07 February 2014

A feast day in Rome

Today the Church of Rome commemorates the life of Blessed Pope Pius IX, the benefactor of the Pontifical North American College and, hence, also of the Casa Santa Maria where I now live.

In 1859, His Holiness Pope Pius IX, who was very much enamored of the fledgling country under the great experiment, entrusted to the Bishops of the United States of America the monastery complex of Our Lady of Humility through the auspices of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.  Built by Francesca Orsini in 1598 for her newly established Dominican community, the monastery subsequently served as the home of the Sisters of the Visitation (from 1814-1849), and as a barracks for the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte (from 1849-1859).

It is said that, as a boy Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, requrlarly Mass in the chapel of Our Lady of Humility:

Consequently, his granting the use of this building for the North American College was a sign of particular affection for the Church in the United States of America.

When the North American College closed in 1940 as a result of World War II, the building was used an orphanage.  Following the conclusion of the war, Pope Pius XII gave the complex to the U.S. Bishops in 1948.

When the new buildings for the North American College were completed on the Janiculum Hill in 1953, the seminarians moved there and a graduate house for priests was opened in the old complex, now called the Casa Santa Maria.

Given the Casa's connection to Blessed Pope Pius IX, today is a small feast day for us here.

It was Pope Pius IX who defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1854.

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