In the morning I attended the diaconate ordination of two men from the Pontifical Irish College, one of whom is a classmate. The ordination was held at my favorite Church in Rome, the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem. After the beautiful ceremony we all made our way over to the Pontifical Irish College for lunch. Fortunately I was able to make the day even better with a quick pit stop at the generalate of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as I made my way from the Church to the college. Unfortunately I had to skip the desert portion of a wonderful lunch so that I could make my way on to the next ordination.
The second diaconate ordination of the day was for eight young Jesuits, seven of whom are my classmates The eight men originally hail from many different countries, so there was quite an international element to the experience. For example, the official programs contained all of the texts for the liturgy in five different languages. Many of my other classmates from the university who come from all over the world were also able to attend the celebration in support of our Jesuit companions. Given that we are currently on break from classes for Holy Week and Easter, it was nice to be able to relax and spend time with my classmates in a more relaxed and social setting at the reception following the ordination.
A long, but spiritually enriching day.
And if you’re wondering…both ceremonies around 2 hours.
Now that I’ve been in Rome for almost three years, I think there are certain patterns and routines from year to year that are beginning to become mini-traditions. One of those mini-traditions is that each year thus far I have joined the junior professed sisters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross with the Pope on Good Friday at the Colosseum.
This year there were fewer of us than the past two years but it was still quite a pleasant evening. We always get there quite early and just spend the afternoon hanging out while we wait.
Another unique aspect of the experience is that between all of the sisters and I we are fluent in at least 7 languages, so as many other pilgrims come by and see us hanging out together, they will ask questions and inevitably we can always point them in the direction of the individual who speaks that particular language. A simple yet profound expression of the universality of the Church.
At the conclusion of the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, In Coena Domini, there is the tradition of placing the reserving the Blessed Sacrament on an altar other than the main altar of the Church. This altar is called the Altar of Repose, and is usually decorated especially for the occasion. The faithful are then encouraged to come and pray. In this moment the Church recalls and lives the experience in garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46).
In Rome this tradition takes on another dimension when one considers the vast number of Churches throughout the Eternal City. It is a tradition to spend the evening walking from Church to Church stopping in to pray. The streets are packed with faithful pilgrims. It is one of my favorite evenings every year.
This year was a little different than past years as I was able to accompany roughly 60 students from my apostolate, Loyola University Chicago as well as a few students from Duquesne University. As in past years, it did not disappoint. It was a beautiful evening of good conversation and deep prayer.
Here are photos from a few of the Churches we visited.
This morning classes were cancelled at the Pontifical Gregorian University. However, the cause was most certainly just. Pope Francis had invited all of the faculty, students and staff of the university to an audience at the Vatican. I guess you could consider this another field trip.
So instead of heading across the city to the university, those of us from the NAC only had to go down the hill to the Vatican. We met up with our classmates, other students and professors. For the first hour or so there were a series of songs sung by representatives of the various countries and cultures represented at our university. The mixture was quite eclectic. As the time for the audience with the Holy Father approached, the event took a more prayerful disposition, as the rector led us all in prayer. Then Holy Father arrived and addressed all present. His address can be found here. After the address he greeted many of the professors present. Then, to our surprise he started to make his way up the aisle where all the students were present. We all lined up against the barriers and stuck our hands out shake hands with the Pope.
A blessed morning indeed. I took my simple point-and-shoot camera and didn’t get too many good shots. Here are three I can share.
This spring I will be finishing my three year course of study known as ‘First Cycle” which results in the ecclesiastical degree, S.T.B. I have been working towards this degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Seeing that we are at the end of the three years, my classmates and I decided to invite all of the professors from the core classes throughout the course of the three years to come for a dinner at the North American College.
Naturally, we decided to go for a somewhat American theme. Therefore, I was asked to take over the BBQ duties. I cooked pork shoulder for 11 hours and pork ribs for 6 hours. I also grilled some vegetable skewers. Other classmates provided great help in preparing potato salad and cheesecake for desert.
What made this evening so entertaining and memorable was the opportunity to interact with so many of our professors in a new context. Our professors come from so many different countries, cultures and backgrounds. They are both men and women, consecrated religious, diocesan priests, and laity. Normally we only get to see one professor at a time, and normally, they are lecturing while we sit, listen and take notes. In this context, there was more than one professor present, and it was a more social setting. Everyone seemed to have a very good time while enjoying both the food and the company.
Even at 25 years old, in my 19th year of formal education, I must admit, field trips are still fun. Today for my class on the Church’s social doctrine, we got to do just that, take a field trip. We visited the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. We were treated to a lecture by the secretary-archbishop of said council. He talked about important global economic themes in the recent documents, Caritas in Veritate and Evangelii Gaudium. A layman who works for the council also presented to us the council’s most recent text on the relationship between energy sources and justice. No it wasn’t the zoo, a museum or the science center, but it was still a fun morning. It provided a nice change of pace and a way to see how it is that the principles learned in the classroom are being applied in the life of the Church.
As you are already well, aware Monday was St. Patrick’s day. This year I had a special opportunity to celebrate unlike ever before, with the Irish!
One of my classmates at the Gregorian University is a seminarian from the Pontifical Irish College. He was very gracious in inviting me to join the college for their festivities.
The evening began first with solemn vespers including a thought-provoking homily on how St. Patrick can help teach us to live as Christians in the 21st century. After vespers we moved into a parlor for a concert of traditional Irish music. The songs were all in Gaelic, so while I must admit I didn’t understand the words, I can still say that it was quite beautiful. The songs were sung by a group of students from Ireland who had come to Rome on a sort of tour.
After the concert there were a variety of traditional Irish refreshments and foods. All in all, it was a great celebration. I am very grateful to have such opportunities to learn and share different cultures first hand, they are truly enriching experiences.
In addition to our studies, prayer and community responsibilities, seminarians also engage in apostolic works. I’ve written about this in the past as for the better part of my first two years in Rome I served as tour guide for St. Peter’s Basilica and assisted in the Office of US Visitors to the Vatican.
This year I have received a new assignment. I now assist with campus ministry at the John Felice Rome Center, the Rome based campus of Loyola University Chicago. It has been a great privilege and learning opportunity to accompany these students on the journeys. In particular studying abroad provides a new set of challenges and opportunities.
On Sundays we join the students for Mass in the evening and a few times a month we have fellowship with pizza after Mass as well. Additionally, during the week we host and organize a variety of activities these range from Praise and Worship to a vocations night and instead of “Theology on Tap” we have “Theology Uncorked.” Once a semester we also take the students on a pilgrimage to Assisi.
Today is March 13, 2014. A year ago I stood in the Piazza di San Pietro as Pope Francis walked out onto the balcony to greet the world. What an exciting year it has been to see all that has taken place in the Church. I feel very fortunate to be here with a “front row seat” to all that is going on in the life of the Church.
The last few days have provided ample opportunity to reflect on the incredible experiences a year ago as the Church transitioned from Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis. Last night, Cardinal O’Brien and Greg Burke visited the college to share some of their reflections.
Here are some of the reflections I wrote a year ago as everything was taking place.
One thing I’ve learned this year among many is that the 3rd year of theology is definitely the most challenging year in seminary. Insofar as this is the last year before, God-willing, ordination to the diaconate, our responsibilities in the community are considerably increased.
One of the things that has been keeping me quite occupied this year is serving as the Editor-in-Chief of our magazine, Roman Echoes. Working on this magazine the past two years has given me the opportunity to put to use some of the skills I learned and developed in while working as a journalist and studying at the university.
So far this year we have published two issues. They are available at the following links:
I’m already hard at work on the next issue which will be published later in the spring.