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22 April 2014

Go to Orvieto!

The Duomo in Orvieto

A month or so ago, some friends were coming into town and asked about the possibility of a day trip to Rome.  I had my own thoughts, but asked a few other Americans here what they thought.  A number of them suggested Orvieto, which I had never been to see.  My friends never got the chance to go, but I finally did, and it was a great trip.

Orvieto is in the midst of a Jubilee Year.  The Church was built by Pope Urban VI in the 14th century to house a Eucharistic miracle.  Last year was the 750th anniversary of that miracle--The famous Corporal of Bolsena.  In 1263, a priest who began to doubt the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was saying Mass.  During the Mass, the host in his hand began to bleed drops of blood, which were visible to a number of people attending Mass.  Those drops stained the corporal (the small square cloth the priest uses under the host and chalice while saying Mass).  The corporal was preserved as a relic, and remains enthroned in a side chapel of the Duomo.

The Chapel of the Corporal
in the Duomo in Orvieto
This miracle is important to Dominicans because of its indirect tie to St. Thomas Aquinas.  In 1264, Pope Urban IV heard of this miracle of the bleeding host.  Inspired by it, he ordered that a new feast day be inserted into the liturgical calendar in honor of the Blessed Sacrament -- the feast of Corpus Christi.  The story is that he asked the two most scholarly friars, the Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas and the Franciscan St. Bonaventure, to compose the prayers and hymn for the new feast.  St. Thomas presented his first, after which Bonaventure threw his into the fire, so great was Thomas's poetry and theology.  Thus, Orvieto can be considered the birthplace of the feast of Corpus Christ, and St. Thomas its primary author.

For the Jubilee year, the Diocese has created a pilgrimage office.  They had received the permission of Pope Benedict XVI to open a Holy Door for pilgrims into the Duomo as well.  Certainly, if you are planning to go on pilgrimage to Rome this year, you should definitely also make pilgrimage to Orvieto.  It just over an hour by train from Rome's Termini station, and the train tickets are not terrible expensive.  From the train station, you take a small funicular railway up to the town on the hill, which costs little over 1 Euro.


Happy Easter

The Paschal Candle at the Basilica San Clemente:


21 April 2014

Papal Mass for Easter

I attended the Papal Easter Mass in the clergy section, up in the area set up for the sanctuary outside St. Peter's Basilica.  The seats were directly behind the Cardinals, Bishops, and Canons of St. Peter's.  In other words, they were pretty good seats.  As this year Easter coincided in both the West and the East (the East still dates Easter according to the Julian calendar), the Gospel was sung in both Latin and Greek.

It was a perfect Roman spring day.  There was not a cloud in the sky, and an occasional cool breeze that made the day very comfortable.  This was in stark contrast to the noisy rainstorm the night before.  A perfect Easter morning.

After Mass, the Pope immediately removed the liturgical vestments to enter the Popemobile.  He took a short ride through the crowd, and then up to the old Papal apartments to deliver the traditional Urbi et Orbi address.

For even more pictures and video of the Easter Mass, see the Vatican website.

By the way, is it so hard to dress decently for Mass with the Pope?  I mean, am I so old fashioned that I'm the only one who thinks wearing skin-tight blue jeans is inappropriate for a Papal Mass?  Red pants and an untucked blue shirt?  Wearing a baseball cap throughout the Eucharistic prayer?  I mean, even Pope Francis--known for his liturgical simplicity--still wears and alb and chasuble for Mass.  If he can dress up, surely we can.


18 April 2014

Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis

As has been the case for a number of years now, the Pope comes to the Colosseum for the annual Good Friday Stations of the Cross.  Until I came to Rome, I thought the Pope and people were inside the Colosseum.  They are not.  Across from the Colosseum is a bit of a plateau with the ruins of an old basilica.  They set up a tent for the Holy Father there, facing the Colosseum.  Because of the scaffolding that now covers 1/4 of the Colosseum, there were able to put a large monitor up to watch the events.  The actual procession of the stations goes inside the Colosseum and then back out.  This occurs shortly after the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at St. Peter's.  The Pope looked very, very tired.

This year, the meditations for the Stations of the Cross were prepared by His Eminence, Msgr. Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, Archbishop of Campobasso-Boiano. A PDF of the official  booklet of the Stations can be found here and the English translations of the meditations may be found here.

