In my August 12 column about the diaconate ordination that afternoon at Chicago’s Mundelien seminary, I posted my story about one of those seminarians, now Deacon Ryan Brady, to whom I had given a chalice that had been in our family. That blog was titled A CHALICE GOES HOME.  I neglected to say that WordPress – where I post my blog – leaves photos available only for a short period, no more than a few weeks, I believe. So the photos of that chalice did not appear in the re-posted story and I am so sorry!  By the by, if you counted 14  deacons, not 13 as I wrote, I learned this morning that a 14th seminarian was included at the last moment.

P.S: I hope you enjoy all the photos I’ve posted below of the Vatican Observatory at Castelgandolfo and those of the Kolbe Hotel in Rome named for the Polish saint whose we feast we celebrate today.


When Popes spent the summer period at the Apostolic Palace at Castelgandolfo, one of the many hill towns or “castelli romani” southeast of Rome, they enjoyed cooler air, a slower pace of life and a view of lovely and placid Lake Albano that fills an old volcanic crater, and the beautiful sprawling hills which surround it.

The palace at Castelgandolfo also offers Popes another, more spectacular view, should they so wish – a view of the universe through the telescopes of the twin observatory towers atop the pontifical residence.

And this weekend, I’ve prepared a Special for “Vatican Insider” on the very special Vatican Observatory.

The Specola, as the Vatican Observatory is also called, is not only one of the most highly respected observatories in the world but is actually one of the oldest astronomical institutes, dating back to 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII formed a committee to look at the scientific data and ramifications involved in a reform of the calendar. One of the committee members, Fr. Christoph Clavius, a Jesuit mathematician from the Roman College, wrote books favoring this reform and, with some of his brother Jesuits interested in astronomy, confirmed studies done by Galileo.

I took these photos at the observatory at Castelgandolfo when the Jesuits – the order that has run the Observatory for over 100 years – invited journalists for a visit:

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In January 2018, I spent an evening in the presence of two choirs that sang at the papal Mass on the Epiphany, principally the young people’s amazing choir of Christ Cathedral in Orange County, California, along with members of St. Anne’s choir from Laguna Niguel. I was invited to join them for dinner at a hotel I had heard of but never visited, the Kolbe Hotel.

The hotel was named for St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan Friar who died in the Auschwitz concentration during World War II. The Nazi prison guards chose 10 people to be put to death and prisoner 16670 Kolbe offered to take the place of a stranger. We commemorated his birthday on Monday, January 8.

The hotel premises are part of a structure built in 1625 that became a Franciscan monastery in 2012. Renovations started on the premises in 2007 and the result is what we see today, the Kolbe Hotel, part of which is still a Franciscan monastery.

Today is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe and I’d like to pay tribute to this martyr for the faith by sharing some of the photos I took at the Hotel Kolbe that evening – the room he lived in and chapel where he prayed when he was at what was then the International College of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual , and a small museum dedicated to this Polish saint.

He was canonized in 1992 by a fellow Pole, Pope John Paul II.