FOREVER CHANGED …

The date appears as September 12 on this blog, although it is mid-afternoon on September 11 here in Hawaii…..about the time of the attacks 16 years ago in New York, DC and Pennsylvania. My computer must be on Rome time – which is 12 hours ahead of Honolulu.

FOREVER CHANGED …

Nine days after the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, I wrote an email to everyone in my address book at that time, family and friends alike. Today, as we commemorate the 16th anniversary of those attacks, I thought about that letter and how I described my feelings, the reactions here in Rome and in Europe, and how people marked September 11th, one of the blackest days in American history.

It was fascinating to re-read that email – which I entitled “Forever changed” – at a distance of 16 years and now I’d like to share it with you:

Dear Family and friends,

I had all the best intentions of writing to you last week, following the horrific, unspeakable events in our nation, but too many things got in the way and time just ran out each day. I had just returned to Rome from the States so there was some jet lag, but mainly a great deal of work as soon as I came back. And then our days became filled with and dominated by nonstop CNN coverage of doubtless the most incredible week in our nation’s history. I am not sure the magnitude of that terrorist attack is truly implanted in my brain yet.

Please sit down and have a second cup of coffee for this will be a long letter. Today I wanted to share with you not only my feelings but life in Rome as of 2:46 p.m. (local time on Black Tuesday.

On September 11, just before 3 p.m. Rome time (9a.m. in NYC), my colleague Alfonso called from his office next to mine and told me to turn on CNN to see something horrendous. I did so and thought for about one minute that I was looking at a horrible plane accident. And then I saw – right there on my screen, bigger than life – a second plane directly hit the other Twin Tower – and I knew it was terrorism. I was riveted to the screen, my brain not yet totally processing what my eyes had seen – and then the news that the Pentagon was burning! And then that a fourth plane, with terrorist commandos, had crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Real became surreal. The impossible became possible.

I watched TV in the office for a few hours and then went home. Since my satellite dish has not been working since July, I watched a bit of Italian news and then took a nap, trying to shake off jet lag, and later joined American friends for dinner that night at their house. These were times when one craved the company and comfort of friends, especially American friends.

The next hours and days the TV became like another limb on my body – I could not get through the days without it – especially because we were cut off from America. For a day or two it was tough or impossible to reach New York and Washington via phone and for a number of days there was no physical way to get to the United States from Rome – or anywhere else in the world. You’ll never understand that feeling – although some of you to whom I’m writing live in Rome or abroad so you DO understand.

I know all of you have been watching TV and I am sure you are fully aware of the support for the U.S. around the world – the candlelight vigils and processions, the myriad church services, the flying of flags at half mast, the countless bouquets of flowers laid near embassies or consulates, the Europeans who stopped their American friends – or even strangers – to pat their arms, express their condolences, give them a hug, buy them a meal or ask if they needed someone to be near them. The three young children of an American colleague of mine in the press office all asked Joy if they could donate blood to help the wounded Americans. My friends at ZI GAETANA’s restaurant in Rome helped some of the Americans stranded here last week by offering them their meals. I am sure such stories were repeated throughout Italy – and the world.

I am also sure you saw the extraordinarily moving images of how Europe mourned last Friday when everyone and everything stopped for 3 minutes at noon and stores kept their doors closed for 10 minutes starting at noon.

Whoever they were – simple citizens, government leaders, tourists, salespeople, business men and women – alone, in twos, groups of 10, 100 and 100,000 – and wherever they were at noon – at outdoor markets, in churches, touring, eating lunch in a fancy restaurant or a fast food place, at work in factories, offices and stores – they simply stopped, frozen in their tracks, silent in prayer and reflection for 3 minutes. It was like the biblical story of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. To see the images on the Italian news that afternoon and evening was remarkable, moving and unforgettable. One station played “Amazing Grace” for 3 minutes and simply showed images of how Europeans stopped, put their lives on hold for 3 minutes and mourned.

Here in the Vatican the staff members of each office in the Roman Curia prayed the angelus at noon and sang the requiem. I sincerely hope you all saw the unforgettable pictures of an anguished Pope John Paul praying in his private chapel at Castelgandolfo. And, in a first in the history of weekly general audiences, the Holy Father dedicated his weekly catechesis during the September 12 audience in St. Peter’s Square, not to a religious or spiritual theme, but entirely to the attack in the United States. And that is what my show on Vatican Radio that Wednesday was dedicated to – as were many programs in many languages.

Italians have called and written me (and just about every American living in this great country) to express their condolences, horror, indignation, disbelief, anger and support for our country. They have also expressed in recent days their fears that the U.S. will retaliate in such a way that they will stoop to the level of the terrorists and ending up killing innocent people. Europeans, to a man, woman and child, have said they are all Americans now. Every Italian who has spoken to me has said how well they know that their country, that Europe, would not be what it is today had it not been for America during and after World War II – especially the Marshall Plan. “For once in our lives, we can now help America,” is what they tell me.

As the hours, then the days, then the first week passed, feelings have changed very little. If anything they are more profound. The mourning will be lengthy, the anger deep, the revulsion everlasting. All of us STILL want to wake up – because we know this was all just a terrible nightmare and things will be right when dawn comes and the sun rises and warms us and dissipates the darkness that surrounds us.

We have awakened, like it or not, only to discover that this has not been a dream or a nightmare but rather our worst nightmare come true. And the full impact will come in small ways and large: a greater police presence at monuments, embassies, government buildings, military bases and “symbols” such as the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, St. Peter’s, etc. There will be more requests for IDs as we move about, and also a terrific impact on the world of travel – passengers, airline employees, travel agents, airport employees and so on.

I’d like to interject two personal notes here: 1. I don’t mind if some of my rights are abbreviated if the new measures being enacted will help to eradicate terrorism in the world; 2. I do not agree with the media who feel that the public “has a right” to know everything that is going on. We do not have a right – nor do we need to know what the government is planning. I don’t want America to cease being an open society – but we don’t have to know what the CIA, FBI, etc., etc., are doing to entrap and/or capture terrorists, to infiltrate their organizations, to destroy their economic base.

This past Sunday at 10:30 at the church of Santa Susanna here in Rome, the parish for Americans which has been run by the Paulist Fathers since 1922, there was an extraordinarily touching and beautiful Mass for the victims and families and friends of the victims of this attack. American Cardinal Edmund Szoka presided, about 50 priests (one of whom lost a relative) concelebrated and I was honored to be one of the three lectors. There were so many people that they flowed out of the church and onto the adjacent piazza. The new ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson was there with his wife Suzanne, as well as former Ambassador Thomas Melady and his wife, Margaret. A surprise guest, who found himself stranded in Rome after the attacks, was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife.

Father Paul Robichaud, our rector, gave a beautiful homily and tried to answer the questions “Where was God?” and “Why did God allow this to happen?” Half of Sunday’s collection will be sent to New York to help the families of the victims.

At the end of Mass Cardinal Szoka offered some stirring reflections in both English and Italian and then Ambassador Nicholson spoke. He had paper in front of him but rarely looked at it – the words came straight from his heart. As we processed out of church, we three lectors were last and Richard Zaccaroli carried the U.S. flag – which received an enormous round of applause. We stood outside the church and sang patriotic songs, reluctant to leave each other.

I know that what we did here in Rome was repeated thousands of time, in tens of thousands of churches, all around the world. Our fears, our hurt and anger, our pride, our solidarity, our patriotism, our hopes, our prayers – the entire spectrum of emotions – you felt and lived these and so did we.

Well, dear family and friends, I think that is it for now. I’m sure I will think of things I missed, but thanks for hanging in there.

A closing note before I leave you: I have a colorful sign on my desk that I’d like to share with you: “Don’t just live the length of your life, Live the width of it as well.”

God bless you one and all! May He protect you and yours – and may He give you an extra big hug today!

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CASTELGANDOLFO: FOR ST JOHN PAUL IT WAS “VATICAN TWO”

I leave tomorrow to spend a few days in Chicago, then some time in Hawaii with the multitude of friends I have there – my Hawaiian ohana or family – and then on to southern California to visit family, especially nieces and nephews whom I’ve not seen in a while!

I’m quite excited, as is anyone leaving on vacation, just knowing I will have some time to relax, no deadlines to meet, few alarm clocks, no set daily schedule, etc. I admit it usually takes me a few days to remember that I don’t have a deadline for a TV spot, for the three radio programs I have each week, or for posting a daily blog and adding news and photos to Facebook and Youtube.

In my absence I leave you with a special column and photos of Castelgandolfo, photos I took on a perfect July day a number of years ago when I had a lovely visit to the papal palace and gardens. I have posted this before but for some of you it may be the first time.

However, don’t forget to check in with me on FACEBOOK (https://www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) and YOUTUBE (https://www.youtube.com/user/joansrome) as I will be posting photos and videos, and perhaps even some news. So stay tuned and come with me to Hawaii!

And stay tuned to VATICAN INSIDER! I’ve prepared some special shows. Two weekends are dedicated to interviews with priests who knew Mother Teresa – Saint Teresa of Calcutta – very well, and they tell riveting stories Tune in to hear Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, Ph.D. the postulator of the Cause of Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Fr. Bill Petrie, who spent 25 years with Mother and is now a pastor on the island of Molokai.  She was canonized a year ago on September 4 so these are timely.

I also prepared two Specials on the Vatican Observatory and Castelgandolfo (the audio version of what you can read below). These can be used as podcasts for when you come to Rome and visit Castelgandolfo in person! I hope your weekends will be fruitful!|

CASTELGANDOLFO: FOR ST JOHN PAUL IT WAS “VATICAN TWO”

For your special enjoyment I leave you today with a “Joan’s Rome” travelblogue©. We will visit the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo where Popes John Paul and Benedict vacationed for years but which now is fairly deserted as Pope Francis prefers staying at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican,

Castelgandolfo is a lovely town in a beautiful part of Italy, and I have had the incredible good fortune to have visited the papal palace on a number of occasions.

The first extended visit was a number of years ago when I was welcomed by the then director of papal villas, Saverio Petrillo, whose book on the papal palace I used to write this story, along with much information he gave me as we spent an afternoon strolling the grounds, the gardens and the pontifical farm!

On several other occasions I spent an entire day in the palace when it hosted the offices, library and classrooms of the papal observatory and offered summer courses in astronomy. Those offices have been transferred to a new location on the papal property but the telescopes are still in the palace – as you will see in one photo.

I hope you enjoy this! Have a great summer, stay well and safe travels.

Above all, may God sit on your shoulder!

CASTELGANDOLFO: HISTORY, BEAUTY, AND PEACE MAKE IT A HOME FOR POPES

Roman Pontiffs have spent summers here for centuries, enjoying stupendous panoramas and a climate that is far cooler than Rome’s, which can be quite torrid in July and August. Pope John Paul affectionately called it “Vatican Number Two.”

I am talking, of course, about the summer papal residence at Castelgandolfo that has a long and colorful history and possesses beauty to rival that of the apostolic palace and gardens in Rome.

Pope Benedict, shortly after his arrival one summer at the Pontifical Villa in Castelgandolfo, said; “Thank you, and good evening to you all, dear friends. I have arrived here to begin my holidays. Here I have everything: the mountain, the lake, … a beautiful church with a recently restored facade and good people. I am so happy to be here. Let us hope the Lord grants us a peaceful holiday. My heartfelt blessing to you all! May Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you. Good evening and thank you.”

Castelgandolfo is one of a number of small towns located on beautiful sprawling hills that surround and overlook Lake Albano, about a half hour drive southeast of Rome. The lake, which fills an old volcanic crater, is 961 feet above sea level. Fed by underground sources and drained by an artificial outlet, said to have been built around 398 B.C., it is about two square miles (5 sq km) in size and has a maximum depth of 558 feet.

Located on what was once known as Alba Longa, a city in ancient Latium, reputedly the birthplace of Romulus and Remus, Castelgandolfo and the cluster of nearby towns are known as the Alban Hill towns. Romans also call these picturesque towns the “Castelli Romani” because of the fortified castles originally built on those hills by noble families, around which small towns grew and flourished. Each “castello” bore the name of the lord of the manor.

Castelgandolfo took its name from the Gandulfi family. Originally from Genoa, they built a small square fortress with crenelated walls, an inner courtyard, several towers and an adjacent garden on the hill where the town that bears their name stands today. The Savelli family later bought the property and owned it until 1596 when, because of a debt they could not pay to Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605), the land became patrimony of the Holy See, forming the nucleus of the papal residence that exists today.

In ensuing centuries, the property underwent many vicissitudes, including the purchase of additional lands, villas and gardens, and renovations and additions to the original palace. Some of the Roman Pontiffs who left their mark on the papal property include Urban VIII (1623-1644), Alexander VII (1655-1667) Clement XI (1700-1721, who bestowed the title “Pontifical Villa” on the property), Benedict XIV (1740), Clement XIII (1758-1769) and Clement XIV (1769-1774).

In 1623 Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope, choosing the name Urban VIII (1623-1644). Even before his election he had spent vacations in Castelgandolfo and had even built a small home near the walls of the original castle/fortress. Once he became Pope he decided to make this spot his summer residence, readapting and enlargening the old fortress.

One of those who assisted him in this work was the illustrious Carlo Maderno who, in 1603, after completing the facade of Santa Susanna’s Church in Rome, was named as principal architect of the new St. Peter’s Basilica. Maderno designed both a large wing that overlooked Lake Albano, as well as the left part of the facade as seen today from Castelgandolfo’s main square. A modest garden was also planted at this time.

Pope Urban VIII moved into the Castelgandolfo residence on May 10, 1626, just six months before the completion of St. Peter’s Basilica, following 120 years of work. In 1627, the Pope’s nephew, Taddeo Barberini, acquired land and vineyards near the papal residence. Four years later he acquired yet more land and buildings and the entire complex became known as Villa Barberini. Today this is all an integral part of the pontifical property in Castelgandolfo.

Pope Alexander VII (1655-1667) completed the work begun by Urban VIII, including the long gallery which bears his name, with the assistance of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, noted painter, architect and sculptor. Bernini also designed part of the gardens of the papal residence and they can still be seen today.

Bernini is best remembered for having designed the splendid colonnade of 284 pillars which embraces St. Peter’s Square, one of the fountains in the square, the basilica’s Altar of the Cathedra, the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the baldachin over the central papal altar. Alexander VII also asked Bernini to design the town’s parish church, which was named after St. Thomas Villanova.

The 19th century saw the unification of Italy, which greatly affected papal holdings, principally the vast Papal States. The Papal States, in fact, under Pope Pius IX were incorporated into the new Italy when the peninsula was unified in 1870. By the by, Pius IX’s 32-year pontificate from 1846 to 1878 was the second longest in history, following that of St. Peter). From the loss of the Papal States to the Lateran Pact between Italy and the Holy See on February 11, 1929, under Pius XI, no Pope ever left Vatican City for a holiday in Castelgandolfo.

With the Lateran Treaty, Villa Barberini now belonged to the Holy See and officially became part of the papal residence complex in Castelgandolfo. Pius XI helped to restore the buildings and land which had been unused for so many years. He even bought several orchards in order to set up a small farm, not only to produce goods for consumption in the Vatican but to underscore the importance of agriculture.

This last acquisition brought the total acreage of the papal property in Castelgandolfo to 136 acres (55 hectares). Vatican City State is 109 acres (44 hectares). In Castelgandolfo, more of the total acreage is dedicated to the farm (62 acres, or 25 hectares) and to gardens than it is to buildings.

The real work of restoration at Castelgandolfo under Pope Pius XI began in 1931. In 1933 the Vatican Observatory, run by the Jesuits, was moved from Vatican City in Rome to Castelgandolfo, because the city lights were too bright for astronomers. Still today, the director of the observatory has an apartment in the palace at Castelgandolfo.

Pius XI also built a new chapel in which he placed a replica of Poland’s Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Between 1918 and 1921, he had been, respectively, apostolic visitator and then nuncio in Poland, and had a predilection for the Black Madonna. This chapel has remained unchanged since his day. The Pope’s first summer visit was in 1934.

His successor, Pope Pius XII, especially loved Castelgandolfo and spent a great deal of time at this residence, except for the years of World War II. However, during some of the worst moments of the war, Pius allowed the inhabitants of Castelgandolfo and nearby towns to take refuge on the papal property, given that it enjoyed the status of extraterritoriality. After the landing at Anzio in 1944, the citizens of Castelgandolfo were allowed to stay at the papal palace whereas those from other towns were allowed sanctuary in the Villa Barberini property. Pius XII’s first postwar visit to the lakeside villa was in 1946. He returned often after that and died there on October 9, 1958.      

Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) also enjoyed sojourns at Castelgandolfo. He started two traditions here as pontiff: praying the Angelus with the faithful on Sundays in the inner courtyard, and celebrating Mass in the parish church of St. Thomas Villanova on the August 15 feast of the Assumption.

Paul VI inaugurated papal trips by helicopter from Castelgandolfo. Continuous use of a helicopter for short papal trips began during the Holy Year of 1975 when Paul VI would return to Rome for the weekly general audiences. He died here on August 6, 1978.

John Paul II, then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, spent several hours here on October 8, 1978. He returned 17 days later as Pope, having been elected on October 16. He spent most of every summer here, and often came for several days after an especially long and arduous foreign trip.

Benedict XVI, as we saw, also enjoyed the beauty, peace and subdued rhythm of summer life at Castelgandolfo, and came here every summer for a couple of months after his election to the papacy in April 2005. He lived here for two months after he resigned and left the Vatican on February 28, 2013.

I earlier mentioned one part of the pontifical property that is called Villa Barberini. Here we find many buildings, including the home of the director of pontifical villas and apartments used by the cardinal secretary of state and by the prefect of the papal household in the summer. The formal gardens, a 62-acre farm, and the remains of Emperor Domitian’s (81-96) palatial 14 square kilometer home are all also part of Villa Barberini.

Dr. Petrillo, former director of the pontifical villas at Castelgandolfo, began to serve the Holy See in June 1958, and was named Director of the pontifical villas in 1986. He authored a book entitled “The Popes at Castelgandolfo,” from which I took much of the information you are reading here. Saverio was an excellent, knowledgeable and discreet guide to the papal property and residences the day we first met.

Dr. Petrillo began his work in Castelgandolfo at the age of 18 when he was asked to take the place of a Vatican employee who was ill. In the ensuing years he familiarized himself not only with the physical property – the farm, gardens and buildings – but with the multi-century history of the villas as well. His office, as well as other administrative offices, was located in one of the buildings of the Villa Barberini part of the pontifical property, and offered splendid views of the Castelli Romani and, in the distance, Rome and the Mediterranean.

Separate from Villa Barberini, but only a short distance away, are the Apostolic Palace and other gardens. The palace – the building overlooking the lake – is where the Pope resides and where the faithful can join him in the courtyard on Sundays for the noon angelus. At Castelgandolfo, Dr. Petrillo told me on my first visit, the Holy Father has the same basic rooms that he has in Rome – a study, private chapel, dining room and library. The rooms, as is the entire palace complex, are on a smaller, more intimate and homey scale. “Everything here,” he said, “is very intimate, warm and family-like. Even the pace of life is slower, more suited to man.”

On our tour of the farm, Saverio Petrillo pointed out that it produces eggs, milk (there are 25 cows) and yogurt on a daily basis: these are brought early in the morning to the apostolic palaces in both Castelgandolfo and Rome and are sold as well in the Vatican City supermarket under the name “Ville Pontificie di Castelgandolfo” – Pontifical Villas of Castelgandolfo. Olive oil is also produced, but in very small quantities. Once Vatican City even had its own bakery!

He told me some 60 people work year round on the papal properties in Castelgandolfo, including gardeners, tree trimmers, those who work at the farm, electricians, other maintenance people, etc. Only 20 people permanently reside in buildings on the property.

The heliport, which is not far from the farm, was first used by Paul VI in 1963 when he visited the cathedral at Orvieto. Continuous use of a helicopter for short papal trips began during the Holy Year of 1975 when Paul VI would return to Rome for the weekly general audiences.

Pope John Paul II, a very athletic pontiff, asked that a swimming pool be installed at Castelgandolfo to be used for health reasons. Although I did not see the 60-foot long pool on my tour of the papal villa and gardens, Dr. Petrillo told the story that when the Pope heard that some people objected to the cost of a pool, he humorously said: “A conclave would cost a lot more.” This was John Paul’s explanation about how effective physical exercise was in helping him bear the strains of a tiring pontificate.

The beautifully maintained and manicured formal gardens of Villa Barberini have been used by Popes through the centuries for long walks and moments of prayer. The flowers, bushes and trees – of many varieties, and trimmed to perfection in geometrical shapes – provide beauty, seclusion and tranquility. Covering many acres, the stunning formal gardens also provide lovely vistas of the Roman countryside. There are statues, fountains, and a labyrinth of walkways and roads, one of which dates to Roman times and is paved exactly like the Old Appian Way.

 One olive tree in the gardens has a special story: Just an olive branch at the time, it was given by King Hussein of Jordan to Pope Paul VI during his trip to Jerusalem in 1964. The late king’s son and heir, now King Abdullah, was able to visit the gardens and saw the fully-grown tree.

Ruins of Emperor Domitian’s villa can be found everywhere and occasionally one will see a niche with a statue from the villa.

The Emperor Domitian, who ruled from 81 to 96, had built a 14-square kilometer villa on this site. Constructed on three levels, the top was for the servants, the middle was for the imperial family and their guests and the bottom was the crypto-portico, which is in near perfect condition nearly two thousand years later.

The crypto-portico, reached now by a staircase built into the gardens, was constructed to provide the emperor and his guests with a cool place to walk, talk, and sit to escape from the summer heat of Rome. Enormous in size, it resembles a tunnel – with one end open and the other closed. The closed end has a raised stage-like level, accessible by a staircase: today there is a large cross here. The ceiling is curved and, on the western wall, there are windows at the top level. These were once covered with alabaster to let in the late afternoon, setting sunlight – but not the heat.

Also at Villa Barberini is the Antiquarium, a museum that houses a small but prized collection of artifacts from Domitian’s villa which were discovered over the past century. Only restricted numbers of scholars are allowed to visit the Antiquarium which includes busts, statues, columns, portals, and tables made of marble and various stones, to mention but a few objects.

POPE “DEEPLY MOVED BY LOSS OF LIFE, IMMENSE DEVASTATION” OF HURRICANE HARVEY

I leave for vacation this coming Saturday and, in order to depart with peace of mind, I’ve spent most of the past week preparing a number of special segments for “At Home with Jim and Joy” for those Mondays and Thursdays of each week I will be away.  I also prepared four Specials for my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider.”  It has all been a lot of work but will be worth it as I relax in Chicago, Honolulu and San Diego with friends and family for what everyone says when they leave on vacation, “some well-deserved time off!

I am so in the mood for Waikiki and Pearl Harbor and other amazing places in Oahu, not to mention the best part, my friends, that I’ve set my dining room table with items from Honolulu. My table is set year round for four people (just in case someone drops in) and this is my Hawaii table!

POPE “DEEPLY MOVED BY LOSS OF LIFE, IMMENSE DEVASTATION” OF HURRICANE HARVEY

Pope Francis has sent a Message to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressing his condolences to the loved-ones of the victims of hurricane Harvey, promising continued spiritual solicitude for all those affected, and asking for the prayerful solidarity that has already been shown, to continue in the days and weeks to come.

The message was sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in the Pope’s name:

“His Holiness Pope Francis asks you kindly to convey the assurance of his spiritual closeness and pastoral concern to all those affected by the violent hurricane that swept through the states of Texas and Louisiana in these days.  Deeply moved by the tragic loss of life and the immense material devastation that this natural catastrophe has left in its wake, he prays for the victims and their families, and for all those engaged in the vital work of relief, recovery and rebuilding.  He likewise trusts that the immense and immediate needs of so many individuals and communities will continue to inspire a vast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation.  With these sentiments, and with the renewed promise of his prayers, the Holy Father sends his blessing as a pledge of consolation, strength and peace in the Lord.”

 

EWTN DOCUMENTARY HONORS FR. VINCENT CAPODANNO 50 YEARS AFTER DEATH – GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM! FINDING FAITH IN A FARAWAY LAND

Following this press release from EWTN, is a brief account of an amazing trip I took to Vietnam in June 2013 to the places where Fr. Capodanno lived and died. I re-count here, but only very, very briefly, some of my adventures as I wrote about them in my daily blog. I’d have done Facebook Live but it wasn’t around then! However, I posted a lot of videos on youtube.com/joansrome and many, many photos each day.  I hope you enjoy this!

EWTN DOCUMENTARY HONORS FR. VINCENT CAPODANNO 50 YEARS AFTER DEATH

Tonight, Wednesday, August, at 10:00 p.m. (EDST), EWTN will premiere an all-new film about Vietnam War hero and U.S. Navy Chaplain, Father Vincent R. Capodanno, M.M., Servant of God. The 90-minute film, Called and Chosen – Father Vincent R. Capodanno, explores the life of the Maryknoll missionary-turned-military-chaplain, who died at the age of 38 in Vietnam’s Quế Sơn Valley, administering the sacraments to embattled U.S. Marines and pulling the wounded to safety. Father Capodanno received the Medal of Honor posthumously on January 7, 1969, and the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints is now considering whether to recognize him as a Saint.

EWTN will broadcast encore showings of the new film on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 3:00 p.m. (EDST), and on Monday, Sept. 4, at 3:00 p.m. (EDST).

Called and Chosen was filmed in New York and California under the direction of Mr. James Kelty, who has written and directed a number of films for EWTN, including the award-winning Kateri. Mr. Kelty will be among guests interviewed in the special EWTN Live which airs at 8:00 p.m. (EDST) the night of the premiere. Other special guests will be Mr. George J. Phillips, USMC (Ret.), Chairman of the Board of the Father Capodanno Guild, who served with Father Capodanno and whose testimony is also in the film; and Mrs. Mary Preece, Vice-Postulator of Cause of Father Vincent R. Capodanno. EWTN will air encores of this program on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 1:00 a.m. (EDST), and on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 9:00 a.m. (EDST).

“Not only was Father Capodanno a hero, he was one of those people who had charisma while still being a very humble person,” Mr. Kelty said. “People just wanted to be around him — everyone who knew him told me that.” According to EWTN, Called and Chosen is most riveting in the last hour of the film, which intersperses the testimonies of Marines who served alongside Father Capodanno with realistic battle scenes that put viewers in the heart of the action. Viewers see a Military Chaplain who went into battle – even though it wasn’t required of him – armed only with the weapon of his faith.

