Cardinal Seán's Blog



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“Thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build my Church….”

Greetings bloggers. Welcome.and thank you for visiting.

To begin todays post, I wish to ask you to recall that today is the Feast of St. Michael, the Archangel. On this day, especially, we are very mindful of the fact that he is the patron of public safety. Today we are reminded to keep in our prayers members of the police and fire departments, as well as all public safety workers, in Boston, New England, the United States and all over the world.these are the very courageous men and women who risk their lives for our safety and we are grateful for their caring and tireless work.

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Id like to share with you some reflections of Saint Peter and also share some thoughts and images of the magnificence that is St. Peters Basilica.

St. Peter, for Catholics, has such important meaning because of his role in the history of salvation. When you read the New Testament, one will find that after the name of Jesus, the name of St. Peter is the one that appears the most. He is the one that Jesus chose to be the head of the Apostles and he told Peter to “confirm your brethren in the faith.” So Peters role has been just that to be the one who confirms us in our faith and maintains the unity of the Church.

Peter came to Rome, which in those days was the capitol of the known world, the European world and the Mediterranean world. As Bishop of Rome, Peter died here as a martyr in the Circus of Nero at the time of a very terrible persecution of the Church. He was buried near where he was martyred. His grave became a place of pilgrimage for Christians.

Constantine, when he was converted, built a huge Basilica – dedicated in 326 – on top of Peter’s grave and later on, Pope Julius decided that he was going to build a bigger Basilica at the time of the Renaissance. He took down the old Basilica and began work on the present Basilica, which was finished 100 years after he began. Michelangelo did most of the architecture, himself.

To me one of the most significant tours for anyone who comes to Rome, is to visit what is called the Scavi, the excavations underneath St. Peters where you actually go down into what was the old Roman cemetery and to the tomb where Peter was buried. When you think, for two thousand years believers have come here to praykings and queens, peasants, saints and sinners all came.people came here because it was the tomb of Peter.

Jesus had said to Peter, upon this rock, I will build my Church. The Church of St. Peters is built, literally, on the rock of Peter, whose name means rock.

The Church of St. Peters is a wonderful monument of Christendom. Its not actually the Cathedral of RomeSt. John Lateran is the Cathedral of Rome, which is another church built by Constantine. St. Peters is certainly the one that is the most emblematic of the City of Rome.

For me personallyI think anybody who visits St. Peters is overwhelmed by the majesty and the grandeur and the sheer size of this Basilica. When you look up at the ceiling and you see the letters, it says, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and you realize that the letters are actually nine feet tall and they look so small from the floor. It gives you some idea of the proportion of the Basilica. This year they are celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Dedication of St. Peters.

I feel especially recharged spiritually and moved when I enter St. Peters, especially when I am able to go there to celebrate Mass. Also, every five years, the Bishops come back to Rome and we all say Mass at the tomb of Saint Peter and make our report to the Holy Father. In a very spiritual way its a reminder of our connectiveness in the College of Bishops to the Holy Father, who has the ministry of Peter today. It really is a magnificent church and visiting it is a spiritual experience.

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The Main Altar, located right above the tomb of St. Peter, is referred to as the Papal Altar. Usually only the Holy Father, or a delegate, may celebrate Mass on that Altar.

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Covering the Papal Altar is the Baldacchino, which was created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the same very famous sculptor who created The Ecstasy of St. Teresa statue located in my Cardinatial Church, the Santa Maria della Vittoria.

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This is a magnificent work of art, with its spiral columns holding the canopy over the Main Altar.

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If you go down to where the excavations are, you actually get to the very place where St. Peters tomb is located…below the Papal Altar.

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From the Basilica floor, under the main alter, you see a box that contains the palliums that Archbishops wear. You may notice that when I participate in ceremonies in Boston, in my own Archdiocese, I wear a vestment, which looks like a white band with black crosses on it – they are made out of wool. It represents, like the Good Shepherd, carrying the sheep on his shoulders. That box is kept above the tomb of St Peter. They are given to new Archbishops on the Feast of St. Peter every year.

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The Altar of the Chair is located further back at the far end of St. Peters Basilica.there is what looks like a huge chair. It is said, contained in that sculpture of the chair, there are the remains of a chair that St. Peter himself used when he was in Rome.

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High above the Altar of the Chair, one will see an alabaster window, depicting the Holy Spirit – “The Window of the Holy Spirit.”

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The Piet is probably considered one of the most beautiful statues ever made, carved in 1499 by Michelangelo when he was only 24 years old. It depicts what we would call the XIV Station (14th), where Jesus is taken down off the Cross and laid in the arms of Mary. The first time I saw this statue was in 1964 at the World’s Fair in New York. It was brought over to be displayed at the Vatican Pavilion. As you can imagine, it was quite a sensation at the time. Im sure hundreds of thousands of people went there to see it on display. It certainly is a very beautiful and moving statue.

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If you look closely at a band around Marys neck, it is said that Michelangelo placed his name along the band. its said to be the only piece that he ever signed. The statue was actually sculpted to be viewed from below. It was created from one piece of marble. Michelangelo would say that when he looked at a large piece of stone before he began his creative work, that he envisioned his desired creation and then he liberated the figures from the stone.

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In addition to saying Mass in front of the Tomb of St. Peter, I often say Mass on the Altar of Blessed John XXIII.

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The glass tomb of Blessed John XXIII, below the Chapel’s Altar

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On the top of the faade of St. Peters, one finds Jesus, John the Baptist and eleven of the Apostles. The Apostles represented on the facade, symbolizes that they are the visible face of the Church. The Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles. The Church is not made out of marble, brick, mortar, wood and glass, but rather it is comprised of women, men, girls and boys who are formed into a living holy edifice.

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The obelisk in St. Peters Square would have been one of the last things that St. Peter would have seen himself before his martyrdom. It was the Circus of Nero in those days and although they have moved this towering piece slightly from where it was at that time, it basically was very close to where it is now. The Caesars brought many of the obelisks back from Egypt as trophies and many of them are located in the different squares in Rome, often in front of important churches. You can actually see Egyptian hieroglyphics on many of them. Presumably, these were made by the Pharaohs in Egypt. There is quite a collection of them here in Rome now. At the very top of the obelisk in St. Peters square, you can see the “Chigi Star,” in honor of Pope Alexander VII.

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Christ directly over the main door, symbolizing that in order to enter into Christ, one must enter His Church.

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Saint Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order – known for their life of monastic prayer and solitude. They are the only religious order in the Catholic Church that has never been reformed.

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Although they look small from the floor of St. Peter’s, these letters are actually each nine feet tall.

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The names of Cathedrals from all over the world are placed on the floor of St. Peter’s, in spots that correspond to their sizes, measured from the Altar of the Chair. Here’s the spot that marks the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

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Fountain in St. Peter’s Square at dusk.

Today, we visited the American Embassy to Italy, accompanying a group from the Order of Malta from Boston who are here visiting Rome and will be attending the Mass on Sunday. They arranged for us to have a wonderful tour.

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The group from Boston includes Bob and Sue Downing, Bob and Mary Doyle, Hap and Sue Redgate, Rosemary and Jack MacKinnon, and Connie and John McManmon. It was a joy to spend time with this group and we all appreciated the hospitality of staff members at the American Embassy in Italy.

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Mary and Bob Doyle posing for a picture in the entrance to the Embassy.

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Front of the United States Embassy to Italy.

That’s all for today. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Until my next post..

God Bless,
Cardinal Sen

Posted by on September 29, 2006.

Categories: Main

23 Responses

  1. It was the Piet that got me praying the Rosary. I can’t imagine her sorrow.

    by M on Sep 29, 2006 at 11:31 pm

  2. Oh my…. those pictures are breathtaking.

    An interesting note on the Pieta… Michaelangelo used a sneaky perspective trick with it. If you look closely, Mary’s body is actually quite larger than it should be. It’s calculated that if the statue stood, she’d be 9 feet tall. This gives the illusion that she’s holding Jesus’s entire body in a sort of cradled embrace of a child, instead of perhaps a more ackward position. It’s really a masterful thing… I never noticed it until I took an art history class last semester.

    Thank you for your posting, Emminence!

    by Jennifer Zandstra on Sep 29, 2006 at 11:57 pm

  3. (I erroneously posted in the comments of your previous entry. I meant to post it after this September 29 entry. My apologies, and here it is again)

    Today, September 29, is my birthday. Your blog is the BEST birthday present, one better than I could have ever asked for.

    Baptized on Easter Vigil, 2004, I am a mere toddler in the Catholic faith. Since, I have been showered with graces and every day has been one of discovery. Today I was exceptionally gifted when I found your blog via spiritdaily.com I think Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Rafael have something to do with my finding your blog. I share my birthday with the feast day of these wonderful angels. Perhaps it is their gift to me.

    I have learned so much from you about grace, sin, prayer, and Mother Teresa and St. Padre Pio, two people I was familiar with and to whom I was inexplicably drawn to before I even had the faintest inclination toward religion. Your insights and thoughts on prayer and on the Mass, in particular, have opened my eyes and heart even wider. A wonderful way to begin my new year, dont you think?

    I went to Rome in the 90s, but as a tourist and art history buff. Through your words, I return again, however vicariously, but this time as a faith-filled pilgrim. I will return here often to be infused by your words and to see Rome through the eyes of faith, yours.

    I want you to know how blessed I feel today, that I have met you through this incredible medium that can also be used for so much GOOD. Thank you and God bless you.

    Aloha,
    Peace

    by Peace on Sep 30, 2006 at 12:45 am

  4. Sincere thanks for your posts, Cardinal Sean.

    A glass tomb is a bit much for me, even for one as great as John XXIII. Perhaps this is just my own culture or experience, because it is a life goal for me to visit the grave of John Paul II in St Peters. i wouldn’t care a bit what it was made of.

    I hope you can find a way to blog without getting distracted by it. It is a great medium. I’ve been at it for 2 1/2 years now, and continue to enjoy it…but it sure can be a time sink. Good luck and best wishes,

    Harry

    by Harry Forbes on Sep 30, 2006 at 12:50 am

  5. Cardinal Sean,

    what a wonderful blog – great photos! I look forward to visitng often.

    by Crystal on Sep 30, 2006 at 5:04 am

  6. I remember my first visit to St. Peter’s some sixteen years ago now. I recall being struck so strongly by how such a large church could seem so peaceful, especially in the way the light worked it’s way through all of the earth tones of the church.

    by friar minor on Sep 30, 2006 at 5:39 am

  7. As a young altar boy many years ago, I was able to tour much of western europe one summer in the company of a cousin of mine who was a priest stationed in Rome. One of the most vivid memories I have of that time was serving Mass each morning for my cousin, typically very early in the morning. He, of course, would stand at the altar, while I would kneel more or less at eye level with some blessed person or other in a glass coffin. My cousin was always surprised that I generally ate so little for breakfast each morning, and I never had the heart to tell him why.

    Thanks as usual for your excellent blog. I know its an effort during a busy time, but you can’t imagine what a gift it is for us!

    God Bless…

    by John Fulham on Sep 30, 2006 at 6:04 am

  8. What a wonderful personal tour. There is so much I learned abut this holy place. I look forward to your daily comments. Thank you.
    Peace.

    by Patty Begin on Sep 30, 2006 at 6:22 am

  9. Dear Cardinal Sean:

    May God continue to bless you and keep you safe from harm.

    I have to agree with Harry, the box is a bit much…

    The Lord give you peace!

    by CHRIS DICKSON on Sep 30, 2006 at 8:00 am

  10. Thanks Cardinal Sean
    for your sharing and
    for the wonderful photographs from Rome.
    Mostly thanks for your pastoral way of “being with us”
    by using this new medium to stay in closer contact
    that we may walk togther in the Lord!
    God bless you!

    by Father Tim on Sep 30, 2006 at 8:24 am

  11. I learned so much I did not know from reading Cardnal Sean’s blog. A wonderful job and so inspirational. Thank Yoy

    by Michele Vito on Sep 30, 2006 at 10:37 am

  12. WOW…more great pictures and comments. Thank You again for the time you put into to this blog. The teachings alone are well worth the visit to your ST. Blog”.. I plan on having my CCD class look into a visit…God Bless Yo!

    by Gail Marie..JoyfulPilgrim on Sep 30, 2006 at 10:53 am

  13. Visiting Rome through Cardinal Sean’s blog is the next best thing to being there. I love the pictures and the commentaries.

    Thank you for doing this.

    by E. Murphy on Sep 30, 2006 at 11:01 am

  14. How wonderful you’ve taken this opportunity to share your trip with us in word and deed and photography, Cardinal Sean. Thank you so much!

    I’m reminded of John 10:14 “I know mine and mine know me.” Certainly you know many of us here. Thanks, in turn, for allowing us to get to know you in this new way. Your personal transparency is refreshing.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you and let his face shine upon you.

    by ede on Sep 30, 2006 at 11:44 am

  15. Thank you Cardinal Sean for these beautiful pictures. Jennifer’s comments on the beautiful Pieta was most informative.

    Ann M.

    by Ann on Sep 30, 2006 at 12:39 pm

  16. Aloha Your Eminence:
    I have really enjoyed your blog, especially the photos. Mahalo for sharing with us and for blogging!
    God bless,

    by Esther on Sep 30, 2006 at 12:45 pm

  17. if you ever start a singing quartet you could title it: “New Kids On The Blog”! ha!

    it was great seeing the “close-up” pic of the steps descending to Saint Peter’s Tomb beneath the Main Altar — my brother studied his theology in Rome and would daily spend time in prayer and meditation keeling right there at those small gold gates before the Main Altar which lead down to the Tomb Of Saint Peter . . . now by means of this photo i can vicariously pray there too! :)

    by michael g. b. on Sep 30, 2006 at 1:58 pm

  18. Thanks so much for mentioning the Walk to Aid Mothers and Children on Boston Common Oct. 1. This annual fundraiser sponsored by Mass. Citizens for Life benefits 38 pro-life organizations, but every year the secular media ignores it. We’ve appreciated your presence in the past and it’s great to know your prayers and support are with the cause for life.
    Also, the new website is wonderful. Please keep blogging.

    by Mary Connor on Sep 30, 2006 at 2:01 pm

  19. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    I have enjoyed your most informative blog very much. I was happy to know that you celebrate mass at the altar of Blessed John XXIII. What a kind man and wonderful pope he was. Our world today could certainly use his gentle spirit.

    I also enjoyed Msgr. Deeley’s contribution to your blog. I would be interested to know how many people from the United States (clergy and lay) work in the various curial Congregations.

    Thank you and those who are assisting you with your blog. It really is a superb learning tool.

    God bless,
    Rosemary Shaw

    by Rosemary Shaw on Sep 30, 2006 at 3:14 pm

  20. Cardinal Sean,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos of your trip to Rome. You are bringing back wonderful memories of the week I spent there in 1997; several days exclusively at the Vatican and still only able to see a fraction of its artistic and spiritual wonders. I hope you’ll continue to write in your blog upon your return to Boston. You are a big influence in my finding my way back to the Church in which I grew up.

    by Diane from Plymouth MA on Sep 30, 2006 at 4:05 pm

  21. Perhaps Rule of 1223, Chapter III should be revised to read:

    “I advise, admonish and exhort you in the Lord Jesus Christ that when you travel through the world that you blog”…

    (Well at least it’s not as bad as “New Kids on the Blog!”)

    by brother lesser on Sep 30, 2006 at 6:59 pm

  22. I’m certain this blog will inspire many Catholics to deepen their faith especially through the rich heritage of our religion, the introduction of various saints and sharing of his own spiritual insights. Also, here one will see a shepard who is so humble and wish to stay so close to each one of us. I’ve been a Catholic for 5 yrs and I believe this blog will help non-Catholics into the Mystical Church of Christ. God bless, Fairfax, VA

    by Shizuko Hanson on Sep 30, 2006 at 10:34 pm

  23. Cardinal Sean,
    Your visit to Rome and St.Peter’s Basilica
    is being enjoyed by many who can’t get there. Believe me
    there are many taking the trip with you (my wife Emma
    and myself also) and enjoying every minute of it with you.
    Thank you for sharing your trip with so many.
    Lucky (John J.Riley,M.A.,M.Div.)

    by John J.Riley,M.A.,M.Div. on Oct 10, 2006 at 10:12 pm

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