POPE FRANCIS, ROMAN CURIA, START ANNUAL LENTEN RETREAT – A NEW YORK PASTOR ON THE “SPLENDID 40 DAYS OF LENT”

I leave tomorrow morning, God willing, for Krakow, Poland where I’ll be spending time interviewing people who knew St. John Paul II and visiting sites linked to his life. I have set up a number of appointments to talk to priests, prelates, university rectors and lay people for my book on the late Pope, “I Made Cookies for a Saint.” I’ve been to Poland a number of times and especially love Krakow and am looking forward to a marvelous stay and some terrific conversations and insights.

I had an appointment here in Rome last Friday with Polish Ambassador to the Holy See, Janusz Kotansk, and he is immensely enthusiastic about the book and had a lot of suggestions for my visit. He has promised to help me find a qualified translator so the book can also be published in Polish.

I’ll do what I can to write something for this column every day, and will try on a daily basis to publish photos, FB Live, etc. on Facebook. Pope Francis and ranking members of the curia are on retreat this week but I’ll keep you posted on breaking news.

Pope Francis always asks us to remember him in our prayers – I ask the same of you!

Sunday Pope Francis tweeted: I ask, please, for your prayers for me and my collaborators, who until Friday will be on retreat.

Today’s Station Church in Rome is San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter’s in Chains): https://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-1/monday-san-pietro-in-vincoli/

This is the titular church of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/sanpietroinvincoli.htm

POPE FRANCIS, ROMAN CURIA, START ANNUAL LENTEN RETREAT

Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. These annual spiritual exercises usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday. They are being held in Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, at the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers. (photo news.va)

pope-retreat

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG

The Pope mentioned the retreat at the Sunday Aneglus and asked the faithful to pray for him and his collaborators. He also tweeted the same request.

Franciscan Friar Giulio Michelini will lead the spiritual exerfcises on the theme of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew.

In this period, all of the Pope’s audiences, including Wednesday’s general audience, are suspended. Retreatants will return to the Vatican on Friday.

The Sunday schedule included Eucharistic adoration at 6 pm, vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:

  • –         7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
  • –         8.00 am, breakfast
  • –         9.30 am, first meditation
  • –         11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
  • –         12.30 lunch
  • –         4 pm, second meditation
  • –         6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
  • –         6.45 pm, vespers
  • –         7.30 pm, dinner

A NEW YORK PASTOR ON THE “SPLENDID 40 DAYS OF LENT”

From Fr. George W. Rutler – St. Michael’s Church – March 5, 2017
A “psychic reader” near our church has a sign telling what bell to ring for her to open the door. If I ever have the chance, I shall ask why, if she has psychic abilities, does she need a doorbell? Superstition is a sin against holy religion, and one can look for meaning in numbers to the point of excess, which is one form of superstition. But God’s historical involvement with us seems intertwined with certain numerical configurations that can be hard to ignore. Foremost among them, of course, is the number seven, but there is also forty.

In simple physics, negative forty corresponds on the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales, but that is only a curiosity. In Sacred Writ, however, it rained forty days during the Flood, spies scouted Israel for forty days, the Hebrews wandered for forty years, the life of Moses divided into three segments of forty years, and three times he spent forty days on Mount Sinai, not to mention Goliath challenging the Israelites twice a day for forty days. Some of that might be swept aside, but then Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness of Judea, and walked among men for forty days between his Resurrection and Ascension. It is perhaps obtuse to ignore that.

The number forty has something to do with fear. There are two kinds of fear: servile, which is fear of the unknown, and holy, which is the awe instilled by the Holy Spirit. Servile fear may be legitimate, though it can also be irrational. It is reasonable to fear poisonous spiders, but it is irrational to fear all spiders all the time. The ancient Greeks were better psychologists than the less introspective Romans, and so they gave us the term “phobia” for irrational fear. Today, however, ignorant people slur anyone with a rational aversion to false religion or to perversion as “phobic.”

But if Roman culture lacked the psychological sophistication of the Greeks, it was precise about social realities, and Latin has words for different kinds of fear: metus, terror, timor, pavor, formido, trepidatio and, that more-subtle form of fear suffered by sensitive people expecting the worst: praetimeo.

Jesus knew these temptations without succumbing to them. He knew them so well that he sweat actual blood. He warned against irrational fear as sternly as he urged holy fear: we should fear no harm to our bodies as much as we should fear eternal destruction in hell (Luke 12:5, Matthew 10:28). In his glorious resurrection he forbade fear, and the Beloved Apostle took up this theme: “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

In one of P.G. Wodehouse’s books, Jeeves quotes Psalm 30 to the amiable dunce Bertie Wooster: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” For those perplexed by fears worse than the ones Bertie Wooster suffered, that is what the splendid forty days of Lent are about.

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POPE FRANCIS AND ROMAN CURIA START ANNUAL RETREAT – POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

If you noticed that VIS, the Vatican Information Service was missing from news.va as of March 1, but you still want to follow Vatican and papal events in English, all you need to do is go here each day for English: http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html

I have heard from a lot of people how much they already miss VIS, and they are wondering what the Secretariat for Communications is up to! You have no idea how many readers, followers and fans of news.va – both inside but especially outside the Vatican – are concerned the Secretariat might dismantle news.va!! Not to mention the future of Vatican Radio!!

POPE FRANCIS AND ROMAN CURIA START ANNUAL RETREAT

Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. The spiritual exercises usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday but this year they were postponed because Pope Francis had travelled to Mexico. The retreat ends mid-morning on Friday.

A small van and larger busses brought the Pope and prelates to Ariccia Sunday afternoon. (photo: Reuters on news.va)

CURIA RETREAT

The Sunday schedule included Eucharistic adoration at 6 pm, vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:

  • –         7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
  • –         8.00 am, breakfast
  • –         9.30 am, first meditation
  • –         11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
  • –         12.30 lunch
  • –         4 pm, second meditation
  • –         6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
  • –         6.45 pm, vespers
  • –         7.30 pm, dinner

Fr. Ermes Ronchi of the Servants of Mary is the retreat master and will preach on 10 questions from the Gospels.

  1. “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)
  2.  “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
  3.  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?”   (Matthew 5:13)
  4.  “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)
  5. “Then, turning to the woman, he told Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’” (Luke 7:44)
  6. “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38, Matthew 15:34)
  7. “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’” (John 8:10)
  8. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (John 20:15)
  9. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16)
  10. “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be?’” (Luke 1:34).

During the retreat the Holy Father will have no public meetings or audiences, including no Wednesday general audience.

Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, is home to the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers.

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG

POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there was generally little if any news during such a retreat, given that Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats.

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “‘Mens nostra,’ On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which he addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.”

1924, Vatican City, Rome, Italy --- In 1932, Pope Pius XI commissioned the building of a Vatican gallery which holds the Pinacoteca, a collection of Italian religious paintings as well as Byzantine and Russian works. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

 Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent. Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”

He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.” While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”

In 2014, the spiritual exercises for Pope Francis and members of the Curia marked the first time that they were held outside Vatican City, specifically in Ariccia, not far from Rome, in a religious house.

 

VATICAN INSIDER: MSGR. JAMES CHECCHIO, RECTOR, NORTH AMERICAN COLLEGE – LENTEN STATION CHURCH: FRIDAY OF WEEK 1, SANTI 12 APOSTOLI – CURIA RETREAT OVER, POPE FRANCIS RETURNS TO VATICAN – POPE FOLLOWING SITUATION IN SYRIA, SAYS VATICAN NUNCIO – VATICAN RESPONSE TO L’ESPRESSO STORY ON ECONOMIC REFORMS

This weekend – February 27 and 28 – marks the second anniversary of the resignation of Benedict XVI. His resignation became official at 8 pm on Thursday, February 28. On those last two days of February 2013, among the many “good-byes” he said, Benedict held his final general audience on Wednesday the 27th, greeted members of the College of Cardinals and, in a memorable scene the world will never forget, departed Vatican City by helicopter for Castelgandolfo where he would spend two months as workers readied the monastery he now lives in. Upon his arrival, he greeted the populace of Castelgandolfo from a balcony of the apostolic palace, a building whose doors were slowly and solemnly closed by Swiss Guards promptly at 8 pm.  At that moment, the See of Peter became vacant.

We pray for the continued health, happiness and tranquility of this Servant of the Servants of God, a title he dearly loved!

VATICAN INSIDER: MSGR. JAMES CHECCHIO, RECTOR, NORTH AMERICAN COLLEGE

My guest this week on the interview segment of Vatican Inside is a longtime friend, Msgr. James Checchio, who is in his 10th year as rector of the Pontifical North American College, We look at those 10 years and at NAC’s growth – growth in the number of seminarians attending NAC but also in the physical sense of new buildings, etc.  The newest building was inaugurated on the January 6 feast of the Epiphany by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. I posted photos on this page as well as a few videos on my Youtube page (joansrome). A do-not-miss conversation this weekend.

I took these photos in Msgr. Checchio’s new office in the new building.

20150219_115149 20150219_115240

20150219_115324

20150219_115301

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

LENTEN STATION CHURCH: FRIDAY OF WEEK 1, SANTI 12 APOSTOLI 

I have always loved this old and very beautiful church and try to stop in, even for just a brief Hail Mary, anytime I am near it. One day, not long ago, I was walking from the Gregorian University to catch a bus on the nearby Pza. Venezia and saw that an evening Mass would begin shortly, so I went into the church and briefly explored before attending Mass. I quickly went into the crypt area and took the following photos, I only had my phone so will have to go back some day for better and more comprehensive pictures of the tomb of two of the 12 Apostles who are buried in Rome.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

Franciscan friars administer this basilica and, as they say on their website (http://www2.ofmconv.pcn.net/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12&Itemid=21): “Just a few meters off of the Piazza Venezia, often considered to be the very center of Rome, you will find the administrative center of the Order at the Friary of the Twelve Holy Apostles (Santi Apostoli) next to the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles first given to the Conventual Franciscan Friars in 1517 by the Holy See. The Friary is owned by the Vatican, while the Basilica is under the care of the Italian State.  Given the expense of maintaining such magnificent buildings as the Basilica, we are grateful that the State is assuming so much of the expense so that the Order is able to use our monies for our work around the world, even though it is a very sacred place, containing the mortal remains of the Apostles Philip and James the Less.

“The Friars living here have a variety of ministries. Not only are we engaged in the work of the General Government of the Order, but we also care for the Basilica, work at the Vatican, teach in some Universities in Rome, serve the poor, develop the arts within the Order, plus everything that is involved in taking care of a house this size. There are 37 Friars presently assigned to the Friary, ranging in age from 31-99. They come from 11 different countries representing 18 different jurisdictions within the Order. Being in the heart of Rome, Italian is the most common language for everyday use, but one often hears all four of the official languages of the order spoken.”

Here is Brian Lenz’s account of the Lenten station church Mass here in 2014:

http://blenzinrome.blogspot.it/2014/03/friday-of-first-week-santi-dodici_16.html

And for a real-in-depth visit, explore this site: http://romapedia.blogspot.it/2013/10/basilica-of-holy-apostles.html

Even TripAdvisor writes: “Santi Apostoli, or Santi Dodici Apostoli as the Italians say, is the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles at the Piazza bearing the same name. This is really an astonishing Church, hidden behind Piazza Venezia. We visited this hidden gem during a guided tour of ancient Rome with ‘When in Rome Tours’ and we were glad we did…… Santi Dodici Apostoli was the parish church of Michelangelo and his tomb was shortly placed here before its transportation to the Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze. …A visit of Santi Apostoli is really worthwhile. So when you are at Piazza Venezia or at the Trevi Fountain, look for Piazza Santi Apostoli and spend an hour to absorb the beauty of this unique Church.”

CURIA RETREAT OVER, POPE FRANCIS RETURNS TO VATICAN

The Holy Father and members of the Roman Curia who accompanied him to Ariccia for a six-day retreat that started last Sunday afternoon, have returned to Vatican City.  The final prayers and meditation by Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin were held Friday morning at the Pauline Fathers’ Casa Divin Maestro. Busses carrying the Pope and prelates back to the Vatican left Ariccia about 10:30 this morning. (news.va photo)

POPE FRANCIS - END RETREAT

At the end of the retreat Pope Francis thanked Father Secondin for leading the spiritual exercises: “On behalf of all of us, I too would like to thank the father for his work among us during the spiritual exercises. It’s not easy to give exercises to priests, right?  We’re a bit complicated, all of us, but you succeeded in sowing seeds. May the Lord make these seeds that you have given us grow and I also hope that myself and all the others can leave here with a piece of Elijah’s cloak, in our hands and in our hearts. Thank you, Father!”

POPE FOLLOWING SITUATION IN SYRIA, SAYS  VATICAN NUNCIO

(Vatican Radio) Even during his retreat in the hills of Rome, immersed in Lenten spiritual exercises, Pope Francis is following the situation in Syria with deep concern. Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Damascus, says “the Pope is constantly adjourned of developments and his prayers are tuned to the suffering of the people.”

Noting the three-day offensive this week that has seen at least 220 people abducted by so-called Islamic State militants, most of them from Assyrian Christian villages in the north east, the nuncio said, “not only the Christians are afraid. Those who have the possibility to do so are fleeing the region.” He says that the perception of the people is that they have been abandoned by the international community because there have been no tangible changes to the situation as yet.

He expresses his belief that measures that have been undertaken to isolate the fundamentalists such as freezing bank accounts, cutting off provisions and fuel and tracking down potential Jihadists in Europe must continue. He describes the situation as one of the most serious humanitarian catastrophes after the Second World War, saying, “it is under the eyes of all! The civil conflict must be halted but so must the advance of the so-called Caliphate.”

Abp. Zenari says, “we are dealing with two different fronts: the civil war front which has been going on for almost five years, a conflict which has killed over 200,000 people, has injured more than a million and displaced 11 million; and then there are all the terrible things that are happening in the areas under the control of the so-called Islamic State: two different fronts, the one worse than the other!”

VATICAN RESPONSE TO L’ESPRESSO STORY ON ECONOMIC REFORMS

(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, has responded to a collection of articles published in the Italian weekly L’Espresso. The articles purport to show internal struggles within the Vatican on ongoing economic reforms.

“Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal,” Father Lombardi said. “The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal. In light of the views expressed, the Pope issues guidelines, and everybody follows them.”

Father Lombardi continued, “The article makes direct personal attacks that should be considered undignified and petty. And it is untrue that the Secretariat for the Economy is not carrying on its work with continuity and efficacy. In confirmation of this, the Secretariat is expected in the next few months to publish the financial statements for 2014 and the estimated budgets for 2015 for all of the entities of the Holy See, including the Secretariat itself.”

POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA – STATION CHURCHES: TUESDAY OF SECOND WEEK OF LENT, SANT’ANASTASIA

POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there is generally so little news during such a retreat, given that Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats:

Pope Francis and Roman Curia on retreat:

POPE and CURIA on RETREAT

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “‘Mens nostra,’ On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which he addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.” In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent. Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”   He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.” While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”

In 2014, the spiritual exercises for Pope Francis and members of the Curia marked the first time that they were held outside Vatican City, specifically in Ariccia, not far from Rome, in a religious house.

STATION CHURCHES: TUESDAY OF SECOND WEEK OF LENT, SANT’ANASTASIA

Today’s Lenten station church is Saint Anastasia on the piazza of the same name in the Campitelli neighborhood of Rome. This is an area that includes the Roman Forum, Piazza Venezia and the Victor Emanuel monument and Capitoline hill where Rome’s City Hall is, flanked by two museums. Here’s a wonderful link to the blog and photos by NAC’s Brian Lenz as he describes Mass here last year: http://blenzinrome.blogspot.it/2014/03/tuesday-of-first-week-sant-anastasia.html

The relics of Saints Anastasia and Faustina, her mother, are under the main altar. At the end of the left aisle there is a chapel dedicated to St. Jerome (340 to 420) with the altar on which he used to say Mass whenever he was in Rome. Today this is the altar of the Blessed Sacrament and Sant’Anastasia has perpetual adoration.

SANT'ANASTASIA

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the practice of station churches had its origins in the first centuries of Christianity when most of the early Popes celebrated the liturgy on special days at special churches in the Eternal City. This eventually became principally a Lenten devotion. In his liturgical reform, Pope St. Gregory the Great, who reigned from 590 to 604, established a station church for each day of Lent, thus making the whole season a pilgrimage on the path to conversion while preparing for Easter.

Sant’Anastasia was, in those earlier times, the station church for Christmas (it seems Anastasia and her mother were martyred on December 25), and Pope Saint Gregory celebrated the second Mass of Christmas in this church.

The following info is from NAC’s page about station churches: http://www.pnac.org/station-churches/the-roman-station-liturgy/

Had we come to this church when it was first built we would still have been able to hear the sounds of chariots and the crowd inside the nearby Circus Maximus, one of the great symbols of the Roman Empire.  Now the stadium, like the empire that built it, is nothing more than ruins and memory, while the Faith it strove to crush by the execution of martyrs like St. Anastasia is still here.  Little remains of factual history of her story, other than remembering her martyrdom in Sirmium, in modern day Serbia.  Her cult arrived in Rome towards the end of the fifth century from Constantinople.

This was originally a district of Roman houses and shops, part of which was demolished to build a small, Greek cross plan church by Pope St. Damasus in the late fourth century.  It is possible that this church was originally sponsored by a member of the Imperial family named Anastasia and named in her honor, later being rededicated in honor of St. Anastasia when devotion to her spread to Rome.  Another saint associated with this church is St. Jerome.  There is a tradition that when staying in Rome he would often celebrate Mass here, possibly because he came from the same region as St. Anastasia.  Around the year 500, the nave was extended, giving the church approximately the same dimensions it has today.  The unequal width of the aisles, with the right being slightly wider, is a result of older structures being used as foundations for this addition.  As the practice of stational Masses during Lent developed, this was assigned as the collectum for the procession to St. Sabina, and as a result, the processional crosses used for the stational processions were kept here when not in use.  Another role of the church during this period was as the chapel to the exarch (governor and representative) in Rome of the Byzantine Emperor, who lived on the Palatine Hill.  As a result of this, the pope would come to personally celebrate Mass here on Christmas morning, which was also the feast of St. Anastasia.

Pope Leo III refurbished the church at the turn of the ninth century, and with an ambo being given by Innocent III in 1210.  Remains of the original Roman and Gothic windows of the right clerestory can still be seen if one looks back to the church from the area of the Circus Maximus.  Sixtus IV undertook a renovation from 1471-1484, which was followed by another in 1510.  This presaged a wave of additions and changes over the next two centuries.  In 1580, the chapel off of the right aisle was added.  Five years later the high altar was constructed, being moved to its present location in 1644.  The chapel off the left aisle, balancing that across the nave, was added in 1615, and the current façade was constructed from 1634 to 1640.  Finally, the interior underwent a massive renovation in 1721-1722, giving it the appearance it has today.  The pillars separating the nave from the aisles were reconfigured, and the walls and ceiling covered with stucco decoration.  Minor restorations were carried out in the course of the nineteenth century.

(There’s also this: http://romanchurches.wikia.com/wiki/Sant’Anastasia)

POPE FRANCIS AND ROMAN CURIA START ANNUAL RETREAT – POPE FRANCIS DECLARES ARMENIAN SAINT DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH – LENTEN STATION CHURCHES: MONDAY OF 1ST WEEK, SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI

POPE FRANCIS AND ROMAN CURIA START ANNUAL RETREAT

Sunday afternoon at 4, Pope Francis and many high-ranking members of the Roman Curia left Vatican City in two chartered busses for the town of Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, to start a period of spiritual retreat at the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers.

These photos were taken by a friend, Isabella, in town on a brief visit from Vienna. She chanced to be at the Petriano gate of the Vatican, near the synod hall, as everyone left for Ariccia.

BUS FOR RETREAT  2 BUS FOR RETREAT  1

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG

The theme of the retreat is “Servants and Prophets of the Living God.” The preacher of the papal retreat week is Carmelite Fr. Bruno Secondin who will focus on a pastoral letter of the Prophet Elias.

CASA DIVIN MAESTRO

Following a 4:45 pm arrival, the Sunday afternoon schedule called for Eucharistic adoration at 6 pm, vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:

  • –         7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
  • –         8.00 am, breakfast
  • –         9.30 am, first meditation
  • –         11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
  • –         12.30 lunch
  • –         4 pm, second meditation
  • –         6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
  • –         6.45 pm, vespers
  • –         7.30 pm, dinner

On Friday, the final day, the program includes Eucharistic concelebration at 7.30 am, the retreat conclusion at 9.30 am and a 10.30 departure for the Vatican.

The daily meditations will touch on the following topics: “Walks of authenticity,” “Paths of freedom,” “Let yourself be surprised by God,” “Justice and intercession.” The theme of the final day is, “Gathering the mantle of Elias: prophet of brotherhood.”

All audiences, private and special, including the Wednesday general audience, are suspended during the retreat.

POPE FRANCIS DECLARES ARMENIAN SAINT DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

Pope Francis has declared Armenian poet and monk, Saint Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Universal Church.  Meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints on Saturday, the Pope confirmed the proposal put forward by the plenary session of the Congregation to confer the title of Doctor of the Universal Church on the 10th century saint. (photo from armenianweekly.comSt-Gregory of NArek

St. Gregory of Narek is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. Born in the city of Narek about 950 A.D., St. Gregory came from a line of scholars and churchmen.

St. Gregory received his education under the guidance of his father, Bishop Khosrov, author of the earliest commentary on the Divine Liturgy, and from Anania Vartabed, abbess of Narek Monastery. He and his two brothers entered monastic life at an early age, and St. Gregory soon began to excel in music, astronomy, geometry, mathematics, literature, and theology.

He became a priest at the age of 25 and dedicated himself to God. He lived most of his life in the monastery of Narek, where he taught at the monastic school. St. Gregory began his writings with a commentary on the “Song of Songs,” which was commissioned by an Armenian prince. Despite his reservations that he was too young for the task, the commentary became famous for its clarity of thought and language and its excellence of theological presentation.

He also wrote a number of famous letters, sharagans, treasures, odes, melodies, and discourses. Many of his prayers are included in the Divine Liturgy celebrated each Sunday in Armenian Churches around the world.

St. Gregory’s masterpiece is considered to be his Book of Lamentations. Also known as Narek, it is comprised of 95 prayers, each of which is titled “Conversation with God from the depth of the heart.” A central theme is man’s separation from God, and his quest to reunite with Him. St. Gregory described the work this way: “Its letters like my body, its message like my soul.” He called his book an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” It was his hope that it would serve as a guide to prayer for people all over the world. After the advent of movable type, the book was published in Marseille in 1673, and has been translated into at least 30 languages.

St. Gregory of Narek is considered the greatest poet of the Armenian nation and its first and greatest mystic. His writing style and command of the Armenian language are unparalleled, and his saintly person has been an inspiration to the Armenian faithful for centuries. St. Gregory’s poetry is deeply biblical and is filled with images and themes of sacred history, while also distinguished with an intimate and personal  character. Numerous miracles and traditions have been attributed to him and he is referred to as “the watchful angel in human form.”  St. Gregory died in 1003 A.D.

St. Gregory of Narek is remembered by the Armenian Church in October of each year. (sources; Vatican Radio, http://www.armenianchurch-ed.net

The work of St. Gregory of Narek encouraged the development of Classical Armenian as a literary language. His writings also adorn the liturgical rites of the ancient Armenian Church, including the Badarak, or eucharistic liturgy, which Gregory’s father described as “the great medicine”: “We beseech you,” the priest says to himself as he ascends the sanctuary, “with outstretched arms, with tears and sobbing prayers.”

St. Gregory’s monastery thrived for nearly a millennium, but it did not survive the bloodshed known to the Armenian community as the Armenian Genocide (1915-1922), in which some 1.5 million Armenians — as well as Assyrians, Chaldeans, Greeks and Syriac Christians — died. Yet, the writings of this “angel in human form” survive, carrying to God the cries of millions of hearts. (source.www.cnewa.org)

(The title Doctor of the Church is a special title given by the Church to certain saints. It is an official designation that confirms that the writing, teaching and preaching of the person, male or female, is of help to Christians throughout the ages. A doctor of the Church is recognized for holiness, the depth of doctrinal insight and an extensive body of writings which the church can recom­mend as an expression of the authentic and life-giving Catholic Tradition.

As of today, there are thirty-five male and female Doctors of the Catholic Church who hail from all ages of the Church’s history. Of these, four are women (Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Hildegard of Bingen). On Sunday, October 7, 2012, Pope Benedict proclaimed St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. John of Avila as the newest doctors of the Church. (source: Fr. Tom Rosica, English language assistant to Holy See Press Office)

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES: MONDAY OF 1ST WEEK, SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI

This minor basilica, known as St. Peter’s in Chains is the titular church of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington.  The following are a few of the photos I took when the cardinal took possession of his church in the spring of 2011. He became a cardinal the previous November.

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A site to visit:  http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/art-and-history/michelangelos-moses-at-san-pietro-in-vincoli.html

Also this: http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/sanpietroinvincoli.htm

And the following from: http://www.pnac.org/station-churches/week-1/

After the long trek up the Oppian Hill, we now stand before the graceful Renaissance portico of St. Peter in Chains.  According to the more likely hypothesis on the archeological history of this church, the first place of Christian worship on this site dates from the late fourth or early fifth century, being completed by Pope Sixtus III.  In 431, a priest from here named Philip was a papal legate to the Council of Ephesus, at which he identified himself as coming from the titulus Apostolorum.  This likely refers to that early church’s dedication.  Disaster would strike the first church shortly after this time in the form of either fire or earthquake, leading to its almost total destruction.  Luckily, the Byzantine Emperor and his wife had pledged their support to the previous church, and continuing in this spirit their daughter Eudoxia helped to rebuild the church.  The front and back walls of the original church had remained mostly intact, so this reconstruction consisted mainly of rebuilding the nave of the church.  This was undertaken and the repairs were completed around the year 450, around the same time that the chains from St. Peter’s imprisonment in Jerusalem were given to the church; when these were placed with the chains from St. Peter’s imprisonment in Rome, the two fused together.  In the year 519, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian wanted to bring the chains to Constantinople, but was rebuffed.  Towards the end of that century, the church was rededicated at the same time that the relics of the Maccabee brothers were brought here.  Two centuries later the church was restored by Pope Adrian I; at this time the church was called by the alternate name of the Basilica Eudoxiana, commemorating the woman whose munificence had allowed its rebuilding.

In the mid-fifteenth century, the basilica was restored by the cardinal titular, Nicolo de Cusa.  Later that century two cardinals from the della Rovere family held the title: first Francesco and later Giuliano (later Popes Sixtus IV and Julius II, respectively) added to the complex of buildings on the site and ordered improvements on the church itself.  This included the addition of the porch in front of the basilica, to which an upper story would be added a century later.  Although Julius II would be ultimately be buried in St. Peter’s, his incomplete tomb, including the famous Moses, was completed in the current state by Michelangelo in 1545.  The church received additional interior decoration in 1577, when the frescoes of the apse were completed.  In the first quarter of the eighteenth century a more complete renovation was undertaken, including a new ceiling.  From 1876 to 1877, a sanctuary renovation created a confessio in front of a new high altar surmounted by a ciborium.  The chains of St. Peter, previously kept in a shrine in the left transept, were moved into the confessio for the veneration of the faithful.