Archive for October, 2006

Before being elected Pope, on 2 March 1939 (which was his sixty-third birthday), Eugenio Pacelli was Cardinal Priest of Saints John and Paul, the Roman Basilica administered by the Passionists. As Pope Pius XII, one of his early acts, just three weeks after his election, was to approve the decree regarding the miracles for the canonisation of Gemma Galgani, whose cause was also administered by the Passionists. He celebrated her canonisation on 2 May 1940, at what seems to have been the first canonisation of his pontificate (Experts can correct me on this if necessary). Here is a picture from the canonisation.


Two years later, Pius had an altar in honour of Saint Gemma built in his former titular Basilica; as you enter Saints John and Paul, it is the first altar on the left-hand side. Here is a picture of the altar with an inscription recording the name of the illustrious donor.

And here is the stained glass window over the altar, above which is the Coat of Arms of Pope Pius XII. (Unfortunately, it was too dark for me to photograph the Coat of Arms.)

The link between the Passionists and Saint Gemma has already been referred to on this Blog. Most people know that her tomb is in Lucca, but did you know that her heart is in Madrid? It was given to the Sanctuary of Saint Gemma in Madrid by the Superior General of the Passionists some years ago (with the consent of the Holy See, of course). At Saints John and Paul, they still have one of the best known relics of Saint Gemma – her little black cape, seen in all the photographs – and one of her most fascinating relics – the journal in her own hand which is said to have been burned by the devil. Here they are.

The Cape:

And the Book:


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Yesterday I went to Saint Andrews University to give a talk to members of the Catholic Society. The title was The Meaning of the Cross Today. I enjoyed meeting the students and was encouraged by their faith and their sense of fun. You can hear the talk by clicking here.

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When I returned from Rome, I found a copy of Blessed (Pope) John XXIII’s Journal of a Soul had been left in my office (-on its way to the bookshop). I read again his account of his ordination retreat at Saints John and Paul, and the inspiring things he says about Brother Thomas (Viso) of the Passion, who took care of him during the retreat.
The lay brother who cleans my room and serves me at table, good Brother Thomas, gives me plenty of food for thought. He is no longer young [Brother Thomas was thirty-five at this time], his manners are refined, he is quite tall and robed in a very long black habit which he never refers to without calling it ‘holy’. He is always cheerful and speaks only of God and divine love; he never raises his eyes to look anyone in the face. In church, before the Blessed Sacrament, he prostrates himself on the bare ground, as still as a statue. He came to Rome from Spain to join the Passionists and is ideally happy, at everyone’s beck and call, as simple as a creature can be who has no alluring ambitions, no glowing mirages ahead, content to be a poor lay brother for the rest of his life. Before the goodness of Brother Thomas I feel my own nothingness; I ought to kiss the hem of his habit and take him for my teacher. And yet I am almost a priest, the recipient of so many graces! Where is my spirit of penitence and humility, my modesty, prayerfulness or true wisdom? Ah, Brother Thomas, what a lot I am learning from you!

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Spot That Monsignor

A mystery to me at the Papal Audience on Wednesday, 18 October was the identity of the English monsignor who read out the names of the English-speaking groups of pilgrims present at the audience. His accent was very obviously not American, nor Irish, nor Scottish, nor even Australian. Father Michael Brown, at Forest Murmurs, was there too and recognised the voice of Monsignor Philip Whitmore of the Secretariat of State, who is also the Director of the Schola of the Venerable English College. During October, Monsignor Whitmore, a music historian, has been speaking on Vatican Radio on Music and the Mysteries of the Rosary; you can hear his programme on the Visitation by clicking here. Here he is, photographed by our Laus Crucis paparazzo at the Audience on 18 October.

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More Chapter People

Here are some more people pictures from the General Chapter.

This picture, taken in the Chapter Hall, shows (front row from the left) Father Michael Ogweno, one of the African delegates (who is Kenyan and lives in Botswana); Father Paul Zilonka, delegate from the US Eastern Province; Brother Jose Antonio Zubillaga, brother delegate from the Iberian Peninsula; and (in the back row) Father Miguel Angel Villanueva from Mexico, who works in the General Curia and was one of the Communications group during the General Chapter, being a computer whizz kidd.

Father Lucas Ahon (left), a delegate from Indonesia, and I were contemporaries in Rome as post-graduate students; he studied Missiology at the Salesianum. He is now a parish priest in Borneo. Here he is in the Sacristy of Saints John and Paul with Father Harry Gielen, a delegate from Flanders and one of the founders of Stauros, which describes itself as “An International Association founded to promote the study of the Gospel of Jesus’ Passion and to investigate the Challenge of Human Suffering”. Every two years, Stauros publishes a bibliography, listing recent publications in various languages on the Passion of Christ and Human Suffering. Much of this bibliography is now available online at the Stauros website.

The other delegate from Indonesia was Father Antonius Janga, who is Director of Students for the Indonesian Province; in that role, he has more religious under his care than some provincials, but he doesn’t look too worried about it.

This picture was taken after the closing Mass of the General Chapter. Father Giuseppe Martinelli, the provincial in northern Italy, has a quick cup of coffee before driving back to La Basella, his provincial house, near Bergamo.

