Monday, October 6, 2014

Back to School!

Today was my first day back in class in a few years. The day began with the Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law addressing the new students for an hour (which was quite informative) and then continued with an hour of 'Methodologies I' which promises to be a rather tedious, but possibly helpful class introducing us to the library, research methods here, formatting of papers (there's the tedious part!) etc. I even managed to get some homework assigned which is due later in the week; this is getting real!

The facade of the Gregorian University
The past week has been a wonderful experience. The new men at the Casa Santa Maria were fortunate to be able to get tickets to distribute communion at the Pope's Mass on Sunday. We were able to see and cheer for Pope Benedict XVI who was present at an event that took place before the Mass. Here is a picture from the internet that shows us in the background. It is too blurry to make out where I was sitting, but we had a great view!

I took some time this past week, also, to attend the Diaconate Ordination of the seminarians from the Pontifical North American College here in Rome. It took place at the Altar of the Chair at St. Peter's Basilica. Two of the men from the Diocese of Paterson, NJ were kind enough to invite me to their reception where I was able to catch up with some New Jersey priests including the priest who vested me at my own ordination to the Diaconate. Keep these men, and all deacons in your prayers.

I think I will go work on my homework now so that I don't have that hanging over my head all week. Latin classes begin this evening!

In other back-to-school news, I saw that it was just announced that St. Gregory the Great Academy was named a National Blue Ribbon School; Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

St Nicholas of Tolentino

Today marks the memorial of St. Nicholas of Tolentino.

St. Nicholas was born around 1246 and lived until 1305.

He was a great friend of the poor and worker of miracles, but is know today, principally, as a great patron of the souls in purgatory. He encouraged devotion to those souls and directed those around him to offer up prayers and good works on their behalf.

While the earthly remains of St. Nicholas are in Tolentino, Italy, his memory is preserved in the Augustinian church in Rome. I stopped by this morning for a quick visit:

The Basilica of St. Augustine, Rome
Tommaso Salini, St. Nicholas overcoming the devil, the world, and flesh, oil on canvas (beginning of the 17th century)
G.B. Ricci, Episodes from the life of St. Nicholas and St. Gregory the Great, frescoes (after 1585)
Andrea Lilli, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine, frescoes (after 1585)
P. Gagliardi, The vision of St. Nicholas during the Mass, fresco (about 1861)
P. Gagliardi, The end of the plague in Cordoba, fresco (about 1861)
Under another altar in the church
Left reliquary: St. Fortunata and St. Pia, martyrs
Right reliquary: Ampule of the blood of St. Nicholas of Tolentino and relics of St. Onorio and St. Giustino, martyrs

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Feast of St. Gregory the Great

According to the current liturgical calendar, today is the feast of St. Gregory the Great. In honor of the day another priest and I walked over to St. Peter's Basilica after lunch today. We stopped in to pray before the remains of Pope Saint Gregory the Great which are interred below one of the side altars of the Basilica. I was sure to remember all of you who have asked for my prayers while I am here in Rome as well as all the parishioners of St. Gregory the Great in Hamilton, NJ. I miss you all very much; please know that I think of you often and remember you in prayer as often.

(REMINDER: clicking on any image will open a larger version thereof!)

Above the altar is a magnificent mosaic from 1772 by Alessandro Cocchi and Vincenzo Castellini which is based on a 1625 painting by Andrea Sacchi (1599-1661). Here is an explanation of the image:

"The painter depicted the Miraculous Mass of St. Gregory, also known as the Miracle of the Corporal. In response to a request from the Emperor Constance for an authentic relic, Gregory gave the emperor's representative a cloth that had previously been used to wrap the bones of certain martyr saints (according to another version of the legend, it was the cloth with which Gregory had wiped the chalice after dispensing the sacrificial wine during the mass). When the representative rejected the cloth as a paltry and worthless thing, Gregory, after first saying mass, took it and stabbed it with a sharp blade, causing it to bleed. The miracle was one of the most famous involving St. Gregory and was especially popular during the Catholic Reformation, when it was cited in support of the Catholic position on the mystical power of relics." 
(Rice, Louise. The Altars and Altarpieces of New St. Peter's. 1997.)
Another major St. Gregory-related site in Rome is the church of San Gregorio al Celio. This church is built on the location of St. Gregory's family home. St. Gregory had taken the site and turned it into a monastery, the oratory of which was slowly enlarged and reconstructed until the present. Within the church is the 'throne of St. Gregory' from which the saint often taught. It can be seen (in a reconstructed state) in Raphael's famous DisputĂ .
St. Gregory on his throne
I'm afraid I do not have a picture of his throne as it looks today, but one can be found HERE.

Also at San Gregorio al Celio are three little chapels or oratories. One of the oratories is located over the tomb of St. Sylvia, the mother of St. Gregory. One of the other oratories is located on the site of the triclinum (dining room) where St. Gregory entertained the poor at dinner and where a noted miracle occurred: 

Every day, he fed at his own table twelve poor pilgrims, whom he insisted on serving himself. We are told that one day when he entered the dining room he saw not twelve men, but thirteen. He inquired of his steward why there was an extra guest, but the astonished steward maintained that they had only the usual number. 
“I am sure I see thirteen!” the Pope insisted. 
As the meal progressed, Saint Gregory noticed that the countenance of one of his guests kept changing from time to time. Now he would find himself looking into the face of a handsome young man, and again his gaze would fix itself on the same face become suddenly old and venerable. When he could stand the mystery no longer, Pope Gregory drew the strange man aside. 
“What is your name?” he asked him. 
“Do you not remember,” his guest replied, “the merchant who came to you one day at Saint Andrew’s Monastery and told you that he had lost all his possessions in a shipwreck, and whom you gave twelve pieces of money and the silver dish which was your treasured remembrance of your beloved mother? I am the merchant to whom you gave your mother’s dish. Rather, I am the angel whom God sent to you to prove your charity. Now, do not fear,” he added, seeing Saint Gregory’s trembling amazement, “it is for the alms of that silver dish that God has given you the Chair of Saint Peter. And behold, God has sent me to be your guardian as long as you remain in this world. Whatever you ask will be granted you through me.”
“If,” said the Pope in humble and happy wonderment, “for my little alms God has made me Supreme Pastor of His holy Church, and has sent me an angel to help me, what will He not grant me if I set to work to perform with my whole strength whatever He wishes of me!” 
His burdens seemed to bear less heavily upon Saint Gregory after that. And he accomplished even more extraordinary things. 
(Clark, Catherine Clark, MICM, The Life of St. Gregory the Great, 2011)
Here are some pictures of that oratory wherein is preserved the table at which these meals were served.

An inscription on the surface of the table reads:


My (rather bad) translation runs:


This miracle is recalled (albeit rather abstractly) in one of the windows of St. Gregory the Great church in Hamilton, NJ--my last assignment:

The window on the left recalls this event in the life of St. Gregory the Great.
(The circles are the heads of those seated around the table.)