Saturday, November 30, 2019

Visiting Rome

From Michael Dubruiel 2006

Next it was to the Church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami (St. Joseph the Carpenter), our Joseph's patron and site of the Mamertine Prison. Joseph was a little too interested in the prison and the sewer but we did manage to spend some time in prayer here.
From here we traveled across the street toward the twin churches that are near the Piazza del Popolo, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto.It was turning cooler by this time, so we took a taxi to Piazza Navona in hopes of seeing the inside of San Luigi dei Francesi "St. Louis of the French"...there was a porter at the door that was locked who informed us that it was closed on Thursdays (but open on Friday' we'll be back). We then went to the Church of Sant'Agostino, "St. Augustine", there was some restoration going on and St. Monica's tomb was blocked, but I noticed someone coming from there, so Michael (on my back) and I made our way to St.Monica's tomb to offer some prayers. Another spot of interest in this Church was the Caravaggio work "The Madonna Receiving Pilgrims" which Amy had told me before hand had been critized when it first appeared because the Virgin's feet were dirty, for the record I didn't think they did personally.
I found this church to be very peaceful, of course it was early evening and we hadn't been in our usual dose of Churches on this day, so this visit stood out a bit more in contrast to the afternoon of Roman ruins. It is amazing to think of the millions of lives that have been touched by Augustine's confessions and to be in the Church that contained his saintly mother's tomb gave some sense of being more connected.
Then emerging from the Church we set out on foot through the narrow streets that would take us back to St. Peter's in preparation for the evening gig that Amy had doing Theology on Tap in Rome. We found a vendor selling wool caps and bought one for Michael the baby (this day had been a typical Spring Roman day, warm one minute, very chilly the next), he happily wore his hat. We stopped in front of the statue of Saint Catherine where Katie posed next to her patron saint for a picture.And then just before we made our turn toward our apartment, Joseph posed for one of my favorite pictures of St. Peter's as the sun set painting a beautiful backdrop in the sky.

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Eucharist means..."thanksgiving"
Michael Dubruiel wrote a book to help people deepen their experience of the Mass.  He titled it, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 
How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:
  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond" Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.
Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving Charity

This is the season during which many people think of charitable acts.

The genesis of this book was inspired by a set of talks that Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R., gave several years ago in the Diocese of Manchester, NH. At the time while researching material for a project I was working on I came across an advertisement for the talks and found both the title and topic striking. The topic seemed to fit Father Benedict's lifetime of working among the poor and raising money to help their plight. I approached him, shortly after listening to the tapes and asked him to consider doing a book version. He liked the idea but was reluctant to pursue the project alone due to the shortage of time available to work on it.

"Michael Dubruiel"

Unwilling to let go of the project, I approached another friend of the poor, Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Diocese of Charleston. I knew that Bishop Baker's priestly ministry had been devoted to finding Christ in the poor and with a wealth of experience he had in this area that if I could join his thoughts with Fr. Groeschel' s we would have a book that would be of great benefit to the rest of us. After approaching Bishop Baker with my request he agreed and then Father Benedict agreed to collaborate on this book.

While the Bishop and Father Benedict were working on the written text of the book I came across a stunning work of iconography one day while visiting an Eastern Catholic church. On the back wall of the church was an icon of the Last Judgment taken from Matthew 25. I found that the great iconographer Mila Mina had written the icon. I immediately contacted Mila and asked if the icon might be used as an illustration for this book, her response was "anything to make the Gospel known!" Thanks to Mila and her son Father John Mina for allowing Joyce Duriga and David Renz to photograph the icon at Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church, Clairton, PA.

Fr. Groeschel has written the introductory text that begins each section as well as the final "What Should I Do?" at the end of the book, and Bishop Baker has written the individual meditations and prayers contained in each of the six sections.

While this book was being written, Father Benedict was involved in a horrific accident that nearly took his life. At the time of the accident the text he was working on was in his suitcase. He had just finished the introduction to "When I was a stranger..." as you read over the text for that section you might sense that he was having a premonition of what was about to happen in his life-where he would soon be in an emergency room under the care of doctors, nurses and as well as his family and religious community.

You will find that this book provides you with keys to finding Our Lord in the poor, and to overcoming the fears and obstacles (represented by the seven deadly sins in each section) that prevent you from responding to His call.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Advent Begins December 1

Be Vigilant: Daily Meditations for Advent by [Dubruiel, Michael, Welborn, Amy]

These brief daily meditations will help you focus on the spiritual side of Christmas. Author Michael Dubruiel died in February 2009. His wife, Amy Welborn, prepared these meditations for publication.

From a reader review:

This is my fourth year to go through this Advent devotional, and it has been truly a blessing to me and contributed to my Advent experience. The devotionals correlate with the USCCB daily readings, so it is best to read the readings and then read the devotional for the day. I myself am not Catholic, but I still get great insight out of these passages, and I can see that the author was a true follower of Christ and loved Christmas. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an Advent devotional. The book was free when I purchased it three years ago, but 99c is still a great value for this!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Scavi Tour

From Michael Dubruiel in 2006

If you've been on the "scavi" tour underneath St. Peter's you know that it ends up here, at the Clementine Chapel.This chapel is directly behind the "confessio" and is also called "St. Peter's Chapel" since it is very close to where the bones of St. Peter are located. On my early morning visit to St. Peter's this morning it happened that Mass was being celebrated here in the Clementine Chapel in English by five American priests. I joined them.
At the end of the Mass several of the priests introduced themselves, the celebrant was from Baltimore and was also a Knight of Malta, another priest on hearing that I was from Indiana mentioned that he also was in fact a Holy Cross priest from Notre Dame. Several others were pointing under the altar and making references to the "scavi" tour (which I hadn't taken as yet, but in fact would be taking later this same morning).
Leaving the Clementine Chapel, I made my way around the semicircular series of chapels and stopped at the Polish one (after all I am half Polish). Here I prayed the office for the day, as well as said prayers for my Polish relatives both living and deceased. I could hear Mass being celebrated in Polish in near the tomb of Pope John Paul II, and I made my way towards his tomb to pray the mysteries of the rosary that he will forever be known for--the Luminious Mysteries prayed on Thursdays.
Behind me in the chapel that is between the tombs of the popes, the Mass in Polish was concluding and a Polish bishop with several Polish priests came around and the security guard stationed at the tomb of Pope John Paul II removed the rope that keeps pilgrims from approaching the actual grave. The bishop and priests went in and knelt at the head of the tomb and said a few prayers. One of the priests took a camera and stepped back to take a picture of the bishop praying at the tomb. Then they left and the people behind me pushed me forward and we were within the niche and I found myself kneeling at the head of the tomb with my hands and the rosary resting on slab that covers the Pope's resting place. I was in the middle of the Fourth Luminous Mystery, "The Transfiguration" and as always I prayed the petition of St. Peter that I might always be able to discern "Lord, it is good that we are here."
I said a special prayer of petition for several people who entered my mind at that moment. One was for the husband of Johnnette Benkovic, another was for the brother of Bishop Robert Baker, the third was for the souls of my Polish relatives: great grandparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousin. I then arose to make room so that other Polish pilgrims could enter.
Returning back to the apartment, we had to move quickly to go back to St. Peter's so that Katie and Amy could take the scavi tour, I would take the tour right after them (children aren't allowed for obvious reasons). We left Amy and Katie at the Swiss Guards and then Joseph and Michael on my back went into the Vatican bookstore (I bought a Vatican phone book and some holy cards), then into the Vatican post office, then out of St. Peter's to the many gift shops that surround the area. I also had to find something that Joseph would eat for breakfast, no easy task I might add. We bought water and I think M & M's (a breakfast he enjoyed). We walked in a number of gift shops and bookstores, buying nothing. The women in the stores tried to get Michael the baby to wave, smile, make sounds etc. while I tried to keep Joseph from picking up ceramic and glass objects. Finally it was time to trade off both baby and four year old which we did at the Swiss Guard station and I made my way to the Scavi Office.
We had worried that our tours were scheduled too tight but it turned out there was plenty of time between tours. It also turned out that later when I was doing my imitation of the tour guide (who was excellent) that we had the same one. I've often found that if someone is really, really good that my mind is like a camera and I can imitate not only what they said, but how they said and what they were doing as they said it.
Anyway I waited outside of the office with a large group that included one "loud" American who was smoking and pontificating (what else do you do when you are in Rome?) about how they weren't able to do the tour at the time I was doing it but that Father somebody might be able to change that (I hoped that he was wrong and thankfully he was...btw the same guy by himself showed up at the Scholars Pub for Amy's TOT, never found who he was or where he was from though).
The Scavi tour isn't advertised and you can't sign up for it when you are in Rome, you have to do it before (several weeks before). So it isn't crowded, I think there were maybe six or seven people on my tour. It was also the one thing that a number of people who've been to Rome said was a must. What it is, is a tour of the ancient Roman graves that were discovered under St. Peter's when Pope Pius XII began an archealogical dig to find out if Peter was in fact buried here. The necropolis is impressive enough (those walking in the crypt of St. Peter's where there are countless Pope's buried probably for the most part are unaware that below them is another graveyard even more ancient). The tour takes you through these graves and also explains the history of the churches built on this spot. It all culminates once you leave the graves and come to the spot where tradition says Peter's bones were buried and then suspense--the bones weren't found where they were expected. Then a walk into the Clementine Chapel (the same chapel pictured above and where I had been to Mass earlier that morning)...the tour guide mentioned that Pope Benedict XVI had said Mass in this chapel eight days ago. Then into another room with a glass floor and glass wall. The bones of Peter were discovered wrapped in royal purple cloth in a tomb built by Constantine under the altar of the first church. What was missing? His feet, the rationale that when Peter was crucified upside down that those who removed his body just cut his feet off in order to remove him from the cross.
The whole trip was very moving and highly educational. A few seconds later we were deposited at the tomb of Pope John Paul II again.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Visiting Rome

