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Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

“The Church that Christ established was not one of brick and mortar, but of flesh and blood, body and soul.”

Br. John Maria Devaney, O.P.

This week’s show is hosted by Br. John Maria Devaney, O.P., with guests are Br. Sixto Castro, O.P., and Dr. Denis McNamara. The readings for the mass are: Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Corinthians 3:9C-11, 16-17; and John 2:13-22.

Click here to listen.


Pope Francis and Dominic: An Easter Blessing

Providence College News:

In videos and photographs transmitted worldwide, a son of Providence College faculty member Dr. Paul Gondreau is pictured being embraced by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square in Rome following Easter Sunday Mass.

Dominic Gondreau, who is 8 years old and has cerebral palsy, is seen being held and kissed by Pope Francis while smiling and struggling to put his arm around the pontiff in giving his own greeting. The pope was greeting hundreds of thousands of visitors from his pope mobile.

Dr. Gondreau describes this beautiful act of kindness [Click here for his video interview]:

“Small acts with great love,” Mother Teresa was fond of saying.  Pope Francis bestowed an extraordinary Easter blessing upon my family when he performed such an act in embracing my son, Dominic, who has cerebral palsy. The embrace occurred when the Pope spied my son while touring the Square, packed with a quarter million pilgrims, in the “pope mobile” after Mass. This tender moment, an encounter of a modern Francis with a modern Dominic (as most know, tradition holds that St. Francis and St. Dominic enjoyed an historic encounter), moved not only my family (we were all moved to tears), not only those in the immediate vicinity (many of whom were also brought to tears by it), not only by thousands who were watching on the big screens in the Square, but by the entire world.

… our culture often looks upon the disabled: as weak, needy individuals who depend so much upon others, and who contribute little, if anything, to those around them.

Pope Francis’ embrace of my son yesterday turns this logic completely on its head and, in its own small yet powerful way, shows once again how the wisdom of the Cross confounds human wisdom. Why is the whole world so moved by images of this embrace? A woman in the Square, moved to tears by the embrace, perhaps answered it best when she to my wife afterward, “You know, your son is here to show people how to love.” To show people how to love. This remark hit my wife as a gentle heaven-sent confirmation of what she has long suspected: that Dominic’s special vocation in the world is to move people to love, to show people how to love. We human beings are made to love, and we depend upon examples to show us how to do this.

But how can a disabled person show us how to love in a way that only a disabled person can? Because the Cross of Christ is sweet and is of a higher order. Christ’s resurrection from the Cross proclaims that the love he offers us, the love that we, in our turn, are to show others, is the REAL reason he endured the Cross in the first place. Our stony hearts are transformed into this Christ-like love, and thereby empowered to change hatred into love, only through the Cross. And no one shares in the Cross more intimately than the disabled. And so the disabled become our models and our inspiration. …

The lesson my disabled son gives stands as a powerful testament to the dignity and infinite value of every human person, especially of those the world deems the weakest and most “useless.” Through their sharing in the “folly” of the  Cross, the disabled are, in truth, the most powerful and the most productive among us.

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First Vespers of Advent with the Holy Father

This past Saturday evening, the Holy Father celebrated the First Vespers of the Advent Season with Rome’s University community–students, professors, and chaplains.  For the past several years, and also this year, the event begins before the Pope’s arrival with the procession of a modern icon of Sedes Sapientiae (Our Lady Seat of Wisdom).  At the end of the liturgy, the icon was taken by Brazilian students, in anticipation of the next world Youth Day to be held in Brazil.

In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the profound mystery of the advent season:

God is not self-enclosed in his heaven, but bent down into the history of man: a great mystery that surpasses every possible expectation.  God entered into the time of men in an unexpected way:  making himself a child and traversing the stages of human life, so that our entire existence, spirit, soul, and body–recalling the words of St. Paul–might be kept irreproachable and be elevated to the heights of God.  And all of this he does on account of his faithful love for humanity.  When it is true, love tends by its nature to the good of the other, to the greater possible good, and is not limited simply to respecting duties undertaken in friendship, but goes further, without cost or measure.  This is precisely what the living and true God has done, whose profound mystery was revealed to us in the words of St. John:  “God is love”.  In Jesus of Nazareth, this God has taken onto himself the fullness of humanity, the fulness of human history, and gives a new, decisive direction towards a new way of being human, characterized by being born of God and of striving towards him.

He also reminded students that university training is a preparation, a preparation to serve the Church and the community.  As such, the liturgical life must remain at the center of their own life of faith:

The liturgy, seen in its true spirit, is always the fundamental school to live the life of Christian faith, a “theological” faith that involves your entire being–spirit, soul, and body–to make you become living stones in the construction of the Church and collaborators in the New Evangelization. In a particular way, in the Eucharist, the living God makes himself so near, by making himself the food that sustains us on the way, the presence that transforms with the fire of his love.

Below is a series of pictures taken from Advent.  To see a video of Vespers, visit the website of the Holy See.

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Santa Sabina: The Crown of the Aventine

Today we celebrate the dedication of Santa Sabina.  Perched atop one of the “Seven Hills of Rome” the original church was built around the year 422.  As the mother church of the Dominican Order the basilica’s grounds command beautiful views of the Eternal City.  Pope Honorius III asked Saint Dominic himself to take custody of it in the 1220’s, and later Saint Thomas Aquinas taught the brothers there.  In the documentary “Crown of the Aventine,” Fr. Allen White, O.P., goes into the significance and history of this “symbol of a city set upon a hill, a representative of the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Here is the film trailer:

Crown of the Aventine: Trailer from Kindly Light on Vimeo.

