Monday, February 20, 2017

President's Day in Rome

While Rome does not celebrate Presidents Day, I greeted this new, and final, day here in Rome with that realization upon waking this morning.  I have to admit that I have been completely "unplugged" from world affairs, including all the daily media coverage regarding whatever the latest political crisis might be.  But on this day, we celebrate our great Presidents of our past, and we pray that God will bless and guide President Trump through these first weeks in Office, and most especially that God will continue to bless our great country. [I'm also mindful that this is the first anniversary of the tragic shooting that occured in Kalamazoo last year. I echo my "tweet" from this morning, "May we all be in prayerful union with all people in Kalamazoo who were killed or tramautized by the violent shooting spree 1 year ago today."]
            I was very much looking forward, on this final day, being able to complete the visit to and celebration of Mass in each of the four major Basilicas in Rome: we began last Monday with the first one being St. Mary Major, then on Thursday at St. Paul Outside the Walls, Friday at St. Peter, and now today at St. John Lateran.  For those who visit all four Basilicas, there are special graces, indulgences and blessings, so I was pleased that we were able to do so.
            Since the taxi cab strike continues, now in its 4th full day (which really impacts the city in lots of different ways), our faithful Giuseppe picked us up and drove us to the Basilica and waited while we celebrated Mass.  Msgr. Osborn and I celebrated Mass in the Sacristy Chapel of St. Ann, as we prayed for and offered my Mass intention for our President and all elected officials. 



(Tomorrow, my Mass intention before we leave for the airport will be for all those who are sick or suffering in any way, in body, mind or spirit.). Even though we didn't have a lot of extra time, we were able to take in the beautiful art work throughout this grand Basilica.  As you know, St. John Lateran Basilica is the oldest Cathedral Church in Western Christendom, the "Mother of all the Churches", and the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Rome.  So, while Pope Francis is the Pope for the Universal Church and exercises his ministry in that regard mostly at St. Peter Basilica in Rome, he is also the Bishop of Rome, and when he exercises that aspect of his ministry, he does so from the Cathedral of St. John Lateran.  The heads of the two great Saints, Peter and Paul, are both preserved above the main altar of St. John Lateran, and at one of the side altars of the Last Supper, part of the table where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His Apostles is preserved.  It is a truly magnificent, historic, sacred place.
            Giuseppe was waiting for us across the busy Rome street near the entrance to the Holy Stairs (Scala Sancta), which are the original stairs from the Praetorium that Jesus used to stand before Pilate to be condemned to death.  Constantine's mother, St. Helena, had these stairs brought to Rome from the Holy Land in the 4th century.  As many of you might know, there is a replica of these Holy Stairs in the Holy Family Chapel at Nazareth in our very own Diocese, one of the only replicas in the world.  We did not get a chance to go in and venerate them this morning, but it really is an inspiring, holy place from the previous visits I have made.
            Our next stop was back over by the Vatican, a meeting with another one of the Curial officials, Bishop Brian Farrell, the Secretary of the Council for Christian Unity which was located along the Conciliazione where many of the Vatican Offices are located.   Msgr. Osborn and I had a very productive meeting with Bishop Farrell, and he was quite helpful and supportive to us in our inquiries.
            Following our final official business item on our eight-day "to-do list", we met Deacon Max Nightingale when he finished his early morning Canon Law class at the Gregorian University for some coffee near the Swiss Guard barracks.   After this brief visit, Msgr. Osborn had another meeting to attend, and Max and I did some last minute shopping and then enjoyed a nice, leisurely pronzo together, at which I had my 8th bowl of pasta over these eught wonderful days.  (I'm sure I will not eat another bowl of pasta for quite some time, but I have truly enjoyed every one so far).  This lunch/visit was a wonderful opportunity for me to spend with Max in more personal and confidential way so we could discuss a number of issues. 
            We are so blessed to have all nine of the young men in our formation program, but our two Deacons, Jeff and Max, are both gifted and holy young men, ready and willing to be ordained priests in service to the Church of Kalamazoo!  Thanks be to God.
            After lunch, Max and I returned here to the NAC (North American College) so we could both take care of the things we needed to do.  At the end of the afternoon, we gathered for Evening Prayer and enjoyed some pizza together as our last meal here in Rome. 

            Early tomorrow morning, after Mass, Giuseppe will drive us to Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino Airport for our 11:45 a.m. Flight to Atlanta, and then to Detroit, for our drive back to Kalamazoo, which, we pray, will all go smoothly.  With gratitude to God for all the blessings we have received during this Pastoral Visit, it's time to say: "Arrivederci Roma!"

Sunday in Assisi

   "Buona Domenica!" ("Happy Sunday!")---- That's how the Bridgentine Sisters greeted us early this morning when we came down for the "breakfast" part of the "Bed and Breakfast" Residence they operate.   And that was what we heard many people say to one another as they passed on the streets of Assisi in the early hours of Sunday morning as we approached the Basilica of St.Francis for Mass.  What a wonderful way to help us realize that Sunday is not just another day in a succession of 7 days of busier and busier weeks; it is truly a special day, the Day that the Lord has made---a Day that we should rejoice and be glad in it. 

Bed and Breakfast operated by Brigentine Sisters in Assisi

   Having had a wonderful and restful night, we enjoyed the delicious Breakfast the Sisters had prepared for us before we checked out to begin our day of praising God in all his creation here in the city where Francis saw all creation as his brothers and sisters.  Since the Sisters of St. Bridget's Bed and Breakfast is half way up the hill, we were very happy that Giuseppe was with us to drive us up the hill to the Basilica of St. Francis where we were scheduled to celebrate Mass at 8:00 a.m in the Chapel of Peace, near (on the other side of the wall of) the Tomb of St. Francis.  My Mass intention was "Pro Populo"/"For all the People" of the Diocese of Kalamazoo.  (I realize now that I failed to indicate that my Mass intention at yesterday's Mass in the Basilica of St. Catherine of. Siena was for our families who are so important to us.). Msgr. Osborn did the honors of preaching a beautiful homily on the powerful Scripture Readings for today's Mass, and making very nice applications to this amazing Saint Francis of Assisi, a true "fool for Christ" as St. Paul invited us to be in today's Second Reading. 

   Following Mass, we had a very leisurely and prayerful tour of this great Basilica, most especially as we were able to spend some quality time in prayer at the tomb of St. Francis.  During this time, of course, I remembered all my special intentions for our Diocese, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, faithful, family and friends. 
   As you probably know, there are 3 levels to this enormous Basilica that dates back to the days shortly after St. Francis lived.  There is the Crypt, where St. Francis is buried; there is the lower level, which is beautiful, and there is the upper level, equally beautiful and inspiring in so many ways. 
   As we left the Basilica, it was a perfect time to stop for coffee/cappucino and, of course, bombas!  Delicioso!

   Now more refreshed and reinvigorated, our next stop was the Basilica of St. Clare.  We spent  prayerful time in the Chapel where St. Francis heard the Voice of Jesus speak to him from the San Damiano Crucifix, asking him to "rebuild My Church".  And of course we visited the crypt where the body of St. Clare is preserved and where we spent more quality time in prayerful remembrance of all those who have asked us to pray for them.

   It is both interesting and worthy of note that both St. Francis and St. Clare came from wealthy backgrounds and families, but felt compelled to turn their backs on wealth and fame for the sake of following God's call to be "foolish" in the eyes of the world but in the eyes of. God, to be "truly wise".  Both their families resisted their efforts to live Religious Life in the Church, and in fact, initially disowned them; yet they both persevered in following God's call.  St. Francis became the founder of several different religious communities, including the religious community for women of Poor Clares, with St. Clare as the first Superior. 
   After some other sightseeing at the Old section of Assisi at the top of the Hill, we drove to the bottom of the Hill to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels, which houses the Portinicula, where St. Francis died.  This Basilica is also magnificent in size and glorious in beauty.  A parish Mass was being celebrated when we arrived so we were unable to see much in detail within the Basilica, so we visited the remainder of the grounds and beautiful images of St. Francis' early religious life up until his death. We also got to visit and spend some time in the great Gift Shop there. 
   I should say a word here about how recent terroristic attacks in various parts of the world have impacted all the churches and basilicas that we have been visiting, both in Rome and in Assisi.  Even as recently as my last visit in 2015, people could approach any of the churches and basilicas with little or no security checking.  Now, in light of recent events and ongoing threats, there are armed troops at every major church/Basilica, and gated barricades around the perimeters of each church/Basilica.  At both St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Walls, we had to go through security measures similar to the airport, with x-ray screening of personal objects, etc.  It was less so here in Assisi, but the barricades are everywhere now.  What a sad commentary on the circumstances of our day/time; on the other hand, it is much better to take appropriate precautions.
   It was now time for pronzo and we chose a restaurant named "La Basilica".  We had a delicious meal, and speaking for myself, that involved my 7th bowl of pasta in these 7 days.  After lunch, it was time to leave this beautiful City of Peace and return to Rome, the Eternal City.  It was only took about a 2 1/2 hours to drive back to Rome, but I think the pasta had gotten to most everyone since the car was very quiet for much of that time. 

   Upon our arrival back at the North American College, Max and Jeff departed to get themselves ready for a busy week as their new semester of classes starts tomorrow morning, while Msgr. Osborn and I are enjoying a relaxing evening catching up on a number of things.

   This truly has been a "good Sunday" for many different reasons.  I pray that for all of you as well it has been a "Buono Domenica"!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Saturday in Siena and Assisi

Today began a two-day excursion through the Italian countryside to visit two holy places in the next two days:  Siena and Assisi.   So, by 8:30 a.m.  this morning, we managed to fit our two Deacons, Msgr. Osborn and me into a regular size car with our friend Giuseppe (who had picked us up at the airport and will take us back on Tuesday) to be our driver and companion for these two days.  Talk about togetherness!  With Msgr. Osborn and Giuseppe in the front as the driver and navigator, I got to spend some good quality time with Deacon Max and Deacon Jeff on the first leg of our trip, a four-hour drive from Rome to Siena.
            With one stop along the way for coffee (for which we were grateful) and to stretch our legs (for which we were even more grateful), we arrived in Siena around 12:30 p.m.  We had two sights in mind for Siena: the Duomo/Cathedral Church for Siena, and of course the Basilica of St. Catherine of Siena.  So our first stop was the Duomo.

            This magnificent church is an amazing work of architecture   It's exterior facade and tower is incredible and covered with hundreds of sculptures and multiple ceramic depictions of events in the life of our Blessed Mother.  Upon entering the Cathedral, it is massive, with a unique style of black and white striping on the walls and floors which seems unique to that area.  However every other space is filled with artistic reliefs, paintings and ceramic depictions of moments of faith.  The main altar of course is beautiful and the ambo is absolutely massive and beautiful---unfortunately it is under renovation and therefore was boarded up; but from the pictures of what it will be restored to are truly amazing. 
            After perusing the beautiful gift shop next to the Cathedral, we were ready for some lunch (pronzo) which provided me with my 6th bowl of pasta for these six days; it was very delicious.  Since by then it was approaching 3:00 p.m. and our appointed time to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Catherine of Siena, we made our way there. 

