THE AUGUST SNOWFALL IN ROME – 30,000 ITALIAN YOUTH ON WALKING PILGRIMAGE TO ROME

August 6 is the feast of the Transfiguration and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI who will be canonized in October. Pope Francis spoke of this at the Sunday Angelus, saying, “Forty years ago Blessed Pope Paul VI – the Pope of modernity – was living his last hours on this earth. He died in the evening of August 6, 1978. We remember him with great veneration and gratitude. From heaven, may he intercede for the Church and for peace in the world.”

This column might be Joan’s Rome lite tomorrow as I will be travelling much of the day. I’ll bring you what I can – if I can!

THE AUGUST SNOWFALL IN ROME

Every so often people write me to tell me they’ve read stories of snowfall in Rome in August, traditionally the hottest month of the year – perhaps together with July! The snowfall they read about has nothing to do with needing warm clothes when you visit Rome in August but has everything to do with one of the four papal basilicas in Rome, Our Lady of the Snows aka St. Mary Major.

The other three papal basilicas are St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and St. John Lateran. By the way, these four basilicas, with three others, constitute the 7 must-visit pilgrim churches in Rome. The remaining three: St. Sebastian, Holy Cross in Jerusalem (with relics of the crucifixion) and St. Lawrence – San Lorenzo al Verano.

Now about the snowfall:

The year was 358 A.D. John, a Roman patrician, and his wife, unable to have children, had been praying faithfully to the Virgin, asking her to give them a sign as to whom they should leave their enormous patrimony. The night of August 4-5, one of the hottest of the year, Mary appeared to the couple in a dream and requested that they build a church in her honor where snow would fall that night.

John and his wife went to tell their friend Pope Liberius of their dream and to their amazement discovered that the pontiff had had the same dream. That morning, August 5, one of Rome’s seven fabled hills, the Esquiline, was covered in snow, as witnessed by John, his wife, the Pope and his entourage, and a throng of Romans. Pope Liberius took a stick and traced the sign of the future basilica in the snow, a basilica which would be forever known as Our Lady of the Snows, in addition to the name it bears today, St. Mary Major, the greatest – and the oldest – Marian church.

The feast of Our Lady of the Snows was introduced that year and has been commemorated ever since on August 5. Each year, there are two celebrations on that day. In late afternoon during a liturgy, usually vespers, thousands of white flower petals, symbolizing the miraculous snowfall, are released through one of the square panels of the basilica’s glorious gilt ceiling. In the evening, about 9 pm, outside the basilica, white flower petals are showered down on the faithful who have gathered to commemorate that event.

If you are ever in Rome on August 5 go to St. Mary Major in mid-afternoon or about 9 at night to witness the snowfall and participate in a liturgy.

Here’s a brief Youtube video I did on my first visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9LTZk-k2k8

30,000 ITALIAN YOUTH ON WALKING PILGRIMAGE TO ROME

The initiative organized by the Italian bishops conference is in preparation for the Synod on young people in the Vatican in October and the World Youth Day in Panama in January.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews.va)

More than 30,000 young people of some 200 Italian dioceses set out in groups Friday morning on a weeklong walking pilgrimage in the territories of their respective dioceses, an experience that will conclude in a mega rally in Rome next weekend with meetings with Pope Francis.

The National Service for Youth Ministry of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) has organized the initiative in view of the Synod of Bishops on young people scheduled for October in the Vatican.

Father Michele Falabretti who heads the Youth Ministry office explained that they wanted to add a special experience to their meeting with the Pope, hence the initiative called, “Per Mille Strade” (Through a thousand roads), a pilgrimage involving young people and those accompanying them and “Siamo Qui” (We Are Here), the encounter with Pope Francis on the last two days in Rome, August 11 and 12.

Pilgrimage through the world

To be able to make the most of the walking pilgrimage, each participant has been provided with a pilgrim’s kit containing both practical and spiritual items. This includes a pilgrim’s shoulder bag with items such as a headlamp for use at night, a hat, a portable water bag, a diary, a Gospel, a cross, a commentary booklet on the encounter between Jesus and the disciples, a small canvas with the image of the holy shroud, a map and an identification badge.

The young pilgrims have also been furnished with a log, where they will post their experiences as they pass through the various stages of their journey.

Fr. Falabretti said the purpose of the pilgrimage is to help young people step out of the beaten path, slow down and keep their eyes open to the testimonies of life and faith that they come across and to know about the stories of today’s man and his difficulties and hopes. This journey is to make the children think and feel as part of the Church, he said.

Rally with the Pope in Rome

After the pilgrimage across their respective dioceses, the youngsters will board buses, trains or other means to converge on Rome on Saturday, August 11, where they will hold an evening prayer vigil at Circus Maximus with the participation of the Holy Father.