From Michael Dubruiel in 2006

I had bought an alarm clock about four days into our trip to insure that I would get up and make it over to St. Peter's in the morning when it opened up. On Saturday morning I was up bright and early and made it over to be one of the first in line. "The line" was for us commoners, there were always people and priests already in St. Peter's that obviously entered from another place, another "gate" if you would.
This morning I headed right for the grottoes as they had become my favorite places to pray the morning office and attend Mass if possible. I passed a number of Masses being said already in several of the chapels, none in English. Then I arrived at the Clementine and there was a small group following me there: several older Italian women, two priest vested in purple and a cardinal. They went into the Clementine Chapel--so I followed them in, when the cardinal turned around to begin the Mass I recognized him right away, it was Cardinal Ruini, the vicar of Rome (in some way the de facto bishop of Rome). I decided to stay. The Mass was said in Italian and I could follow most of it, even make out the Gospel reading and that it was the Feast of St. Casmir (a saintly king of Poland). I was struck by the humility of the cardinal who when he preached kept his eyes closed for almost the entire homily. He mentioned Pope John Paul (I presume in connection with the day's feast). It was a very reverential and spiritual Mass. At the conclusion the cardinal accompanied by the two priests paused and the tomb of Pope Pius XII (in a direct line with the Clementine Chapel and said a short prayer, then they went out the way we had come in, I went in the other direction. When I emerged at the tomb of Pope John Paul II, I found that Cardinal Ruini along with the other two priests were there on their knees. Cardinal Ruini with hand to his eyes seemed be sobbing. They stayed there for some time before getting up and exiting the grottoes. I stood with the group that always seems to be present there,praying the rosary.
This morning the Basilica was even less crowded than usual for this time of the morning and I found that there was no Mass being said at the Chair of Peter, so I settled into one of the pews to pray the office. I think I had reached the First Reading in the Office of Readings when a Basilica aid told me that I couldn't pray there (this is only for Mass). I tried to protest, but he spoke no English and I decided to go to the Blessed Sacrament chapel. On my way I stopped at the tomb of Blessed John XXIII and sat in a pew there. When I finished, since there was no Mass being said I went up and prayed close to the glass tomb and peered in at the face of Blessed John, I was somewhat still marveling at the face of St. Joseph Maria Tomasi who has a visible beard on his face even though he's been lying in rest since 1713. Blessed John had on beard (I guess the pope's have better razors).
Back at the apartment, Amy was waiting on another filming apointment which was suppose to happen at 9:00 a.m this time at our apartment. It was 9:15 when we decided to go (given that we were down to our final two full days in Rome). We had reached the end of the Borgo Pio when the film crew spotted us from the Porta San Ann. They took Amy from us and we resorted to visiting gift shops and then going into the Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri (said a prayer for my sister Ann)(the link will tell you this church--the parish church of Vatican City isn't open to the public--I went into it at least five times while I was there and it seemed very open to me), just in Vatican City and saying a few prayers. When we came out Amy was heading back to us--we made our way to the tram, and then to the Metro for another heavy day of pilgrimage stops.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Michael Dubruiel

When St. Peter heard that Jesus was going somewhere, he wanted
to follow the Lord. Jesus refused, and told the apostle that he
would follow later. Peter protested: He was willing to lay down
his life for Jesus (again something that he ultimately would do
later). Then Jesus dropped a bombshell: That very night, Peter
would deny him three times.

The final battle to following Jesus is the battle of self. No matter
how pure our motives may seem, until we trust in God more
than we trust in ourselves, we are doomed to fail. To truly follow
Jesus, we must unite ourselves with him and trust him totally.
"michael dubruiel"

Friday, November 22, 2019

Touring Rome

From Michael Dubruiel in 2006

I was up bright and early on Tuesday morning and made my way with my breviary (a book containing the liturgy of the hours) to St. Peter's Basilica. I passed through security and made my way into the Church and found a priest offering Mass in English at the altar of Pope St. Leo the Great's tomb. I joined another man (who I do not think spoke English). We stood, knelt and received Holy Communion and the priest asked where I was from as he left with the chalice to return to the sacristy.
Next I went down the spiral stairs near the statue of Saint Andrew the Apostle to descend into the crypt and pray at the tomb of Pope John Paul II, as well as the tomb of the Apostle Peter (I usually prayed the rosary during this time). In the early morning there were few people in these spots, most were conected with groups saying mass at the different chapels. I then went up the same stairs and sat in one of the pews in front of the tomb of Blessed John XXIII and prayed the office for the day.
As I made my way back to the apartment, I made a usual stop for some expresso and to pick up some pastries to bring back for the others to have for breakfast. This morning I went into a different shop on the Borgo Pio. As soon as I entered there was the priest whose Mass I had attended earlier that morning. He was a Dominican and he told me that he taught at the Angelicum. He invited me to join him, but I told him that I was sure the family was probably waiting on me back at the apartment so I really should be going (at this point I didn't get his name, although I think he told me that he was originally from Missouri--I would meet him again).
I brought back the appreciated pastries by Katie and the baby, but rejected by Joseph who is an incredibly picky eater (he feasted on butter cookies bought the day before). Then we set out for the Gesu, a church we hadn't been able to find the day before in the rain, thankfully today the sun was shining brightly!
We stopped in at a couple of souvenir shops on our way to the bus stop and also into the Carmelite Church on the Via del Conciliazione Santa Maria in Traspontina, I said a short prayer before the altar of St. Barbara for my mother (would have another chance when we visited a church dedicate to the Saint later in the day. We ran into Sussana Pinto of Rome Reports who also writes for Our Sunday Visitor, she was there to attend Mass. Something that caught my attention in this church was a "liturgical calendar" that was kind of like a time clock. Here is a blury picture of it (I apologize but somehow my camera settings got messed up and I haven't learned to review them--well I have now, but hadn't then). We headed out to catch the Express bus.
The Gesu was exactly where it was supposed to be and one street over from where we had been searching for it the day before in the rain. But it is amazing how much easier it is to read a map, find the right street in the sunshine. Joseph gave a Euro to the beggar at the door (something by this time encouraged him to do, both as a form of almsgiving for our pilgrimage and to help him overcome youthful greed). Inside the Church, something truly amazing that a photo does not even begin to capture, but I'll post one that I found online of the Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus (IHS)...what you don't pick up in the photo that is startlingly evidend in person is the 3-D quality of the ceiling; the heretics falling off to the side literally look like they are plunging down toward you--an absolutely fascinating image that one could spend hours meditating on. In In some ways you can kind of capture that in this photo, because the images descending look indistinct, sort of like you need 3-D glasses to focus the picture properly, but in reality you don't and this is an amazing catechetical lesson that what we see isn't always really what it is. We prayed at the tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier and took in the beauty of this church, one of my favorites!
Next we made our way to Largo Argentina near where Julius Caesar was murdered, where there are the ruins of pagan temples not made into churches and an investation of cats that are well taken care of by the local populace.
After a short viewing we made our way toward Campo de Fiori, which unlike the picture in the link, is actually quite crowded with vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to Bob Marley t-shirts. Perhaps the latter can be attribed to the spirit of Giordano Bruno who was burned at the stake here for declaring that there was no center of the universe--there obviously were as many individuals who thought that they were the center of the universe back then as there are today and unfortunately poor Giordano was as guilty of this sin as anyone.
Ahh but I'm getting ahead of myself, first we came upon a church. One of the non stop pleasures of a walk in Rome are the hundreds of churches that don't make the tour books, that you walk in and find to be three times as larges as the back home parish church and filled with art that would make the art museum back home world class.
Here we came upon San Carlo ai Cantinari a church that boasts the third largest dome in Rome next to St. Peter's and another church that we will visit in a second. "Carlo" is the Italian rendering of Charles, just as Karol is the Polish rendering of Charles--the Charles in this case being St. Charles Borromeo (Karol Wojtla's patron saint...really in English the Pope's name was Charles). Like all churches in Rome, fascinating.
While Amy, Katie and Joseph stopped for a snack, the baby and I paid a visit to my mother's patron Church, Santa Barbara dei Librai (St. Barbara of the books). I think I picked up a holy card at this church, but I've yet been able to find it (I still haven't unpacked).
Arriving at Campo de Fiori, I went and sat with the baby near the statue of Giordanno (I wonder if he inspired the frozen pizza of the same name). Amy bartered with a few merchants to buy some bloody oranges (not there real name but a description of the fruit covered with an orange peel, but blood red fruit inside--very appropriate in a plazza formerly dedicated to public executions).
Spying the dramatic twisted spiral roof of Sant' Ivo alla Sapienza we headed in that direction but ended up in Piazza Navona again. This time we made our way to Sant' Andrea della Valle, which has the second largest dome in Rome and which Charlie Collins said had the best incorupt saint--Saint Joseph Mary Tomasi, canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1986. Here are blurry pictures of both as well as Amy watching Michael walk toward me:

Here Amy and I tried to make a few phone calls with none of our intended callers answering the phone. I went into Sant' Agnese in Agone and took this picture of the skull of St. Agnes in a reliquary. This church was built on the site of an ancient brothel (Rome is filled with examples of how Christ conquers all)! The size of St. Agnes' skull bothered me--it was no bigger than a very small infant, the porter told me that it wasn't the entire skull but just part of it. If you look at the gold box you'll notice a little opening, that is where the skull of St. Agnes is.
Saint Frances of Rome (whose feast was a few days ago, was baptized here).
Meanwhile outside in Piazza Navona all kinds of frivolity was going on, including some sort of political rally. Italians will probably recognize these folks, but they were lost on us.It was then on to the Pantheon for a return visit (I posted the picture on the original Pantheon post) but here is one from inside and another from a short stop at St. Catherine's church again, this time in the sunshine it was possible to take some photos by the obelisk at least of the bottom of it:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Rome Tours

From February 2006, by Michael Dubruiel

I arose early on Sunday and set out to St. Peter's by myself to arrive there when the church opened to the public at 7:00 A.M.. This was to become my daily ritual while I was in Rome and led to a number of unique experiences. Saint Peter's in the early morning is quite different from the way one experiences it later in the day. First, it is easy to enter with there usually being no line at the security check point. Secondly, much of what is closed to the public later in the day is open at this time of the morning. With each visit, I was to discover more and more of the Church.

This first morning I walked into the Church for the second time and was still trying to orient myself to it. I stood before Michaelangelo's Pieta by myself (later in the day you are lucky if you can get anywhere near the front of the glass panel). I walked down the center of the church and looked at the inscriptions showing where other large churches of the world would end in comparison to this Basilica.

Then I encountered an image from the past. Priests vested in green, all with their backs to me at the many side altars were offering Mass in the new rite in the old way. As I would walk by a different language would greet me. French at this altar, Italian here, German here, Spanish here and English at yet another altar. On this Sunday morning a large group of was gathering to process to one of the altars (I think it was the altar of Pope St. Leo the Great)--these were the Heralds of the Gospel. Present in the procession were both the male and female members and their beautiful chanting filled St. Peter's that early morning.

Since I was planning on attending mass later with the family, I did not participate in any of the Masses that morning but settled into the Blessed Sacrament chapel and prayed the office and the rosary. But on subsequent mornings I was to have some great experiences in early morning St. Peter's.

On the way back to rouse the family, I stopped in at a coffee bar to pick up some pastries and to have an expresso. I ordered un caffe and was met with the familiar response "Americano or expresso?" always giving me the sense that however I was asking it was a dead giveaway that I wasn't Italian. In fact throughout my time in Rome people would address me before I opened my mouth in English, as an American--so I must look like a typical American.

After the pastry consumption it was back to St. Peter's square to meet up with Charleston, South Carolina seminarian Jeffrey Kirby who is in Rome attending the North American College. Through my friend the Bishop of Charleston we had arranged for Jeffrey to give us tour of St. Peter's and he did a marvelous job of filling in the blanks that my first two unattended visits had already raised.

One question I had involved St. Peter's square. Is there a marker where Pope John Paul II was shot? Jeff informed us that in fact one pavement stone had originally been removed after the incident because it contained a drop of blood from the Pontiff and it had been replaced with a red porphyry stone. He pointed to the general direction where this stone was in the square but it would be until Friday before I would actually see it.

After Jeffrey's excellent tour we went back to the apartment for a few minutes, before heading back to St. Peter's square for Pope Benedict's Angelus. There were some Polish nuns in front of us and after the Pope's address I greeted one of them in Polish saying in "Praised be Jesus Christ!" She responded in great enthusiasm and started talk rapidly in Polish to which I had to tell her that I had pretty much exhuasted my Polish in that one phrase.

A short walk out of the square and we attended Sunday Mass in Italian at Santo Spiritu, a Church that seemed to have a special designation as a "Divine Mercy" church.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Visiting Rome

From February 2006, by Michael Dubruiel

On Saturday, February 25th we arrived in Rome. Our landlord was waiting for us at our apartment and did a quick run through of how everything in the ample dwelling functioned. One thing he forgot to tell us was how to operate the satelite television (which turned out to be a blessing for us).

Anxious to see St. Peter's we left our suitcases and headed in that direction, only two blocks away. My first thought as we stepped into the square was that it looked small. Its not small by any stretch of the imagination but it looks small in person. This was something that I experienced time and time again within St. Peter's and is a testament to how well the architects of this structure mastered proportionalism. Things are gigantic, but appear intimate.

Another surprise was the long line to enter the Church. It seemed like it would take hours to enter, but I said to everyone we didn't come here just to stand in the sqaure. We got in line and within a few minutes were near the front of the line. It moved quickly.

Walking into the church we were stopped (we actually had walked into the wrong entrance, I figured this out after the first day), it turned out we were in the line for the crypt where Pope John Paul II was recently buried. They were only letting a certian number of people go down at a time, so we waited a few minutes and looked at the Holy Year doors.

Finally we made our way into the crypt. We went through several rooms before arriving where the pope's are buried. We passed a niche where Pope Paul VI rests, Pope John Paul I's tomb is in the hall. There was a crowd around the spot where Pope John Paul II rests. I would visit this spot everyday of my time in Rome and pray for many who came to mind--it seemed quite natural to do so. Flowers were scattered on the tomb, some pictures, some prayer requests. A guard moved everyone along, motioning to a space against the wall if someone wished to remain there in prayer.
Just past the tomb of John Paul is the center of St. Peter's--the tomb of the Apostle in the Confessio. I'm not sure if most of those walking through the Basilica understood this--most seemed to walk by without giving a glance behind the glass wall. The path took us right past other tombs and eventually outside of the church. We were a little (actually a lot) confused because we hadn't actually gone into the Basilica yet.
We went back up the stairs toward the front and through the central doors and this time entered the largest Church in the world. It looks so familar, yet to see it all at one time gave me a different view of the common site. The bodies of incorrupt popes under the many altars, the massive papal monuments that seem to jut out from the walls. It almost seemed to be too much!
Midway down the nave to the right was a curtianed room. Guards stopped the casual tourists from entering a space that a sign marked as being for prayer. With the baby strapped to my back, I went in. The others, I supposed were scared off by the guard and the sign.

Inside a number of people were praying before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance. I gave thanks to God for a safe trip and that our feet had finally settled here in the center of his Church. My rambling went on when Michael (the baby) who had been very quiet spoke.

He said a word that I'd never heard him say before "Christ". It was very clear, and simple, and he only spoke it once. I said a few more prayers and he was silent, then I left the Chapel, emerging back into the nave of St. Peter's.

It was then that I started to wonder about his little confession of faith, made in Rome in the large church dedicated to St. Peter who had once been asked by Jesus, "Who do men say that I am?"..."Some say Elijah, some say John the Baptist,"..."But you, who do you say that I am?"..."You are the Christ!"

Peter's confession on the lips of my 15 month old son in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, so began my time in Rome.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Free Catholic Book

When we look back over our lives, we often find that every
event is intricately interwoven with another, and then another,
with bright spots of serendipity when we “just happened” to be
in the right spot at the right time at key moments. This realization
will deepen the mystery that is life; regardless how long or
short our life, our mission and purpose is God’s. If he seems slow
to respond, look to the cross of Christ, which illumines even the
lag time between the promise and the fulfillment.

-The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel

"michael dubruiel"

Monday, November 18, 2019

Catholic Inspiration

Sometimes after the stations I would join my classmates at a function
of the public school we attended. They would ask me where
I had been. “Church,” I would tell them. They would look at me
in unbelief. In my young and very fertile imagination, I thought
of them as the angry crowd surrounding Jesus during his Passion.
Why should my being at church cause them such discomfort?
But it did.

I realize now that the simple devotion that I participated in
throughout my youth taught me a lesson that my friends did not
receive: Failure and suffering are a part of every life. Seen through
the Passion of Christ, they can be a part of God’s plan for us.

From The Power of the Cross , by Michael Dubruiel available as a free download by clicking the cover below:

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi taught his followers to reverence Christ and
his cross wherever they might find themselves. The prayer attributed
to St. Francis that begins, “Lord, make me a channel of your
peace,” was in fact not composed by St. Francis; it was misapplied
to him in a prayer book. The true prayer of St. Francis was one
he taught his friars to pray whenever they would pass a Church
or the sign of the cross made by two branches in a tree. They were
to prostrate themselves toward the church or the cross and pray,
“We adore you Christ and we praise you present here and in all
the Churches throughout the world, because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.”
The cross reminds us of the true Christ, the one in the
Gospels who was constantly misjudged by the religious figures
of his day. If we are not careful, he will be misjudged by us as well.
We need to worship him alone.

From The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel , available as a free download by clicking the cover below:

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

How to Receive Communion as a Catholic

When our Lord gave the disciples on the road to Emmaus the bread that He had blessed and broken, "he vanished out of their sight" (Luke 24:31). It was then that they recognized Him. We receive the Lord as they did in receiving the Eucharist. Now, at the moment that He is within us, we too should reflect, as they did, on the Scriptures that He has opened to us during this Mass, especially on what has made our "hearts burn."

In our consumer-minded society, we can miss the treasure that we receive if we treat it like one more thing to "get" and then go on to the next thing. Our Lord is not a "thing." He is God, who has deigned to come intimately into our lives. We should reflect on His Presence within us and ask what He would have us do.

