Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17, 2015     Day 6/Final Day

Dear Family of Faith,
    As with all good things, this Pilgrimage myst come to an end, but what a glorious final day this has been. 
    We began our day in the best way any of us can begin any day---by being able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  However, this morning, we were as privileged as anyone could be to celebrate Holy Mass at 8:45 a.m. in the Clementine Chapel of St. Peter Basilica, right above the very tomb of St. Peter.  Accompanied by Fr. Ted and my family members, my fellow pilgrims, we celebrated Jesus' life-giving Presence with us in Word and Sacrament, in one of the most sacred spots imaginable. 

  What a great privilege; what a graced moment.  As I thanked God during this Mass for these 10 years of service to the Church as a Bishop, I also re-pledged myself to continue my ministry with dedication, courage and joy as I Shepherd the Church in Kalamazoo.  Following the Mass, the Basilica Guard very kindly allowed us access to the last part of the Scavi Tour where we could venerate the bones of St. Peter, right above the Clementine Altar.  These bones are kept in an air-tight clear box which allows the Faithful to see them.  At that sacred place, we knelt in prayer together as we venerated the one to whom Jesus said:  "Tu es Petrus", that is, "You are Peter....and upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  I will give to you the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven."
     Following that beautiful Mass, Fr. Ted gave us a very "first-class" tour of St. Peter Basilica that was catechetical, inspirational and informational. Following is a video we created from right inside the Basilica: 
Following the tour, the six members of my family (the more adventurous ones) climbed the more than 500 steps to the very top of St. Peter's Dome to be able to see all of Rome from that exalted vantage point.  While they did that, I prayed in the peaceful Blessed Sacrament Chapel of St. Peter Basilica and shopped for souvenirs.  After a very quick lunch (pronzo) of gelato, we took the two-hour tour of the Vatican Museum, which was very interesting, and culminated in the tour of the Sistine Chapel, where Conclaves for the election of new Popes are held.  What a magnificent artistic masterpiece this Chapel is!
     At the end of the Museum tour, we all came to the North American College for my family to see this seminary where nearly 300 young men are being formed, including two of our seminarians, Jeff Hanley and Max Nightingale.  Here is a video message offering wonderful views of the city: 

  Finally, we ended today with a very nice concluding meal together enjoying Roman pasta: my family, Msgr. Osborn, Father Ted, Jeff and Max. 
    During the meal this evening we asked one another what each person's highlight of the week has been.  Naturally, each person focused on something personal and special to him/her; something unique.  For me, the natural highlight was being able to visit our two seminarians and see first hand that they are doing well and making progress in their formation and education.  Of course, I was also thrilled to be able to renew my Episcopal Promises as a Successor to the  Apostles in St. Peter Basilica, the very symbol of our Catholic and Apostolic Faith and to be able to be joined by members of my personal family, as well as my faith family.  But, truly, the highlight of this Pilgrimage Week for me was that I had the awesome privilege of holding our Holy Father Pope Francis' hands in mine, not just once but twice, that I was able to assure him of the love and respect of the priests and lay faithful of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, and that I was able to kiss his hands with filial affection and great respect.  And both times Pope Francis asked me:  "Pray for me!"  I know he would want me to ask you to do the same for him----even as I ask you to do the same for me and for our beloved Diocese of Kalamazoo.

      Faithfully yours in Christ,

        + Bishop Paul J. Bradley

From the Vatican Gardens to St John Outside the Walls

Greetings from beautiful Rome on the 5th day of this glorious Pilgrimage!
  Today we traveled throughout the Vatican and Rome visiting the truly beautiful and sacred sites.  Our day began with a leisurely walk through the Vatican Gardens.  These gardens are a vast expanse of gorgeous lawns, (just now) flowering trees and plants behind and above St. Peter Basilica, overlooking the Vatican and all of Rome.  What a peaceful and reflective place. It is in a house in this garden that Pope Emeritus Benedict (or as he prefers to be known "Papa Benedict") lives in his retirement of prayer and study, and in which he still, at age 88 (today is his birthday) walks through parts of the garden each day.  (Unfortunately I/we did not get to see him.)
  We then traveled to St. John Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral Church of the Holy Father as Bishop of Rome and the Seat of the Diocese of Rome.  St. John Lateran Basilica is also the oldest church in all of Christendom, the "mother and head of all churches in Rome and throughout the world".  

  It is massive, ancient and beautiful Church, and the place where the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul are preserved, the two giants of our faith.  We then visited the Holy Stairs---the stairs which Jesus climbed at the Praetorium in Jerusalem and on which Pilate condemned him to death.  St. Helen, the mother of Constantine and the founder of the true Cross in Jerusalem, had these stairs dismantled and brought to Rome for veneration centuries ago.  It is the tradition that pilgrims climb these holy stairs on their knees in prayerful remembrance of the beginning of Jesus' suffering and passion for us and all the world.  It was truly inspiring to see the streams of pilgrims doing so with great devotion.
  After a little lunch, we then traveled to the 4th and last of the 4 major Basilicas in Rome, St. Paul Outside the Walls.  This Basilica is a favorite of mine since I am named for the Basilica's namesake, the great St. Paul, the Missionary and Apostle to the Gentiles.  We were privileged to celebrate Mass here in the Baptistry of the Basilica, and to venerate the tomb of St. Paul at the main altar in this gorgeous, ancient Church.
  The day concluded with a very nice dinner with my family/fellow pilgrims, along with our dear Msgr. Osborn.  As hard as it is to believe, tomorrow will be the final day of this week of Pilgrimage.  May you have a blessed night.    In Christ our Joy, + Bishop Bradley

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Assisi and Pope Francis-highlights of Tuesday and Wednesday

Greetings at the end of Day 4.  Due to some very unreliable wi-fi connections at the Bed and Breakfast in Assisi, I was unable to send a posting from yesterday; therefore today's posting will summarize both Tuesday, April 14th and today, Wednesday, April 15th.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015: 
A beautiful day spent high up in the Umbrian hillside in Assisi sums up most of what took place on this 3rd day of this Roman Pilgrimage.  We awoke to a most peaceful spring morning. Following breakfast and a long walk to the St. Francis Basilica,

we had the privilege of celebrating Mass at 9:00 a.m at the Tomb of St. Francis.  While I have had this privilege at other times, each time I get this privilege is special and inspiring.  Celebrating every Mass is a privilege; but celebrating Mass at the tomb of one of the most revered and renowned Saints of all time is very special indeed.  After Mass and a tour of the gorgeous Basilica, we took a leisurely walk back to the B&B up and down the steep hills and cobblestone roads that have been traveled by pilgrims and people for nearly 1,000 years.  Amazing!  We also toured and prayed at San Damiano Basilica in the lower part of Assisi before taking the train back to Rome, arriving there in time for a nice dinner and a welcome bedtime.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015:  
This has been a very eventful day.  I had the privilege of being the principal celebrant for the 6:30 a.m community Mass at the North American College (NAC) where I am staying while here in Rome.  It was very encouraging to see the beautiful NAC Chapel of the Immaculate Conception filled with nearly 300 young men from dioceses across the U.S. in various years of theological education and priestly formation.   After Mass I got ready to join with the nearly 10,000 other pilgrims who attended the Holy Father's weekly Wednesday Audience at 10:00 a.m. in St. Peter Square.  it was another picture-perfect spring day in Rome with a pleasant breeze, bright sun and temps in the low 70's.  The Holy Father is amazing as he spends his entire energy doing his best to be present to every one of those thousands of people by circulating and criss-crossing through the crowds waving, blessing, and occasionally getting out of the Popemobile to hug and kiss special individuals.  His audience message was a catechesis on marriage.  I was very pleased that all the members of my family who are making this pilgrimage with me were able to have very good seats where they could see the Holy Father very well.  I had the special privilege of greeting the Holy Father personally, and once again, extended to him the greetings and prayerful best wishes of all the priests and faithful of the Diocese of Kalamazoo.  He was very grateful for those prayers, and once more, asked us to pray for him.
After the Audience and lunch, I spent the afternoon in meetings with our two seminarians and their Rector and Formators, followed by a pleasant dinner with our entire Kalamazoo contingent. As I said, this was a full, eventful and wonderful day. 

With prayers and blessings from this beautiful Eternal City---- + Bishop Paul Bradley

Live from St. Peter's Square

Bishop Bradley sends video greetings while waiting with thousands in St. Peter's Square for the Holy Father's Wednesday General Audience.