            The Basilica is far less impressive on the outside; but the inside is very beautiful.  While there appears there has been some attempt to "update" the interior with new stained glass that is, shall we say, "interesting", much of the rest of the interior of the Basilica is the original style from the Middle Ages.  As we know St. Catherine lived on 33 years in this world (1347-1380), and was a Dominican.  However she was brilliant and had amazing influence on the directions of the Church at that time through her direct and strong "counsel" she provided to several of the Popes.  Since she died in Rome, her body was buried in Rome, but her head was taken back to Siena where it is preserved, and for the most part remains incorrupt, in one of the chapels in the Basilica.  It was at that Chapel that we were privileged to celebrate our Mass at 3:00 p.m., and our Deacon Max preached a beautiful homily on the Transfiguration, the Gospel passage of the day. 

            As we had done at St. Catherine's burial place in one of the churches in Rome, here in Siena we also took time at the Mass we celebrated to pray for the priests and people of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in our Diocese, with particular prayers for Father Bruno Okoli. 
            Refreshed both spiritually and physically, we then began our 90-minute drive to Assisi.  As we got there and began our ascent to the old city on the top of the mountain, it was just turning dusk and moving into darkness.  Seeing this ancient city from below, so beautifully lighted, was inspiring.  After some failed attempts, we found the Bed and Breakfast where we are staying provided by the Sisters of St. Bridget.  As soon as we found our rooms, and some freshening up, we departed again to a great restaurant back at the bottom of the hill in the "new city" and enjoyed a delicious, leisurely meal.  It was almost 9:30 p.m. when we returned.  Although we were all quite ready to retire for the evening, the dark, clear sky, filled with stars was much too impressive to ignore; we had to stand in awe and wonder at the majesty of God's creation in this ancient city of Peace, the home of St. Francis, in Assisi.  We look forward to celebrating Mass tomorrow at his tomb.  St. Catherine of. Siena and St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Friday in St. Peter's Basilica

As Day 5 in beautiful Rome dawned, so did the first full day of the impromptu city-wide taxicab strike, or as the Italians call it, a "sciopero".  Evidently this strike is in protest to Uber drivers and other private car chauffeur services.  Since it's unknown how long the strike may last, other arrangements are made----like good old-fashioned walking.  Fortunately our planned schedule for today was already keeping us mostly nearby.
            The day began with celebrating early Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.  I've been looking forward to this since Day 1, but the schedule hasn't allowed for us to get here before now.  One of our deacons, Jeff Hanley, as part of his apostolic ministry, does college chaplaincy ministry for two U.S. Colleges who have student-abroad programs.  One of them is a Great Books College in New Hampshire known as Thomas More College, and its sophomore class spends three months here at this time of year.  So, Deacon Jeff and a student priest meet with them once a week for Mass, prayer, Eucharistic adoration, and fellowship.  Jeff had asked if I'd celebrate Mass with this group and that is who joined Msgr. Osborn and me this morning.  We were privileged to celebrate Mass in the Crypt area at the Mary, the Pregnant Virgin Chapel.  About 15 of the students joined us, and Deacon Jeff did another fine job of preaching the Homily.  After Mass, we were able to visit the Clementine Chapel which is right next to the burial spot of St. Peter, the Apostle, upon which spot this great Basilica was built.  And of course it was upon the great St. Peter that Jesus has built His Church.  We intend to return to St. Peter's on Monday to spend some additional time.  After Mass, we treated the students to some coffee and rolls and enjoyed their company.  It was encouraging to see the strong and vibrant faith of these young Catholics---hope for the future!

Following this pleasant breakfast, we went right to the Curial Offices for two appointments Msgr. Osborn had arranged for us to discuss some diocesan business:  one with the Congregation for Religious, and the other with the Congregation for Clergy.  We had pleasant meetings at both offices with helpful and productive counsel provided for our concerns.  In both offices we were able to deal with two American members of the offices, Father Hank Limoncelli, who is of the O.M.I. Community in the Congregation for Religious, and Msgr. Ron Soseman in the Congregation for Clergy from the Diocese of Peoria. 
            While Msgr. Osborn took care of some other personal matters, Deacon Jeff and I returned to the NAC where we both took care of some obligations for the better part of the afternoon, which for me included writing the B-mail and catching up on a number of other important matters which included some "reposa".  I must admit that I like that part of the Italian daily schedule.
            The three of us met at 7:00 a.m. to walk to the restaurant at the bottom of the hill where we enjoyed a delicious and leisurely Friday dinner.  When we finished and began our trek back up the hill, lo and behold, who did we see....our long-lost Deacon Max!  He had just made it across town (on foot) from the train station having just returned from his two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  It was so good to see him.  Max will be able to join us for our weekend trip to Siena and Assisi beginning tomorrow morning, so we will get to catch up then.  In the meantime, it was great to have the four of us finally together.
            Msgr. Osborn and I had some phone calls to make upon our return so we parted company, but very much looking forward to the rest of our time together. 


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Today we woke up to a strike.  There's no forewarning, and no evident reason; they just get together to decide that today, and maybe tomorrow and the next day, will not be a work day.  Today it was the Taxi Cab drivers who were on "strike".  Tomorrow, it could be the buses, etc. Since we were scheduled to celebrate Mass at 8:00 a m at St. Paul Outside the Walls, which is a very far distance from here---actually outside the walls of the city of Rome---we were counting on having a cab to take us there.  So, when we could not get any cab company to answer the phone, and just when it looked like we would not be able to get to this most beautiful of the four great Basilicas of Rome, a very generous member of the North American College Staff, Stefano, volunteered to drive us himself.  We arrived just two minutes past 8 a.m., so it was clear that Stefano exercised some pretty creative driving skills to get us there safely and almost on time.
            The Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma (Michigan), eight of whom are assigned to various ministries here in Rome, including two of them as nurses serving in the Infirmary at the NAC, joined us for Mass which was celebrated at the St. Benedict Chapel.  I celebrated today's Mass for the intention of the spiritual renewal of all our priests and people in the example of St. Paul's amazing conversion.  Msgr. Osborn, who has worked closely with several of these Sisters, gave a great homily on the beautiful Readings for today.  These Sisters were all young, joyful and very accomplished in their ministries and studies.  It was truly a joy to be with them, and get to know them a bit.

             While we were having coffee and some pastries with them after Mass in the Snack Bar at the Basilica, Cardinal James Harvey, who is an American and is now the Archpriest for St. Paul Outside the Walls, happened to be walking by, saw us, and came in to say hello.   It was great to see him and he very graciously spent a pleasant 10 minutes with us.  As we were leaving we were given a beautiful ornamental brick from the previous Holy Door at St. Paul Outside the Walls for the Holy Year 2000.  It is a great keepsake that I will make sure is displayed prominently someplace in our Diocesan Pastoral Center or in our Cathedral.
            Since the taxis were still on strike, the dear Sisters, who drive a van, offered to take us to our next destination which was the Casa Santa Maria, a division of the North American College and the residence hall for priests who are working on their graduate degrees.  Msgr. Osborn used to live there and for a period of time was the Superior of the House, so when he walked in, there was a constant sound of laughing and hugging going on, with the staff so happy to have him back for a brief visit.  It is here at the Casa Santa Maria that the Pilgrim Center for travelers from the United States come to pick up their tickets for the Papal Audience each week.  It is also a great opportunity for evangelization and catechesis, and these Sisters' smiling, joyful faces go far in non-verbally communicating the joy of the Gospel.  Also here at the Casa we met the Polish Sisters who take care of all the food service for this large house.   They couldn't let Msgr. Osborn leave without some fresh baked Polish delicacies. 
            From there Jeff, Msgr. Osborn and I walked past the newly-renovated and beautifully cleaned up famous Trevi Fountain. 
Because it was such a nice, pleasant day, there were crowds of people all around the Fountain, and we couldn't  get close enough even to throw our three coins into the fountain.  But we did get a photo op.  Just past the Trevi Fountain was the Congregation for the Evangelization of People's, aka Propagation for the Faith (sometimes known as "the Prop" for short), where Msgr. Osborn had worked for the past three years before I called him back home.  This was a good opportunity for Msgr. Osborn to reconnect with all the friends he had there on the staff of the Prop, but it was also a good opportunity for me to personally meet and thank Cardinal Filoni, the Prefect of this, the largest Congregation in the Roman Curia, for his understanding and giving permission for Msgr. Osborn to return home before he had completed his 5-year commitment.  The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has responsibility and oversight for more than 1,100 mission Dioceses throughout the world.   The Prefect of this Congregation is also known as "the Red Pope". 