The following day, Sunday, they will attend a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, at the end of which the Pope will hand them a missionary mandate and bless the Crucifix of St. Damien and Our Lady of Loreto which they will carry to the World Youth Day in Panama, next year.

The young people have been encouraged to remain connected by posting their experiences online on the social media that will be shared with all in real time as the pilgrimage progresses.

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A JUBILEE WEEKEND – ITALIAN PASTORAL INITIATIVE NURTURES SENSE OF DIGNITY, SELF-WORTH IN YOUNG

A JUBILEE WEEKEND

We are now in the first full week of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis, of course, as we all witnessed, opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday, December 8, thus officially inaugurating the yearlong Jubilee. And this past weekend we saw some of the first events on the Holy Year agenda, including the Holy Father’s Eucharistic Celebration for Latin America in St. Peter’s on Saturday, December 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and his opening of the Holy Door at St. John Lateran, his cathedral church as the Bishop of Rome.

Also on Sunday, Cardinal James Harvey, archpriest of the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls opened the Holy Doors of this papal basilica. The only basilica yet to have its Holy Door opened is St. Mary Major, and that event will take place on January 1,  solemnity of the Mother of God.

At Saturday’s Mass for Latin America, Pope Francis said Mary “experienced the divine mercy, and hosted the very source of this mercy in her womb: Jesus Christ.” He said he hoped the Jubilee Year “will be a planting of merciful love in the hearts of individuals, families and nations.” Francis stressed that, “no sin can cancel [Jesus’] merciful closeness or prevent him from unleashing the grace of conversion, provided we invoke it.” He called on Christian communities be “oases and sources of mercy, witnesses to a charity that does not allow exclusions.”

Francis explained that the word “mercy” – “misericordia” – is composed of two words: misery and heart. The heart indicates the capacity to love; mercy is that love, which embraces the misery of the person. It is a love that “feels” our poverty as if it were its own, so as to free us of it.

At the end of his homily the Pope announced his February trip to Mexico, saying he will be at the Guadalupe shrine on February 13. After the homily and during the Prayer of the Faithful, Pope Francis moved everyone present when he prayed for his parents Mario and Regina, “who gave me life and transmitted faith to me,”and who were married eighty years ago.

Sunday, at St. John Lateran, as he opened the Holy Door, Francis remarked on the fact that this very same day bishops were opening Holy Doors in cathedrals throughout the world. He said that, “Doors of Mercy” will also be opened in places of poverty, need and marginalization.

The Holy Father said in his homily that this third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday, draws our gaze towards Christmas, which is now close. We cannot let ourselves be taken in by fatigue; sadness in any form is not allowed, even though we have reason to be, with many concerns and the many forms of violence that hurt our humanity. The coming of the Lord, however, must fill our hearts with joy.”

In a few off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis stressed the importance of God’s tenderness.

“God does not love rigidity. He is Father; He is tender; everything (is) done with the tenderness of the Father.”

Pope Francis called those who will cross the door to be “instruments of mercy, knowing that we will be judged on this.”

“The joy of crossing through the Door of Mercy is accompanied by a commitment to welcome and witness to a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no boundaries.”

To see where the Jubilee Doors of Mercy are in individual countries, click here: http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en/mondo/porte-della-misericordia.html

ITALIAN PASTORAL INITIATIVE NURTURES SENSE OF DIGNITY, SELF-WORTH IN YOUNG

Pope Francis Monday received the participants in a major pastoral initiative aimed at young people and sponsored by the Bishops Conference of Italy – the CEI. The Progetto Policoro began twenty years ago as a program to help unemployed young people of southern Italy to develop skills, find work, and most importantly, nurture a healthy sense of dignity and self-worth by creating and developing ties to the larger ecclesial and social community.

The Holy Father remarked that, in seeking to combine the Gospel with the reality of life, the Project represented an important initiative for the promotion of youth and a true opportunity for local development at national level. “Its key ideas have guided its success: the formation of the young, the establishment of cooperatives, the creation of mediation figures such as ‘community animators’ and a long series of concrete gestures, a visible sign of commitment throughout these twenty years of active presence.”

He told his guests, “You represent without doubt a sign of real hope for many people who have not resigned themselves but have instead decided to commit themselves courageously to creating or improving their opportunities for work”, and he invited them to “continue to promote initiatives for participation for young people in a community and participatory form.”

(sources: news.va, Vatican Radio, VIS)

 

THE LAITY NEED A BISHOP-PASTOR, NOT A BISHOP GUIDE – THE MONTH’S MIND MASS AND A CARDINAL’S GALERO

A wonderful tweet today from Pope Francis:  God is always waiting for us, he always understands us, he always forgives us.

