Pallium Mass impresses

July 8, 2010

Photo and story submitted by Jason Keas on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul Apostles, June 29, 2010    

“This is a picture of us this morning at the Pallium mass.   This morning, we woke up and, while sacrificing breakfast, stood in line for the Pallium mass.  We got in line around 7 AM.  The gates opened at 8 AM for a 9:30 mass.   We got good seats, though we were all spread around.   I was about seven rows back in the open seating section.   Other seminarians got to sit much closer, and some have some good stories about getting in closer. It was great to experience a mass inside St. Peter’s, and to see 38 bishops receive the pallium.”    

Ready to line up early for the Pallium Mass, June 29, 2010


Pictured above, left to right:  seminarians Kevin Drew, Erik Bakk, John Hammond, Brendan Johnson, Jason Keas, and Rome Experience faculty member Fr. Eric Nielsen.   

To give an idea of just how packed it was and why it was necessary to line up two-and-a-half hours in advance, here is video from the mass:


Rosary walk along the Tiber

June 28, 2010

Sent by Kevin Hurley:  this picture of seminarians Kevin Drew, Brendan Johnson and Jeff Gardner during a Rosary walk along the Tiber River with Father John Heisler and Father Eric Nielsen.

Rosary Walk along the Tiber, with St. Peter's on the horizon

Unique private tour and special souvenirs

June 26, 2010

Brendan Johnson’s journal, continued:

June 12, 2010, part 2

The afternoon outing with Fr. Baker took us to the Aventine Hill to see some churches – or so we thought. What we didn’t factor in was the time of year and time of day it was,  so we stumbled into several weddings and really weren’t able to see much of the churches up there. However, all of this bad luck was made up for when we passed the church of St. Sixtus II (San Sisto All’Appia) –  now a Dominican convent. It was a wonderful mishap!

Fr. Baker suggested I give the gate a push to see if we could get in, but it was locked.   As we were walking away,  a little old Dominican sister waved to us from the window, unlocked the gate and called us back to the convent.  Sr. Maria Ernestina,  62 years in the convent, proceeded to give us a private tour — completely in Italian. Despite the language barrier, we were able to learn a lot about the convent, which was the first church Pope Honorius III gave St. Dominic when he arrived in Rome.  It was also the site of several of St. Dominic’s miracles. 

 The sister showed us all around the chapel, and even through the older parts of the basilica, which date back to at least the third century and had  frescoes from the same time period.  She also showed us the refectory and the Chapter room where their foundress (whose cause is up for canonization) was buried after the Napoleonic occupation is.  The Chapter room is also  where St. Dominic worked several miracles. The sisters then gave us some books (in Italian of course) that explain the church/convent and contain some wonderful pictures to remember everything by.  What a grace it was to stumble into this church  — probably one of the best things that could have happened to us as we made our way around!

New digs and old friends

June 25, 2010

Brendan Johnson’s journal:

June 12, 2010, part 1
 Today was a good day, but incredibly tiring! We had class in the morning with Msgr. Kelly – a good class, but I was a bit tired after the busy day we had had Friday.   After class,  we moved all of our stuff from Fraterna Domus to the Falconieri Institute* (where we’ll stay the longest). The new place that we’re staying is very nice and the room that I share with Jason is HUGE!

I was under the impression that after we left Norcia everything would start going downhill in  quality, but we’ve been incredibly well taken care of in all of the places that we’ve been. After moving our stuff over, I went out to lunch with Fr. Baker, John Hammond, Kevin Hurley and some of the men from my diocese studying at the NAC.  It was really good to see them and wonderful to hear how they are doing and how well they have been adjusting to living in Italy.

(Near Piazza Navona)
Suore Mantellate Serve di Maria
Via S. Giuseppe Calasanzio, 1
00186 Roma
Tel: (011 39) 0668803344
Fax: (011 39) 066871471

Close encounters with Romans, classes and visits to church

June 21, 2010

More from Brendan Johnson’s journal: June 9, 2010

        Finished the second day of classes with Bishop.Morlino, and a very good day too.  We had a slight review of Monday’s material, then went on to discuss the nature of the identity of the priest both in the sacramental character and the mission of the priest.

Bishop Morlino after class

 The bishop spent a lot of time emphasizing the very personal nature of the imposition of the sacramental character during the laying on of hands – particularly he focused on the silence and pointed out that this time is to be a silent one in which the Holy Spirit has the most intimate conversation with the priest that he can ever have. In this conversation, the Holy Spirit both claims the man as His own in a more complete and real way than has ever been done before, and gives the nature and the call of the mission to that particular priest.  This leads into the second part of the identity of the priest, wherein he is commissioned under obedience to his bishop to work for the salvation of souls. This mission must be united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus or it will be fruitless in its exercise because it does not have the life and the depth of love that can only extend from that Heart. Obviously, this provided much material for meditation and prayer – the bishop is a wise man!

            Our afternoon outing with Fr. Baker led us to our first experience of the bus system in Rome. It seems to work pretty well, but the Italians have no concept of a bus being too full until you literally can’t fit any more people on the bus, because everyone is so packed in there that you couldn’t get anyone on if you tried. On the ride over to the other side of town the bus was very full and we experienced what it means to ride the bus in Rome – with all the closeness that anyone could ever want (and then some!). After our “close” encounter we made our way to St. John Lateran where we were able to see the first Church of Rome (in fact, the front has an inscription that tells you that it is the first church of all of the cities of the world). It was very nice inside, but there was a conference going on in conjunction with the year of the priest, so it was a little hard to look around, but we were able to make a quick visit to their Adoration chapel, which was very nice. From there we went to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme where St. Helen brought the relics of the true cross, and where several other items from the crucifixion are on display for veneration. That was wonderful as well, but a bit disappointing too because the original chapel built by St. Helen was already occupied by a bishop and many priests saying Mass – so we’ll have to revisit both of these churches in the future to see it all.

Cascia and Rome

June 20, 2010

Brendan Johnson’s journal, June 6 2010:

After the (Corpus Christi) procession we had to quickly change out of our cassocks and surplices and move to the bus to make our way to Cascia to see St. Rita and the remnants of a Eucharistic miracle (very appropriate for the feast of Corpus Christi). St. Rita’s Basilica was a little modern and not terribly attractive, but it was wonderful to be able to pray before St. Rita’s tomb and even to see her a little bit. She wasn’t covered with wax as many of the saints are, but was out for all to see (not terribly well preserved, but it was neat to be able to see her body).

Tomb of St. Rita at Cascia

 From Cascia we made the three-hour trip to Rome where we are staying (Fraterna Domus) and after a quick trip to our rooms to more or less settle in, we made our way over to St. Peter’s.  Coming into St. Peter’s is pretty neat, but not as big as I had imagined it in my mind – not to say that it isn’t big, but I had a much more expansive view of St. Peter’s. Going into St. Peter’s was incredibly moving, though!  We went to the central entrance to look at the altar over St. Peter’s tomb with the Holy Spirit window behind it – that was absolutely incredible!  It was wonderfully ethereal in its look with the play of the lights, and just very beautiful and moving.   In the short time that we were there, we were able to pray at the tombs of St. Peter, St. Pius X and  Bl. John XXIII,  and pray the Angelus in front of the Pieta.  We had to leave very quickly but it was still very beautiful and a wonderfully apt way to begin our stay in Rome.

Up to the mountaintop and down to the gift shop

June 19, 2010

From Brendan Johnson’s Rome Experience Journal, June 5, 2010:

This was a day of outings for the seminarians.  One group went up a mountain behind the city of Norcia – about a five-hour climb — and another group went with Fr. Baker around the city and then up to the site of an old Capuchin monastery (which will eventually be the site of the monks’ monastery) for lunch.  I went with Fr. Baker because I didn’t have any of the right clothes with me for that type of hiking – I guess next time I’ll have to plan ahead a little better.  At any rate, it was a nice little trip around the city.

Fr. Eric at the top of the mountain

We were able to see the outside of the church (San Lorenzo) where Sts. Benedict and Scholastica were born and got a wonderful explanation of the crypt church at the Basilica of St. Benedict from Fr. Benedict, OSB, a friend of Fr. Baker’s. He explained that the crypt church was originally a Roman basilica used for offices and the like.  St. Benedict’s father was a Roman official, and was given the building for his own private use when he moved in to Norcia for his work. Tradition holds that the altar on the left of the tabernacle was where Sts. Benedict and Scholastica were born.

 After a trip to the monks’ gift shop, we made our way up to the old Capuchin monastery, where we explored the ruins and had lunch on an overlook that has a beautiful view of the old city of Norcia and the more modern part. In all I found it a nice day – time to relax, but also some time to make our way around the countryside a little bit and enjoy the company.

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