Wednesday, November 18, 2009


No, today is not the major solemnity of the two Apostles of Rome--that's 29 June, of course. But today is the commemoration of the dedication of the basilicas of St. Peter's in the Vatican and St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. Both were originally built by Constantine over what was believed to be the graves of these great saints.

This morning I shared some personal connections with these tremendous patriarchal basilicas. My Dad, for whatever reason, was very keen that I attend St. Ignatius HS in Chicago, and I did. Perhaps that is why, when I was in seminary in Rome (and this, after he died), that I never failed to make a pilgrimage on his birthday to St. Paul's--to pray for him in the Blessed Sacrament chapel behind and to the left of the high altar. For it was there that there was an all-night vigil in 1541, the conclusion of which saw the foundation of the Society of Jesus. And so when I visit Rome I do not fail to pray there, for him.

It is similar for St. Peter's. Though I was ordained a deacon there, in 1991, my Mom could not make the trip. She missed a blessed and splendid occasion. But I was able to make it up to her by taking her there in 1994. I could do things for and with her, as a priest, that I would not have been able to do as a deacon, including offering Mass with her in the Cappella Clementina, the crypt chapel the altar of which backs up directly upon the grave of St. Peter. Again, when I visit Rome I always want to try to do this again, in her memory. I must admit, though, that my best praying for her is actually at the church of Sant' Agostino, where Augustine's Mother, St. Monica, is buried. It seems a very appropriate place for a son to pray.

When family memories and memories of the "family of our Faith" coincide, it is a beautiful thing. If these are my memories, I hope you have yours, as well, wherever they may be.

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