Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Closed for Repairs

If you have tried to enter Rome’s basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where the body of St. Catherine of Siena lies, and you have found the doors closed, you might have to wait a few years to get back in! I have been in touch with Dominican friends and have learned that the ceiling had started to fall down at the Minerva so Italian government authorities have closed the basilica for repairs. It could be as much as a couple of years, but I heard they are planning to open the sanctuary very soon so people can enter and at least go there. I am not sure when or how that will happen. The Dominican friars who reside adjacent to the church will remain where they are.

The Chapel of Our Lady of San Marco

I came across this chapel a few Sundays ago as I was retuning home after Mass at St. Patrick’s in the center of Rome. I was in Pza. Venezia and transferring from one bus to another to get home. As I walked along Palazzo Venezia, I noticed an open door I had never before seen in all my decades in Rome. I glanced up and saw the Italian name above the door: Chapel of Our Lady of San Marcos!

I was amazed, and I walked in and fund myself in the presence of not just artistic beauty but the Blessed Sacrament on the altar! Two nuns and a handful of lay people were reciting the Angelus – it was indeed noon! I spoke to one of the nuns afterwards and learned that her congregation is the Daughters of the Church.

I went online to learn a bit more about this chapel. The very small and very ornate room you first enter is the original chapel. Also called La Madonnella (little Madonna) di San Marco, this is a late 17th century devotional chapel which was dismantled and inserted into the ground floor of the Palazzo Venezia, a 15th century edifice, in the 20th century. The separate entrance doorway is on the right hand side of the façade of the palazzo on the west side of the Piazza Venezia (the door I entered as you will see in my photos). The chapel is counted as attached to the basilica of San Marco.

The chapel opens just before 7 am and closes at noon, then re-opens at 4 until (I think) 7 pm.

The chapel’s profile was raised in 1957 when Mother Maria Oliva Bonaldo, foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Church established a small convent attached to San Marco, and the sisters have made the chapel a center of Eucharistic devotion. Another adjacent room in the palazzo was taken over and is used as a chapel for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. https://romanchurches.fandom.com/wiki/Madonnella_di_San_Marco

Gaudete Sunday to Mark 50th Anniversary of the Bambinelli Blessing

The third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, is the day that children of all ages and from all over Rome – and sometimes other towns and cities in Italy – bring their bambinelli, statues of the Baby Jesus, to be blessed by the Pope at the end of the Angelus. These statues will be placed in the cribs of nativity scenes – known as ‘crèches’ in French and ‘presepio’ in Italian, in homes and schools. Many a child holds up two or even three statues for the papal blessing as they bring a bambinello for a friend who could not make it to the Angelus.

This coming Sunday, when Pope Francis recites the Angelus, it will mark the 50th anniversary of the first time children brought their statues of Baby Jesus to St. Peter’s Square. In fact, it was December 21, 1969 that Pope St. Paul VI imparted for the very first time a papal blessing on the statues the children brought to the square.

A Serata for Charity

For decades the Catholic American community in Rome, first at Santa Susanna and now at St. Patrick’s, has held an annual fundraiser for a number of Roman charities on the first Saturday of December. A number of years ago what was a daytime bazaar became a gala serata, or evening, in an elegant atmosphere with dining, dancing, live and silent auctions and a raffle. In recent years all the monies raised have gone to 6 Roman charities.

The evening would never happen if it were not for the most amazing parishioners you’d ever want to meet – those who attend Masses in the chapel at Marymount International School (parents of those who attend MMI) and those who come to St. Patrick’s in the heart of Rome on Via Boncompagni.

The student dining room at MMI is turned into a glamorous venue for one night as you will see in a few of the early photos I took. Members of the SOC (Serata Organizing Committee) meet for many months during the year and for very long hours on the actual gala weekend, putting up, enjoying and then taking down all the decorations.

Our auctioneer par excellence is our wonderful, multi-talented pastor/rector, Paulist Fr. Greg Apparcel. He has been part of the American Catholic community in Rome for almost 20 years and this was probably his last serata. Fr. Steve Petroff is our new assistant rector and will capably take over the reins of the parish and the serata, among other duties, when Fr. Greg leaves.

A comment on two of the photos you will see: You will recognize Janet Morana in one picture dancing with Maria Lina Martin, an astonishing, very much with it, always smiling, enthusiastic 99-year old parishioner! Janet was at the Serata as was Bob Lalonde (who works with Priests for Life) and they were seated next to Maria Lina and kept up a running conversation. Another photo shows the SOC members grouped together at what is now an annual attraction – our photo booth. You can have serious pictures taken or wear one of the headpieces they provide or hold up a crazy sign.

I had interviewed Janet at my home at 5 pm for Vatican Insider, after which we all went to 6 pm Mass at St. Patrick’s (they were leaving early the next morning) and then on to the Serata!

I took just a few photos before a lot of guests arrived but then had to man the table where we were selling raffle tickets for an iPhone Pro and 2 wonderful trips.

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Learn more about this our parish and this special evening here: https://www.facebook.com/cacrome/

Come visit when you are in Rome! Sunday Masses in English at 9 am and 10:30, and coffee and cornetti and other sweets after the 10:30 Mass.

A Roman Restaurant and a Nativity Scene

You know very well, having heard it a thousand times, that one of my favorite restaurants, just 3 blocks from my home, is La Vittoria, owned and run by my friend Claudio and his wife Palmerina and one of their two sons, Leonardo, a great cook and waiter.

Among their Christmas decorations every years is their beloved Nativity scene. I always rejoice when I see it, and yet part of me feels sad as I feel this would not be welcome in America. Imagine the complaints by this or that political group or even individuals if they did not like a restaurant displaying a Nativity scene. We know that even a single, very loud complaint could bring down a Nativity scene!

Thank you, La Vittoria!


Pope Francis’ December 15 Tweet: “Today is my anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. Please pray for me and all priests.”

And in two days, December 17, the Holy Father will celebrate his 78th birthday! So, remember to offer another “Ave” for His Holiness.

The Pope seems to have celebrated a delightful Gaudete Sunday yesterday, as you will see by the two stories below – one about the Angelus and the second about his parish visit. There are also two news stories from today (in addition to private audiences the Holy Father had) – the Pope’s audience to TV 2000, the Catholic TV station of the Italian bishops, and the meeting of two secretaries of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin for the Holy see and John Kerry for the U.S.

Re: the blessing of the bambinelli: wouldn’t it be lovely to have this tradition become part of every parish in every diocese?

For the third night in a row (at least as far as I have observed) the dome of St. Peter’s basilica is dark – and I don’t know why. Sent an email to someone today to find out but no answer as of now.


Sunday at the Angelus, Pope Francis noted that this, the third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for joy. He said, “The heart of every person desires joy… All of us desire joy, every family, every people aspires to happiness.” The Christian, he said, is called to live and to witness to the joy that comes from the nearness of God, from God’s presence in our life. Christian joy is not simply the fullness of joy that we will experience in heaven, the Pope said. Rather, it begins even in this life, it is experienced even now, “because Jesus is our joy, our home with Jesus is our joy.” He asked the crowd to say with him “With Jesus, joy is part of the home.”

After praying the Angelus prayer with the sizeable crowd of faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis greeted all those present – families, parish groups, associations and, in particular, faithful from Poland where today the Christmas candle is lit and commitment to solidarity is reaffirmed, especially in the current Polish “Year of Caritas.”

The third Sunday of Advent is also the day that children of all ages and from all over Rome – and sometimes other towns and cities in Italy – bring their bambinelli, statues of the Baby Jesus, to be blessed by the Pope at the end of the Angelus. These statues will be placed in the cribs of nativity scenes – known as ‘crèches’ in French and ‘presepio’ in Italian, in homes and schools. Many a child holds up two or even three statues for the papal blessing as they bring a bambinello for a friend who could not make it to the Angelus. (Photo from news.va)


The Pope thanked the children for the joy they brought to the square where, among the many signs held up, one read, “With Jesus, there is joy in our home.” Francis wished them a happy Christmas and asked them to pray for him in front of their Nativity display at home, as he does for them.

“Prayer is the breath of the soul,” he said. “It is important to find moments during the day to open our heart to God, even with the simple and short prayers of the Christian people. Therefore, I thought of giving a gift to all of you here in the square – a surprise, a gift: I will give you a little pocket-sized book that gathers together a few prayers, for various moments in the day and different situations in life. Some volunteers will distribute to them to you. Take one each and keep it with you always, as a help to live the whole day with God, and so we do not forget that beautiful message you have brought here on your banner: ‘With Jesus, there is joy in our home’. Once again: ‘With Jesus, there is joy in our home’.” He asked the faithful to repeat this five times

The book, in 50,000 copies, contains Psalms, the Magnificat, invocations of Mary, the Gloria, the prayer to the Angel of the Guard, prayers to recite during the day and blessings for the table, in confession and for specific intentions. It was published in Italian by the Vatican Publishing House.


(VIS) – Sunday afternoon Pope Francis visited the Roman parish of San Giuseppe all’Aurelio, in the Primavalle neighborhood of the capital where, before celebrating Mass, he met with various groups, including children, Rom gypsies,, the ill and newly baptized infants.

