Monday, 26 November 2007

Latin Experienced: Dies Irae

As mentioned before, I am enjoying Latin Experience classes with Fr Reggie Foster. His methodical and enthusiastic way of teaching the language is infectious and I really love the classes. He is also very funny.

Today we were doing various aspects of verb forms. Beforehand we went through our own compositions in Latin. One lady had used the feminine form for DIES which means day; she did this because often the feminine form is used to emphasise a very special day. Fr Reggie grudgingly accepted this though he prefers to use the masculine form, though he admits the feminine form is there in Latin. He referred us to the great hymn for the Day of Judgment, the Dies irae: "Dies irae, dies illa!" Illa indicates that dies is feminine here. Fr Reggie shrugged his shoulders: "Well, I suppose, that's a very special day! You cant get more special than the end of time and Day of Judgment!"

Mass of the Rings

Yesterday, Sunday 25th November, I joined a group of priests from the Casa to help in the didtribution of Holy Communion at the Pope's Mass yesterday. It was the Solemnity of Christ the King - Regis Universorum - and also the Mass at which the Pope gave specially made rings to the newly created Cardinals. It was a wonderful event, the Basilica packed full with people, and crowds spilling out into the Square. The Pope looked very well and he preached upon the reign of Christ from the Cross and how the new rings that he would give out, newly crafted with an image of the crucified Saviour, were a reminder that the Cardinal must be a man willing to give his life for Christ and for the Church which he must love as the Lord has loved it. Christ reigns from the throne of His cross.

Later in the Mass we processed, each with a ciborium of hosts, and stood around that magnificent altar over the tomb of St Peter, buried in a pauper's grave below. We had a close view of the Pope offering the Mass. It was very moving to be so close to the Successor of St Peter in that intimate moment of the confecting of Christ's sacrifice, the making present of the utterly poured out Saviour, Jesus, the Master whom Peter imitated as he went to his own sacrifice in the nearby circus of Nero. Here again Christ reigns in His sacrifice, a reign of that perfection of love, which knows little of the power of the world but know all about the eternity of God from and for whom are all things, through Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

And then we moved to give out Holy Communion. Despite a certain air of chaos, I was deeply impressed by the evident devotion in the eyes and on the faces of so many as they reached forward to receive the Lord as their Food of Life. The Lord truly is in His people. Deo gratias.

Below are two priests from the Casa I went with, dressed in cassock, just outside the Blessed Sacrament chapel in St Peter's where we had to gather beforehand: Fr Pat Beidelman and Fr Larry Kozak:

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Back away

We had a pleasant couple of days in sunny Positano. We are very blessed to have the opportunity to have such trips. On the way back we agreed to see if we could pop in to Monte Cassino, that great Mother House of Benedictines. It's an impressive sight, set high above a range of hills that sweep southwards from Rome.

The Monastery was destroyed by allied bombers during the Second World War. The allies claimed that the Monastery itself was used by the Germans as a store for weapons and that the Germans were stationed in rather than around the monastery. The monks strenuously deny this. I remember going there as a young 19 year old seminarian with friends and seeing the old Abbot, he who had been present during the War, still alive, though very, very old. The stay we had at that time was in mid-February (1987!) and it was extremely cold.

This time the weather was sunny and relatively warm. There were beautiful views all around.

I had remembered the inside of the church there. The tour guides decry it as nothing like the old Monastery. The Monastery was rebuilt after the war, with the help of Allied funds, and rebuilt exactly as it had been. It is evidently, nevertheless, a replica. Yet the tour guides are mistaken as to the church. It is a wondrous place, with beautiful frescoes by the "neo-Renaissance" school painter Pietro Annigoni, a deeply religious man, who took five years to complete the dome at the Monastery. He had returned to painting religious pictures after a career of painting famous people. He said: "I get a little bored with human vanity. I honestly prefer these old saints of mine." In 1979 he completed the The Glory of St. Benedict or The Benedictine Paradise, featuring St Benedict surrounded by monks, bishops, nuns who lived in holiness by following his Rule: in the foreground Pope Paul VI can be seen, who was still alive while the painting was being done, though dead by its completion:

The views from the Monastery are breathtaking. I remember the sunsets when I stayed there previously and this time as well we were blessed to see another such sunset, with all its unique colour and display.

The statue of St Benedict being supported by his brother monks stands in one of the courtyards. Its energy, tautness and sheer desire for God - they say more than I can say:

Being away

I meant to write a bit more about the time I had away. As ever, study and time are not necessarily great friends and so there is not much opportunity to fill this blog with news.

Suffice it to say, I went with the three friends from Palazzola to Sorrento, south of Naples and its volcano of Vesuvius, a view of which you can see below, a picture I took at Sorrento.

It was good to get away and to see this volcano from a distance, which previously I had seen from the city of Naples, which lies at its base. It's a beautiful part of the world and we were very blessed to have good weather.

From there we drove on to Positano, a beautiful, classy drive, with me at the wheel, though this was not what made it classy. It's a town built on the slope towards the sea, with street and houses perched on strata of rock and overlooking a stunning view. We stayed for two nights at a cheap hotel and there we spent time reading, praying and relaxing, and even entering further depths of Latin. The view of the hotel can be seen as below:

On one evening we went to listen to a concert and after that we made our way along darkened streets to the cemetery outside the town to pray for the dead, on the memorial of the Holy Souls. Italians light up their cemeteries and value the places of the dead. Below is a view at night of the place visited:

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


I got away last week for a few days with 3 priests from the Casa. I had not had much time off or away since I came here on 8th September. Doctorate work here can be a strange experience: it's easy to become so focused on the study as to lose perspective on other things, things which are just as important in the long run. One of these priests invited me away so we headed off.

Below is a picture of the library: my place in it where I work is where the lamp is placed on the desk at the far end:

Below is a picture where we went to first of all - the beautiful English College Villa called Palazzola, on lake Albano. The picture shows Castel Gandolfo, the town with the Pope's summer residence: