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.

I Won!

This morning the priests of the house held the Fall 'Room Lottery'.  This is a tri-annual ritual in which the lower class priest (new-men) vie for some 'upper-class'.  The new men, when they first come, are given rooms with the least 'property value' so that they can work themselves up year by year into the upper-end real estate at the Casa Santa Maria.  Now as you may remember from one of my first posts, my room was very much on the lower side of the 'real estate' at the Casa Santa Maria (I could almost touch both walls if I spread my arms out).  But today, I came out with a substantial upgrade (mostly due to lack of participation on the part of many upperclassmen who apparently were happy with their rooms, all the better for me:) 

I wasn't expecting much at first, seeing that my name was third from the bottom of the list.  The system is this:  Each priest is ranked according to ordination date and time spent at the Casa Santa Maria.  There are Seventy-two priests on the list of varying ages and backgrounds.  Now I have been ordained for three years and this is my first semester at the Casa, hence third from the bottom:

But lucky for me, most of the upperclassmen didn't show up to get a new room so the list ran through pretty quickly and I found myself with a choice of some very nice rooms.  I decided to choose room 202-204;  a double room with quite a bit of space (each of the rooms in this particular choice is bigger than my original room!!!)

Here are some pictures of the room before I moved in:

I will post some more when I get settled in and have things arranged.  Needless to say, I am happy with this little move as now I can actually stretch without being afraid of knocking something over!:)

Now of course this means I will have a different phone number.  I don't know yet how that works but I will make a post when that comes into effect.  Until then, you can still call my old number and I will check those messages.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vote! It's actually a Christian Duty

Well folks, the vote is in - at least for me that is.  This morning I received my absentee ballot from Hamilton County.  It is probably the only one that they sent to a Vatican City address!  It will probably give someone in the courthouse a little chuckle or something to brag about;  "I got to process a voter ballot from the Vatican!" or something like that!  Well anyway, I personally walked it down to St. Peter's and dropped it in the mail box:

And now I must say a few words to encourage the faithful:

As you may or may not know, Participation in the life of society (and that means in politics too) is one of the permanent principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church.  We as Christians are called to make our voices and values known to the world at large.  A Christian is not and cannot be a relativist and we don't have the luxury of saying, "I'm okay, you're okay!" We cannot profess one thing to be true and yet hold that its opposite can also be true.  This comes to a head when dealing with society at large.

Ours is a task dedicated to the redemption of humanity, because we are one body in Christ!  We hold the truths of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Therefore we hold the truth about human nature revealed in 'the-Word-made-flesh', to be true not only for us but for all.  We believe what we believe because we believe it to be TRUE!  The apostolic ministry of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about sharing this truth with humanity.  Sharing it as the truth that will set us free and not simply as a suggestion or optional practice in order to be 'good'  or simply for the right ordering of society.

This is especially important to keep in mind when dealing with the public arena and politics.  Our faith is not and can never be 'merely a private matter!'.  I seem to recall a passage from scripture, "But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven" Matthew 10:33  Politicians have a grave ethical and moral duty to be faithful to the Truth even if it is unpopular if not for themselves then for the greater good, otherwise they lack integrity and credibility and society suffers as a result. Catholic Politicians have an even more grave responsibility to this reality.  They profess to believe what the Catholic Church holds and teaches as necessary and binding on all the faithful for their salvation in matter of faith and morals.  To act contrary to this would be a grave offense against their own souls and would be injurious to the whole Church as well by introducing public scandal to the faithful.  "It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones." Luke 17:2   As you can see, this is not just a mere personal opinion - this comes from the mouth of God-made-man, Jesus Christ.

As for us citizens, we too have a grave obligation to be faithful to this truth.  I include here in this post a letter from the Bishops of Dallas and Fort Worth.  It is worth a read-through and a serious consideration as this election gets nearer.  I chose it among all the many statement of the bishops (which are many and pretty much say the same thing) because it gets right to the heart of the issue while addressing all the other arguments that people tend to make.  Remember, it is not easy to be a follower of Jesus Christ, sometimes it means the cross, or sometimes it means choosing a candidate who is not 'our cup of tea', who may not represent our full spectrum of beliefs or values in all of its many facets but at the bottom gets the most important and foundational truth right. The Church does propose a way through this mess that we can count on, a way based in the truth of our faith, based not in politics or agendas, based not even on necessarily sectarian religious creed, but on a reasoned and grounded humanism that is based on the Natural Law.  

