A heads up: I leave tomorrow afternoon for a few days in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, my first excursion out of Rome since March 13! It should be very interesting, even with all the Covid-related rules, regulations and restrictions. However, Sorrento and surroundings are a small slice of paradise so this will be more a delightful change of place, than a change of pace. I’ll be working, writing blogs (no promises for Monday!), posting stories and photos and doing radio shows, etc. It might be a “Joan’s Rome” lite but that’s OK!

I so enjoyed the Angelus today, especially Pope Francis’ remarks about grandparents on this day when we celebrate Sts. Joachim and Ann, Mary’s parents, thus Jesus’ grandparents. I don’t remember if I ever asked anyone when I was little about Jesus’ grandparents – I just knew his parents, Mary and Joseph.

When I became aware of Joachim and Ann (also spelled Anne), I started to imagine Jesus as a toddler, following his grandparents around the house when they came to visit or he went to their house. I pictured him perhaps helping in a garden or in the kitchen and surely in St. Joseph’s carpenter shop, asking a lot of questions. Were they around when Jesus was a teen? We know so little about them that we don’t know how old he was when they died.

By the way, this is one of my very favorite pictures! (from Pinterest)

Pope Francis has spoken of grandparents countless times in his papacy – one could write a short book on the subject. In addition, he has reminisced often about his own grandmother Rosa: On one trip, he said; “I had the grace to grow up in a family where faith was lived in a simple and concrete way; but it was above all my grandmother, my father’s mother, who marked my path of faith. She was a woman who explained to us, who spoke to us about Jesus, who taught us the Catechism.

“I always remember that on Good Friday evening she would take us to the candlelight procession, and at the end of this procession… my grandmother would make us children kneel and she would say: ‘Look, he is dead, but tomorrow he will rise again.” I received the first Christian announcement from this woman, from my grandmother! That’s beautiful! The first announcement at home, with the family! And this makes me think of the love of many mothers and grandmothers in the transmission of the faith. It is they who transmit the faith.”  

If you are blessed enough to have living grandparents; visit as often as possible, collect stories, ask a thousand questions, learn about the richness of your past! And with today’s technology be sure to record their stories and memories – and take pictures!


Pope Francis urges young people to show tenderness to the elderly by connecting with them, “calling them, video-chatting with them…sending them hugs.”

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

After reciting the Angelus in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis recalled the liturgical memorial of Saints Joachim and Ann, Jesus’ grandparents.

The Pope invited them to reach out tenderly to the elderly by doing something concrete for those “who are most alone in their homes or retirement residences, and who have not seen their loved-ones for months”.

“Dear young people, the Pope continued, “each elderly person is your grandparent!” He then begged young people not to leave the elderly alone. “Use the fantasy of love”, he told them. Then he gave them some suggestions: “Call them, videochat with them, send them messages, listen to them, go and visit them when it is possible while observing health precautions, send them a hug.”

Pope Francis then picked up one of his favorite themes, reminding young people that the elderly are their “roots.”

“An uprooted tree does not grow or bear flowers or fruit”, he said. Being united and connected with the elderly is important because that is how we remain connected to our roots, he explained. He then quoted an Argentinean poet, who said that the flowers that we see on trees come from what is underground.

After his words, the Pope asked for a round of applause for grandparents.




Today, the very day we are celebrating grandparents, was the last of two days that my sister Gail and her husband spent in Uelzen, Germany where our maternal grandfather was born. Over two decades ago I began doing genealogical research on both the paternal (Lewis) and maternal (Bromann and Blattner) sides of our family. I did not have that many records to go on for the Bromann or Blattner families but that was where the then fairly new Internet came in.

I explored the websites of two cities, Hannover and Hamburg, as suggested by talks with my Mom and her sister. To make a long story short, with great joy I discovered that Grandpa Bromann was born in Uelzen and his parents, grandparents, etc. in nearby picturesque Hankensbuettel. I visited both towns in December 2006, taking photos and filming videos (what I’d have given for Facebook Live!) to give to my Mom and aunt as Christmas gifts. I also wrote a long blog about the visit and that, together with other information I had from the Internet, was the basis of my sister’s brief visit to Uelzen.

The Uelzen trip was to be the finale to our Danube River cruise, but that cruise was not to be, at least for me. Gail is willing to go back so perhaps we can write another chapter in the genealogy book and next time visit wonderful Hankensbuettel.

I can’t wait to see her photos, especially the records of our grandfather’s birth in 1869!!

For grandparents and grandchildren – Follow Pope Francis’ advice! (see below)


Today is July 26, feast of saints Anne and Joachim, maternal grandparents of Jesus. Congratulations to all grandparents throughout the world on this day, your very special day. And we cannot forget the grandchildren – your day as well!

Pope Francis tweeted today: How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage so essential for each and every society!

On December 19, 2016, the Holy Father addressed youth from Italian Catholic Action and invited them to share Advent with their grandparents, urging them to listen to the aged who “have the wisdom of life.”

“I would like to give you a task: speak to your grandparents, … ask them questions, they have the memory of history, the experience of living, and this is a great gift for you that will help you in your life journey. …. And (grandparents) should “listen to you, understand your aspirations and your hopes. This is your task: speak to your grandparents, listen to them.”

Francis began the general audience of March 11, 2015, by noting, “In today’s catechesis we continue our reflection on grandparents, considering the value and importance of their role in the family. I do so by placing myself in their shoes, because I too belong to this age group.

“When I was in the Philippines, the Filipino people greeted me saying ‘Lolo Kiko’ — meaning Grandpa Francis — ‘Lolo Kiko’, they said! The first important thing to stress: it is true that society tends to discard us, but the Lord definitely does not! The Lord never discards us. He calls us to follow Him in every age of life, and old age has a grace and a mission too, a true vocation from the Lord. Old age is a vocation. It is not yet time to “pull in the oars”. This period of life is different from those before, there is no doubt; we even have to somewhat “invent it ourselves”, because our societies are not ready, spiritually and morally, to appreciate the true value of this stage of life.”

Francis stressed that, “the prayer of grandparents and of the elderly is a great gift for the Church! The prayer of grandparents and of the elderly is a great gift for the Church, it is a treasure! A great injection of wisdom for the whole of human society: above all for one which is too busy, too taken, too distracted. Someone should also sing, for them too, sing of the signs of God, proclaim the signs of God, pray for them! Let us look to Benedict XVI, who chose to spend the final span of his life in prayer and listening to God! This is beautiful!”


Greeting to fellow members of the Constantinian Order of St. George: On this day in the year 306 AD, Constantine was acclaimed the 57th Emperor and Supreme Ruler of Rome and its Empire – the start of what history calls the Constantinian Era with its ideas of toleration for peoples, growth in nourishing established regions, securing the borders of the state and ushering in a period of relative stability and peace while entrenching the roots of the empire in the East.

Thanks to Emperor Constantine, Christianity was finally protected. He was responsible for building the first basilicas dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as St. John Lateran. What is more, his mother, Empress Helena, was the inspiration for the Roman basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. In fact, the story of St. Helena, her conversion to Christianity, her trips to the Holy Land and her recovery of relics linked to Christ’s passion and death, which she subsequently brought to Rome, is as interesting – and, in a way, beautiful – as the church itself. (St. Helena’s statue inside St. Peter’s Basilica)

St. Helena’s faith, her devotion to the Cross and, of course, the relics themselves – part of the true Cross, a nail, thorns from the Crown of Thorns and the wood inscription affixed to the Cross bearing the words in three languages: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” – these are all the very raison d’etre for the basilica.