I leave tomorrow afternoon for Turin where I’ll spend a few days visiting and in prayerful recollection before the Shroud of Turin, as it is exposed for only the eighth time since 1900. I’ll be joining Teresa Tomeo’s group in Turin as a visit to the Shroud is on their Italian itinerary.

In addition, tomorrow evening I’ll participate in a candelit procession to and Mass in the cathedral of Saint John as the city and diocese mark the 25th anniversary of the beatification of their “favorite son,” Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. I received a phone call yesterday from my friend, Wanda Gawronska, one of the children of Pier Giorgio’s sister Luciana. She and her brother Jas will be in Turin for tomorrow’s events, and we are trying to coordinate our travel plans and getting together in Turin for the procession. Pier Giorgio is buried in Turin’s cathedral, beneath an altar in the left aisle.

It was a quiet day for Pope Francis as he prepares for tomorrow’s general audience, but he was busy late yesterday afternoon when he addressed one of the annual meetings of the CEI, the Italian Episcopal Conference.  Below is a summary of that talk.

In addition I bring you some news from Chicago, a story I followed with great interest given that I was in the Windy City a few weeks ago for the funeral of my dear friend, Cardinal Francis George. Sunday marked the “month’s mind Mass” and the raising of the cardinal’s galero to the rafters of Holy Name cathedral.

THE LAITY NEED A BISHOP-PASTOR, NOT A BISHOP GUIDE

Pope Francis on Monday inaugurated the 68th assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference as the country’s bishops gather in the Vatican to analyze the reception of the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel). (ANSA photo at news.va)

POPE FRANCIS - CEI

He reminded the prelates that, “Our vocation is to listen when the Lord asks us: ‘Console my people’. Indeed, we are asked to console, to help, to encourage, without discrimination, all our brothers who are oppressed by the weight of their crosses, without ever tiring of working to lift them up again with the strength that comes only from God.”,

The Pope said that proclaiming the Gospel today at such a difficult moment in history, requires prelates to “go against the grain: or rather, to be joyful witnesses of the Risen Christ to transmit joy and hope to others.” We have to be Christ-like in our “sentiments of humility, compassion, concreteness and wisdom.”

This also means, said Francis, “not being timid … in denouncing and fighting against a widespread mentality of public and private corruption that shamelessly impoverishes families, pensioners, honest workers and Christian communities, discarding the young, who are systematically deprived of any hope for their future, and above all marginalising the weak and the needy. It is an ecclesial sensibility that, as good pastors, makes us go forth towards the People of God to defend them from ideological colonisations that take away their identity and human dignity.”

He noted that, in preparing documents for the faithful, “the abstract theoretical-doctrinal aspect must not prevail, as if our directions were intended …. only for a few scholars or specialists. Instead we must make the effort to translate them into concrete and comprehensible proposals.”

The Holy Father  explained that, “laypeople with an authentic Christian formation should not need a bishop-guide … to assume their own responsibilities at all levels, political to social, economic to legislative. However, they do need a bishop-pastor.”

Pope Francis emphasized the need for true collegiality – communion between bishops and their priests; communion between bishops themselves; between dioceses which are materially and vocationally rich and those in difficulty; between the periphery and the centee between episcopal conferences and the bishops and the Successor of Peter. …In some parts of the world we see a widespread weakening of collegiality, both in pastoral planning and in the shared undertaking of economic and financial commitments.”

The Pope then asked: “Why do we let religious institutes, monasteries and congregations age so much, almost to the point of no longer giving evangelical witness faithful to the founding charism? Why do we not try to regroup them before it is too late?”

THE MONTH’S MIND MASS AND A CARDINAL’S GALERO

Sunday marked the month anniversary of the death of Cardinal Francis George, former archbishop of Chicago, and a Mass known as the “month’s mind mass” was celebrated in Holy Name Cathedral, his episcopal seat for the 17 years he was archbishop. Cathedral, in fact, comes from the Latin “cathedra,” meaning seat or chair, and refers to the teaching and governing office of the bishop.

There is a red hat, once worn by cardinals but now in disuse, called a galero, a wide-brimmed hat with elegantly woven tassles hanging from it. Cardinal George had two galeros but never wore them. One was gift to him from the seminarians of Mundelein seminary and the second one was given to him by friends just months before his death on April 17. The cardinal’s galero:

CARDINAL GEORGE'S GALERO

One of the galeros, as of Sunday, now hangs from the ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral; the other will become part of a museum at Mundelein.

Fr. Dan Flens, a good friend of mine who was Cardinal George’s secretary for many years, sent me some links to the ceremony Sunday. Here is one link with some video of the rare but impressive ceremony in which the galero is hoisted to the rafters of the cathedral.

http://wgntv.com/2015/05/17/cardinal-georges-galero-lifted-to-the-rafters/

And here is a piece from the Chicago Tribune that also has some video: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-cardinal-george-red-hat-rising-met-20150517-story.html