Thursday, December 31, 2009

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage: Day Four

Today the pilgrims spend time with the popes. They begin the day with Eucharist at the Vatican. I remember this being one of the highlights of my pilgrimage. Afterwards they will have a historical tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. I remember the columns that held up the dome. Each column was wider than my house! The building material was beautiful, shinny and looked as if it was built yesterday.

St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, Italy

Everywhere they will see the markers indicating where saints and popes are buried. Art of all types are everywhere. They will learn where all the bishops were seated for Vatican I and II. Hopefully they will visit the Vatican Gardens or view the Swiss Guard..

I hope they have time to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. They will be visiting more site than I did so I do not know if they will have time for the museum.

The Sistine Chapel

After lunch they will visit St. John Lateran. This was the Vatican of Francis. This is where he walked to, from Assisi, to ask for the pope’s blessing on his order.The students will have dinner on their own, in the city. They will then take a walking tour of the city. This will include the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navonna.

I hope they enjoy the river, the lights, and the activity of the city. When they return to CTN there will be prayers and reflections and time to say goodbye to Rome. Tomorrow they head for Assisi!

A city tour in Rome

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage: Day Three

This would be the students first full day in Rome with some normal rest. They would need it. After breakfast (Colzione) they would have a historical lecture to prepare them for their visit to St. Paul Outside the Wall. I never got to this church and everyone I know who visited it reports being deeply moved. The Basilica is one of four major Basilicas in Rome. The basilica was founded by Emperor Constantine who had the church built over the remains of St. Paul. The church was them modified and built on by subsequent emperors and popes. The result is a stunning Basilica and grounds. A place that requires you to pause and ponder the life and martyrdom of Paul

St. Paul Outside the Walls a tour

The pilgrims would then move on to the Coliseum. This is perhaps the easiest place to imagine the power and might and abuse of Ancient Rome. I am sure they will have memories of Hollywood Rome as well as memories of what happened to early Christians at this site.

Europe - summer 2006 - Rome - Ancient Ruins

After lunch the pilgrims would then tour the catacombs. They would have a better appreciation of what it meant to be a Christian during the first centuries. They would also celebrate Eucharist in the catacomb of St. Sebastian.

Rome Pilgrimage Day Two-Catacombs

I never visited the catacombs and yet I will feel connected to our pilgrims. I was a mentor at Catholic Collegium this past summer at St. John’s University. We celebrated Eucharist in the presence of the relics of St. Saint Peregrine the Martyr. St. Peregrine was a 12 year old boy in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Commodus. This is the same Emperor we have all seen in the movie The Gladiator. In the year 192 the Emperor demanded his subjects worship him as the demigod Hercules. Peregrine was one of four young men who refused to worship the Emperor. Young Peregrine was tortured. He was thrown in the dungeon. He was placed on the rack, he was whipped. Finally he was flogged to death with leaded whips. The young martyr’s relics have been venerated ever since.

So, as my daughter and the other pilgrims visit Ancient Rome and the Coliseum I will remember St. John ’s University and the young saint and feel connected to our pilgrims.

I am sure the pilgrims had much to reflect upon today. I am also sure they had time to enjoy their new and growing friendships.

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage: Day One and Two

Pilgrimage is not a tour or a vacation. It is moving to a holy place both externally and internally. That means that the pilgrimage begins before a single item of clothing is even packed away in the luggage. It requires preparation, study and prayer. At our school this occurred under the nurturing guidance of Sister Anita Holzmer.

Having said that I suspect our students would have described December 27, their day of travel, as their first day of pilgrimage. Our students flew from Fort Wayne to Atlanta and then on to Rome. They gathered with other Midwest students in Atlanta. Another plane left from New York. Either way strangers were quickly getting to know one another. They were also getting use to a life that danced between structured time and time of quiet reflection.

The second day was their first real day “on” pilgrimage. They arrived in Rome and transferred to Casa Tra Ni. CTN is only a few blocks from St. Peter’s Basilica. The residents are clergy and religious and other pilgrims from all over the world.

The pilgrims would have had a brief orientation and then lunch (Pranzo). Afterwards they would go to their rooms for some much needed rest. They would then gather for their first of many liturgies. This would be followed by a walking tour of Ancient Rome. I remember how amazed I was at how extensive the ruins were. It was the capital of the largest empire in the world, why was I surprised?

Europe - summer 2006 - Rome - Ancient Ruins

They would then return to CTN for supper (Cena). Afterwards there would be an optional walk to St. Peter’s Square.

So in their first day they had liturgy in a building housing pilgrims from around the world. They walked among the ruins of emperors, senators, poets and martyrs. They spent time in prayer and reflection and they made new friends. Not a bad beginning!

I remember how busy the city was. How fashionable the people were. How everywhere there was a mixture of ancient, medieval and modern buildings, art and fountains. I remember the Tiber River and the many beautiful bridges, each different form the others. I remember the beggars and the black-market. Most of all I remember waling into St. Peter’s Square and seeing the pope’s office light one.

From our travel to rome-the Tiber River 27/11/09

I suspect some of the students will not be from large cities. Some will not appreciate the noise and the fast pace of the city. However, all will be aware they are in the presence of the land of Peter, Paul and so many, many martyrs. I am sure they had a memorable first day in Rome.

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage

During the next two weeks three students from the University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne will be joining students from other AFCU schools (Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities) in a pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, Greccio and Mount La Verna. The students have different backgrounds educationally and denominationally. However, they are united in wanting to have a closer relationship with the early church and with Francis and Clare. I started this blog one year after my pilgrimage. I used the occasion to support the faculty/staff pilgrimage of May 2007 by remembering my pilgrimage. It was a way of feeling connected.

Well, this pilgrimage is also important to me. I feel connected to our peer ministers in Campus Ministry. I am always excited when another person grows in their understanding and appreciation of the lives of Francis, Clare and the early Franciscan. Besides, my daughter is one of the pilgrims.

So, in a way to feel connected, in memory and prayer I will discuss their agendas and what they may be experiencing. I will not be living vicariously through their experiences because their pilgrimage is not my pilgrimage. They started in Rome, we started in Assisi. We traveled in the hot green month of May. They are there to mark the New Year. They will see sites I never went to. However, we will be united in experiencing the impact of one man who answered a call and decided to do the difficult thing, to live a Gospel life. I know these students will have a life changing experience.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Faith, Global Warming and the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Hope for Creation - The Archbishop's Advent Message 2009

I watch in amazement as Catholics and other Christians argue that global warming is bad science, that it is a myth. I don’t get it. How can one ignore science that repeatedly comes to the same conclusion, the planet is warming up and it will have catastrophic consequences if it continues.

Now I get people who argue this based on political considerations. I get it when radio and “news” people argue this. It is in their interest, they get more viewers and that means more money. I don’t get it when people who love the Creator don’t care about the creation.

Let’s assume we are in the middle of climate change and not global warming meaning it is not the result of human behavior. So what, do something about it. So what, deserts are still expanding, glaciers are still melting, island nations are still in danger of disappearing. The military establishments of nations are preparing for a world marked by increased fighting for limited resources, especially water and crops. Animals and plants are still becoming extinct at an alarming rate.

So I sit in wonder as I hear of people of faith who are only critical of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. The Vatican has not been remotely neutral about the conference. They have delegates attending. The Vatican is on record for planning to be the first carbon-neutral nation on earth. That requires planting trees in Hungary to compensate for the large carbon out-put of this tiny nation.

Now the Vatican is not without recommendations or clarifications. The Vatican spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi, states that the solution cannot come only from nations, restoring the planet’s health will require behavioral changes from all individuals. Additionally, he voiced the Vatican concern that negotiated limitation on emissions must take into consideration the effects it will have on the poor of the world.

The Vatican has consistently been an advocate for the care of creation. Pope Benedict XVI has been referred to as “the Green Pope”. He has been seen as a strong ally to a number of environmental groups. This is a response to the Vatican striving to be carbon-neutral, to the Vatican installing roof top solar panels and the pope calling for Catholics to be “better stewards of God’s creation.”

There are too many important faith leaders calling for active changes in behavior to counter global warming for people of faith to ignore either them or the scientist. My favorite is Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. I first noticed his advocacy for stewardship when he attended a climate change prayer meeting and conference in Greenland. Just this fall he blessed the Mississippi River. He has called for a 40% drop in CO2 by the year 2020. He is a relentless prophet of caring for creation and as a Franciscan I could not be more impressed.

Christians of many denominations in Europe are calling for change. Church bells are peeling in support of the conference. Denominations are together celebrating a “Christingle’ services. How many times will the bells peel? 350 times! That number refers to the 350 parts per million which is the safe upper limit for CO2. Now that is support, that is a teaching moment.

I don’t know what the correct solution is. I know that whatever it is will call for sacrifice from all of us. It will also demand more from some than others. It will require our rethinking our use of coal. It will require we revisit an economy based on rampant consumerism. But then Christians are not called upon to get the most toys before we die, we are called upon to be witness to a generous Creator and the Incarnation that took place on this planet. So for those who fight the conference without offering a realistic counter offer please be aware that without change animals and planets will disappear, forever. People will starve and die. Nations and armies will compete for basic resources. Whatever your definition of Pro-Life is, it cannot be this.

Vatican prepares for Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen