Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Closed for Repairs

If you have tried to enter Rome’s basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where the body of St. Catherine of Siena lies, and you have found the doors closed, you might have to wait a few years to get back in! I have been in touch with Dominican friends and have learned that the ceiling had started to fall down at the Minerva so Italian government authorities have closed the basilica for repairs. It could be as much as a couple of years, but I heard they are planning to open the sanctuary very soon so people can enter and at least go there. I am not sure when or how that will happen. The Dominican friars who reside adjacent to the church will remain where they are.

The Chapel of Our Lady of San Marco

I came across this chapel a few Sundays ago as I was retuning home after Mass at St. Patrick’s in the center of Rome. I was in Pza. Venezia and transferring from one bus to another to get home. As I walked along Palazzo Venezia, I noticed an open door I had never before seen in all my decades in Rome. I glanced up and saw the Italian name above the door: Chapel of Our Lady of San Marcos!

I was amazed, and I walked in and fund myself in the presence of not just artistic beauty but the Blessed Sacrament on the altar! Two nuns and a handful of lay people were reciting the Angelus – it was indeed noon! I spoke to one of the nuns afterwards and learned that her congregation is the Daughters of the Church.

I went online to learn a bit more about this chapel. The very small and very ornate room you first enter is the original chapel. Also called La Madonnella (little Madonna) di San Marco, this is a late 17th century devotional chapel which was dismantled and inserted into the ground floor of the Palazzo Venezia, a 15th century edifice, in the 20th century. The separate entrance doorway is on the right hand side of the façade of the palazzo on the west side of the Piazza Venezia (the door I entered as you will see in my photos). The chapel is counted as attached to the basilica of San Marco.

The chapel opens just before 7 am and closes at noon, then re-opens at 4 until (I think) 7 pm.

The chapel’s profile was raised in 1957 when Mother Maria Oliva Bonaldo, foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Church established a small convent attached to San Marco, and the sisters have made the chapel a center of Eucharistic devotion. Another adjacent room in the palazzo was taken over and is used as a chapel for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. https://romanchurches.fandom.com/wiki/Madonnella_di_San_Marco

Gaudete Sunday to Mark 50th Anniversary of the Bambinelli Blessing

The third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, is the day that children of all ages and from all over Rome – and sometimes other towns and cities in Italy – bring their bambinelli, statues of the Baby Jesus, to be blessed by the Pope at the end of the Angelus. These statues will be placed in the cribs of nativity scenes – known as ‘crèches’ in French and ‘presepio’ in Italian, in homes and schools. Many a child holds up two or even three statues for the papal blessing as they bring a bambinello for a friend who could not make it to the Angelus.

This coming Sunday, when Pope Francis recites the Angelus, it will mark the 50th anniversary of the first time children brought their statues of Baby Jesus to St. Peter’s Square. In fact, it was December 21, 1969 that Pope St. Paul VI imparted for the very first time a papal blessing on the statues the children brought to the square.

A Serata for Charity

For decades the Catholic American community in Rome, first at Santa Susanna and now at St. Patrick’s, has held an annual fundraiser for a number of Roman charities on the first Saturday of December. A number of years ago what was a daytime bazaar became a gala serata, or evening, in an elegant atmosphere with dining, dancing, live and silent auctions and a raffle. In recent years all the monies raised have gone to 6 Roman charities.

The evening would never happen if it were not for the most amazing parishioners you’d ever want to meet – those who attend Masses in the chapel at Marymount International School (parents of those who attend MMI) and those who come to St. Patrick’s in the heart of Rome on Via Boncompagni.

The student dining room at MMI is turned into a glamorous venue for one night as you will see in a few of the early photos I took. Members of the SOC (Serata Organizing Committee) meet for many months during the year and for very long hours on the actual gala weekend, putting up, enjoying and then taking down all the decorations.

Our auctioneer par excellence is our wonderful, multi-talented pastor/rector, Paulist Fr. Greg Apparcel. He has been part of the American Catholic community in Rome for almost 20 years and this was probably his last serata. Fr. Steve Petroff is our new assistant rector and will capably take over the reins of the parish and the serata, among other duties, when Fr. Greg leaves.

A comment on two of the photos you will see: You will recognize Janet Morana in one picture dancing with Maria Lina Martin, an astonishing, very much with it, always smiling, enthusiastic 99-year old parishioner! Janet was at the Serata as was Bob Lalonde (who works with Priests for Life) and they were seated next to Maria Lina and kept up a running conversation. Another photo shows the SOC members grouped together at what is now an annual attraction – our photo booth. You can have serious pictures taken or wear one of the headpieces they provide or hold up a crazy sign.

I had interviewed Janet at my home at 5 pm for Vatican Insider, after which we all went to 6 pm Mass at St. Patrick’s (they were leaving early the next morning) and then on to the Serata!

I took just a few photos before a lot of guests arrived but then had to man the table where we were selling raffle tickets for an iPhone Pro and 2 wonderful trips.

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Learn more about this our parish and this special evening here: https://www.facebook.com/cacrome/

Come visit when you are in Rome! Sunday Masses in English at 9 am and 10:30, and coffee and cornetti and other sweets after the 10:30 Mass.

A Roman Restaurant and a Nativity Scene

You know very well, having heard it a thousand times, that one of my favorite restaurants, just 3 blocks from my home, is La Vittoria, owned and run by my friend Claudio and his wife Palmerina and one of their two sons, Leonardo, a great cook and waiter.

Among their Christmas decorations every years is their beloved Nativity scene. I always rejoice when I see it, and yet part of me feels sad as I feel this would not be welcome in America. Imagine the complaints by this or that political group or even individuals if they did not like a restaurant displaying a Nativity scene. We know that even a single, very loud complaint could bring down a Nativity scene!

Thank you, La Vittoria!



Just a few feet away from the Pantheon is the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (St. Mary over Minerva), built over, some say, a temple to Minerva (others say the goddess Isis). Located on the Via del Beato Angelico at Piazza Minerva, it is the only Gothic-style church in Rome. It is renowned for Fra Filippo Lippi’s masterpiece, “St. Thomas presenting Cardinal Carafa to the Blessed Virgin,” located over the altar in the main chapel of the transept.

The remains of St. Catherine of Siena, who was influential in bringing the papacy back to Rome after its years of exile in Avignon (1309-77), rest below the main altar (except for her head which is in the church of San Domenico in Siena). St. Catherine was a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic.

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I took only a few photos of the church last night – there is SO much to see that I’ll have to go back someday for more.  This description will whet your appetite, I believe.

To the left of this altar is a work by Michelangelo, “Christ carrying His Cross.” In a chapel on the left, beneath a perpetually burning light, are the remains of Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, better known as Fra Angelico. Often called the greatest sacred painter of Christianity, Fra Angelico died in 1455. In front of the church, and almost equally as famous, is the marble elephant sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1667, at the base of a small obelisk.



The church and adjoining convent served at various times throughout its history as the headquarters of the Dominicans, the Order of Preachers (OP). Today the headquarters are in their original location at the Roman convent of Santa Sabina. The Dominicans began building this church in 1280, modelling it on their church in Florence, Santa Maria Novella.


The sixth chapel on the left aisle is the Chapel of St Pius V. Pius V, who reigned from 1566 to 1572, was the first ever Dominican to be elected to the papacy. He started the tradition of popes wearing white because, when elected, he refused to wear new clothes, instead retaining the traditional white habit of the Dominicans. The color white made it easier for people to identity the pope in a sea of prelates, and white thus became the permanent color of papal cassocks.

Below the altar are the relics of a relatively obscure martyr, Santa Vittoria. Her clothed wax effigy is that of a child, and is in a glass-fronted box.

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