Daily Lenten Audio Post

I had meant to do this throughout Lent, taking a short daily audio post from The Power of the Cross which will tie in with the Gospel of the day, but I was in Rome for the first part of Lent and my ability to post an audio post was thwarted. Anyway beginning today here it is:

this is an audio post - click to play

From the book of Lenten meditations written by me:

The Power of the Cross: Applying the Passion of Christ to Your Life

Pope to Focus on the Mystery of Christ and the Church

Today in his General Audience Pope Benedict announced his first program of catechesis at these weekly events (up until a few weeks ago he had been finishing Pope John Paul’s):

In coming weeks, our catechesis will focus on the mystery of Christ and the Church. Jesus willed to found his Church upon the Apostles, and it is through their witness that we continue to encounter him. The mission of the Apostles must be seen in the context of the mystery of communion of God’s People, spanning both the old and the new Covenant. Jesus’s entire ministry took place against the backdrop of Israel’s faith and hope, and was aimed at gathering into one the eschatological People of God. Far from a purely individualistic summons to conversion, his mission was directed to the establishment of the community of the new and eternal Covenant. Jesus’ conscious decision to choose the Twelve Apostles was a prophetic sign announcing the eschatological renewal of the twelve tribes of Israel, the dawn of salvation and the fulfilment of God’s promises. In the person of the Apostles, charged with the celebration of the Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins, the Church has been made the sign and instrument of the Kingdom of God in our midst. Christ can never be separated from the Church; through the Church he remains ever present in his people, and in a special way in the successors of the Apostles.

Thursday-The Luminous Mysteries (March 2)


If you’ve been on the “scavi” tour underneath St. Peter’s you know that it ends up here, at the Clementine Chapel.This chapel is directly behind the “confessio” and is also called “St. Peter’s Chapel” since it is very close to where the bones of St. Peter are located. On my early morning visit to St. Peter’s this morning it happened that Mass was being celebrated here in the Clementine Chapel in English by five American priests. I joined them.
At the end of the Mass several of the priests introduced themselves, the celebrant was from Baltimore and was also a Knight of Malta, another priest on hearing that I was from Indiana mentioned that he also was in fact a Holy Cross priest from Notre Dame. Several others were pointing under the altar and making references to the “scavi” tour (which I hadn’t taken as yet, but in fact would be taking later this same morning).
Leaving the Clementine Chapel, I made my way around the semicircular series of chapels and stopped at the Polish one (after all I am half Polish). Here I prayed the office for the day, as well as said prayers for my Polish relatives both living and deceased. I could hear Mass being celebrated in Polish in near the tomb of Pope John Paul II, and I made my way towards his tomb to pray the mysteries of the rosary that he will forever be known for–the Luminious Mysteries prayed on Thursdays.
Behind me in the chapel that is between the tombs of the popes, the Mass in Polish was concluding and a Polish bishop with several Polish priests came around and the security guard stationed at the tomb of Pope John Paul II removed the rope that keeps pilgrims from approaching the actual grave. The bishop and priests went in and knelt at the head of the tomb and said a few prayers. One of the priests took a camera and stepped back to take a picture of the bishop praying at the tomb. Then they left and the people behind me pushed me forward and we were within the niche and I found myself kneeling at the head of the tomb with my hands and the rosary resting on slab that covers the Pope’s resting place. I was in the middle of the Fourth Luminous Mystery, “The Transfiguration” and as always I prayed the petition of St. Peter that I might always be able to discern “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
