It has been a while, a year, since I’ve taken some vacation time so I am looking forward to boarding my flight tomorrow to spend some time in several states with family and friends.

I start my visit with some time in Chicago, principally to attend a gala investiture weekend with my fellow Dames and Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.  I was one of the keynote speakers last year at their investiture in Cincinnati. I was invested in Rome but was recently invited to be a member of the wonderful, dynamic North Central Lieutenancy of the Order.

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I can never spend enough time in Chicago – so many great memories of growing up in the suburb of Oak Park but going downtown with classmates or with my family to visit museums, the Art Institute, the Planetarium, and to visit and perhaps shop on the celebrated Magnificent Mile.

I always stop by Lewis Towers, built about 100 years ago. A great uncle, Frank J. Lewis, bought the building at one point and it was renamed Lewis Towers.  From the website:

Built for the Illinois Women’s Athletic Club in 1926, the building originally known as Tower Court had a pool, bowling alley, and gymnasium in addition to offices and lodging. During World War II the US Naval Reserve Misdhipmen’s School used the building to train officers and provide cover for a counter-espionage unit. In 1946 philanthropist Frank J. Lewis purchased the building and gifted it to Loyola University. Renamed Lewis Towers, 2,000 students arrived at the new downtown campus for the fall of 1946. Lewis Towers housed offices, classrooms, and the Julia Deal Lewis Library (Lewis Library).

Today it houses offices and classrooms of Loyola University Chicago as well as offices of the Illinois Club for Catholic Women, founded by my great-Aunt Julia in 1958.

In searching for a specific date about Uncle Frank, I came across this great site. I’ve corresponded with officials at Lewis University for years but have yet to visit!

When I think of Chicago, I always think of family – pardon my little history lesson!

Speaking of family, I so look forward to visiting several states, and to seeing my sister, sister-in-law and my dozens of nieces and nephews and great-nieces and -nephews. And maybe a new one while I’m there!

I’ll be back before you know it, se Dio vuole (Lord willing), as the Italians say!


Don’t forget to tune in this weekend to VATICAN INSIDER. There are so many ways you can listen to my weekend program: IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

Below is a piece about the papal audience today to members of the Consulta of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. I am honored to be a Dame of that Order, especially because what the members around the world do in and for the Holy Land is absolutely astonishing. To learn more about us, here is a link to the official website of the Order:

The symbol of the Order, a symbol embroidered on the white capes of the knights and the black capes of the dames, is the celebrated Jerusalem Cross. There are two interpretations to the design of the Jerusalem Cross: One is that the five crosses represent the five wounds of Christ. The second is that the large Cross represents the Crucifixion and the four smaller ones represent the four corners of the earth to which Christ sent His Apostles after the Resurrection.

I have this cross on my desk. In the center is soil from the Holy Land.


As the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre concludes its ‘Consulta’, Pope Francis encouraged the knights and dames to root their charitable works in prayer and to assist persecuted Christians.

Pope Francis addressed members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem on Friday at the end of its 4-day Consulta. (photo vaticannews)

The Consulta is the Equestrian Order’s general assembly, which takes place every 5 years. Ranking members gather in Rome “to discuss the great questions of the Order’s mission and life.”

American Cardinal Edwin O’Brien is the Grand Master of the Order, appointed by the Holy Father.

Pope Francis took the opportunity to highlight “the dramatic situation of Christians who are persecuted and killed in ever-greater numbers.”

He also called attention to a type of “white martyrdom, like, for example, that type which occurs in democratic countries when religious freedom is limited.”

He exhorted the knights and dames of the Holy Sepulchre to offer both “material aid” and “prayer, constantly invoking the Blessed Virgin, whom you venerate under the title of ‘Our Lady of Palestine’. She is the caring Mother and Help of Christians, for whom she obtains strength and comfort in pain from the Lord.”

Path to peace
Pope Francis also thanked the Equestrian Order for supporting the Church’s pastoral and cultural initiatives.

“I encourage you to continue your commitment, alongside the Latin Patriarchate, to addressing the refugee crisis that has led the Church over the past five years to provide a significant humanitarian response throughout the [Middle East].”

He congratulated the Order for opening its educational initiatives and health programs to all people, “independently of the community they belong to and the religion they profess.”

The Pope said this openness helps “pave the way for the recognition of Christian values, the promotion of inter-religious dialogue, mutual respect, and reciprocal understanding.”

Pope Francis said the Order’s work contributes to achieving peace in the Middle East.

Spiritual growth of members
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre is present in more than 30 nations and areas around the world, providing education and formation programs.

Pope Francis said the Order’s primary aim is related to “the spiritual growth of its members”. Each knight and dame, he said, should take part in religious formation programs, “so that each member may consolidate their indispensable relationship with the Lord Jesus, especially in prayer, meditation on Holy Scripture, and studying the doctrine of the Church.”

He invited the Order’s leaders “to offer an example of intense spiritual life and concrete adhesion to the Lord. …Do not forget that you are not a philanthropic organization, whose aim is to improve the material and social standing of those you assist.”

The Holy Father said members of the Holy Sepulchre Order are called focus their efforts “on the evangelical love of neighbor, so as to bear witness everywhere to the goodness and care with which God loves every person.”

At the conclusion of the audience, Pope Francis blessed an icon of “Our Lady, Help of Persecuted Christians”.

“Let us together invoke Mary’s care for the Church in the Holy Land and more generally in the Middle East, together with her special intercession for those whose lives and freedoms are in danger.” (vaticannews)


I found today’s catechesis on the seventh commandment as interesting as the previous papal general audience catecheses on the Ten Commandments for one main reason. Pope Francis seems to be looking at both sides of each commandment, that is to say, he explores the “Thou Shall not” part, but also looks at the other side of a commandment, he looks at what one “shall” do.

I remember when I worked at the Vatican Information Service and we wrote our own headlines for the Vatican and papal stories we summarized for each day’s news service, it was emphasized at the start of VIS in 1990 that we should always try to emphasize the positive, even if news was negative. Thus, instead of writing “Pope decries abortion,” our headline would read “Pope embraces pro-life work.“ Do that enough, it was thought (or hoped!) and people will probably think positive, instead of negative.


Continuing his catechesis on the Ten Commandments at Wednesday’s general audience in St- Peter’s Square, Pope Francis focused on the seventh commandment: “You shall not steal.” (photo vaticannews)

In his catechesis, Pope Francis noted that there is no culture that does not condemn theft and the misuse of our possessions. But, he says, it is worthwhile to reflect more deeply on the theme of ownership “in light of Christian wisdom.”

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Pope said, “the goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. … this universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.”

In a world where there are so many differences, so many differences of conditions, God has provided resources in such a way that all human beings must help one another in order to ensure that everyone’s primary needs can be met. “If there is hunger in the world, it is not for lack of food!” he stressed. “What is lacking is a free and far-seeing entrepreneurship, that ensures adequate production, and a solidarity based approach that ensures an equitable distribution.”

This, Pope Francis says, is the perspective that allows us to understand the deeper and fuller meaning of the commandment “You shall not steal.” Ownership, he says, is a responsibility; we can only truly possess “that which we know how to give.” If there are things that we cannot give away, “it is because those things possess me, have power over me, and I am a slave to it.”

Here, the Pope says, we can once more look to the example of Christ Himself, who, “though He was God, ‘did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself’; and He has enriched us with His poverty.” While humanity continually strives for more, “God redeems humanity by becoming poor.” What makes us truly rich, Pope Francis says, “is not goods, but love.”

The Holy Father concluded his catechesis with the reflection that “once more Jesus Christ reveals to us the full meaning of the Scriptures. ‘You shall not steal’ means ‘love with your goods, profit by your means to love as you can. Then your life will become good and the possession will truly become a gift. Because life is not a time for possessing but for forgiving.’”


A press conference at the Holy See Press Office was held on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming Consulta of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
The Consulta of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is the Order’s main advisory body and is convened every five years. All the highest offices of the Order are represented including, the Cardinal Grand Master, the Grand Magisterium, the Lieutenants and the Magistral Delegates. A representative from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and a representative of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches also attend.

Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, is pictured near a replica of Blessed John Paul II’s crosier and other personal mementos in his residence at the Vatican Nov. 24. Cardinal O’Brien left Rome Nov. 26 for a week-long visit to the Holy Land, his first as grand master of the order. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (Nov. 26, 2012) See OBRIEN-TRIP Nov. 26, 2012.The main aim of the Order “is to strengthen among its members the practice of Christian life, to sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which also includes Cyprus and Jordan, thus supporting the Christian presence in the Lands of the Bible.”

An Instrumentum Laboris or working document is being drafted by a special commission that the Order says, “will help to direct the reflection of the participants, who will receive it before the meeting.”

Consulta Agenda
Participating at Wednesday’s press conference at the Holy See Press Office was Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, appointed Grand Master by Pope Benedict in 2011. Following the briefing he spoke to Vatican News about the agenda for the upcoming Consulta. “During this meeting we want to be sure we’re on the same page when it comes to the formation of our members and that starts with our Lieutenants… So it is our intention in this Consulta to review our new statutes and to see what role the Lieutenant should play in serving his membership.”

Education focus
During the conference the cardinal spoke about not wanting to see areas of the Middle East become like museums with people leaving their lands to find a better life elsewhere. Asked about this during the interview, the Grand Master said they were putting a focus on education. “Education is no less important in the Holy Land, in Palestine, even more important there because so many things that which they are deprived are beyond their reach, but we want to make education available to all of them and it is something the local pastors take very seriously.”

Cardinal O’Brien went on to say that the Order does its best to support the Pastors of the area and the Bishops “to become one with the people, to identify with their pains and with their needs; to give them some hope, some joy… and these are very important elements for stability.”

The Consulta will take place in Rome from November 13 to 16. (vaticannews)


This past weekend was one of the most remarkable of my entire life as I became a Dama, a Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Friday at St. Mary Major Basilica, I joined seven women and 37 men who would be received into the Order the following day right before Mass at St. John Lateran. On Friday there was a prayer vigil and the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Liturgy of the Word, a reading by all of us, future Ladies and Knights, of promises to the Order and the blessings of our capes and decorations.

Saturday, at St. John Lateran, the actual rite of investiture took place during which we received our decorations, had our capes placed on our shoulders and the women had their veils placed on their head.

Every moment of each day was extraordinary. By the end of Mass Saturday I truly felt like I had just taken religious vows and, in a way, that is what happens when you are received into this Order. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Order of Malta are the only two chivalric Orders under the protection of the Holy See. Women in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre are called “Ladies,” whereas in Malta they are called Dames.

EWTN covered the entire ceremony Saturday and one of my colleagues took some photos afterwards. The Vatican’s photographer from the L’Osservatore Romano was the official photographer for each ceremony but those photos are not yet ready. When they are ready, I will post a few and give a more detailed explanation of both the ceremonies and what my mind and heart felt those days.

Here are a few photos from my CNA colleague:



Today was an important day for the communications offices of the Holy See and a big day for the Number One communicator, Pope Francis!

The Vatican published some nominations over the weekend, two of which are especially important for English-speaking personnel of the Roman Curia: Bishop-elect Paul Tighe and Greg Burke. The third nomination was a promotion of an Italian within the CTV, The Vatican television Center:

Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, was named adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture and elevated to the dignity of bishop. Gregory Burke, currently communications adviser at the Secretariat of State, was appointed deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, effective February 1, 2016. and Stefano D’Agostini, Italy, technical head of the Vatican Television (CTV), as director of the CTV. (Here’s a great story from L’Osservatore Romano about Greg:

As for Pope Francis, he delivered a lengthy address this morning during his annual exchange of Christmas wishes with ranking officials of the Roman Curia and then, in the Paul VI Hall, welcomed employees of the Roman Curia and Vatican City, along with family members.


Pope Francis greeted the ranking members of the Roman Curia in the Clementine Hall this morning before delivering his annual Christmas remarks and asked them to forgive him for sitting down to speak: “I am not feeling that well, I think I have a touch of the flu,” he said.

In reality, Francis gave no sign of feeling poorly, speaking with feeling and with gestures. And after his talk he went around the room to individually greet the assembled prelates.


Following are some of the highlights of that Christmas talk:

The Pope began by saying, “I am pleased to offer heartfelt good wishes for a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your co-workers, to the Papal Representatives, and in particular to those who in the past year have completed their service and retired.

He noted that in his 2013 talk, “I wanted to stress two important and inseparable aspects of the work of the Curia: professionalism and service. Last year, as a preparation for the sacrament of Reconciliation, we spoke of certain temptations or “maladies” – the “catalogue of curial diseases” – which could affect any Christian, curia, community, congregation, parish or ecclesial movement.”

Francis said, “Some of these diseases became evident in the course of the past year, causing no small pain to the entire body and harming many soul,” an allusion to the Vatileaks 2 scandal.

The Pope stated, vis-à-vis-the Curia, that, “the reform will move forward with determination, clarity and firm resolve, since Ecclesia semper reformanda.

“Nonetheless,” he went on, “diseases and even scandals cannot obscure the efficiency of the services rendered to the Pope and to the entire Church by the Roman Curia, with great effort, responsibility, commitment and dedication, and this is a real source of consolation.”

“It would be a grave injustice not to express heartfelt gratitude and needed encouragement to all those good and honest men and women in the Curia who work with dedication, devotion, fidelity and professionalism, offering to the Church and the Successor of Peter the assurance of their solidarity and obedience, as well as their constant prayers.”

Pope Francis highlighted the need “to return to the essentials, which means being ever more conscious of ourselves, of God and our neighbours, of the sensus Ecclesiae and the sensus fidei.  It is about this return to essentials that I wish to speak today, just a few days after the Church’s inauguration of the pilgrimage of the Holy Year of Mercy.”

The Pope said he wanted “to present a practical aid for fruitfully experiencing this season of grace.  It is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of needed virtues for those who serve in the Curia and for all those who would like to make their consecration or service to the Church more fruitful.” Francis said he hoped the following list of 12 virtues would “serve as our guide and beacon.” (I have abbreviated his remarks on each virtue)

1.        Missionary and pastoral spirit: missionary spirit is what makes the Curia evidently fertile and fruitful; it is proof of the effectiveness, efficiency and authenticity of our activity.

2.        Idoneity and sagacity: idoneity, or suitability, entails personal effort aimed at acquiring the necessary requisites for exercising as best we can our tasks and duties with intelligence and insight.  It does not countenance “recommendations” and payoffs.  Sagacity is the readiness to grasp and confront situations with shrewdness and creativity.”

3.        Spirituality and humanity: spirituality is the backbone of all service in the Church and in the Christian life.  It is what nourishes all our activity, sustaining and protecting it from human frailty and daily temptation.  Humanity is what embodies the truthfulness of our faith; those who renounce their humanity renounce everything.”

4.        Example and fidelity: Blessed Paul VI reminded the Curia of “its calling to set an example.” An example of avoiding scandals which harm souls and impair the credibility of our witness.  Fidelity to our consecration, to our vocation, always mindful of the words of Christ, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much;”

5.        Rationality and gentleness: rationality helps avoid emotional excesses, while gentleness helps avoid an excess of bureaucracy, programmes and planning. These qualities are necessary for a balanced personality.”

6.        Innocuousness and determination: innocuousness makes us cautious in our judgments and capable of refraining from impulsive and hasty actions.  It is the ability to bring out the best in ourselves, in others and in all kinds of situations by acting carefully and attentively. … Determination is acting with a resolute will, clear vision, obedience to God and solely for the supreme law of the salus animarum.”

7.        Charity and truth: two inseparable virtues of the Christian life, “speaking the truth in charity and practising charity in truth.”

8.        Honesty and maturity: honesty is rectitude, consistency and absolute sincerity with regard both to ourselves and to God. … Maturity is the quest to achieve balance and harmony in our physical, mental and spiritual gifts.  It is the goal and outcome of a never-ending process of development which has nothing to do with age.”

9.        Respectfulness and humility: respectfulness is an endowment of those noble and tactful souls who always try to show genuine respect for others, for their own work, for their superiors and subordinates, for dossiers and papers, for confidentiality and privacy, who can listen carefully and speak politely. Humility is the virtue of the saints and those godly persons who become all the more important as they come to realize that they are nothing, and can do nothing, apart from God’s grace.

10.    Diligence and attentiveness: the more we trust in God and His providence, the more we grow in diligence and readiness to give of ourselves, in the knowledge that the more we give the more we receive. ,.. Attentiveness is concern for the little things, for doing our best and never yielding to our vices and failings.”

11.    Intrepidness and alertness: being intrepid means fearlessness in the face of troubles, like Daniel in the den of lions, or David before Goliath. … Alertness, on the other hand, is the ability to act freely and easily, without being attached to fleeting material things.”

12.    Trustworthiness and sobriety: trustworthy persons are those who honour their commitments with seriousness and responsibility when they are being observed, but above all when they are alone; … Sobriety is prudence, simplicity, straightforwardness, balance and temperance.  Sobriety is seeing the world through God’s eyes and from the side of the poor.”.

“And so,” concluded Pope Francis, “may mercy guide our steps, inspire our reforms and enlighten our decisions.  May it be the basis of all our efforts.  May it teach us when to move forward and when to step back.  May it also enable us to understand the littleness of all that we do in God’s greater plan of salvation and his majestic and mysterious working.”


(VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall Pope Francis exchanged Christmas greetings with the employees of the Holy See and Vatican City State, and their families.

Francis thanked all present for their work and for their efforts in doing all things well, even when there is no recognition. He addressed in particular those who have carried out the same type of work for many years, acknowledging that routine is not always easy to accept because “we are not machines … At times we need an incentive, or to change a little. … Thank you! Let us continue to go ahead, in our various workplaces, collaborating with patience and endeavouring to help each other.”

The Holy Father also apologized for the scandals that have taken place in the Vatican. “But I would like my and your attitude, especially in these days, to be that of prayer: praying for those involved so that they may repent and return to a righteous path.”

“There is another thing I wish to say to you, possibly the most important: I encourage you to take care of your marriage and your children. Look after them, do not neglect them. Marriage is like a plant. It is not like a cupboard that you put in a room and perhaps dust every now and then. A plant is living and must be cared for every day. … Marriage is a living reality: the life of a couple must never be taken for granted, in any phase during the progress of a family. Let us remember that the most valuable gift for children … is their parents’ love. And I do not mean only the love of parents for their children, but also the love between parents themselves, that is, the conjugal bond. This is good for you and for your children,”

“Therefore, first and foremost cultivate the plant of marriage, as spouses, and at the same time take care of the relationship with your children; here too, focus on the human relationship rather than material things. Focus on mercy in your daily relations, between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters; and take care of grandparents. The Jubilee must be lived also in the domestic church, not only in major events! The Lord love those who practice mercy in ordinary situations. This is my wish for you: to experience the joy of mercy, starting with your family. Happy Christmas!”