Friday the weather finally started to change here in Rome. It has been mostly in the 40s and 50s, but it has been raining a lot. We are about six weeks behind Indianapolis in terms of the fall weather. That being said, however, Rome is a lot more fun when it’s warm and the sun is shining.
Last week Msgr. James Moroney, the Rector of St. John’s Seminary in Boston and a highly respected liturgist here in Rome, gave us a helpful and balanced fifteen hour presentation on recent developments in the liturgy. Msgr. Moroney hit hard on the principles that the Congregation for Worship and the Sacraments tried to follow in arriving at the new English translation of the mass. He may have softened my reaction to parts of the translation, but it sure seems to me that you can be faithful to those principles and still come up with a better translation. Still, his presentation was a good reminder that we Catholics do liturgy through translation and not composition and that in our approach to the public prayer of the church we are always trying to bring people into a practice and a tradition that goes back to the church of ancient times. Surely there is something to be said for the fact that on a given Sunday, we are probably hearing the same opening prayer that that Augustine heard in the fourth century and Francis heard in the twelfth. It’s all part of bring Catholic.
Tuesday we had a fascinating presentation on how the Congregation for Saints works and what’s going on over there by Msgr. Robert Sarno, a priest from Brooklyn, who has worked in the congregation for thirty years and is involved in virtually all of the pending causes for beatification and canonization. Here’s the scoop: around Christmas the Holy Father will make a statement about the beatification of some recent popes and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen will likely be beatified sometime next year. Stay tuned.
Saturday I went up to Norcia (thirty-one miles from Assisi) where Saint Benedict and his twin sister, Saint Scholastica were born and lived parts of their early lives (according to tradition their family left Norcia when they were both twelve). There is not much there except the Monastery of St. Benedict (www.osbnorcia.org) and the Basilica of St. Benedict in which the crypt chapel sits on the site of the saints’ house. The original monastery came to an end in 1810 when the monks had to flee because of the policies of Napoleon. The present monastery was founded in 1998 by a group of English speaking monks from throughout the world under the leadership of Prior Cassian Folsom, OSB, who before joining this monastery had been a monk at St. Meinrad. It rained very hard while I was in Norcia and I wound up taking shelter in the monastery gift shop where I had a delightful conversation about the monastery with a young monk from England.
Yesterday I finally got around to making reservations to stay at four different monasteries when I am on Mount Athos November 21 to 25. (The policy on The Mount is that you can only stay at a monastery for one day.) I called seventeen monasteries, some twice, and got a lot of taped messages (in Greek), bad connections and busy signals because phones were hooked up to FAX machines. After an hour of continuous dialing and using up almost half of the minutes on my five euro phone card, I finally got through to four monasteries. The monks who answered the phone all spoke good English and were warm and welcoming. I’m never sure who is still fighting old battles between the Catholic and the Orthodox churches and I didn’t quite know what to expect when one of the monks asked me what my profession is. He seemed pleased when I told him I am a Catholic priest. My big concern now is that storms or rough weather could force the cancellation of the ferries coming to or going from The Mount. I understand that this happens frequently at this time of the year.