This letter is powerful and direct.  I took the liberty to bold and underline some sections.  And so without further ado, here is the letter:


Office of the Bishop                  Office of the Bishop  

Diocese of Dallas                  Diocese of Fort Worth 



October 8, 2008 


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: 


The month of October is Respect Life Month in our churches.  It is a time in which we as Catholics are called to reflect upon the gift of life that has been entrusted to us by our Creator and to focus our attention on the many attacks against human life that exist in our culture today.  This year, Respect Life Month takes on a more profound meaning as we face an election in our country where the protection of human life itself, particularly that of the unborn, is very much at stake.  Therefore, as your Bishops, we wish to take this opportunity to provide clear guidance on the proper formation of conscience concerning voting as faithful Catholics and to articulate the Church’s clear and unambiguous teaching on life issues as they relate to other issues of concern. 


The Church teaches that all Catholics should participate as “faithful citizens” in the public square, especially through our voice in the voting booth, and that we have the responsibility to treat the decision for whom we will vote for with profound moral seriousness.  We must approach the right and duty to vote with a properly formed and informed conscience in accordance with the teachings of the Church.  Last November, the Bishops of the United States issued a document entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in which we and our brother Bishops issued clear moral guidelines to aid the faithful in proper formation of conscience with regard to the many issues we face in our nation today.  Through this joint statement to the faithful of Dallas and Fort Worth, we seek to briefly summarize the key points and dispel any confusion or misunderstanding that may be present among you concerning the teaching contained in the document, especially that which may have arisen from recent public misinterpretation 

concerning this teaching. 


1. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly teaches that not all issues have the same moral equivalence.  Some issues involve “intrinsic evils”; that is, they can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified.  Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion 

of same sex unions and “marriages”, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. 


Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship clearly states: 


“There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor.  Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons.  These are called ‘intrinsically evil’ actions.  They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.  A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia.  In our nation, 

‘abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5).  It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice.  A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.”  (22) 


2. The destruction of the most innocent of human life through abortion and embryonic stem cell research not only undercuts the basic human right to life, but it also subverts and distorts the common good.  As Pope 

John Paul II clearly states: 


“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society   exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good…   It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, 

upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop…”  (The Gospel of Life, 72; 101) 


3. Therefore, we cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the “only issue” – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years.  Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, more than 48 million innocent lives have been lost.  Each year in our nation more than one million lives are lost through legalized abortion.  Countless other lives are also lost through embryonic stem cell research.  In the coming months our nation will once again elect our political leaders.  This electoral cycle affords us an opportunity to promote the culture of life in our nation.  As Catholics we are morally obligated to pray, to act, and to vote to abolish the evil of abortion in America, limiting it as much as we can until it is finally abolished. 


4. As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror.  As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about.  There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them.  These are matters of “prudential judgment.”  But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils.  No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate’s unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of “abortion rights.”  


As Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship states: 


“The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many.  It must always be opposed.”  (28)  


5. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in paragraphs 34-37, addresses the question of whether it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil – even when the voter does not agree with the candidate’s position on that evil.  The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to 

be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following:  


a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or “abortion rights,” a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,  


b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion.  While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no “truly grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.   


To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible. 


6. In conclusion, as stated in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the decisions we make on these political and moral issues affect not only the general peace and prosperity of society at large, but also may affect each individual’s salvation.  As Catholics, we must treat our political choices with appropriate moral gravity and in doing so, realize our continuing and unavoidable obligation to be a voice for the voiceless unborn, whose destruction by legal abortion is the preeminent intrinsic evil of our day.  With knowledge of the Church’s teaching on these grave matters, it is incumbent upon each of us as Catholics to educate ourselves on where the candidates running for office stand on these issues, particularly those involving intrinsic evils.  May God bless you. 


Faithfully in Christ, 


Most Reverend Kevin J. Farrell 

Bishop of Dallas 


Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann

Bishop of Fort Worth 

A little Reunion

Last night I had the privilege of getting together with a couple of my classmates from my time here in Rome.  They were here for the Diaconate ordinations last week and were still here for a little R&R.  They are both from Little Rock, Arkansas.  On the right is Fr. Jason Tyler on the left is Mr. Matthew Glover, Esq. (I put that in there because he just passed his bar exam!)  Matt decided to leave the seminary before ordination, at the end of our third year.  He went back to pursue a career in the legal profession - and his wife is taking the picture.  I had the great priviledge of going to both Fr. Jason's ordination to the Priesthood as well as Matt and Brooke's wedding.  It really was good to see them again, and to eat at one of the old NAC hang-outs: Scarpone on the Gianiculum Hill

Oh, well, I guess I have to get back to my studies now.  I actually have homework to do!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Third Day of Class

Just to keep the post up to date - I just had my third day of class and things are going well.  My studies this semester are concentrating on two areas of the code:  Marriage Law and Procedural Law.  Two huge areas to cover.  But I had the great priveledge of working at our Inter-diocesan Marriage Tribunal this past year and summer which gave me a great head start on the subject matter.  Hopefully I can build on this as I begin an in depth study of these areas.