The premiere comes as the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), prepares to observe the 50th anniversary of Father Capodanno’s death in 1967. On Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m., His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, will celebrate the annual Mass on the anniversary of his death at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Avenue, Northeast, Washington, D.C. The Mass will be concelebrated by dozens of priests from the AMS. Many of the surviving Marines who served with Father Capodanno, including Mr. Phillips, will participate, along with current senior military leaders and active-duty personnel.

GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM! FINDING FAITH IN A FARAWAY LAND

There are some journeys that, when you start to write a diary or some account, the opening words come easily.

After what I had hoped would be an uneventful flight from Rome to Frankfurt and then an overnight flight to my final destination (I experienced a 24 hour delay that I wrote about in a separate blog), I decided to introduce this trip and open this column with just the three-word title of a 1987 movie entitled “Good Morning Vietnam!”

It is Monday morning, June 10, 2013, and it is a beautiful day as I near Vietnam at the start of a journey that really is a pilgrimage, a journey to some very sacred places in this historic and magnificent Asian land. It is also a spiritual journey to places associated with Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll priest and missionary who, in his brief life as a priest was also a much loved chaplain who was affectionately called “the Grunt Padre” by “his” marines in Vietnam  ……

FINDING FAITH IN A FARAWAY LAND

I have been in Vietnam for two and a half days and have had enough adventures to last a lifetime.  In those brief days I have met some of the loveliest people ever, the warm, hospitable, generous – and always smiling, it seems – Vietnamese.  The expression “they would give you the shirt off their back” is so true here.

Each day has seemed like two days, given the miles traveled, the people I have met, the events and Masses and so many things that fill the hours. Starting to write a travelblogue at 9 pm or later leaves little time for the length and depth I would like to offer about each place and person, so what I am unable to cover this week, I will bring you next week on these pages.

In the meantime, the best way to follow my daily adventures, to be at my side as I travel through the countryside, visit a shrine, see a UNESCO World Heritage site, attend Mass in a private home in a Vietnamese village or the DaNang cathedral, is to follow my YouTube page.  The videos tell the story, in the order in which I experienced events. They are brief and to the point and, I feel, allow you to share the culture and people I am experiencing.

To recap a bit: Monday, June 10 I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, met my friend Ted, a volunteer to promote the cause of canonization of Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno, and we flew to DaNang in central Vietnam where we were met by a driver arranged by Bishop Tri (his own driver, to be honest). We drove to the Shrine of Our Lady of LaVang – a long drive not because the distance was great but because the speed limits here are very low, often not over 50 kilometers an hour. LaVang is the national shrine of Our Lady in Vietnam (more videos!).

We attended Mass, ate dinner at a small, local café-cum-souvenir store and stayed the night in the guest house, leaving at 5 am on Tuesday, June 11 for DaNang, passing through Hue, the fourth largest city in Vietnam where we stopped for breakfast at the lovely and historical Hotel Morin.

The rest of the day included checking in the hotel, lunch with Bishop Tri, visiting the cathedral, a nearby school, and other church property.

Wednesday, June 12, was a very long, very beautiful and faith-filled day. Ted and I visited a new church in a small village southwest of DaNang whose pastor said Mass in a home in another very small village near the battlefield where Fr. Capodanno died on September 4, 1967. Very often a priest can only come once a month to small villages to say Mass and today was a bonus for the visitors as the Mass was a special one to commemorate Fr. Capodanno, who is known by everyone here.

Mass was followed by an incredibly abundant lunch prepared and offered by the 68 faithful who came from neighboring villages.

The man in the middle knew Fr. Capodanno:

After Mass Ted and I were taken on motorbikes and then walked a bit to within a few hundred feet of the field where Fr. Capodano was killed on September 4, 1967. I did a video of that as well.

On our way back to DaNang, we stopped again at Xuan Dhanh parish to drop Fr. Andrew off, then proceeded to DaNang for our late afternoon meeting with the bishop and Sr. Catherine of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres to talk about the liturgy for the Mass on Friday to commemorate Fr. Capodanno. I attended a very special Mass in the cathedral where the altar boys were marking the feast of their patron saint, St. Dominic Savio.

That was followed by a visit to Sr. Catherine’s convent, then back to the hotel for a quick meal before chatting with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly get-together, but at 8:40 DaNang time.

”AND THE LORD WAS WITH US THIS DAY”

As I write these words, it is 9 am on a hot Friday morning, June 14, in DaNang and I am in the courtyard of Sacred Heart Cathedral where the gates have been opened to welcome the bus loads of pilgrims from nearby and from far villages who have come today for Mass at 10 that Bishop Joseph Tri has organized to celebrate Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno.

June 14th was the day, 55 years ago, that Vincent Capodanno was ordained to the priesthood in the Maryknoll order, a missionary order that sent him abroad during his short life as a priest. Eventually he became a chaplain and died giving the last rites to solders in Vietnam, not far from DaNang.

The courtyard is huge but I know it will soon be filled by scores of motorbikes and bicycles in addition to the buses – probably not a single car! For a while I sat on a stone bench next to a lovely sculpture of the Holy Family, listening to the hustle and bustle and horns of DaNang traffic outside the complex that comprises the cathedral, bishop’s residence, school rooms, church halls and the convent.

I videoed the Mass as well as taking a ton of photos.

With the terrific young choir who sang every song in English:

After Mass:

Following Mass, the cathedral offered a buffet lunch for about 400-500 people. It was astonishing hospitality and prepared by a group of women in the parish!! It was a ton of fun and I could have stayed and spoken to the people for hours, especially the wonderful, joyful, enthusiastic young people! I wanted to charter a plane and bring them to Rome!

