25 December 2013

San Clemente Praesepio

Every year our cook here at San Clemente makes from scratch a new praesepio (a nativity scene) in the traditional Italian style.  The one from last year is above.  The original nativity scenes are credited to St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century and they remain very popular among the Italians.

Here is the entire preasepio for 2013:

The scene is in two levels.  The main nativity scene is at the bottom.  There are smaller scenes mostly above from the life of Christ.
This is the other half of the nativity scene.
This is the main nativity scene.

The Annunciation to Mary.
Above the image of the Annunciation is this book open to the words of the Angel from Luke's Gospel: "Ave piena di grazia.  Il Signore e' con te"  (Hail full of grace.  The Lord is with you.)

The shepherds see the star.  This picture is a bit bright, but when it's dark there is the image of a star on the left wall.  The shepherds see the star.
I forgot to ask, but I think this is the child Jesus in the home.  You can see him learning carpentry with St. Joseph.

Different colors lights have been used to create this effect for the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist.
The triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.  Notice the child at the left with the palm branch in his hand.
The last supper.

The Crucifixion of Jesus.  Notice the one above, it rains!  The lights also fade out and lightning flashes.

The Empty Tomb of the Resurrection

22 December 2013

Roman Christmas

Here are just a few pictures from Rome.  There are some from St. Peter's square showing the Christmas tree.  There are also some from Piazza Navona.  Piazza Navona is famous at Christmastime for all of its gift stall.  It's usually a busy piazza, but doubly so at Christmas.

27 November 2013

Feast of San Clemente

For the last several decades, our Basilica of San Clemente in Rome has organized a procession with the relics of St. Clement through the neighborhood--complete with fireworks and a band.  Unfortunately, we were rained out, so the procession stayed indoors and the fireworks were cancelled.

But the Band still came:

The celebrant for the Mass was H.E. Matteo Maria Zuppi, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rome.

Pictures from the Basilica and the Mass are below:

25 November 2013

Fr. Luke Turon, OP, RIP

Fr. Luke Turon, OP
Fr. Luke Turon, 1963,  Pakistan
My first assignment as a priest was to the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Zanesville, OH.  It was a great experience for me, and in no small part because of the mentor I had in Fr. Luke Turon, OP.  Fr. Luke was retired in Zanesville, having spent almost 50 years as a Missionary in Pakistan.  Before he became a Dominican, he wanted to enter WWII as a fighter pilot, but his sight was too poor.  So, the Army paid for him to go to Medical School instead, at Western University (before it became Case-Western) in Ohio.  He served as an army doctor in Japan at the end of the War.  His experiences pushed him to dedicate his life to God, and when he came home, he joined the Dominican Order.  The Order gave him the name "Luke" in honor of St. Luke, who was reputed to be a physician.  Much of the first half of his time in Pakistan was spent ministering to the people both as a priest and a physician.  He helped to build dispensaries and oversaw the donation of literally tons of medical supplies and equipment to Pakistan.  He finally retired from missionary work when he was 80.  He spent the next 10 years in Zanesville, as one of the hardest working priests I'd ever seen, especially for one near 90.

Here is a story from the local paper on his 90th borthday:

And here's a documentary from the 1960s on the Dominican Mission in Pakistan:

Fr. Luke died on the Feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2013.  Requiscat in Pace.

Fr. Luke Turon, OP

12 October 2013

Pope Francis on the Vocation to Religious Life

Pope Francis was in Assisi (in the region of Umbria) last week for the feast of his patron, St. Francis of Assisi.  There, he took questions by young people and offered his responses.  A number of the questions touched upon the topic of vocations--to the married life, priest, and consecrated life.  As a Jesuit priest, Pope Francis can reflect on his own call to vocation to both the ordained ministry and to the consecrated life. In doing so, he also provides some insight into the celibate life, which is a very real part of these vocations, and a part which modern society struggles to understand. Here is an excerpt (translated from the Italian) on his discussion of the call to the priesthood and religious life:
...And I answer you with two essential elements about how to recognize a vocation to the priesthood or to consecrated life. Pray and walk in the Church. These two things go together, they are intertwined. At the origin of consecrated life there is always an intense experience of God, an experience that isn’t forgotten, which is remembered throughout one’s life! It’s the one Francis had. We can’t calculate or plan this. God always surprises us! It’s God who calls, but it’s important to have a daily relationship with Him, to listen to Him in silence before the Tabernacle and in the depth of our being, to speak with Him, to approach the Sacraments. To have this familiar relationship with the Lord is like having the window of our life open, so He has us hear his voice, what he wants from us. It would be lovely to hear you, to hear the priests present here, the Sisters … It would be very lovely, because each story is unique, but they all begin from an encounter that illumines in depth, which touches the heart and involves the whole person: affection, intellect, senses, everything. The relationship with God is not about a part of ourselves, but the whole of ourselves. It’s such a great love, so beautiful, so true, that it merits all, it merits all our trust. And I would like to say something forcefully, especially today: virginity for the Kingdom of God isn’t a “no,” it’s a “yes”!  Of course, it entails the giving up of a conjugal bond and one’s own family, but at the base there is the “yes,” as the answer to Christ’s total “yes” to us, and this “yes” renders one fruitful.
However, here at Assisi there is no need for words! Francis is here, Clare is here, they speak! Their charism continues to speak to so many young people in the whole world: young men and young women who leave everything to follow Jesus on the way of the Gospel.
A beautiful expression of the call to this form of life in the Church.

