Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Earthquake in Rome

Everyone is writing me to check on me.  Thank you.  I am not in Rome.  I'm fine!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Promotion Ceremony

Last weekend I had my regular monthly drill up at Aviano.  As usual, I was in contact with the Wing Chaplain - Lt. Col. (Father) Robert Monagle.  In our conversations he was insistent that I have some kind of promotion ceremony at the Base.  "You need to do something," he said to me.  I agreed and asked only one thing - that it be kept simple.

So last Friday, August 12 at the chapel office in Aviano Air Base, we celebrated my promotion to Major.

At attention for the National Anthem

Ch, Lt Col Monagle speaks about what I've done in the Air Force

I listen to Fr. Bob talk about me - always awkward

"Publish the Order!"

I again make the oath of office

I speak words of gratitude to those who made this happen and who put it all together.

At attention for the "Air Force Song."

Friday, August 5, 2016

Dedication of St. Mary Major - Rome - IT SNOWED!

Today I had the privilege of attending Mass at St. Mary Major - one of the 4 Papal Basilicas - on this, the day we celebrate the church's dedication (consecration) to Mary, the Mother of God.  It was not long after the Council of Ephesus, when Mary was declared the "theotokos" or the "God-bearer" (and thus the actual Mother of God), that the following events took place.

Today’s Feast is now known as the Dedication of St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore)—celebrating one of only four major basilicas of the Roman Catholic Church and the largest (and possibly first) church dedicated to Mary in Rome.  The following photos show the church from the outside - the beautiful pancreator which is in the loggia outside the basilica - and the lit dedication candle.  Now before getting to the main story - there are, in many churches, candles on the walls of the church - making the spots where the walls were anointed at its dedication.  Today is the day they are lit - and here is one of the lit candles at St. Mary Major this morning...

Now, how does it snow in Rome.  Every year on August 5, white rose petals are dropped into the sanctuary from an opening in the coffered ceiling of Saint Mary Major to commemorate its legendary origin in the fourth century. 

As the story goes, during the night of August 4-5, 352 (or 358, in some accounts) the Mother of God appeared simultaneously in the dreams of Pope Liberius and of a wealthy, Roman named Giovanni Patrizio, who with his wife, had decided to leave everything they had to the Church. The Blessed Mother instructed them to build a church where her children could go to their Mother with their needs and prayers. Snow fall (in Rome’s sweltering August heat!) the following morning would indicate the site of the new church. Early in the morning of August 5, Pope Liberius was informed that snow had fallen on Esquiline Hill, including on land owned by Patrizio. A famous painting by  Masolino depicts the Pope using a stick to delineate in the snow the outer foundation of what would become St. Mary Major.
The earliest name for the church was the Liberian Basilica, after Pope Liberius. It was also called Santa Maria della Neve (St. Mary of the Snow) and Santa Maria Del Presepe (St. Mary of the Crib) after 4 or 5 planks of wood, said to have come from Jesus’ crib, were given to St. Mary Major. They can still be venerated there.

During his pontificate, Pope Sixtus III (432-440) saw to a major renovation of the basilica and dedicated it to the Mother of God, following the declaration of Mary as Theotokos at the Council of Ephesus (431).

The basilica is home to 1600 years of some of the most exquisite art ever created, beginning with an icon of Mary—said to be painted by St. Luke—known as “Salus  Populi Romani”  (the salvation [or the “health”] of the Roman people). On the morning after his election, Pope Francis  went to St. Mary Major to pray before this icon of the Madonna. It is also the site of many miracles and  events of great significance in the life of the Church. For example, St. Ignatius Loyola celebrated his first Mass in St. Mary Major one Christmas night. On another Christmas Eve, the Blessed Mother placed the Infant Jesus into the arms of St. Cajetan of Thiene. 

Francis has since celebrated Mass at St. Mary Major and will return  to celebrate Mass on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, as popes have done for centuries.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

World Youth Day

So, it's been a while since I wrote - but it's been busy!

I was actually home in the States from July 4-20 - I'm sorry if I did not get the chance to see many of you.  It was important to spend some time with my family - and I had previously planned a vacation with 3 priest friends - so my time home flew by very quickly.

Immediately on my return to Rome I repacked my bags and headed out to World Youth Day.  This was another thing I had planned to attend LONG before I knew I'd be here in Rome.  But I was able to make some adjustments and join our group of 83 from the Diocese of Harrisburg in Poland.

I arrived in Warsaw just an hour ahead of the group.  It was great to see so many familiar - yet tired - faces from home.