17 April 2014

San Clemente - Altar of Repose

Below are pictures of the Altar of Repose set up in St. Cyril's chapel here at the Basilica di San Clemente.  It will be used following the Mass of the Lord's Supper this evening.


16 March 2014

Second Sunday in Lent: Santa Maria in Domnica

A few years ago, I did a series of posts on the stational churches of the Sundays of Lent for our Provincial website.  Below is a reprint of the one for the Second Sunday of Lent, Santa Maria in Domnica, more popularly known as the Navicella.  It also happens to be our parish church, as San Clemente is not a parish, and is just a bit down the street from us.

Stational Churches of Rome: Santa Maria in Domnica

From March 2012

We continue to look at the Stational Churches of Lent. These are particular churches in Rome associated with a particular day. Every day in Lent has, by ancient custom, a stational church associated with it. This series examines the stational churches associated with the Sundays of Lent. 

On the first Sunday of Lent, we encountered the great Basilica of St. John Lateran, notable both for its size and its tie to the Holy Father. Not far from St. John Lateran, in fact, just a short walk down the Via dell'Amba Aradam, we come to the much more modest church of Santa Maria in Domnica. Yet, it somehow seems fittting that as we move through this Lenten season we are brought to the humility of Mary on this second Sunday of Lent. The grand splendor of St. John's Basilica gives way to Mary's small church. For, it is Mary who was with Christ from the beginning, Mary who was there when he began his ministry, Mary who stood beside his cross, and Mary who prayed with the Apostles in the Upper Room as the Holy Spirit descended in tongues of flame. We do not make our Lenten journey without Mary, for Christ did not make his salvific journey without Mary. Like St. John Lateran, the site of this Church has ancient Christian roots. The location as a gathering place for Christians seems go back as early as the third century. By tradition, these early Christians, gathering in a time of persecution, came to this house owned by Cyriaca, a Greek woman. Nearby was a Roman barracks, on the site of what is now San Stefano Rotondo. The Basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica probably did not first become a church, but rather a diaconia. That is, it was a place given over to the care of the poor, often headed by a deacon of Rome. This diaconia was especially associated with the martyr St. Lawrence, an important deacon in Rome and keeper of the Church's treasury. It is said that the Emperor once had St. Lawrence brought before him and demanded to be given the treasury of the church. The holy saint agreed, asking leave to retrieve it. He returned with the poor, the orphans, and the sick, proclaiming to the Emperor that this was the true treasury of the Church. He was eventually executed, his body being taken by Cyriaca and buried in her family cemetery at what is now the Church of St. Lawrence outside the Walls. This former diacona should remind us of our duty of service through almsgiving in this Lenten season



In the 9th Century, the Pope, Paschal I, has the old diaconia, which was then falling apart, torn down and replaced with the current church, done in a stye to hearken back to the early Christians in Rome. About 700 years later, the church found itself again in a state of disrepair and was renovated by a Cardinal of the Medici family, who later became Pope Leo X. The name of the Church is a bit of a mystery. Some hypothesize that it is the Latin form of Cyriaca, the woman whose home it was, from the Greek word meaning "of the Lord". (The Greek word being Kyrie of the Kyrie Eleison that we sometimes sing at Mass). The Latin form of the Greek word would be Domnica. Some also guess that the word is merely a corruption of dominicum, which was commonly used to describe Rome's numerous house-churches. Finally, some have even posited that the word (which is grammatically feminine) refers to the wife of the Emperor, and that perhaps she donated the land for the Church.



But the Church also has a second name, Santa Maria alla Navicella, which is also the name of the street on which the Basilica stands. The origin of this name we do know. Nacicella means 'little boat' and it refers to the marble statue of the small boat (a 16th century replica of an ancient statue) that has stood in front of the since the time of its renovation by the Cardinal de Medici. (See photo) The image of the boat is a common one for the Church and for Mary Upon entering the Church one notices immediately the great mosaic on the back of the Apse. (See photos.) The Mosaic goes back to the time of Pope Paschal, the early 820s. The image depicts Mary seated on a throne with the child Jesus in her lap. The style is very much influenced by the Byzantine style of art that remained popular through much of the early middle ages. Surrounding Mary are "myriads of angels in festal gathering" (Heb 12:22) At the feet of the Blessed Virgin is an unusual figure--a man with a square halo. In the Byzantine style, a square halo meant that the person depicted was still living. This, then, is an image of Pope Paschal, venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary. This main scene in the Apse is flanked by two other figures--most likely Moses and Elijah. In keeping with the ancient tradition, the liturgical reading for this day is the story of the Transfiguration. (In fact, the priest is directed on this day to use the Preface from the Feast of the Transfiguration.) The people gathered for Mass on this day not only hear of the glorified Christ with Moses and Elijah, in this church they also see him in his humanity with the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, accompanied by Moses and Elijah--a wonderful example of the ancient tendency to link art and liturgy that has been so sadly lost in our modern age.



