VATICAN INSIDER: ELIYO, AN ASSYRIAN VOICE FOR THE PERSECUTED – FRANCIS IS FIRST POPE TO VISIT A STATE-RUN UNIVERSITY – SANTA MARIA IN COSMEDIN

Pope Francis tweeted today: A youthful heart does not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference.

VATICAN INSIDER: ELIYO, AN ASSYRIAN VOICE FOR THE PERSECUTED

Last December I attended an ecumenical Christmas concert in the Vatican in support of Christian refugees from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The guest of honor was Eliyo – the professional name of Sarah Ego, an Assyrian Orthodox singer who was born in Augsburg, Germany. Sarah sang traditional German Christian chorals, several songs in Aramaic, Schubert’s Ave Maria in Latin and several Christmas carols in English. Sarah speaks Aramaic, in fact, at home, as you will hear her explain in this conversation we had when she returned to Rome recently for a quick visit. We talk about her background, her origins, her grasp of five languages, and her aspirations. So stay tuned ….

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In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

FRANCIS IS FIRST POPE TO VISIT A STATE-RUN UNIVERSITY

This morning, Pope Francis visited Università Roma Tre, a state-run university, the first Pope ever to do so. The 25-year old university has a reputation for its teaching and research, but is also known for its so called “third mission,” that is, attention to the social problems of Italy’s capital city. Pope Francis principally spoke off the cuff and answered questions from students. He meeting was televised and carried by Vatican Radio. One student and her husband were brought to Italy from the island of Lesbos on the papal plane when Pope Francis made a one day visit last year to refugees on this Greek island.

The Vatican Radio summary of that talk is here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-to-university-students-keep-hope-aliv

SANTA MARIA IN COSMEDIN

My visit to this lovely, ancient and rather small basilica on February 14 was so impromptu that I did not think of going online to first research a bit of history. I remembered to bring my camera, of course, as you will see from the photos that follow, but knowing some history would have been helpful for the Facebook Live video that I did while visiting the chapel containing the head (skull) of St. Valentine was on a a whim as well.

I did go online today and present the following brief history, as well as my own photos of the basilica.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin is the Byzantine Rite church for Melkite Catholics in Rome, as well as a minor basilica of the 9th century. Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is located at Piazza della Bocca della Verità 18. It is no longer a parish church, and although officially titular it has not had a resident cardinal for some time.

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The name Cosmedin comes from the Greek word “kosmidion,” meaning ornamented, thanks to its beautifully decorated interior. Nowadays, the church is practically bare, although it still has some magnificent elements such as the floor mosaics, the bishop’s chair, the baldachin and the medieval choir enclosure.

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Another treasure worth discovering is the glass shrine with the skull of St Valentine, patron saint of love, located on the left side of the church.

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The restored Medieval façade has a portico with seven arches, in which visitors queue to place their hand in the mouth of the legendary Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth). Legend has it that if a person places his or her hand in the mouth of the statue and lies, the mouth will close and cut their hand off.

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Next to the church’s porch is an impressive Romanesque bell tower built during the twelfth century.

Crypt: The crypt, constructed in the eighth century, is located beneath the altar and was built to store the relics taken from the catacombs by Pope Adrian I. The crypt is shaped like a small basilica. The sidewalls have several niches, each with shelves made of marble, where the different relics are displayed.
https://www.rome.net/santa-maria-cosmedin

The marble-workers of Rome (marmorarii Romani) active in the 12th and 13th centuries produced, among other things, stunning floors in Roman basilicas (perhaps you noticed them if you’ve been to Rome). In fact, I mention the words cosmatesque and cosmati often in my book, A Holy Year in Rome, because these are the terms used to describe the characteristic use of polychrome marble and mosaic inlay by these Roman artists. Those terms, I have been told, refer to the Cosma family, the “first family” of marble cutters who invented this style of flooring. I learned from research that the Cosmatus (Cosma) was a Roman family, seven members of which, for four generations, were skilful architects, sculptors and workers in decorative geometric mosaic, mostly for church floors.

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With my visit Tuesday to Santa Maria in Cosmedin, I think I’ve found my favorite church for cosmatesque art, almost a kaleidoscope of colors, as you will see in my photos:

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IRISH BISHOP BLESSES ENGAGED COUPLE AT SHRINE OF ST. VALENTINE

I posted a musical animated Valentine Day card on my FB page but don’t know how to place it in this column so you’ll just have to go to Facebook (com/joan.lewis.10420) and click on the image – here’s the wish I made with that card: It’s a piece of cake to wish my family, friends and many fans around the world a very sweet Valentine’s Day! Many heartfelt wishes for a splendid day! Thank you for being part of my life!

As I read Bishop Nulty’s letter (below) I realized I did not know that St. Valentine’s skull was preserved in Santa Maria in Cosmedin so I decided on a whim to visit that church this afternoon and take some photos. Although I did not know it when I boarded a bus to get to Santa Maria, there was an improvised demonstration near Pza. Navona today and that tied up traffic for quite a while a while. I waited things out and eventually got to the church, although I probably could have gone to Florence and back by train in the same time frame!

My visit to this ancient jewel of a church was the absolute highlight of my day! And it was a truly splendid day in Rome, weather-wise! Made for walking and sightseeing and eating gelato and dining al fresco and enjoying Roman parks and monuments and fountains. By now, you may have even seen the Facebook Live of this chapel and church that I did on a whim – beautiful moments! Tonight I’ll post only the photos of the St. Valentine chapel and relics ….more to come tomorrow.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin – St. Valentine Chapel

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 I have great childhood memories of Valentine’s Day, and I have the feeling that countless numbers of you had the same school experiences that we had as youngsters, namely, you brought a card for each member of your class on which you wrote you very best friend’s name – and you had dozens of BFFs –and these were all exchanged in a brief moment of free time during the school day. The local five and dime sold boxes of 50 or more cards for perhaps a dollar and your Mother bought a good number of boxes so that each member of the family had the several dozen cards needed for their respective class.

In many cases, there were no envelopes: the cards were simple – a design on one side, words of endearment on the other and it was on that side that you wrote your classmate’s name and signed the card.

If there were cards left over, we gave them to family members, though most of the time Mom and Dad merited a separate, individual card, usually handmade. If we received an allowance, chances are such cards were store bought.

At dinner on February 14, in addition to red flowers or some other decoration on the table, Mom always placed a decorated shoe box with a big slit on the middle into which we would put all the cards for our family, cards we made after having spent hours in our bedrooms, with doors closed so our stunning handicraft would be a surprise! Mom opened the box and then called out individual names as she read the cards. We all pretended to be surprised at receiving so many cards! Another natural part of a Valentine Day dinner was a heart-shaped dessert and dozens of those small hard candies with romantic sayings stamped on them.

In our family, as we grew up, each of us had what we called our “box of things,” boxes filled with Valentine cards, school mementoes, birthday and Christmas cards, letters from boy- or girl friends (I even had a pen pal in Italy and have not been able to locate her!), dance cards, etc.” As my siblings and I went through my Dad’s “boxes of things” after he died, we found dozens of his gorgeous Valentine cards to my Mom. And we found more, years later, when Mom died – her letters to him. I still have a number of those!

As I wish each of you a Happy Valentine’s Day, my hope is that you have similar wonderful memories that you can put into your “box of things.”

IRISH BISHOP BLESSES ENGAGED COUPLE AT SHRINE OF ST. VALENTINE

A lovely St. Valentine’s Day story from Ireland where Bishop Denis Nulty presided at the blessing of an engaged couple at the Shrine of Saint Valentine in the historic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the heart of Dublin city.

Bishop Nulty began his remarks by noting that in late January, he and his brother bishops from Ireland were in Rome on their ad limina visit.

He noted that, “Two particular memories from those most memorable days in Rome, have a direct connection to what we are about here at the Shrine containing the holy relics of Saint Valentine in the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  The first one relates to a question asked by Cardinal Kevin Farrell at a meeting we attended with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.  The second involved a per chance visit to the eighth century Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.”

Bishop Nulty explained that, “Cardinal Kevin Farrell heads the new dicastery which holds within its brief the World Meeting of Families, and this pastoral celebration will be hosted in Dublin from 22 – 26 August 2018.  The Cardinal, a native of Dublin, was keen to hear what kind of preparation courses or programmes couples undertake as they approach the sacrament of marriage here in Ireland.  His question allowed me, as President of ACCORD, Catholic Marriage Care Service, to speak of the great work done throughout the country by the ACCORD family, work that includes the marriage counselling and marriage preparation work; but work that encompasses an ever increasing demand for our Schools Programme.”

He then recounted his Rome experience: “And now to that per chance visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, my visit was on the final afternoon of our Ad Limina visit.  On the left side of the Basilica I found an altar with a glass reliquary containing the skull of Saint Valentine.  While the Carmelite Father John Spratt was richly rewarded for his preaching in the famous ‘Gesu’ in Rome by Pope Gregory XVI by receiving the gift of the relic containing the sacred body of Saint Valentine and a small vessel tinged with his blood; his skull obviously remained in Rome!  His head may be in Rome, but his heart is here in Dublin!  As I stood and prayed at the Shrine, just like here in Whitefriar Street Church, I noticed many young couples calling in, holding hands, lighting a candle or offering a prayer.

The bishop said that, “In The Joy of Love, Pope Francis urges the universal Church to make more of Saint Valentine’s Day: “In some countries, commercial interests are quicker to see the potential of this celebration than we in the Church” (par 208).  In this respect I am delighted to refer to the initiative offered for Saint Valentine’s Day this year by the team behind the preparations for next year’s World Meeting of Families, and these are the six gift tokens which can be given to your loved one this very day.  The tokens suggest a technology free evening; setting aside time for prayer; going for a hand-in-hand walk together; a special dinner cooked by one of the couple; loads of tender hugs and a journey down memory lane to remember how the couple met and how their love has grown.  The tokens are free and are available from every ACCORD centre, as well as in cathedrals, Veritas stores and at Knock Shrine.  A novel and romantic idea!”

Bishop Nulty pointed out how, in today’s world, “sadly, technology can cause huge damage to relationships.  Years ago the text, the tweet, the Snapchat app, Instagram, Whatsapp were not even considerations in counselling, but today they contribute hugely to the fractured narrative that unfolds in many counselling sessions.  What was said in that tweet; the picture that was shared on social media; the reactive immediate response on snapchat can do enormous damage to a relationship, to trust and to the individual themselves.

“On behalf of ACCORD, I wish every blessing on Carol and Tim whose engagement rings I blessed a short time ago at the Shrine of Saint Valentine.  I include a blessing and best wishes on all couples preparing for marriage presently and a special prayer and thought for those availing of our counselling services.  This annual blessing ceremony allows us in ACCORD to reflect on the valuable contribution marriage and stable families offer the wider society.”

Together with Saint Valentine we pray:

O glorious advocate and protector Saint Valentine,

Look with pity upon our wants,

Hear our requests,

Attend to our prayers.

Relieve by your intercession the miseries under which we labour,

And obtain for us the divine blessing,

That we may be found worthy to join you

In praising the Almighty for all eternity,

Through the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.