During the General Chapter, a lot of hard work was done by the students of the STIP, the Italian inter-provincial student community for professed Passionist students who are preparing for ordination. As well as attending their various universities, they also worked in the kitchen, served in the refectory, help with the sacristy and the liturgy, and generally gave good example to the old people who were taking part in the Chapter. Here is Confratel Luigi, from the Presentation Province (Rome, Lazio, Tuscany) looking busy in the refectory.

Here are Brother Marcianus, an Indonesian who takes care of some of the sick religious at Saints John and Paul, and Father Lawrence Rywalt from the US Eastern Province, who was working on translations, sometimes into the early (and even not so early) hours of the morning. To the right is Father Floriano De Fabiis, who is Secretary General of the Congregation.

The last picture in this set shows Father Mirek Lesiecki from Poland, a Laus Crucis reader, who is Rector of Saints John and Paul, and who served in the refectory every day during the Chapter, giving other rectors an example which we would do well to follow!

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Glasgow in the Rain

I got wet tonight for the first time in nearly four weeks. As I left the airport, there was some typical Glasgow weather to welcome me back from Rome. Even with the rain, it was good to return home to my community where Fathers Marius, Eustace, Anthony and Augustine updated me on life at Saint Mungo’s. (The others had already gone to bed.) I still have some Chapter pictures which I will be posting over the next week or so. Here are some of the people with whom I spent the last month.

Brother Samuel Ojwan’g Omollo from Kenya and Father Gabriel Baldostamon, originally from the Philippines but working in Sweden.

Father Guy Sionneau, the French Provincial, listening to my Provincial, Father Martin Coffey (-well, somebody’s got to do it!).

Father Juan Marí Peiró, a Spaniard in Venezuela and a member of the famous Redaction Committee, scratches his head as he lsitens to his Provincial, Father Fernando Rabanal Calle from Zaragossa; Brother Rosendo Goñe Buiza (on the right) from Peru tries to look interested, but the Portuguese Provincial, Father Laureano Alves Pereira (on the left), has found something better elsewhere.

Father Gregor Lenzen, Provincial of Bavaria and Austria and friend of Bavarian Popes, is enjoying a discreet laugh beside the well of the Gesuati in the General Curia Cortile. The Gesuati (the Order of Hermits of Saint Jerome) lived at Saints John and Paul until they were supressed in 1668.

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Passionist General Archives

One of the things I like to do when I am at Saints John and Paul is spend some time at the Passionist General Archives, located above the Chapter Hall where I have spent the last three weeks. Today I took some pictures for those who have never been there. The archives hold many original letters of Saint Paul of the Cross (all of which have been published both in Italian and in English); there are also some interesting collections of letters written to Paul, such as the letters of Cardinal Marcello Crescenzi (below), who was one of Paul’s first friends in Rome when a young monsignor; some of these were written from Paris where Crescenzi later worked as Nuncio.

Also in the archives are various papal documents, probably the most important being the Bull Supremi Apostolatus of Pope Clement XIV (1769) by which we were recognised as a Congregation with the privilege of exemption and all the other privileges of the older orders. This was the first time this had been done for a Congregation of simple vows (as opposed to an Order of Solemn Vows), and all congregations which enjoy these privileges today do so in virtue of Supremi Apostolatus. Here is the original document.

The Bull was Pope Clement XIV’s solution to a deadlock which had existed in the time of his predecessor, Clement XIII. Saint Paul of the Cross wanted the Passionists to have the stability and freedom of an Order so he requested solemn vows; the commission which examined the question would only approve our taking solemn vows if the rule were altered to make the life less austere, particularly in relation to poverty. Paul would not do this, so reluctantly he had to see us remain a congregation with simple vows, which in those days did not carry the same notion of permanence. With the help of Monsignor (later Cardinal) Francesco Saverio de Zelada, the new Pope (-Clement XIV was elected in 1769) resolved the difficulty by giving Paul the privileges he sought (principally that of having his own subjects ordained with greater ease) while in the same Bull recognising the Passionists as a Congregation of Pontifical Right, giving rise to the saying that the Passionists were not a new religious order, but rather a new order of religious. The word “Bull” is from the Latin Bulla, referring to the seal attached to the document; here is the lead Bulla of Pope Clement XIV.

This picture shows the main reading room in the General Archives.

This section holds books on Passionist history and spirituality.

Among the items seen here are bound manuscripts of the Annals of the Passionist Congregation, begun by Father Giammaria Cioni, who was the confessor of Saint Paul of the Cross, some early biographies of Saint Paul of the Cross, and Mass registers signed by him.

My last photograph from the archives shows some of the manuscripts of Blessed Dominic Barberi. Blessed Dominic taught theology in Rome for a number of years, before coming to England. His writings cover many different areas of theology. Unfortunately, hardly any of these have been published in English. The photograph shows about a quarter of the collection of theological works, in his own very-difficult-to-decipher handwriting. Here in Italy, a number of doctoral theses have been written on his works, including one on his Mariology and another on his Ecumenical Spirituality. A member of the community here has just begun work on a doctoral thesis on Blessed Dominic’s Moral Theology.

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