Once we all had our belongings we loaded the buses and headed south to Jasna Gora Monastery, CzÄ™stochowa, where the "Black Madonna" is located.  This is the spiritual center of Poland - and an appropriate place to begin our WYD pilgrimage.  And here we celebrated Sunday Mass.  The origin of this miraculous image in is unknown for absolute certainty, but according to tradition the painting was a portrait of Our Lady done by St. Luke sometime after the Crucifixion of Our Lord and remained in the Holy Land until discovered by St. Helena of the Cross in the fourth century. The painting was taken to Constaninople, where St. Helena's son, the Emperor Constantine, erected a church for its enthronement. This image was revered by the people of the city. 

During  the siege by the Saracens, the invaders became frightened when the people carried the picture in a procession around the city; the infidels fled. Later, the image was  threatened with burning by an evil emperor, who had a wife, Irene, who saved it and hid it from harm. The image was in that city for 500 years, until it became part of some dowries, eventually being taken to Russia to a region that later became Poland. 

After the portrait became the possession of the Polish prince, St. Ladislaus in the 15th century, it was installed in his castle. Tartar invaders besieged the castle and an enemy arrow pierced Our Lady's image, inflicting a scar. Interestingly, repeated attempts to fix the image, artistically have all failed. 

Tradition says that St. Ladislaus determined to save the image from repeated invasions, so he went to his birthplace, Opala, stopping for rest in Czestochowa; the image was brought nearby to Jasna Gora ["bright hill"] and placed in a small wooden church named for the Assumption. The following morning, after the picture was carefully placed in the wagon, the horses refused to move. St. Ladislaus understood this to be a sign from Heaven that the image should stay in Czestochowa; thus he replaced the painting in the Church of the Assumption, August 26, 1382, a day still observed as the Feast Day of the painting. The Saint wished to have the holiest of men guard the painting, so he assigned the church and the monastery to the Pauline Fathers, who have devoutly protected the image for the last six hundred years. 

Having survived two attacks upon it, Our Lady's image was next imperiled by the Hussites, followers of the heretic priest, John Hus from Prague. The Hussites did not accept papal authority as coming from Christ and taught that mortal sin deprived an office holder of his position, among other heresies. Hus had been influenced by John Wyclif and became infected with his errors. Hus was tried and condemned at Constance in 1415. The Hussites successfully stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the image. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites went a little ways but then the horses refused to go any further. Recalling the former incident that was so similar, the heretics threw the portrait down to the ground, which shattered the image into three pieces. One of the plunderers drew his sword and slashed the image twice, causing two deep gashes; while attempting a third gash, he was overcome with a writhing agony and died. 
The two slashes on the cheek of the Blessed Virgin, together with the one on the throat, not readily visible in our copy, have always reappeared after artistic attempts to fix them. The portrait again faced danger in 1655 by a Swedish horde of 12,000, which confronted the 300 men guarding the image. The band of 300 routed the 12,000 and the following year, the Holy Virgin was acclaimed Queen of Poland.  

In September 14, 1920, when the Russian army assembled at the River Vistula, in preparation for invading Warsaw, the Polish people prayed to Our Lady. the next day was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Russians quickly withdrew after the image appeared in the clouds over Warsaw. In Polish history, this is known as the Miracle of Vistula. 

During the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II, Hitler order all religious pilgrimages stopped. In a demonstration of love for Our Lady and their confidence in her protection, a half million Poles went to the sanctuary in defiance of Hitler's orders. Following the liberation of Poland in 1945, a million and a half people expressed their gratitude to the Madonna by praying before this miraculous image. 

Twenty-eight years after the Russian's first attempt at capturing the city, they successfully took control of Warsaw and the entire nation in 1948. That year more than 800,000 brave Poles made a pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Czestochowa on the Feast of the Assumption, one of the three Feast days of the image; the pilgrims had to pass by the Communist soldiers who patrolled the streets. 

Today, the Polish people continue to honor their beloved portrait of the Madonna and Child, especially on August 26, the day reserved by St. Ladislaus. Because of the dark pigment on Our Lady's face and hands, the image is affectionately called the "Black Madonna," most beautifully prefigured in the Bible, in the Canticle of Canticles, "I am black but beautiful." The pigmentation is ascribed primarily to age and the need to keep it hidden for long periods of time in places where the only light was from candles, which colored the painting with smoke. 

The miracles attributed to Our Lady of Czestochowa are many and most spectacular. The original accounts of them,  some of them cures, are archived by the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Gora. 

