I thank the Lord every morning when I get up for giving me another day – a day to enjoy his creations, my home and family, a day to be with friends, to travel, dine, laugh and share stories with those near and dear to me and, very importantly, to work to teach about and build His Church. A day to experience the thousandfold blessings that seem to envelope me every day of my life!

Today I am giving extra special thanks to the Lord because it has been an extra special birthday every moment since awakening. I spent part of he morning reading over 150 cards and email messages and opening a gift from a friend in the U.S. That was followed by a hair trim at noon, and I wonder how many of you have a hairdresser who would give you this for your birthday! Heart-shaped Margarita pizza with “Best Wishes Joan” in mozzarella!


I then joined a group of friends and, as it turns out, fans of my work on EWTN and my book on the Holy Year at La Vittoria restaurant where, for many years now, I have always had my birthday lunch. Bob Moynihan of Inside the Vatican, his right hand gal, Debbie Tomlinson and Michael Hesemann have been in Rome and are leaving late this afternoon for Bavaria, Germany, where they and a small pilgrimage group will be visiting towns associated with Pope emeritus Benedict, né Joseph Ratzinger’s youth. If I’d not already explored these marvelous towns, I’d be jealous!

La Vittoria’s owner, my good friends Claudio and his wife Palmerina, gave me these magnificent flowers! You may well remember the big birthday bash I had a year ago at La Vittoria!



I also received others gifts, including a bottle of red wine from Armenia from Michael and a delightful summer straw hat in this great bag from Bob’s group.



Tons of fun and laughter and photos and stories – and that was just by lunch time. Celebrations continue!

PS. I just checked and I have about 150 more emails and cards to read!


At today’s special Jubilee audience in a very hot St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis focused on the Works of Mercy, saying mercy is real and true when it is lived and practiced.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters: During this Holy Year of Mercy, we have not only considered the gift of God’s mercy in itself, but also the works of mercy which we are called to practice as part of the Christian life. To paraphrase Saint James, we can say that mercy without works is dead. To be merciful like God our Father demands constant sensitivity to the needs, material and spiritual, of those around us. Jesus himself tells us in no uncertain terms that we will be judged by the mercy we show to the poor: those who hunger and thirst, the naked, the stranger, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:35-36).

“Particularly in our prosperous societies, Christians are called to guard against the temptation of indifference to the plea of so many of our brothers and sisters.  In our rapidly changing and increasingly globalized world, many new forms of poverty are appearing. In response to them, may we prove creative in developing new and practical forms of charitable outreach as an expression of the way of mercy.”

At the end of his catechesis in English, he spoke of his trip to Armenia and announced further travel plans:

“This past weekend I made a Pastoral Visit to Armenia, the first nation to embrace the Christian faith and a people which has remained faithful even in the midst of great trials. I also plan to go to Georgia and Azerbaijan in the near future, to affirm the ancient Christian roots of those countries and to support every effort to encourage peace and reconciliation in a spirit of respect for all.  With gratitude for the welcome and fellowship showed me by the Armenian Apostolic Church, I ask the Virgin Mary to strengthen Christians everywhere to remain firm in the faith and to work for a society of ever greater justice and peace.”