Sunday, May 27, 2012

Come Holy Spirit

Saturday night Matt and I went to dinner with some seminarian friends from two other dioceses out east. The food was great. It was also a bitter sweet evening as we say farewell to two priests from the group who'll be returning home after completing their studies. On our way home we were walking through St. Peter's square not even paying attention to where we were when two young Italians asked us how they could acquire tickets for the Papal Mass the next day. As we were helping them, another young person walked up and asked one of the priests to hear his confession. So in a span of 5 minutes in what we considered to be a routine walk back from dinner, Papal Mass tickets were acquired and confession was heard.  It is easy to forget or take for granted the opportunities given to us here in Rome.

Then this morning I went to the Pentecost Mass at St. Peter's Basilica presided by the Holy Father. I didn't go early to try to get a good seat. Sure enough I arrived later and the central nave was already full, but interestingly enough I was ushered along with some others outside of the basilica. We walked outside of the church on the right-hand side until we re-entered the basilica from the right transept. Sure enough there were plenty of seats and I was sitting about 10 rows back in the right transept. I felt guilty. Here I came later than I should have and still managed to find a great seat. Before Mass started an usher asked me to move forward to an empty front row seat about 20 feet from the right side of the altar with the Sistine Choir right next to me. Then I felt even more guilty sitting in a plush front row seat with a velvet kneeler in front of me. Oh and I didn't even bring my camera since I was planning on sitting in the back.

The Mass was very beautiful. The great feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, is so powerful. The Holy Father's homily was especially good today (as it always it of course). He pointed out that Pentecost is a feast of unity. A unity that comes from the Holy Spirit which overcomes the division and disunity that we read about in the story of the Tower of Babel.  Most striking was a question the Holy Father asked us which I'll paraphrase: "It is true, we have multiplied the possibilities of communication, of information, of transmission of news, but can we say that the capacity of understanding each other has grown or maybe paradoxically we understand each other less and less?" In today's world we have access to more information than ever before, yet the disunity and misunderstanding of Babel persists. The Holy Father answered his own question by turning to Sacred Scripture which teaches us that true unity, true communion is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who like the first disciples 50 days after Easter were given a new heart and a new tongue to love and to speak in unity. Babel is overcome and transformed by Pentecost.

Another point of his homily this morning that stuck me was his reflections on today's second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians. St. Paul contrasts the 'works of the flesh' with 'the fruit of the Holy Spirit'. Pope Benedict pointed out that St. Paul uses the word 'works' in the plural when referring to disunity and division. Whereas St. Paul uses the word 'fruit' in the singular when referring to unity and communion. Though St. Paul lists several fruits, such as joy, peace, love, he refers to them in the singular as the 'fruit of the Holy Spirit'. I'd never thought of that before.

All in all a beautiful day. Just one more week of classes until exams begin. Though I have to admit the weather has been so nice it will be hard to study. I'll just have to bring my notes with me and study outside.

I'll update this post with a link to the English translation of the homily as soon as it is posted. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monte Velino

On Saturday I had the opportunity to climb to the top of a nearby mountain in Abruzzo. Monte Velino is 2487 meters high and is the third largest mountain in the Apennines, which is the mountain range running down the central spine of Italy.

I just wanted to share with you all a few pictures from the top. The view from the top was breathtaking. (The last 200 meters of the climb was literally breathtaking.)

Hiking up the mountain was not only a time for fresh air and good exercise. It was also a time for prayer and Christian brotherhood with two priests friends from Santa Croce University and two other seminarians from the North American College.

At the peak there was giant iron cross and a metal statue of Our Lady. They were perfect reminders for us to give God the glory for his beautiful creation.  How special it was during this month of May to sing a hymn in honor of Our Blessed Mother a mile and half above the sea level. God is so good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Hey everyone, sorry its been so long since I last posted.  I've been a little busy trying to square everything away down here at the Josephinum.  Just last Saturday four of us graduated.  I graduated from the School of Theology, Michael Wigton graduated from the College, Ben and Chris Jarvis finished up their philosophy. 
Above is a picture of the four of us in front of the Josephinum. 

Eat! Eat!

Santa Maria della Grazia
This past weekend I experienced something straight from a classical Italian film. I went to a small town on the east coast of Italy in Puglia called San Giovanni Rotondo. Back in October I became friends with two university students studying in Rome from San Giovanni Rotondo. I'd help them with English and they'd help me with Italian. One of them, Maurilio, invited me to spend the summer with his family working in his parish. So this weekend I went with two other seminarians to check out the parish and meet the pastor. It was  such a great experience that I want to share with you some of the details, so bear with me because this post may be a bit long.

On Friday we set out from Roma Termini by car, which we had rented. Luckily the seminary has a few GPS units that we can borrow when we travel because let just say it is not the easiest to navigate the streets of Rome. Luckily one of the other seminarians knows how to drive a manual transmission so he did all the driving. The drive to San Giovanni Rotondo was spectacular. Crossing across Italy, we went up and around mountains and down through valleys. Then we passed along the Adriatic coastline for another hour and half until we came into Puglia, which is known for its olive groves and buffala cheese. San Giovanni Rotondo is itself a famous town because it is where St. Pio of Pietrelcina lived and worked throughout the 20th century. Consequently this tiny town has been transformed into a bustling pilgrimage site. We arrived at my friends house with no problems (with the help of the GPS of course). Maurilio's mom greeted us at the door with a hug, a kiss on each cheek and coffee and goodies on the table. Little did we know that this was only a foreshadowing of the things to come. Later that evening, Maurilio took us to San Guiseppe Parish to meet the pastor, don Vincenzio. He expressed to me his happiness to have me helping in the parish during the summer. I felt very welcomed by him and he was so patient with my Italian (or lack thereof). Then we took a quick walking tour of the city, which was full of activity. Even though the town if used to strangers, several people came up to me took my arm and walked with me asking me where I was from and how I was doing. One gentleman even asked if I was Polish. I smiled and said no that I'm an American seminarian. He smiled and went on to say some things that I didn't quite catch. 

The family, Kevin, Fernando and I
Maurilio also took us to see the tomb of St. Pio which is in the crypt of the new Basilica which is less than ten years old. It was incredible to be in the presence of such a saint. I'm looking forward to learning more about his life and relying more on his intercession. My birthday, September 23rd is the same day as St. Pio's feast day. Much later that evening the whole family gathered for dinner. I learned quickly that it was better to eat slowly and not to be the first with an empty plate or else the ladies will give you twice as much food during the next course. I enjoyed talking with Granny, though I needed Maurilio to translate whatever she said from the dialect into Italian. Both Granny and the aunt had personally known St. Pio. They had both gone to him for confession and had gone to his Masses. Amazing huh....

The next day was chuck full of activity. After a beautiful Mass in the older basilica, Maurilio took us to meet the bishop which was a complete surprise. The bishop of the diocese had heard that I was going to be spending the summer in his diocese and wanted to me. We arrived in Malefodonia, the see city, and awaited our meeting with the bishop. He was so kind and again was patient with our Italian. It was no surprise at all that he knew Bishop Hebda. When I mentioned Bishop Hebda's name at first he didn't seem to know him. Than I called him 'Bernie' and with my hand indicated bishop's height he immediately remembered him and exclaimed, "Bernie, I know Bernie. Legistlative Texts, Yes, Yes." Everybody knows our bishop...

We returned home and after a huge lunch and a equally long nap we went to another important pilgrimage site, Monte San'Angelo. It was a pilgrimage site throughout the Middle Ages because it was the apparition site of St. Michael the Archangel. Maurilio was so patient with us and gave us plenty of time to pray in the church carved out of a cave. On the way home we stopped at another monastery which Maurilio recommended to us as place for quiet prayer or a retreat. By the time we got home it was time for dinner. We had pizza for dinner which was a treat. Maurilio's brother-in-law after dinner took us up the mountain to star gaze for a while. I hadn't seen the stars that clear in such a long time. Needless to say after such a long day, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. 

