ST. BLAISE AND A DOUBLE BLESSING

ST. BLAISE AND A DOUBLE BLESSING

I spent such a lovely and most unexpected morning in St. Peter’s Basilica and want to share some of the photos I took. I did not bring a camera so thank the Lord for phones!

My main intention was to attend the 10 am daily Mass at the St. Joseph Altar and to have my throat blessed afterwards as this is, as you know, the tradition on the February 3 feast of St. Blaise. There was no indication that the priest was going to bless throats following Mass and so I started to follow him on his way to the sacristy, asking in a soft voice where I could get the blessing. He smiled broadly and sent the young man accompanying him to the altar to get the double candles,

We chatted briefly in the meantime, and Father told me he did not start the blessing as he had the impression no one at Mass spoke Italian and thus would not understand his announcement about the blessing.

The young man returned and Father blessed me, reciting the prayer that is always said in this circumstance. I was quite happy and told him I did not even remember the last time I missed having my throat blessed on St. Blaise’s feast day.

Given that I was in the basilica, a place in which I always experience great peace, I decided to stroll around and eventually pray a bit at the chapel where St. John Paul is buried, and this was my second blessing!

I was delighted to see that the papal altar and confessio were still bedecked with the flowers from last night’s Mass for the World Day of Consecrated Life:

I then noticed some of the floor plaques on which I have reported a number of times…

The next time you walk down the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica – unless you are being escorted to your seat during a liturgy! – look down at the stunning marble floor and try to find some of the several dozen bronze inserts. With all the beauty and the gigantic size of the basilica, it is amazing that people even notice these plaques but they are important. To give the visitor some idea of the size of St. Peter’s Basilica relative to other major churches in the world – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – there are inscriptions in bronze that indicate the size of the world’s largest churches relative to St. Peter’s, the largest of all.

These bronze inscriptions are about a yard wide and 6 or more inches high. The name of each church and where it is located are in Latin – most are easy to understand – and the length of that church is inscribed beneath the name. The measurements are given in meters. A meter is 39 inches. St. Peter’s Basilica is 186 meters in length – or 611 feet!

St. Paul’s in London holds SECOND place at 158 meters or 518 feet long. THIRD place goes to Florence’s Duomo at 149 or 489 feet. FOURTH place: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Brussels, Belgium: 140.94 – FIFTH place: Washington’s Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 456 feet.

Three of the final four out of the over 30 descriptions belong to U.S. churches;
Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston at 103 meters, Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles at 101.2 and St Patrick’s in New York at 101.1 meters.

As you can see, Santa Sophia in Istanbul is just a bit longer that Holy Cross in Boston.

This is for the Basilica of the Virgin Mary, Gdansk, Poland

St. Patrick’s,  New York City

This is not one of those plaques but simply one of the many marble floor designs in the basilica

As I entered the chapel where St. John Paul is buried, I noticed a sizeable group of people, all of whom were wearing mustard color scarves. I asked a man standing next to me who they were and he said they came from all parts of Italy and were members of a national antiusury group and they were touring the basilica before their noon audience with Pope Francis!

I stayed in the chapel for quite some time to pray before the tomb of my hero and, in so many ways, spiritual mentor. I often get requests from people to pray for their special intentions before St. John Paul and I did so today.

As I made my way out of the basilica, I noted the nativity scene was still up so I took some pictures and also posted a Facebook live video, whispering just a few words about where I was. For me, St. Peter’s is and always will be, first and foremost, a church.

In this scene, when day turns to night, those who are ‘working’ via animation stop working when the sky and stars appear. When it is morning, they resume their work.

I exited the basilica and walked along the south wall where there is a bookstore, post office, etc, before you actually reach the colonnade.

I don’t know how many of you know there are Stations of the Cross in St. Peter’s Square! The first seven are on this south wall and the final seven are on the opposite side of the square – the side you will be on after having gone through security to enter the basilica.

It was an unexpectedly wonderful morning for me – as I hope it is now for you as you read this column!

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VATICAN INSIDER EXPLORES DISTANCE LEARNING AT CDU – VIOLENCE IN THE NAME OF RELIGION CAN ONLY DISCREDIT RELIGION ITSELF

Today is, of course the First Friday of the month, always a wonderful occasion for special graces at Mass, and tomorrow is the First Saturday of the month. February 3 is also the feast of St. Blaise so make sure you get your throats blessed.