More on The How to Book of the Mass here. 

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Catholic Books

You can purchase Michael Dubruiel's books here - 

Books like The How to Book of the Mass and How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist. 

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:

Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
Respond" Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

St. Francis Cabrini - November 13 by Michael Dubruiel

A novena to Mother Cabrini is included in The Church's Most Powerful Novenas by Michael Dubruiel

The Church's Most Powerful Novenas is a book of novenas connected with particular shrines.  Michael Dubruiel wrote in the introduction to this book he compiled:

A novena to Mother Cabrini is included in the book

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his Apostles to stay where they were and to "wait for the gift" that the Father had promised: the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles did as the Lord commanded them. "They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:14). Nine days passed; then, they received the gift of the Holy spirit, as had been promised. May we stay together with the church, awaiting in faith with Our Blessed Mother, as we trust entirely in God, who loves us more than we can ever know. 

"michael Dubruiel"

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Bored at the Catholic Mass?

Michael Dubruiel wrote the book, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist.  You can read about it here. 
How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist gives you nine concrete steps to help you join your own sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ as you:
  • Serve: Obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist.
  • Adore: Put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance.
  • Confess: Believe in God’s power to make up for your weaknesses.
  • Respond" Answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the Body of Christ.
  • Incline: Listen with your whole being to the Word of God.
  • Fast: Bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist.
  • Invite: Open yourself to an encounter with Jesus.
  • Commune: Accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Evangelize :Take him and share the Lord with others.
Filled with true examples, solid prayer-helps, and sound advice, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist shows you how to properly balance the Mass as a holy banquet with the Mass as a holy sacrifice. With its references to Scripture, quotations from the writings and prayers of the saints, and practical aids for overcoming distractions one can encounter at Mass, this book guides readers to embrace the Mass as if they were attending the Last Supper itself.

Michael Dubruiel

Monday, November 11, 2019

RCIA Guide to the Catholic Mass

Michael Dubruiel
The How-To Book of the Mass by Michael Dubruiel  is the only book that not only provides the who, what, where, when, and why of themost time-honored tradition of the Catholic Church but also the how.
In this complete guide you get:
  • step-by-step guidelines to walk you through the Mass
  • the Biblical roots of the various parts of the Mass and the very prayers themselves
  • helpful hints and insights from the Tradition of the Church
  • aids in overcoming distractions at Mass
  • ways to make every Mass a way to grow in your relationship with Jesus
If you want to learn what the Mass means to a truly Catholic life—and share this practice with others—you can’t be without The How-To Book of the Mass. Discover how to:
  • Bless yourself
  • Make the Sign of the Cross
  • Genuflect
  • Pray before Mass
  • Join in Singing the Opening Hymn
  • Be penitential
  • Listen to the Scriptures
  • Hear a Great Homily Everytime
  • Intercede for others
  • Be a Good Steward
  • Give Thanks to God
  • Give the Sign of Peace
  • Receive the Eucharist
  • Receive a Blessing
  • Evangelize Others
  • Get something Out of Every Mass You Attend
"Is this not the same movement as the Paschal meal of the risen Jesus with his disciples? Walking with them he explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table 'he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them."1347, Catechism of the Catholic Church

Find more about The How to Book of the Mass here.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

St. Leo the Great - November 10 by Michael Dubruiel

-Michael Dubruiel, 2005

I attended an early mass at St. Leo the Great's tomb one morning while in Rome and as I read the office of readings for today by him, I thought how death makes this even more apparent.

St. Leo, pray for us!

From the Office of Readings:

Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of
members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists
as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ. No
difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through
lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our
community is undivided. There is a common dignity, as the apostle Peter says in
these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy
priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through
Jesus Christ. And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy
nation, a people set apart. For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by
the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy
Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all
spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers
in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find
yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And
what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer
him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart? Because, through
the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is
altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to
rejoice in this our day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are
especially honoured. For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated
throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which consecrates us has
richer effects in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.
Sharing in this office, my dear brethren, we have solid ground for a common
rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do
not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness. It is more helpful and more
suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter.
We should celebrate this day above all in honour of him. He overflowed with
abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received
much, nothing was given over to him without his sharing it. The Word made flesh
lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself
.-Michael Dubruiel

Saturday, November 9, 2019

St. John Lateran - November 9 by MIchael Dubruiel

A visit to St. John Lateran, from 2006, by Michael Dubruiel:

After a quick lunch (pizza, what else?)we headed toward the Metro station to catch the A Train to St. John Lateran's to meet up with Zadok who had so generously agreed to give us a tour of two of Rome's greatest Churches. We were still pretty green when it comes to the whole Metro system and walked (rather than took a bus) to the station, so by the time we finally arrived we were late and Zadok was nowhere to be seen (at least not at the Metro station where Amy had thought he had said he was going to meet us). So Amy went out the other possible exits and Katie, Joseph, the baby (on my back) and I went a bit further and bought a bottle of water. When Amy came to say that he could not be found, we decided to go on further to the Church and see if he might have gone on there when we had not arrived on time. Sure enought there he was...
I should mention that at this point we had already walked quite a bit (given two treks through St. Peter's, a good half mile to the Metro and another two or three blocks from the Metro to St. John's) while we stood and listened to Zadok's interesting history of the surrounding landmarks, Joseph sat. And even looking at the front of the Church's pavement now, makes me tired to think about even walking that distance. Most people think that St. Peter's is the Cathedral Church of Rome, but it isn't--St. John Lateran's is. While the chair of Peter is in St. Peter's, the Bishop of Rome's chair is at St. John Lateran's and this is the central feature of the apse of the Church, now that I think of it in a similar way to the way that the Chair of Peter is in the apse of St. Peter's. When St. Francis of Assisi came to Rome to see the Pope, he came here to the Lateran and their are large statues of Francis and his crew directly across from St. John's that seem to be in communication with the large statues that are on the facade of St. John's. After his election as pope last April, Pope Benedict XVI came here to the Lateran to be formally installed as the Bishop of Rome (ever wonder why the Bishop of Rome isn't an "archbishop"?).
St John's has it's own Egyptian obelisk (just like St. Peter's) and a very impressive Baptistry which next to the Pope's chair is what I remember most about this part of our tour. The Baptistry was huge (I had seen one at the ruins of St. John's in Ephesus twenty-seven years earlier that was quite small in comparison). There was some type of festival going on outside of the Church that seemed to be a "Mardis Gras" or "Carnivale" type of celebration, remember this was just before the beginning of Lent. So next to the obelisk were booths, screaming kids and some people dressed in costumes giving the "pope's church" the feel of a regular parish back home.
Across the street we visited the Scala Santa--the holy stairs, said to have been brought to Rome by St. Helena the mother of Constantine and to have been the stairs that Jesus would have walked on during his Passion when he came before Pontius Pilate. The faithful climb up them on their knees and as this picture will attest--there were no shortage of takes on the day we were there, in fact there were so many that it was really impossible to get near the steps to see them.
We walked up the side steps to another chapel called the Holy of Holies because it contained many holy relics and an image of Christ reported to have been painted by St. Luke entitled "picture painted without hands"....any student of Catholic piety knows there are many images reported to have been painted by St. Luke (Our Lady of Czestochova being one example). I had never thought about it much before, but I wonder if another meaning might be that Luke's Gospel inspired the works? I doubt the people working their way up on their knees think so..
Around the other side of the Holy Stairs was the remains of the Papal dining hall and an impressive mosaic, as we were viewing this site a woman begging rather aggressively started coming at us, and we moved on toward the Church in the distance...St. Mary Major.
Walking along Zadok shared his knowledge of another area of his expertise the Irish Catholic Church begining with the Irish College, its history and various locations. We talked about the contributions the Irish priests had made to the world at large, Africa in particular and the United States (anyone who lives in the South knows the debt the Catholic Church owes to the Irish priests). What a marvel that where the Church is most vibrant right now is where the Irish planted the Faith. Pray for the Catholics in Ireland.
At this point I became very tired, I think the baby might have fallen asleep on my back and as we learned this made him very heavy. So we stopped and Zadok, Amy, Katie and Joseph had gelato. I sat.
Then up and at it again. A short visit into the Redemptorist Church where the original Our Lady of Perpetual Help is enshrined--a modern enshrinement, simple and I must say not much to my liking. Mass was being said so we weren't able to really get close.
Next to Saint Prassede, a very interesting Church decorated in a more Byzantine style with beautiful mosaics. This church contained the column that Christ was bound to when he was scourged.
Evening was falling as we arrived at Saint Mary Majors, built on the spot where snow fell one August after Pope Liberius had dreamed that this would be a sign for him to build a church dedicated to Our Lady. As we entered the Church, the chanting of Vespers could be heard. My back was aching from the baby on it and I stole away from our tour to go into the side chapel and join in the praying of Evening Prayer. I grabbed a book and went to the first empty seat I could find which was in the front where I sat next to Cardinal Bernard Law. In spite of the comotion that I created, he did not even seem to notice. I fumbled around in the book trying to locate the point the prayer was at, but to little avail and after about five minutes Michael the baby decided to join in speaking loudly his own version of chant--at which point I made my exit. We toured the church and then started making our way back to the Metro station, thanking Zadok for his time and well presented tour.
When we arrived back on Borgo Vitorio we stopped at a restaurant that Amy had spied the evening before. It was in the cellar and proved to be an excellent choice. We had a meal where everyone had what they wanted, for me it was a pasta with cheese and pepper and it was great,Joseph had a cheese pizzza, Katie a giant calzone, Amy another pasta dish, the baby had some of it all.
Evening came, the second day.

Friday, November 8, 2019

How to Receive Communion in a Catholic Mass

These were written by Michael Dubruiel many years ago. 

We say the words of the Centurion before communion everytime we go to Mass but do we really mean it? "Lord, I am not worthy..."
Most of us probably think there are times when we aren't worthy but plenty of other times that we are. The truth is that we are never worthy. The more we can foster that notion the less likely we are to sit in judgment of others, the less likely we are to ever think we know better than God.

If we are to truly look forward to the coming of Christ we have to foster within us a deep sense of our own unworthiness that creates space for Christ to enter into our lives. The Centurion realized that a mere word from the savior could save his servant. In faith we should open the Scriptures with the same belief and expectation.

Michael Dubruiel

Thursday, November 7, 2019

How to Pray

The letter to the Hebrews draws a strong connection
between the cross and prayer. Because every moment of our
earthly existence is threatened by death, and we know neither the
day nor the hour when that existence will come to an end, we,
too, need to cry out to the God who can save us. Like Moses, we
need the help of our fellow Christians to hold up our arms when
they grow tired. We, too, need the help of the Holy Spirit to
make up for what is lacking in our prayer. 

-The Power of the Cross by Michael Dubruiel

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

November Devotional Reflection by Michael Dubruiel

Standing up for truth.

Pope Benedict XVI recalls his own youth and a lesson:
My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew – infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion – before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.

Let us thank God that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights. Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just.

