I started to prepare this piece some time ago and, with the avalanche of news from and about the Amazon synod and a host of friends and family members in town, dining out, etc. time just ran out to finish what I had started. Tuesdays are often quiet in the Vatican as the Pope prepares his Wednesday general audience catechesis, and there is little or no news from Vatican offices, so today seemed like a good time to share a pretty amazing story. Enjoy the slide show!


The celebrated Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University has many fans, supporters and cheerleaders throughout the world and one such very enthusiastic group is the Gregorian University Foundation with offices in Canada, the U.S. and Rome. Members usually come to Rome once a year and I have been privileged to join these wonderful sponsors over the last two years.

The annual agenda usually includes the Mass that open the university’s academic year, several other Masses in some of the Eternal City’s most famous churches, meetings with the Greg’s (the university’s nickname) students, staff and faculty, and meetings with Vatican officials as well. Naturally there are some lovely luncheons, dinners and receptions on the agenda!

I joined the GUF members on Monday, October 7 for the Mass to open the academic year at 4:30 in the church of St. Ignatius. There was a huge presence of Jesuit priests, faculty, staff and students at this Eucharistic celebration and the liturgy itself was beautiful – SRO when all was said and done. A reception at the nearby Bellarmine College followed Mass, after which Foundation members were to celebrate a special dinner just yards down the street from Sant’Ignazio.

Anyone who knows me knows that ‘speechless’ is not usually a term used to describe me!

Well, you should have been next to me as we entered the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier where our catered dinner was served! I have lived here for decades and somehow missed this jewel of a church – but then there are over 450 churches in Rome!

I was speechless because we were dining in a divine location. I was speechless at the beauty and speechless that I had never been here before. Actually we were all without words!

No one seemed to know the history so I went to wikipedia and here is part of its description:

The Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita (St. Francis Xavier “del Caravita”) is a 17th-century baroque oratory in Rome near the Church of Sant’Ignazio (St. Ignatius) in the Pigna neighborhood. It is home to the Caravita Community, an international English-language Catholic community in Rome.

The current oratory was built by the Jesuit Pietro Gravita from 1631-1633 with the financial support of a number of noble families who resided in the neighborhood near the Pantheon. Construction was inaugurated on 8 September 1631 with the blessing of Bishop Emilio Altieri, an alumnus of the Collegio Romano and Bishop of Camerino, La Marche, from 1627-1666.

Created a cardinal in 1669, Bishop Altieri was elected Pope Clement X in 1670.
The oratory was originally dedicated to Santa Maria della Pietà (Our Lady of Pity) in addition to the great Jesuit missionary Saint Francis Xavier. It was the first nocturnal oratory in Rome.

Father Gravita was from Terni, and the difference in dialect was apparently enough that the Romans changed the pronunciation of his name to ‘Caravita’. After his death in 1658, the oratory also became known as the oratory “of the Caravita”.

One of the first purposes of the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier was the Missione Urbana, a Jesuit outreach funded by charitable donation, focused on the evangelization and catechesis of farmers and others who came into the Roman markets from the outlying farmlands, which lacked proper pastoral care.

In 1773, with the suppression of the Society of Jesus, the oratory was under the care of the Fathers of the Holy Faith (later called “Fathers of the Faith of Jesus”) who attempted to maintain the Ignatian vision and mission strategy in the absence of the Jesuits. After the restoration of the society in 1813, the Oratory was used as the center of activity for all Jesuit lay associations in Rome, until falling into disuse in 1925.

Of particular interest are the seventeenth century benches along the wall that are of sculpted walnut.