Here are some nice pictures of my 'text book'

You can see its a little worn from my previous year of study

and already full of underlines and notes - not the last, however!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Brother Benedict's Ordination

You may remember the post I made about the Catholic Moment:  A Catholic Moment

Well, I was able to go back up to Norcia over this past weekend for Brother, now Father Benedict's priestly ordination.  There were quite a few concelebrants among them are the ones shown below in the picture:

Fr. Joseph Carola S.J. (on the right) was my Patristics Professor (patristics is the study of the fathers of the church, Augustine, Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Ireneus of Lyons, etc.) when I was here doing my first cycle of studies; a great priest and a great teacher! It was wonderful to reconnect with him.

The church is universal and sometimes very colorful as evidenced by the Canons Regular of Klosterneuburg in Austria in their choir dress.
Fr. Elias (on the left) lives at the Casa Santa Maria with me.

After the ordination, Fr. Benedict gave the customary first blessing:

It was really a wonderful day for all.  Though on the walk to the Pranzo I sprained my ankle - it is healing now but it gave me a shock!

First Day of Class

Just a little post to keep everyone informed:
In case you were wondering, "When is this guy ever going to start class?"  You will be happy to know that today, October 13, 2008, I officially started class!  We just had a simple day of introductions, a methodology class and of course Latin! (which I will be taking till the day I die)  The code of canon law is written in latin and so it is the latin text which is in effect and must be known upwards and downwards in its original language! Another layer of this reality is that all the course work that focuses on the latin language of the code is taught in Italian!!!

Not to worry.  I think I will make it though:)  I am pleasantly surprised at how well the transition has been.  Coming back after a hiatus isn't as bad as starting something new for the first time.  So I have been able to ease myself back into the Roman environment and language well enough and I look forward to the year.  

Here is a nice shot of the front entrance to the Gregorian University:

Oremus pro Invicem

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Diaconal Ordination at St. Peter's and dinner following

I just got back from the diaconal ordination for the North American College (seminary division).  25 men from around the U.S.A. were ordained as transitional deacons.  This is the event that everyone looks forward to as they prepare themselves for priestly ministry.  The Diaconate is where the promises of the liturgy of the hours, obedience and celibacy are made. An awesome and radical commitement to follow Christ and to become a coworker in the apostolic ministry of proclaiming the word.  It was held in St. Peter's Basilica at the Altar of the Chair:

I don't have pictures of the ordination because I thought it would be rude and irreverent for me to take my camera out during the liturgy.  I will post some pictures when they have the official ones up on the pnac website.  Until then you can probably see last years pictures on

But I did take a few pictures of the cena and gelato that followed:

Myself and a good Holy Cross father (we both had the Caprese)

After a long and very beautifully celebrated ordination there is nothing like a great meal (some grappa) and a little gelato to round it all off!  Good times!

A Catholic Moment

This entry is a 'backlog'   Literally - a weblog that should have been posted a week back: backlog!

It is about the unity of our faith but in concrete terms.  When you are a member of one body (mystical body of Christ) with a billion bodies across the globe (not to mention the ranks upon ranks in the church purgative and triumphant in heaven) you may think the world a large place. Au contraire - the Catholic Church in fact makes the world a smaller place - which brings people together (communion) under the strangest of conditions.
Anyway - I was chided recently in an e-mail (very gently of course) by a good priest from Shreveport, LA  for not mentioning such a surprise encounter I had with him and a group of people from Shreveport here in Italy on pilgrimage!  and rightly so . . .

