Update, War, Fatima Prayers

As we noted, Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta recently served as an official of the Holy See. Then a northern-Argentinian court convicted him of sexual abuse and sentenced him to 4.5 years in prison.

I have been studying the court’s 98-page ruling. It includes a lot of facts, as well as certain crucial ideas about the crime of sexual abuse. I will offer a summary as soon as I can.

Malaysian Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine, July 2014

I have also been praying long and hard about war-torn Ukraine. And I have read a lot to try to understand what is happening…

Us older Americans remember how it felt to be on a war footing with Russia.

I remember our U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Leonid Brezhnev led the Soviet Union at the time.

The Brezhnev Doctrine justified the armed suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. That second invasion brought an end to the short period of U.S.-Soviet ‘detente’ in the 1970’s, when we signed significant arms-control treaties.

I remember President Ronald Reagan unveiling our “Strategic Defense Initiative” in 1983. It envisioned technology that could repel a Soviet nuclear strike on us. That same year, we all watched The Day After, a tv movie about life after a nuclear war. Thoroughly terrifying.

The thing is, the early 80s were an anxious time, but it was nothing compared to now.

The cool-down in U.S.-Russia relations in the early 80s gave way to the biggest thaw of all: Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the U.S.S.R. He repudiated the Brezhnev Doctrine. Then he allowed the Soviet Union to collapse altogether, without taking any military action to stop it.

The Iron Curtain fell. Germany re-united as one nation. Numerous Soviet ‘republics,’ including Ukraine, declared themselves independent of Russia. And the new President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, became a genuine friend of President Bill Clinton.

In other words, in the early 90’s, we experienced euphoria. We could hardly believe it. The Cold War with Russia was over.

Some regrettable things have happened since then, which I plan to get into soon. But for now my point is:

The situation we Americans face now is worse than the Cold War of the last century. I have no doubt that we will deal with it; we have dealt with graver things, and lived to tell the tale. But the fact remains:

A war criminal (with a world-view that we can barely understand) views us as an immediate threat to his nation’s survival. He has an arsenal that can kill us all.

This is real. And it isn’t even the hardest part of the situation.

We can understand Vladimir Putin’s point-of-view, if we try. Russia has never been a ‘nation-state’ as we Western countries generally understand the term–that is, without subjugated ‘client’ states. (Ukraine hasn’t been a Western-style nation-state, either, for that matter, until recently.)

When we consider the Ukraine that is under attack, we see something lovely being grievously harmed. Lovely as in: a people occupying a homeland with a distinct national identity, with the sovereign right to form alliances as they choose. A nation like France, or Italy, or the U.S.A.

But the governing class of Russia sees something totally different. They see a threat to their own identity. A threat grave enough to justify apparently* barbaric coercive tactics.

(* I add “apparently” only because, during a war, it is impossible to know the full truth about what is going on. But I don’t really doubt the barbarity of the coercive tactics that Russia is using.)

The hardest part of all this, for us Americans, is: How do we fit into it?

On the one hand, we face an immediate threat to our own most-precious interest. Russia has missiles that can kill us. Therefore it would seem prudent for us to de-escalate tensions with Russia.

On the other hand, we have moved very quickly in the other direction. We are participating in a huge, 21st-century “blockade.” And it seems necessary to do this, because Putin’s war has fundamentally destabilized the international consensus. Everyone must respect the territorial integrity of other nations. If we don’t all play by that rule, we don’t have the interconnected world of mutual trust that we have gotten used to living in.

The sanctions “blockade” has dragged us into World War III. It is a coercive tactic on our part, used against a sudden enemy–the most dangerous foreign enemy we have had since Britain launched the War of 1812.

And the situation rightly reminds us of World War I, also:  It involves a complex web of alliances–alliances we must honor, if we want a world of trust based on rules.

This is seriously bad place for us to be. But we don’t really have a choice.

