Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Roma Antica e Santa

Rome: Ancient and Holy

In the sacrisy of Saint Peter's cardinals, bishops and canons of the cathedral are assisted by the corps of altar boys as they prepare to offer morning prayer in Latin with Gregorian chant.

Acolytes, Monsignori and presiding prelate in procession from the chapel to the sacristy following the chanting of lauds.

Monday, April 28, 2008

San Giovanni Rotondo: Lettera a Padre Pio sulla Tomba

Letter to Padre Pio at the Tomb

They love him because he shared their suffering. They love him because he showed them a living, breathing image of the suffering Christ in his wounded hands.

The world does not know this love and remains concerned only with details about souvenirs or how things appear or how many people come or what things will cost. Those who know and love Saint Padre Pio do not need words to tell them of his importance because they speak the more eloquent language of the heart, the language of the Crucified.

Today at San Giovanni Rotondo I wrote a note to Padre Pio and deposited it at the shrine near his remains. I asked him to intercede for the intentions and needs of the faithful people of the Church of Saint Philip the Apostle at Camp Springs, Maryland. I prayed the rosary and the divine office of Matins and Lauds in the presence of his remains for you and your families.

If you are sad

If you have sinned

If you are worried

If you are in danger

If you are discouraged

If you are beaten down

If you are unreliable

If you are unfaithful

If others come to you less

If God seems far away

If prayer weighs you down

If you feel you are alone and are fearful

If you have need of courage

If the world seems greater than God

If you are bitter and want to criticize

If love seems an illusion

If we can be of good for you

If you sense a great invitation

-Invitation to seek help from the intercession of Padre Pio through the prayers of the Frati Cappucini, the Friars Minor Capuchins, through the recitation of the holy rosary

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Napoli Bella e Benedetta

Naples: Beautiful and Blessed

The art and architecture of Naples are stupendous. The people of this city are also blessed with fresh food from the sea and the land. And the family remains a revered point of reference for the human person.

Thousands of years of history have bestowed upon the people of this city an unparalleled culture. But at the core of every culture there must be found "cult", or worship of God, or a people stands at risk of losing their soul.

In every age the faith must be handed down through the family of faith in the Church and the domestic church of the family so that culture will remain a powerful force for the uplifting of the human person in work, at school, in the home. In every task, love of God and neighbor gives the highest meaning to the endeavor and bestows lasting value because it remains open to eternal life.

Napoli's piazzas are elegant and always throb with life. Naples is one of the few major Italian cities remaining where you can hear Italian spoken almost everywhere and experience the turbulence and beautiful chaos of a real working Italian metropolis. On the left is the royal palace which houses the San Carlo opera house and on the right is visible the elegant coffee house "Gambrinus". Between them, the Piazza del Plebescito with the pillars and entrance of the Church of San Paulus, crafted as Naples' version of the Pantheon.

Raffaele enjoys dinner time with the help of his proud "mamma" Monica.

Naples proudly proclaims herself the birthplace of pizza and the denizens of the city enjoy loading up with a great variety of unorthodox toppings. Here, frankfurters and fries.

"La Famiglia", still revered in Naples as the heart of human life.

Naples sports her own miniature version of Saint Peter's, Madonna del Buon Consiglio, Our Lady of Good Counsel, on the hill of Capodimonte.

Still lifes, or "presepi" are intricate and detailed. Most famous are the Christmas scenes made from terra cotta, hand-painted and clothed with real vestments.

The purgatory church warns the wayward of the shortness of human life with four bronze skulls topping the pillars before its facade along the central "Spaccanapoli". This alley, which "breaks" the city in two, is built upon an ancient Greek road.

The Gesu church, with its large piazza del Gesu, is one of Naples' largest and houses the remains of a canonized medical doctor, pride of the city and commanding great devotion from the Napoletani.

Street shrines dedicated to Our Lord, the Madonna, Padre Pio and other holy ones witness to Naples' piety but also served a purpose of lighting the alleyways of the city at night to provide safer passage.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Montepulciano - San Quirico d'Orcia - Montalcino

Man praises God through the work of his hands. And God Himself has lifted up man's work and made it a Divine encounter in the holy Eucharist through the consecration of the fruit of the vine which becomes the Blood of Christ.

In this region of Tuscany the wines are put to their highest purpose in worship but also recall God's goodness when used each day for the ordinary meal.

"I am the vine, you are the branches" our Lord has told us. Faithfully pruned each year in obedience to nature, the fruit of these "vite" become the means by which God Himself in the Gift of the Altar will become supernatural sustenance for His creatures. He truly makes of us the branches grafted onto Christ, the Source of eternal life.

Photos: Etruscan tomb in Montepulciano which now houses a wine cantina, Crucifixion altarpiece, Tuscan vineyard. Come back for more photos.

The cell of Saint Francis

After first taking spiritual refuge in the cave at Cortona in 1211, Saint Francis later returned here, wounded bodily by the gift of the stigmata received on the mountain of La Verna. So marked in configuration to the holy passion of His Lord he celebrated the Paschal mystery after spending the penitential period of Lent on an island in a nearby lake. From here, ailing and growing weaker, he returned to Assisi for his final appointment with His Divine Master and his entrance into eternal life in 1226.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Remain in prayer...remain in hope

"Only God in his providence knows what works his grace has yet to bring forth in your lives and in the life of the Church in the United States. Yet Christ’s promise fills us with sure hope.

"Let us now join our prayers to his, as living stones in that spiritual temple which is his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

"Let us lift our eyes to him, for even now he is preparing for us a place in his Father’s house. And empowered by his Holy Spirit, let us work with renewed zeal for the spread of his Kingdom."

- Pope Benedict XVI, Yankee Stadium, 20 April 2008

With our hearts and minds engaged in sincere and regular commitment to prayer we remain in Christ's light and He remains in us. His light brings hope to all, embracing those in darkness.

Christ is the Truth and He remains in us as we remain in Him. His truth is a light for our path and joy for our journey in Faith.

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy offers a reflection for The Sixth Sunday of Easter.

Photo: Cristo risorto, Cattedrale di Cortona

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Verona

Verona is a city for romantics because of the fame of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". Many ask to see the "house of Juliet" here. The Veronese, loathe to break any hearts, will rarely own that Juliet never lived here. Although Verona does have many stories of love to tell.

In the cathedrals of God which are the mountains and the cathedrals of men such as is found with the Duomo here, there is much to discover for those who love the Faith. The Lago di Garda, or lake Garda, nestles, a "baptismal font", in the basin formed by the surrounding crags. These stone pinnacles, the pre-Alps, are close by to the north and can be viewed from everywhere in the city. The cathedral where we celebrated 0930 Mass in Latin Sunday is a monument to the talents with which God blesses us, as the hand-carvings above in stone arches, and all around the worshipper, are complemented by the festooning of frescoes.

Saturday we spent some time viewing Palladian estates and touring the Recchia family winery and sampling vintages for which this region is justly famous such as Bardolino, Amarone and Soave. Sunday was dedicated to a "giro" or tour in the old city center followed by a trip to the mountains for a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Madonna della Corona, or the crowned madonna, visited by Pope John Paul II in 1988. Here, as if meeting once again in Christ God and Man, the gift of God Creator is accepted and raised up in a tribute of love, gratitude and praise by men in this shrine carved in part from the mountain rock.

Sunday night I supped with friend Andrea, his wife Elisa and son Paolo whom I had the privilege of baptizing two years ago. Penne pasta was served with a red sauce amatriciana made with pancetta, much like bacon. We drank a bardolino, from a shop in Lazise, a walled town on the shores of Lake Garda.

This morning I was interviewed by priest-journalist, Msgr. Bruno Fasani, regarding my experiences in Iraq. I met him at the Duomo and we chatted at a caffe over cappucino and crociante pastry.

I am writing from Vicenza where I have stopped briefly en route to Padova. I am glad I brought a raincoat as today it is raining "cani e gatti"!

Photos, from top: friends Paolo, Andrea and Elisa; image of Madonna della Corona; the Lazise harbor on Lake Garda; the walls of Lazise; mustard field; Verona and mountains; Palladian estate winery; Luca Recchia and Andrea Stenghetto in the cantina of Recchia family winery; Verona fountain; sanctuary of Madonna della Corona.

Tanti auguri!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Da Roma a Cortona

Tanti cari saluti da Cortona! Greetings and best wishes to everyone from the Capuchin Franciscan friary of Le Celle at Cortona in southern Toscana.

I arrived here just before midnight after delays in London, where we competed with 15 other aircraft on our late take-off. Airport closure at Rome for reasons of weather earlier in the day resulted in a backup of incoming traffic.

I picked up a rental at Rome and took the A-1 autostrada north in the direction of Firenze. To shake off a bit of drowsiness I stopped at one of my favorite Italian peculiarities, Autogrill, en route. I drank my first real caffe macchiato since 2006 with a slice of Focaccia topped with white cheese and onions. Arancia rossa orange juice gave me some sugar fuel to better keep my eyes open.

The toll machine ate my credit card when I attempted to make payment upon exiting the autostrada so I had to call for assistance. The attendant opened the machine and retrieved my card for me.

Upon arrival at Le Celle, nestled in the crevices behind the hillside city of Cortona, I had to exercise some ingenuity to get in. I was not able to communicate by phone because my cellphone reads a message that the card is not registered. I will stop today at a "centro TIM" to determine if service can be restored. I haven't jumped a fence for quite some time! I found a light burning in the "cell" of Fra Daniele and he showed me to an unoccupied cell and the bagno. The caffe macchiato continued to do its work very well for at least an hour after I laid down in bed!
San Francesco arrived at this bucolic spot over a stream that issues from the surrounding hills of Tuscany in 1211. He sought solitude but this precious commodity was soon lost to him upon the arrival of his adherents. They all wanted solitude also - but with Francis!
I joined the friars this morning for prayer and holy Mass. After some colazione, or breakfast, of caffe latte and biscotti I am posting this trip entry and then must get on my way again to reach my destination of Verona, God willing, in time for cena this evening, or dinner, with friends.
As the friars greet one another, so I greet you in parting for now: "Pace e bene!"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Many of the baptized...are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel"

"I pray ... that this significant anniversary in the life of the Church in the United States, and the presence of the Successor of Peter in your midst, will be an occasion for all Catholics to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom.The world needs this witness!

"Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole? It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of God.

"The Church, too, sees signs of immense promise in her many strong parishes and vital movements, in the enthusiasm for the faith shown by so many young people, in the number of those who each year embrace the Catholic faith, and in a greater interest in prayer and catechesis. At the same time she senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel."

-Benedict XVI
Sermon at Nationals Park
17 April 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Over 12,000 at the White House

An unprecedented day as the President and a welcoming throng of over 12,000 people hosts Pope Benedict XVI at the White House.
Photos by Joanne Butler.

Fröhliche Geburtstag, Heiliger Vater!

The second grade class and teacher Miss Rose, of St. Philip the Apostle School in Camp Springs, Maryland, wish our Holy Father a "happy birthday" in his native language during his visit to our Archdiocese of Washington.