Friday, February 26, 2010

The Chair of Saint Peter

In the midst of Lent, the Church still finds a few celebratory feast days and solemnities. Perhaps they could be considered oases in the penance of the season. For Saint Peter's Basilica, the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, 22 February, is one not to miss. Last year, when the feast fell on a Sunday, the Basilica was the only place in the world where the Feast overruled the Sunday.

In front of the foremost pillar of the left side of the nave, stands a bronze statue of Saint Peter sitting in his chair or the Cathedra, the physical representation of the teaching authority of the Church. Pilgrims for centuries have touched Saint Peter's foot in thankgiving for safe arrival at Saint Peter's, for the blessing of being able to pray at the Heart of the Church.

On the Feast of Saint Peter, the bronze statue is decorated with robes, candles, and a papal tiara. The candles are lit on the Papal Altar. The "Chair of Saint Peter" along the very back wall is covered with candles in celebration of this feast.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends....

"Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, I'm glad I'm not Your enemy." ~St. Theresa of Avila

St. Theresa and I were of a similar mind this morning. My Lenten exercise this year is the ancient tradition of Station Churches. Since the Middle Ages, pilgrims have been attending Mass and venerating the relics of Roman martyrs at a different church in Rome each day during Lent. The Pontifical North American College (AKA the NAC) takes the responsibility of organizing the Masses each day; this tradition would not continue without them. The churches used to be listed with the Propers for Lent in the Roman Missal. It is a beautiful way to view Catholicism in Rome especially since some of the churches are only open on their assigned one day.

To add to the penitiental feeling, our 50 minute walk to the particular churches on Thursday and Friday were blessed with a cleasing rain. By the time we arrive at the church, my pants, shoes, and coat feel like I just took a swim in the Tiber. Today was particularly bad because my group got lost. In hunting for the church, I began to reflect on the gypsy travellers who can be seen begging all around Rome and how they are open to these elements all the time. I would be returning to warm clothes and breakfast. A fitting reflection, I thought, as we are beginning our Apostolic Outreach today, one of these options being the Missionaries of Charity.

The delay in attending Mass also increased my desire for receiving Jesus, reminding me of the beautiful Gift of Himself. I come to find St. Catherine of Siena and I were of one mind: "Father, I am hungry; for the love of God give this soul her food, her Lord in the Eucharist." "O unfathomable depth! O Deity eternal! O deep ocean! What more could You give me than to give me Yourself?"
Santa Sabina, Ash Wednesday
Santo Giorgio, Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Your random moment for the day: Look through the hole in this door. Stand in Italy, look into Malta, and see Vatican City (St. Peter's Basilica Dome) on the other side. 3 countries!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

All Roads Lead to Rome

I have a particular devotion to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. This is no suprise to anyone who knows me. She has been a guiding force in my life for many years now and I am ever grateful for her intercession. She has this incredible knack of turning up at the oddest times or in places where I suddenly realize I know I am where I am supposed to be.

On our first day of class at the Angelicum, I walked into the courtyard and within 30 seconds saw a familiar face I hadn't seen in two and a half years. Brother Juan Pablo, a seminarian I knew from a "come-and-see" experience with the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in Tijuana, is doing his four years of theological studies at the Angelicum. I come to find out later, Mother Teresa selected the school for her seminarians and all attend fours years here! There are more MCs around the Angelicum whom I hope to meet (or see again?) in the coming weeks.
I also learned Venerable Pope John Paul II attended the Angelicum but never graduated because he could not afford to publish his discertation. The school quickly fixed that once he became Pontiff. His grades were not stellar which provides much consolation to us students!

I randomly ran across the convent for the Missionaries of Charity sisters in Rome. Enough said.

On Saturday 13 February 2010, the seminarians in our group had the opportunity to serve for the anticipatory Mass at Saint John Lateran, the cathedral-church for the Holy Father. Father Corola, our chaplain, asked me to organize music for the Mass. A group of us gathered together in a scola singing the Missa de Angelis and some Latin hymns. It was a beautiful chance to praise God through music and what an opportunity to hear our voices ring out in the Lateran Basilica! I even had a chance to play a "mini-organ" for the processional and recessional hymns. (I ran into Brother Juan Pablo in the Basilica about an hour before Mass. Another sign from Mother?!?)
One final note of news: Rome had snow on Friday for the first time in about 25 years. This led to impromptu snowangels and a snowball fight in the Angelicum courtyard.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hang with the Pope on any given Wednesday....

On Wednesday 10 February 2010, we attended the General Wednesday Audience in Pope Paul VI Hall. The Holy Father delivered the regular address in Italian. A clergyman for each language greeted the Holy Father and listed off the various groups registered in attendance to great cheering! The Holy Father greeted and acknowledged each including: "The Students and Faculty of the University of Saint Thomas...etc."

The newly ordained Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth, Minnesota was in attendance. Prior to his appointment he was on faculty at Saint Paul Seminary and was very excited to see us. The feeling was mutual.

Darin Schmidt got a little hungry during our two and a half hour wait for the audience to start. I wasn't aware the Vatican sold concessions....

After a quick lunch at a cafeteria-style restaurant next to Saint Peter's Square, we were off to meet our art history professor for an adventure on the metro to study the frescos in the catacombs.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


God has poured infinite blessings upon me! My mind staggers at the thought that I am actually living in Rome! I am fully moved in at Bernardi Campus. The building was built in the early 20th century as a private residence. For about 50 years, an order of nuns used it as their convent. The University of St. Thomas purchased it in 1999 and ever since, semester after semester of students have come to experience life in the Eternal City.

Our first days are filled with orientation and becoming acquainted with our new way of life. One of the full-year students took us to Piazza del Popolo yesterday to a great first view of the city. We will walk through this square every time we walk to class at the Angelicum.

During the first Mass as a group in the Chapel at Bernardi, Father Carola, chaplain for the residence, reminded us that the Eucharist is the centre of life at Bernardi; It is the life-blood and reason for all we do. The whole group is united by one goal: We are here to love and serve the Lord, doing whatever He asks us to do.

On Wednesday, we have the privilege to attend a General Wednesday Audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The closeness of the Holy Father these next four months will be filled with such graces. All one has to do is climb to the terrace atop Bernardi to realize the power of the Roman Catholic Church and the Shepherd’s promise to be with us always until the end of the age.