So there I was in Norcia, a remote valley town in the mountains of Italy.  I was retreating and praying and being holy and all 0:) when all of sudden who sits down beside me in the monastic chapel but Fr. Peter Mangum of Shreveport!?!  (Now some may or may not know that my family is originally from Shreveport, Louisiana)  Now the last time I was in town visiting relatives he had told me that he was bringing a group with him to Italy, but it was still a surprise to look up and see him sitting next to me!   
He and a few of the pilgrims had broken off from the rest of their tour group to take a side trip to Norcia in order to see an old friend of theirs, Brother Benedict.  Brother Benedict is a monk of the abbey where I was doing my retreat.  He is also about to be ordained a priest (this Saturday to be precise)  Here is where it gets even more Catholic - he attended the University of the South in Sewanee, TN (Diocese of Nashville, near Mont Eagle but still near enough that priests of the Diocese of Knoxville fill in masses there) where after a conversion he made a profession of faith and entered into full communion with the Catholic Church.  He went to school there with some friends, a brother and sister from, of all places, Shreveport, LA who had also converted to the Catholic Faith.  So what are the chances of all of these people converging on one remote place and all at the same time?  Pretty low if left by itself, but if you factor in the great grace that Jesus Christ founded a Church that was intended to go to the four corners of the world, you get pretty good odds.  

So there we were, a strange collage of acquaintance in a remote valley of Italy - gathered because we have come to know and to believe in Jesus Christ and His Church!   Well, we all piled into the monastery's car:  there were six of us - myself, Fr. Peter and his nephew (il furbo), Mrs. Walker and her daughter (one of the friends from Shreveport/Sewanee) and Brother Benedict who drove us up to Castellucio for a nice pranzo (lunch) at the Refugio, a stop along the Great Ring Trail of the Monti Sibillini.

On the way back we stopped to get a picture - here is an artistic shot.  I am taking a picture of Fr. Peter taking a picture of Brother Bendedict and Mrs. and Ms. Walker as they stand before the picture of the grandeur of God - His creation!

Sorry for being so poetic - but sometimes you just have to be when it's a Catholic Moment such as this:)

Confessions at Santa Maria in Trastevere

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to help out, along with eleven other priests here in town, with confessions for a group of pilgrims from Bismark, North Dakota.  They were in town for the diaconal ordination of some of their seminarians studying at the North American College.  (That takes place today - October 9th).  It was great being able to exercise again my priestly faculties.  What a great gift confession is - the personal experience of the forgiveness that Christ won for us on the Cross.  My favorite teaching about confession  is found in the catechism paragraph 1470:

 "In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life.  For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin." The reality is that we will all have to face judgment one day - But in God's mercy He has given us this sacrament as a sort of 'Installment Plan' :)

Anyway, here is a picture of the Facade of Santa Maria in Trastevere with two of my fellow Casites in the foreground (nomenclature:  Casite - n. one who dwells at the Casa Santa Maria. pr. like Hittite or cenobite):

The Wikipedia entry for Santa Maria in Trastevere:

The basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome, perhaps the first in which mass was openly celebrated. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s AD.

This is the queen of the churches in Trastevere. The inscription on the episcopal chair says that it is the first church dedicated to the Mother of God, although actually that privilege belongs to Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. In its foundation it is certainly one of the oldest churches in the city. A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope St. Callixtus I (217-222) on the site of the Taberna meritoria, an asylum for retired soldiers. The area was given over to Christian use by the Emperor Severus when he settled a dispute between the Christians and tavern-keepers, saying, “I prefer that it should belong to those who honor God, whatever be their form of worship.” In 340 Pope Julius I (337-352) rebuilt the titulus Callixti on a larger scale, and it became the titulus Iulii commemorating his patronage, one of the original twenty-five parishes in Rome; indeed it may be the first church in which Mass was celebrated openly. It underwent two restorations in the fifth and eighth centuries. In 1140-43 the church was re-erected on its old foundations under Innocent II[1] The richly carved Ionic capitals reused along its nave were pillaged from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla.[2] When scholarship during the nineteenth century identified the faces in their carved decoration as Isis, Serapis and Harpocrates, a restoration under Pius IX in 1870 hammered off the offending faces.[3]

The 13th-century mosaics in the apse are attributed to Pietro Cavallini.

The predecessor of the present church was probably built in the early fourth century although that church was the successor to one of the tituli, those Early Christian basilicas that were ascribed to a patron and perhaps literally inscribed with his name. Though nothing remains to establish with certainty where any of the public Christian edifices of Rome before the time of Constantine the Great were situated, the basilica on this site was known as Titulus Callisti, since a legend in the Liber Pontificalis ascribed the earliest church here to a foundation by Pope Callixtus I (died 222), whose remains, translated to the new structure, are preserved under the altar.

