Archive for May, 2012

TWEET, TWEET

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Baccalaureate Mass at Tampa Jesuit High School Chapel

Last night I was given the privilege of celebrating and preaching at the 2012 Baccalaureate Mass for the graduating seniors of Jesuit High School in Tampa. In a normal year, which this has not been, I usually, as I have mentioned before, celebrate the Baccalauerate Masses for Jesuit High School, Tampa Catholic High School, and Clearwater Central Catholic High School while handing out diplomas at commencement ceremonies for St. Petersburg Catholic, the Academy of the Holy Names and Bishop McLaughlin High School. However, this year I only had the opportunity to join the Jesuit High School community on the night prior to the graduation ceremony for their 165 seniors.

For some time, I have observed the typical social interaction of young people with each other and with others through the use of the so-called “social media.” I know it is here to stay and to argue too strongly against it could put one in the category of simply being a “dinosaur.” But communicating and living the full message of our Christian life requires far more than tweeting and texting. To focus on one or the other to the exclusion of developing those conversational skills necessary to fully convey and proclaim one’s faith in Christ Jesus requires far more. So what follows is my farewell discourse to this year’s graduating class of 16o young men. I try to make the case for expanding beyond the social media while still acknowledging that even the Church can use it. For example, look at this blog or our Diocesan Facebook or Twitter. If you have time, read the homily below and let me know what you think.

One hundred and forty characters; one hundred and forty letters, numbers, spaces, and punctuation marks.  That is the limit of the length of a tweet.  That limit was originally established, as you may know, so that an entire tweet could fit into one text message.  It is short and efficient, but in that economy of length, depth of meaning is sacrificed.

It is not just in Twitter though where we find this kind of communication.  If one stops to look at today’s media as a whole, we find ourselves enmeshed in a culture of the sound bite.  News programs try to fit all stories into a segment that lasts 30 seconds, or perhaps a minute or two for a longer, feature report.  Today we tend to prefer reading headlines and/or watching highlights of speeches, debates, or even sporting events.  We can be inundated with information from countless sources, but it is all in short, snappy and slick snippets.  To communicate the truth of our faith, however, this kind of communicating will not work.  140 characters are simply not enough.

If the apostles in the upper room when Jesus appeared to them had simply reached for their iPhones and taken a photo of Thomas reaching out to Jesus and, tagged Thomas and Jesus, and posted it to Facebook with the caption “My Lord and My God,” would the depth of Thomas’s confession have been fully revealed?  I think not.  The story of our salvation is so immense, that simply sound bites or snapshots will take us nowhere.

How then, does one communicate the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world that communicates today preferably with texts and twitter, Facebook and Linkedin and other ways, which personally I find incredibly impersonal? The computer, the smart phone, the iPad and iPod may take us to exciting technological places but far from the personal. Technology trumps the intimacy of personal interactions.

Nearly 2000 years ago, a small group of most-certainly illiterate fishermen used “The Social Network” of their time to do just this.  They did not have Facebook or Twitter.  They could not spread the good news of Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit by posting a video to YouTube.  They could, however, let it shine through their lives and their speaking, and this is precisely what they did.

As we heard in last Sunday’s first reading for Pentecost:  the Apostles went out after receiving the Holy Spirit and told of the wonders that God had done for them and everyone heard them speak in their own language.  They did this without Google Translate.  Rather they did it with their actions: curing the sick, healing the lame, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, caring for widows and orphans.

And people began to “follow” them.  They then did for others what they saw done by the apostles.  They did not retweet their words, they told and retold their stories and repeated their actions.

So, tonight, my dear brothers in Christ and soon to be graduates of Tampa Jesuit High School, I would like to propose that you are the answer to the question I posed earlier of how one can and should communicate the Gospel in a world sometimes seemingly limited to 140 characters and driven by the sound bite.  The answer has been with us from the beginning; it is, as St. Peter reminds us in the first reading simply to do as Jesus said, “be holy because I am holy.”

While we needed the words of Scripture to be written down, we will also need you to share your faith by words.  Use your education to argue rationally and passionately for what you believe.  More importantly, though, live what you believe.

Each of you has a unique character, which you have formed under the guidance of your first teachers, your parents, as well as your teachers here at Tampa Jesuit to be a witness to the Gospel.  You have been nourished in faith, given a magnificent education in the arts and sciences, and formed in the tradition of St. Ignatius Loyola to do all things for the greater glory of God and be truly men for others.  As you go forth tomorrow night from this Jesuit High School, I am convinced that with 160 human ” characters” constituting your senior and graduating class, you can and I pray you will communicate far more through your actions than simply 140 characters in a tweet.  That is how you will build up a social network for the Kingdom of God on this earth.

+RNL

STILL A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

I think by virtue of circumstances it is time to revisit the matter of the Health and Human Services implementation plan (hereinafter “HHS Regs.”) which is a part of the Affordable Health Care Act and bring you up to date on what is the current state of the question. Two things in the last forty-eight hours suggest that this is a good moment. When last I wrote in this space about the matter in February, President Obama had announced a “fix” for most of the matters which concerned Church leaders like myself. After careful study, I found it not a “fix” but perhaps only a “first step.” While privately assuring some people in our Church with whom he was in personal contact that the Administration would address to our satisfaction the “self-insured” question later, it has not been done so far, at least publicly. Following that announcement, the public perception of the issue changed from what I am most concerned about “the freedom of religion to define its own self instead of the government” to a question solely of contraception/sterilization, painting the bishops as once again wishing to control women’s reproductive freedom. And there much of the public perception has sat for the last four months as one can witness from the op-ed piece in this morning’s TAMPA BAY TIMES.

On Monday, twelve different lawsuits were filed by forty-three entities including archdioceses and dioceses, Notre Dame University, and other Church institutions in thirteen federal court jurisdictions challenging the present HHS Regs. on religious freedom grounds. Is this judicial overkill? As I wrote in February, it looked at that time to me that only the judicial system could resolve with finality this issue and somewhere in this great land there must be judges, appeals court justices at the right time, etc. who agree enough to hear the case. We only have a window of sixteen months at this writing to settle this. So what exactly is at stake?

On the religious freedom question, the government wishes to define as “legitimate ministry of a Church” only those activities which pertain to, in our case, baptized Catholics (more simply put that which happens at Mass or within a worship place). So, for example, in this diocese, the following would not be “Catholic ministries” at least as defined by the HHS regs in their present language:

1. St. Joseph and St. Anthony Hospital – most patients are not Catholic and Catholic baptism is not required in either the hiring or admitting office.

2. Jesuit High School and the Academy of the Holy Names – approximately a third of their student bodies are not baptized Catholics and one’s religion has never been an admissions criteria.

3. Pinellas Hope and our ministry to people with HIV-AIDS  and most programs of Catholic Charities where we never ask a person’s religion before helping them. Would the people of this nation wish Catholic Charities to simply disappear or hide under the biblical bushel basket of anonymity?

4. Many of our high and elementary schools if their enrollment contains more than 10% non-Catholics and while the exact percentage remains to be defined it is clear that ten percent is about the most that would be required for an exemption.

While contraceptive/sterilization coverage is the issue the government has chosen to launch this new definition of what constitutes “Church ministry,” it could morph into abortion coverage at some time (abortifacients such as the morning after-pill are already to be included under the HHS regs. – so in some senses we are already there). Where does a demonination, a Church draw the line in allowing  government to define what is “legitimately Church ministry?”

I, as bishop, have no desire to control the contraceptive access of the general citizenry. As a bishop, I will continue to teach and affirm the beauty of Pope Paul VI’s total teaching on marriage and procreation in Humanae Vitae, while acknowledging that a part of that teaching can place great stress on a young couple beginning their married life. But that is a part of my teaching responsibility as a bishop. And quite honestly I think the Church has learned how to strongly affirm the teaching while respecting individual conscience  formation in the last forty some years, as well as provide an option with little to no cost. But, I also do not believe my government should ever force my Church to provide something for its own employees which is against its teachings and beliefs. This is a dangerous, steep and very slippery slope.

Neuralgic in this debate is the matter of defending the consciences of individual employers who seek to opt out of providing coverage because of their personal religious beliefs. To me, this can possibly appear as an opening for exceptions large enough to endanger the good that is clearly at play here – enlarging the health care coverage to more people and making it more affordable to access. The goal of universal coverage has been an important goal of the Catholic bishops of the United States for at least two decades. We should neither lose sight of this  goal nor ignore our serious concerns in the area of religious liberty. We remain strong proponents of care for the poor.

So we are currently in a state of “check” but not yet “check-mate” on this issue. Stay tuned, as the old Irish song goes, “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” still.

+RNL

THEY ROLLED THE STONE BEFORE THE TOMB, AND ALL WITHDREW

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The warm afterglow of yesterday’s ordination (see photos here) at St. Jude Cathedral was still with me upon waking this morning (Sunday). After the ordination I had a confirmation at 530pm at Sacred Heart, Tampa, for forty young women and men and today I have the Commencement Ceremony for St. Petersburg Catholic High School and tonight confirmation at St. Paul parish in Tampa for in excess of two hundred confirmandi. In sixteen years since becoming bishop, I have never attended a First Mass of a newly ordained. There is a very good reason for it. The first Mass at which he is the principal celebrant is a major moment in the life of every priest, something they dream of. Invite the bishop and the spotlight is at a minimum shared or sometimes “copped” as I can out-dress him any day! So despite some invitations from time to time, I make it a practice to stay away – it is the new priest’s day and his and Christ’s alone. As I pointed out in yesterday’s blog, the new priest concelebrates his first Mass at his ordination at my side.

I suspect but can not prove that every seminarian dreams more of his First Mass in his home parish more than the ordination day rite. Who will preach or should I, he might ask. Most choose someone else for this moment as they are nervous enough just being principal celebrant. I was ordained on the Saturday before Pentecost at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami at 11am and celebrated my First Mass as principal celebrant at 5pm at St. James parish in North Miami that same evening – getting everything over in nine hours but I do not recommend it as I was totally “wiped” by the end of the day and the dinner/reception at the parish hall which followed. I told both Fathers Amorose and Corcoran that they needed to especially enjoy this week-end as it would probably be the last time till their 25th anniversary that they would not have to worry about a homily for Sunday.

Generally the first Mass following ordination is in the ordinand’s home parish (see photos below) but today it does not end there. In successive weeks, they will both be celebrating “First Masses” in parishes where they have served as seminarians and deacons (St. Paul , Wellesley, Massachusetts and another parish in Newton for Father Corcoran and Nativity, Brandon, St. Joan of Arc, Boca Raton, and St. Paul’s, Tampa for Father Amorose to name just a few, I suspect). By that time the nervousness and anxiety has worn off and they are comfortable in their new roles. A very generous diocese has given them until July 2nd to report for their first assignments. Additionally, both of these men plan to attend the ordinations of some of their classmates around the country (Fr. Corcoran) and state (Fr. Amorose).

Parish communities rejoice in ordinations and first Masses and in addition to choirs preparing and servers polishing up, usually the Women’s Club works on a lovely reception for all who attend the First Masses immediately following. The Church celebrates its new ministerial life as well as the ordinand. But, for both men, there will come that moment in a few weeks when all the celebrations, concelebrations, ordinations, first Masses, etc. are over and Father reports to begin his first assignment and the beginning of the rest of his life. It is at that moment that he will experience that Gospel passage which is the title for this reflection of mine, “they rolled the stone before the tomb and all withdrew.” My associate Maria Mertens and her family have long been friends with the Amorose family and she attended Father Victor’s First Mass with her camera and took some pictures which I share with you below. Tom Wineman, a parishoner of Sacred Heart parish in Tampa, took a few photos of Father Timothy’s First Mass and graciously shared them with me to post as well.

Father Victor Amorose celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Light of Christ in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Father Victor Amorose celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Light of Christ in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Father Timothy Corcoran celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Sacred Heart in Tampa. Photo kindness of Tom Wineman.

 

Father Timothy Corcoran celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Sacred Heart in Tampa. Photo kindness of Tom Wineman.

 

Hope you enjoyed those. I am off to hand out sheepskins!

+RNL

GIVING BIRTH

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

After a blog a day from Rome about the ad limina visit, regular readers may wonder what has happened to me. First, this week I paid for my sin of being gone for a week during the height of the confirmation, graduation and anniversary season. Additionally, it seems I broke a leg in Rome on Friday, the last day there. It was confirmed only on Monday of this week with an X-Ray which revealed a “hairline, stress fracture of the right fibbula.” Happily this type of break does not require either a cast or a boot, and one can continue to safely walk on it while it heals itself. Today (Saturday, May 19th) I had ordinations in the morning and a confirmation in the evening and my right leg was telling me at times it was far from pleased with me.

Deacon Timothy Corcoran and Deacon Victor Amorose at the beginning of Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Ordinations this morning were simply wonderful. Deacons Tim Corcoran and Victor Amorose were rousingly welcomed into the priesthood by an almost full Cathedral. I have always been proud of our diocesan ceremonies since arriving here sixteen plus years ago. The music has always been extraordinarily appropriate and beautiful, made so by a succession of very talented music directors. Our diocesan Office of Worship consistently plans and executes a smooth and beautiful ceremony. Add to that the Cathedral staff who knock themselves out for such occasions, and one has the recipe for a successful liturgical experience. For most major diocesan functions such as ordinations and dedications of Churches, I am ably assisted by Father John Tapp, pastor of Holy Family parish in St. Petersburg, himself a graduate with a master’s degree in liturgy from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. For Cathedral only functions, a faculty member from St. Petersburg Catholic, John Christian is at my side, anticipating my every move and relieving  me as does Father Tapp from worrying about what I should be doing. Behind every successful bishop on ceremonies, there is usually a very capable Master of Ceremonies and today was no exception. In fact, Father Tapp and John Christian make even those being ordained relaxed (well mostly so).

Fathers Amorose and Corcoran were welcomed into the presbyterate by about eighty of our priests (click here to see photos). Ask those present what were the most moving moments and they would likely reply that it is a toss-up between the silent “laying on of hands by the bishop and attending priests” and the singing of the Litany of the Saints while those to be ordained lie flat on the floor.

The Litany of Saints. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

For myself, there is a moment at the end of the ordination rite itself after all the priests have given the new ordained the “greeting of peace” when I and the President of the Presbyteral Council lead the new fathers to their seats among the presbyters or priests. When seated the congregation without any printed or spoken provocation bursts into long, sustained applause reflecting the joy of this Church that it indeed has now two new priests who have come like the Lord to serve and not to be served. It happens every ordination.

The new fathers at their seats among the presbyters or priests while the congregation spontaneously applauds. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

There are other moments when the assembled signal their joy and approbation as when the bishop accepts the recommendation of those who formed the candidates and the people of God and announces that indeed he will ordain the men to the sacred priesthood.

After announcing that I will ordain the Deacon Victor Amorose and Deacon Timothy Corcoran to the sacred priesthood. Photo kindness of Theresa Mertens.

Again when the new priests receive the greeting of peace at the end of the ordination Rite from the bishop. One is scripted and the other two occasions are simply spontaneous.

Greeting Father Victor Amorose at the end of the ordination Rite. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Greeting Father Timothy Corcoran at the end of the ordination Rite. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

No one should think that homilies for these special occasions come easily. They do not. I began to think about what I wished to say during the trip to Rome. The newly ordained pick the readings they want read on their ordination day. I was working right up to midnight last night on the final draft. Whether successful or not, I leave to your judgment but you may read my homily by clicking here or watch a video of it by clicking here. Ordinations and the Chrism Mass have always been the preaching challenge for me during my episcopal ministry. The latter is much harder because the readings are always the same, never vary and one is preaching to about the same 80 deacons and 150 priests.

Fathers Corcoran and Amorose will be great priests. The former is himself a former federal judge in the Bankruptcy Court of the Middle District of Florida. He attended Blessed Pope John XXIII National Seminary (my alma mater) in Weston, Massachusetts for the last four years and has been assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dunedin. Father Amorose started his post-secondary education by spending two years at the University of Central Florida and then finishing his college at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and studying theology as the Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach. He has been assigned to St. John Vianney parish on St. Petersburg Beach.

Father Victor Amorose, myself, and Father Timothy Corcoran after their ordination to the priesthood. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Tonight they are gathering with family and friends and tomorrow they will celebrate their second Masses (their first as principal celebrant) at their home parishes, Sacred Heart, Tampa (Father Corcoran) and Light of Christ parish, Clearwater (Father Amorose). Our beloved Church has today given birth to two new priests with more on the way. God is good.

+RNL

A FEW MORE

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Each bishop was allowed to bring one priest or seminarian in for a photo-op. Since our seminarian Ryan Boyle had accompanied Archbishop Timothy Broglio a few months ago, I asked my right and left arm, Monsignor Robert Morris, to accompany me. Photo purchased from L'Osservatore Romano.

 

The bishops and bishop-elect of the province of Miami meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Photo purchased from L'Osservatore Romano.

