Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Italian Way of Life

Just to give you a taste 
of the Italian way of life 
I thought I would like to share 
a little video I came across 
on the blog of 
a brother in the house:

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And it's all true!

Tiber Flood

Many of you may have seen the reports from Rome that the Tiber is bursting at her seams.  It has been raining for over a month now.  It seems like every other day has brought us another weather system with more rain.   It is getting to be, to use a very cliché phrase, of biblical proportions.  Here is a picture of the Tiber river at what looks like summer-time (i.e normal) levels:

Here is a picture I took the other day while going to St. Peter's.  It is almost the same angle but I couldn't get closer because there are crews tying to dislodge the huge barges that broke loose from their moorings and got caught against the side of Ponte Sant'Angelo:

You can just barely see one of them though the second arch from the right.

Here's another comparison shot:

You can see the work crews trying to dislodge one of the barges.

Luckily for us who live in the former marshland that now is Rome, these retaining walls keep the water out.  They were put up in the late 19th century.  Before that, the Romans were at the mercy of the weather.  And there are many markers to prove it:

When Clement VIII, Pontifex Maximus was in his seventh year,



the oldest extant flood record (1277)

pictures from:  http://roma.freewebpages.org/roma-c4.htm

I think it appropriate here to quote the Sacred Scriptures, lest anyone think that poor Fr. David and the pitiable people of Rome are about to perish:

From the Book of Genesis:

God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark.  I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth."

God added: "This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you:  I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds,

I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings. As the bow appears in the clouds, I will see it and recall the everlasting covenant that I have established between God and all living beings--all mortal creatures that are on earth." God told Noah: "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all mortal creatures that are on earth."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fr. Augustine DiNoia, O.P. - Carl J. Peter Lecture

The North American College hosts a speaker each year under the title of Carl J. Peter.  This years speaker was Fr. Augistine DiNoia, undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  It was an excellent talk.  Here is a link to the NAC website where the full text of his talk is listed: 


If you can't find the talk from the main website you can follow this direct link:

Christmas Caroling at the Greg

The Students of the Gregorian University have a nice tradition of caroling in between classes.  Each class/faculty/college can sign-up to sing in the Central Atrium.  The acoustics aren't very good for making out the individual lyrics but I guess it's the thought that counts!

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Sorry about the delay, once again, in my blogging.  Time seems to have a funny way of slipping through the cracks!  Anyway, I had an exciting Thanksgiving weekend.  I and three other of my fellow priests here at the Casa Santa Maria decided to take a trip to Malta, a rocky little island in the middle of the Mediterranean with a lot of history.

We flew down in the middle of a storm - November/December is notorious in Rome for rainy, nasty weather.   It was very apropos though, being that St. Paul was shipwrecked on Malta during his trip to Rome and stayed there for three months (c.f. Acts chapter 28). However, airplanes aren't as forgiving of wrecks, so I am glad we landed safely!

We were able to see several of the Pauline sites.  Remember that this is the year dedicate to St.Paul  (http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_paolo/index_en.html)  

The statue above is of St. Paul and is located in the grotto at Rabat (just outside of the ancient city of Mdina - and no, that is not a misspelling, the Maltese language is very strange - having phoenecian origins and a splattering of Arabic and latin).  This is the location that is known to be where Paul stayed while on the island.

Below is Fr. Matthew striking a match in the grotto - it was literally a bunch of holes in the ground that had been dug out as living spaces.  There was not light so we had to improvise:

It turns out we made our own version of  Chiaroscuro which was also apropos being that Caravaggio was once a Knight of Malta and lived on the island for a while (you will have to google or wiki that one because this blog entry is going to be long enough as it is) - on a related note the Cathedral in Valletta has a huge Caravaggio painting of the beheading of St. John the Baptist one of the patrons of the order and the namesake of the co-cathedral)

We were able to have mass in the Grotto.  The country is almost 95% Catholic and the churches seemed to be filled on Sunday (which is unfortunately a rare site in most of Europe).  It was a nice treat when our Taxi driver asked if he could join us for mass!  It was a beautiful testament to the faith that they had received some two thousand years ago from St. Paul himself.

One of the days we rented a boat to actually go to the little rock outcropping traditionally held to be the place where St. Paul's boat wrecked.