He first met with some children preparing for their First Communion, and spoke about his own on October 8, 1944. “I remember it as if it were today. I prepared for a year with a very kind nun and two catechists. … In those times, its was not possible to drink a little water before Mass, nothing – not even a drop of water. It was Pope Pius XII who saved us from this dictatorship! … And we all arrived in the Church with our hands together, singing. … And later, in the afternoon, we returned to the Church for our Confirmation: the same day. And you, who will take your first Communion, will remember that day forever, all your life: the first day Jesus came to you. He comes, He makes Himself one with us, he nourishes us to give us strength. … Do not forget the date, and every year, on that day, confess and take communion, will you?”

The Holy Father then spoke to the Rom families in the parish, wishing them peace within their families. Afterwards he met with the sick, thanking them for their witness of patience, of love for God and of hope in the Lord. “This does great good to the Church”, he affirmed. “You continually nurture the Church with your life, with your suffering, with your patience. Thank you, truly. The Church, without the sick, would not carry on. You are the strength of the Church, her true strength,”

Francis’ final encounter was with newly baptized children with their parents. “Our hopes reside in our children,” he said. “We hand them the torch of faith and life, and they will pass it on to their children, our grandchildren. This is life. And in Baptism, you have given them faith, and thus faith from Jesus’ time up to the present day is like a chain, transmitted by parents. And this is a real responsibility! Never forget the day of your Baptism.”

The Pope then revealed that he was baptized on December 25, just eight days after his birth, as was the custom at the time, Francis asked all those present to pray for him, and added, “babies and children cry, they make noise, they run about … and it bothers me greatly when a child cries in church and people expect him or her to leave. No! It is the best sermon. The cry of a child is the voice of God. Never, ever send them out of the church!”

Following his meetings with the parishioners, Pope Francis heard several confessions and then celebrated Mass. In his homily, he explained that, “the Church this Sunday anticipates the joy of the Nativity, and it is therefore called ‘Gaudete Sunday’, joyful Sunday”. The joy of the Nativity, he said, is a special joy the the Christian experiences not only on that day, but throughout all his or her life. “It is a serene, calm joy, a joy that always accompanies a Christian. Even in difficult moments, this joy is transformed into peace. The true Christian never loses this peace, even during suffering. This peace is a gift from the Lord.”

The Pope also spoke about all those people who do not know how to thank God and who are always looking for something to complain about. “A Christian cannot live like this, always complaining. … No saint has ever had a sad face. The saints always had joyful faces. Or at least, in moments of suffering, their faces showed peace.”


Catholic communication as courageous truth-telling that opens channels of dialogue and speaks to the whole person was part of Pope Francis’ message Monday morning to the management, journalists and technical staff of TV 2000 – the television broadcaster of the Italian Bishops’ Conference – as part of a special audience for them in Paul VI Hall.

He said he wished to share “three thoughts on the role of the communicator,” recalling that “the Catholic media have a very difficult mission in relation to social communication: seeking to preserve it from all that distorts and twists it for other purposes. Often communication is subject to propaganda, ideologies, political ends, or for the control of the economy or technology. He said that courageous frankness and freedom are the characteristics of the authentic communicator. and Catholic communications in particular.

The Holy Father also spoke of the duty all communicators have to do justice to the complexities of real life, without losing sight of the truth that is the object of authentic dialogue. “To open, and not to close,” channels of dialogue, said Pope Francis, “is the second task of the communicator.”

Finally, the Pope focused on the need to avoid both sensationalism and platitudes in reporting stories, and the need to cultivate an integral approach to interpersonal communication. “It is necessary to speak to people in their entirety,” he said, “to their mind and to their heart, so that they might be able to see beyond the immediate, beyond a present that is at risk of being amnesiac and fearful of the future.”  (Sources: VIS, Vatican Radio)


(Vatican Radio) – A meeting was held in the Vatican Monday between the Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  A note from Vatican Press Office spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, specified that the American delegation included the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett and two members of the State Department staff.  The Holy See was represented by three Curia officials responsible for the topics covered.

According to Fr. Lombardi, the main topics discussed were the situation in the Middle East, and the commitment of the U.S. to avoid the escalation of tensions and the explosion of violence; also the commitment to promote a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The United States’ commitment to the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison was also illustrated and the desire expressed for the Holy See’s assistance in seeking adequate humanitarian solutions for current inmates .

The short time available for Monday’s discussions prevented both sides from examining other issues in depth, though some were mentioned – in particular, the situation in Ukraine and its prospects and the emergency surrounding the Ebola outbreak.