Friday, September 17, 2010

On Retreat....

In my room I have an icon of St. Ignatius that was painted by William McNichols. In the Icon St. Ignatius has one finger up to his lips, and the other near his heart. The finger up to his lips is in the typical gesture to remind us to be quiet, and boy do I need that reminder right now.

Rome is noisy. I live over Piazza Venezia, and not a moment goes by without a motorino passing under my window. My life is noisy. I have two soundtracks, one in English, one in Italian, running in my head at all times. My heart right now… a little noisy. So I am headed north, and east, into the mountains for a week to be quiet and pray.

Those of us who are Jesuits have the privilege of doing this every year, of renewing our life in the spirit by just being quiet and being with the One who makes our vocations both possible and meaningful. It’s the time to listen to that still small voice, and the time focus all of our thoughts and all of our intentions one the one who loves us.

Augustine once said that prayer is like breathing for the soul. Imagine your first breath after coming up from a prolonged stretch under water… that is what retreat can be like for your soul. This is why I am so excited to come up for air.

Ignatius lived in this house, and I can picture him being here at the cross roads of Rome knowing just what I am talking about, that he needed to be quiet and pray. So do I.

So I am off to the mountains to pray, and this blog will lay dormant for a week or so. Pray for me and know that I will be praying for you. 

Descending into St. Peter's Prison Cell.

Sometimes the simplest places are the ones that can fill us with awe. Today I visited a cave that was turned into a prison in about 500 B.C.  It was in that prison that St. Peter was held before his death. Below is the video, enjoy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Visit to the rooms of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

I am fortunate to live in the same house that a couple of Saints lived in, most notably among them St. Ignatius of Loyola. Here is a visit to where he lived.


Friday, September 03, 2010

The Capella Clementina and the Communion of Saints.

5:00am. I know that for many religious this is midmorning, but for this nocturnal son of St. Ignatius, 5:00am is an ungodly hour. Why did I get up at 5am today? The answer is in a conversation that I had with a fellow Jesuit last month in Florence, when a good friend of mine invited me to a mass that he was celebrating in the Capella Clementina, at 7 am this morning.

St. Peter's Basilica at 6:45 in the morning.. just barely after sunrise.
For those of you who don’t know, the Capella Clementina is the Chapel closest to the tomb of St. Peter. It is the oldest part of St. Peter’s Basilica, and it is here that, under the altar you can see the remains of the “Old” St. Peter’s, namely the basilica of Constantine. If you go up to the altar and look down through the grate you can, in fact, see the actual tomb of Peter, where it was rediscovered during the archeological digs under St. Peter’s. People have worshiped in this space since the martyrdom of Peter in about 64 AD. The chapel was rebuilt by Pope Clement VIII in about 1592, and adorned with marble and gold. Clement left his mark, literally, on the chapel and all around it you can see the 8 pointed stars that are a part of his coat of arms. (You can also see these stars worked into the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica around the papal altar)

The interior of the Capella Clementina, it is only able to hold about 6 people. 
So today we went to pray literally at the tomb of St. Peter, two other Jesuits and I woke up very early and took the bus across town and were actually the first people to pass through security at St. Peter’s Basilica this morning. At the tomb of Peter this morning I prayed for everyone in the path of the Hurricane back in the states. I figured the tomb that we were praying at was the tomb of a man who had seen the Lord rebuke a storm, and who had asked the Lord to rebuke a storm in scripture, so why not. After mass we went by the tomb of John Paul II, and I prayed there for a relative that was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s because it just seemed to make sense. A few weeks back, when I first got to Rome I stumbled upon the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which is literally a block away. The body of St. Catherine of Siena is buried there, and so I prayed for a friend of mine who, like St. Catherine, is a woman who both loves her faith and Church, but who also passionately works for justice in it. In Venice I prayed for my friends who teach scripture at the tomb of St. Mark.  In Assisi I prayed for a Jesuit friend of mine who keeps finding himself on TV at the tomb of St. Claire, since she is the patroness of TV. Then there are the rooms of St. Ignatius, where I go to pray each day. In those rooms I have prayed for BC High, where I just completed three happy years, and I have prayed for many Jesuit friends of mine there as well.

A great cloud of witnesses indeed, as the writer of Hebrews says, surrounds us. These great saints not only serve to inspire us and intercede for us, but they also serve to connect us to those around us, because the communion of saints doesn’t just include them, but all of us who are living and still on pilgrimage. These saints have served, all too often, to connect me with the people that I care about most back home, even as the journeys to these places have served to bring me closer to the people I live with here in Rome. This morning in the Capella Clementinum, as I prayed for everyone in the path of the hurricane which now seems to be weakening, I didn’t feel quite so far from home. Maybe that is really in the end what the communion of Saints is all about.