Thursday, February 19, 2009

Save the Date!

It's official! Wanda Gawronska, niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio, will be in the U.S. in early June. She will be the guest on "EWTN Live" on Wednesday, June 3rd. The show airs at 8 p.m. EST. Plan to be in the audience or just to watch the show! You can call in or email questions during the live hour.

Note: Individuals
wishing to attend a Live Show must make their reservations in advance by contacting the EWTN Pilgrimage Department. This may be done in writing, by phone [205-271-2966 (option 2)], by fax [205-271-2957], or by e-mail [ ].

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

I am more than happy to say that I visited the beautiful Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls today. This is a great jubilee year in honor of the 2000th birthday of St. Paul. Along with that celebration, comes the opportunity to obtain a plenary indulgence. What a great gift from the Church!

It is always special for me to visit this particular Basilica, not only because of its incredible beauty or that it is one of the four major basilicas, but because it held a special place for Pier Giorgio who also visited it. St. Paul was his favorite saint and an inspiration for his life of charity.

The Basilica has undergone some changes since my last visit. Most likely because of the crowds expected during this jubilee year, they have constructed a great bathroom facility. If you have done any traveling in Italy, you will understand why I am mentioning that detail! They have moved the gift shop/bookstore from its previous location and have installed turnstiles that you must pass through to visit the courtyard area. Unfortunately, you have to pay a few euro to go through the turnstiles. Inside the Basilica, they have done some additional excavation and you can see a part of the tomb of St. Paul. They have a new little area that makes it extremely easy to offer Mass intentions, as well.

The Pier Giorgio Pilgrimage 2009 will begin with a visit to St. Paul Outside the Walls. What a great way to begin a journey in the footsteps of Pier Giorgio! The trip is now filled but we will do it again next year and you won't want to miss it.

Even though it takes a little extra effort to visit this Basilica when you are in Rome, I hope that you will make a point to do it if you find yourself here at any time. Just hop on Bus 23 and tell the driver you are going "verso l'alto!"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Best of Times and Worst of Times in Rome

Everyone has a favorite city and Rome is high on my list. The sights are spectacular and numerous; the churches are magnificent; the cappuccino is delicious; and the Pope is here! Today, the piazza was packed for his Sunday Angelus. I would have to give the French the prize for the biggest cheering.

After the Angelus, I headed down to the tomb of Pope John Paul II. It keeps changing down there, each time I come. At first, you could take pictures and give the guards things to touch to the tomb. They started getting less willing to touch items to the tomb and added an overhead speaker system in many languages reminding you to be quiet. Ironically, it's the noise from the speaker that is the most distracting! Now they are not even allowing pictures to be taken. They do allow you to touch something to the floor just inside the rope but that's it. And yet, the crowds keep coming and coming and coming. Santo Subito!

I went to Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Altar of St. Joseph. Headed out afterward to the shops along Borgo Pio. Not much tourist traffic at all. Just before 3 o'clock, I entered the Holy Spirit Church for the beautiful Divine Mercy chaplet conducted each day by the sisters who take care of this beautiful church. Many of the prayers are in Polish because of the connection to Saint Faustina Kowalska. But the majority of the prayers were in Italian. I have been to this service before but noticed a beautiful addition this year. At the end of the chaplet, one of the sisters came to the front of the church with a cross that contained a relic of St. Faustina. I happened to be kneeling on the floor just to the left of her and was moved to watch the crowd of hundreds come forward to venerate the relic.

As an American Catholic, it is so uplifting to participate in the traditions and devotions and services here in Rome. But, it is also a sad time in this country for those who respect the sanctity of human life at all stages.

Yesterday, death by starvation began for a beautiful woman named Eluana Englaro who fell into a coma in 1992 and is now considered to be in a "persistent vegetative state." Sadly, she is being denied basic nutrition at the request of her father. The debate taking place over here, amid various protests and stages of legal action, are hauntingly similar to those that occurred in the U.S. when we were forced to stand by and watch the euthanization of Terry Schiavo. The news last night was centered on every aspect of this story.

Just two weeks ago, I was in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life and spent some time talking with a group of Italians, "Voglio Vivere," who have been coming to the U.S. for several years now to stand up for life. The war being waged against the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn and the infirm, is a global war and we need to be united in prayer. Please pray for Eluana, for her father, for all those who are involved in this situation, and for a victory over the culture of death.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rome Sweet Rome

I have been meaning to post something since arriving in Rome but have had little free time. This is a good problem to have!

I am here to do some work with Pier Giorgio's niece Wanda who is expected to come to the U.S. in June. If you have not met Wanda, you would be fascinated by all that she does on behalf of Pier Giorgio. By the way, Wanda was recently interiewed by Canada's Salt and Light TV for a special episode of "Witness" that will air on February 15th. You can see the schedule on their website and it looks like you can view the network via live streaming but may have to subscribe. I was able to view the interview last night and you won't want to miss it!

The place where I am staying is right around the bend from a church called Santa Lucia del Gonfalone. This church has a huge painting of Pier Giorgio on the wall of the first side altar as you enter on the left. It has become my special place to pray to Pier Giorgio here in Rome. As soon as I can get to a scanner, I will post a picture of the painting. It is quite unique.

Because of my work, I have been able to spend many unforgettable weeks in Rome over the past few years. I must say, it is strange to come to a large city in a foreign country and feel very much at home. But, considering this is the heart of the Church, that makes some sort of sense. My favorite thing (outside of spending time with Wanda, of course!) is going to the Sunday Angelus on the piazza of St. Peter's Basilica. It is the most beautiful display of the universal church that I have ever seen. I never tire of it and wish every Catholic in the world could attend just once.

Pier Giorgio once wrote: "...every day I understand better what a Grace it is to be Catholic." That, I would say, most succinctly sums up my feelings after each day I spend here in Rome. Hopefully, I will be able to share a little more with you in the next few days. Verso l'alto!