The Only Real Way to Handicap: Bernini

Dodeci Apostoli
Church of the Twelve Apostles, Rome

The Cardinals of the Roman Church possess the prerogative of electing the successor of St. Peter because: they “have” parish churches in the Roman metropolis. They are “Cardinals” precisely because the Pope has made them honorary rectors of parishes in Rome. The clergy of Rome elects their bishop = the Cardinals elect the Pope.

For me, there is only one really reliable system for predicting which of the papabile will emerge on the white-smoke-filled loggia when the conclave concludes:

Have I prayed in their Roman parish?* And did I find any artwork by Bernini there?

1. Marc Card. Ouellet has a beautiful church just a couple hundred yards from St. Peter’s Basilica. Carmelite parish. Very prayerful little place. But no Bernini. Ergo: Ouellet will not be the pope.

2. Cardinal Scola of Milan has the fabulous Church of the Dodeci Apostoli. Relic of St. James in the confessio. Absolutely gorgeous place. Could spend the rest of my life praying there.

Sant'Anrea Quirinale
Sant’Andrea Quirinale
But: Do I remember any Bernini sculptures in the church? Negative. Scola will not be the pope.

3. Current front-runner Odilo Card. Sherer of Brazil has the thoroughly en-marbled, eliptical Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, where the tomb of St. Stanilaus Kostka, SJ, is located.

Have I prayed there? Yes, fervently, at the tomb of the young saint who was briefly my patron (when I was a Jesuit novice).

Bernini? Well…He’s the architect of the whole bleeding building.

Does that count? Not sure…

San Giorgio in Velabro
San Giorgio in Velabro

4. And Card. Ravasi? He has the stunning, classical San Giorgio in Velabro. Located in a very prayerful part of town, at the foot of the Aventine Hill.

Two problems: 1. I have never so much as seen this church. 2. There is nothing that even suggests “Bernini” within a quarter mile of the place.


Cardinal Ranjith

5. What about Malcolm Card. Ranjith, former Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship? As we can see from the above, he is probably the best candidate, so far as parades go. (And for other reasons, too.)

Bernini sculpture in the Fonseca Chapel of Card. Ranjith’s titular

Now, I cannot claim ever to have prayed at St. Lawrence “Inside” the Walls. But I did say a prayer outside the church, because I was out for a walk, and wanted to pray, but the church doors were locked at that moment. (This was back in the year 2000.)

Anyway, I think we could say that the prayer part is covered.

Plus, there’s a chapel by Bernini inside.

Ergo: Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka, will be the next Pope.

* Don’t think any of the Cardinal-bishops have a chance, so no need to consider the prayerfulness or Bernini-ness of their little Roman ‘dioceses.’

St. Ambrose on Our Lady

1,637 years ago tomorrow, St. Ambrose was ordained a priest and bishop and consecrated the Patriarch of Milan.

St. Ambrose’s preaching and holiness moved St. Augustine to seek baptism.

These two are the pre-eminent Latin-speaking Fathers of the Church. In the Vatican Basilica, the Bernini statue which holds the relic of St. Peter’s chair depicts St. Ambrose as one of the four saints who hold the throne aloft.

St. Ambrose was ordained the day before the anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s conception. Probably not a co-incidence.

Here is how St. Ambrose explained to his people why it is so important to honor the Mother of God.

What is greater than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? …She was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse.

She wanted to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to honor her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue.

…When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy? There was nothing gloomy in her eyes, nothing forward in her words, nothing unseemly in her acts, there was not a silly movement, nor unrestrained step, nor was her voice petulant.

The very appearance of her outward being was the image of her soul. For a well-ordered house ought to be recognized on the threshold, and should show at the very first entrance that no darkness is hidden within, as our soul hindered by no restraints of the body may shine abroad like a lamp placed within.

The first duty we have in our service to Christ is to honor His immaculate mother.

When Sts. Joachim and Anne embraced each other on December 8 and conceived their daughter, the Creator–always full of surprises–brought the Garden of Eden back to the earth.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary enfolds us like an undying garden of innocence, purity, and truth. May we live in this garden always.

Nov. 4, Feast of St. Charles Borromeo

chairofpeterAt St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the chair of St. Peter is kept in a large reliquary in the apse of the church. The reliquary is part of a colossal bronze statue by Bernini. In this statue, the reliquary of St. Peter’s chair is held aloft by four Fathers of the Church. The four Fathers depicted are St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Athanasius, and St. John Chrysostom.

It has been part of the plan of God to see to the preservation of the religion of His Son by raising up zealous teachers in every age. The Fathers of the Church handed down the holy faith to us, preserving it from errors and confusion. They were men of great learning AND holiness. Christianity could not have survived without them.

St. Charles Borromeo
St. Charles Borromeo
In the sixteenth century, the Lord raised up four great saints to be the “Fathers” of the Church in the Modern Age. The four latter-day Fathers are Pope St. Pius V, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Philip Neri, and St. Charles Borromeo.

St. Charles’ feast day is Election Day. We can say that St. Charles voted.

He voted at the Council of Trent. This meeting of bishops clarified Catholic doctrine at a time of great confusion. The Council never would have happened if it weren’t for St. Charles. His clarity of mind and diplomatic skill fostered the successful completion of the Council’s work.

After the Council, St. Charles saw to the composition of the Roman Catechism.

baltimage1The Baltimore Catechism is based on the Roman Catechism. So–for those of us who swear by the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism #2–today is a day of joy and profound gratitude.

You can read the entire Baltimore Catechism #3 online.

baltimage2If you are among the unfortunate who do not have at least three copies of the St. Joseph Baltimre Catechism #2–one for upstairs, one for downstairs, one for the car–you can order copies from Amazon.

St. Charles was the baptismal patron of our dearly departed Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla.

St. Charles Borromeo, pray for us!