Sunday afternoon at 4, Pope Francis and many high-ranking members of the Roman Curia left Vatican City in two chartered busses for the town of Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, to start a period of spiritual retreat at the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers.

These photos were taken by a friend, Isabella, in town on a brief visit from Vienna. She chanced to be at the Petriano gate of the Vatican, near the synod hall, as everyone left for Ariccia.


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 theme of the retreat is “Servants and Prophets of the Living God.” The preacher of the papal retreat week is Carmelite Fr. Bruno Secondin who will focus on a pastoral letter of the Prophet Elias.


Following a 4:45 pm arrival, the Sunday afternoon schedule called for 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

On Friday, the final day, the program includes Eucharistic concelebration at 7.30 am, the retreat conclusion at 9.30 am and a 10.30 departure for the Vatican.

The daily meditations will touch on the following topics: “Walks of authenticity,” “Paths of freedom,” “Let yourself be surprised by God,” “Justice and intercession.” The theme of the final day is, “Gathering the mantle of Elias: prophet of brotherhood.”

All audiences, private and special, including the Wednesday general audience, are suspended during the retreat.


Pope Francis has declared Armenian poet and monk, Saint Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Universal Church.  Meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints on Saturday, the Pope confirmed the proposal put forward by the plenary session of the Congregation to confer the title of Doctor of the Universal Church on the 10th century saint. (photo from armenianweekly.comSt-Gregory of NArek

St. Gregory of Narek is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. Born in the city of Narek about 950 A.D., St. Gregory came from a line of scholars and churchmen.

St. Gregory received his education under the guidance of his father, Bishop Khosrov, author of the earliest commentary on the Divine Liturgy, and from Anania Vartabed, abbess of Narek Monastery. He and his two brothers entered monastic life at an early age, and St. Gregory soon began to excel in music, astronomy, geometry, mathematics, literature, and theology.

He became a priest at the age of 25 and dedicated himself to God. He lived most of his life in the monastery of Narek, where he taught at the monastic school. St. Gregory began his writings with a commentary on the “Song of Songs,” which was commissioned by an Armenian prince. Despite his reservations that he was too young for the task, the commentary became famous for its clarity of thought and language and its excellence of theological presentation.

He also wrote a number of famous letters, sharagans, treasures, odes, melodies, and discourses. Many of his prayers are included in the Divine Liturgy celebrated each Sunday in Armenian Churches around the world.

St. Gregory’s masterpiece is considered to be his Book of Lamentations. Also known as Narek, it is comprised of 95 prayers, each of which is titled “Conversation with God from the depth of the heart.” A central theme is man’s separation from God, and his quest to reunite with Him. St. Gregory described the work this way: “Its letters like my body, its message like my soul.” He called his book an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” It was his hope that it would serve as a guide to prayer for people all over the world. After the advent of movable type, the book was published in Marseille in 1673, and has been translated into at least 30 languages.

St. Gregory of Narek is considered the greatest poet of the Armenian nation and its first and greatest mystic. His writing style and command of the Armenian language are unparalleled, and his saintly person has been an inspiration to the Armenian faithful for centuries. St. Gregory’s poetry is deeply biblical and is filled with images and themes of sacred history, while also distinguished with an intimate and personal  character. Numerous miracles and traditions have been attributed to him and he is referred to as “the watchful angel in human form.”  St. Gregory died in 1003 A.D.

St. Gregory of Narek is remembered by the Armenian Church in October of each year. (sources; Vatican Radio, http://www.armenianchurch-ed.net

The work of St. Gregory of Narek encouraged the development of Classical Armenian as a literary language. His writings also adorn the liturgical rites of the ancient Armenian Church, including the Badarak, or eucharistic liturgy, which Gregory’s father described as “the great medicine”: “We beseech you,” the priest says to himself as he ascends the sanctuary, “with outstretched arms, with tears and sobbing prayers.”

St. Gregory’s monastery thrived for nearly a millennium, but it did not survive the bloodshed known to the Armenian community as the Armenian Genocide (1915-1922), in which some 1.5 million Armenians — as well as Assyrians, Chaldeans, Greeks and Syriac Christians — died. Yet, the writings of this “angel in human form” survive, carrying to God the cries of millions of hearts. (source.www.cnewa.org)

(The title Doctor of the Church is a special title given by the Church to certain saints. It is an official designation that confirms that the writing, teaching and preaching of the person, male or female, is of help to Christians throughout the ages. A doctor of the Church is recognized for holiness, the depth of doctrinal insight and an extensive body of writings which the church can recom­mend as an expression of the authentic and life-giving Catholic Tradition.

As of today, there are thirty-five male and female Doctors of the Catholic Church who hail from all ages of the Church’s history. Of these, four are women (Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Hildegard of Bingen). On Sunday, October 7, 2012, Pope Benedict proclaimed St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. John of Avila as the newest doctors of the Church. (source: Fr. Tom Rosica, English language assistant to Holy See Press Office)


This minor basilica, known as St. Peter’s in Chains is the titular church of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington.  The following are a few of the photos I took when the cardinal took possession of his church in the spring of 2011. He became a cardinal the previous November.

P1170730 P1170732 P1170733 P1170734

A site to visit:  http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/art-and-history/michelangelos-moses-at-san-pietro-in-vincoli.html

Also this: http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/sanpietroinvincoli.htm

And the following from: http://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-1/

After the long trek up the Oppian Hill, we now stand before the graceful Renaissance portico of St. Peter in Chains.  According to the more likely hypothesis on the archeological history of this church, the first place of Christian worship on this site dates from the late fourth or early fifth century, being completed by Pope Sixtus III.  In 431, a priest from here named Philip was a papal legate to the Council of Ephesus, at which he identified himself as coming from the titulus Apostolorum.  This likely refers to that early church’s dedication.  Disaster would strike the first church shortly after this time in the form of either fire or earthquake, leading to its almost total destruction.  Luckily, the Byzantine Emperor and his wife had pledged their support to the previous church, and continuing in this spirit their daughter Eudoxia helped to rebuild the church.  The front and back walls of the original church had remained mostly intact, so this reconstruction consisted mainly of rebuilding the nave of the church.  This was undertaken and the repairs were completed around the year 450, around the same time that the chains from St. Peter’s imprisonment in Jerusalem were given to the church; when these were placed with the chains from St. Peter’s imprisonment in Rome, the two fused together.  In the year 519, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian wanted to bring the chains to Constantinople, but was rebuffed.  Towards the end of that century, the church was rededicated at the same time that the relics of the Maccabee brothers were brought here.  Two centuries later the church was restored by Pope Adrian I; at this time the church was called by the alternate name of the Basilica Eudoxiana, commemorating the woman whose munificence had allowed its rebuilding.

In the mid-fifteenth century, the basilica was restored by the cardinal titular, Nicolo de Cusa.  Later that century two cardinals from the della Rovere family held the title: first Francesco and later Giuliano (later Popes Sixtus IV and Julius II, respectively) added to the complex of buildings on the site and ordered improvements on the church itself.  This included the addition of the porch in front of the basilica, to which an upper story would be added a century later.  Although Julius II would be ultimately be buried in St. Peter’s, his incomplete tomb, including the famous Moses, was completed in the current state by Michelangelo in 1545.  The church received additional interior decoration in 1577, when the frescoes of the apse were completed.  In the first quarter of the eighteenth century a more complete renovation was undertaken, including a new ceiling.  From 1876 to 1877, a sanctuary renovation created a confessio in front of a new high altar surmounted by a ciborium.  The chains of St. Peter, previously kept in a shrine in the left transept, were moved into the confessio for the veneration of the faithful.