“He is Risen Indeed!”
This is one of the most ancient greetings that Christians are known to have used to, obviously greet, but also identify one another. I learned this fact from Dr. Atherton Lowry (see last week’s Post). And being Sunday and all, I thought it was especially fitting.
Last week I reflected largely about having a relationship with the Saints. This week I would like reflect focus more so on those on this side of the space-time continuum...if you will. More specifically, I aim to share with ya’ll a bit about the greatest treasure I have yet to find in Rome-- the many people I am blessed to live, study, travel with and know here. My whole life, I have been fascinated by people. I have always been compelled to meet new people, engage the people around me, and forge diverse friendships. I feel this is a special grace God has given me for it has brought the greatest richness into my life at every stage and place I have found myself.
I really do believe that life consists of Relationships--with God and others. The rest is just details. Everything exists for that....everything must be seen in relation to that. As a Christian the most basic thing we know about God is a mystery--the Trinity. We believe that God is 3 persons but one God. God is a perfect communion of persons. It is the best thing we know about God and yet we know the least about it because it is the biggest Mystery. Ever since Christ revealed this plainly to us, we have been trying to comprehend and explain it better.
St. Augustine explains it like this: In John’s letters, we are told that God is Love (1 John 4:16). Love itself has three necessary elements: The Lover, The Beloved, and the Love Itself being shared. Such a dynamic is found perfectly in the Trinity. The Father is the Lover--the source of all Love, pouring himself out completely as a gift to his Son. The Son is the Beloved, receiving perfectly the Love of the Father and returning it in joy. The Holy Spirit is this Love being shared perfectly between Father and Son.
In the Scriptures, we see this dynamism at play perhaps most clearly at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan (see Matthew 2:16-17, Mark 1:9-11, & Luke 3:21-22). Each person of the Trinity is distinctly presented to us--God the Father’s voice is heard, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, and Jesus, as he stands in the Jordan, listens to his Father say, “You are my BELOVED Son with whom I am well pleased.” Beautiful. Really brings St. Augustine’s image to life.
Pope John Paul II saw this same dynamism in the human experience. As Genesis tells us (1:17)--man is made in the “image and likeness of God.” How then does man carry this Trinitarian image? (If this question intrigues you, then I highly recommend looking into JPII’s Theology of the Body). Well, you tell me if these two scenarios hold anything in common:
The Father gives everything that he is to the Son in an act of self-giving Love. The Son receives this gift perfectly and returns it in thanksgiving to the Father. In this exchange, a third is born--the Holy Spirit.
In marriage, a man gives everything...his very self to a woman. The woman receives the man’s gift and returns her very self in love to the man. In this exchange, a third is born--the Child...you...me....everyone.
But I digress....
I want to share a bit about my friends here in Rome.
Pictured below are two of Mobile’s newest Deacons. Jimmy Morrison (no...that is not a joke) and Fred Boni. Come June 11, these two, along with two other men, will be ordained Priests at the Cathedral in Mobile, AL. This will be the first priestly ordination in our Archdiocese for more than 5 years! So THANKS BE TO GOD for this men saying YES to give their lives to Jesus and his Church! And may He hear our prayers, and send us more Priests for, indeed, the “harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2)
These pictures were taken on their last day of studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University--an over 450 year old Jesuit University where 6 of the 7 Mobile guys study here in Rome along with the majority of students from our College. It is the alma mater of 14 popes and 20 saints! I cannot begin to relate what a privilege, honor, and blessing it is to study at this University.
And here to check out its website. The English version is rather limited however.
The Roman theological studies are unique in that they consist of two cycles. In the first cycle, everyone takes a general curriculum in which all students are educated at an introductory level in the various fields of Theology, Church History, Canon Law, Greek, Latin, with room for a couple optionals, seminars each semester, and a final paper. In the second cycle, students focus in on one field in particular which they seek to better master. All of that to say, Jimmy and Fred finished their first cycle studies after three long years at the Gregorian last spring.
At the Gregorian (like the other Pontifical Universities in Rome), you find yourself studying with men and women from all over the world. Some are seminarians, some priests, some religious sisters or brothers, some lay people, some Protestants, and every a couple Muslims, Jews, and atheists. Some Universities in Rome offer classes in English, however at the Beloved Gregorian all classes are taught in Italian. This gives us ample incentive to learn the language. But, for me at least, even more of an incentive are my classmates. Coming from all over the world, Italian serves as our common language. I know in an earlier post, I claimed that toasting our shared faith with the fishermen in China was “the most intensely Catholic experience” of my life. But I must admit, going to class every day at the Gregorian, at worst, runs a close second. So now I present a small piece of this Catholic Mosaic.
The two nuns pictured with Fred and Jimmy are from Africa. I do not really know them personally so I cannot offer any more info. But the other “four-eyed” man posing with Jimmy is Mani (short for Emmanuel) from Nigeria. I know Mani well, 1. Because we go to the same school and 2. Because he played with our College’s soccer team last year (to be treated another post). Mani is now a priest ordained for the OMI’s (Oblates of Mary Immaculate--a missionary religious order who aims to serve the world where the Catholic faith does not yet exist or has just been born). After several years of study and formation in Rome, Mani is now back in Nigeria serving for a bit before his first assignment abroad.
Samuel has come to be a close friend over the past year. He belongs to a newer religious order which was founded about 25 years ago in Mexico. One priest and three of their brothers live at the Mexican College here in Rome. Earlier this year, Sam and his brothers invited me and Gino Pattugalan (Filipino-American, seminarian of Brooklyn and a close friend) to visit their home for dinner. Having several Mexican-Americans at our College, I asked if I could bring some of them along for a Fiesta. They were more than gracious! Special Thanks to Samuel, Alessandro, and Michelangelo, and Antonio for all of the cooking, hospitality, and kindness!
As you can see it was a good time. It was a special blessing for me to be able to be a “bridge,” connecting guys from our College to some tastes, smells, language, music, laughs...namely, a taste of Home. Having studied some Spanish, Gino and I did our best to put it into practice...which was a great opportunity for us to learn and everyone else to break into hysterics.
In a way, however, I too felt close to home. Not just because we eat a lot of Mexican food back in the States :)...but I found myself dreaming about my future ministry back in Alabama, where many Catholic Mexican-Americans are to be found. Funny that I would be engaging this same dynamic in Rome, Italy!
I pray that communion, joy, and fraternity shared that night at the Mexican College...may become an ever-increasing reality around the tables back home.
LtoR: Mario (D.C.), Martin (Gary, IN), David (Sioux Falls, SD), Alessandro (Religious Priest), Michelangelo (Brother), Me, Gino (Brooklyn), Carmello (Amarillo, TX), & Samuel (Brother)
Another buddy of mine from the Gregorian is Giovanne. Giovanne grew up in Calabria but is studying here in Rome at the Colegio Romano (Roman College). This is where the seminarians of Rome itself live, pray, and are formed. Also a diversity of others from around Italy, like Giovanne, attend this College. Giovanne is one of the smartest and most well read seminarians I have ever met. He sits right in front of me in class, Thank God! And is there to explain, reflect, and comment on our professor’s lectures after every period. Sometimes I have to tell him to give it a rest, as my brain is trying to recover from the barrage of the past 45 minutes of lecture in Italian!
Last week his aunt, her sister-in-law, and Giovanne’s best childhood friend visited Rome. I hosted them at the American College for lunch and a tour of our College one day and they treated me for lunch the next. Giovanne had managed to get a ticket for his Aunt to attend a smaller Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s early that day. Having lost her daughter only two months ago, this was a specially blessed visit to Rome for her. I felt honored just to be in the periphery of such a meaningful day for her, Giovanne, and company.
LtoR: Giovanne, Aunt's Sister-in-Law, Aunt, & Me
What a beautiful thing it is to share life with others! What beautiful things are Relationships! What a joy and a mystery it is to be made in the "image and likeness of God"--MADE FOR RELATIONSHIP! With all of his people! With all my family and friends. With all my seminarian, priest, religious, and lay friends I have met in Rome. With all of the Angels and all of the Saints. With all of Creation. With God Himself--Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I close this week with a prayer:
God, you who are a Perfect Communion of Persons, I pray that you draw us, this week, into a closer communion with You, Your people, and Your creation. Open our hearts wider to your Love so that we may have more to Love with. Give us a greater confidence and belief this week that we, indeed, are your BELOVED. May we fall more deeply in love with you and all that you have created...each day...each moment.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name.
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
All Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
NEXT SUNDAY’S GOSPEL:
Jesus said to his disciples:
"In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
"And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds'
with great power and glory,
and then he will send out the angels
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.
"Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you,
this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.
"But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
THIS WEEKS LINKS:
THEOLOGICAL CLOWNING: This is the website of another Mobile Seminarian...no excuse me...DEACON.... and close friend of mine--Dan Good. Much of it is devoted to John Paul II’s reflections know as “The Theology of the Body” which I briefly referenced earlier. As Dan says, “It’s all about GIFT.”
CARDINAL SEAN'S BLOG: This may be the first Cardinal to ever have his own BLOG!!! Cardinal Archbishop Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap., is the Archbishop of Boston. When I was in Philadelphia at St. Charles Borromeo, I studied with a number of guys from Boston. I have never seen guys so excited about their bishop (except, course, every Mobilian)...nor a BLOG....nor a Bishop's BLOG for that matter. I think he posts each Friday afternoon. His seminarians used to sit and wait in the computer lab to check out what their Pastor had been up to for the past week. If you like it a fraction as much as they did/do....it will be worth your time to check it out.
MUSTACHE SHOT OF THE WEEK: