Dear Parishioners:

It’s hard to believe the sabbatical ends in about five weeks. It all began with my arrival on Monday, January 21, via Delta out of New York. Maurizio picked up myself and Daryl Olmstead from Salina, Kansas. On Tuesday, we began with orientation from the various vice rectors. The day ended with drinks and dinner.

We left early on Wednesday morning for Mass at the tomb of St. Peter which is always an exciting experience. The rest of the day was casual. Then on Thursday, January 24, we went back to the tomb of Peter for the Tour of the SCAVI which is the archaeological excavation of the tomb. We then broke for a long weekend to tour Rome on our own or with other priests.

The second week was all class lectures. The professors from the various Pontifical Universities were outstanding. The brought us up-to-date with the latest teaching/thinking in theology for Bioethics & Psychology for two days. Wednesday and Thursday covered Lectio Divina – understanding how to pray the scriptures. We finished on Friday with The Art of Reading the Bible for Preaching. The weekend was free.

On Monday, February 4, we had a Canon Law update lecture and on Friday, February 8, there was a lecture in Contemporary Trends in Theology. On Tuesday, February 5, we had a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and on Wednesday, February 6, a tour of the Vatican Museum. The tours were conducted by Professor Liz Lev. She’s originally from Boston, but she has been in Rome giving tours for 30 years. She was outstanding to the point of overload with facts and information. Finally, on Thursday, February 7, we went to the Congregation for the Clergy for a talk about their work in support of priests.
The week of February 11 – 14 was devoted to lectures: two lectures on “Four Women Doctors of the Church and their Practical Wisdom in Tough Times and one lecture on Influential 20th Century Women and their Message to Priests in the 21st Century.” There was a practical lecture and open discussion on Working with Women in the Parish.

The fifth week was the best as far as lectures/presentations were concerned by Fr. Scott Brodeur, S.J., from the Pontifical Biblical Institute. The lectures were on Paul’s Letter to the Romans. This was eye-opening. He talked about Paul living in three cultures – yet still remaining a faithful Jew. Paul was a Pharisee steeped in that tradition. He was born in Hellenistic culture and was influenced by its philosophy. Finally, he went to Rome to preach the Gospel where he was martyred by being beheaded.

On Friday, February 22, we had a lecture and a tour of the chapels where we saw the paintings of Caravaggio, who is considered one of the great painters alongside Michelangelo and Raphael. On Tuesday evening, February 19, I had dinner with Archbishop Lori and Fr. Lou Bianco. We had dinner at this wonderful ristorante that featured the cuisine of Liguria. This cuisine uses a lot of pesto in its dishes. All of this was accompanied by some great wine that Fr. Lou selected. He’s a wine aficionado.

I’ll continue this letter next week. It will feature pronzo/lunch with Cardinal O’Brien at his apartment, as well as his visit with all the priests here at the Casa and Mass with him in the crypt of St. Peter’s followed by coffee and sweets at the Headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Please know that you have been in my prayers at Mass and the many holy sites in Rome.

In Christ’s love,
Fr. Frank