The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. This is the essence of the hope that defines us as Christians; and the Church recalls this most dramatically during the Easter Triduum and celebrates it with great joy in the season of Easter! The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life (cf. Spe Salvi, 6). His death and resurrection mean that we can say to the Father “you have restored us to life!” (Prayer after Communion, Good Friday). And so, just a few weeks ago, during the beautiful Easter Vigil liturgy, it was not from despair or fear that we cried out to God for our world, but with hope-filled confidence: dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds! (cf. Prayer at the Lighting of the Easter Candle).

What might that darkness be? What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope? A first group of examples pertains to the heart. Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed. I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation – especially of girls and women. While the causes of these problems are complex, all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects ─ a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being. Such tragedies also point to what might have been and what could be, were there other hands – your hands – reaching out. I encourage you to invite others, especially the vulnerable and the innocent, to join you along the way of goodness and hope.

The second area of darkness – that which affects the mind – often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations. I have already mentioned the many liberties which you are fortunate enough to enjoy. The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.

Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person? Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good. In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere. And in truth’s place – or better said its absence – an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism. But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).

-Michael Dubruiel 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Sacred Heart of Jesus by Michael Dubruiel

The promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9. I will bless those places wherein the image of
My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall
have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

Michael Dubruiel

Monday, November 4, 2019

73 Steps to Communion with God - Step 72 Part 2

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous postings are found in the archives to the right. This is the 72nd Step Part 2:

(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.

And what of us?

Are we aware of the control that others have over us by their actions and words?

Really this is a counsel to make sure that any time God is Lord over you. When we make someone an enemy we are in danger of making them an idol that we worship and serve. They and the actions that they commit against us are not all-powerful and do not deserve the time and emotion that we often waste on them. Making peace with our adversaries means making peace with God first, asking God to empower us to forgive and acknowledging that God is the judge over all. We let go and let God be God in our lives.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

73 Steps to Communion with God - Step 72 Part 1

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous postings are found in the archives to the right. This is the 72nd Step Part 1:

(72) To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.

We should always strive to remain at peace with everyone. One wonders how different life would be if everyone were to embrace this counsel and practice it in their daily life. Would there ever be another war? Would anyone have reason to live in fear anymore?

But such is not the case and I cannot live with my focus on what others are or are not doing. I can only put this counsel into practice myself. Do I allow the sun to set without making peace with those who I'm either angry with or those who are angry with me.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

All Souls Day - November 2 by Michael Dubruiel

One time in the late 80's I was traveling with another friend of mine, Brian, on our way to Chicago. The first night we stopped at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA about twenty miles east of Atlanta.

Fr. Francis (originally a monk at Gethsemani and one of the founding monks of Holy Spirit, then in his 80's) met us at the Guest House door, "Will you stay?"

Anyone who has read Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain knows this is what you expect to hear when you arrive at a Trappist monastery. There is a double meaning to the question..."Will you stay?" and join our community, "Will you stay?" in the guest house and finally since in the Rule of St. Benedict the stranger is to be welcomed as Christ...Will you stay? Lord as in "Stay with us Lord for the day is far spent."

We answered "yes" as in yes we'll stay in the guest house tonight, which we did and attended prayers and Mass--then left the next morning on our way to Gethsemani. We arrived in Gethsemani that afternoon (about seven hours later). No one greeted us or asked us if we would stay. There were a few other pilgrims wandering around but no monks visible. We were settled in the chapel for Vespers when the first monks began to emerge from the cloister and enter into the chapel. Brian leaned over to me and whispered, "Its the same guys."

Well not exactly. Driving toward Birmingham and away from Gethsemani I thought of my friend Peter who has been a big fan of the Trappists from way back. I knew that he had thought about entering the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit at one timea and still made visits there frequently--I also knew that he had visited Gethsemani several times. His experience and mine of both monasteries knew that one welcomed strangers and the other saw them as an intrusion and to be fair because of Thomas Merton Gethsemani got a glut of strangers.

When I first stayed at Gethsemani the beds were very Trappist--really nothing more than a pallet with a two inch mattress on it. Years laters a beautiful, state of the art guest house was built that was more along the lines of mid range hotel. Now the Welcome Center--the times they are a changing.

I called Pete to share my views about the Welcome Center and I share them here because for the most part they were inaccurate as my return trip proved but they say a lot about how our minds process religious experiences. I told Pete:

"The first thing you notice when you walk in through the cloister wall and into the building is a is open but empty. In some ways it is symbolic of immediately reminding you of your final end and asking you the question what am I here for? Several monks were available to answer the question."

"Over the PA system there was an incessant crackling of flames--they made me think of the flames of Hell (another of the Last Things), when in fact a peak into the room to the left of the entrance showed that it was the Easter Fire being prepared and the flames providing the fire to illuminate the Easter Candle--symbolic of the light of Christ illuminating the darkness. The video featured the changing seasons...the crackling flames were replaced with crackling dead leaves falling from the trees surrounding the monastery, the barren trees introduced the funeral of a monk with living monks keeping vigil reading the psalms all night before the burial of their brother."

I told Pete that all of this left me with the impression that the Welcome Center was designed as a sort of funeral parlor and that unconsciously the monks were providing the guest with a modern morality play that the visitor was the staring player. Walking out of the Welcome Center I made my way toward the Chapel for Vespers--passing by another gate where the words "God Alone" were engraved. Long time readers of this blog will remember that this gate once graced the right hand column of this blog...the Gospel in two words, a reminder that after death all that matters will be God Alone...a reminder that in this life ultimately what matters is God Alone.

Then the Chapel and monks bending in unison at the waist singing "Praise to the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit both now and forever, until the end of the ages." punctuating the Psalms of praise and thanksgiving.

Death, Hell, Purgatory and Heaven all in a few minutes of each other. "Will you stay?"

No, not here anyway.

(Later my return to Getsemani later in the week and a more accurate description of the Welcome Center).

-Michael Dubruiel

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