A century ago, a similar bloody war happened in Ukraine. It broke out in the middle of WWI, in 1917.

On the day that the Russian czar abdicated, Ukraine formed part of his empire. Then Russia fell into chaos.

Ukraine declared independence in early 1918. But then the Ukrainians had to appeal to Germany for protection from the Bolshevik faction of the Russian civil war. Ukraine became one of the bloody battlefields of that war. When Germany lost WWI, Ukraine had to submit to Lenin.

It all began the same year that Our Lady appeared in Fatima and first asked that the pope consecrate “Russia” to her Immaculate Heart.

The Roman- and Ukrainian-Catholic bishops of Ukraine have asked Pope Francis to do this consecration now, and the Holy Father will do it on Friday.

I will pray with the Holy Father and the Catholic clergy of the world, in my own little hermitage. May our Lady protect Ukraine and all of us.

But I don’t mind saying that I feel odd about this particular way of praying for peace now.

In the Fatima apparitions, Our Lady spoke of “Russia”–in 1917, and again in 1929. When she did, her listeners certainly understood “Russia” to include Ukraine. Ukraine did not exist as a sovereign state in 1917. And its ‘independence’ in 1929 was thoroughly compromised by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet dictatorship. Today’s Ukrainians do not consider their nation to have been truly independent of Russia in 1929, notwithstanding its on-paper status then.

Why would we pray for peace now in accord with private apparitions from some of the darkest days of the last century? I for one think we would do better to leave the 20th century behind us, as much as possible. (We seem to have a hard time doing that.)

For me the best prayer for peace in Ukraine is the Eucharistic Prayer. It’s a prayer that belongs to the entire universal Church, without historical connections that evoke painful memories for Ukrainians and Russians alike.

That said, I will nonetheless certainly pray with our Holy Father on Friday.

These are agonizing times. May our Lady watch over us. May the good Lord deliver us.

Appropriate Grovelling

map Phoenicia ZarephathA Canaanite woman begged Jesus’ help (Matthew 15:21-28). Or a Syro-phoenician woman. However you put it: Not Jewish. Pagan.

But she recognized the Son of God when she saw Him. She called Jesus the “Son of David.” In other words, the Messiah, the anointed One. [Spanish]

She prayed to Him, with faith in His power. This was no mere man, not just another wandering rabbi. She knew she wasn’t talking to a simple Jew. She was talking to the God of the Jews, the Creator of heaven and earth.

She believed He is God. So she did not hesitate to humble herself. Faith and humility go together. You cannot separate faith and humility from each other, any more than you can separate peanut butter and jelly or Starsky and Hutch.

Then the Lord put her humble faith to the test a little bit. Let’s imagine the whole scene unfolding not in Palestine, but at our local WalMart. She’s in the baby-food section. He walks by, in his blue vest.

‘Lord, heal my daughter!’

‘Not just now, ma’am. They need me on Aisle 3.’

‘No. Please. Have mercy. She’s tormented by a demon, and I know You are the Lord of all angels and demons!’

Oh, I forgot to mention one detail, in this re-imagined version of the story. The woman comes from Dallas. She’s wearing a Cowboys COVID face mask. She’s begging God for mercy through a Dallas Cowboys mask.

Cowboys face mask

Put yourself in the shoes of the Christ. We know His Heart beats with infinite merciful love. But even if you came to the earth to save sinners, you might hesitate.

The Lord put the woman’s faithful humility to the test. He made her beg. He made her grovel. She had to acknowledge explicitly the superior power and dignity of the One with Whom she spoke.

She did the right thing. No one should ever grovel before a fellow human being. We all have equal dignity in God’s eyes. If someone tried to make me grovel for something really important by insulting my allegiances, by saying something like: ‘Ok, you can have what you ask for. But only if you change your mask for this here New-York Yankees mask.’ In such a situation, you would have to stand up for yourself and resist.

ALCS Yankees Angels BaseballBut not with God. He made all the Cowboys fans and Yankees fans; He made all the different fans, in the first place. He holds them all in His sway. He knows better than we do what will do us the most good. Compared to Him, we are literally nothing. He made us out of nothing, to give Him glory by being who He made us to be.

The Lord insisted on this kind of humility from the Canaanite woman. She showed it, in full. He insisted on her humility not because He despised her, but because He admired her.

He saw her zealous motherly love. He saw how her focus on her daughter put everything else into perspective, including herself. She did not let her self, her ego, get in her own way.

‘I know I’m no Jew,’ she thought to herself. ‘I know I don’t have any rights in this conversation. I am begging God for pity, for mercy, for kindness.

‘I’ll carry your price-gun to Aisle 3 for you, Lord. I’ll do anything. Just help me.’

She withstood the test of humility and faith. God said: “Let it be done for you as you wish.”

In the beginning of the world, He had said, “Let there be light.” And there was light, because the light was humble enough to let itself get brought into existence out of nothing, by the infinite power of God.

Now He said to the Canaanite woman, “Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter breathed free. Because the woman knew she was dealing with the same Person, Who had made the light in the beginning. And she prayed to Him accordingly.

Today we have a guest reader for the video version 🙂

(Tenemos lector invitada hoy dia)


Guest Post: Bernadette Harmon

The New Normal – First Public Mass

Along with so many others, I have been serving in a new way these last months. My heartfelt desire in offering the streaming of Masses and other events was to encourage the faithful to continue to gather in prayer even while separated, and to strive to grow in the life of prayer and greater intimacy with our Lord as we faced independent prayer in our homes. In our local parishes, it seemed more important than ever to keep the efforts at prayer and exercise of the sacraments alive, to prayerfully support one another while separated from our Pastor, Fr. Mark White.

church_drawingBut change is coming! We are stepping back into our churches, slowly, tentatively, and with continued restrictions. The absence of our Pastor leaves a void! Perhaps some cannot or do not want to face this reality, be it temporary or permanent. Perhaps others are hesitant due to the ongoing concerns related to the pandemic. Each person must discern for themselves what God is calling them to do. Thus, the importance of daily prayer. Without prayer, how can we discern God’s will for us?

Last weekend, I was able to take my father to the first public Mass since March. Attending Mass in a non-serving capacity, gave me an opportunity to be just a parishioner and to reflect on the past few months in a different light. I encourage anyone who serves to go to another parish from time to time to be Joe or Joan Parishioner!

This first step back into a public gathering may have seemed to some as directive and restrictive, even perhaps detracting from the Mass. But, on Sunday afternoon, May 24th, on the Ascension of the Lord, I happily embraced the conditions of attendance for the opportunity to gather with other Catholics in the celebration of this Holy Mass.

My father and I arrived early at the church, donning our masks, signing in and answering the questions about our health, being greeted with masked smiles, being ushered to a seat not of our choosing. We were separated from other worshipers and instead of singing the beautiful hymns and responses we had a chance to listen and pray as they were sung on our behalf. We received the Eucharist almost privately as we kept our distances from one another during the communion procession. The hardest part was being ushered out the door, for I would have loved to stay and allow the experience to wash over me once again in the presence of our Lord in the tabernacle!

I am so thankful to everyone who has worked so hard over these past months to keep the parishes running and the parishioners praying together, and for the diligence and care in seeing to our safety as we once again joined in public prayer! I am certain that the attendance will grow until our churches are once again filled with the hubbub of pre- and post-mass conversation, our children receiving instruction in the faith, little ones babbling, crying, playing in the pews, their parents distracted from Mass keeping their children in check, the single folk as well as younger and older couples finding their sense of community in the body of the faithful, and the elderly sometimes engaging in a light snooze… and together, all of us, across churches the world over, growing in communion with Christ and one another through the Eucharist!

In the meantime, the church continues to call us to participate in the prayers of the church. With a plethora of online venues, both professional and home grown, we all can and should pray every day, with one another (virtually), or independently, using the liturgy of the hours, praying devotions, and just taking precious moments here and there to turn our hearts and minds to God, to receive his healing touch and the consolation He offers, and to listen for his instruction.

Our faith is a blessing; our Lord is a fortress for us! He waits for us to place all our cares into his merciful hands!

God is good. All the time!

Friday Penance

Your unworthy servant leading Via Crucis in Jerusalem, ’09

We Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Those of us with the means to do so will clog the fast-food take-out drive-thru’s for fish sandwiches today.

But not everyone has such an opportunity. We will deal more with the painful, prison-like conditions inside nursing homes right now, in a later post. But suffice it so say: plenty of Catholics will not have a viable meatless option today.

Since we all need to keep body and soul together, no one should scruple over this. The Lord commanded His missionaries: Eat what is set before you. This law trumps the meatless-Friday law, during a dangerous virus epidemic.

On the Fridays of the year outside Lent, we all have the option of substituting a different work of penance, in lieu of abstaining from meat. For the past twenty years, I have substituted: making the Stations of the Cross. Please give yourself the liberty of taking such an option, even today, a Friday in Lent, if you have to.

The best place to make the Stations: Jerusalem. Second best: walking around a Catholic church, stopping at the fourteen points along the walls that represent the original locations in Jerusalem.

(Both St. Joseph and St. Francis will have the doors unlocked at the usual Stations time this evening. But only individual recitation of the Stations is permitted right now.)

Third-best place to make the Stations: Anywhere, including wherever you are right now.

I. Lord Jesus is condemned to death.

II. Lord Jesus takes up His cross.

III. Lord Jesus falls the first time.

IV. Lord Jesus meets His sorrowful mother.

V. Simon the Cyrene helps the Lord to carry His cross.

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

VII. The Lord falls the second time.

VIII. Lord Jesus condoles the women of Jerusalem.

IX. Lord Jesus falls the third time.

X. Lord Jesus is stripped of His garments.

XI. Lord Jesus nailed to the cross.

XII. The Lord dies on the cross.

XIII. The body of the Lord laid in the arms of His mother.

XIV. They lay Him in the tomb.

…Naming the Station, then meditating on it through an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be: this suffices. Or you can use additional prayers, like those composed by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.

Maybe Coronavirus Quiet Time offers you the opportunity to memorize the fourteen Stations? I have had them memorized for two decades, and I can tell you: It’s helpful, spiritually.

Having the fourteen Stations memorized allows you to make them anytime–walking, driving, exercising, beside a hospital bed (I made them with my father as he lay dying), on a plane. You name it.

Make the Stations every day for a month, or every Friday for a year, and you’ll have them memorized.


The city of Jerusalem lives under the same strictures we do right now. The streets are deserted; no pilgrims. Even there, where it all originally happened, the Christians must make the Stations privately now, rather than along the Via Dolorosa.

We are all united in this.



Prayer and the Well

Rembrandt Samaritan woman

We do not know yet what heaven is like. But we know it involves God. If we hope to reach God in the end, then we probably need to have some kind of relationship with Him now, right? Some kind of practice or spring training for heaven, so to speak. (Even though spring training has been cancelled.) [Spanish]

So here’s an easy question: How do we develop a friendship with the Lord, now, while we are still here on earth? Maybe by… praying?

At Sunday Mass we hear the gospel passage about the Samaritan woman at the well. To pray is like going to a well. Someone who prays opens up his soul to God like a thirsty person opening his or her throat for cool, refreshing water.

When we open up like this, when we go to the well of prayer, we find Christ waiting for us there, like the Samaritan woman found Him. Upon meeting Christ at the well of Christian prayer, we discover three things…

1. While of course we come thirsty to the well of prayer, we discover that the Lord also thirsts. “Give me a drink,” He says.

Now, what on earth do we possess that we can give God to drink? Can we give water, or a cherry Coke, to the One Who measures out the depth of the oceans and holds the rain clouds in His hands?

No. The Lord thirsts for one thing and one thing only. He thirsts for our devoted love. On the Cross He opened His arms to us. His throat was parched. He said to each of us, “I thirst. I thirst for you.”

2. The well of Christian prayer is the well of our forefather Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Many centuries before Christ, Jacob dug the well we heard about in the gospel passage.

So we have to be willing to imitate Jacob. As we read in Genesis, Jacob struggled all night in the darkness. Some unknown foe wrestled with him. Jacob refused to give in. Then, in the morning, Jacob received a blessing and a new name. The Lord called him Israel, because he persevered in his struggle through the dark night. That’s what the word Israel means, the one who struggles with God.

I ThirstAt the well of prayer, the Lord Jesus pours out the living water of the Holy Spirit. But to pray in the Holy Spirit, we have to be willing to persevere through the dark struggle, like Jacob. The Holy Spirit is infinite divine love. But love isn’t all candy and roses. Love can be rough. The Holy Spirit doesn’t send Hallmark cards. He lifts us up to dizzying, frightening, unfamiliar heights.

3. The third thing that we discover when we meet Christ at the well of prayer is this: The Lord Jesus is the Messiah Who makes it possible for us to worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

Now, human beings are naturally inclined to pray. But a lot of things can get in the way. Spiritual laziness. Self-centeredness. Attachments to material things. False ideas about God. Distractions. Distractions. Distractions.

In Christ, we find humble and true prayer. In Christ, man prays for everything that is truly good. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a beautiful, one-sentence explanation of what Christian prayer is: “Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation.” The response of faith to the free promise of salvation.

What did the Lord say to the woman at the well? “If you knew the gift of God!”

The woman had rebuffed the Messiah at first, because He made a request she didn’t think she could deal with. She couldn’t fully grasp what He was asking her. She had her ideas about how she fit into the world. And this interaction with Christ fell outside those ideas.

If only we knew the gift of God!

But we waste our time thinking thoughts like: I’m a loser, because I don’t have very many facebook friends. Or: I’m not worth anything, because I’m fat. I’m not cool, because I only have an iPhone 5. I suck, because I can’t cook, I can’t jump, I can’t attract attention at parties.

No! If we only knew the gift of God, the promise of salvation. He is saying to us: I died for you, at the exact weight you are now, with the exact number of facebook friends you have right now! You don’t need to be any thinner, or have any more facebook friends, for me to love you. I suffered agony and died for you exactly as you are—I suffered that much, and died that miserably, precisely to show you how much I want you with me in heaven.

So, please, for a minute, says the Lord, just forget your diet and your job and your husband and your wife and your children and your parents and your neighbor and your car and your business and your dog and your cat and your homework and your resume and your money and your apps and your Netflix—forget it all for a minute.

Believe that your Maker has suffered and died on the cross out of love for you. And talk to Him.

…PS. This goes out to all the brothers and sisters quarantined in nursing homes.

The Gifts of the Spirit, Including Wisdom

Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

We rightly fear the omnipotent One. He made everything out of nothing. His power dwarfs our capacity to conceive it. Everything exists solely by His pleasure. Without His will sustaining us–and sustaining the sky, and the earth, and the air–without His constant gift of existence, everything would crumble, collapse, disintegrate, vanish. [Spanish]

At Sunday Mass, we hear Lord Jesus say, All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone. (Luke 21:6)

The one thing that separates us from chaos and ultimate nothingness is: the divine good pleasure. True wisdom involves acknowledging this. If we find ourselves enjoying good things in life, it’s because God has made them and keeps them in existence, to give as gifts to us.

The wise person fears the awesomeness of this great Giver of all, Who is truly, wonderfully, magnificently good. His power dwarfs us, and so does His goodness. We do not measure up to it. Rather, we receive from His largesse as unworthy beneficiaries. He blesses us so abundantly because His love flows so freely. Not because we have any claim on Him, or any “rights” before Him. He just gives, out of pure generosity.

So we rightly stand in awe of this infinitely powerful and infinitely gracious God. Nonetheless, He makes friendly and intimate promises to us. “Fear nothing,” He says, “because I myself will give you wisdom.”

El Greco Pentecost

The God we rightly fear does not choose to tower above us. Rather, in the midst of all the great flux of events over which He exercises sovereign control, He moves toward us and embraces us. By uniting Himself with us in Christ, God Almighty has Personally entered into His own creation, fragile as it all is. He meets us right here, and clasps us to His bosom. He makes us His friends, the friends of the King.

By the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we participate interiorly in God’s sovereignty over all things. We share His permanent solidity, His serene transcendence.

Material things pass. We human beings are material things that naturally pass, too—at least our bodies are. But, by His grace, God has joined us to His permanent Self. So we do not pass, but rather we endure forever, with Him.

We perceive all this by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ Himself was the first to have these gifts, in full. He perceived in His human mind the infinite extent of the divine love of the heavenly Father.

Thus the Lord Jesus feared God, in the sense that He would not deviate from the will of His Father. He submitted Himself completely to the mission the Father had entrusted to Him. Christ embraced that mission completely, with tender piety, and with unswerving bravery. Christ understood everything that the prophets had written. He taught the eternal law, to love God and neighbor, and thereby fulfill all human knowledge of created things. Jesus perceived the fundamental cause of creation, and of all the events of history: namely that God would receive the glory of His Christ, crucified and risen. Jesus’ divine wisdom involved His perception of how He would glorify the Father—in Himself, and in all the members of His mystical Body.

Our Lord pours these interior gifts into our souls when we commune honestly with Him. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit move us to repent of our sins, and they heal us interiorly, through God’s mercy.

american-flagWe live in tough times. The last time we heard the same Sunday readings—three years ago—something pretty stunning had just happened. A certain gentleman had just been elected President of the United States. Now these readings come around again, and we as a nation face a painful impeachment process.

We need the supernatural point-of-view, the point-of-view of Jesus Christ Himself. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit give us that perspective. We need communion with the divine love of Jesus Christ. He offers us sobriety, patience, and confidence in the ultimate triumph of the right.

The Senate will get to judge the impeachment case, if it goes that far. And it appears that it will go that far.

But Christ the Lord will judge the judges. He will judge the judges of this case, and of every case. And, unlike human verdicts, which involve some degree of error, even in the best circumstances; unlike verdicts here below, Jesus Christ’s final verdict will reflect every aspect of the truth.

So help us, dear Lord, to see, live, and love by the Your Holy Spirit. We entrust ourselves completely to Your guidance, through thick and thin. Give us our share in Your all-encompassing wisdom.

“Four Majors” of Venice

Hopefully everyone knows that Rome has four major basilicas.

A pilgrimage to the Apostolic See of St. Peter involves visiting these four churches: 1. St. Peter’s tomb at the Vatican. 2. St. Paul’s tomb, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. 3. The cathedral of Rome, St. John Lateran. 4. St. Mary Major.

The pilgrim who visits all four obtains an indulgence. I have had the privilege of leading pilgrims to the four majors not once, but twice, in 2006 and 2008. Also, I have visited them as a private pilgrim on three other occasions.

Far be it from me to suggest that Venice stands as a kind of ‘second Rome.’ Yes, you don’t have to evade speeding motorini in Venice; you just listen to the burbling of vaporetto propellers in the canals–which many travelers probably prefer. But only Rome is Rome. Only the bishop of Rome is the pope. Only Rome has four official major basilicas.

I would like humbly to suggest, though, that Venice also has four major basilicas. For the pilgrim to visit.

Unofficial “majors.” Rome has the tomb of St. Peter, prince of the Apostles. But Venice has the tomb of St. Mark–briefest of the Evangelists, which has to count for something.