I said a special prayer of petition for several people who entered my mind at that moment. One was for the husband of Johnnette Benkovic, another was for the brother of Bishop Robert Baker, the third was for the souls of my Polish relatives: great grandparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousin. I then arose to make room so that other Polish pilgrims could enter.
Returning back to the apartment, we had to move quickly to go back to St. Peter’s so that Katie and Amy could take the scavi tour, I would take the tour right after them (children aren’t allowed for obvious reasons). We left Amy and Katie at the Swiss Guards and then Joseph and Michael on my back went into the Vatican bookstore (I bought a Vatican phone book and some holy cards), then into the Vatican post office, then out of St. Peter’s to the many gift shops that surround the area. I also had to find something that Joseph would eat for breakfast, no easy task I might add. We bought water and I think M & M’s (a breakfast he enjoyed). We walked in a number of gift shops and bookstores, buying nothing. The women in the stores tried to get Michael the baby to wave, smile, make sounds etc. while I tried to keep Joseph from picking up ceramic and glass objects. Finally it was time to trade off both baby and four year old which we did at the Swiss Guard station and I made my way to the Scavi Office.
We had worried that our tours were scheduled too tight but it turned out there was plenty of time between tours. It also turned out that later when I was doing my imitation of the tour guide (who was excellent) that we had the same one. I’ve often found that if someone is really, really good that my mind is like a camera and I can imitate not only what they said, but how they said and what they were doing as they said it.
Anyway I waited outside of the office with a large group that included one “loud” American who was smoking and pontificating (what else do you do when you are in Rome?) about how they weren’t able to do the tour at the time I was doing it but that Father somebody might be able to change that (I hoped that he was wrong and thankfully he was…btw the same guy by himself showed up at the Scholars Pub for Amy’s TOT, never found who he was or where he was from though).
The Scavi tour isn’t advertised and you can’t sign up for it when you are in Rome, you have to do it before (several weeks before). So it isn’t crowded, I think there were maybe six or seven people on my tour. It was also the one thing that a number of people who’ve been to Rome said was a must. What it is, is a tour of the ancient Roman graves that were discovered under St. Peter’s when Pope Pius XII began an archealogical dig to find out if Peter was in fact buried here. The necropolis is impressive enough (those walking in the crypt of St. Peter’s where there are countless Pope’s buried probably for the most part are unaware that below them is another graveyard even more ancient). The tour takes you through these graves and also explains the history of the churches built on this spot. It all culminates once you leave the graves and come to the spot where tradition says Peter’s bones were buried and then suspense–the bones weren’t found where they were expected. Then a walk into the Clementine Chapel (the same chapel pictured above and where I had been to Mass earlier that morning)…the tour guide mentioned that Pope Benedict XVI had said Mass in this chapel eight days ago. Then into another room with a glass floor and glass wall. The bones of Peter were discovered wrapped in royal purple cloth in a tomb built by Constantine under the altar of the first church. What was missing? His feet, the rationale that when Peter was crucified upside down that those who removed his body just cut his feet off in order to remove him from the cross.
The whole trip was very moving and highly educational. A few seconds later we were deposited at the tomb of Pope John Paul II again.