Here's a link to the news article about today's General Audience.

Following is the text from Pope Francis' remarks from Vatican News Service:

Vatican City, 15 April 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family by dedicating this morning's general audience to the difference and complementarity between man and woman, recalling first of all that the Book of Genesis insists that both are the image and semblance of God. “Not only man as such, not only woman as such, but rather man and woman, as a couple, are the image of God. The difference between them is not a question of contrast or subordination, but instead of communion and generation, always in the image and semblance of God”.

“Experience teaches us that for the human being to know him- or herself well and to grow harmoniously, there is a need for reciprocity between man and woman”, said the Pope to the thirty thousand faithful present in St. Peter's Square. “When this does not happen, we see the consequences. We are made to listen to each other and to help each other. We can say that, without mutual enrichment in this relationship – in terms of thought and action, in personal relationships and in work, and also in faith – the two cannot even fully understand what it means to be a man and a woman”.

“Modern and contemporary culture has opened up new spaces, new freedoms and new depths for the enrichment and understanding of this difference. But it has also introduced many doubts and much scepticism. I wonder, for example, if so-called gender theory is not an expression of frustration and resignation, that aims to cancel out sexual difference as it is no longer able to face it. Yes, we run the risk of taking step backwards. Indeed, the removal of difference is the problem, not the solution. To solve their problems in relating to each other, men and women must instead speak more, listen more, know each other better, value each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate in friendship. With these human bases, supported by God's grace, it is possible to plan a lifelong matrimonial and family union. The marriage and family bond is a serious matter for all, not only for believers. I would like to encourage intellectuals not to ignore this theme, as if it were secondary to our efforts to promote a freer and more just society”.

“God has entrusted the earth to the alliance between man and woman; its failure makes our emotional life arid and obscures the heaven of hope. The signs are already worrying, and we can see them. I would like to indicate due points, among many, that I believe must concern us with greater urgency”.

“Undoubtedly we must do far more in favour of women, if we want to strengthen to the reciprocity between men and women. Indeed, it is necessary for a woman not only to be listened to, but also for her voice to carry real weight, recognised authority, in society and in the Church. The way in which Jesus Himself regarded women, in a context that was far less favourable than our own, casts a powerful light illuminating a road that takes us far, on which we have travelled only a short distance. It is a road we must travel with more creativity and boldness”.

He added, “a second point relates to the theme of man and woman created in God's image. I wonder if the crisis of collective trust in God, that is so harmful to us, that causes us to ail with resignation to incredulity and cynicism, is not also connected to the crisis in the alliance between man and woman. In effect, the biblical account, with the great symbolic fresco of earthly paradise and original sin, tells us precisely that communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple, and the loss of trust in the heavenly Father generates division and conflict between man and woman”.

“This leads to the great responsibility of the Church, of all believers, and above all of Christian families, to rediscover the beauty of the Creator's plan that inscribes the image of God also in the alliance between man and woman. The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived well. And if men and women seek this together between them and with God, without doubt they will find it. Jesus explicitly encourages us to bear witness to this beauty, which is the image of God”, concluded the Pontiff.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Day 2 - Concelebrating with Pope Francis and peaceful Assisi

Greetings at the end of Day 2 of this Roman Pilgrimage.

Today began with an early morning Mass in Rome with the Holy Father, and is concluding after a most delicious dinner in Assisi.

At 6:30 a.m., I walked to the gate of the Domus Sanctae Marthae to join with those who were waiting to be admitted for the 7:00 a.m. morning Mass with the Holy Father.  Every day since his election a little more than two years ago, Pope Francis celebrates the 7:00 a.m. morning Mass in the Chapel of the Domus, and besides members of the Papal Household, a few people are given permission to join in that daily celebration of the Eucharist; today I was given the great privilege to be one of those select few. Along with several Cardinals who had come for the periodic meeting of the special Committee of Cardinals who advise the Holy Father and about 15 priests, I was allowed to concelebrate with Pope Francis. The Mass, led by our Holy Father as the principal celebrant and homilist, was very simple, reverent and special. After the Mass, and after the Holy Father's extended time of prayerful thanksgiving, he personally greeted everyone in attendance. I happened to be the first to greet him, and I extended to him the prayers and best wishes of the priests and lay faithful of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, and assured him of our prayers for him every day. It was an amazing and very memorable spiritual experience for me to be able to concelebrate the Eucharist with the Holy Father and to personally shake and kiss his hand as well as to give him personal greetings.

