounds like a good prescription to me!

Click here for more information on Doctors of the Church.

To Understand Liturgical Changes, Study Meaning of Liturgy

One of the topics of major interest to us here in Rome on sabbatical has been and continues to be the upcoming changes to the English translation of the Missale Romanum. We had a wonderful presentation (3 full days worth) by Msgr. James Moroney, former director of the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship. Monsignor has been integrally involved in the new translations.

While a date has yet to be established for the implementation and use of the new translations, they are a comin'! Bishop Robert Vasa of the Baker, Oregon diocese wrote a wonderful column recently talking about the changes. It is well worth the read and I highly recommend it!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pray for the Souls of Priests

In this Year for Priests, remember that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has granted a plenary indulgence to all the faithful who 1) attend Holy Mass; 2) receive the Sacrament of Penance on or near the specifed day; 3) pray for priests; and 4) pray for the Holy Father's intentions on the first Thursday of each month. November 5 is a first Thursday.

In this month when we remember all the faithful departed in a special way, would it not be most appropriate to pray for the souls of deceased priests; most especially those who served the faithful at Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Shiner? St. John Mary Vianney, the Cure of Ars, the patron saint of parish priests, once said: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.” Let us pray, especially during this month, that the "good shepherds" which have served in Shiner, may be granted eternal light, rest, and happiness. Requiescant in pace.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Brother Saints

One of my brother priests on sabbatical, Father Liborio Amaral from the Archdiocese of Toronto, was kind enough to take these photos of me standing at the plaque commemorating the signing of the edict at the St. Mary Major Basilica granting Cyril and Methodius permission to use their Slavonic liturgical texts. Please note: I was wearing my SS. Cyril and Methodius windbreaker!!!