The feast of St. Blaise is celebrated in many ways around the world and he holds a place of honor in a number of countries. In medieval times, servile labor was even forbidden on his feast in England. And countless faithful mark the annual blessing of throats on St. Blaise’s February 3 feast. We know more about ways of celebrating this saint than we do about his life, but for sure he was a bishop and was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, in 316.


The story is told that, notwithstanding that the Edict of Toleration (311) granting freedom of worship in the Roman Empire had been enacted five years earlier, Blaise was forced to flee to the country where he lived in a cave as a hermit, in solitude and prayer, but he made friends with wild animals. One day a group of hunters came to the area and entered Blaise’s cave where he was about to eat, surrounded by wild, but patiently waiting, animals.

Now the legend comes to life: As the hunters hauled Blaise off to prison, a mother came with her young son who had a fishbone lodged in his throat, she asked the bishop for help and, at his command, the child was able to cough up the bone. Blaise was heretofore evoked by people with any kind of malady of the throat, including choking, of course. The story goes on to say that the woman brought two crossed candles to Blaise in prison so that his cell would have more light, and that, it seems, led to the idea of blessing throats with crossed candles.

At 5:30 this afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass to mark the World Day of Consecrated Life with thousands of religious and members of Societies of Apostolic life. This celebration coincides with the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Lord. In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted this feast as a universal day of prayer for consecrated men and women. For pastoral purposes, the celebration in local churches is often moved to the following Sunday.

VATICAN INSIDER EXPLORES DISTANCE LEARNING AT CDU

I urge you to stay tuned after the news segment of Vatican Insider this weekend for Part II of my conversation with Marianne Mount, president of CDU, Catholic Distance University.

When in Rome not long ago for a Catholic conference, she met with officials at the Congregation for Catholic Education who expressed great interest in the idea of distance learning. She should be very pleased because last Monday, a new papal document on pontifical universities came out called Veritatis gaudium (the joy of truth) that actually made provisions for “distance learning,” whose possibilities have increased significantly in the last 40 years since the previous Apostolic Constitution on pontifical universities, Sapientia christiana in 1979.

If you want an online degree in theology, philosophy or a number of other fields, Marianne will tell you how. You can also go https://cdu.edu

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 http://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=

VIOLENCE IN THE NAME OF RELIGION CAN ONLY DISCREDIT RELIGION ITSELF

At 9.30 this morning, in the Clementine Hall, Pope Francis received participants in the Conference “Tackling violence committed in the name of religion,”

“Dear Friends, I offer you a warm welcome and I thank you for your presence. It is highly significant that political authorities and religious leaders can meet to discuss how to respond to acts of violence committed in the name of religion.

“I would begin by reiterating what I have often stated, and in particular during my visit to Egypt: “God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man, and so he exhorts us to reject the way of violence. Above all and especially in our day, religions are called to respect this imperative since, for all our need of the Absolute, it is essential that we reject any ‘absolutizing’ that would justify violence. For violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression… We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God” (Address to Participants in the International Peace Conference, Al-Azhar Conference Centre, Cairo, 28 April 2017).

“Violence promoted and carried out in the name of religion can only discredit religion itself. Consequently, such violence must be condemned by all, and especially by genuinely religious persons, who know that God is always goodness, love and compassion, and that in him there is no room for hatred, resentment or vengeance. The religious person knows that among the greatest blasphemies is to invoke God as the justification for one’s own sins and crimes, to invoke him in order to justify killing, mass murder, enslavement, exploitation in whatever form, oppression and persecution of individuals and entire populations. The religious person knows that God is the Holy One, and that no one can claim to use his name in order to perpetrate evil. Every religious leader is called to unmask any attempt to manipulate God for ends that have nothing to do with him or his glory. We need to show, with unremitting effort, that every human life is sacred, that it deserves respect, esteem, compassion and solidarity, without regard for ethnicity, religion, culture, or ideological and political convictions.

“Adherence to a particular religion does not confer additional dignity and rights upon individuals, nor does non-adherence deny or diminish them. There is a need, then, for a common commitment on the part of political authorities, religious leaders, teachers and those engaged in the fields of education, training and communications, to warn all those tempted by perverse forms of misguided religiosity that these have nothing to do with the profession of a religion worthy of this name. This will help all those people of good will who seek God to encounter him in truth, to encounter the One who sets us free from fear, hatred and violence, and who desires to use the creativity and energy of each person to spread his plan of love and peace, which is offered to all.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I renew my appreciation for your readiness to engage in reflection and dialogue on a subject of such dramatic import, and for your expert contribution to the growth of a culture of peace always founded on truth and love. May God bless you and your work. Thank you.”