The present nave of this Romanesque church, rebuilt by Pope Innocent II (1138 –1148) and rededicated to the Virgin Mary, preserves its original basilica plan and stands on the earlier foundations. The 22 granite columns with Ionic and Corinthian capitals that separate the nave from the aisles came from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, as did the lintel of the entrance door.

Inside the church are a number of late 13th-century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini on the subject of the Life of the Virgin (1291) centering on a "Corontation of the Virgin" in the apse. Domenichino's octagonal ceiling painting, Assumption of the Virgin (1617) fits in the coffered ceiling setting he designed.

The façade of the church was restored by Carlo Fontana in 1702, who replaced the ancient porch with a sloping tiled roof— seen in Falda's view (upper right)— with the present classicizing one (below right). The octagonal fountain in the piazza in front of the church (Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere), which already appears in a map of 1472 [1], was also restored by Carlo Fontana. The image of Mary on the façade is believed to be the earliest iconographic depiction of the Virgin nursing Jesus.

The church keeps a relic of Saint Apollonia, her head, as well as a portion of the Holy Sponge. Among those buried in the church, are the relics of Pope Callixtus I and the body of Lorenzo Cardinal Campeggio.

Here is a picture of the interior - it is very beautiful!

I got to use a traditional confessional, a.k.a. 'the box' - very fine indeed!

Near Santa Maria in Trastevere is the famous Communita di Sant'Egidio whose main apostolate is serving the poor.  

From their website:

The Community of Sant'Egidio began in Rome in 1968, at the initiative of a young man, who was then less than twenty, Andrea Riccardi. He gathered a group of high-school students, like himself, to listen to and to put the Gospel into practice. The first Christian communities of the Acts of the Apostles and Francis of Assisi were the first reference points.The small group immediately began going to the outskirts of Rome visiting the slums, then crowded with many poor people, and they began an afternoon school (its name was "Scuola Popolare" -People's School-, nowadays "Schools of peace") for children.  Since then the community has increased. It is now in more than 70 countries in 4 continents. The number of community members is also constantly growing. There are about 50.000 members as well as many more who are permanently co-operating in the service to poor people and in the various activities of Sant'Egidio without being part of the community in a strict sense. There is also a large number of persons reached by the various activities of service that the community performs.

I believe they serve meals to over a thousand people a day at their soup kitchen here in Trastevere.  What a beautiful gift this community is to the church and to the world!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Motorino Sightseeing

Yesterday I took the day to go sight-seeing (no I wasn't skipping class!  They don't start till next week!)  Sightseeing can take alot out of you especially in Rome where you have to walk everywhere.  Instead of walking, I decided to rent a motorino (relatively cheap) and proceeded to see the sights.  Now some of you might say, "but isn't driving in Italy crazy???"  The answer is simply, Yes, but if you join into the craziness it is more like dancing . . . literally.  Cars, busses and motorini do a sort of dance through the streets of Rome, every once in a while there is a traffic light that is sort of like musical chairs - the music stops and everyone has to find a place to park for a second.  And find places they do (usually though, the motorini get to inch their way forward in between cars and busses to get to the front of the line.  Then when the light changes you would have thought it was a pistol start at a Track and Field meet!
But anyway, I had a motorino the last year that I was here before so it was like, well, like riding a bike - I just picked up right where I had left off.

I rode to some of my old hang-outs, like the top of the Gianiculum Hill where I took this picture:

And yes, I was wearing a helmet!

That's St. John Lateran behind me.

This is what it looked like from my perspective:

Anyway, the advantage of riding a motorino is that you can really see the whole city in one day.  I started by just cruising around the Vatican then I went over towards the Forum and Colloseum.  I went up the Esquiline Hill to Visit St. Mary Major and St. Peter in Chains.  It was too dark inside St. Mary Major to get any good pictures but it is a truly beautiful church.  I will have to post more on that later.  

Here is a picture of the relics of St. Peter's chains in the church of the same name:

The Wikipedia entry for St. Peter in Chains:
"Also known as the Basilica Eudoxiana, it was first built in 432-440 to house the relic of the chains that boundSaint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. According to legend, when the Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III) gifted the chains to Pope Leo I, while he compared them to the chains of St. Peter's final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together. The chains are kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the basilica."

Here is the famous statue of Moses by Michelangelo located in one of the transepts:

It was built as part of the funeral monument for Pope Julius II.

After that, I went for a drive to St. Paul outside the walls where I was on Sunday with the Pope.  see the previous post on that St. Paul outside the Wall

It is located out on the via Ostiense (the road that goes to Ostia, i.e. the mouth of the Tiber River (Os, oris, noun meaning mouth))  After a little stop at St. Paul's burial place (the basilica itself) I drove out to Le Tre Fontane, the three fountains, which is the place where Paul was martyred for the faith.  It is a beautiful place with a trappist abbey attached to it.  The church is named 'three fountains' from the legend that when Paul was beheaded his head bounced three times down the hill and everytime it hit the ground a miraculous spring welled up from the ground!  Here is the entrance to the Church:

You can see the old Roman pavement which has been preserved for 2000 years!  

The Romans were excellent engineers!

After 'Le Tre Fontane' I went over to the Catacombs of St. Sebastian.  Here is a beautiful statue carved of St. Sebastian depicting his arrow pierced body:

St. Sebastian

According to his legend, Sebastian was born at Narbonne, Gaul. He became a soldier in the Roman army at Rome in about 283, and encouraged Marcellian and Marcus, undersentence of death, to remain firm in their faith. Sebastian made numerous converts: among them were the master of the rolls, Nicostratus, who was in charge of prisoners and his wife, Zoe, a deaf mute whom he cured; the jailer Claudius; Chromatius, Prefect of Rome, whom he cured of gout; and Chromatius' son, Tiburtius. Chromatius set the prisoners free, freed his slaves, and resigned as prefect.

Sebastian was named captain in the praetorian guards by Emperor Diocletian, as did Emperor Maximian when Diocletian went to the East. Neither knew that Sebastian was a Christian. When it was discovered during Maximian's persecution of the Christians that Sebastian was indeed a Christian, he was ordered executed. He was shot with arrows and left for dead, but when the widow of St. Castulus went to recover his body, she found he was still alive and nursed him back to health. Soon after, Sebastian intercepted the Emperor, denounced him for his cruelty to Christians, and was beaten to death on the Emperor's orders.

Saint Sebastian was venerated at Milan as early as the time of St. Ambrose and was buried on the Appian Way. He is patron of archers, athletes, and soldiers, and is appealed to for protection against plagues.

After St. Sebastian I had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Cecilia Matella.  Then I was off to St. John Lateran which is actually the cathedral of Rome (not St. Peter's which is merely the 'papal chapel' :)  In the Baldichino (the little thingy above the altar) are the heads of both Peter and Paul.  The altar is believed to be the one on which Peter celebrated the mass as he broke bread with the Christians of Rome.

After St. John Lateran I tried to stop into Santa Croce where the relics of the Cross of Christ are kept but they had a concert going on inside.  So I passed on to St. Lawrence outside the walls.  The church was still closed from their afternoon closure so I hopped on over to the Campo Verano.  

According to ancient Roman tradition, the Campo Verano, the main cemetery, lies outside the city walls on the Via Tiburtina (the road to Tivoli).  The North American College has a mausoleum there and it contains the mortal remains of Frank Parater, a seminarian from Richmond, Virginia whose cause is up for canonization.  Our mausoleum is the tall one in the center:

After a walk through the city of the dead I went back to see about St. Lawrence. 

St. Lawrence martyr

Feastday: August 10

Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" he said. "I am not leaving you, my son," answered the Pope. "in three days you will follow me." Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away.

The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: "This is the Church's treasure!"

In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. "Turn me over," he said to the judge. "I'm done on this side!" And just before he died, he said, "It's cooked enough now." Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world. After that, he went to receive the martyr's reward. Saint Lawrence's feast day is August 10th.

Here is a picture of the outside of the Church:

Now the folks back at St. Jude will be interested in this.  I noticed the banner on the far right pillar.  I went up to investigate and it blew my mind.  The good people of St. Jude in Chattanooga have been preparing all year to celebrate their 5oth anniversary (the parish was founded in 1958)  I hope that it will be a spectacular celebration, but that great milestone limps in comparison to the jubilee that St. Lawrence is celebrating this year.  The Church was found in the year 258, that means they are celebrating their 1750th anniversary!!!!  Wow!  

After St. Lawrence, I took a nice ride through town and then up the tiber for the Piazza del Popolo and then decided to call it a day!

So you can see from the length of this post that the motorino is a very fine way to see Rome without getting too tuckered out.  If I were to have used public transport and or personal transport (feet) there is no way I could have covered all that territory in one day perhaps even in two . . .  But as it is, I had a good day to remind me of the many saints and sinners (read here taxi drivers who cut you off ;) who have graced this beautiful eternal city!