Fridays have turned out to be the most special day of the workweek for me as the day starts in St. Peter’s basilica with Mass for EWTN employees with Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, As I told him last Friday, feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus when Mass was celebrated at the altar of the Sacred Heart, “the best part of my day has just ended.”

This morning was no exception.

Because I have a Vatican ID as a retired employee, I have the privilege of entering Vatican City through the Perugino Gate, one of a number of official entrances to the Vatican but less known than the Petrine Gate that leads, for example, to the Paul VI Hall, or the Santa Anna Gate on the east side of Vatican City State. At that gate, used by the majority of employees of Vatican City State and the Roman Curia who have offices inside the mini-state, you are greeted first by Swiss Guards and then by gendarmes who ask to see your ID or some official document that will gain you entrance.

At the Perugino Gate, no Swiss Guards but there is a gendarme post. When the police see the proper credentials, they greet and salute the visitor or employee and, for me at least, what comes next is both wonderful and magical at the same time.

As I walk down hill from the guard post, this is pretty much the first view I get of St. Peter’s Basilica!

The Santa Marta residence is immediately on my right, and it often awes me to think I am literally yards away from where the Pope lives and works!

I usually use the Perugino entrance because I am going to Mass in the basilica, I have business in the Governorato, the administration that runs Vatican City State or I’ll do some shopping at the Vatican’s department store.

I always enter the basilica through what is known as the Prayer Door, It is also known as the diplomat’s door, as this is the entrance that ambassadors use when attending a papal or other celebration in the basilica.

Msgr. Anthony always says Mass for us at the altar of Pope St. John XXIIII. That had not been possible in recent weeks as the body of St. John had, with exceptional permission, been taken for veneration to his native diocese of Bergamo for 18 days.

This morning, however, I noted that there were temporary, rather high barriers created by thick velvet drapes and I became excited because I knew what that meant! It meant that St. John XXIII was about to return to his final resting place!

I went directly to the sacristy this morning and met Msgr. Anthony with several of his friends as they were walking out. Mass today would be at another altar I love, the St. Joseph altar under which, in a large sarcophagus, are the remains of the Apostles Simon and Jude!

Even though there are many pews for this altar, Msgr. asked that chairs be placed right in front of the communion railing and that is where we sat – as you can see…..

We all accompanied Msgr. Anthony back to the sacristy where, after a brief visit, we went our separate ways. Both of us were curious about the St. John altar so we took a long way around the barriers and went right to the altar, surrounded by workmen waiting at an empty niche below the altar for the return of our saintly Pope, I asked if I could take a photo and they said they did not have authority to say yes. I should have taken one and asked for pardon, not permission, as the expression goes!

Here is what one normally sees at the St. John XXIII altar and how things will be once again as you read this column.


The workers told us where the body was and that became our next destination – the sacristy of Cardinal Comastri, the archpriest of the Vatican basilica. We both know the cardinal. He was not available – no surprise on such an important day! – but we had a lovely chat with his secretary and then chanced to meet Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, delegate or secretary of the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office responsible for physical care of the papal basilica.

Msgr. Anthony asked Bishop Lanzani if we could see the body before it was returned to its resting place but he said that was not possible. He said they were still putting things in place, such as the seal that will cover the glass casket and the ventilation system that preserves the body.

However, he was carrying relics of St. John and asked if we would like to touch them and kiss them!!

If I had been less struck by the uniqueness of this request, I’d have thought of taking a picture!

Msgr. Anthony had to deliver an envelope to the Santa Marta, just meters away from where we were standing at the sacristy, but we had to wait outside the building until the Holy Father left the Santa Marta! We had seen the papal car at the front door of the residence, guarded by gendarmes and the Swiss Guards, and did not know when Francis would leave. We decided to wait – it was about 20 minutes before the Pope actually got in and was driven away. I tried but it was a bit too fast for a still photo.

What we saw awaiting the papal car to pass  —IMG_0532



(I have no idea why these photos are so much larger – will have to look into that!)

Mass, relics of a saintly Pope returning home, a glimpse of the Holy Father, all in such a brief period of time.   Part of A Day in the Life ….!


…or should I say propane?!

If the Italians had a version of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” my tale would be an entry. Only those who have live in Italy or currently live here can possibly understand how amazing my story is.

Italy is a land of such enormous bureaucracy that entire volumes have been written about it – and new ones appear all the time. Remember my recent story about being the only person in the post office one day and yet I was told I had to wait until my number was called!!

When there is a problem or some bureaucratic issue facing them, Italians will do one of two things: shrug their shoulders and say ”pazienza” and try to solve the problem, no matter how long that might take, or they’ll sit in a local café and discuss the matter and complain, as if mere conversation over coffee will solve the issue.

If you have been following Joan’s Rome, you know I’ve been without gas in my apartment – yesterday was Day 16.

I decided to, as the expression goes, take the bull by the horns and find out exactly what was being done to remedy this critical situation by writing to APSA, the Vatican administration that rents apartments, handles technical issues, etc. and to Italgas.

I went online, got the names of the CEO and the president of Italgas, got an email address and proceeded to write to both men, also addressing a copy of my letter to the press office of Italgas.

I laid out the situation, gave the building address, specifically which part of the building had no gas and laid out the issues that have been facing us for 16 days. No anger, just the facts, the disappointment that nothing had been done in 16 days, etc..

I did mention that it had been suggested we find a lawyer, saying I did not want to take that route.

I also mentioned I was a journalist.

Four hours later – an absolute miracle for life in Italy! – I got an answer from the press office on behalf of the CEO and president!

The basics are this: the previous ‘colonna montante’ – a pillar that runs through the building from the street gas supply to each apartment – has degraded to such an extent that it was partially the cause of the gas leak over 2 weeks ago. Not only is this seriously outdated and dangerous, an entire new column, running from the gas pipes below the sidewalk to the roof of our building will have to be mounted outside the building, not within the walls. This pipe will run alongside the glass enclosed, very small balconies right off of our kitchens – this is where the gas meters are. Workers will have to break through the walls of each balcony, connect the new colonna montante to each of our gas readers and, so they say, that will be that and we can cook once again, etc.

Sounds VERY long to me!

Italgas has been in touch with the Vatican all along but last night’s letter gave me more information than anyone else had. I printed a copy of the email and gave it to Carlo, our doorman, who was delighted to know what would be happening!

In any case, the man from the Italgas press office gave me his phone number and asked me to be in touch and update him on the work – which he’d be following from Milan.

The other part of A Day in the Life….!




My guests this weekend in the interview segment of Vatican Insider are Nadine Bargnes and Dawn Iacono of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Amherst, New York where, over 15 years ago they founded MOMS, the Ministry of Mothers Sharing. Nadine and Dawn, former volunteers in Rome for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, returned to the Eternal City with 24 Catholic MOMS from the diocese. Msgr. Robert E. Zapfel, who studied and lived in Rome and is pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Amherst, was the spiritual guide for the group. They have a fascinating story to tell – and wait till you hear what they did the last full day of their pilgrimage in Rome. (Nadine L, Dawn R)

The entire pilgrimage was formed around MOMS and moms (lower case) – not only daily Mass and the practice each day of a virtue associated with motherhood (faith and joy, sacrifice and suffering, chastity and purity, courage, justice, fortitude and charity) but visits to churches and shrines dedicated to saints who were also mothers.

You will learn all about MOMS as a ministry, and Dawn and Nadine are only too happy to have you contact them if you wish MOMS in your parish. St. Gregory the Great is not the only parish to have this ministry but it began there. Please write me for their email addresses.

And look at this magnificent shawl! Blue, of course, for Mary, the Blessed Mother! Catherine Wadhams, one of the MOMS on pilgrimage, made one for every member of the pilgrimage and threw in two extras – one for Joan Lewis and a white one for Pope Francis. They talk about that in our conversation!

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 http://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=


Our wonderful Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo, whose commentary your hear ever Wednesday for the weekly papal audience on EWTN, says Mass Friday mornings at 8:45 in St. Peter’s Basilica for our Rome staff Mass is traditionally celebrated at the altar of the tomb of St. John XXIII but we’ve been elsewhere in these days his remains have been on pilgrimage in and around his native Bergamo, Italy. I understand St. John will be back this Sunday!

Today, the feast of the Sacred Heart, Msgr. Anthony celebrated Mass at the Sacred Heart of Jesus altar. Only two of us were present and, as you can see in one photo, I did a reading and the Responsorial Psalm. At the start of Mass, Msgr. lists all those for whom we were asked to pray and during Mass gives a wonderful homily, both times mentioning that prayers on this feast day are also always for the sanctification of priests.

Today he explained the beautiful mosaic you see in these photos (yes, mosaic! FYI, I have been told that there is only one painting in St. Peter’s Basilica – what you think are paintings are mosaics!) that depicts Jesus and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who lived from 1647 to 1690. She was French, a Visitation nun and a mystic and passionately promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart.

I remember especially Msgr. Anthony’s words about Jesus’ Sacred Heart being so big that it has room for every single last one of us, His love is unsurpassable and forever, and His mercy is greater than any sin. My paraphrasing will not do justice to his words.

After Mass, as we walked back to the sacristy, I said, “the best part of the day had just ended!”


Once again, a very beautiful Friday morning, a day that now ends the work week and starts the weekend on a special note for EWTN personnel for whom Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo celebrates weekly Mass at the altar of Pope St. John XXIII in St. Peter’s Basilica.

EWTN’s German bureau chief, Martin Rothweiler is in Rome and he did the reading today from the Book of Wisdom. Here are a few photos:

After Mass, Msgr. Anthony and I met up with Ben Crockett (who is helping us with some very special projects) in the atrium of the basilica. As soon as I saw these workmen preparing the tapestry for Monday’s Episcopal ordinations by the Holy Father in the basilica, I knew I had to take some “behind the scenes” photos and do a Facebook Live.

I hope the start of your Friday and end of your workweek was as beautiful as ours!

By the way, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish – and Irish wannabees! Special wishes and prayers to all the faithful of the new church for American and English-speaking Catholics in Rome – St. Patrick’s! Come see us Sunday on Via Boncompagni 31 and wear green!


My guest again this week on Vatican Insider is Chris Altieri, a former colleague at Vatican Radio. As I noted earlier, you are probably familiar with his name because you surely read Chris’ many stories on the webpages of (what was once) English Vatican Radio and heard his voice as he did wonderful commentaries for papal Masses and other events.

This weekend, in the second of two parts, we look at the reform of Vatican communications – what has happened so far, the low morale in the Vatican, what reform means for Vatican personnel in the communications area and what it means for people around the world who listen to a greatly changed Vatican radio – except we are not supposed to use that name anymore!

Don’t leave town just yet because at the end of next week you will hear the stunning conclusion to the odyssey of the reform of Vatican communications!

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 http://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=


An email I received today from the Sant’Egidio Community that Pope Francis visited last Sunday to mark its 50th anniversary, had a delightful surprise: It seems that on Tuesday, March 13, Pope Francis welcomed to the Santa Marta residence a group of refugees coming from the Horn of Africa and from Syria, arriving Italy through the Sant’Egidio Humanitarian Corridors. There were also some ill people who are being hosted by the community as well as community president, Marco Impagliazzo.

Pope Francis listened carefully to the different and sorrowful experiences refugees had to face before arriving safe in Italy, according to the email. Francis asked extensively about the operation mode of the Humanitarian Corridors. He remembered his personal intervention in aid of the refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, and re-stated the urgency to develop this kind of corridor which has welcomed and integrated more than 1,000 in Italy and Europe.

During his recent visit to Santa Maria in Trastevere, Pope Francis said: “Today, more than ever, carry on audaciously on this path … Carry on opening new humanitarian corridors for the refugees of war and hunger. The poor are your treasure!”



I spent such a lovely and most unexpected morning in St. Peter’s Basilica and want to share some of the photos I took. I did not bring a camera so thank the Lord for phones!

My main intention was to attend the 10 am daily Mass at the St. Joseph Altar and to have my throat blessed afterwards as this is, as you know, the tradition on the February 3 feast of St. Blaise. There was no indication that the priest was going to bless throats following Mass and so I started to follow him on his way to the sacristy, asking in a soft voice where I could get the blessing. He smiled broadly and sent the young man accompanying him to the altar to get the double candles,

We chatted briefly in the meantime, and Father told me he did not start the blessing as he had the impression no one at Mass spoke Italian and thus would not understand his announcement about the blessing.

The young man returned and Father blessed me, reciting the prayer that is always said in this circumstance. I was quite happy and told him I did not even remember the last time I missed having my throat blessed on St. Blaise’s feast day.

Given that I was in the basilica, a place in which I always experience great peace, I decided to stroll around and eventually pray a bit at the chapel where St. John Paul is buried, and this was my second blessing!

I was delighted to see that the papal altar and confessio were still bedecked with the flowers from last night’s Mass for the World Day of Consecrated Life:

I then noticed some of the floor plaques on which I have reported a number of times…

The next time you walk down the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica – unless you are being escorted to your seat during a liturgy! – look down at the stunning marble floor and try to find some of the several dozen bronze inserts. With all the beauty and the gigantic size of the basilica, it is amazing that people even notice these plaques but they are important. To give the visitor some idea of the size of St. Peter’s Basilica relative to other major churches in the world – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – there are inscriptions in bronze that indicate the size of the world’s largest churches relative to St. Peter’s, the largest of all.

These bronze inscriptions are about a yard wide and 6 or more inches high. The name of each church and where it is located are in Latin – most are easy to understand – and the length of that church is inscribed beneath the name. The measurements are given in meters. A meter is 39 inches. St. Peter’s Basilica is 186 meters in length – or 611 feet!

St. Paul’s in London holds SECOND place at 158 meters or 518 feet long. THIRD place goes to Florence’s Duomo at 149 or 489 feet. FOURTH place: Sacred Heart of Jesus, Brussels, Belgium: 140.94 – FIFTH place: Washington’s Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 456 feet.

Three of the final four out of the over 30 descriptions belong to U.S. churches;
Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston at 103 meters, Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles at 101.2 and St Patrick’s in New York at 101.1 meters.

As you can see, Santa Sophia in Istanbul is just a bit longer that Holy Cross in Boston.

This is for the Basilica of the Virgin Mary, Gdansk, Poland

St. Patrick’s,  New York City

This is not one of those plaques but simply one of the many marble floor designs in the basilica

As I entered the chapel where St. John Paul is buried, I noticed a sizeable group of people, all of whom were wearing mustard color scarves. I asked a man standing next to me who they were and he said they came from all parts of Italy and were members of a national antiusury group and they were touring the basilica before their noon audience with Pope Francis!

I stayed in the chapel for quite some time to pray before the tomb of my hero and, in so many ways, spiritual mentor. I often get requests from people to pray for their special intentions before St. John Paul and I did so today.

As I made my way out of the basilica, I noted the nativity scene was still up so I took some pictures and also posted a Facebook live video, whispering just a few words about where I was. For me, St. Peter’s is and always will be, first and foremost, a church.

In this scene, when day turns to night, those who are ‘working’ via animation stop working when the sky and stars appear. When it is morning, they resume their work.

I exited the basilica and walked along the south wall where there is a bookstore, post office, etc, before you actually reach the colonnade.

I don’t know how many of you know there are Stations of the Cross in St. Peter’s Square! The first seven are on this south wall and the final seven are on the opposite side of the square – the side you will be on after having gone through security to enter the basilica.

It was an unexpectedly wonderful morning for me – as I hope it is now for you as you read this column!


Monday, November 21, the Vatican will publish an Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis on the occasion of the closing of the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy. The Letter’s title is “Mercy and Misery.”


This weekend, as the Church welcome 17 new cardinals, 13 of whom are under the age of 80 and will be among the 121 cardinal electors in a future conclave, I take you inside the College of Cardinals on “Vatican Insider.” What is a cardinal? How are they chosen? What are their duties? What does the College do as a whole? When was it founded? And so on….(photo: news.va 2015 consistory)


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 channel 130 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 9:00 am (Eastern time). 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 FOR YOUR TIME ZONE. Past shows are in VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=


As you know, Pope Francis will close the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica this Sunday, thus officially ending the Jubilee of Mercy that began last December 8th. This Holy Door is always the first to be opened and the last to be closed. This photo shows Francis opening that door last December:


St. Peter’s Holy Door was donated by Swiss Catholics to Pope Pius XII (1939-58) for the 1950 Holy Year. Designed by Siena artist Vico Consorti, and inaugurated on December 24, 1949, it has 16 panels, 15 of which depict scenes from the Old and New Testament. The last panel shows Pius XII opening this door.

Pilgrims entering the various Holy Doors are not really allowed ample time to explore the door itself, its symbolism and artistry or to touch part of it or even to say a prayer. Therefore, if you click here, you’ll be able to see those individual panels and read a brief explanation: http://stpetersbasilica.info/Interior/HolyDoor/Panels/HD-panels.htm

Here is a link to a piece by Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick on the foundry that produced these panels. Veronica has just retired but Vatican Radio re-aired this story, noting that it was the grandson of the original foundry owner, Ferdinando Marinelli who invited her to visit the family foundry.

She met him in Florence, says the Vatican Radio account, at his window on the world, an enchanting gallery on the banks of the River Arno seething with a myriad of bronze statues from different eras. Among them the impressive ‘Giambologna Neptune’, who seems to greet you as you enter.

And it was by this towering statue that Ferdinando Marinelli greeted her, ready to drive across the Tuscan countryside to his foundry which lies on the way to Siena, Vico Consorti’s city.

She was eager to visit his foundry and aware it was not the one where the Holy Door was cast by his grandfather but another more recent one. She knew too that Ferdinando Marinelli was sure to treasure that age old rapport of his foundry with the Vatican despite the more modern outreach he now enjoys right across the world. No surprise as for centuries the Church and the world of art have enjoyed an extremely prolific love affair.

Click here to catch a glimpse of Veronica Scarisbrick’s tour at the foundry http://www.fonderiamarinelli.it/


Every so often my friend Trip McKinney in Hawaii sends me homilies or letters or other missives written by Fr. George W. Rutler, pastor of St. Michael’s Church in New York City, and a prolific author. Trip usually sends a small group of people beautiful weekly reflections on the upcoming Gospel, along with carefully selected art work that further explains or amplifies the Gospel message and, on occasion, Fr. Rutler’s words..

I was especially struck by Fr. Rutler’s message for today, November 6, as it focuses on both the restoration of an important, beautiful and historic crucifix in St. Peter’s Basilica and our election, and you will see how he links the two. In his email, Trip also included a link to the CNS story on the restoration and unveiling of this work of art and I offer that as well for your reflection.

If you do not know the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica, this is a must on your next visit. It is not on the “tourist” agenda for the basilica as it is a place reserved for quiet prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament that is exposed all day long, starting immediately after the 8:30 daily Mass. Heavy drapes are drawn across the doors to the chapel and only people intending to pray are allowed inside. Basilica staff sees to it that this carefully adhered to.