The NAC (Ash Wednesday)

Jeffrey Kirby a seminarian for the Diocese of Charleston, SC met me shortly after the papal audience and we walked up the hill toward the Pontifical North American College where he is a student. I had wanted to visit the NAC to see a number of people and places that were detailed in a book that I worked on with then rector of the NAC, now Archbishop of Milwaukee, Timothy Dolan. Jeff gave me a great tour, the seminary gave me a great meal (no meat…Ash Wednesday) and then took me to the roof for what must be the absolute best view of the entire city of Rome anywhere. I took some pictures but they don’t quite get the beauty of the site. If you go to the NAC link you can take a virtual tour of the college.

Wednesday General Audience (Ash Wednesday)

I often blog what the Pope says at his General Audience on Wednesdays, but I will never do so without the sense of what it is like to actually be there. Thanks to several people we knew that to get a good seat at the General Audience we needed to be there as soon as they allowed people in, around 8:00 a.m.(two and half hours before the audience begins, although one of our contacts told us that Benedict had been beginning them about a half hour early). So we were there, dressed for warm weather, because it was rather warm at the time. We found the shortest line and waited about ten minutes until the mad rush began. The security was fairly lax at the entrance point that we were at, police with wands, but not really using them. So once through the entrance we ran (sort of the way people were running through the columns when Pope Benedict was about to be announced as the successor of St. Peter last year).
We were able to get to the fourth row right against the center rail, which turned out to be a pretty good spot. The two men sitting in front of me were from Brazil, I think the people behind us were from Ireland. There was a group from Steubenville near us, as well as the St. Thomas folk who were just behind us.
Then it turned cool, the sun disappeared and the clouds covered the sky. The temperature must have dropped ten or fifteen degrees. I think Joseph fell asleep, as well as the baby and for the most part we sat in silence with some outbursts of enthusiastic groups now and then.
Ten o’clock arrived and we were hopeful that the pope might come out early, but not today. Then at ten thirty there was a commotion and suddenly there he was, well looking exactly like the pope! You can see how dark the skies were and the pope had on his winter coat. Pope Benedict has shunned the glass case that John Paul used after he was shot in 1981, when I saw Pope John Paul in Miami he was behind the glass of the popemobile when he drove through the streets of Miami,but then I saw him up close at Mass the next day (a Mass that wasn’t finished because of a thunderstorm). I remember being shocked at how old Cardinal Ratzinger was when he celebrated the funeral of Pope John Paul, and even how he seemed bent with age as he entered the conclave to elect the new pope–but how youthful he emerged from the conclave!
Organ music is played as a background which gave the feeling of either a carnival or funeral but didn’t seem to strike the right chord for the ceremony.
Now right after the Pope passed us the baby’s bottle somehow dropped onto the pavement and went rolling down the path the pope had just passed. A Swiss Guard finally picked it up after it had rolled for what seemed like an eternity, and looked at it suspiciously. He finally walked over and handed it to me.
After making the circuit the Holy Father’s pope mobile drives up the steps and then he gets out and goes to his chair…Then you hear something along the lines of:

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle,

Inizia oggi, con la Liturgia del Mercoledì delle Ceneri, l’itinerario quaresimale di quaranta giorni che ci condurrà al Triduo pasquale, memoria della passione, morte e risurrezione del Signore, cuore del mistero della nostra salvezza. Questo è un tempo favorevole in cui la Chiesa invita i cristiani a prendere più viva consapevolezza dell’opera redentrice di Cristo e a vivere con più profondità il proprio Battesimo. In effetti, in questo periodo liturgico il Popolo di Dio fin dai primi tempi si nutre con abbondanza della Parola di Dio per rafforzarsi nella fede, ripercorrendo l’intera storia della creazione e della redenzione.

Which I now know means:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, with the Ash Wednesday Liturgy, the Lenten journey of 40 days begins that will lead us to the Easter Tridium, the memorial of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord, heart of the mystery of our salvation. It is a favourable time when the Church invites Christians to have a keener awareness of the redeeming work of Christ and to live their Baptism in greater depth.

The audience continues with the pope teaching a lesson in Italian. At the conclusion various Monsignors in different languages greet the pope in the name of the various language groups present. Some groups when they are announced sing, some just cheer. The pope acknowledges them with a wave, then responds with a summary of his teaching in that language. This pope like John Paul before him is fluent in a number of tongues and it is interesting to hear him speak English.

Finally the Pope gives his Apostolic blessing, blessing religious articles also.

Then he greets the Cardinals and bishops present. At this audience there was one cardinal (I believe it is Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez the very Cardinal who announced to the world last year Habemus Papam!) pictured here in the piazza afterwards. Then the sick and handicapped are brought in wheelchairs before him, pushed by nuns for the most part, and he gives each of them a blessing. I’m not sure what the history of this is or for how long this has been done, but I found it to be one of the most poignant moments of the audience. There was a long parade of these crucified memembers of the Body of Christ and they evoked from the Marian prayer “do you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, in this valley of tears.” The wisdom of giving these souls the privileged position at the audience and the primacy of a personal meeting with the pope was incredibly Christian–a great witness. Would that all in attendance learn to see in those marginalized the truly important.
After this the pope walked over to the barrier to the left at which were standing a group of Moslems and he greeted them and spoke to them and then worked down the line. At the end of this line he mounted the popemobile and then passed along the barrier on the right and shook hands as he went along. Then the popemobile made its way down the steps toward me. (Click on any image for a full size shot)
Until finally, there he was right in front of me.
So I put the camera down for a second or two. Then after I gave him a wave, I picked it up again just in time because someone handed him a baby.

Then he was gone, as Joseph would say “back to the Pope cave (ala batcave).” The thousands that had gathered began to disperse. Amy had more Rome Reports video to shoot, so she went with the kids for the outside shots. I was to meet with Jeffrey Kirby to take a walk up to the North American College for a tour and lunch. While waiting, I spotted another group gathered for the pope’s audience, a group of Eastern monks.

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