Posts Tagged ‘Rome’

During Lent, Americans Retrace Ancient Pilgrimage Routes in Rome

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
George Weigel writes in the Wall Street Journal about a wonderful tradition in Rome…that is undertaken by Americans! (It was begun by seminarians and student-priests from the Pontifical North American College…where I used to be stationed.) As we prepare to begin Lent, I thought you’d enjoy this piece:

“On March 5, Ash Wednesday, hundreds of residents of Rome will begin a six-and-a-half-week long pilgrimage to the Roman station churches of Lent—a tradition that began in the earliest days of legalized Christianity but, until recently, had lain fallow…

The station churches themselves, especially those off the tourist track, often astonish. The apse mosaic in the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian is a startling sixth-century anticipation of 20th-century art deco. The little church of St. Praxedes, hidden behind the vast basilica of St. Mary Major atop the Esquiline Hill, contains the golden mosaic St. Zeno Chapel, one of the most beautiful rooms on the planet.

Amid the world’s continuous wayfaring, the Roman station church pilgrimage has a unique character, combining history, art, architecture and the human quest for truth. Built on the foundation of martyrs’ homes, it is a reminder that religious freedom is never cost-free. And its revival by Americans, who lead it today, is a fine act of gratitude from the New World to the Old.”

Read the rest here.

Viva il Papa Francesco!

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

It’s called Domus Sancta Marta, the Latin for Saint Martha’s House, and it’s been my home the last forty-eight hours here in the Vatican, along with 114 of my brother cardinals.

You remember St. Martha, don’t you?  She, along with her sister, Mary, and her brother, Lazarus, were among our Lord’s best friends, and he often enjoyed their company and hospitality at their home right outside of Jerusalem.

I do not exaggerate when I tell you that Jesus still lives here in this house dedicated to His friend, St. Martha. He has been here in our fraternity, our prayer, our laughter, our conversations, our meals, our shared faith, our mutual love for His bride, His Church, and now in our rejoicing with our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, who left this morning, and will move into the apostolic apartments.

As one of my brother Cardinals remarked, “We talk to each other with our different languages; we all speak to Jesus in the same voice.”

We came to St, Martha’s right after the magnificent Mass to Elect a Pontiff  in St. Peter’s Basilica, on Tuesday morning.  Each afternoon, and each morning, we took a little bus the quarter-mile distance to the Courtyard of Saint Damaso — — I’d prefer to walk, but it’s been rainy and damp — — there to disembark and walk into the Sistine Chapel for our duty as cardinal-electors.

The gardens and corridors of the Vatican were eerily empty.  After all, the pope was no longer there.  We “got the place to ourselves.”  I always dreamed of spending some uninterrupted hours looking upon the walls and ceilings of the celebrated Sistine Chapel.  Never did I think I’d be doing it this way!

One of the older cardinals, who went through the conclave of 2005, assured me I would sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in all of this.  He was right.  No, not in any brilliant rays of light, sound of wind, or tongues of fire, but in common and private prayer, oaths taken, words of inspiration, information, and encouragement exchanged, art and song working their charm, promptings sensed, and discernment going on.

And now the world knows the result of all this, as we have cheered the announcement, “We have a pope!”

It was all worth it.  It is His (Jesus’) Church —- not mine, not the cardinal’s, not the Vatican’s, not ours, not even Pope Francis’ —- it is His Church! And upon the rock of Peter’s (and his successor’s) faith, He will build His Church.

Viva il Papa Francesco!

Electing a New Bishop of Rome

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Greetings again from Rome, the Eternal City, the city of Saints Peter and Paul!

One last word early this “morning” as I pack to leave the North American College, where we cardinals have been staying, and go into the Vatican itself, where we’ll be hosted at St. Martha’s House, a simple little residence.  At 10 AM we’ll concelebrate the traditional Mass for the Election of the Pontiff in St. Peter’s Basilica, and then return to Saint Martha’s for seclusion.  The first voting will occur in the Sistine Chapel this afternoon, and continue the following days.

I hope the conclave will not go on too long. All I know is that I’m just taking in a small “carry-on” piece of baggage.  If we’re in there too long, and if they show photographs of St. Martha’s from outside Vatican City, my room will be the one with the laundry hanging in the window to dry!

The veteran cardinals tell me that the conclave is almost like a retreat.  We of course concelebrate Mass every morning to begin the day, and pray the liturgy of the hours together.  Obviously, we can visit and talk with each other at St. Martha’s House during our meals and brief time off between the actual voting, but, I’m told the actual hours in the Sistine Chapel, carried out scrupulously according to the traditional protocol, are done in an atmosphere of silence and prayer; it’s almost, the old-timers tell me, like a liturgy.

These last twelve days have been immensely enlightening for me, as I get to know my brother cardinals better.  The atmosphere is one of prayer, trust, calm joy, and confidence, with very candid conversations about issues of pastoral urgency, and challenges facing the Church Universal and the next Holy Father.

One cardinal observed, after hearing others list the qualifications our new Pope would need, that, “It seems we have to elect Christ, not a Vicar of Christ!”

Yes, we expect a lot from the Successor of St. Peter, and it would be impossible to find the perfect one.  Yet, we expect a lot from our bishops, priests, deacons, and religious women and men; then again, we expect a lot from our spouses, our parents, our teachers, our political leaders, and our law officers.

Jesus calls us “to be perfect;” that’s sobering and can discourage us; but — — here’s the reassurance — — He also helps us with His grace, and never fails in His mercy when we fail.

I guess that’s what I’m asking you as I pack up to enter the conclave: ask the Lord to send His grace and His mercy upon His Holy Church, and upon us cardinals who have the frightening task of electing a new Bishop of Rome!

Watch for the white smoke!  I’ll try to be in touch as soon as I can after the conclave ends.  I’ll stay for the “Mass of Inauguration” for the new Holy Father, but hope to be home, back with you, my spiritual family, before Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday.


A few “bloopers”

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

We cardinals here in Rome – – along with all our brothers in the Sacrament of Holy Orders – – take our task of teachers of the faith very seriously.

These days in the Eternal City offer us a welcome occasion to do that.  I sure have enjoyed my meetings with people here, especially the journalists, who give me the chance to teach.

It’s clear to me that there are quite a few misconceptions out there about the church.  Let me mention a few to you.

One would be that the Pope has a divine status in the Church.  True, while Catholics love the Holy Father, and consider loyalty to him a virtue, we hardly consider him divine!  He is the Successor of St. Peter, whom we believe Jesus appointed earthly pastor of His Church (Mt. 16).  And anyone familiar with St. Peter, as shown in the New Testament, knows that he was far from divine!  In fact, our first Pope was a big sinner.  He denied even knowing Jesus at the very time the Lord needed his friend Peter the most.

An inquirer even used the word “worshiper” when referring to us Catholics in relation to the Pope.  That’s malarkey!  We can only worship the one true God, not any mere mortal, no matter how revered his office may be, or we violate the first commandment.

A second common misperception is that a new Pope can “change doctrine.”  That, of course, is impossible.  Catholicism is a revealed religion, meaning we believe that God has told us about Himself and about the meaning of life, primarily by sending us His Son as the “Word made flesh.”

To preserve this truth, to “pass on” the faith to our children, is at the very essence of the Church, and the “job description” of the Pope.  He cannot change the deposit of faith.

Some have the impression that we are electing a man who has a “platform,” who can decide new “policies” for the Church.  We are not.

Yes, a new Pope can develop fresh, new strategies to better, and more effectively, teach the doctrines of the faith. In fact, this is a big part of what we call the New Evangelization: to express the timeless truths of the faith – – especially the message and mystery of the Person who called himself the Truth, Jesus – – in a timely, radiant, more compelling way.

Remember the way Good Pope John explained it on the eve of the opening of the Second Vatican Council?  The faith of the Church is a gift that cannot be altered, he remarked.  But, the way this gift is “wrapped” can!  That is always a challenge for a Pope.

In other words, the how of our teaching can change; the what of it cannot.

Because, as Billy Graham used to say, the aim of life is to change our lives to conform to God’s will, not to change God’s will to match ours.  We let God re-create us in His image; we do not attempt to create God in our image!

Finally, some tease me that we are here to elect a “new boss.”  Yes, while I look forward to pledging my obedience to our new Holy Father, I also recognize that his ancient title is “servant of the servants of God.”  Following Jesus, he will be elected to serve, not to be served.

And, he will hardly be a “boss” who tells us what to do, but a shepherd who invites us to walk with him on a journey to eternal life in company with Jesus and His Church.  As Blessed John Paul II observed, “The Church proposes, not imposes.”

There you have a view of the misunderstandings.

Keep us in prayer, please.  Let’s hope we get home soon – – I’m running out of socks!