+RNL

IF THE KIDS ON THE BLOCK COULD SEE ME NOW!

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Obviously back safely, and as promised, here are some pictures from Friday morning.

Photo purchased from L'Osservatore Romano.

 

Photo purchased from L'Osservatore Romano.

 

The province of Miami bishops and bishop-elect with Pope Benedict XVI. Photo purchased from L'Osservatore Romano.

 

+RNL

AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – DAY SEVEN – Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday, May 11th, 2012

 

Monsignor Robert Morris and I in the Cortille San Damaso awaiting the audience with the Holy Father

The seventh and final day of our week-long ad limina is now over and this will be the final posting as I will be travelling back to Tampa tomorrow all day. My flight leaves Rome at 655am EDT (1255pm Rome time) and I arrive back home at 1035pm EDT (435am Rome time) if all goes well. The layover in New York’s JFK airport is scheduled for two hours and ten minutes so I should be “at altitude” for thirteen hours approximately.

Our final day in the eternal city seemed to go on eternally. We began with a visit to the Congregation for Catholic Education, which is responsible for Catholic schools and colleges and universities, religious education and the catechism, and all seminaries throughout the world. The presentation by the Prefect, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski,  in this congregation was quite lengthy filling the whole hour and I had my cassock on throughout the meeting, was dying from the heat, and wishing for air conditioning somewhere, anywhere and soon. It came when we arrived at the Apostolic Palace for our visit with Pope Benedict XVI. More about that later. The bishops from the Atlanta province (Charlotte, Raleigh, Charleston, SC, and Savannah) had the rest of the morning off and were driven back to the North American College while the six bishops and one bishop-elect of the Miami province were driven to the Apostolic Palace.

The Holy Father lives on the top or third floor of a massive building to the right of St. Peter’s Square. His bedroom is a small room on the far right side which is accessed through a small parlor which is itself accessed through his private office where he sees no one officially but writes and works. When one has a private audience with the Pope, you go no higher than the second floor, which is full of formal reception rooms. His private quarters are small so the term “palace” is barely applicable. Also living on the third floor are his two priest secretaries, and the sisters who perform the housekeeping and prepare his meals. His very private chapel is there as well.

For an audience appointment of eleven o’clock which was our appointed time, one usually arrives at least thirty minutes early, passing a number of Swiss Guard who stand impressively tall and still. For the minutes leading up to being led into his presence, you can usually count on remaining for a time in about three reception rooms. As one person or group exits the waiting area and into the presence of the pope, you are moved forward one more reception rooms until you make the turn and are on the side facing St. Peter’s square. When I first started doing this routine in 1979, my knees would knock, my hands would sweat, I would begin to perspire all in anticipation of that final door. Today we were led directly to the final waiting room. Then we were ushered into his presence. The successor of St. Peter was standing this morning with a welcoming smile on his face and each of us was allowed to bring one priest or seminarian in with us to have a quick picture taken and then whomever we chose (Monsignor Bob Morris this morning) were ushered out and we were asked to take seats close to the Pope.

The pectoral cross given to us by Pope Benedict XVI today

He was interested in hearing from each of us whatever we wished to share with him from our diocesan experiences and he would offer a brief reaction to whatever we said. All told with seven bishops present, we took about twenty minutes of his time.  To me he seemed more tired than when I was with him in November, breathing a little more deeply and heavily but still so gracious and humble. This man, like Paul VI, is a very humble priest, despite his reputation sometimes to the contrary. I think I could capture the feelings of our group of seven bishops that we were genuinely grateful that he could still take the time to welcome each of us. Traditionally at the end of the Ad Limina visits with the popes, we receive some gift and it has been for the last four visits of US bishops a pectoral cross which we wear close to our heart as a constant reminder that sometimes shepherding the churches can be an invitation to carry a cross.

In the afternoon I had pranzo (aka “Lunch”) with Monsignor Gerald Cadieres, a student of mine at St. John Vianney College Seminary and the first South American to complete his theology work in Rome as a student at the North American College. He gave me the privilege of vesting him for his diaconate ordination here at St. Peters and it is always wonderful to see him during my visits. He works in the Spanish language section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Later in the afternoon a highlight for me was meeting after a long absence Cardinal Agostino Cacchiavillan, former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America and a man with whom I worked during my six years as General Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of the United States. He was a wonderful friend and mentor then and remains such even today. It was a terrific penultimate way to say farewell to Rome.

The “proof sheets” of the several hundred pictures taken of us this morning by the one photographer were back at the North American College by two o’clock and the bishops behave like parents at confirmation trying to get the pictures taken of their child with the bishop. It was like Disney animal time at the Magic Kingdom with people ordering photographs by the score. I am supposed to get a digital disc tonight later and if it arrives, one of the seventy pictures taken in less than two minutes of Monsignor Morris and I and it should be on this blog.

Sunday I celebrate my thirty-fourth anniversary of priestly ordination and Monsignor Bob Morris celebrates his twenty-first a few days later, so with our colleagues from the Pastoral Center we had our final dinner in Rome and attempted to make it memorable.

I leave with some very strong, mostly emotional feelings. First, I took Pope Benedict’s leave with the very strong feeling that I likely shall not be seeing him again. It was that same feeling in the gut I had when as a child we would take our leave of our 80 and 90-year-old grandparents. Secondly, I am clearing out my closest in the Bishops Larkin and Lynch Suite and bringing almost everything home tomorrow, as I do not anticipate coming back again, at least for business. Thirdly, all of us had a hard time tonight saying goodbye to Ryan Boyle our seminarian here who has shared much of his time with the eight of us. If generosity, hospitality, and helpfulness are predictors of a successful priesthood, Ryan will do very well. The seminarians at the North American College could not have been more hospitable this week, unfailingly kind and solicitous. Likewise the staff, priests and domestics which have in the last six months watched two of their former rectors made Cardinals, fifteen regions of the US bishops pass through for at least a week and the normal flow of guests and visitors coming to Rome, they have all been just terrific. All of the bishops of Region XIV are grateful to them.

So it is arrivaderci Roma, good-by, farewell to Rome, city of a million moon lit places, city of a million smiling faces, far from home. I believe this is my forty-fifth trip to the Eternal City and the Italian language had a great single word for how I feel tonight, basta, “enough.” Thanks for reading these entries and now it is back to confirmations, ordinations, graduations, birthday and anniversary. Ciao for now.

+RNL

P.S. The much anticipated disc with the pictures seems not to have arrived as of this writing and posting of this blog entry, so I will post some of them tomorrow or whenever. If you can’t stand the wait, the mother of all ecclesial blogs, http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/ has them available for viewing. You can view more photos from the trip, graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with the Catholic News Herald, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte, here.

AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – DAY SIX, Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Mass this morning at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cathedral Church of Pope Benedict XVI

The sun begins to show itself here in Rome right now around 530am and I was up by 600am as the bus left for St. John Lateran Basilica at 645am for a 730am Mass. I was the celebrant and homilist this morning at what is in reality the Cathedral Church of the Pope in Rome. One of the four major basilicas, St. John Lateran is a beautiful place and we were in and out before the daily hoard of visitors arrived. You can view photos graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with The Catholic News Herald, the Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, here. After returning to the North American College for a quick breakfast, we were back on the bus for our first visit to the Congregation for Religious (its abbreviated title). The prefect was not present but Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSSR, the Secretary was present. The Congregation is very much pro-religious and understands well religious sisters, brothers and priests.

My group went on to the Pontifical Council for the Family but for the first time I absented myself so that Monsignor Morris and I might meet with another Council for a discussion of some plans, which I have for the diocese. Time is getting so short now for us (tomorrow is our last day and most of the morning will be taken up with meeting the Holy Father) that if we need to see someone else, it has to be at the expense of something scheduled for the whole group. I had lunch with an old friend who works in the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and came home to be subjected to two different interviews, one with Catholic News Service and the second with Vatican Radio.  Tonight I am meeting Father Richard Warner, CSC, Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross at their worldwide headquarters, hoping and praying for nothing more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

My feet hurt. Indeed, my feet ache. One does a tremendous amount of walking here in Rome, even if one is bussed to a certain site. For example, yesterday at St. Paul Outside the Walls, the bus parks about a half mile from the sacristy so there is a mile and walking down the hill from the North American College using a moving sidewalk built by the Vatican (which never moves when you wish to use it) is about a mile. I know I have lost several pounds since arriving.