I might add here a piece of advice I give to visitors to Rome, advice that you can read in my book, “A Holy Year in Rome.” St. Peter’s opens in the morning at 7 am and is reserved for the next two hours for Masses in any and all of its chapels. If you want to see St. Peter’s Basilica before it is filled with throngs of tourists, go to the 8:30 Mass in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and when you come out, you will see only the faithful who attended Mass, some priests as they exit the sacristy and altar servers as they end their morning and return to the Pius X School in the Vatican. The basilica is quiet and almost empty and very special – at least for a short while before the doors are opened to visitors at 9 am.


Today a long-forgotten crucifix will be placed once again in the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. It will hang in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel near Bernini’s great tabernacle. Bernini himself would have admired the work of the anonymous artist, for its mediaeval style anticipated the spirit of the more exuberant baroque.

The crucifix was carved seven hundred years ago and was the object of devotion in the original Constantinian basilica built in the fourth century. The torso and legs are seven feet long and are in one piece made from the trunk of a walnut tree. It was placed in the new basilica in 1626 and survived many vicissitudes, including the Sack of Rome when the invaders used the old basilica as a horse stable and mockingly vested the corpus in one of their uniforms.

Gradually, it was forgotten after it was removed to make room for Michelangelo’s Pietà and ended up in a remote and virtually unreachable chapel. High technology has restored it, as it suffered discoloration and termite damage. The sort of stereo microscopes used in microsurgery identified the many layers of paint and varnish before they were meticulously removed.

The outstretched arms are six-and-a-half-feet wide. Even if the Lord had not been nailed to the cross, his arms would be open to all who approach him, as they were when he ascended into glory. “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Our nation is weary, and the ennui is especially taxing and belabored by a long election campaign. Events have forced us to examine the condition of our culture, and how much we have ignored Christ’s call to come to him. The degradation of our institutions, reflected tellingly even in the way people dress and speak, is palpable and has taken its toll on our schools and governments and even our churches. This is a time, rarely matched in our national annals, for choosing between conversion and tragedy. To choose the tragic path is to mock our Lord, and our demoralized culture is already well on its way to masquerading Christ Crucified in comic vestments.

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, to this very week, Bishop John Carroll penned a prayer for the new nation. As the first bishop in the United States, cousin of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an esteemed friend of many Founding Fathers, he stood on a terrain high enough to survey the looming dangers and salutary prospects of the day, as he prayed for a government “encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.” Our perspective is the same today, only with more souls both at risk and offered benevolent promise.

Here is the CNS story with photos on this restored crucifix:




Enjoy another moment of the ever surprising Roman Pontiff! https://youtu.be/vGrYRJbmAcU

FYI: Pope Francis’ morning Masses in the Santa Marta residence will resume on February 22. Tomorrow, in St. Peter’s Basilica, he will celebrate Mass for Franciscans who came to Rome to venerate Saints Pio and Leopold.

I have a good story to tell about TSA. There have been negative ones about this DHS (Department of Homeland Security) agency, but I’d like to tell you the good news about what happened to me last week.

My January 30 Delta flight from Rome to NYC (then to Chicago, and on to Houston the following morning) was a bit late arriving at JFK and we could not get off the plane until the paramedics boarded and accompanied a passenger who was ill off the plane. We deplaned at 5:30 and my flight to Chicago was 6:30 – but I still had to go through passport control, get my luggage, pass customs and go through security! Passport and luggage went rather smoothly and fairly quickly. Security was on the first floor but the lines were so long we were redirected to fourth floor security.

