Snowfall in August

Snow on Esquiline Hill on August 5, 366
Snow on Esquiline Hill on August 5, 366

Devoted readers know that we have often referred to the Roman basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, St. Mary Major. Some of us visited this beautiful church last fall.

SantaMariaMaggiore_frontThe location for the Roman basilica of Our Lady was determined by a small patch of snowfall which occurred in the heat of Roman summer. Fr. Zuhlsdorf has an excellent description of the Roman heat in his blog post of two years ago

…Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has said that he will vote to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, in spite of ideological differences.

Six decades ago, there was another Carolina Senator Graham–Frank Porter Graham. He had been the President of the University of North Carolina.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
In that capacity, Graham had written to Fiorello LaGuardia, then Mayor of New York, supporting the appointment of philosopher Bertrand Russell to a temporary teaching position at City College of New York. Graham signed the letter along with a number of other University Presidents.

Meanwhile, Fr. Robert Gannon, President of Fordham, America magazine, and many others voiced their vehement opposition.

A clash of cultural presuppositions erupted. Russell was the author of, among other essays, “Why I am not a Christian.”

COMING SOON: Much more on this…

Rounding Out the Four Majors

Scala Santa
Scala Santa
After a week of pressing hard towards the goal, many of us were the worse for wear today. Speaking for myself, the tiredness in my legs made the whole day seem like a climb up the Holy Steps of Jerusalem. (More about this below.)

The Pope has four Major Basilicas in Rome. The pilgrim to Rome visits all four.

The first two are the shrines of the Apostles Peter and Paul. The other two are the cathedral of Rome and the neighborhood church of our hotel, on the top of the Esquiline Hill.

Our Mass this morning was in the Cesi Chapel of St. Mary Major. We couldn’t stay for a proper visit to the Basilica after Mass, because we had an appointment. We had time for a quick visit to the tomb of St. Monica, which is in the Roman church dedicated to her son, St. Augustine. Then we had to press on to our meeting.

As I mentioned in previous installments, Yours Truly went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land earlier this year. I traveled with a group of 25 priests. We were led by Archbishop Raymond Burke. At that time, Archbishop Burke was the Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
Since then, the Pope asked Archbishop Burke to come to Rome to serve as the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. This is the rough equivalent in the Church of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Because he occupies this important post, Archbishop Burke will certainly be created a Cardinal at the next Consistory.

This morning, Archbishop Burke received us in the Palazzo Cancelleria, a Renaissance palace in downtowm Rome where his office is located. He explained the work of his office, encouraged us in the faith, and gave us his blessing.

Then we lunched in the nearby Piazza Navona, the center of Rome’s social life. From there we took a quick busride to the home of the Popes for the millenia from fourth to the fourteenth centuries–the Lateran.

Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona
As we recall from celebrating the Feast of the Dedication of the Laterna Basilica twelve days ago, this church is the Mother and Head of all the churches, the cathedral of Peter.

Inside, there are Baroque statues of the Twelve Apostles lining the nave, which was designed by Bernini. In the baldacino over the high altar are reliquaries containing the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul. Pope Martin V, who brought the Papacy back to Rome after it had been moved to France for a few tumultuous decades, is bured in the confessio (under the high altar). The table our Lord used at the Last Supper is in a reliquary over the tabernacle. The great Pope Leo XIII is entombed here.

Across the road from the Basilica are the ruins of the original Apostolic Palace, the home of the Popes for a thousand years. The only remnant of this once-grand edifice is a chapel called the “Holy of Holies.” The pilgrim reaches this chapel by ascending steps used by our Lord Himself.

Reliquary containing part of the Manger from Bethlehem
Reliquary containing part of the Manger from Bethlehem
St. Helena (the Emporer Constantine’s mother) went to Jerusalem to bring back to Rome as many relics of our Lord’s life as she could find. The most massive relic she recovered was the set of steps leading up to the entrance of Pilate’s praetorium. Christ would have walked up these steps to be judged by Pilate, and He would have walked down them after He had been condemned to death. The original stone steps are encased in wood. We ascended these steps on our knees.

After this, we returned to Santa Maria Maggiore to visit and complete our Roman pilgrimage. We stopped in front of the confessio (in which the reliquary of the Manger is kept) to recite the Creed, Our Father, and Hail Mary.

I will have more to say about our pilgrimage. Now, however, we will dine together to say farewell to the Eternal City over a glass or two of montepulciano. Arrivaderci for the moment.

Hello, St. Jerome

smmhighaltarWhen I was in the Holy Land in February, we visited the cave in Bethlehem where St. Jerome spent years translating the Holy Scriptures. The cave is just a few yards from the grotto of the Nativity of Christ.

St. Jerome was originally laid to rest in a little chapel in his cave in Bethlehem. But then, when the Muslims were threatening to take over Bethlehem, the Christians took St. Jerome’s relics to Rome, where they would be safe.

St. Jerome’s tomb is now the High Altar in Santa Maria Maggiore, immediately above the reliquary of the Manger of Bethlehem. This morning I finally got to greet the Doctor and Father of the Church, the patron of the study of Holy Scripture.

All Roads Lead to…

s-maria-maggGreetings to you from the neighborhood of Santa Maria Maggiore. After an afternoon stop in Orvieto, we have arrived in Rome.

We had a beautiful morning in Assisi to bid a bittersweet goodbye to Sts. Francis and Clare. Yours truly took advantage of the nearby friary full of Franciscan priests, and I went to Confession.

I don’t think any of us really wanted to leave Assisi, but we got on the bus anyway, because we are on a mission from God to get to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to see the Pope.

Orvieto funicular
Orvieto funicular
We reached Orvieto at mid-day. The roads up to the ancient hilltop city are closed to outside traffic. So we traveled by funicular up to see the magnificent medieval Duomo. We explored the town and lunched. Then we had Holy Mass in the crypt of the cathedral, surrounded by the tombs of four bishops.

Our hotel here in Rome is two blocks from the Papal Basilica of the Blessed Virgin, where we will have Mass on Friday. Tomorrow morning we will go to St. Peter’s Square to see Pope Benedict.

Then we will go to the Holy Office. Not because I have been called in for questioning. An old friend of mine works there, and he wants to show us the place.

After lunch, we will visit the catacombs. Then we will go to the tomb of St. Paul, at his Basilica “Outside the Walls”—ie., south of the walls of the ancient city. We will celebrate the Holy Mass there.

The Holy Office, seen through the colonnade of St. Peter's Square
The Holy Office, seen through the colonnade of St. Peter's Square
I wish I had more snapshots to show you. Our photographers have been working hard to provide nice pictures for these posts.

Unfortunately, computers do not work the way they are supposed to work. They bait and switch. It is unlikely that we will be able to have any more snapshots. It IS likely that I will throw my laptop out of the third floor window of this hotel.

These posts will not be enjoyable without snapshots. This blog is becoming lame. I am sorry.

Count on our prayers for you, though, at the tombs of the Holy Apostles.

FILES-VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCETomorrow, when we receive the Pope’s blessing, he will be blessing all those we represent, too–the entire parish of St. Mary of the Assumption and the whole loyal readership of P & BD.