Novena Prayer to Saint Joseph

Friday, March 8th, 2013

In my blog post this past Wednesday, I invited you to join me in a novena of prayer to Saint Joseph, asking him and his virgin-wife to look after the whole Church and get us an inspired successor to Saint Peter.  I thought I should probably provide you with the wording of the novena prayer to Saint Joseph, and I renew my invitation to you to offer it  beginning March 11, and concluding on the Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19.  (Where the prayer indicates that you should mention your request, please feel free to phrase it in your own words!)

Novena prayer to Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph, you are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. I have special confidence in you. You are powerful with God and will never abandon your faithful servants. I humbly invoke you and commend myself, with all who are dear to me, to your intercession. By the love you have for Jesus and Mary, do not abandon me during life, and assist me at the hour of my death.

Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the immaculate Virgin, Foster-father of Jesus Christ, obtain for me a pure, humble, and charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the Divine Will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

Loving Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I raise my heart to you to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the special grace I now implore: (Mention your request). Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I am confident that your prayers on my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God.


Updates from Rome

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Greetings from Rome! I invite you to listen to daily papal election updates from Rome on the Catholic Channel of SiriusXM. You can listen to them online, click here.

It’s About Jesus

Monday, February 25th, 2013

“But why didn’t he say anything about his reasons for stepping down, or his plans for the future, or any personal reflections about his own legacy?”  asked the journalist after Mass yesterday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

This reporter had gotten up early to watch the last Sunday Angelus address Pope Benedict XVI would ever give, to 100,000 people in Saint Peter’s Square at noon in Rome.  He had spoken of Lent, the Transfiguration of Jesus (the gospel for Sunday), and prayer.

“Because,” I replied, trying to provide an answer to the journalist’s fair-enough inquiry, “Popes don’t talk about themselves.  They are really no longer themselves!  That’s why they change their name.  They take literally what Saint Paul wrote, that “I live now – – no, not I – – Christ lives in me.”  They speak not of themselves but of Jesus.  That’s why!”

“And you,” the reporter courteously persisted, “you didn’t say a word about your plans, your departure for Rome, your thoughts or observations.  We got here to cover your 10:15 a.m. Mass, and you only mentioned the Pope in one prayer, and didn’t say anything personal.”

“Same reason,” I responded.  “The Mass is about Jesus, not about me.”

That could be the most profound lesson this great professor-pontiff has taught the world.  His heroic and humble decision of a week ago to step-down from the Chair of Saint Peter is a lesson:  in the end, when all is said and done, it’s not about office, prominence, prestige, prerogatives.  It’s not about me at all: it’s all about Jesus and His Church.

Tomorrow, though, I do leave New York for Rome.  I take you with me.  When I have the privilege of bidding farewell to the Holy Father this Thursday, the day he leaves, I’ll tell him that we – – you and me – – love him, pray with and for him, and thank him.

I’ll miss you.  Sure, this will be awesome for me.  But, I really like being your archbishop.  And I’ll be eager to get back home to you.  Besides, I can get a good bowl of pasta here in New York, too.

Please God, I’ll be home by Palm Sunday.  Not a day will go by that I will not think of you here with love, prayer and gratitude. If I’m in Rome longer, please send peanut butter.  You can’t get it there.

You Teach Us Our Faith

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Well, the Synod for the New Evangelization here in Rome is winding down.  On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the closing Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.  On Monday, I’m coming home!

This is Friday, and I’m daydreaming . . . I admit it!  Please don’t tell the Holy Father!

All our talk . . . all our ideas . . . all our discussion . . . all our proposals . . . yes, this has been valuable and will, please God, result in a credible and effective document.

But, as I sit here daydreaming, I’m looking outside the synod hall and there I see the little courtyard outside of the Donum Mariae, the shelter for homeless women here in Rome, at the corner of Vatican City, run by Blessed Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

In this little courtyard sits about two dozen abandoned women.  They are now clean, in fresh clothes, and just finished a hearty breakfast.  They’re smiling . . . they’re singing hymns taught them by the sisters . . . and they’re learning the rosary from one of the Missionaries of Charity.

And I’m sitting here thinking . . .  Those sisters are brilliantly doing the New Evangelization.  They haven’t been listening to our debates, and may or may not even read our propositions, or the ultimate document.

But they sure understand the imperative of the New Evangelization.  They probably say to us, “What’s all the fuss? Just love God and the ‘least of these’ as Jesus taught.”

I salute not only those sisters whom I now look out on with love and gratitude, but also all of you in your homes and families, around kitchen tables, in our parishes, schools, and classrooms, in our shelters, soup kitchens, healthcare facilities and residences, whose faith in Jesus and love for His Church inspire you daily.

We bishops can learn a lot about the New Evangelization from people like you!

See you Monday!

Love, Prayers, and Best Wishes from Rome

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Well, I did it again…

It’s usually one of the very first things I do on my first full day back in Rome…

Early in the morning, I walk down the Janiculum  Hill – where I stay at the North American College – to Saint Peter’s Basilica, there to go to confession and then to celebrate Mass.

Two powerful sacraments, Eucharist and Reconciliation, constants of our spiritual life, at the heart of the church, near the tomb of Saint Peter.

I don’t want you to think that I only approach confession when I’m in Rome!

At home with you in New York I try to go every two weeks, because I need it.

But it does have a special urgency and meaning here in Rome.

Near the tomb of Saint Peter, I can hear Jesus ask Him three times: “Simon, do you love me?” and then examine my conscience to see how I have failed to love the Lord and take care of his sheep.

Near his tomb, I picture myself, like Saint Peter, doubting Jesus and sinking in the waters of the storm.

Adjacent to his burial place, I even admit that, like Peter, I have, in my thoughts, words, and actions, denied Jesus.

So my contrition is strong, my purpose of amendment firm, and I approach one of the Franciscans for confession in the corner of the massive basilica.

Then I say my penance before the tomb of Peter, under the high altar, and go to vest for the greatest prayer of all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And then I go for pasta….

Lent begins next Wednesday.  I’ll be back to start it with you.

Sometime over those forty days leading up to Easter, take a cue from your archbishop: get back to confession!

 My love, prayers, and best wishes from Rome.

Living Advent

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Rome . . . the “Eternal City,” the Caput Mundi (the “capital of the world”);

The city of Romulus and Remus, of the Caesars and Nero;

The city that gave its name to one of the most sustained periods of peace the world has ever known, the Pax Romana; the seat of government over the most extensive, unified empire ever;

Rome . . . whose edicts could summon Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem for the nativity of their firstborn, Jesus, and whose appointed governor, Pontius Pilate, would sentence Him to death on a cross thirty-three years later;

Rome . . . the roads, language, and law allowed the apostles to spread the message of Jesus and His Church, bringing Peter and Paul to the Tiber;

Rome . . . whose emperor would crucify Peter upside-down and behead Paul, and unleash three centuries of persecution of the Church founded by Christ;

Rome . . . whose emperor, Constantine, would finally not only tolerate the Church but allow it to become the cohesive influence holding his crumbling empire together;

Rome . . . whose bishop, the successor of its first, Saint Peter, would become the unifying force in the western world upon the collapse of the ancient empire, giving civilization learning, science, art, music, charity, health care, schools and university — a culture drawing people to God.

Rome . . . here I am this Thanksgiving, in company with my brother bishops of the state of New York, on, as required every five years by canon law, our ad limina (“to the threshold”) visit, to the tombs of the two founders of the Church of Rome, Peter and Paul.

Rome . . . a city that always seems to reflect the best and the worst in our human drama.

Even the empire brought, admittedly, law, peace, justice, security, and unity, all the good; but it also gave us violence, oppression, brutality, war, slavery.

So the church in Rome brought Jesus and His message to the world, giving us peace, human dignity, compassion, education, charity, culture, and saints; but it also on occasion showed corruption, vice, immorality and scandal.

Rome . . . it seems, with this Sunday opening the new Church year in view, to be an advent:  God always lurking there, on the doorstep, wanting us to invite Him in.

Rome . . . the city gives us hints of God’s presence: maybe in the medieval images of the Madonna on nearly every corner; or perhaps in the ubiquitous ancient churches built over the places where the first Christians quietly gathered for prayer, Mass, and community; in the catacombs where those martyred were buried; in the shrines of saints who have walked Rome’s alleys; in the candles, incense, art, and family celebrations with abundant food, wine, and song at baptisms, confirmations, first communions, weddings, and feast days.

Rome . . . the city is a living advent, with the Lord usually “just around the corner,” hidden, unexpected, lurking, giving us hints, obscured, at times, by earthiness and mustiness

. . . always waiting for us to discover Him anew.

Rome . . . the Lord is there in the city’s bishop, the successor of Saint Peter, our Holy Father, the Pope.

Benedict XVI is an advent, as we sense in him a hint of the Lord’s “coming” to His Church.

Maybe, on second thought, Rome is not that bad of a place to be for Thanksgiving!

It’s certainly a good place to be as Advent begins this Sunday!