Papal recognition of the miraculous image was made by Pope Clement XI in 1717. The crown given to the image was used in the first official coronation of the painting, which was stolen in 1909.  Pope Pius X replaced it with a gold one encrusted with jewels.

Then we arrived in Krakow for a night's rest.  The next day we headed to the Divine Mercy Shrine - again, a good place to begin our first full day.  As I was just here a month ago - I'll forgo the explanation...

Then we had several other tours - the Salt Mines and Auschwitz.  

All in between we were going downtown and to the Tauron Arena for Catechesis.  Here is a photo and video I shot of the Arena prior to Mass.  

The Pope finally arrived and we went to greet him!

This is the square in downtown Krakow - just a few young people there celebrating and enjoying being together and sharing our Catholic Faith.

Eventually we made the trip out to the Campus of Mercy for the overnight Vigil and Sunday Mass with the Holy Father to conclude the week.

This was our area BEFORE it got crowded...
Sunrise after a night under the stars with 2 million of your closest friends.

 Most of these photos are from the Diocese of Harrisburg World Youth Day Facebook page - check it out here...  

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Funerals and the Fourth of July

Friday we attended the Funeral of Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea.  He was a priest of Greensburg, PA - but had served in the Diplomatic Service for many years - including service as the Apostolic Nuncio in Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen and Qatar and the Delegate to the Arabian Peninsula from 2001-2005.  Thereafter, he returned to Rome and was a Canon at St. Peter's Basilica.  While here in Rome he also served for a time as the Assessore at the Order - assisting in the time of transition between Cardinal Foley and, then, Archbishop O'Brien.

Funerals at St. Peter's are reverent but to the point.  Archbishop De Andrea died on Wednesday night - his funeral was Friday.  It's a simple casket on the floor with a Gospel book placed upon it.  The Basilica's choir sings.  Mass it at the "Altar of the Chair."  Purple vestments to remind us of the penance yet to be done by many of us - even after death.  

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.  And let perpetual Light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

But that same day, we had the opportunity to say: Happy 4th of July!

We were invited to an official diplomatic celebration of the 4th at the Embassy of the United States to the Holy See.  As you can imagine with all that is happening in the world today - security was tight - but the atmosphere in side was very warm!  A Gospel choir singing, Marines in full dress uniform presenting the Colors, the National Anthem, speeches and, of course, FOOD: hot dogs, hamburgers - I even found a veggie burger - YUMMY!  A great way to celebrate the 4th!

Meeting of European Lieutenants

Also this week we had a big meeting at the headquarters of the Order - a meeting of all (less one) of the Lieutenants of Europe.  They came from England and Spain, Germany and Sweden, Russia and (of course) Italy and gathered in Rome to discuss issues of importance to the Order and the local Lieutenancies of the Order.  It is a great opportunity for the local leaders to network and communicate about what they are doing.  It was a great opportunity for me to meet some of the men and women with whom I work so closely in planning Investiture trips.

On Monday evening we had the customary banquet.  But we also had several surprises...

The newly appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem - with whom the Order will work VERY closely - came by for a visit.

Also, several members of the order received a special honor - being named Knights of the Collar.

Lastly, the Russian Lieutenant brought along a gift for His Eminence - a beautiful painting of the domes of Moscow.

Pompei Scavi and Investiture - Part 2

And in this portion of the post - the Investiture - the reason for our trip down south to Pompei.

We stayed at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei.  I never recognize how this popular image of Our Lady (seen all over the US) is a reflection of the Immigration that took place in the 1800-1900's from Italy (particularly this southern part of Italy) to America.  Here is information on the Shrine itself.

Well, this shrine to Our Lady of Pompei is where it all started.

After our visit to the Scavi of ancient Pompeii, we went to the Shrine and the Archbishop who is responsible for the Shrine - and its MANY charitable organizations - took us up the bell tower where we had a wonderful view of all of Pompei & Pompeii

Mount Vesuvius back there...

The buildings here are all part of the charitable outreach of the Shrine: school, prison, housing... it's incredible all the things they do at the Shrine.

Then Archbishop Caputo took is through the shrine and its many chapels.  It is a MAJOR pilgrimage spot for many Italians (and others) so there are various chapels all through the complex - in addition to the main shrine church.  In one of the chapels lies the body of Blessed Bartolo Longo - a member of the Order (the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem) and, really, the founder of the entire shrine and complex.

Then, on Sunday, was the event for which we had come to Pompei - the Investiture.  

Blessed Bartolo Longo's cause is still under investigation.  Perhaps you could ask his intercession - and maybe be part of him becoming a saint...