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Corpus Christi in Rome

For most of the history of the feast of Corpus Christi, it was celebrated on a Thursday.  In this can be seen a certain connection with another very important Eucharistic Thursday–namely, Holy Thursday.  Given the sobriety of its place in the Triduum, the Church’s jubilant celebration of the institution of the Eucharist was, in a sense, transferred to this Thursday outside of Lent.  In the city of Rome, in the Basilica’s under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See, this date is maintained.  And so, the Holy Father celebrates the Solemnity of Corpus Christi not on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday, but what would have been (before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council) the first Thursday after the Octave of Pentecost, that is the first Thursday after the end of Easter.

As has become the custom, the Pope celebrates Mass on the piazza of St. John Lateran, this being the Cathedral Church of Rome.  This piazza is also, for the people of Rome, a kind of public square.  It has been host to not only religious events, but civic and cultural events as well.  It is, for the Romans, one of the primary places for the people of the city to gather for an important event.

In his homily, the Pope spoke movingly on the importance of Eucharistic adoration and its place in the life of the Church.  Lamenting those who continue to falsely interpret the Second Vatican Council as prohibiting Eucharistic adoration, the Pope reminded Catholics that “the Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life.”  In fact, our ability to enter more deeply into the meaning of Holy Mass is strengthened by time spent in adoration before the Eucharist.  “Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value.”  To this end, the Holy Father emphasized the need to continue to recognize and show reverence for the sacred in ritual signs and gestures, especially in regards the Eucharist.  In sending his Son, God the Father did not remove ritual from the life of worship.  Quite to the contrary, “[He] brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship, which is, yes, fully spiritual but which however, so long as we are journeying in time, makes use again of signs and rites, of which there will be no need only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be a temple.”

After Mass there was a great procession, made especially of the various Eucharistic Confraternities of Rome (in all their various and colorful uniforms) as well as priests, seminarians, and religious.  The procession moved from the Basilica of St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.  At the end of the procession–and in Catholic processions the most important person is usually at the end–was the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance accompanied by our Holy Father.  On the steps of the great Roman Basilica to Mary, the Pope offered Solemn Benediction  to all the gathered faithful.

Following benediction and the reposition of the sacrament, the people of God showed their appreciation for our Holy Father by spontaneously shouting Viva il Papa! (Long live the Pope!) and clapping their hands in thanksgiving for him and his Pontificate.

Below are some photos of the Mass and Benediction:

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Pentecost in Rome

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

– Acts 2:1-4

On this Sunday, fifty days after the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection, the Church commemorates that day when the Apostles were gathered together on the Jewish feast of Pentecost.  The liturgical color of the day is red, in memory of the fiery red of the tongues of flame that descended upon the Apostles.

In Rome, this feast is celebrated in a unique way.  One of the oldest buildings still in use in Rome is the Church St. Mary and the Martyrs, better known still by its pagan name, The Pantheon.  Originally built around 27BC as a temple to all the pagan gods of Rome, it became a Christian church in the early 7th century.  It is also unique because the light in the church is largely supplied through a giant hole in the dome structure of the roof

On this day, that hole in the roof is put to good use.  Fireman of the city of Rome climb up to the top of the main dome.  After the principal Mass of the day (around noon or so), they drop thousands and thousands of red rose petals on the people below.  It is a reminder that the Spirit continues to descend upon faithful of the Church, especially in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

Below are pictures taken from the Pantheon this Pentecost Sunday.

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Solemnity of the Translation of the Relics of St. Dominic

On May 24, the Dominican Order celebrates the translation of the relics of St. Dominic.  That is, we remember the day in 1233 when, during a General Chapter of the Order in Bologna, the interred body of St. Dominic was moved in order to allow the faithful to honor him more easily.  More than 300 friars were present to celebrate this important day.  In one of his letters, Bl. Jordan of Saxony, describes the event:

But then the wonderful day came for the translation of the relics of one who was an illustrious doctor in his lifetime. Present were the venerable Archbishop of Ravenna, surrounded by bishops and a large number of prelates, as well as by a vast multitude of people of different languages who gave remarkable witness to their devotion. Present also was the Bolognese militia, which would not let this holy body, that they considered to be in their safekeeping, be snatched from them. As for the brethren, they were anxious: although they had nothing to fear, they were seized with misgivings lest the body of Saint Dominic, which had lain in a mean tomb exposed to water and heat for such a long period of time, should be found eaten with worms and giving off a foul odor in the same way that might be expected with other corpses, thus destroying the devotion of the people for so great a man. Nonetheless the bishops approached devoutly. The stone that was firmly cemented to the sepulcher was removed with instruments of iron. Within the tomb was a wooden coffin, just as it had been placed there by the venerable Pope Gregory when he was bishop of Ostia. The body had been buried there, and a small hole remained in the top of the coffin.

The upper part of the coffin was moved a little bit. As soon as the stone was taken away, the body gave forth a wonderful odor through the opening; its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts. We ourselves also smelled the sweetness of this perfume, and we bear witness to what we have seen and smelt. Eager with love, we remained devotedly near the body of Dominic for a long time, and we were unable to sate ourselves with this great sweetness. If one touched the body with a hand or a belt or some other object, the odor immediately attached itself to it for a long period of time.

The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest—it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ.

In the Basilica of Santa Sabina, which was originally given to St. Dominic and the Order in the 13th century, this day is celebrated as a Solemnity, in honor of St. Dominic’s service there.  Each year, Dominican friars and sisters from all over Rome gather to participate in the Mass.  After Mass, the procession of friars stopped first at the side chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, to sing together the Dominican antiphon to St. Dominic, the O Lumen.  As has been the custom, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) celebrates the Mass and preaches to the assembled Dominicans.  This year, we were happy to receive an American Franciscan from Chicago.  Following Mass was a festive reception in one of the cloister gardens of Santa Sabina.  Pictures of the event are below.