This is not even the tip of the iceberg of what I wrote about Vietnam and all the places I visited while in this land. My final days were spent in Ho Chi Minh Ville (former Saigon). I’d love to have more time to post photos of the beautiful people of this land, of the scenery, the historic places, the flowers, the temples and churches, the food –but mainly the people.

 

VATICAN SECURITY PREPARED AND VIGILANT IN FACE OF THREATS

VATICAN SECURITY PREPARED AND VIGILANT IN FACE OF THREATS

Recently, 450 former Swiss Guards and their family members participated in their 27th general assembly in Soleur, Switzerland. During the gathering, the current Swiss Guard commandant gave a talk in which he said, it is perhaps “only a matter of time” before Rome is hit by a Barcelona-style attack but “the Guards are well prepared to face any threats, notably terrorism.” (photo: http://www.cath.ch)

His words were a clear reference to the latest videos produced by ISIS showing the terrorists destroying churches in the Philipines and ripping up photos of Popes Francis, and Benedict, saying “we are coming to Rome.”

Graf, commandant at the Vatican since 2015, noted that Swiss Guards are not just subjects to be photographed by tourists with their colorful uniforms, swords and halberds. They form a real protective detail that is trained with the most modern techniques because it is always necessary to be ready and able to face attacks such as that in Barcelona.

Swiss Guards are constantly adapting to current challenges. So much so that now the intitial training period for recruits in Switzerland has gone from two to four months and is organized in collaboration with the police of the Canton of Tessin. Subjects such as weapons training and shooting practice, body guard training, fire protection, first aid and juridical questions are part of the program.

In an increadsingly secularized society, the religious and spiritual formation of the guards takes on growing importance, according to the commandant. One could even speak of the “Francis effect,” he said. He expressed his happiness at the priestly and religious vocations that have developed during service in the Swiss Guards. A number of young men who join the guards are seeking an orientation in their lives and do not have only an interest for the military or security aspect. (source: http://www.cath.ch)

Security around the Vatican has been fairly tight for years, going back to the Great Jubilee of 2000. Measures tightened at the start of the Holy Year of Mercy in Dcember 2015 and never relented when it ended last November. In fact, secutiry around Vatican City became noticably stepped up after a series of attacks with vehicles that killed people in Nice, Berlin, London, Stockholm and recently Barcelona.

At the Vatican, there are 110 very well trained Swiss Guards defending the Pope and Vatican City and about the same number of superbly trained gendarmes.

Security measures throughout Italy and at the Vatican include police cars and vans, Italian Army jeeps with soldiers carrying heavy weapons, and untold numbers of plainclothesmen. All of these protect important monuments, churches and embassies, and gathering spots such as Rome’s famed Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo.

Cement barriers have been strategically place on such broad avenues like Via della Conciliazione, the street that leads to St. Peter’s Square and Vatican City, an historic street now closed to traffic.

People entering St. Peter’s Square last Sunday for the Angelus had their bags checked, via airport-style security or checks by individual officers. This is also done for the weekly general audiences and for those wishing to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. Visitors to the Vatican Museums go through airport-style security.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, said the ISIS video was worrisome but pointed to the high level of readiness at the Vatican.  “Obviously, one cannot help but worry, above all for the senseless hatred that it is.” But he said the Vatican has not added more measures to its notable security forces and preventive measures.

 

POPE FRANCIS TO TRAVEL TO MYANMAR AND BANGLADESH – IN BRIEF

PAPAL TWEETS:

Sunday, August 27, feast of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine; Today how many mothers shed tears, like St Monica, so that their children will return to Christ! Do not lose hope in God’s grace!

Monday, August 28, feast of St. Augustine the once errant son of St. Monica who became a saint: “You made us unto Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you”. (St Augustine’s “Confessions”)

POPE FRANCIS TO TRAVEL TO MYANMAR AND BANGLADESH

The Holy See Press Office made the following announcement this morning:

“Welcoming the invitation of the respective heads of state and bishops, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Visit to Myanmar from 27 to 30 November 2017, visiting the cities of Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, and to Bangladesh from 30 November to 2 December 2017, visiting the city of Dhaka. The program for the Visit will be published shortly.

On Sunday, in fact, at the Angelus, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of massive flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal, and northern India over the past several days: “I express my closeness to all the [affected] populations, and pray for the victims and for all who suffer because of this calamity.”

Annual monsoon rains have caused the flooding, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people, and disrupted the lives of some 24 million others. Rescue and relief efforts are ongoing, with international aid agencies reporting thousands of villages cut off. People in remote and isolated areas have been without food and clean water for many days. (Vatican Radio)

Also Monday, the Vatican released the official logos for Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Myanmar logo

The logo for his visit to Myanmar depicts Pope Francis releasing a white dove from within a heart drawn in the colors of Myanmar’s flag: yellow, green, and red. An outline of Myanmar’s landmass sits beside the Pope within the heart, while the motto for his journey is shown above: “Love & Peace”.

Bangladesh logo

The logo for Pope Francis’ visit to Bangladesh has colored streamers in the shape of a dove, with a cross raised over a water lily (Bangladesh’s national flower) within it. Above, the official motto for the Apostolic Journey, “Harmony and Peace”, is written in red.

IN BRIEF

CARDINAL DANIEL DINARDO, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and president of the U..S Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement regard the Texas floods on the website of the USCCB: “Please join me and pray for all of those affected by the storm and in need of assistance during this natural disaster,” the cardinal said Aug. 26. “In addition, I ask the faithful to also keep the emergency response personnel and volunteers in your prayers. For those residing in our Archdiocese, in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, be safe and may God have mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey.” Sunday he said: “Your safety and the safety of your loved ones is paramount during this emergency. Please do not be concerned about attending Mass today, and heed the warnings of civil authorities to shelter in place. More here: http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-150.cfm

CARDINAL SECRETARY OF STATE PIETRO PAROLIN, this evening at 6:30 in the millennia-old St. Peter’s Basilica in Ciel d’Oro di Pavia, northern Italy, celebrated Mass on the tomb of St. Augustine on the liturgical memory of the saint. The remains of St. Augustine have been in Pavia since the 8th century. In a note published by the Pavia Committee for St. Augustine, the cardinal said: “I have a great love and admiration for St. Augustine. I consider him a friend, a teacher, a model. The pages of his writings that move me and fill me with fire are when he speaks of Jesus, of eternal life and the intense desire to attain it, of prayer, of Christian virtues and above all of love and humility. Relative to my work at the Holy See, the pages that greatly interest me are where St. Augustine enters into dialogue with the society of his time, and gives the Church the task of promoting harmony and solidarity, that is, to make herself build the City of God within earthly cities.”

 

VATICAN INSIDER: ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH IN ROME, HOME FOR CATHOLIC AMERICANS – COMING TO THE RESCUE IN SIERRA LEONE

I have once again been dealing with Internet problems – meaning that Internet is out and, according to the phone company, it is a neighborhood issue and they are working on it. I’ve written and recorded the news segment for my weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider” but cannot at the moment get that to my colleagues in Alabama as they are the ones who put the whole show together. I did transmit the interview with Fr. Apparcel yesterday so they have that.

I have already posted to Facebook (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) the very important Vatican radio and TV interview with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin after his four-day visit to Russia. I was able to do that via my cell phone, but posting this column via my phone is not possible.

It is 5:40 pm here. Unless things clear up in the next 90 minutes, my only possibility is to go to La Vittoria restaurant with my computer and hope their Internet is working so that I can post this column and send the news audio segment to EWTN. If time allows I will add some photos and post the link to Vatican Radio’s interview with Cardinal Parolin.

If you are reading these lines, you’ll know my Internet returned OR I am having dinner and working at La Vittoria!

In case I cannot post photos, here’s a link to St. Patrick’s! https://stpatricksamericanrome.org/

Here’s the link to Cardinal Parolin’s intervew after his four-day Russia trip! Fascinating  information! http://www.news.va/en/news/exclusive-pope-francis-pleased-with-card-parolins

VATICAN INSIDER: ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH IN ROME, HOME FOR CATHOLIC AMERICANS

My guest in the intervew segment this week is Paulist Fr. Greg Apparcel, rector of St. Patrick’s Church in Rome, the new home iu the Eternal City for Catholic Americans and English-speaking Catholics after 95 years at the historic church of Santa Susanna. That move is a long story but there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Father Greg tells the story very well – who we are as a faith commmunity, our programs and outreach and where the church actually is. If you have plans to come to Rome, St. Patrick’s and your fellow American Catholics should be on your itinerary.

I have some great photo os Fr. Greg that he sent 2 days ago in an email and for reasons beyond my ken, I cannot find them – so check the St. Patrick’s link until I do find them (am transmitting this column from La Vittoria): https://stpatricksamericanrome.org/

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

COMING TO THE RESCUE IN SIERRA LEONE

I believe I have mentioned in the past that I am on the Board of HIRF, the Healey International Relief Foundation, an organization dedicated solely, as its website says, to improving the quality of life of vulnerable individuals and families in Sierra Leone who have long ben affected by civil way and adverse socioeconomic conditions. The Healey motto is “Turning Scars into Stars.”

We have all been following events since the terrible mudslide that killed an estimated 400 people and I wanted you to know how people have been helping. Injust got this letter from HIRF:

A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU

 Thank you to all those who continue to support Sierra Leone and the victims of the massive mudslide and flooding in Freetown.  Thus far, your donations have provided healthcare services and food to those in need.  Without your help, immediate aid relief would not have been possible. We have detailed our efforts below and continue on with determination during the weeks to come.  Again, a very heartfelt thank you. Tenki, Tenki!

To view pictures of our work on the ground click here for mobile devices and click here for laptops or computers.

MEALS TO SURVIVORS

Great loss and suffering brings countless worry.  With so many troubles to be concerned with, where one is going to get their next meal, or how one will feed their family should NOT be one of them. nding provided through our appeal is going directly to supply meals. With our partners Caritas-Freetown and the Tzu Chi Foundation we are providing lunch daily to survivors of the flooding in the Culvert area of Freetown.  The team has also provided dinners to those taking up temporary residence at the Mudslide Shelter Site in Regent.

MOBILE CLINIC SERVICES HELPING WOMEN & CHILDREN

After the massive flooding and mudslide in Freetown, it was critical to go into the affected communities and provide healthcare services.  Not only for individual health but also to protect against the outbreak of any communicable diseases.  The fear of disease is high, especially cholera.

Our mobile health clinic was onsite immediately following the mudslide in the Regent area and has been deployed in other critical areas every day since.  To date, over 850 patients have been treated and clinic visits are ongoing throughout the Freetown area.  Funding provided though our appeal was used to purchase the needed medicines and supplies to treat the patients, many of whom are women and children.