Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Hear I am, Lord"

"At a crucial time in history, Mary offered herself, her body and soul, to God as a dwelling place. In her and from her the Son of God took flesh. Through her the Word was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14)” (Pope Benedict XVI)

It is in this reverential hearing, portrayed by the Annunciation, that we can learn from Mary, who received this heavenly message while she was intent on meditating upon the Sacred Scriptures. As a humble handmaid of the Divine Word, she shows us how to be ever ready to hear the will of God, expressed to us through His Word, and through His Church. As we contemplate this attitude of Mary, ever ready to do the Lord's will, let us awaken in our own hearts that readiness to follow God wherever He may lead us.

As the primary feast of our religious community, Mary in the Annunciation gives us an example of her loving abandonment and trust in Divine Providence. She accepts with personal generosity God's love poured out upon her, and is fully active in her response to His great love. Upon hearing of St. Elizabeth's condition, she rises up to carry in her womb, the Incarnate Love, who has come to save us from our sins. She in truth can be called the first disciple of Jesus, the first evangelizer of the Lord. St. Augustine tells us of Mary; “Before conceiving the Lord in her body, she had already conceived Him in her soul.” From her we can learn to make room for Jesus to dwell in our hearts and souls and thereby bring Him to all that we meet.

If you are consecrated to Mary, according to St. Louis de Montfort's Consecration, don't forget to renew your consecration today on this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. A plenary indulgence is granted by the Church.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Joseph, Guardian of Christ

Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio, Rome
Altar of St. Joseph
So much has been said about St. Joseph, protector and guardian of the Virgin and her Son, the Eternal Word.  Scripture mentions St. Joseph, fifteen times, attributing to him the title of the a “just man” (Matt. 1:19), which flows from his relationship with Christ and His Mother.   

While St Joseph has no words attributed to him, his silence speaks volumes.

Through the silence of St. Joseph, we can hear the echo of Mary's instructions to the servants at the wedding of Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)  St. Joseph trusted the appearance of the angel who told him in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary to be his wife, (cf. Matt. 1:20-21)  and to take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt. (Matt. 2: 13-15) By his silent self giving and contemplation in the role that was assigned to him, he shows us the perfect path to holiness: following the will of God. 

In 1870, on December 8th, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, and asked his guidance not only upon the Vicar of Christ on earth, but also as protector and guide of all families and members of the Church, who make up Christ's mystical body.

“St. Joseph is the protector par excellence of the family, along with the other two of whom he was the incomparable guardian. The simple mention of Jesus, Mary and Joseph reminds us that there [in the Holy Family] we find all human history and there we find also the salvation, the grandeur, the beauty, the splendor of the Catholic Church.”
( Homily, Pope John XXIII)

Pope John XXIII earned the title of “St. Joseph's Pope", because of his great devotion.  Having contemplated taking “Joseph” as his name when elected to the Pontificate and only deferring  due to a lack of precedent, he nevertheless showed his devotion by naming St. Joseph patron of the Second Vatican Council and adding St. Joseph's name to the Canon of the Mass. (December 8, 1962, ninety-two years after St. Joseph was proclaimed the Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX.)

On this feast of St. Joseph, let us imitate his example by striving to do the will of God. To sanctify our family life after his example, as we keep our eyes fixed on Christ.   
St. Joseph patron of the universal Church, and family life, pray for us!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday, Second Week of Lent - San Clemente

San Clemente, one of the oldest churches in Rome, is unique for its structure of two superimposed churches sitting above vast subterranean grounds containing the remains of the house of Clement, and other roman buildings.

Relics of St. Clement
The relics of St. Clement, the third successor of St. Peter, can be found enshrined in this Basilica by Pope Adrian II, around 839. His relics were brought back to Rome by St. Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles to the Slavs. Later the remains of St. Ignatius of Antioch were also reposed here.

On the Feast of St. Clement in November, the sisters decided to travel to this Church after work to pray Vespers before his tomb. To our surprise, we were able to participate in a procession throughout the neighboring streets, with a live band, fireworks, and continuous singing. It was truly a magnificent display which showed the Italian spirit and love for their parish patron. After the procession, Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, OP offered Mass. 

Procession in the streets with fireworks

Entering the Basilica after the Procession

Homily, Archbishop Di Noia. OP

On the Monday of the Second Week in Lent, we gathered at San Clemente, for early morning Mass. The older church with some beautiful surviving frescoes, as well as, some older Roman structures including the Temple to Mithras, can be seen.
Mass offered on Monday, Second Week of Lent

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Second Sunday of Lent: Santa Maria in Dominica

Saturday of the First Week of Lent was traditionally celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica due to ordinations to the deaconate.  So I decided to skip this Stational Church because St. Peter's will be visited later.

The Station Church for the Second Sunday in Lent is the Basilica of Santa Maria in Dominica.  A beatiful but small anicent Church where the early Christians gathered on Sundays to celebrate Mass.  It was on this spot in the house of the Lord Dominicum, where they took refuge to pray together.  It is said to have been here that St. Lawrence distributed the goods of the Church to the poor, before he was arrested, put in prison and died on the gridiron.

