Posts Tagged ‘Rome’

SUNDAY, SUNDAY

Monday, October 5th, 2015

IMG_1872I left Rome on Saturday to return to the diocese, mostly without interruption at least until the Christmas holidays. The “Roman Holiday” was not much of a holiday as I arrived in the Eternal City at 900 am on Wednesday and left at noon on Saturday – three days and three hours. The purpose of the trip was wonderful in that for the second year in a row one of our seminarians was ordained to the transitional diaconate, meaning that I will have the privilege of ordaining him to the priesthood this coming May. Alex Padilla, like Father Ryan Boyle who was ordained last year, has attended the Pontifical North American College for three years. During that time his studies have been at the Gregorian University (the Jesuits) and his formation at the North American College (NAC hereafter). He is among 270 seminarians enrolled this year at this seminary.

Alex is one of two early vocations coming from the diocese’s newest high school, Bishop McLaughlin in Spring Hill (well, really Hudson for everyone except the Post Office). Rajeev Phillip is the second vocation and he also is studying in Rome but for the Syro-Malabar Rite whose origin and strength is to be found in Southern India. His diocesan headquarters is in Chicago and there are two Syro-Malabar parishes located in Tampa so perhaps good fortune will bring Rajeev back to minister in his home area. Both McLaughlin graduates are outstanding candidates for the priesthood.

Alex was ordained a deacon on Thursday morning at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica by Timothy Cardinal Dolan along with thirty-eight other men. Twelve of his classmates were ordained deacons during the summer months in their own dioceses and by their own bishops. While his mother and father and brother were able to be present, only one other cousin who lives in Germany, and one other classmate from his days as a college seminarian at St. John Vianney were able to be present as well.

His rector from his days at St. John Vianney in Miami, Monsignor Roberto Garza, vested him in his diaconal robes during the ceremony, and his coach and mentor from Bishop McLaughin, Michael Zelenka, now principal at Incarnation Elementary School in Tampa, and I were able to be present.

Cardinal Dolan gave one of the finest homilies prior to the actual ordination ceremony itself I have ever heard. The ordination was lovely and the opportunity  to spend time with an ordinand and his family was special for myself as well.

On Friday and Saturday, the nine U.S. bishops who will be participating in the Synod on the Family, which began with a prayer service on Saturday night, arrived for their three hard weeks of work on a church event which, save for the Second Vatican Council, has captured the attention of the Catholic world. You may recall that almost two years ago I invited all of my diocesan family to complete a questionnaire on marriage and family life in the Church and world today.

More than 9,000 of you responded with a large majority asking for some type of relief for the divorced and remarried while maintaining the essential teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. You also spoke your minds and hearts in that survey about same-sex marriage, welcoming gay and lesbian Catholics back into the family if they felt estranged, cohabitation and many other matters.

I shared the results of the survey with all of you, even though I think I was not supposed to do that. That survey and its findings were sent to the Synod Office in Rome which prepared the working structure for both last year’s extraordinary Synod which led up to what starts tonight with a prayer vigil with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square and a Mass tomorrow morning. Then the “rubber will hit the road”. My suspicion is that there is sufficient division among the attending Synod members to bring about major change, but the Holy Father might well. He listens carefully and intently to what he hears, both the majority opinions and the minority opinions. If the minority has a point, whereas in the past it would never see the light of day at the conclusion of the Synod, he has minority opinions noted publicly and occasionally as he sees pastorally fit, useful and or necessary he implements some of the things he hears.

This man is not afraid of conflict. He has asked the Synod Fathers to speak the truth of their hearts and minds in love and to bear in mind that there is always “Peter” to make the final decisions. It is going to be an interesting and invigorating three weeks as the Francis wind continues to breeze through the Church and it could get seemingly ugly but I ask you “be not afraid” as the Holy Spirit is guiding us now as we seek to speak to the modern world. Keep your eye on this space during these three weeks for thoughts.

Congratulations Deacon Alex. As wonderful as Thursday was, May 21, 2016 will be even more joyous as a grateful church of St. Petersburg welcomes you, Bradley Reed, Jonathan Stephanz, Kevin Yarnell, and Felipe Gonzalez to the sacred priesthood.

Also, please pray for all your priests who will be spending three days together this week in a special, mandatory convocation to reflect on what we have accomplished as a local church in the last two decades and what we would like to see shape a vision that we can share with the next shepherd of this great diocese.

+RNL

HOPE IN ABUNDANCE

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

One of the surest signs that it is Fall finds me visiting both of our seminaries, the college program, St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, and the Theological program, St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. At conclusion of the second, each September, the bishops of the province of Miami meet for several hours as the corporate members of the Catholic Conference of Florida. Thursday, September 25 was the meeting in Miami, Friday, September 26 was the meeting for the Board in Boynton Beach, and Saturday morning, September 27, saw me exit the Florida Catholic Conference meeting to catch a plane to Rome to meet with our two seminarians at the Pontifical North American College and to attend the ordination to the diaconate of one.

I almost always take AMTRAK to Miami and Monsignor Robert Gibbons who is on the board of the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary usually accompanies me as far as West Palm Beach. I had hoped to take sixteen seminarians at the college in Miami out for a light dinner but AMTRAK’s tardiness killed that good idea. We have sixteen men studying in six different years of the program. In recent weeks, Father Art Proulx has moved in as a house Spiritual Director and he is doing just great. So are our sixteen fine seminarians who come from three cultures with four native languages.

The men attending St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami with Father Arthur Proulx, Monsignor Toups and myself.

The men attending St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami with Father Arthur Proulx, Monsignor Toups and myself.

The seminary has plans for expansion, as they are too full this year with 97 seminarians living in space maximally designed for 72. The Miami Archdiocese has monies to fund these projects whole and in entirety so we will see what happens. They were in great form and fun to be with when I was not otherwise occupied in a meeting.

Thursday night we left St. John Vianney College Seminary for St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary (about eighty minutes north) where all the seminarians were waiting for dinner and received sad news. One of their brothers, second year theologian Tim Williford’s mother lost her valiant battle against cancer. Here was to be found a group of men so close to one another that the pain and loss of one affected the others. We immediately prayed for Lisa Williford and had a special, second Mass the next morning for her and her family. Our meetings were properly sober and when she was buried on Friday at St. Paul’s St. Petersburg, all of his fellow diocesan seminarians (34) and nine (9) others were present at the Mass to pray and sing.

Our own Monsignor Toups has a mostly new faculty at St. Vincent’s this year and is in the in finishing stage of his twelve plus million construction project which will be ready for occupancy in late November. He has some 87 seminarians on campus and about fourteen in Pastoral Year programs in the dioceses, which send men to St, Vincent’s. They seemed a happy lot and Friday night was devoted to their major fundraiser, FRIENDS OF THE SEMINARY.

With the understandable and lovely exception of Lisa Willifords’ death, the men at St. Vincent de Paul seminary were enthusiastically well into their school year. Please remember that in God’s grace and assuming no departures, our diocese will ordain five men to priesthood in May 2015, seven men to priesthood in May 2016, two in May of 2017, and four in May of 2018. At no time in its fifty year history will this diocese see so many ordained in a four year window – something to be proud of, thank God and these young men and their families for, and continue to encourage others to think of a life of service to God and neighbor in religious life or priesthood. I also with to mention that another seminarian is studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, and will, God willing, be ordained a deacon this coming Spring. Kevin Yarnell previously was on the faculty of Tampa Catholic.

Earlier I mentioned that I was in Rome for the diaconate ordination of Ryan Christopher Boyle. Home grown in the Diocese (attended Bloomingdale High School), Ryan graduated from the Air Force Academy and began flying the air forces’ version of the Boeing 767 which serves as a “gas truck in the air to refuel” air force jets as they fly their missions. Along, among and in the “wild blue wonder” Ryan began to see the call to life as a priest, made the decision with the encouragement of his military superiors and with my permission entered that could be called a “co-sponsorship” between our diocese for which he would be ordained and the Military Archdiocese as an Air Force Chaplain. He loves our diocese and its parish work but he knows he must meet his promise to the Air Force for at least seven years.

Thursday morning last (October 2) dawned absolutely beautiful in Rome and several thousand people crowded the area known as the Altar of the Chair behind the Main Altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Donald Wuerl was the ordaining prelate for the occasion and gave a magnificent homily.

The “laying on of hands” by Cardinal Wuerl on Ryan Boyle with a proud bishop looking on.  Photo credit: Daniel Hart, PNAC Photo Service

The “laying on of hands” by Cardinal Wuerl on Ryan Boyle with a proud bishop looking on.

Photo credit: Daniel Hart, PNAC Photo Service

See more photos from Deacon Ryan’s ordination here. Later the same day, Deacon Ryan assembled his family and friends for a Mass of Thanksgiving at Santa Maria in Trestevere, one of Rome’s oldest and in some ways loveliest Churches and the parish of the Saint Egidio community in Rome, which is quite active for social justice.

At the Mass of Thanksgiving, the new deacon and Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese and myself.

At the Mass of Thanksgiving, the new deacon and Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese and myself.

It was a great day and week for our still young seminarian and this morning he put his family and us into cars and buses for the airport breathing a great sigh of relief and likely climbing into bed for a long and well deserved Fall nap. Tanti auguri, Ryan!

So I am back and have Father Chris Fitzgerald’s funeral tomorrow (Monday, October 6) followed by our annual priests convocation at the Bethany Center.

+RNL

*Note: This blog was originally written on Sunday, October 5.

A “FAMILY” FEUD

Monday, October 6th, 2014

I write this from a Delta jet flying at 34,000 feet just west of the French coastline headed for Atlanta where I will surely miss my connection to St. Petersburg and an uncertain future on a Sunday night. This morning I awakened in Rome having spent a week there for the ordination to the diaconate of our Ryan Boyle, a resident of the North American College and a student this year at the Angelicum (last year he graduated from the first cycle of theology at the Gregorian University). My next blog, coming very soon, if not tomorrow, will give more details about my visits in the last ten days to three of the four seminaries where our men study. Even as Ryan’s ordination in St. Peter’s Basilica along with forty-two of his fellow classmates was a major moment, for him and for them, the major happening in Rome began last night with tens of thousands again gathering in St. Peter’s Square with St. Peter’s successor to pray for the Extraordinary Synod which began this morning, just as I was leaving.

On the “street” where I live on the fifth floor of the North American College were to be found Cardinals Wuerl, Dolan, and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, our current President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, all members and participants in this papally called “Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family Life in our Day.” A great deal of print has been spilled in the secular and Catholic media in the last week about the event beginning today and being there among all these “heavy hitters” gave me pause to reflect and pray for this first exercise by Pope Francis in the “Synodality” envisioned by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council and for the gift of the same Spirit inspired wisdom in their deliberations.

In those reflective moments, I thought about what I might say, had I the opportunity to speak to the Holy Father and those gathered around him for the next two weeks. Slowly this thought came to me and I could not put it away. Our beloved Church is itself a family – a family of faith, of practice, of divine creation. And like most modern families, we have our share of disfunctionality at times, disagreements at other times, digression at times, and differences of opinion at times. The synod fathers are going to be talking about real challenges to marriage and family life in our time and culture. I would love to see at least an hour devoted to a dispute, which has taken far too much energy in our Church in this country than I think it deserves. While praying during the ordination of the 43 men in St. Peter’s last Thursday, I asked what Peter would have done and what Peter now might do with the current disagreement between certain Roman offices of our Church and the religious sisters of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (hereafter “LCWR”). The thought occurred to me that if Pope Francis could coax the leaders of Hamas and Israel to meet for prayer in the Vatican Gardens during which each side spoke respectfully of each other, could not the family of the Church try a little harder to settle something of a “border dispute” between the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (hereafter “CDF”) and the major branch of religious women in the US?

In popular Catholic opinion in the United States, I think clearly that the sisters in LCWR have conducted themselves quite admirably in avoiding the same heated rhetoric which came a couple of weeks ago from CDF. They are facing a mandate that they find very hard to swallow which is at its base, “Shape up or ship out.” In the late eighties the USCCB had a similar mandate come down from another Roman office and we politely ignored it and it went away. While the sisters have largely remained cool, calm and collected, the other side in what was perhaps a momentary (one might hope) peak of anger or frustration responded by saying “we are not misogynists” – a principle I would not wish to defend for the universal Church at large. Then there is the preposterous proposition that the LCWR does not represent American religious women. Had CDF said “all religious women” I would have had no qualms. But LCWR sure has a heck of a lot more religious sisters in its communities than any other body of religious women. As a local bishop, I love my sisters. Most could have retired to the motherhouse long ago but they long to help in many ways. And while I am at it, while my own USCCB was bound up for the last decade in liturgy and culture wars, those same members of our family, the sisters, kept the social justice agenda alive for which their leaders seem to now being blamed. These women are neither terrorists nor heretics and while some of the older sisters may not follow the drift or direction of some of the major speakers at the LCWR annual leadership assembly, they hang tough for their leadership and the most of the rest of the “Catholic” family supports them. Ask most of our priests about whether or not they support our sisters and the response will be positive. Ask the same group if this wing of the family ought to be taken to the woodshed for introducing topics of interest to them, and most of the rest of the family would likely say no. The Church at this moment in time does not need an internecine war between two respected bodies that love the same God, serve the same mission, as did our Lord.

I said at the time that the secret to success in getting this matter to go away was found by Pope Benedict XVI in the person of Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, a good, fair, nonideological man. Sadly, he is required to take his marching orders in this family feud from CDF. So if I had five minutes on the Synod Floor to talk about families and the Church in the next two weeks, I would ask the Holy Father when he has time to empower Archbishop Sartain to find a way to gain a truce on his own which the Pope could himself embrace which respects the interests of both but resolves disputes before they become, at least by one side, a soapbox gone too far. This seems in the political world to be a time of truce and peacemaking, why not also within our family. If the battle continues, there will be no winners, and I would opine that the Church may well lose more respectability and credibility.

Much of this extraordinary synod’s time is going to be devoted to best practices in keeping people within the family circle. How then about the good sisters who worked for decades at less than subsistence wages, taught us about God, bound up our hospital wounds, ran free clinics for the poor and homes for the aged. Let’s love them to death, not beat them to death. Please, Fathers of the Synod and Holy Father, take this contretemps for yourself and solve it for all. The Church as family would rejoice.

+RNL

ENOUGH ALREADY

Thursday, May 1st, 2014
St. John Paul II

St. John Paul II

The great canonization week-end is over and life in Rome is getting back to something approaching “Rome normal.” I have some thoughts about the canonizations which I would like to share with you as well as some thoughts about what some others have said subsequently about the events and those canonized.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that at the time Pope Francis announced his intention to canonize both Popes John XXIII and John Paul II at the same time, forgoing the need for a second miracle in the case of the former, I thought it was a brilliant offensive and defensive move on the part of our Holy Father.

Close followers of Church life have known for some time that there has been a deep chasm between a relatively small group of Catholics who liked nothing about the Second Vatican Council and blamed Pope John XXIII for their problems and another slightly larger but still small group that felt that the Church had stepped back and in some cases away from the vision of the Council fathers, and they blamed Pope John Paul II for their problems with the Church today. The former group is growing apoplectic about the present Pope and the latter group is growing impatient with him and could also move to the apoplectic if he does not act more quickly to embrace their hopes and aspirations. Relative to two of his predecessors, Francis moved decisively, congruently and cogently to share the best of both men’s lives with the Church at the same time and his measured, thoughtful homily on the occasion of their canonization last Sunday did not overdo either man. For this bishop, Pope Francis continues to never disappoint.

This brings me to my second point.

St. John XXIII

St. John XXIII

Two popes were canonized at the same time but in the eyes of too many people, I think, for the wrong reason. Saints are declared by the Church to be so because of who they were as persons and not what office they held. I have no personal experience of being in the presence of Saint Pope John XXIII but I have a lot more experience of being in the presence of Saint Pope John Paul II than a lot of other people in this country, including many bishops. I had the privilege and honor of planning and executing his 1979 and 1987 visits to the United States and being in over-all charge of the episcopal conference’s daily operations when he returned for World Youth Day in November. I was in the presence of Pope John Paul II when he came down in Boston on his first morning in the US in his pajamas for coffee and witnessed his nightly departure for bed and rest. But what I recall the most was the man at prayer. He was a mystic, able to communicate with his God at the deepest level of the mystical experience of prayer. One night we lost him temporarily at the residence where he was staying, only to find him prostrate on the floor of the chapel in a deep mystical experience. He was a saintly man and that reason and that reason alone should have advanced his cause. However, he was also a pope for a long time and if it were to be the position one holds which provides a fast track to canonization, this one took place too quickly for there is much to be discovered about his papacy overall.

I raise this concern because the cause of Pope Paul VI is rumored to be moving quite quickly also and a first miracle is said to be soon attributed to him. I loved Pope Paul VI and genuinely believe my own priestly vocation might be attributed to him but at some point we need to press the pause button and let more time elapse between the death of a pope and his canonization or history can ultimately make the Church look quite foolish (remember Galileo?). It can seem that it is the position, the papacy, that is the stepping stone to sainthood and not necessarily the person.

My third and final point centers on an article which I read today by a long-time friend and former colleague of mine, Francis Butler, who wonders in print, where are all the lay people in the canonization queue? Does one have to wear a cassock or habit to qualify for consideration? It is a very fair point.

On numerous occasions as the currently unavailable files from my time as General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (then the NCCB/USCC) where notes were taken of the meetings of my President and Vice-President with Saint Pope John Paul II, one will find several times the Holy Father asked our Conference to look for married couples as well as lay men and women who might be worthy of consideration. I think he knew that the sanctity scale was tilted strongly in the direction of priests and religious and was extremely desirous of elevating more laity to the ranks of sainthood.

We have now in the United States a candidate in the person of Dorothy Day who was from all accounts a very holy woman, even a saintly woman. That cause has been introduced by our episcopal conference, but. . . .now she will probably need to await the two miracles.

My final thought raises the question in my mind and I hope you will consider it as well, what is more important – seemingly miraculous occurences attributed to a holy person or the known sanctity of the person themselves?

Pope Francis has been moving toward the latter, eliminating the need at least for a second miracle. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to take a look at the whole process and eliminate the miracles necessity. That might open up the pool of potential saints beyond “cassocks and habits” and make it clear once again that it is the indeed the personal life of holiness which is the qualifier, not the position in the church occupied or held. Just a thought!

+RNL

 

 

 

 

WHEN IN ROME…

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

This morning along with a crowd estimated in excess of 110,000, I saw the Holy Father up close and personal. My reason for being in Rome this morning I will share with you momentarily, but for the first time in a long time I had that sense of “chills” of being in the presence of the Pope. It is a sense I first had when as a layman I was introduced to Pope Paul VI but left me after repeated time spent with Blessed Pope John Paul II, on the road during three papal visits to the United States and and many, many other occasions with he and Pope Benedict. Perhaps I “overdosed” on Popes in my life but over time while holding the deepest respect for them and the office they held, awe gave way to “ho hum” perhaps.

Well “awe” returned with a vengeance this morning. First, when I arrived at my place reserved for all bishops and looked out over the sea of people in front of me. I have been in the square when it has been full but I have never been there when the square was full and there were thousands shoulder to shoulder down the Via Conciliatione, the Main Street leading up to the square. I had heard last night there were 92,000 requests for tickets for today’s audience, in mid-October, folks, when schools are finally reopened in Europe and everyone is supposed to be back to work but in front of me was this wave of humanity, all waiting for a glimpse of one man.

Looking out at the sea of people. Photo by yours truly.

Looking out at the sea of people. Photo by yours truly.

It’s too facile to say that all new popes draw big crowds. They do. But not this big. Ask the shopkeeper near the Vatican and he shouts “bella”or ask the cab driver trying to make his way through the area and he says “bruta.” Ask any person and they say they have never seen anything like it.

The audience is supposed to start at ten o’clock but precisely at 940am a roar goes up and out he comes on the jeep, smiling, waving, stopping for wheelchairs and babies. And they drive everywhere throughout the square and then, as I suspected, out into the deep of the Conciliatione where there were no barriers holding people back. They came to see him so he was not going to disappoint them.

Pope Francis greeting the people. Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris.

Pope Francis greeting the people. Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

For forty minutes he drove throughout and outside of the square, keeping we bishops waiting and everyone else at the “front of the line.” I have a feeling that he does it on purpose. Those who have the smallest or no connection with how to get tickets for one of the 90,000 chairs get just as much of his time and attention as those of us in the “orchestra” who hold jobs that ensure proximity or know someone who can land the best seat.

He walks up the incline plane from the car to the platform not like a 75 year old with one lung but like a younger man delighted to be there.

Pope Francis. Photo taken by yours truly.

Pope Francis. Photo taken by yours truly.

The formal part of the audience took, you guessed it, the same forty minutes it took him to drive through the crowd.

Pope Francis. Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris

Pope Francis. Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

He spoke of the centrality of Mary in the life of the Church in Italian – an Italian spoken so slowly that even I understood most of it.

He dropped his text and spoke extemporaneously three times this morning, each time drawing laughter from the Italian speakers and scattered applause. He does not attempt any other language but Spanish and after one Our Father and the blessing it is over. You can read his written text by clicking here or by watching a summary video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AZR_qD3SYI[/youtube]

We bishops were first to greet him and have our picture taken with him. It’s a shame that others wait so long because this morning Cardinal Meisner of Germany and forty-one of we other “red caps” were there.

I thanked him for all he has done so far after first telling him I was from St. Petersburg, Florida, in the United States and smiling he said to me in perfect English, “Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers.”

Meeting Pope Francis. His reply to me, "Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers." Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris.

Meeting Pope Francis. His reply to me, “Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers.” Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

I didn’t want to take any more time and my knees were shaking anyway. I left the upper platform looking at the recent brides and grooms in their wedding attire waiting to meet him and get a picture. One couple yelled out to me by name so someone was there from St. Petersburg. I know Monsignor Morris and his brother and sister-in-law were there in the crowd somewhere as well as Father Craig Morley and a pilgrimage group but finding other people in that Mass of humanity was like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. I have shared whatever free time they have the last two and a half days with our two seminarians, Ryan Boyle and Alex Padilla, but they had class this morning. Rome is beautiful right now.

I was on my way back to the North American College where I am staying by 1135am. I am in Rome for three days only because a man whom I deeply admire and with whom I worked for seventeen years, Kenneth Hackett, former President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, presented his papers to Pope Francis on Monday as the new Ambassador of the United States of America to the Holy See, appointed by President Obama. It was an honor to share these moments with Ken and Joan, his wife, and their two children.

I am home again tomorrow (Thursday) and back at it in the diocese where I belong. I shall not soon forget that warm, smiling, welcoming face of Francis and the energy of the crowd who love what he is doing to and for our Church.

+RNL

DO CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley today is quoted as saying of our new Holy Father and the role yesterday evening he assumed, “he is a prisoner who lives in a museum.” My thoughts ran along the same line when after what seemed like eternity between the smoke and the appearance, Francis came out on the balcony.

 

Our new Holy Father, Pope Francis came out on the balcony! (Screenshot captured from EWTN's live video feed.)

Our new Holy Father, Pope Francis came out on the balcony! (Screenshot captured from EWTN’s live video feed.)

 

Excited at the choice, I felt so sorry for him for I have some sense of the burdens of office he carries and the loneliness which comes with it. The oft mentioned throw-away line, “it’s lonely at the top” certainly applies to the modern papacy.

 

Pope Francis. (Screenshot captured from EWTN's live video feed.)

Pope Francis. (Screenshot captured from EWTN’s live video feed.)

 

Then he asked for everyone present in the square to pause and pray for him and bless him with their prayers, a request followed by the most humble of gestures, a profound bow before the people.

 

Our new Holy Father, Pope Francis came out on the balcony! (Screenshot captured from EWTN's live video feed.)

Pope Francis asked everyone to pray for him. (Screenshot captured from EWTN’s live video feed.)

 

I knew from that moment we may have wound up with someone very special.

 

Pope Francis

Pope Francis. (Screenshot captured from EWTN’s live video feed.)

 

In the subsequent hours, what he has said, how he said it, and what he has done has amazed me. He eschewed the papal limosine for a more simple car in making this morning’s trip to St. Mary Major, one of the four major basilicas in Rome where he prayed before a special shrine of the Blessed Mother. “They” let him get away with it this time but that will not last forever, I know, but it was a sign. We learned that when each cardinal elector approached him after his election instead of sitting and making the cardinals kneel, he stood on the same level as they did and greeted each. We learned that after appearing on the balcony and going down to the level where that same limo was waiting he declined to ride in it and climbed on the bus with the other cardinals for the return trip to the residence inside Vatican City where they were all staying. We learned that last night at dinner, he greeted all the cardinals with the line, “God forgive you for what you have done!” I loved that while driving through the city of Rome (no Buenos Aires which is properly referred to as the ‘Paris of the South’ with its broad streets and boulevards), he asked his driver to pull up to the hotel where he had been staying (it’s a hotel for visiting bishops and priests only) so he could pack his bags and pay his bill (Shame on the place if they charged this humble man!). At his first Mass as Pope this afternoon with the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, he preached from the ambo and not the chair, he preached without the mitre, and he preached without a written text. If that continues, watch the practice of we bishops throughout the world. And if I were the papal master of ceremonies who has been in office since early in Pope Benedict’s pontificate, I would be calling my Archbishop in Genoa and asking if there were any parishes in the archdiocese open and in need of a pastor.

The power of the papacy, to entice, to invite, to excite, to thrill has been very much on display for the last four weeks and three days since Pope Benedict announced his intention to resign and retire. The world has focused on the Church in a way that few other governments would receive. We elected a world leader without great cost. We conducted an election where no one destroyed the reputation of anyone else or tried to climb over someone else to win an election, we did it really in just thirteen days after the position was truly vacant and we now have a leader for our Church who models consistency with Church teaching, compassion for the poor (I bet he would have been with me and my brother priests and brother and sister ministers at the FAST meeting on Tuesday night at the Trop) and a simplicity of lifestyle which will show occasional surprises even if he does live in something of a fishbowl museum.

There were tears on so many faces yesterday. There were even tears on the faces of those hardened by their dislike of the Church. We have a Pope. He will lead in many new ways. He will begin anew the reforms envisioned by the Second Vatican Council, he will find a way to communicate timeless and unchangeable truth in a new way which shows compassion and understanding for those who find such truths and teaching hard to accept. I thank God the election was swift, thereby denying those waiting to rush into print or on the screen with stories about deep divisions in the Church of Christ. What a month, what a day, what a future! Thank you to those who were able to come pray with me at a last minute Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Timothy’s in Lutz.

But for Francis, yesterday was a life altering moment. We must pray for him. It will neither be an easy job or quickly finished, but we are a church which thinks in centuries, not days. And in that museum in which our new Holy Father will live, I thought of another Argentinian who in a famous musical bearing her name, was shown coming out on the balcony many times at the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires to acknowledge the acclaim of the crowd and who like our new Pope perhaps should have sung, “do cry for me Argentina.” Francis is not a Peron. He is our pope.

With love to all my readers,

+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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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