This is a picture of the huge statue erected on the rock:

As you can see there are blue skies behind - the weather was gorgeous with clear skies and warm temperatures (we were the envy of all the guys back in rainy and cold Rome:-)  We even jumped into the sea for a little swim - very nice!

Another one of the reasons we went to Malta was also to see the location of the Great Siege of 1565. What a great story that is!  As a matter of fact one of the reasons that Western Europe is still Christian and not Muslim (at least for the time being) is because the Christian Knights of Malta were successful in holding out in their fortifications against the Turkish invasion.  The battles of the 16th century were fought to preserve the European Heritage with the Christian Faith being at the forefront of this realty.  The Great Siege of Malta is right up there with the defense of Vienna by Sobieski, and the defeat of the Turkish Fleet at LePanto by Don Juan of Austria.  

The Valiant Knights of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of St. John for short, or the Knights of Malta after this great feat, held off over 40,000 turkish invaders with only 9,000 men women and children to defend their little island! The Knights of Malta are still in existence today.  

This is a picture of me taken in front of some of the forts on the island:

We took a nice Boat Tour of the Grand Harbour were much of the siege took place.

Then we had a nice lunch on a rooftop terrace restaurant overlooking the harbour:

The restaurant is located in the city of Valletta, named after the Grand Master of the Order during the Great Siege who very bravely led the band of knights to victory.  This city was built on the site of some of the most brutal fighting where the bravery of the Knights was very much proven.  They held out here till the last man perished - in effect saving all the rest of the population across the harbour by slowing down the advance of the Turkish forces.

It was a nice meal too;-)

We also went to the Palace Armory to see all the medieval warfare equipment:

Two suits of armour to go, please!

Finally, I will leave you with a very touching reminder of what our whole life is about.  On a little rock outcropping in the middle of the inland sea is a stark scene that reminds us of who we are and why we do what we do:

It couldn't be clearer than that.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Today we celebrated the great American Holiday over here in the Eternal City.  It's never the same as being back home but it is a wonderful experience.  Archbishop Burke came over to celebrate the mass with us and then afterwards we all had a pranzone (huge lunch) with Turkey, stuffing and even cranberry sauce.  One thing I always found funny over here at the North American College is the fact that they insist on serving some sort of pasta as a primo piatto (first dish)!  We had ravioli before we ever saw the turkey.  Not the average Thanksgiving tradition  (unless of course your family is Italian!)  But the rest of the meal was great and after a nice digestivo (Italian after dinner drinks) and a call home, I took a long nap! 

Now I am getting ready to take a trip this weekend to Malta, a little Island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea with a lot of history-including St. Paul, who was shipwrecked and wintered on the island.  I will be gone till Monday - I will post some pictures when I get back.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1,000th Visitor to Praedica Verbum

I just noticed on the bottom of the blog that the hit counter has crested 1,000.  I am surprised but happy to know that so many people are checking up on the things I post!  Now, I didn't put the hit counter on until a couple of weeks into the blogging so it might not be an accurate number.  The number could also be explained by people checking it more often than just once a day (Mom, I told you stop checking it every hour!, Just kidding:-)  But anyway, thanks for looking at the blog. 

 If you have any questions or comments feel free to ask or speak - I will do my best to answer and it might even make for some interesting blogging!

Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus,

Fr. David

to post a comment click below where it says comments.  I moderate the comments so they won't automatically show up.  They will appear as I approve them.  Better safe than sorry these days!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Surprise Visitor in Class

Today in Class we had a surprise visitor - dutifully arranged by our Marriage Law teacher Fr. Kowal, S.J.  He reminded us that November 27th of this year is the 25th anniversary of the effectual start of the New Code of Canon Law in the Latin Church (it having been promulgated on January 25th, 1983, and after a vacatio legis of some 10 months, came into effect on the First Sunday of Advent 1983)  One of the major collaborators in that momentous work (which I am now devoting considerable amounts of time to learning) was none other than the Gregorian University's own Urbano Cardinal Navarrete, S.J.  

I guess if you're famous enough you get a wikipedia entry:

Urbano Cardinal Navarrete Cortés, S.J. (born May 25, 1920) is a Professor of Canon Law and former Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was made Cardinal in 2007.