This Second Sunday of Lent was a beautiful crisp day in Rome.  So we packed a picnic lunch and headed up the Via della Navicella. There is a small sculpture of a boat which stands near the church because it was once named Santa Maria in Navicella.  In the apse of the Church is an image of the Blessed Virgin enthroned holding the Christ Child in the center, surrounded by saints, with Pope St. Paschal I at her feet.  This is the first instance in the West of an image such as this with the Blessed Virgin in the center. We attended Mass with the local Italian people who are regular parishioners of this ancient parish, because the North American Pontifical College only sponsors the Stational Masses during the week.  After Mass, we walked to a small but beautiful park to have our picnic. In the city of Rome, you cannot find grass, but since we were past the Colosseum, there were some lovely places to stop.  Sunday is a family day for the Italians and there were many that day playing with their children.  We were also able to visit a few other churches in the area.  In Rome, you never know what you will find upon entering one of these sacred places.

Today, March 4th, is also the Feast of St. Casimir although the Sunday supercedes this feast, it is appropriate to mention him.

Let us take St. Casimir as our companion along our journey of Lent. Although he was born into Polish nobility, he lived a holy life from his earliest years. He not only avoided sin, he shunned anything that seemed to be self-indulgent. Spending most of the night in prayer, he often slept on the ground. But what was most noticeable was his serenity and cheerfulness, especially to the sick and the poor. In honor of Our Lady, he frequently recited the hymn which we know today as “Daily, Daily Sing to Mary.”

Like St. Casimir, we are born, though Baptism into a noble family – Jesus Christ the King of Kings is our Brother. His normal life appears to be an ideal Lenten observance – praying, practicing virtue, caring for our brothers and sisters in need.
St. Casimir, pray for us that we may resemble Christ more closely.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday, First Week of Lent: Santi XII Apostoli

During our first summer here in Rome, we were privileged to spend some time at the Church which marks today's Station; Santi XII Apostoli.  Facing away from the Victor Emmanuel Monument, to the right of the Piazza, you will find Via Apostoli.  It was about a 15 min. walk from our dwelling at the Domus Santa Maria.

The earliest record of this Basilica of the Holy Apostles dates to the time of Julius I, mid-fourth century.  Around 570,  Pope John III dedicated the Basilica to the Apostles when the relics of Ss. Philip and James the Lesser were placed beneath the high altar.  Home to the Franciscans who care for the Basilica, you can see evidence of the their spirituality, when the Basilica was renovated through the years.

The Basilica is dazzling when the chandeliers are on.  Something you only see when there is a public Mass held in the Church. A splendid array of light reminding one that Christ is the true Light of this World.  In December, the Franciscan hold a Novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception.  We were able to attend a few of these evening celebrations.  Behind the high altar is a masterpiece depiction of the martyrdom of St. Philip, however, during the Novena of the Immaculate Conception, this painting is covered with a beautiful illuminated image of Our Lady. The novena consists of a special Holy Hour, homily on an advent theme, concluded with the celebration of Mass each night before the feast. 

High Altar, during the Novena of the Immaculate Conception

If you get the chance to visit Rome, don't miss the opportunity to visit the tombs of St. Philip and St. James.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thursday, First Week of Lent: San Lorenzo in Panisperna

The #40 bus that runs from the Vatican to the Victor Emmanuel monument, picked up one block from the Domus Santa Maria.  As today is the ninth day our pilgrimage, it was grand to see the bus packed with seminarians and other students headed for San Lorenzo in Panisperna to attend Mass.  We were all one big family in Christ.   

Beautiful depiction of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence over the altar

St. Lawrence, martyred around 258, was one of the most beloved saints both in Rome and throughout Latin Christendom.  A deacon of the Roman Church, he found himself faced with the task of administering the Church after the arrest of Pope Sixtus II and four of his fellow deacons in the Catacombs of Callixtus. Meeting the pope while he was being led away to prison and execution, Lawrence begged to be able to accompany him.  The pope turned this request down, giving the deacon charge of the temporal goods of the church, while telling him that the deacon would follow his bishop in four days time.  Lawrence then went forth and gave away the material goods of the church to the poor in the city.  Soon he in turn was arrested and brought before the magistrates. When they demanded the treasures of the Church, Lawrence turned to the poor, saying that these were the true treasures of the Church.  Enraged, the Romans cast him into a dark prison cell near the site of today’s church.  There, he converted the jailer and his family.  He was then condemned to be burnt alive over a gridiron set up on the site of today’s station.  On the 10th  August 258, St. Lawrence suffered and died for his steadfast faith in Christ.  "Turn me over, I’m done on this side", he said to his executioners as he neared the end of his torture, and thus he passed from this world to the glory of the kingdom of God.

As we continue our lenten journey, although we may not be physical martyrs for Christ, we can profess our love through many acts of kindness to our neightbor, repentence for our sins, and forgiveness toward others.