You can find the full translation of the text from the Zenit website, here:

07 October 2013

The Incredible Ignorance of the Mainstream Media

Recently, New York Magazine published an interview with Justice Antonin Scalia.  The whole article is worth a read.  Most interesting was a portion in which they discussed certain religious issues.  It revealed not so much about Justice Scalia, but the amazing ignorance of the mainstream media.  These are journalists who hold themselves out as gatekeepers of news that is important to America, and it's increasingly clear that they are stunning ignorant of the culture of the vast majority of Americans.  Read especially to the end--Justice Scalia's exasperated disbelief in the contempt and ignorance he receives from this reporter.  From the article (the reporter's questions are in bold, Justice Scalia's answers in pain text):

You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, my.
Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Wait, to heaven or hell? 
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.
But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it? 
Of course not!
Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?
Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there 
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
It’s because he’s smart.
So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.
Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.
What happened to him?
He just got wilier.
He got wilier.
Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, soremoved from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
I was offended by that. I really was.

05 October 2013

The Place of Study in the Ideal of St. Dominic

The Prior of our convent of Ss. Sixtus and Clement here in Rome recently found a small booklet from 1960 by the famous American Thomist, Fr. James A. Weisheipl, OP.  The pamphlet, entitled The Place of Study in the Ideal of St. Dominic argues for the centrality--and the uniqueness--of the life of study in the Dominican Order.  In Fr. Weisheipl's words:

Dominic had a new conception of religious life. Its purpose was the preaching of sacred doctrine and the salvation of souls. The sublime office of preacher had never before been the goal of any Order. Preaching belonged by divine right to bishops, the authoritative teachers of sacred doctrine. Dominic was given authority to establish preaching as the goal of his Order by the universal bishop of Christendom, the Holy Father. In order to attain such a goal, Dominic took the three means he knew as a Canon Regular, namely solemn vows, regular life with its monastic observances and solemn recitation of the divine office. To these the added the new element of study; this was necessitated by the special goal of preaching. Study, therefore, was the new feature in St. Dominic's way of life.

You can read a Google Docs version of the PDF by clicking here:   The Place of Study in the Ideal of St. Dominic.

UPDATE:  I removed the embedded document, as (at least on my browser) the page would automatically scroll down to this document, making it the first image you saw when you opened the blog.

02 October 2013

Hymnarium OP

Our Province of Dominicans has put together a new book of Hymns for the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours), which we pray in common several times a day.  We are asking for help to fund the project.  We have set up a fundraising page through  Please consider visiting the page and donating some funds.  Even if you can't contribute, link to our Google+ page, send out a Tweet, or link to the page on Facebook.

Thanks for your support!

01 October 2013

New Provincial Website

Our Province will be unveiling its new website tomorrow, as well as announcing the publication of a new Hymnarium for the Province.  There will announcements on the web, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  Please check back tomorrow, and help us spread the news about these new projects.

America the Beautiful

From Gettysburgh

Over the Summer one of the Dominicans from the Irish Province was in the U.S. for a conference.  He stayed a few extra days in DC, so I decided to show him some of the historical sites around the DC area.  Below are three sets of photos.

The first is from Gettysburg, PA.  We were there a few days after the 150th anniversary of the battle.  So, there were still plenty of people in period costume, and lots and lots of visitors.  It was certainly a very hot day.  I can't imagine being in that heat in woolen uniforms for a three day long battle.

It was a beautiful day in Annapolis they day we went to visit.  Annapolis remains one of my favorite cities to visit--especially on a beautiful summer day.  You get the beauty of the Bay, the history of the old capitol, and the great tradition of the Naval Academy--all in one place!
The Irish friar I travelled with had been to the U.S. before, but never to the South, so he wanted to visited the American South. I figured south Virginia and Mr. Jefferson's university definitely counted. We visited our Dominican community of St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlottesville, the grounds of UVA, and Monticello. It was, unfortunately, a very rainy day, and we were a bit late in getting to Monticello, so we were not able to see terribly much there.

24 September 2013

Why journalism gets a bad name -- because it deserves it

We all know the anecdote of the childhood game which teaches how information can get lost in the re-telling.  But what is amazing is how often journalists--who are tend to work with printed sources--do the exact same thing.  Here's a real example:

Earlier this month, The Wanderer did an interview with Raymond Cardinal Burke, the Prefect for the Apostolic Signatura, which means that he is head of one of the highest courts at the Holy See.  The Wanderer is a very old Catholic newspaper, that publishes from a decidedly orthodox and traditional Catholic viewpoint.  In the interview, they ask Cardinal Burke about Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a self-described Catholic and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.  She also advocates and actively supports a number of positions directly in opposition with the Church's moral teaching.  In the article, Cardinal Burke is asked about Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that Catholics which manifestly persist in grave sin are "not to be admitted to holy communion".  The Cardinal, a preeminent canon lawyer, said the following:
Certainly this is a case when Canon 915 must be applied. This is a person [i.e., Rep. Pelosi] who obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion — and still professes to be a devout Catholic. This is a prime example of what Blessed John Paul II referred to as the situation of Catholics who have divorced their faith from their public life and therefore are not serving their brothers and sisters in the way that they must — in safeguarding and promoting the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn, in safeguarding and promoting the integrity of marriage and the family.
This is fairly uncontroversial as it goes, and has been Cardinal Burke's view for many, many years, going back even to his time as Archbishop in St. Louis.

Some outfit called the Western Center for Journalism (WCJ) then takes snippets from the interview and puts them into an article under the headline: "Vatican Chief Justice: Nancy Pelosi Must Be Denied Communion".  Now, while one might infer that, note that Cardinal Burke never says those words.  He simply says the the Canon should be enforced.  Even the title, "Vatican Chief Justice" is a tad misleading, to say the least.  Otherwise, the article itself is a fairly accurate restatement of one small piece of the original interview.

The next phase of this journalistic daisy chain goes to the Washington Times.  They pick up the WCJ article under the headline: "No communion for Nancy Pelosi: Vatican court head".  Again, a fairly misleading headline.  Even more interestingly, the article is written crediting the WCJ for the article, when all they did was cut and paste from the original Wanderer article.  These journalists can't even figure out where their sources are from!

We finally get to the last line in this long phone conversation, The Drudge Report.  On today's front page of Drudge, you find this headline, which links to the Washington Times article:

Reading this headline, one gets the impression that there was an official decree issued by a court at the Holy See directing that Nancy Pelosi not receive Holy Communion.  This conclusion is, of course, completely false!  If you then click open and read The Washington Times article, you could easily conclude that that's exactly what they're talking about.  It's only if you then link to the WCJ article which finally links you to the original Wanderer interview that you realize that that's not what this is about--that rather than some official sentence handed down, this is just the private opinion of Cardinal Burke.  Moreover, it's not even really news--Cardinal Burke has held this opinion quite publicly for years.

This is terrible journalistic practice, and a reminder that you can never fully trust the media's reporting on the Catholic Church.

A new post for Archbishop DiNoia

Fr. Augustine DiNoia, OP, a member of the Province of St. Joseph has recently been appointed to a new position by Pope Francis within the Roman Curia.  While there are a number of Dominicans working for the Holy See, Abp. DiNoia is currently the only member of the Province to have a full-time appointment there.  He is also one of the highest placed Dominicans in the Roman Curia.

From a recent article by the National Catholic Register:

American Among Wave of Papal Appointments, Confirmations

The Holy Father has named Archbishop Augustine Di Noia as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

By Kerri Lenartowick 

* * *
Archbishop Di Noia
In a further development, Pope Francis created a position for Archbishop Augustine Di Noia. He now joins the leadership of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as its adjunct secretary.
The American prelate has years of experience working in the Roman Curia. He began serving as undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2002 and was appointed secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship in 2009. At the same time, he was consecrated as the titular archbishop of Oregon City.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named him vice president of the Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission, which has led efforts to bring the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X back into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Di Noia was born in New York and joined the Dominicans of the Eastern Province of St. Joseph, where he was ordained in 1970. He is a respected theologian who was asked to serve on the International Theological Commission, a group tasked with helping the Holy See examine doctrinal questions, from 1997-2002.

Congratulations to Archbishop DiNoia, and many prayers as he begins his new ministry for the Church.

National Journal Daily Article

Earlier this summer, the National Journal profiled me in an article that ran in late July or early August.  The article was published digitally as part of the National Journal Daily.  Unfortunately, the article is behind their paywall.  However, the editor has given kind permission for me to reprint a portion of the article. Below is a reprint of the first several paragraphs.

From the National Journal Daily
by Jordain Carney

Pius Pietrzyk worked in corporate law in Chicago for three years before he left the legal world behind and entered training for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph in 2002 to become a priest. But a presidential appointment to the Legal Services Corp. in 2010 has given him another link—this time in a managerial sense—back to the legal world.
"I loved practicing law; I loved being a lawyer ... and in many ways I was sad to go," Pietrzyk said. But he added that the priesthood is "where I feel most at home." 
Last week, President Obama nominated Pietrzyk, who was ordained as a priest in 2008, to serve another term on the Legal Services board of directors. The LSC is a nonprofit corporation that provides grants to programs that give legal assistance to low-income Americans. "The ultimate goal is helping the poor," Pietrzyk said of the organization, adding that he thought it was "a noble thing to do." 
Although Obama first nominated Pietrzyk in 2010, it was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office that had suggested Pietrzyk to fill an open Republican seat on the LSC board. Pietrzyk called his nomination "completely out of the blue." LSC bylaws require that the 11-member board include someone who could technically qualify as a client, or someone with a household income at 125 percent of the poverty level or below. Pietrzyk, who took a vow of poverty as part of the Dominican Order, fit the bill.
"I'm sort of old fashioned.… When a member of the Senate asks if you want to serve, my first reaction is kind of 'OK,' " he said, explaining his decision to join the LSC board. At the time, he had heard of the organization, but wasn't overly familiar with it.
Pietrzyk said one complaint he had about his involvement with LSC is the intense vetting of applicants. Pietrzyk, 40, was first contacted by McConnell's office in January 2010, and it took eight months until he received final approval by the Senate. The process included submitting any writing or speeches he had given, fingerprinting, undergoing a background check with the FBI, and financial disclosure, among other things. "It's a little easier for me, because when they asked for my financial assets I just write zero, zero, zero, zero," he said, but he added that he wonders if the process "discourages people from serving their country."
* * * 
©2013 by the National Jornal Daily, Reprinted with permission

14 August 2013

Liturgical Pic of the Day

A great photo of one of our priests in New York City.  He is celebrating Mass in the Dominican Rite in thanksgiving for a couple's 10th wedding anniversary.  This is at the high altar of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer in The City.

08 August 2013

The Hound of Heaven

I have been slow to post here this summer, but felt compelled after finding this great nugget on the Internet. The poem The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson is one of my favorite poems in the English language. It is a poem that must be heard and not simply read to be fully understand.  Thompson's ability with both the meaning and feel of words is simply genius.  The poem is about man's tendency to seek happiness in so many lesser things, and in so doing failing to seek the goodness in God.  And at the same time, it reveals the ever persevering love of God that chases us in that very quest for lesser goods, which we fail to realize is nothing more than man's natural desire for God alone. Thompson's ability to pace the words helps convey the sense of the 'chase' -- as hounds in a hunt. The story of the poet himself, Francis Thompson, is also interesting.  He was a drug addict and lived a rather tortured life, in many ways the cliche of the tortured poet.  But most modern "tortured poets" ever produced anything so beautiful.

You can find the text to the poem here, or with illustrations here, or with glossed notes here.  There are some more wonderful illustrations (an example of which is to the left), from R.H. Ives Gammel, here.

So, you can imagine how excited I was when I found on the Internet a version of the poem as read by Richard Burton, one of the great actors of the 20th century.  This is pure gold:

19 July 2013

Renomination to the LSC

So, I am told that White House has issued the press release below, although as of today it's not yet on their website.  Although the nomination is made by the President, it came at the recommendation of Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the U.S. Senate.  I have very much enjoyed my work with LSC, and am happy to be renominated.

Office of the Press Secretary

July 18, 2013

President Obama Announces Another Key Administration Post

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:

  • Father Pius Pietrzyk – Member, Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:

Father Pius Pietrzyk, Nominee for Member, Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation
Father Pius Pietrzyk, OP is a Priest of the Order of Preachers.  He is currently engaged in academic studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) and pastoral service at the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome, Italy.  Prior to this, from 2008 to 2011, he served as the Parochial Vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Zanesville, Ohio.  Concurrently, Father Pius has served as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation since 2010.  During the summer of 2004, he was a pro bono attorney with Immigration Services of the Catholic Charities of New York.  Previously, he was an Attorney with Sidley & Austin from 1997 to 2000.  Father Pius received a B.A. from the University of Arizona, a J.D. from the University of Chicago, and a S.T.B./M.Div and S.T.L from the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.


25 June 2013

The Emerald Isle

From the hills overlooking Dublin

Before going back to the U.S., I took the opportunity to spend a few days in Ireland.  I was mostly in Dublin, but went up with another friar to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock and to our Dominican Priory (or what the locals there call our "Friary") in Sligo.  It is impressive to realize how long our Dominicans have been in Ireland, and how they continued to survive despite very severe persecution.  For example, the Dominicans have been in Sligo since the 13th century.  But for much of thee last several centuries, religious life was forbidden by the English.  This is the reason that San Clemente fell to the hands of the Irish, so that they might have a place to educate their friars, as it would have been illegal in Ireland.  There were even professional "Priest Hunters" in Ireland until the 18th century, and they were given a higher reward for hunting down and catching a friar.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Knock commemorates the apparition of the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Joseph outside a small country parish near Sligo.  Our Lady said nothing but merely pointed to another image, that of the Lamb on the Altar, seen as a symbol of the Eucharist.  The Shrine remains an important place of pilgrimage for the Irish and was visited by Pope John Paul II on one of his first trips, in 1979.

I also visited Glendalogh, the ruins of an ancient monastic settlement and the home of St. Kevin.  It gives a glimpse of the unique Christian life that flourished in Ireland.  Regrettably, this life was severely threatened by the Vikings, who continually raided the Monastic communities. And of course, these same peoples eventually invaded England as the Normans, whose brutal tyranny marked religious life in Ireland for 800 years.

The pictures from my trips to Ireland are below.


Knock and the Shrine of Our Lady of Sligo


18 June 2013

Visiting Rome (Part IV) - Where to Stay

When I lived in Chicago, lots of people I knew would visit the city.  I was invariably asked the same question: "what's a good hotel at which I can stay?"  I always had to answer the same way, "I have no idea.  I live in Chicago, so I never stay in hotels here."  The same is true in Rome.  If you want to know a good hotel in Rome, don't ask someone who lives there, ask people who have traveled there.

Even so, I do usually ask people where they stay when they come to Rome--more the neighborhood than the particular hotel.  I find that the Americans tend to be in one of two places.  The first is up by the Spanish Steps or perhaps near the Via Veneto (which is where the American Embassy is located).  This is a very nice place to stay.  There are some beautiful neighborhoods and streets, and you are very close to the center of Rome and to the Metro line.  The second is over by Termini Station, near Vittorio Emanuele park, which is about the closest Rome gets to a "Chinatown".  My impression is that it tends to be cheaper, but the neighborhood is perfectly fine otherwise, although not as scenic as the Piazza di Spagna, and it is more on the outskirts of the tourist areas.

To give you a better idea when you are choosing a hotel, below is a map of Rome.  The dark area in the center is where you will spend most of your tourist time, particularly east of the river.  With a few major exceptions (such as St. Paul Outside the Walls or the Catacombs), you won't need to go outside this area, especially if it is your first time in Rome.  Therefore, I would recommend that when you are booking a hotel, see how close it is to this area.  The more in the center of this area it is, the more convenient it will be for you while touring the major sites of Rome.  Also, just about anywhere in this area will be fairly safe to stay.  Rome is a large, urban city with all the risks of crime that come with that, but other than pickpockets and Gypsies, the tourist area is fairly safe.

When people think of places to stay, they normally think of hotels.  But there are two other options to consider.  The first is an apartment.  There are lots of apartments in Rome that you can rent out.  The advantage of this is that they often have a kitchen.  Dining in Roman restaurants is a bit expensive, unless all you want is pizza.  Some of these apartments have multiple rooms, so if you are a large family or a group of several couples, an apartment may be a most cost-effective option.  It also has the advantage of being more in the city, giving a better sense of how the people here actually live.

If you are a pilgrim to Rome, and coming largely out of religious motivations, I would also recommend staying in a convent.  There are quite a number of sisters' convents that rent out part of their space for tourists and pilgrims.  The rooms tend to be much less expensive than other places.  The rooms are usually very simple, but very clean, and many often provide a simple breakfast.  For pilgrims, the convents will almost always have a chapel where you can pray.  Take note, however, that many do have a curfew, so if you are planning lots of late nights out, make sure you know when they lock up for the night.  There is a website called Monastery Stays that lists a number of these, although I do not know first hand the accuracy of the site.  (UPDATE:  There is also a Booking Monastery website.  Again, I can't confirm the accuracy of the website, so use prudent judgment.)

Just keep in mind that the Italian sense of comfort is rather different than ours.  I find Italian beds much firmer than American beds.  Romans are also used to living in much smaller spaces, so do not expect some grand, large room, and certainly not a spacious bathroom!

Speaking of bathrooms, two quick notes.  In most hotels there will be a cord hanging from the wall inside the shower.  Whatever you do, do not pull it unless it's an emergency.  It is an uncharacteristic Italian attempt at safety, and it signals an alarm in case you fall or something.  Second, that extra bathroom fixture on the floor next to the toilet is not a drinking fountain for very short people.

Liturgy & Law -- Adding St. Joseph to the Canon

Death of St. Joseph, Dominican House of Studies

Update 20 June 2013: The USCCB has announced through its website that the Holy See has amended the words of Eucharistic Prayers 2, 3, and 4 to insert the name of St. Joseph. According to the USCCB these revisions "are approved to be used immediately".  Below is the revised text English and Latin.  Whether this is "immediately" applicable in other countries is not immediately clear.  I would assume that the Conferences of Bishops would announce this individually for the diocese of their own territory. 

The original decree (and translations of the text into additional languages) may be found at the Vatican website here:


Eucharistic Prayer II
Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,

with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,

with the blessed Apostles,
and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages,
we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life,
and may praise and glorify you
through your Son, Jesus Christ.
Eucharistic Prayer III
May he make of us
an eternal offering to you,
so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect,
especially with the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,

with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,

with your blessed Apostles and glorious Martyrs
(with Saint N.: the Saint of the day or Patron Saint)
and with all the Saints,
on whose constant intercession in your presence
we rely for unfailing help.
Eucharistic Prayer IV
To all of us, your children,
grant, O merciful Father,
that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance
with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,

with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,

and with your Apostles and Saints in your kingdom.
There, with the whole of creation,
freed from the corruption of sin and death,
may we glorify you through Christ our Lord,
through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.


Prex Eucharistica II
Omnium nostrum, quǽsumus, miserére,

ut cum beáta Dei Genetríce Vírgine María,
beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso,
beátis Apóstolis et ómnibus Sanctis,
qui tibi a sǽculo placuérunt,
ætérnae vitæ mereámur esse consórtes,
et te laudémus et glorificémus
per Fílium tuum Iesum Christum.

Prex Eucharistica III
Ipse nos tibi perfíciat munus ætérnum,

ut cum eléctis tuis hereditátem cónsequi valeámus,
in primis cum beatíssima Vírgine, Dei Genetríce, María,
cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso,
cum beátis Apóstolis tuis et gloriósis Martýribus
(cum Sancto N.: Sancto diei vel patrono)
et ómnibus Sanctis,
quorum intercessióne
perpétuo apud te confídimus adiuvári.

Prex Eucharistica IV
Nobis ómnibus, fíliis tuis, clemens Pater, concéde,

ut cæléstem hereditátem cónsequi valeámus
cum beáta Vírgine, Dei Genetríce, María,
cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso,
cum Apóstolis et Sanctis tuis
in regno tuo, ubi cum univérsa creatúra,
a corruptióne peccáti et mortis liberáta,
te glorificémus per Christum Dóminum nostrum,
per quem mundo bona cuncta largíris.

UPDATE 19 June 2013:  Noted on-line apologist Jimmy Akin has apparently contacted the Committee on Divine Worship at the USCCB about the implementation date. He largely confirms what I said below.  See his blog entry here.

* * * * * 

It has been reported that the Congregation for Divine Worship has prepared a decree to insert the name of St. Joseph in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Eucharistic Prayers (it was added to the 1st Eucharistic Prayer--the "Roman Canon"--in 1962).  Some websites have erroneously reported that that means the name may or must now be inserted by priests using those Eucharistic prayers.  This is incorrect.

Under the Code of Canon Law, new laws do not generally take effect when they are issued.  Rather "a law is established when it is promulgated." (can. 7, emphasis added)  Promulgation is the official announcement  of a law.  This occurs by publishing it in Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS), the official commentary on all of the actions of the Holy See.  Note, however, that the canon cited above says "established" not "effective".  A law does not even go into effect on the day it is published in AAS.  The general rule is that a law goes into effect three months after its promulgation. (can. 8)  

The Holy See can waive these provisions to have a law take effect immediately.  It did so when Pope Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Letter Normas Nonnullas, which changed the rules of the Conclave just before the effective date of his resignation.  (I discussed the possibility in a blog post this past February.)  To do this, the decree must "specifically and expressly" establish a period other than the three month rule.  So, in Normas Nonnullas the Pope stated in the very last sentence, "This document will enter into effect immediately upon its publication in L’Osservatore Romano."  This is how you specifically and expressly provide a different effective date.  The mere use of "henceforth" in the current decree on the use of the name of St. Joseph does not do this, and the decree mentions no other specific effective date.  Therefore, we should not--indeed may not--assume that the decree has immediate force or effect.

Something similar happened when Pope John XXIII first added the name of St. Joseph to the Canon back in 1962.  The decree was issued on November 13, 1962.  However, the name was not to be inserted into the canon until December 8, 1962, approximately 1 month later, as specifically mentioned in the decree.  It is normal for there to be a gap between the date of issuance of a new law and its effectiveness to allow time for the news to spread and churches to implement the change.

Therefore, since this new decree has not even been published, it has no legal effect yet.  Therefore, no priest, on his own initiative, should insert the name of St. Joseph into the other Eucharistic Prayers until such time as the decree has been published and the applicable waiting period has elapsed.

16 June 2013

Visiting Rome (Part III) - The Pope

One of the best reasons to come to Rome is to see the Pope.  Even a fair share of non-Catholics will make an effort to attend a Papal event while in Rome, and it usually is not terribly difficult to do so.  (Although see the really important note at the bottom of this post about the need for tickets to papal events.)  Again, this is written with my fellow Americans in mind, but most is applicable to everyone.

There are already some good resources on the website about papal events:

The first is the Pontifical North American College (usually referred to simply as "The NAC"), which is the American seminary residence here in Rome.  They have a number of resources for pilgrims, and especially their page on Papal Audiences and Events.  One of the other very important pages on that website is the Bishops’ Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican.  The U.S. Bishops keep an office at the NAC explicitly for American pilgrims to Rome and is run by the Alma Mercy Sisters.  They have lots of good and useful links, and it is worth contacting them before you come over.  Be sure to look at the rest of the NAC "Pilgrim Information" pages as well.

Many American Catholics are surprised to learn that there is an American parish here in Rome.  Over the years, many countries have established national churches in Rome both to have a presence in the eternal city as well as to minister to their citizens--whether as pilgrims or as residents--here in Rome.  Many of those are even sponsored by the governments of those places, but obviously not the American one.  The American parish in Rome is the Church of Santa Susanna, and it is staffed by the Paulist Fathers.  Like the NAC, they have a lot of good information for pilgrims as well as information on Papal Audiences and events.  Also, they are one of the places in Rome where you can find a Mass in English.

There is also a private website (i.e., not an official Vatican website) called St. Peter's Basilica that has a lot of good information.  The one caution on this is that it was done a few years ago and does not seem to have been updated in a while, but much of the information is largely still valid.  You can find the website by clicking here.

So, when can you see the Pope?
  • Wednesday Audience.  Every Wednesday (except usually in August, when it is at Castel Gandolfo) the Pope makes an address to pilgrims gathered in Rome from St. Peter's Square.  The Papal Audience is usually at 10:30am in the Square, except in the winter when it is moved into the Paul VI Auditorium.  You can just show up and stand with the crowds, if you want. However, if you want a seat, you need a ticket.  The websites above can give you details on how to get those.  Note that when the Audience is indoors (winter), you can only see it with a ticket.
  • Sunday Angelus.  There is a long tradition in the Church, sadly largely discarded in the U.S., of praying the Angelus prayer at Noon every day (and usually also at 6:00am and 6:00pm).  (If you go to Ireland, for example, TV broadcast is still suspended each day at Noon to broadcast the Angelus prayer.)  The Pope does this publicly every Sunday at noon from the window of the (former) Papal Apartments.  You don't need a ticket for this, just stand in the square and face north.  It makes for a nice Sunday to attend the main Mass (at 10:30am) at the Altar of the Chair (often celebrated by a Cardinal or Bishop, but not the Pope) and afterwards to go to the square for the Audience.  The 10:30am Sunday Mass at St. Peter's is in Latin with the readings and homily in Italian.
There are also other events throughout the year worth attending, but these all depend on when you are in Rome.  Here are some of the regular annual Papal events, following the order of the Liturgical Year:
  • First Sunday of Advent - It has become customary for the Pope to celebrate Vespers (Evening Prayer) with Roman University students on the evening of the First Sunday of Advent.  This is held in St. Peter's Basilica.  usually these tickets are distributed through the schools, but you still may be able to acquire one.
  • Dec. 8 - The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  Every December 8, the Pope offers prayers at the statute of the Immaculate Conception near the base of the Spanish Steps.  This event is usually in the evening.  No tickets are required for this, but if you want to get close you need to be there early, and be prepared to stand for a long time.  This event is usually very, very heavily attended, and it is usually a bit cold (so dress warmly!).
  • Dec. 25 - Christmas Midnight Mass.  This is usually not at midnight, but about 10:00pm.  However, with a new Pope, this might change.  This Mass is held at St. Peter's.
  • Jan. 1 - Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.  This is always on New Year's Day and is celebrated by the Pope inside St. Peter's Basilica around 10:00am.  Following the Mass is the Pope's address from the Papal Apartment window.
  • Jan 6 - Epiphany.  The Holy See maintains the custom of observing Epiphany on January 6, rather than the Sunday following.  This will be a morning Mass in St. Peter's, with the Angelus to follow in the Square.
  • Feb 2 - Candlemas.  The Pope usually, but not always, celebrates a papal Mass for the feast of the Presentation on February 2.  This is an evening Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
  • Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina.  There is a long custom of the Pope celebrating the Stational Mass of Ash Wednesday--and distributing ashes--at our Dominican church of Santa Sabina.  It begins with the Pope praying at the church of Sant'Anselmo at the top of the Aventine and then processing to Santa Sabina as the choir chants the Litany of Saints.  The Mass is inside the Church, but they usually set up monitors and seats outside as well, and ashes and Holy Communion are distributed to those seated outside.  It is usually held in the evening.
  • Palm Sunday.  The Pope celebrates Mass with the blessing of Palms at St. Peter's Basilica.  It is usually a morning Mass in St. Peter's Square.
  • Holy Week:
    • Chrism Mass- Holy Thursday morning.  The Pope has Mass with the blessing of the oils and the Priests' renewal of promises in the morning in St. Peter's Basilica.
    • Mass of the Lord's Supper.  In the past, this was an evening Mass at St. John Lateran.  For his first Holy Thursday, however, Pope Francis chose to say this Mass at a local youth prison.  He will likely continue that, and so there will be no more Papal Holy Thursday evening Mass.
    • Good Friday - Liturgy of the Lord's Passion.  This is usually at 5:00pm (not 3:00pm) in St. Peter's Basilica on Good Friday.
    • Good Friday - Way of the Cross - This is another very popular event held very close to the Colosseum (not, as many people believe in the Colosseum).  It is usually an evening event.
  • Easter Sunday Mass.  This is one of the largest Masses in Rome for the year, and lots and lots of Pilgrims come to this.  It is an outdoor Mass on St. Peter's Square and starts about 10:00am.  After Mass, the Pope delivers the Urbi et Orbi address from the window of the Papal Apartments.
  • Corpus Christi.  The original day for celebrating Corpus Christi was Thursday after the end of the Pentecost Octave.  Sadly, the Pentecost Octave is no more, but the Holy See maintains the tradition of observing Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  There is a large outdoor Mass at the entrance to the Basilica of St. John Lateran.  Following Mass, there is a Eucharistic procession from the Lateran to St. Mary Major for Benediction.  
  • June 29 - Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.  This is usually a morning Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.  It is also the Mass at which the Pope bestows the pallium on the newly made Archbishops.  As many of these Archbishops bring pilgrims with them from their home dioceses, it is often difficult to get tickets for this Mass.
  • August 15 - Solemnity of the Assumption. The Italians usually go on vacation in August, usually before or after "Ferragosto" (i.e., August 15).  The Pope is typically no exception.  Usually this Mass is celebrated at Castel Gandolfo.  However, Pope Francis has indicated that he will not be spending August in Castel Gandolfo, so this Mass may be held in Rome.  
  • Last Sunday before Advent - Solemnity of Christ the King.  Pope Benedict often arranged for the Consistory--at which the new the Cardinals are created--to occur the day before the Solemnity of Christ the King.  He would therefore end the liturgical year with this Mass with the new Cardinals in St. Peter's.  This is not one that the Pope regularly celebrates publicly, and if he does have it following a consistory, it is usually hard to get tickets because of the pilgrimage groups of the attending cardinals.
Although not Papal events, I might also recommend the following:
  • Sunday Vespers at St. Peter's.  The Canons of St. Peter celebrate Vespers at the Altar of the Chair (i.e., at the very back of the Basilica) every Sunday at 5:00pm (following the 4:00pm Mass and immediately followed by the 5:45pm Mass).  The Office is chanted in Latin, with a choir.  It is usually led by a Bishop, or sometimes a Cardinal. The area will be blocked off, and open only to people attending Mass or Vespers.  Tell the guards at the barrier that you are there for Vespers (It: Vespri) or Mass (It: La Messa).  
    • On the 5th Sunday of Lent St. Peter's is the Stational Church.  There is an old custom of displaying the relic of Veronica's Veil on that day, from where it is usually kept above the statue of St. Veronica under the main dome of St. Peter's.  In the older calendar of the Church, this Sunday marked the beginning of Passiontide, elements of which remain even in the post-Vatican II liturgy.
  • Stational Masses of Lent.  There is a long custom of churches in Rome being designated as "Stational Churches" and associated with the different days of lent.  The NAC has an early morning Mass at every one of these Stational Churches throughout Lent (except for Sundays).  It is usually very well attended by American Catholics in Rome.  Full details are at the NAC's website.  Note, however, that these are not the official stational liturgies.  Most of these Churches will have the proper stational Mass in the evening, which involves a penitential procession.  
    • At San Clemente, our Stational Mass day is Monday of the Second Week of Lent (in 2014, that also happens to be St. Patrick's Day).  The Basilica here follows a very ancient custom of covering the floor with basil leaves, so that when the procession walks over them, the fragrance of the leaves is released.  
  • Pentecost Sunday at the Pantheon.  After the 10:00am (I think) Mass on Pentecost, the Church of Santa Maria della Rotonda (also called Santa Maria ad Martyres, but best known simply by its old Pagan name, "The Pantheon"), a great batch of red rose petals are dropped from the hole in the ceiling of the church in memory of the Holy Spirit who descended as "tongues of flame" on Mary and the Apostles.  You need not attend the Mass, but they will not let you into the Church until after Mass is finished, around Noon.
  • Sunday Mass at St. Mary Major. People always ask me where to go to Mass.  I find that the 10:00am Sunday Mass at St. Mary Major is one of the most beautiful in Rome.  They have one of the best choirs.  That Mass is also in Latin, with the readings and homily in Italian.
IMPORTANT NOTE:  These are all subject to change.  The best source of papal events is the website of the Pontifical Liturgy Office, which maintains a calendar of the Pope's public events.  Make sure to check that before you come to Rome.

REALLY IMPORTANT NOTE: Almost every Papal event--especially if it is indoors--requires you to have a ticket in advance.  They will not let you in without displaying a ticket.  You can get those through the U.S. Bishops' Pilgrimage office.  

MOST IMPORTANT NOTE OF ALL (FOR CATHOLICS):  For Papal Masses, the norm is to receive communion on the tongue and not in the hand.  The priests are instructed to give the response (The Body of Christ) in the original Latin (Corpus Christi), after which you give your "Amen".  If you have never received communion on the tongue, here is a good guide and description:  How to Receive Communion on the Tongue.  If the Mass is outdoors, after receiving Holy Communion, please quickly move aside so that others may receive.  Obviously, if you are not Catholic or are not properly disposed, please do not receive  Holy Communion.  Most of all--and I cannot believe this is necessary to say--under no circumstances whatsoever or for any reason may you take the host home with you.  That would be gravely sinful.

Oh blithersome couturier

In the on-line magazine Commentary, the writer John Podhoretz has a beautiful tribute to his sister, Rachel Abrams, who died earlier this month of cancer.  The article is worth reading in its entirety.  One part I particularly enjoyed was a bit of poetry that Mr. Podhoretz shared from his sister Rachel.   It seems that she was none too fond of a certain Washington writer, which she expertly dispatched in these few lines of poetry:
Oh blithersome couturier of wordifactious spewage,
Your loathsome predilection for effluxicating brewage
Has found its proper gallery in hurricanus sewage.
Oh odious splendiferatious tonguer of all piety,
Ambassador-at-very-large for platitudiniety,
Your prosody’s ontology’s all Sartric nullibiety.
It’s thus we say, with due respect, and many years’ assizing:
Oh, literary colporteur, the words of your devising
Appear to land upon the page without palpable revising
St. Thomas says that one way you know an expert in a given activity is that he can make mistakes on purpose.  The novice pianist hits the wrong key because he doesn't yet have the art mastered.  When the virtuoso hits the wrong key, it's only because he is doing it on purpose.  Moreover, the expert's ability to derivate creatively from the usual rules of note and meter to create an even more profound musical effect shows how truly talented he is.  The same can be true for language. This woman was a virtuoso of the English language.

The whole article is available here, and definitely worth a read.  Requiescat in pace.

12 June 2013

Visiting Rome (Part II) -- Getting to the City

I am continuing with my series of posts on visiting the city of Rome.  Assuming you have made your plane reservations and all, you will almost surely fly into Rome's Fiumicino Airport, also known as Leonardo da Vinci.  In this post, I'll talk about the myriad of different ways to get you from that airport to the city itself.  As in most things in life, there is an inverse ratio between cost and ease of travel.  The easiest ways are the usually the most expensive, and vice-versa.

One preliminary note: if you are flying in from another European city on one of the ever-increasing number of discount airlines, you may be flying into Rome's other airport, Ciampino. This post, however, assumes you're coming into Fiumicino.

From least costly to most costly:
  1. FREE!  Fiumicino is about 25 miles from Rome.  According to Google Maps, it should take you only about 7 hours to walk that distance.  You can ponder all the money you're saving during your 7 hour trek.
  2. €4 or 5.  There are a number of shuttle buses that will go every hour or so from the airport to Rome's Termini Station, in the center of Rome.  The trip is usually about 45 minutes.  They are pretty competitive and pretty cheap.  The biggest risk with these is Roman Traffic--make sure when you return to the airport you give yourself plenty of time.  There are a number of companies out there, but I have usually used Terravision, an international company with a website in English and online ticket purchase option. As of today, they are charging €4 per person each way.  The company employees usually speak a sufficient amount of English.
  3. €14.  There is a train that runs directly between Fiumicino and Termini Station that runs every 30 minutes or so.  It is called the Leonardo da Vinci Express and is run by Trenitalila, the national train company.  Tickets can (and should) be bought in advance from Trenitalia's website, which has some English.  Like most (but not all) Italian trains, the ticket must be stamped in advance before boarding the train.  There should be small machines near the front of the tracks were you can do this.  The train will take you to Rome's Termini Station, the main train station in the city. The biggest risk here is that there is a strike and the trains are shut down.  I tend to find the train the best balance between cost and ease of travel.
  4. €25.  There are shuttle companies that will take you from the airport directly to your hotel.  They work a bit like Airport Shuttles in the U.S., in that it is a small van that they fill with people, and drop off one-by one.  It's not too expensive, and is fairy quick especially if you are the first one dropped off, not so much if you are the last.  So, it could take you anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour (or longer) to get directly to your hotel.  This one is best if you are travelling in a group of people, meaning fewer stops along the way.  Like the buses, the risk is that the traffic will be terrible coming into Rome.  The company I've used is AirPortShuttle, and they have a website in English where you can reserve your ticket.  
  5. €48.  The easiest way to get to and from the airport is by cab.  By law, the official cabs may only charge you a flat fee, currently set at €48, for trips to the center of Rome.  This fee is all-inclusive and is per trip (not per traveler).  The City's website has a handy sheet (in Italian, English, and Spanish) which explains all this.  Most of the cabs take credit cards, but it is a good idea to have sufficient cash in Euro with you just in case.  Also, make sure you only take the "Comune di Roma" taxis, with the red and gold shield of the city of Rome on the side of them.  Also, caveat emptor, Roman cabdrivers are notorious for trying to squeeze a few extra Euros out of foreigners--telling you that you need pay extra for using a credit card, or having extra luggage, or extra passengers, etc.  None of this is true.  You may certainly tip a few extra Euro if you want, but they are not allowed to charge more than the flat fee.  Also, in my experience very few of the Roman cabbies speak English, so bring a printout of the name and address of your hotel with you.  The cabs should be parked out in front of the main entrance to the airport.  Ignore the people soliciting cabs before you get to that cabstand.  The trip should take 45 minutes to an hour, depending on Roman traffic and where you're staying.  Occasionally, the cabbies do go on strike, so that if you are planning to go back to the airport by cab, consider getting the concierge at your hotel to make the reservation the night before.  The biggest risk in taking a Roman cab is that the speed and aggressiveness which define the Roman cabbie will give you a heart attack.  Make sure you hold on!
  6. Priceless.  Go to seminary, get ordained a priest, then get consecrated a Bishop, then get named a Cardinal, then get elected Pope in the Papal Conclave, so that you can take the papal helicopter, Good Shepherd I, from the airport to your residence in Vatican City.