August 6, 2014


A couple of months into my third year in Italy I have landed in my fourth--and presumably final--location. First was a month in Assisi as a student at the Accademia Lingua Italiana Assisi then three months in the Roman neighborhood of Garbatella while a student at the funnily named Torre di Babele (Tower of Babel) language school here in Rome. Then almost two years in the back section of the Collegio Internazionale San Lorenzo da Brindisi in the outskirts of Rome with the rest of the displaced fraternity of the General Curia, where it was staying while the Curia in town began renovations.

And now, even though the renovations aren't quite done, I've moved with the rest of the fraternity of the General Curia back to its proper home in the middle of Rome.

The new building is very nice. For the first time since I was parochial vicar in Yonkers, I have an office that isn't my room, which is a good boundary between work and life. I'm reminded a lot of the beginning of my post-novitiate formation, which was the last time I lived through a building renovation. One of the things that isn't done is the church, so we have been going around the corner in the morning to pray Morning Prayer and Mass with the Montfort Missionaries at their little church dedicated to Our Lady, Regina Cordium. (Queen of Hearts). I don't mind at all. Sometimes in religious life I have missed that feeling of 'going to church.'

Mostly I'm grateful for the landing.

July 10, 2014

Residency Permit Renewal, Part 3

The latest step in trying to renew my permesso di soggiorno went so well and smoothly that it felt strange. Having filled out the forms with the help of a model provided by the same helpful brother from the previous post, I set out with them after Mass this morning.

After the walk to the bus stop, I waited only a couple of minutes before two Franciscan nuns pulled up to the bus stop.

"Pace e bene," they greeted. "Where are you going?"

"Ahead to the Commercial Center," I responded. They said they would take me.

The sisters dropped me off right in front of a tabacchi, which is where you need to go to buy the 16 euro stamp that you have to stick on the top of form #1 before you hand it in at the post office. From there I went across the street to the post office. I pressed the appropriate button on the machine where you take a number. As soon as my number came out of the machine it came up at the Sportello Amico. That's the "friend window," because the Republic of Italy is your friend. No waiting at the Italian post office, that's a new one. I gave my kit to the man, who turned out to be very nice. He checked this, scanned that, typed into his computer, took my €158.50, and eventually provided me with the correct receipts and the sheet of paper that tells you when to show up at Via Del Mascherino 12.

In fact, the only thing that didn't go so well was the wait for the bus to take me home. But at that point I wasn't about to complain.

July 9, 2014

Residency Permit Renewal, Part 2

Returning from the morning described in the previous post, I mentioned my insuccess to those of the brothers that I ran into. One of them, much more experienced in such things, said that he would have opportunity to check for the kit in his travels, and would do so for me. A few days later, while I was waiting for the least hot day of the week to try again at new post offices, he said, "I have something that will make you happy," and delivered a kit to me.

So while it is unbecoming of a religious to whine or complain of the troubles and difficulties his vocation offers him--which are graces in which rather he should rejoice and give thanks to God--it can be good to share one's lament. Second, sometimes the Lord wishes to remind us that it is more blessed to depend on one's brother than on oneself.

July 4, 2014

Residency Permit Renewal, Part 1

So you realize, somewhat to your surprise, that you have been in Italy for two years. One of the effects of this is that your permesso di soggiorno, or residency permit, obtained not without difficulty and misadventure (see this post and this post) is getting ready to expire.

It's time to think about applying for a renewal of the residency permit.

The first step in this process, which would seem easy enough, is to collect the 'kit' (English: 'kit') alleged to be "available in all post offices."

So you are reminded that there is a nice-looking post office that you have passed in the course of your regular appointments, and decide to visit the next time you're there. Trying to execute this plan, you find that you have to regard yourself as a silly person for having presumed that a post office would be open as late as early afternoon on a weekday.

Then you admit to yourself that a dedicated trip is going to be necessary and, having checked your insight with a more experienced confrere, decide to visit a larger post office where you have had some good fortune in the past. You leave in the morning and ride the bus to the area of the post office. You take a number. You lend your almost-used-up WSOU pen to a random guy carrying all of his vital documents in his inverted motorcycle helmet. Your number comes up and you go to the window. No, we're out of the kit says the guy. Maybe try the post office near such-and-such subway stop.

So you get on the subway for a couple of stops. Thanks to Google Maps you have a guess as to what post office the guy was talking about. When you get there you have high hopes because the post office seems very fancy, having individual, double automatic doors like an airlock. But unfortunately you find that like many fancy things in Italy, it's fancy for no particular reason and they don't have the kit either. Do you have any advice, you ask the post office guy.

"You have to keep going to post offices." he offers, in a tone that suggests he is explaining something obvious.

By now it's starting to get pretty hot and you might decide to go home so as to be sure to be there for Midday Prayer and dinner, but you think that maybe you have time to try on more post office. Faithfulness is what you have to do with your freedom, you think. So back to Google Maps and a walk to the next closest post office, where your luck doesn't change.

So you turn to find your way home, having spent a morning making no progress on getting the Republic of Italy to allow you to live there another two years. You sit down on the bus and thank God for the gift of the smallest taste of the sufferings and frustrations of foreigners and displaced people, and you pray for all of them, for their strength and safety.

To be continued...

June 8, 2014

The Holy Spirit

I got caught up in the readings on the way up to Pentecost, especially Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper as it comes to us in John.

"I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26)

To me this is the heart of Christianity; that the love with which you have loved me may be in them. Our communion with the humanity of Jesus Christ draws us into the love of the Father and the Son. And this is what we call the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ reveals that 'God' is not a static 'supreme being' nor a philosopher's abstraction, but a relationship, a Lover and Beloved in the perfect unity of Love. That Love conceives the Beloved in time, within the creation, so that the human creature may also enjoy and be renovated by the creative relationship that is the Father and the Son. This historical event we call Jesus Christ.

As the Spirit conceives Jesus Christ through the loving consent of Mary, so the same Spirit conceives each Christian soul, made Christ-ian by communion with the humanity of Christ, empowered to confess that "Jesus is Lord." (1 Cor 12:3) Just as Christ is raised from the dead, so the Christian gains new life from the Spirit dwelling within, (Rom 8:11) enabling him or her to leave behind selfishness and fear and to "seek the things that are above." (Col 3:1)

The Spirit does all this precisely as the Love of the Father and the Son, drawing the person who consents into the very life of the Blessed Trinity, into the overflowingly creative love from which everything that has being has come.

Each of us is a unique and unrepeatable creation. Since, as we say, 'grace builds on nature,' this means that each of us has the potential of being the bearer of a unique and unrepeatable grace for the world. Indeed, God wills it. St. Paul says as much to the Corinthians: "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Cor 12:7) Let us then let go of anything that holds us back, and consent to be conceived as Christians, as members of the mystical Body of Christ, that we might become the particular grace God wills and delights for us to be for each other.

April 27, 2014

Pineapples and Full Circles

About five years ago, when this old blog was going strong and I was in the middle of my assignment as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart in Yonkers, my Provincial Minister came to me with some pamphlets and asked me if I might think about going to our International College in order to study in Rome.

April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

As sleepy as this old blog has become, I can't let it go without an Easter post to greet the kind visitors who still check in here as well as those who come by way of links and search traffic.

The Resurrection is the dawn of the new creation of which Our Lady's Immaculate Conception was the first light. It is the good news that the death of sin--earned for us by our first parents--has been defeated by the Son of God in the humanity he borrowed from us through her consent. As citizens of this new creation by baptism and conformed to the death and Resurrection of Christ by Holy Communion, we can begin to live in freedom from the works of death and "seek the things that are above" (Colossians 3:1)

I was fairly pleased with at least some of what I did for Lent; I think it left me more open, more willing, quieter. More and more I know--beyond just saying it--that this is what prayer is about: willingness, openness, consent, surrender. An acceptance of what God gives, the wonder at how his presence to you has always been broader than you knew or reflected upon in what you called your prayer or 'spiritual life', consent to letting go even of ideas about him and your ideas of what it meant to be faithful.

So to all the believers who come by this post, I wish a blessed celebration of Easter and the hopeful awareness of the new life that wills to be born in you.