On Sunday we went to Sunday Mass at San Guiseppe parish. It was so good to be in parish setting again. I think that I will be very content this summer in the parish. After Mass the whole family went out for gelato and  coffee. All told, I had never ate so much gelato and drank so much coffee in one weekend. Maurilio's aunt cooked lunch for us, and we had one last meal with the family. For lunch we had lasagna which was so good. It reminded of my mom's own lasagna (which of course I am bound to say is the best in the world). After what seemed liked hundreds of hugs and kisses it was time for us to depart for Rome. 

All in all it was a great weekend in San Giovanni Rotondo. The weekend was exhausting. It was harder than I thought it would be to speak Italian the whole weekend. I have to admit by the end I was a bit cranky, because of the added stress of constantly thinking and listening with such care. It's a good lesson for me that this summer I will have to be careful not to over do it and become overwhelmed. The key will be to make time for quiet prayer to allow my mind to rest. 

Now all I have to do it make it through the next few weeks of school and exams and I'll be back there before I know it. I can't wait...

Monday, May 14, 2012


The hard-fought trophy has a new home.
Saturday afternoon after the final whistle had been blown, the North American Martyrs emerged from the pitch as the 2012 Clericus Cup champions. For the first time since the inception of this unique tournament the NAC Martyrs have won.

In a resounding victory the NAC defeated the Pontifical Gregorian University 3-0.

The Clericus Cup is an annual soccer tournament of the various seminarians and priests of studying in Rome sponsored by the Italian Bishops Conference and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

I'm pretty bummed because I missed the game because I traveled this weekend (more on that later).

Let's Go Martyrs!!!

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to All

You can't see it in this photo, but the altar in the background has a special inscription. 
It reads: To All the Mother's of the Sons of the Alma Mater

So everyday even though we are far from home this special inscription reminds us to pray for our mothers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Venerable Bishop Baraga

This just in, the Holy Father has approved the recommendation of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. With this declaration Bishop Baraga's (1797-1868) beatification cause takes a significant step forward.

This is great news. What a beautiful thing to have the Holy Father recognize the heroic virtue of one of the first missionaries to our diocese and the first bishop of the Diocese of Marquette.

Venerable Bishop Baraga Pray for us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Be Prepared

Eagle Scout seminarians with Bishop Guglielmone
Bishop Guglielmone is in Rome for his Ad Limina visit. In addition to his role as Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina he is also the episcopal liaison to the Boy Scouts of America. He asked to have a picture taken with all the Eagle Scouts at the North American College. Not all of us made it into the picture, but there are about 35 Eagle Scouts at the NAC.

Bishop encouraged us to be supporters of the Boy Scouts as priests and to remember our Eagle Scout training, especially the motto: Be Prepared!

You can find Matt and I in the front row on the right side.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The First of May

It is the month of May. It is the month of Mary!

Our Lady of Humilty - Outside the main chapel
The First of May is a national worker's holiday in Italy. It is sort of the equivalent to our Labor Day. May 1st is also the liturgical memorial of St. Joseph the Worker. So, we didn't have classes. We had the chance to kick back and relax for a day and to enjoy the good weather.

In order to celebrate the beginning of the month of Mary, a few of us went on a walking pilgrimage Tuesday afternoon. My friend from the Spanish College explained to us that it is the tradition to pray the Rosary while walking to and from a nearby Marian shrine. In Spanish it is called a RomerĂ­a, which literally refers to one walking towards Rome. . After our RomerĂ­a to Santa Maria in Trastereve we went for some gelato. Oh and by the way, I think I found my new favorite gelato place. I guess it is the most popular place among the seminarians at the English college.

What a beautiful way to begin the month of Our Lady by taking a walk to one of the oldest churches dedicated to her to pray the Rosary.