Following the Mass, I met Fr. Ted and my family members for a train ride to the most peaceful city in the world, Assisi. We enjoyed walking the streets, visiting and celebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Clare, and enjoying some delicious food. Tomorrow we will visit the Basilica of St. Francis.

In the Gospel for today's Mass, Jesus and Nicodemus were having a very intense discussion about how one finds eternal life. Jesus told us that it is through Baptism into Him that we find the only way to that eternal life that we all seek and long for. While Assisi IS very peaceful, and there is truly a spirit of peace here that can't be found anywhere else, it is still not the peace that Jesus offers us and that we find in Him. Through the intercession of St. Francis and St. Clare, may we work for peace and justice in this world, and long for the eternal peace that Jesus promises us, which we can experience in the celebration of the Eucharist, but which we will only come to know in a true and lasting way when we pass from this life in the eternal peace of Heaven.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rome Pilgrimage 2015-Divine Mercy Greetings from Bishop Bradley

Bishop Bradley sends video greetings from Rome with diocesan seminarians Maximillian Nightingale (left) and Jeff Hanley (right) 

Sunday, April 12 - 2nd Sunday of Easter/ Sunday of Divine Mercy

Greetings to my Family of Faith in the Diocese of Kalamazoo from Rome, the Eternal City,
    Peace be with you!  The weather here is pleasant and very spring-like, blue skies, nice breeze and temps in the 70's.  On this Second Sunday of Easter, the completion of the Easter Octave and the universal celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, I greet you with those same words of Jesus which we heard twice in today's Gospel when He appeared to His frightened Apostles locked behind closed doors in the Upper Room.  "Peace be with you!"  He spoke those words, affirming that He had been raised from the dead, and then showing them the proof:  the wounds in His hands, feet and side from the nail spikes and spear used to crucify and kill Him just 3 days before but now healed, though still and eternally present, in His glorified and resurrected Body.        
            What more could they want or need than His words and the visible proof of His glorious wounds?!  However it took the Apostles the better part of that first week, discussing these amazing things among themselves and trying to explain to Thomas, one of the 12 who was absent on that first Sunday evening, who was unable to believe, but rather questioned/doubted until he was able to see with his own eyes.  For that reason, Jesus appeared again on what would be today, the Sunday after Easter, to prove to Thomas that He was risen and to bring him to belief. 
            Jesus' words----Jesus' glorious wounds----and Jesus' commission to "Receive the Holy Spirit" given thru words and through His breathing upon them is what it took to establish the Church with a mission:  to go forth to all the world, seeking to convert hearts from sin, to reconcile them with the Church, and to call people to live in the Love of the Risen Christ with fellow believers and all humanity.
            What a great privilege it is for me to be in Rome for this beautiful conclusion of the Easter Octave and for Divine Mercy Sunday when, on this same day, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, announced the Year of Mercy to begin on December 8th of this year, and to conclude on the Feast of Christ the King in 2016. I also had the great privilege of being among the 10's of thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Noon Angelus this afternoon when Pope Francis spoke about the blessings of Divine Mercy and this Year of Mercy to which he has called the entire Church. (Note:  please see the video message above I made with our two seminarians, Max Nightingale (St. Joseph Parish, St. Joseph, and Jeff Hanley, Sts. John and Bernard Parish, Benton Harbor) studying here in Rome.)
            This is the first full day of my Roman Pilgrimage.  Fr. Ted Martin and I arrived at 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon (Saturday, April 11), along with six members of my own Bradley Family who are accompanying me on this trip to Rome for a Pilgrimage in thanksgiving for my 10th anniversary as a Bishop of the Church.  The little more than 24 hours that we have spent here in Rome have been full of many blessings.
            With Fr. Ted acting as our unofficial tourguide, we have already visited a number of beautiful Rome Churches, including St. Mary Major Basilica where we celebrated Mass this morning.  I look forward to sharing more reflections from my remaining days here in Rome until our return to Kalamazoo on Saturday.  In the meantime, in the words of our Risen Lord:  "Peace be with you!"

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