I leave tomorrow morning, God willing, for Krakow, Poland where I’ll be spending time interviewing people who knew St. John Paul II and visiting sites linked to his life. I have set up a number of appointments to talk to priests, prelates, university rectors and lay people for my book on the late Pope, “I Made Cookies for a Saint.” I’ve been to Poland a number of times and especially love Krakow and am looking forward to a marvelous stay and some terrific conversations and insights.

I had an appointment here in Rome last Friday with Polish Ambassador to the Holy See, Janusz Kotansk, and he is immensely enthusiastic about the book and had a lot of suggestions for my visit. He has promised to help me find a qualified translator so the book can also be published in Polish.

I’ll do what I can to write something for this column every day, and will try on a daily basis to publish photos, FB Live, etc. on Facebook. Pope Francis and ranking members of the curia are on retreat this week but I’ll keep you posted on breaking news.

Pope Francis always asks us to remember him in our prayers – I ask the same of you!

Sunday Pope Francis tweeted: I ask, please, for your prayers for me and my collaborators, who until Friday will be on retreat.

Today’s Station Church in Rome is San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter’s in Chains): https://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-1/monday-san-pietro-in-vincoli/

This is the titular church of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.



Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. These annual spiritual exercises usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday. They are being held in Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, at the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers. (photo news.va)


Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG

The Pope mentioned the retreat at the Sunday Aneglus and asked the faithful to pray for him and his collaborators. He also tweeted the same request.

Franciscan Friar Giulio Michelini will lead the spiritual exerfcises on the theme of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew.

In this period, all of the Pope’s audiences, including Wednesday’s general audience, are suspended. Retreatants will return to the Vatican on Friday.

The Sunday schedule included Eucharistic adoration at 6 pm, vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:

  • –         7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
  • –         8.00 am, breakfast
  • –         9.30 am, first meditation
  • –         11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
  • –         12.30 lunch
  • –         4 pm, second meditation
  • –         6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
  • –         6.45 pm, vespers
  • –         7.30 pm, dinner


From Fr. George W. Rutler – St. Michael’s Church – March 5, 2017
A “psychic reader” near our church has a sign telling what bell to ring for her to open the door. If I ever have the chance, I shall ask why, if she has psychic abilities, does she need a doorbell? Superstition is a sin against holy religion, and one can look for meaning in numbers to the point of excess, which is one form of superstition. But God’s historical involvement with us seems intertwined with certain numerical configurations that can be hard to ignore. Foremost among them, of course, is the number seven, but there is also forty.

In simple physics, negative forty corresponds on the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales, but that is only a curiosity. In Sacred Writ, however, it rained forty days during the Flood, spies scouted Israel for forty days, the Hebrews wandered for forty years, the life of Moses divided into three segments of forty years, and three times he spent forty days on Mount Sinai, not to mention Goliath challenging the Israelites twice a day for forty days. Some of that might be swept aside, but then Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness of Judea, and walked among men for forty days between his Resurrection and Ascension. It is perhaps obtuse to ignore that.

The number forty has something to do with fear. There are two kinds of fear: servile, which is fear of the unknown, and holy, which is the awe instilled by the Holy Spirit. Servile fear may be legitimate, though it can also be irrational. It is reasonable to fear poisonous spiders, but it is irrational to fear all spiders all the time. The ancient Greeks were better psychologists than the less introspective Romans, and so they gave us the term “phobia” for irrational fear. Today, however, ignorant people slur anyone with a rational aversion to false religion or to perversion as “phobic.”

But if Roman culture lacked the psychological sophistication of the Greeks, it was precise about social realities, and Latin has words for different kinds of fear: metus, terror, timor, pavor, formido, trepidatio and, that more-subtle form of fear suffered by sensitive people expecting the worst: praetimeo.

Jesus knew these temptations without succumbing to them. He knew them so well that he sweat actual blood. He warned against irrational fear as sternly as he urged holy fear: we should fear no harm to our bodies as much as we should fear eternal destruction in hell (Luke 12:5, Matthew 10:28). In his glorious resurrection he forbade fear, and the Beloved Apostle took up this theme: “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

In one of P.G. Wodehouse’s books, Jeeves quotes Psalm 30 to the amiable dunce Bertie Wooster: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” For those perplexed by fears worse than the ones Bertie Wooster suffered, that is what the splendid forty days of Lent are about.