            After a while, it seemed like we were walking around with the character "Norm" from the "Cheers" sitcom, who every time he walked into the bar, everyone yelled "Norm!", because the entire Congregation was a-buzz with the excitement that Msgr. Osborn was in the building, and cries of "Msgr. Osborn" replaced those of "Norm", but with the same kind of enthusiasm and joy.  After meeting each of the 30-some staff members, we had a 15-minute meeting with Cardinal Filoni in his beautiful office.  What a great man, enjoyable to be with, and as an Italian, spoke impeccable English.  We had a wonderful discussion about Canon Law and the importance of this particular Congregation, a discussion that I was particularly happy to have our young Deacon Jeff be a part of, for many different reasons, but not the least of which is because he is studying Canon Law at the graduate level now, as is our Deacon Max.  It was truly a great visit with all involved, and in particular it was a privilege to meet Cardinal Filoni. 
            After this wonderful visit, Jeff, Msgr. O and I had a delicious pronzo in that part of the city, and I had my 4th bowl of pasta.  "Delicioso!"  Even though the taxicab strike continued into the afternoon, we were able to get a ride back from Stefano who was willing to come, pick us up, and take us back here to the NAC.  We spent some time in the afternoon on various projects and of course some reposa.  Deacon Jeff and I spent the evening together: we prayed Evening Prayer together, had dinner from the Seminary Refectory (which ironically tonight was hamburgs, French fries and baked beans), and had a very good discussion about Jeff's final discernment toward Priestly Ordination and his graduate studies which are well underway.

            All in all, it was a great day----a full day---and a memorable day, the day of the Taxi Cab Strike for no apparently good reason!  Let's hope they're back to work tomorrow.  In the meantime, may you place all your trust today and always in the Lord.

Face to Face with the Vicar of Christ: Day 3 of Rome Pastoral Visit

Another beautiful day dawned here in Rome with the excitement of knowing that I would be able to see the Holy Father at the General Audience later this morning.  Because the Vatican is still on the winter schedule (and in fact all of Rome is still in the non-tourist mode, with less traffic and crowds), these Wednesday audiences are held indoors in the beautiful Blessed Pope Paul VI Hall.  The only other time I attended a Papal Audience in that hall was the very first time I came to Rome in 1979 with a group of Pittsburgh Priests on Pilgrimage not long after Pope John Paul II was elected; he was the first Pope I got to shake hands with.  What a joy to know he is now a Saint!
            The Paul VI Hall holds about 4,000 pilgrims and it was filled beyond capacity.  On the way there, Msgr. O and I stopped for a morning cappuccino and bomba---what a great way to start the day!  We were both quite surprised when a couple waiting in line paid for our breakfast: how very kind!  These Audiences are such amazing reality checks about the universality of our Catholic Church.   There were people there from all over the world, and the Papal messages were delivered in at least eight different languages.  Of the 10 or so Bishops who were sitting with me within yards of the Holy Father, one was from Spain, another from Austria, France, Ireland, Nigeria and Chile.  Truly amazing. 
            The Holy Father entered the Hall on foot with his security retinue, but he slowly walked down the long center aisle, touching and being touched (and in some cases, grabbed) by hundreds of hands attached to incredibly joy filled people at seeing "Il Papa"!  Once he arrived to the stage, there was a brief Liturgy of the Word service with the Reading proclaimed in eight different languages.  The Holy Father then gave his catechesis/instruction in Italian based on the Reading, and then there were eight summaries of what he said in those same languages. 

            Pope Francis' message, based on the Reading, was even though we were taught by our parents from our earliest days of childhood not to "boast" or be filled with pride, St. Paul tells us to boast, but only about two things:  about God's amazing love for us; and about our afflictions and sufferings which truly join us to Christ in a deeply spiritual way.  He concluded by picking up on Paul's counsel to never give up on hope.  And like a good teacher and father, he asked this huge crowd to pay special attention to his final words and to repeat after him in Italian: "La speranza non delude", that is hope does not disappoint!  Those are words worth remembering and repeating over and over in our daily prayer.
            At the end of General Audience, each Bishop present was privileged to greet the Holy Father in person.  I had prepared my very brief remarks to be bi-lingual and to give this message:  "Holy Father, I bring you greetings of love and fidelity from the Clergy and all the Faithful of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, and those many others who have great respect and admiration for your teaching authority. (Then, in Spanish): Estoy aprendiendo espanol, Le comparato especialmente, el saludo afectuoso de los jovenes, con quienes celebre la Santa misa el sabado pasado en un retiro eucharistico, The Presence. (Which says: In my novice-like Spanish, I especially bring you greetings of great affection from the young people of our Diocese with whom I just celebrated Mass this weekend at a Eucharistic Retreat ("The Presence").  (Then back to English)  May God continue to bless your Apostolic Ministry.  Muchas gracias!"  That is what I had prepared to say, but I can't be sure what I actually said; that brief moment, standing face-to-face and hand-in hand with the Vicar of Christ on Earth is pretty overwhelming no matter how many times I have had that great privilege.[Click here to view the entire General Audience video.]
            And then, it was over----while the Holy Father continued to greet many others, including hundreds of sick and suffering people there in wheelchairs and walkers, we were ushered out a side door, and it was back to the beautiful day outside.  But that wonderful time in the Paul VI Hall will be a beautiful memory for me for a long time to come.
            Msgr. Osborn and I then walked back up the big hill to the North American College (NAC) where we had some time for taking care of a number of other things.  At 2 p.m. we both met three of the Sisters who are Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist for lunch.  Msgr. Osborn worked with one of those Sisters, Sr. Rafaela, while he was in Rome at the Propagation of the Faith.  
The other Sisters were Sister Gabriella who works in the Vatican Library and Sister Judith, the Superior, who is the Director of Apostolic Ministries for the NAC.   These are great Sisters.  There is a Convent of these Sisters just north from our Diocese in Lowell, Michigan,  with whom we have collaborated on several important issues, and it is my hope that we can do more with them in the future.  Following the long and leisurely Pronzo (which for me was another bowl of pasta for the thrid day in a row, trying all different kinds and sauces---yum!), we parted ways and, after doing a little shopping, returned to the NAC.  Given the full schedule of the day and the availability of chapel space, Msgr. Osborn and I celebrated Mass late in the day at 5:00 p.m.  My intention for this Mass was a personal one for my cousin-in-law, Steve Horvath, who's Funeral Mass was being celebrated right about that same time back in Pittsburgh.  Steve died very peacefully after a long battle with leukemia.  May he Rest In Peace. 

            Our Deacon Jeff was busy all day preparing for and then taking an exam in one of his Canon Law classes. 
So by the time we met with him at 7:30 p.m., he was relieved, and already knew that he had not only passed but did very well.  So, we concluded our day by traveling back down the big Hill to a very nice restaurant called La Vittoria, how fitting since Jeff had victoriously completed his exam.  While that made for a late night and a very long day, it was a truly blessed day in every way.  But, there's always tomorrow because (repeat after me....) "hope does not disappoint; La speranza non delude!"