Our meetings continue to go well, some obviously more interesting than others and some better than others. If they are faking and I do not believe that they are, the congregations and councils seem to enjoy these moments. They not only hear some of the things, which are on our minds, but share their concerns as well. To anyone who thinks we are called upon the carpet on these occasions, it just does not happen. They are more of a “love feast.” We serve and love the same Church. I wish more of my diocese would have an occasion to meet here with those whom we are visiting. We pray well together and quickly learn how to pass the butter and jam down a thirty-foot table in the dining room.

Ryan Boyle, Seminarian for the Diocese of St. Petersburg and in his first year of theology at the North American College, Rome, is the Lector for the Mass at St. John Lateran this morning

Tomorrow we wrap it all up with an audience with the Holy Father, two more meetings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and then it will be time to pack for the return trip.

+RNL

AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – DAY FIVE, Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Our day began with a visit to the first new Council created by any Pope in probably at least thirty-five years, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI established and appointed as the President of the Council, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who made a believer of me in about thirty minutes. His passion for the task, his real world sense of the obstacles which would be met and his methodical approach to the task left me leaving his presence sensing that this man, give time, treasure and support, could make it happen. If we are to spread the Gospel successfully in our time, we must have a plan, which targets our own first, making missionaries of them. Successful at that, then it makes sense to go after those who have left our Church and those who are unbaptized or uncatechised or searching for the one, true Church. The three tools which must be put at the disposal of a successful New Evangelization are formation, homiletics, and lifestyle.  We can no longer take for granted that Catholic children even know how to make the sign of the cross, much less understand Jesus as Lord. The delivery systems of the past are not present to the same extent as they once were. The principal moment of catechesis for people who are in Church is the homiletic moment. And what we do as fully committed Catholics for the communities, in which we live, work, pray and play must be welcoming to those to whom we reach out. It was a fast hour and I would wager that my brothers and I left inspired and desirous of now working in our local Churches to make this initiative alive.

Our next stop was at the Congregation for the Clergy and our dialogue there centered on the priests’ relationship with their bishop and questions concerning the permanent (married) diaconate.

We ended up the morning with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith where our own Cardinal William Levada greeted us as Prefect of perhaps the most important congregation in the Curia. It was a pleasure to spend the time listening in our native language of English.

Mass at the Altar of the Chair, St. Paul Outside the Walls, Photo kindness of Ryan Boyle

In the afternoon, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami was the principal celebrant and homilist for our Mass at St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of two basilicas where each bishop must visit and offer Mass since it and St. Peter’s are the grave sight of the apostle/martyrs to whose threshold (limina) we have come. You can view photos graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with The Catholic News Herald, the Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, here. Monsignor Morris, myself and my six pilgrims then travelled back to the North American College where we sat on the rooftop, which overlooks all of ancient Rome. It was a spectacular evening and sunset.  Dinner was at a local neighborhood restaurant and bedtime was early for me as we have to be on that darn bus at 645am in order to celebrate Mass at the Church of St. John Lateran tomorrow morning at 730am. Since I am to be the celebrant and homilist for that liturgy, I need my “beauty” rest!

 

+RNL

AD LIMINA APOSTOLORUM – DAY FOUR – Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

A famous quote always attributed to Blessed Pope John XXIII was when asked “how many people work at the Vatican?” he responeded, “about half.” Well today is a long work day at the Vatican and we visiting bishops on ad limina participated in the full day’s work. Normally, Monday though Saturday, Vatican offices are open from 8:30am until 1:00pm at which time they close for lunch and the day. However, on Tuesday and Friday, the offices of the Holy See reopen at 4:30pm and remain open until 7:00pm for a total thirty one and one half hour work week. But gosh do they get holidays and holydays and birthdays (at least the Pope’s), anniversaries (at least the Pope’s), and election days (at least the Pope’s)? Last week, Region XIII sat for a day while the Holy See shut down for the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. And by the way, I think that they get paid for fourteen months, not twelve. How did that happen, you might ask? Long ago all Italians started receiving an extra check at Christmas time and another at vacation time from their employer and the Holy See had no choice but to offer the same. They also have something entitled “severance” which accumulates for every year worked and is given at the time of departure from their employment for whatever reason and it is in addition to a pension plan. Please let me be clear that total salaries here are probably on par with the US but divided differently. How did I get off on this tangent anyway?

Concelebrating Mass at the Altar of Blessed John XXIII with bishops from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina . Photo kindness of SueAnn Howell with the Catholic News Herald.

Ah,  now I remember. Our day was supposed to begin with Mass at the Altar above the remains of Blessed John Paul II, now transferred from the crypt of St. Peter’s into the basilica itself. Including the priests travelling with us, precisely at eight a.m. we forty bishops and priests processed solemnly from the sacristy to the altar for Mass. Little did we know that a priest had just taken it upon himself to start Mass at that altar without permission and we heard the few people with him singing the Alleluia before the Gospel as we approached. So long to Mass at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II. Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, North Carolina was the celebrant and homilist this morning. So what was planned for most of we bishops whom he had appointed and interacted with in so many ways during his pontificate, as an especially poignant moment found us scurrying to the Altar below which the remains of Blessed John XXIII rest. You can view photos graciously taken and shared by SueAnn Howell with The Catholic News Herald, the Diocese of Charlotte’s newspaper, here. Blessed John Paul II’s tomb is at the moment the most visited spot in the Basilica I would say, at least for prayer. More tourists take pictures of Michaelangelo’s “Pieta” just a few feet away but if there is a Hail Mary being prayed, it is more likely at Blessed John Paul II’s tomb and altar. Unlike yesterday’s chapel at the Tomb of St. Peter, this is right out in the middle of the Basilica and even though the church does not open for day-trippers until nine a.m. after the private Masses are concluded, there is still enough traffic near this altar to be aware of it.

From there it was a quick trip to the first of three congregations to be met today and an important one at that, the Congregation for Bishops. This congregation is solely responsible for processing nominations for bishops to serve as ordinaries in dioceses, as auxiliaries in dioceses, and as coadjutor bishops in dioceses (this category means that when the bishop dies or resigns or retires, he is immediately replaced by his coadjutor bishop). It was noted that the very table at which we sat and room in which we met was the “birthing” table on which we bishops were “born.” Now, the Congregation for Bishops is not the only “game in town” when it comes to making recommendations to the Holy Father for his ultimate decision on who gets what or goes where. A large portion of the world considered mission territory has its bishops processed and recommended by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Almost all of Canada, for example, is under the Congregation for Bishops, but parts of the far northwest Canada, like the Yukon Territory remains the province of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  A French-Canadian is presently the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and he was bishop of Quebec City prior to being brought to Rome for his current responsibilities of Pope Benedict. He spent a goodly amount of time this morning meeting with us and we spoke openly and honestly of things which either concerned or were of interest to us. The Congregation, as you might expect and as I hope you pray for, is interested in receiving from all bishops good, holy, smart, gifted, compassionate, patient, loving, energetic and hardworking candidates. In earlier blogs I have described the process by which bishops are chosen so I will not repeat it here. I enjoyed the conversation with Cardinal Ouellet and the time spent together.

From there we walked to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity nearby. Cardinal Kurt Koch is the President of this Pontifical Council (Congregations are led by Prefects, Councils by Presidents). If there is a more sympatico Council in all of Rome, it has to be this one. It is extremely lonely most of the time out on the ecumenical limb and the Cardinal carries not only the responsibility of being the Holy See’s liaison to Protestant and other Christian religions, but also for Interreligious Relations with the worldwide Jewish population as well as Dialogue with the Orthodox Churches of the world. As a Church it always seems to some that we are doing something offensive or at least insensitive and Cardinal Koch and his staff are our first line of offense to mend broken fences and soothe raw nerves. Most bishops, I suspect, wish we had the time and the talent to be more ecumenically engaged in our dioceses and I know the Council would like this as well. We spoke generally about relationship with Churches, the bi-lateral dialogues which are still taking place between ourselves and some of the Protestant churches, and our continuing desire to strengthen the bridges built with our Jewish sisters and brothers. All in all, a great morning.

The North American College on the hill where I am staying did not begin up here. As a matter of fact this building was constructed on land given by Pope Pius XII following the end of the Second World War. It began under Pope Pius IX downtown very near the Trevi Fountain on via dell umilta (Humility Street – a nice place for those studying for the priesthood). That building is still in use by the College and is used for ordained priests from the United States getting their advanced degrees at Roman Pontifical Universities. Originally a convent for sisters, The Casa Santa Maria now is home to about 60 graduate priests and they invited us for lunch today but I chose to spend time catching up and preparing for the afternoon meeting with the Congregation For Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments for which I am the facilitator.

Our conversations so far with all whom we have met have been cordial to a fault and in some instances quite helpful.

+RNL