Urbano Navarrete Cortés was born in Camarena de la Sierra, Teruel; his father was named José Navarrete Esteban. He entered the Society of Jesus on June 20, 1937, after his licentiate in philosophy and in theology he obtained a doctorate in canon law. Navarrete was ordained to the priesthood on May 31, 1952, during the International Eucharistic Congress. A world renowned canonist, he then served as Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome until 1980, when he was appointed rector. Navarrete was granted an honorary doctorate by the Pontifical University of Salamanca, in his native Spain, in 1994, and is a consultor to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in the Roman Curia.

On October 17, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would elevate Navarrete and twenty-two other prelates to the College of Cardinals. The Pope agreed with Navarrete's request to be dispensed from the requirement of episcopal ordination, and, at the consistory in St. Peter's Basilica on November 24, 2007, he was created Cardinal Deacon of S. Ponziano. As he is above the age of 80, he is not eligible for participation in a papal conclave.

That was a nice treat and a little break from the tediousness of the canons themselves.  It is always interesting to get the insight that only a man with such a closness to and amount of time spent with a particular subject can bring.  Cardinal Navarette is truly a master of Canon Law and has shaped its understanding for the better part of half a century!  This is one of those instances of being at the feet of the master ad liminum Magistri - soaking in the collected wisdom of practical insight and lived experience.  He is a humble man who has gained the respect given him not by demanding it from others as a simple 'rite of passage' granted to one's elders.  But rather from working diligently and competently in the vineyard producing a consistent, rational exposition of the portion of the universe of knowledge entrusted to him.  A rare man, a rare experience and definitely a welcome surprise!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Faculties in Rome

I just received my 'carta di riconoscimento' (card of recognition) from the 'Vicariatus Urbis' (the Vicariate of the City). 

This is kind of like an ecclesial passport recognizing me as a priest in good standing in the city with all of the usual faculties to hear confession, celebrate mass, preach and the like.

I guess now I will stop forgetting who I am!
If I do forget, all I'll have to do is open my wallet:

These are just the one's with my picture on them! 
(The one on the top right has my picture on the back.)
I guess I will need a bigger wallet!

Villa Borghese

This past Saturday, after feeling a bit of the cabin fever from the rain and the books, I decided to go out for a walk in the city.  I headed towards the Villa Borghese, the second largest public park in Rome.  It is a beautiful park full of gardens and monuments.  I entered the park by the Porta Pinciana - the ancient Roman gate at the North of the City (it is just a ten minute walk from the Casa Santa Maria).   Here is a picture to show you what the ancient walls look like:

There are plenty of trails and roads to walk around.  There are 148 acres in the park!   There are some nice overlooks of downtown Rome also, the Pincio hill sitting just above the Piazza del Popolo.

 And there are many trees to be seen, but hardly any that have changing colors. 

Here is a typical shot that I took at the Piazza di Siena :

And then finally, I saw some fall colors!:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cool Fall Weather

Well, the weather is finally starting to turn cool.  It is about time, because last week it was wet and muggy from all the rain.  This week marks a sharp down turn in the temperature.  The weather in Rome never gets too cold and it hardly ever snows.  But it is always nice to have the semblance of a change of seasons.  I sure do miss the fall colors back home (I am guessing that they are almost gone by now:-(

Anyway, classes are still going well and there is still lots of reading to be done.  That's why there haven't been many posts lately.  But I did take one picture of the interior of the Gregorian Universtiy where I study and thought I would share that with you:

My classes are on the upper floor (which in Italian is the 1st floor - the 1st floor American being called the Ground Floor)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Libri legendi - pars secunda, et de Sancto Thome More

As you can tell from the title today was a latin day.  Still plodding through the details and precision of the language of the ages!