Above these,one sees another mosaic frieze of Christ and his Apostles (and two angels). Christ, seated within a mandorla (the almond shaped figure that is meant to represent the union of heaven and earth), is flanked by the Apostles each holding an iconic symbol. Peter, holding the keys of his office, can be clearly seen to the right of Christ. Above these Carolingian mosaics is a baroque ceiling placed by Cardinal de Medici. The various panels of the ceiling depict images of the Blessed Virgin, many of them from types from the Old Testament, as well as the Cardinal's coat of arms. To the right is a depiction of the Arc, a symbol of the Blessed Virgin. It also mirrors the marble carving of the boat in front of the Church. As the boat symbolizes the Church, so it symbolizes Mary who is a type of the Church. As the Second Vatican Council teaches us, "the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ." (LG 63) The words on this boat recall the words of the Salve Regina: Spes Nostra Salve, "Hail, our Hope". Below is a collection of images of this ancient Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. May the beauty of this Church continue to aid us so that by following our Lenten observances, we may better imitate Mary in our love and fidelity to Christ.

O God, who have commanded us to listen to your beloved Son, be pleased, we pray, to nourish us inwardly by your word, that with spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

13 March 2014

Marseille France

After my stint in Toulouse, I stayed with the Dominicans in Marseille on the southern coast of France.  Marseille has a beautiful location right on the sea.  In recent years the city has been inundated--overwhelmed might be a better word--with immigrants from North Africa.

One of the most recognizable sites in Marseille is the church of La Bonne Mere.  It is a shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary built on top of one of Marseille's tallest mountains.  It has served since it's construction as a beacon for French sailors returning back to shore.  The Church is filled with tokens of thanks of sailors saved from storms and rough seas attributed to the intercession of Mary.

I went to Marseille with another French Dominican who studies Canon Law with me in Rome.  When he was a student in Marseille, he got to know a Catholic family who have an apostolate in one of the housing complexes in Marseille.  He took me there on New Year's Eve.  The housing complex reminded me a bit of the old Cabrini Green in Chicago--mile after mile of high-rise housing complexes with little to no commercial real estate in sight.  In Marseille, they are filled almost entirely with immigrants from North Africa.  They are not the safest places in the world.  The complex we went to had a group of young men out front sitting together over a fire.  Apparently these are spotters, who look out for rival gangs and the police.  They are usually the ones who get shot in the occasional acts of gang retribution.

Near one of these high rises, there is a community center built by a Catholic family (and given some assistance by the government).  It is staffed by young Catholics who volunteer a year of their time to live there and carry on the apostolate.  For New Year's we had a mix of young Catholics and the homeless from the area.  It's a small effort, but a wonderful example of some of the vibrancy in French Catholic evangelization and mission.

The story of the Dominicans there is interesting.  The current Dominican church in Marseille was built by a prominent Catholic family. At some point the French government in one of its many eruptions of anti-Catholicism took the church.  Apparently, the same family bought it back from the government and gave it back to the Dominicans--essentially paying for it twice.

There is also a very ancient tradition that Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Lazarus, went to southern France following Christ's resurrection, near Marseille.  The relics of Mary Magdalene were found and turned into a shrine.  Apparently, recent tests of the bones suggest that they were of a middle-aged woman from the 1st century.  Mary lived up in a cave in one of the mountains, and there a shrine was built.  The Dominicans have had care of the shrine for several centuries.  (Mary Magdalene is one of the patronesses of the Order.)  Unfortunately, during the French Revolution, anti-Catholic forces climbed up the mountain and destroyed the large shrine that was there.  The current shrine is much smaller than the former one.  It is a quite and prayerful spot (after a very long climb up the mountain).

Here are some pictures from Marseille:


Here are some of the shrine of Mary Magdalene and environs: