29 February 2012

Ethicists say babies aren't persons and be killed morally

From The Telegraph comes this frightening news of a recently published article titled "After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?":
The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.
This is nothing more than infanticide.

According to the authors of the study, newborns are simply "potential persons": "Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life.’"

I wonder: Where will the final line be drawn by these so-called medical ethicists as to when a person is a person?  Others have attempted to make such a distinction before and I daresay it did not end well.  This not bode well for society.

Father Augustus Tolton Day?

Two Illinois State Senators - Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) and John Sullivan (D-Rushville) - introduced today a resolution to designate April 24, 2012 as Father Augustus Tolton Day.  Father Tolton was ordained a priest on April 24, 1886.

I'm very happy about this and hope the resolution passes.

Should the priest "turn his back to the people" or to the Lord?

A Minor Friar recently noticed what others haven't quite yet picked up on:
Like many of the churches and chapels where I say Mass these days, a free-standing altar is set up in front of a tabernacle set centrally in the sanctuary. Thus, in order to offer the Mass versus populum, the priest must place himself in between the altar and the tabernacle. All of a sudden, even though I have offered Mass this way hundreds of times, from the Mass of my priestly ordination on Our Lady's birthday in 2007 down to today, I felt uncomfortable to find myself with my back to the Blessed Sacrament.
When the Mass is celebrated ad orientem, that is, to the East (even if only liturgically speaking), the priest and the people all face the same direction.  It is a profound sign of unity.  Some, though, do not like this and are offended that the priest would "turn his back to the people," as they incorrectly say.

A Minor Friar asks:
But isn't it more troubling for the priest to turn his back on the Presence of Christ in the tabernacle?

Hope in Ridgway, Illinois

Last night a tornado destroyed most of St. Joseph church in Ridgway, Illinois, in the Diocese of Belleville, yet hope remains:

Your eyes do not deceive you.  If you look through the rubble you can see the altar still intact and the tabernacle still present.

The storm system killed ten people yesterday in southern Illinois.  May they rest in peace.

Please keep all those whose lives have been so terribly shaken in your prayers, that the presence of the Eucharistic King in their midst will strengthen them for the days ahead.


Here's a picture of the church from a different angle:

The priest, thanks be to God, is unharmed.

27 February 2012

Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest?

This is, perhaps, one of most frequently asked questions of priests.  It is certainly the question I am most asked on retreats and before communal penance services.

It is also a question that was asked of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI when he visited the Rebibbia District Prison in Rome last December 18th.  Given this season of Lent and its emphasis on penance and reconciliation I thought I would give you the Pope's answer, but first the question posed to him by Gianni:
I was taught that the Lord sees and reads inside us.  I wonder why is absolution delegated to priests?  If I asked for it on my knees alone in my room, turning to the Lord, would he absolve me?  Or would it be another kind of absolution?  What would be the difference?
And now, the Pope's answer, transcribed from my print edition of the 21 December 2011 issue of L'Osservatore Romano, since the link is broken on the web site of the Holy See:
Yes, you are asking me an important and true question.  I would say two things.  The first: naturally, if you kneel down and with true love for God pray that God forgives you, he forgives you.  It has always been the teaching of the Church that one, with true repentance - that is not only in order to avoid punishment, difficulty, but for love of the good, for love of God - asks for forgiveness, he is pardoned by God.  This is the first part.  If I honestly know that I have done evil, and if love for goodness, a desire for goodness is reborn within me, repentance for not having responded to this love, and I ask forgiveness of God, who is the Good, he gives it to me.  But there is a second element: sin is not only a "personal", individual thing between myself and God.  Sin always has a social dimension, a horizontal one.  With my personal sin, even if perhaps no one knows it, I have damaged the communion of the Church, I have sullied humanity.  And therefore this social, horizontal dimension of sin requires that it be absolved also at the local level of the human community, of the community of the Church, almost physically.  Thus, this second dimension of sin, which is not only against God but concerns the community too, demands the Sacrament, and the Sacrament is the great gift in which through confession, we can free ourselves from this thing and we can really receive forgivness in the sense of a full readmission to the community of the living Church, of the Body of Christ.  And so, in this sense, the necessary absolution by the priest, the Sacrament, is not an imposition - let us say - on the limits of God's goodness, but, on the contrary, it is an expression of the goodness of God because it shows me concretely, in the communion of the Church, I have received pardon and can start anew.  Thus, I would say, hold on to these two dimensions: the vertical one, with God, and the horizontal one, with the community of the Church and humanity.  The absolution of the priest, sacramental absolution, is necessary to really absolve me of this link with evil and to full reintegrate me into the will of God, into the vision of God, into his Church and to give me sacramental, almost bodily, certitude: God forgives me, he receives me into the community of his children.  I think that we must learn how to understand the Sacrament of Penance in this sense: as a possibility of finding again, almost physically, the goodness of the Lord, the certainty of reconciliation.

24 February 2012

News round up (with brief comments)

A not-so-witty tweet

Yesterday someone on Twitter (so far as I know, a complete stranger to me, @Witty_Witticist), included me in one of his tweets that read:
You suck.  Having a silly book and a costume is not a real job.
I can only suppose that the "silly book" is either the Bible or the Roman Missal and that the "costume" is either the Roman collar (whether in suit form or cassock) or the sacred vestments for Mass and other liturgical celebrations.

Perhaps without knowing it, he is, to be sure, quite right.  A silly book and a costume does not make a real job.  I could grab some silly book of jokes and dress in a monkey suit but that wouldn't mean I had a job.  That is, unless someone paid me to dress in a monkey suit and tell jokes.

But there is something that the Witty Witticist doesn't quite grasp regarding the very nature of the priesthood: it is not, in point of fact, a job, but a vocation.

A job is done during certain agreed upon hours during which certain agreed upon tasks are performed.

A vocation is a way of life.  The vocation of the priesthood - like the vocation of marriage - is not performed but lived, and not for certain hours of time but every moment of every day.

In this sense, the Witty Witticist is right: I do not have a job.  I have instead a vocation.  As it happens, the job I perform is to serve as Priest Secretary and Master of Ceremonies to the Bishop and the Associate Director of the Office for Vocations.  These assignments are not necessary to my life as a priest, but to live each day as one is.

22 February 2012

Homily - Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday (2012)

Dear brothers and sisters,

How many times each day do we make the sign of the Cross?  We make it as we enter a church and sign ourselves with holy water. We make it at the beginning and the conclusion of the holy Mass and at other liturgies. We make it when we pray privately and before we before and after we eat. Why?

We do so because, as Saint Peter Damian teaches us, “it seems clear that the power of this sign will abolish all demonic claims upon human beings and the various items we need to use.”[1]

On the day of our Baptism, on the day we were incorporated into Christ Jesus and given a share in his life, the priest or deacon traced the Cross of our salvation on our foreheads and said, “I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his Cross.” The sign of the Cross is a visible and physical reminder to us of the words of the Apostle: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

The price of our redemption is the blood of Christ shed out of love for us upon the wood of the Cross.  Today, as we prepare to enter with fervent devotion into the holy and penitential season of Lent, this Cross is traced with ashes on our foreheads to remind us that we are indeed not our own.  The cross of ashes serves also to remind us of our own mortality, to remind us of our sins, and to express externally our internal sorrow.

Consequently, the ashes also remind us of the mercy of God who is gracious and merciful, “slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” and who calls out to us, “return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning” (Joel 2:13, 12).

In these coming forty days we will seek to enter more fully into the Cross of our Lord, to take it up each day and to follow him who died for us.  This is a daunting and difficult task, to lay down our own will, to conform our lives to his and to reflect his love in everything we say and do.  As we contemplate the Cross, let us not shy away from it but seek to embrace it, because it “terrifies the devil, putting him to flight, that it may then invite the angels to approach us.”[2]  Let us take up this great insignia and strive to faithfully follow the one who bore it first for us.  Amen.

[1] Saint Peter Damian, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 12.  In Christian Eloquence: Contemporary Doctrinal Preaching.  C. Colt Anderson.  (Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2005), 115-116.
[2] Saint Peter Damian, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 8.  In Christian Eloquence, 115-116. 

21 February 2012

Homily - 21 February 2012

This evening I had the pleasure of celebrating Mass for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George at St. Michael Convent in Springfield.  I also joined them for dinner after Mass.  What follows is the homily I preached for them.

The Memorial of Saint Peter Damian
Dear Sisters,

On this day before Ash Wednesday it is a great work of Providence to celebrate this memorial of Saint Peter Damian, the Doctor of Reform and Renewal. The aim of his life and the aim of Lent is really the same for which we prayed just a few moments ago: “[T]hat, putting nothing before Christ and always ardent in the service of your Church, we may be led to the joys of eternal life.”[1]
The only way to attain the joys of eternal life is through the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In his sermon for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Saint Peter Damian addressed the Cross, saying:

You are the salvation of a ruined world, you are the light set amid the darkness, medicine for the feeble, strength for the convalescing, a haven for those in danger, a place of refuge for those fleeing the jaws of death.  Through you the foreign wanderers pass on their way to become members of the household.[2]
While it is true that we have already passed through the Cross when we were baptized into the death of Christ, it is also true that we are in continual need of conversion (cf. Romans 6:3).  As such, we must be constantly passing through the Cross, as if we lived in the midst of it.  Is this not what the Lord intended when he said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)?

Saint James reminds us today that we must strive to control our “passions that make war within your members” so as to daily “submit yourselves to God (James 4:1, 7).
Saint Clare, that wondrous woman of faith, teaches us to look at the Crucified Lord.  Her words echo well the words of Saint James.  “Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you,” she says, “and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in the world for Him.”[3]  She instructs us how to pray before the Crucifix:

Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!  Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!  Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!  And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation!  So that you too may feel what His friends feel as the taste the hidden sweetness which God Himself has reserved from the beginning for those who love Him.[4]
This is a difficult task to undertake and to accomplish it we must rely on God’s grace and seek to set aside our own fears.  In this effort of being transformed ever more closely into the image of Christ we must heed the words of the Psalmist: “Cast your care upon the Lord, and he will support you” (Psalm 55:23).

Whatever cross the Lord has seen fit for us to bear, whatever penance we must undertake in these coming forty days, it is not too much for us to bear.  As Saint Peter Damian teaches, “For the sake of overcoming the devil our emperor presented us with the insignia of the cross; and lest it seem too heavy for us he first bore it himself.”[5]
As we enter into these days of Lent, let us look to the examples of the those of who have loved the Cross of our Lord before us and seek their intercession and guidance. 

[1] Roman Missal, Collect of the Day.
[2] Saint Peter Damian, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 14.  In Christian Eloquence: Contemporary Doctrinal Preaching, C. Colt Anderson.  (Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2005), 122.
[3] Saint Clare of Assisi, The Second Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, 19.  In Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, Regis J. Armstrong and Ignatius C. Brady, trans.  (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), 197.
[4] Ibid., The Third Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague, 12-14.  In Francis and Clare, 200.
[5] Saint Peter Damian, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 11.  In Christian Eloquence, 119.

Don't you wanna be Pepper, too?

A few minutes ago as I was leaving the gym I passed a man about my age as he was going to the gym.  We nodded to each other in greeting as we passed by.

A few steps later he called back to me, "Where'd you get your shirt?"

My jacket was open so he clearly saw the image on my t-shirt:
It was gift, so I told him I thought the giver found the shirt.

In gratitude, he said, "Yeah, represent!".

Not quite sure how to respond to that, I said, "Yup," smiled, and continued on my way.

The conversation brings this commercial to mind:

I'm happy to say, "I'm a Pepper."

Fr. Leo on the HHS mandate

19 February 2012

On an abundance of churches

When in Rome- and in other European cities – it is possible, and quite likely, to see four nearby often within a block or two of each other) churches at the same time simply by shifting your sight just a little.  Americans – being ever so practical – often wonder why so many churches were erected so close together.  Some even go so far as to question the needless expenditure of monies and the extravagance of such buildings.
Several reasons might be offered to explain the abundance and the beauty of Rome’s churches:
1.       The benefactors and patrons of the churches wanted them built and wanted them to beautiful.  Some suggest the Church should sell her property (as if every deed was held by the Holy See itself, which is not the case) and use the money for the benefit of the poor.  There are two principle difficulties with this line of reasoning, not including the Lord’s own rebuke of such an argument (see John 12:1-8). 

 The first is that beautiful churches do help the poor by helping to lift their minds to God precisely through the beauty of the churches.  The poor often lack beauty in their lives and can find it in nearby churches. Selling off these sacred buildings (presuming a buyer could be found) would rob future generations of this beauty.

The second is that those who contributed to the building of these churches intended them to be beautiful and gave their money for the churches to be built; to sell the churches would be a betrayal of sorts of the wishes of the donors. 

2.       Many of the churches were built for specific reasons.  For example, some were built to house the relics of the martyrs (Rome has many such relics).  Other churches were built to give thanks to God or one of the saints for assistance received.  The church of Saint Mary of the Stairs, for instance, was built in thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin Mary after a plague subsided through her intercession (it is so named because of the stairs in the piazza in which it was built). 

3.       Saint John Chrysostom provides us with yet another reason to build so many churches and to keep them maintained.  “God has set up churches like harbors along the coast,” he says, “so that you may take refuge there out of the swirl of earthly cares and find peace and quiet.”
In the United States of America, it is often said that the church’s of Italy are empty, but, having been to Italy now six times, this can only be said by one who has not visited Rome’s churches.  Only once did I enter a church over these past ten days and find it completely empty.  Every other church I entered always had people in it kneeling in deep prayer, or walking around the church praying the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross (there were also, of course, tourists, as well).  Such scenes of the devotion of the faithful of Rome always move my heart and strengthen my own faith.
Even sitting outside for a brief pause in the piazzas throughout the Eternal City, I saw Romans stop into churches along their routes for a brief moment of prayer, as if they simply wanted to stop by and say “hi” to the Eucharistic Lord before continuing on their way.  How many times does this happen in America?
It is certainly true to say that Rome’s churches are not as full as they could be or indeed as they should be.  But neither are the churches in America, and we have far fewer in close proximity to each other.  At the same time, I would argue – boldly, perhaps – that our level of devotion is not as strong as that of the Romans.
Take, for example, a simple stroll I took two evenings ago from the Piazza del Populo to the Basilica of Saint Peter.  Along the way, I stopped in – or at least attempted to stop in – no fewer than seven churches.  One was empty, two were filled with people prayer privately, two had adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament going on, and two had Mass being celebrated.  All this between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.  A brief glance into the churches with exposition showed about 25 people in each church and a similar glance into the churches with Mass showed about 45 people in each church.  So deep were they in prayer that no turned around to notice my entrance into the churches (it was quite, but the doors are not always so quiet).
I like to visit churches, particularly churches I have not yet been to.  Only on the rare occasion do I enter a church in the U.S. and find someone already there praying, or even find someone coming inside to pray during my own prayer (this naturally presumes that I first find the church open).  Evening Masses or periods of adoration are rare in the U.S., often because people do not come.
Perhaps if we had a deeper appreciation of the One who is present to us the Tabernacles of his churches we might also have a deeper appreciation for an abundance of churches, and use them to take refuge from the many storms of life, which can catch us off guard even on a simple walk – or drive – to the store.  Rome has so many harbors because we need them and because it is good to give thanks to God.

16 February 2012

The Wednesday General Audience

As the Bishops met yesterday morning with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and with the Congregation for Catholic Education, another priest and I joined the priests in the Institute for Continuing Education at the Pontifical North American College to attend the Wednesday General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The audience was held in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall and was filled to capacity with a great many young people, families with small children, priests and religious, and adults from various parts of the world.

When the appointed time had come, the Swiss Guard took their places prior to the arrival of the Holy Father:

A few moments later the Holy Father came out to greet the thousands of pilgrims who came to see him and to listen to his words.

As is his low-key and simple style, after an initial wave to the crowd, he simply walked across the stage to take his seat.

Pope Benedict XVI made the sign of the cross and greeted the faithful.  Afterwards, the passage from the Gospel of Luke was read in several languages.  The Holy Father devoted his reflections on the three last words of Jesus found in Luke's Gospel.

He concluded his reflections, saying:
Dear brothers and sisters, the words of Jesus on the Cross in the final moments of His earthly life offer challenging pointers for our prayer, but they also open it to a serene confidence and to a steadfast hope. Jesus, who asks the Father to forgive those who are crucifying Him, invites us to the difficult act of praying even for those who wrong us, who have harmed us, by learning how to forgive always, so that God’s light might illumine their hearts; and He invites us in our prayer to live in the same attitude of mercy and of love that God shows in our regard: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us,” as we daily say in the “Our Father.” At the same time, Jesus who in the final moment of death entrusts Himself entirely into the hands of God the Father, communicates to us the certainty that, however difficult our trials may be, however difficult our problems, however burdensome our suffering, we shall never fall outside the hands of God, those hands that created us, that sustain us and that accompany us on the path of life, for they are guided by an infinite and faithful love. Thank you.
Afterwards the various groups were introduced to the Holy Father and they cheered as they were introduced to him and some sang a short song for him (of varying quality).  The more enthusiastic a group cheered, the wider was his smile as he waved to them in appreciation.

At the conclusion of the audience, the Holy Father blessed a replica of the Jubilee Doors of the Basilica of Saint Peter that, I believe, are going to be placed in a museum for Blessed Pope John Paul II in Poland.

After he blessed the doors, Pope Benedict XVI waved again to the faithful and departed.

This is the third Wednesday General Audience I have had the privilege of attending (1 with Blessed Pope John Paul II and 2 with the present Holy Father).  Each time my faith is strengthened and my hope renewed.

Additional pictures can be viewed here.

15 February 2012

On the Appian Way

Bilbo Baggins used to say, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” This is true of many roads, and lead Bilbo to compose these words:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
Now far ahead the Road has gone
And I will follow if I can
I have been to Rome now six times but only this time have I made the journey to the Quo Vadis church on the Appian Way.

Yesterday after breakfast, another priest and I left our lodgings near the Basilica of Saint Peter and began the 7 kilometer (4.35 miles) walk toward this ancient holy site. Along the way we stopped in various churches to pray briefly and to admire the various works of art housed in them. Thinking the Quo Vadis church might be closed during the siesta period, we didn’t make too many stops along the way lest we be late.

We did, though, stop here and there through the imperial forum, which was on our way. At the coliseum we turned toward the south to connect to the Appian Way.

This ancient road was built by the Romans in 312 B.C. and connected Rome with the southern and eastern parts of Italy. It was one of the great highways of the Empire and was called by Statius, “the queen of the long roads.”

It was on this ancient road that Saint Peter fled the city of Rome following an outbreak of the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero. As he hurried away from Rome, Peter encountered a traveler hurrying towards Rome.

When the two were closer to each other, Peter recognized his fellow traveler and said, “Quo vadis, Domine (Where are you going, Lord)?” Jesus answered him, “I am going to Rome to be crucified anew.”

With that, Peter realized he was following his own will and not that of the Master and quickly returned to Rome, there to meet his martyr’s death. The words of Jesus must have resounded in his heart: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18).

Peter was later crucified on the Vatican Hill, but in his humility he asked to be crucified upside down because he was unworthy to die the same death as the Lord.

Somewhere along the way we missed the most direct route, which wasn’t too surprising since the maps aren’t always detailed and the street signs are not always clear. As we stood at an intersection inspecting our map, an elderly Roman out for a stroll came our way.

“Scuse, signor,” said I. “Dove il chiesa Quo Vadis?”

He paused – because the roads never go in a straight direction for very long, Romans always have to consider first where you are and where you want to go before directing you – he explained – in Italian and with helpful gestures – where we needed to go. Because the directions were somewhat complex he started to explain them again and then simply told us to follow him.

As we walked along with him he visited with us, he in Italian and we in broken Italian with a bit of English tossed in. He said he thought we were British, which I took as a nice compliment (another person told me yesterday they thought I was British) and asked how long we were ordained.

After several minutes of walking out of his way we arrived at a large intersection. He stopped and explained to us how to reach the church from there. We parted ways, he on his stroll and we on our pilgrimage.

We walked onto the Appian Way – which is rather narrow at places – and walked along the wall so as not to be run over by fast moving vehicles.

After some time we finally arrived at the simple church and spent some time in prayer before walking across the street for a little lunch.

The church itself is somewhat quaint and in need of repair, but is also a profound place for prayer.

Within the church is a copy of a stone - the original is in the church of St. Sebastian - in which are the imprints of two feet, said to be the feet of Jesus when he encountered Peter on this road:

Can you imagine how different the world would be had Peter not turned around and returned to Rome? Would the message of the Gospel have spread throughout the Church had Peter not returned to imitate his Master even in death?

What is this Road on which we are to walk? What is the door from which it began? How can it have gone far ahead? How can we follow the Road?

The Road, of course Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way” (John 14:6). The Door at which it begins is the same Jesus who said, “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:9). The Road has gone on far ahead because Jesus has walked the way before us. We can follow the Road because he says, “Come, follow me.”

You and I are often tempted to follow our own way even when the way of the Lord is clearly marked out before us. Let us follow Peter’s wise and holy example and always seek to be where the Lord would have us, seeking only to follow his will for us. May the Lord never have to ask us, “Quo vadis?”

Rather, let us seek always to go out from our own door through the Door that is the Lord so as to find ourselves always on his Way. Let us not seek to keep our feet, but let us instead allow the Lord to sweep us off our feet and carry us wherever he wills.

10 February 2012

The Secretary and the Bishop

Bishop Paprocki and I waiting to be received by the Holy Father Benedict XVI

With Peter and his successor: A dream fulfilled

Yesterday morning the Bishops and their accompanying priests  concelebrated Mass in the Basilica of Saint Peter at the altar at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles.  It was a profoundly moving experience and during the Mass I prayed for my friends and family, for the many people who have asked me to remember them in my prayers here in Rome, and for you, the readers of this blog.

After the Mass we returned for breakfast and the Bishops then left for their meeting with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

The priests and seminarians accompanying the Bishops met up with them after their meeting to go with them to the audience with the Successor of Saint Peter, Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the states of their Dioceses and factors common among the concerns of the Bishops (the Bishops of Wisconsin will meet with the Holy Father tomorrow).

We entered the Apostolic Palace through the Cortile San Damaso.  After exiting the elevator we found ourselves in a magnificent hallway leading towards the Pope's library:

We passed through several magnificent rooms, each one more splendid than the previous one and filled with beautiful furniture, paintings, tapestries and even books.  Each room also had a throne for the Holy Father, but each of them were in a somewhat different style.  This one is my favorite:

Before long we were instructed by the Papal Gentlemen to wait in one of the rooms until the Holy Father was ready to receive us.  This room had a red damask covering the walls:

Of particular interest to me was its ceiling:

If I ever get to build a church, I'd like to incorporate colors like this into it.

As we waited, we visited with each other and some decided to take a peek out of the windows:

The window looked out toward the Porta Santa Anna and gave an excellent view of the city.
After several minutes passed, we were ushered through two additional rooms where we were given a few brief pointers on how the audience and pictures with the Holy Father would proceed.

Finally, when the Holy Father was ready to receive us, we were brought into the Papal library and were introduced to Pope Benedict XVI.  After greeting the Holy Father, we posed for a picture before he gave us a rosary.

Pope Benedict XVI is a small man and his age is beginning to show.  Still, his smile - which is not always captured on film - is genuine and his interest in those he meets is sincere.

Afterwards, the priests and seminarians were escorted back to the room in which we had been waiting while the Bishops of Illinois met with His Holiness for about one hour (the Bishops of Indiana met with him after the Bishops of Illinois).  When the Bishops emerged from their meeting with the Pope, we returned for lunch.

Photos from the day can be viewed hereBishop Paprocki also wrote a few observations from the day.

It was a morning I will not soon forget.  Yesterday a great dream was fulfilled and I am deeply grateful.

08 February 2012

Bishop Paprocki speaks about the ad limina

Before leaving for Rome, Bishop Paprocki sat down to answer a few questions about his ad limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

Because the video starts automatically in Blogger, please follow this link to watch the video.

Rome, at last!

Greetings from the Eternal City!

Today Bishop Paprocki and I arrived in Rome after several setbacks and delays.

As we waited yesterday in the terminal at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, we were happy to see that Their Excellencies the Most Reverend Joseph L. Imesch, Bishop Emeritus of Joliet, and the Most Reverend Dale J. Melczak, Bishop of Gary were also on our flight.

Everything seemed in order until it was announced our flight was delayed thirty minutes because of a mechanical difficulty.  After the thirty minutes were up, it was announced that the plane on which we were to fly was unserviceable.  We were placed on a later flight in a different terminal to make our connecting flight to Rome.  However, that second flight was also delayed and we missed the first connecting flight upon landing, and the next flight, as well, because we didn't make it to the check point in time.

This did afford us a visit with a very kind man who has worked at Heathrow for some sixty years and will only retire when his wife tells him he can.  Many years ago he played cricket at the Vatican against a team of priests and monsignors.

As we made our way through the airport we kept asking him which way we needed to go next.  He simply repeated, "Just stick with me and you'll get there."  He took us through several lines that on our own we could not have used.  May the Lord bless us for his kindness!

We did finally manage to board a flight to Rome but as the plane began to taxi down the runway to take off it returned to the gate for another thirty minute delay due to a technical issue.  The issue was resolved and finally we arrived in Rome, somehow only five hours later than originally planned.

Since we missed the initial overview meeting for the ad limina, we were briefed during dinner.

Tomorrow the Bishops of Illinois and Indiana will meet with the Holy Father and yours truly will be introduced to Pope Benedict XVI.

07 February 2012

A Pope after my own heart

Each day my admiration and affection for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI grows, and even more so following a few words he spoke at the conclusion of his Angelus address this past Sunday.

The city of Rome is currently experience a winter the likes of which it hasn't seen in some twenty-six years.  Rome actually has snow:

In his parting greeting in Italian, Pope Benedict said, "Snow is beautiful but we hope that spring will come soon!"

Now only is a holy Pope, he's a very wise Pope, too!

03 February 2012

Tolton driving tour in Quincy

The Quincy Herald Whig reports that a new driving tour in the city of Quincy will take motorists to five key sites in the city important in the life of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton.
The tour will take visitors to five locations throughout the city, including Tolton's grave in St. Peter Cemetery, St. Peter Church and even Quincy City Hall, the original site of St. Peter Church.
"We went around to the five places that you can see something, something that is still standing," said Lori Tuttle, the bureau's public relations and marketing manager who put together a brochure on the Tolton tour, which also includes St. Boniface Church at Seventh and Maine, and the old site of St. Joseph Church at Seventh and Jersey. 
Tuttle said Tolton's story and the role Quincy plays in it is something that visitors can discover when they stop by the bureau's visitors center in the Villa Katherine.   
The brochure can be found at the Visitors Bureau at the Villa Katherine and on its website at www.seequincy.com [more].