Granted: Most of the people who trundle themselves to Venice do so in order to ride in gondolas and take selfies. But some venture there as pilgrims, out of devotion to God and His saints.

So I propose these “four majors” of the Serene City.

I include these four because they stand on the major islands of the city, rather than on remote, secondary islands.

St. Mark’s and Santa Maria della Salute face each other across the opening of the Grand Canal, which flows like an S through the city, and divides it into two parts. The Frari and San Zenipolo stand on opposite sides, buried inland, deep in the neighborhoods.

1. St. Mark’s marks the center of Venice. All the canals, and all the alleyways, ultimately lead there.

per san marco sign venice

(No reasonable person tries to use a map in Venice. The alleys have names, but it’s practically impossible to know what those names are. You just follow the signs for either San Marco or the Rialto, and eventually you wind up somewhere good.)

Saint Mark's Venice

Believe it or not, I found the interior of the basilica that houses my baptismal patron’s relics rather underwhelming. Yes, the gold mosaics glitter all over the walls.

St. Mark's Venice interior
(most of these photos come from Wikipedia)

But the church seems considerably more impressive and mysterious on the outside than it does on the inside. Inside, to be honest, St. Mark’s seems a little dingy.

2. Santa Maria della Salute sits right on the water, across from San Marco. The early seventeen-century Venetians built this octagonal geometric masterpiece to thank our Lady for saving them from the plague.

Santa Maria della Salute on the water

Dome of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy.

3. Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari sits on the same side of the Grand Canal as Santa Maria della Salute.

Frari Venice exterior

Frari main altar Titian Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Titian’s world-famous Assumption hangs in the apse
Frari Venice choir stalls.jpg
the choir stalls stand in the middle of the nave, behind a stunning rood screen

Frari Venice rood screen

4. Santi Giovanni e Paolo, aka San Zenipolo (back on the San Marco side of Grand Canal)



the stained-glass windows in the apse fill the huge church with light

…Venice has other basilicas that a pilgrim could profitably cross the earth just to visit. Like San Giorgio Maggiore, which looms across the lagoon from Piazza San Marco, on an island all its own. Or San Pietro di Castello, the original cathedral of Venice, which I mentioned in an earlier post.

I never made it to Guidecca island to see the Redentore, or to Torcello island to see the really ancient cathedral (going back to before Venice became Venice), with it’s world-famous apse mosaic:

Torcello cathedral Venice apse mosaic Virgin Mother

Also, Venice has other, smaller churches aplenty, many of which deserve encomiums beyond my ability to produce.

Like Santa Maria dei Miracoli, which sits quietly by a small, largely un-used canal, unassumingly waiting to send you into a rapture upon entering…

Santa_Maria_Dei_Miracoli_interior Venice

…So, yes: Venice is not Rome. But it does indeed have some seriously major basilicas and churches. Worth going on pilgrimage to pray in.

Milan, Ancient but Not Easy to Pray

Duomo Milano columns.jpg

You step into a giant forest of marble, when you enter the cathedral of Milan.

St. Bartholomew Milan

Then I found myself next to the famous statue of St. Bartholomew, flayed alive for the faith.

St. Charles Borromeo lies in the crypt, under the high altar.

They don’t make it easy to pray in the Duomo Milano. Large parts of the church lie behind impenetrable barricades. Couldn’t even find the Blessed Sacrament.

But across town, the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio has the great Father of the Church, entombed with two martyrs to whom he was devoted, Sts. Gervase and Protase.

Ambrose made them the patrons of Milan, as narrated in St. Augustine’s Confessions. (St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine.) After Ambrose died, they re-interred the martyrs with him, since he had become the city’s perennial patron.

St. Ambrose

The martyrs are vested as St. Ambrose’s deacons. They lie beneath this mosaic:

Basilica Ambrogio mosaic.jpg