On top of that, the books and notes never stop piling up to be read!
Here is another shot of my little study corner:

Here is a nice shot of one the 'dispense' that we have been give for Fr. Hilbert's class.  It helps to follow his lectures:

Above my desk I have hanging a picture of St. Thomas More:

St. Thomas More, Martyr (Patron of Lawyers) St. Thomas More was born at London in 1478. After a thorough grounding in religion and the classics, he entered Oxford to study law. Upon leaving the university he embarked on a legal career which took him to Parliament. In 1505, he married his beloved Jane Colt who bore him four children, andwhen she died at a young age, he married a widow, Alice Middleton, to be a mother for his young children. A wit and a reformer, this learned man numbered Bishops and scholars among his friends, and by 1516 wrote his world-famous book "Utopia". He attracted the attention of Henry VIII who appointed him to a succession of high posts and missions, and finally made him Lord Chancellor in 1529. However, he resigned in 1532, at the height of his career and reputation, when Henry persisted in holding his own opinions regarding marriage and the supremacy of the Pope. The rest of his life was spent in writing mostly in defense of the Church. In 1534, with his close friend, St. John Fisher, he refused to render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England and was confined to the Tower. Fifteen months later, and nine days after St. John Fisher's execution, he was tried and convicted of treason. He told the court that he could not go against his conscience and wished his judges that "we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation." And on the scaffold, he told the crowd of spectators that he was dying as "the King's good servant-but God's first." He was beheaded on July 6, 1535. His feast day is June 22nd.


St. Thomas More pray for us!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fr. Jaki Talk

Every once in a while we get the opportunity here at the Casa Santa Maria to have a speaker of note come to enlighten us on a particular subject.  This evening we had the privilege of hearing Fr. Stanley Jaki, a Benedictine priest, theologian and physicist.  He was a Gifford Lecturer and in 1987 received the Templeton Prize.  He has written over 50 books.
Tonight he spoke to us about John Henry Cardinal Newman; a convert to the Catholic Faith through the Oxford movement in the Anglican Church in the 19th century.  There is a lot of talk about Newman in many circles and it was interesting to hear this scholar's take on the subject.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pope Sighting

Sorry about the long time in between posting.  We have begun some of our intensive classes on administrative practices and so it means evenings are taken up for a while!  But that doesn't mean that I haven't been able to get out and about!  
This past Thursday the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education said mass in St. Peter's for the new academic year and all the students of the Athenea and Ecclesiastical Universities of Rome were invited.  I was tempted not to go because it was raining(and it rained hard -I got soaked to the bone and my cassock weighed a ton because the wool had soaked up all that water!).  But that afternoon I was over at Santa Croce for a meeting and one of the priest professors there came up to me and asked me if I was going to the mass - I hemmed and hawed - but then he said, well, you can't pass this opportunity up and handed me a main concelebration ticket of which there were only about 100, i.e. a front row seat!  Turns out, these were given only to professors. But apparently some didn't want to go and had done the same thing as this one at Santa Croce.  Anyway, what an opportunity!  I got to vest and process in for the mass.  I even got a front row seat:

Now of course this was taken after mass!  But it is where I was seated.

At the end of mass, we all remained in our places because the Pope came to give us a talk.  That is what made my seating so awesome!  He came and stood not ten feet away from where I was seated:

And no, to anyone who asks - I wasn't able to shake his hand - even though I had a white main concelebrant ticket I didn't have a golden ticket (cue the music from Charlie and the Choclate Factory).  Literally, I didn't have the yellowish gold shake-the-pope's-hand ticket.  These were reserved to the rectors of the universities.  But being that close was good enough for me!  And to think, I wasn't even going to go.

To top it all off, afterwards when we divested, we were able to go right up to the Pieta of Michelangelo (i.e. behind the glass wall protecting it).

Notice that there is no glass between me and the Pieta!

That little set of events brought me back up after a grueling week of classes and the rainy weather.  Deo Gratias!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Libri Legendi

Now that classes are in full force (three weeks in) I am starting to feel the weight of study, namely the heavy books I am reading!

Here is a picture of some of the books and dispense I am trying to get through before the middle of the semester.  


You may ask what is a dispense?  It is an Italian word, pronounced dis-pen-say.  They are official - and sometimes unofficial- class notes from the professor that help fill in what the lecture leaves-presumably-to the imagination:-)

Here is a nice shot of my little study corner:

Now with my new room I have room to breath and to spread out a little to do my studying.  

And of course there are many more books waiting to be read on the bookshelf!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Visitors and Vespers

As you might have been able to tell from the blog lots of people come through Rome.  I enjoy getting to see people from back home and showing them around this wonderful city!  I love to get a chance to go out for a nice meal as well:)  Well anyway, Jerry and Ann Bodie from Knoxville came through and I was able to meet them for lunch on Saturday:

On Sunday I got to go to Vespers at St. Peter's Basilica.  All priests are invited to sit in choir with the Canons of St. Peter.  It is a beautiful liturgy with copes and incense everywhere - all for the Glory of God and for giving Him praise!  

Here I am in the Sacristy getting ready:

Here's another picture of the sacristy and all the goings-on:

Vespers take place at the Altar of the Chair:


To give you some idea of the grandness of St. Peter's, this chapel (the altar of the chair) is just the apse of the Church (apse: normally where the main altar and tabernacle are in your average parish Church).  It can seat a thousand people easily!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Classroom and Library

Classes are in full swing now so I thought I might give you a glimpse of what our classroom looks like.  For the Second Cycle Canon Law program (J.C.L.) we all meet in one classroom for all our classes.  Unlike most Universities that I know of where the professors have their own classrooms and the students come and go, here at the Gregorian it usually works out that the students have their own classroom and the professors come and go.  This makes breaks in between classes nice because you can just leave your stuff spread out on the desk and not have to pack things up every hour.  On the other hand, being in the same room sometimes gets a bit tedious!  

Here we have Fr. Hilbert our Dean about to introduce Fr. Visioli a new professor on the faculty:

I also included this picture because if you look closely on the right you can see one of the nuns that we have in class - she happens to be a Bridgitine Sister.  You can tell because of their distinctive habit:  notice the 'crown' on her veil.  The crown has marking on it to signify the five wounds of Christ on the Cross.  There are all sorts of little things like that that make studying at a Pontifical University fascinating!  When you walk through the halls you see all sorts of habits and clothing from around the world - its very colorful.  There is the black of the secular clergy, the brown of the Fransicans, the Black and White of the Cistersians, the white of the Dominicans, the blue of an order of sisters from Africa (whose name I can't recall because we just always called them the 'blue sisters':) and many others.  

Below is a picture of the reading room of the Library.  I used to love going up into the bookstacks and reading when I was here before:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Visitors from Chattanooga

I haven't posted in a couple of days because school is in full swing now and there isn't much time for leisure posting!  But all the same, there is still time to greet pilgrims to the eternal city.

This past weekend Glen and Karen Griffiths came into town.   They are parishioners at St. Jude in Chattanooga. I had the opportunity to spend some time with them on Sunday.

Here we are standing in front of St. Peter's:

We took a nice cruise down the Tiber river:

After a nice lunch and a lot of walking we made our way over to St. John Lateran and the Scala Santa:

The Scala Santa are the steps that Jesus walked up when he entered the Praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem.  They were brought to Rome by St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, and reconstructed.  A shrine was built around them that sits across the street from St. John Lateran.  As you climb the stairs on your knees (as is the traditional custom, you can see this in the picture) you look up to see a beautiful depiction of Jesus crucified with Mary and John under the cross.  It is a beautiful meditation on the passion of Christ. After all, Jesus knew that he was going to His death, He had predicted it, and so as He walked up those steps He was doing it for you and I!  What depth of love is found in the passion of our Lord!

After that we had a nice walk back through the Forum.  It was really a nice visit.  Today, Wednesday, they had a chance to see the Holy Father in his general audience.   It is always nice to meet up with good folks from home.  It makes Tennessee seem so much closer!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Opening Banquet

Tonight we had our opening banquet to kick-off the new year.  Now that classes are in full swing at all the Roman Universities it is time to celebrate the official opening of the academic year for the students of the Casa Santa Maria.  

First we had Mass, with His Eminence Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago celebrating.  We also had Archbishop O'Brien, Archbishop of Baltimore and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the North American College, as Main Concelebrant.

Archbishop O'Brien blessed our jubilee bell:

This bell is being installed in our bell tower to mark the 150th anniversary (next year) of the North American College (founded in 1859 by Pope Pius IX)

You can see the NAC crest stamped on the bell:

On the backside is the crest of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI:

Viva Il Papa!

Then of course we had a nice reception:

Followed by a very nice meal (the dessert was Baked Alaska!)
and then a pleasant digestivo in the cortile.