December 5, 2019

Some Things I'll Miss

On the Monday after Pentecost in 2012 I got on an airplane in Boston and the next morning the guardian of the Capuchin General Curia fraternity and the Secretary General of the Order collected me from the airport in Rome. Now, in the first week of Advent 2019, I'm going home. It's the longest I've been anywhere since growing up.

These seven and a half years have been a remarkable time in my journey as a Christian and a religious. I have had the opportunity to get to know the Capuchin Order at the international level and have lived and worked with friars from all over the world. Twice I had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis.

On the other hand, this assignment hasn't always been easy; there have been times of darkness and difficulty for sure. As my first counterpart for Portuguese (I was secretary for English) put it, the best things in Rome are pasta, vino, e Fiumicino! meaning that, ok, the food here is good but what's best is to go home.

Nevertheless, this has been a time much blessed by God. A lot of that grace I can already discern, but I'm sure much more will be noticed over time.

There are plenty of things I won't miss about my existence in Rome and Italy. In order to avoid getting negative as I was finishing up my Roman period, I began to cultivate a list of some of the stuff I will miss:

  • probably more than anything else, up to date Roman-Franciscan/Capuchin liturgical texts and books
  • going to Assisi for the day
  • confession available every day, morning and afternoon
  • the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto and the 6 a.m. walk through Villa Borghese when it was my turn to celebrate weekday Mass for them
  • visits to the Libreria Editrice Vaticana and the Libreria La Leoniana
  • St. Peter's Basilica early in the morning
  • the Italian Bishops' Conference Liturgy of the Hours mobile app
  • not having to remember the name of a local bishop at Mass
  • multicultural Christmas eve suppers with the handful of friars left 
  • cappuccino e cornetto
  • pizza al taglio

November 10, 2019

Don't Blame Me

Today at church they were giving out nice holy cards of the 'Miraculous crucifix that is venerated in parish basilica of St. Teresa on Corso d'Italia in Rome':

I've spent plenty of time in the basilica in the five years I've lived in this neighborhood, but I had not known that this crucifix was said to be miraculous. At first I noted the non-italiano standard spelling crocefisso. I checked with the Accademia della Crusca online and they say it's fine. But what struck me especially was the curious message on the back of the card:

I am the light, and you don't see me.
I am the way, and you don't follow me.
I am the truth, and you don't believe me.
I am the life, and you don't seek me.
I am the teacher, and you don't listen to me.
I am the boss, and you don't obey me.
I am your God, and you don't pray to me.
I am your great friend, and you don't love me. 
[So] if you are unhappy, don't blame it on me!
If anyone knows the origin, please share!

October 10, 2019

Liturgical Books and Our Sense of Time

[Original post, July 12, 2010]

Anyone who has used a hand missal or a breviary is familiar with the chart of movable days somewhere in the front. I find it interesting to note how far they go into the future, because I suspect it says something about our sense of time and change.

My hand missal for the ordinary form, published in 2003, goes up to 2010, suggesting that the editors imagined one would use it for seven years. Perhaps it was a good guess, given that we expect the new and improved English translation of the 2002 Missale Romanum one of these days. [As we know, it arrived for Advent 2011.]

My Baronius Press hand missal for the extraordinary form, published in 2007, has a calendar that goes up to 2066, suggesting a much longer sense of how long someone might use it.

My 1976 American English Liturgy of the Hours goes up to 1999, while the 2000 typical edition Liturgia Horarum goes up 2022, about the same span of years. My 1962 Breviarium Romano-Seraphicum goes a little bit longer, to 1992.

The 2002 Missale Romanum contains a liturgical calendar that goes up to 2023, about the same span as the breviaries. The 1954 Missale Romano-Seraphicum, however, has a calendar that goes up to 2003, more than twice the span. The editors imagined it being used almost long enough to come back as an option after forty years of Novus Ordo exclusivity!

I'm sure there's a dissertation to be written here, but on the face it one might guess that folks used to imagine liturgies (and books!) as lasting longer than we do now.


2019 update: On a recent visit to the Specola Vaticana, the Vatican Observatory, the Brother Astronomer showed me a volume of the work of Christopher Clavius, SJ, who was one of the main authors of the Gregorian calendar reform, promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Just on the page that was open, his calculations for the date of Easter, etc.--in the sixteenth century!--go up to 2031. I don't know how far the charts went after that. So it goes to show that sixteenth century Jesuits (at least) had a longer view of the calendar than any of the liturgical books I mentioned in the original post.

October 5, 2019

Almond Cookies

Among the various quotes and greetings on Twitter for the feast of St. Francis yesterday, there was also mention of the almond cookies that are traditional for the day. I thought folks might be interested to know the source for the association of this special treat with the passing--the Transitus as we Franciscans say--of Francis of Assisi. Here it is in Assisi Compilation chapters 7 to 8:
Although racked with sickness, blessed Francis praised God with great fervor of spirit and joy of body and soul, and told him: "If I am to die soon, call Brother Angelo and Brother Leo that they may sing to me about Sister Death." 
Those brothers came to him and, with many tears, sang the Canticle of Brother Sun and the other creatures of the Lord, which the Saint himself had composed in his illness for the praise of the Lord and the consolation of his own soul and that of others. Before the last stanza he added one about Sister Death: 
"Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm." 
One day blessed Francis called his companions to himself: "You know how faithful and devoted Lady Jacoba dei Settesoli was and is to me and to our religion. Therefore I believe she would consider it a great favor and consolation if you notified her about my condition. Above all, tell her to send you some cloth for a tunic of religious cloth the color of ashes, like the cloth made by Cistercian monks in the region beyond the Alps. Have her also send some of that confection which she often made for me when I was in the City. This confection, made of almonds, sugar or honey, and other things, the Romans call mostacciolo.
Lady Jacoba was a dear friend of Francis. If you've been to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, you have at the very least walked right by her remains, which are entombed at the level of the landing as you go down the steps into the crypt.

Sign up for your free access to the Franciscan Sources from the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition project.

September 6, 2019

Salami & Zeal

After morning Mass at our neighbor, the basilica of St. Teresa of Ávila, I returned to the house and entered the refectory. There I saw everything set up for the brothers' breakfast like any other day, except for one extraordinary thing: there was some salami. On a Friday.

In my seven years here, I have observed that Friday abstinence is one of the most invariable rules of Capuchin Italy. It is more unassailable than the Capuchin beard or the strict following of Franciscan poverty.  It is even more durable than liturgical law that, when disregarded, results in what the Church warns is grave abuse. Capuchin Italy observes Friday abstinence on solemnities that fall on a Friday as well as on Easter Friday, which some might call incorrect or even impious. The only exception I have ever witnessed is when Christmas falls on a Friday, and that, of course, at the expressed wish of the founder.*

All that is to say that I was quite shocked to see the salami. I thought to myself that the Capuchin General Curia could not have descended to such a level of laxity over just one month of my absence for vacation. So I began to wonder: how long will it take, once the friars start to trickle in from their conventual Mass, for some friar, in his loving concern for the souls of the brothers, to remove the salami to a back refrigerator or some other hiding place?

So I timed it: six minutes and twenty-five seconds, which is a longer time than I would have guessed.

*When there was a discussion about not eating meat, because [Christmas] was on Friday, [St. Francis] replied to Brother Morico: "You sin, brother, when you call 'Friday' the day when unto us a child is born. I want even the walls to eat meat on that day, and if they cannot, at least on the outside they be rubbed with grease!" 
He wanted the poor and hungry to be filled by the rich, and oxen and asses to be spoiled with extra feed and hay. "If I ever speak with the Emperor," he would say, "I will beg him to issue a general decree that all who can should throw wheat and grain along the roads, so that on the day of such a great solemnity, the birds may have an abundance, especially our sisters the larks." 
(Thomas of Celano, 2nd Life of St. Francis, Chapter 151, FA:ED II, 374-375)

June 27, 2019

Sacred Heart

Understood in the light of the Scriptures, the term "Sacred Heart of Jesus" denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being, and his person considered in its most intimate essential: Son of God, uncreated wisdom; infinite charity, principal of the salvation and sanctification of mankind. The "Sacred Heart" is Christ, the Word Incarnate, Savior, intrinsically containing, in the Spirit, an infinite divine-human love for the Father and for his brothers.  
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a wonderful historical expression of the Church's piety for Christ, her Spouse and Lord: it calls for a fundamental attitude of conversion and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to Christ and his saving work.
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines, (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 2001) nn. 166, 172

June 9, 2019

Whit Monday and Tuesday

Every year at this time there are the usual lamentations about the loss of the Pentecost Octave and the renewal of certain legends thereon.

For myself, I remain without a strong opinion. On the one hand, I think an octave is a good, solid, traditional practice that could put Pentecost (rightly) up there with Easter and Christmas. On the other hand, Pentecost is preceded by a novena, the original and primal novena even, and maybe this holds that function and should be privileged as such.

In any case, somewhat à propos of the question, there's an interesting note in my Italian ordo:
In the places where, according to custom, the faithful participate in the Mass on the Monday and Tuesday after Pentecost, the readings of Pentecost Sunday are used again, or those proposed in the Rite of Confirmation are proclaimed.
(Without prejudice, of course, to the Monday now being the obligatory memorial (with the power to displace any other obligatory memorial) of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.)

Personally, I don't have any experience of the Pentecost Monday and Tuesday that the Italian ordo mentions. Maybe folks who do can share about them in a comment.

April 18, 2019

The Brown Scapular Dubium

Years ago, during the period in between my two times in religious life, I was enrolled in the Brown Scapular at some kind of youth event. If memory serves, it was animated by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Hamden, Connecticut. Given certain Carmelite tendencies, such as my gratefulness for John of the Cross and Edith Stein, I was always happy to have this special association with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Carmelite family.

April 13, 2019

Deacon Ron

Deacon Ron baptized me:

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Quaker Hill, Connecticut. Summer 1992.

A few days ago I heard that Deacon Ron was nearing the end of his journey in this life, and since then the friars and I have been praying for him and his family. Today I see that he passed away on Thursday.

My initiation into the Catholic faith was rather irregular; I dare to say that I was born out of order like St. Paul. (cf. 1 Cor 15:8)

I was a dumb kid. I thought I was very smart, as young people often do after they have learned a little bit of this or that. But I was quite innocent, and, as the saying goes on the worst kind of ignorance, I didn't know what I didn't know.

But nevertheless, God was at work and I knew I wanted to become a Catholic, even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into -- and this is divine mercy; if it was all revealed to us, we might be overcome with fear. I have told my conversion story elsewhere -- light version here -- and how I came to be in the pastoral care of Deacon Ron.

He and his wife received me into their home with great kindness over that summer of 1992 when I stayed at school in New London and was employed by the reference department in the library. I must have seemed on odd figure to them, with my good old 8-hole ox blood Docs and I shudder to think what t-shirts ill-suited to the occasion, with a lot of book-learning about the faith (or so I thought) but quite short on any practical sense of such a Church being made up of actual people.

Nevertheless, Deacon Ron and his wife were extraordinarily gentle and welcoming, and from their example I learned more than I realized at the time. Deacon Ron was the first person I met who had a real personal devotion to a saint -- St. John Vianney -- and I observed how that fit into someone's ministry and prayer.

After Deacon Ron baptized me, while I was straightening up from leaning over the font, I heard him say, quietly but audibly,


It has always stayed with me; I think because I could understand, even somewhat at the time, that he wasn't exactly saying that it was beautiful that this random kid from up-at-the-college had been baptized, but that in this he was able to see through to divine beauty.

That is to say, in theological terms, that a sacrament had happened.

When Deacon Ron let out about the divine beauty he glimpsed in that moment, I learned something -- even if in such a way as to not be very aware of it at the time -- about the spirituality of the sacred ministry, the ministry which, some fifteen years later, the Order would assist me in discerning as my own path in religious life.

It was a very special joy for me when, still a very new priest, I had a chance to return to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where Deacon Ron had baptized me, and celebrate the Sunday Mass with Deacon Ron's assistance. And not to forget the particular service of being the wife of a permanent deacon, Ron's wife helped me out with the particular 'volunteer from the audience' shtick that I used in my homily that day.

You have passed away from us for now, Deacon Ron, but the fruits of your ministry and your good example remain. May St. John Vianney welcome you to your service at the Heavenly Altar.

Requiescat in pace.

Obituary here.

March 30, 2019

Theses on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

(Luke 15: 11-32)

Those who deny, ignore, or hate God are still happy to make use of the good things he has given them. In fact, we have all done this because we have all used or sought gratification in ourselves, from other people, and in other created things apart from the proper identity and purpose with which God creates these persons and things. And this is what we call sin.

We tend to think of repentance as a returning to God, but it is more properly a 'coming to our senses,' a 'coming back to ourselves' that puts us back in touch with our most real and best selves, the true selves that God created and that recognize that this God is always arriving in order to meet us.

Sin is a sort of death. Repentance is a participation in the Resurrection.

The confession of the sins that have separated us from God's embrace is only of interest to him insofar as it is the means by which we accept that embrace anew.

It is just as easy for 'religious' people to lose their sense of God's goodness as it is for 'sinners.' Perhaps even easier. This is because righteous people easily forget that they are just as much sinners as are the 'sinners,' first, because all sin is overwhelmingly offensive before the infinite loving-kindness of God, and second, because people who ought to know better are that much more guilty. It is also because righteous people sometimes don't recognize--and confess--that the righteousness of their religion (as it is for everyone) is mixed with some elements of the flesh, such as fear, vainglory, or pride.

Helpfully, however, this latter condition is revealed by the emotion of resentment that arises at the gifts God gives to another, and in this it can be recognized and perhaps mortified.

March 17, 2019


Today the friars of the Capuchin General Curia are off to Assisi for their annual esercizi spirituali, which is what, in the USA anyway, we would call guided retreat. I will be grateful for the charity of your prayer, as I will also pray for you.

Cat, Via San Francesco, Assisi

February 15, 2019

The Dream of Innocent III

On the following day, therefore, the man of God was presented by that cardinal to the pope, to whom he revealed his entire holy proposal.