So up several escalators, get in line, place things in the bins etc. It is now 6:10. I asked an attendant if I’d make my 6:30 flight and he put me in front of several people. I had to remove my shoes and a sweater (technically my last birthday qualified me for leaving shoes and jackets on). I went through, hurriedly retrieved everything and then had to board a minibus to be taken to my gate! I arrive at Gate 48B at 6:25, ran to Gate 43B and and was told the plane had closed its door! However, one staff member said that catering was late, so perhaps the door was still open. She called the pilot – the door was open! I was taken outside, across a small tarmac (accompanied by several people) and climbed the dozen or so steps to the small plane.

Breathless, I sat down, took off my coat and realized I had left my very beautiful sweater jacket in security! I described it for the flight attendant, wrote down my name and US cell number, the pilot called 4th floor security and they said they had an item that resembled mine and I should call TSA when I got to Chicago.

TSA offices were closed when I got to Chicago but officials there gave me a few numbers, which I called the next morning and was given an email address and told that was the best and fastest way to communicate. TSA has a great website and I wrote several emails and when I heard nothing (a watched pot never boils) I contacted TSA’s media office. That got a response! I got an email asking me to identify the object, which I did, adding that I had a pin in the shape of an angel with a pearl on the right lapel. That was the kicker to identify the sweater. I always have my guardian angel when I travel!

TSA will get your item back to you within 7 days: you either have to go to a physical address they give you or set up a Fedex account and send that acount number and other information – such as to whom should the item be sent – back to TSA.

Those with whom I corresponded were very pleasant and enormously helpful. I cannot even fathom how many items must be left in security that they have to get back to people! Special procedures have to be followed if the missing item is a computer, however.

Almost the end of the tale: Two nights ago I had dinner with my friend Vivianna at La Vittoria. She came with a friend, a Delta flight attendant, Anita. I told Anita my story and she said she’d bring the sweater to me in Rome next weekend – just have TSA send it to her home!

Shakespeare said it best: “All’s well that ends well” (Maybe I should write that when I have sweater in hand!)

Speaking of miracles….the real ones….


What an amazing weekend it was in Rome! Lots of news but the really big story was the arrival Friday in Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica of the relics – the actual remains – of Saints Padre Pio and Leopold Mandic, two Franciscans known for their extraordinary dedication to hearing confessions.

Saturday, before 80,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis greeted members of the numerous Padre Pio Prayer Groups that had come from throughout the world to venerate the relics of the revered Italian saint. In fact, a number of groups were on my flight back to Rome from Houston.


Saint Padre Pio was an Italian Capuchin friar and St. Leopold Mandic, also a tireless confessor, was from Croatia.

It was Padre Pio himself who, in the mid-20th century, founded these prayer groups that are now in every region of Italy as well as in many countries around the world. The Holy Father thanked those present in the square Saturday and had very beautiful words about man they love and venerate.

“We can say,” began Francis, “that Padre Pio was precisely a servant of mercy. He was full-time, serving sometimes to the point of exhaustion, ‘the apostleship of listening’. He became, through the ministry of Confession, the living caress of the Father, who heals the wounds of sin and revives the heart with peace. St. Padre Pio never tired of welcoming people and listening to them, spending time and energy in order to spread the perfume of the forgiveness of the Lord. He could do this because he was always connected to the source: he ceaselessly quenched his thirst with Jesus Crucified, and thus became a channel of mercy. He bore in his heart many people and many sufferings, uniting all to the love of Christ who gave himself ‘to the end’. He lived the great mystery of sorrow offered up for love. In this way his little drop became a great river of mercy, which brought water to the deserts of the heart and created oases of life in so many parts of the world.”


The Pope noted that St. Padre Pio called the prayer groups “’nurseries of the faith, cradles of love’; they were not just centers for happy gatherings of friends and for support, but cradles of divine love. This is what prayer groups are! Prayer, in fact, is a true and proper mission that bears the fire of love to the whole of humanity. Padre Pio said that prayer is a ‘force that moves the world’. Prayer is a force that moves the world! Do we believe this? Because it is! Try it! It spreads the smile and the blessing of God over every languor and weakness.”