Holy Father has Message for Fathers suffering Workaholism

From January 28, 2015 general audience:

“Father is a universal word, known to all. It indicates a fundamental relationship that is real and ancient as the history of mankind. Today, however, we have reached the point of affirming that ours would be a ‘society without fathers’…. And, as often happens, we have passed from one extreme to the other. The problem of our times no longer seems to be the invasive presence of fathers, but rather their absence. … Fathers are so focused on themselves, on their work and at times their personal fulfilment, that they even forget their families, leaving children and the young to their own devices. … Now, on this shared path of reflection on the family, I would like to say to all Christian communities that we must be more careful: the absence of the paternal figure in the life of children and the young produces lacunae and wounds that can be very serious. And in effect the deviances of children and adolescents may to a considerable extent be due to this lack of examples and authoritative guidance in their everyday life, to this lack of closeness and love from their fathers”.

Truth. Read the rest here.

Even though, as a father, I am “here” much of the time (at least physically) it is still too easy to forget that what frequently occupies our attention — respect, success, money — is entirely unimportant compared to the magnificent gifts we find in our children and family.

And, the one thing (no matter how distracted I am) that constantly catches my attention is how quickly it all goes — how one minute you’re holding a little baby, bouncing him on your knee and changing his diapers, and how the very next minute he is bounding through the door with youthful vigor, emptying your refrigerator, and “borrowing” your underwear and socks. In another minute, he’ll be standing on the lawn of some college quad somewhere, watching you drive away. And in a minute after that, God willing, you’ll be bouncing a grandchild on your knee, and passing him back to mom or dad when the little one has a soiled diaper.

I suspect that a question we may have to answer to Our Father in Heaven, relative to our roles as fathers, is “Where were you?” Not, “Where were you, when your {boss}{client}{customer}{coworker}{vendor} needed you?”

Walk for Life West Coast 2015

Good morning! Got up at 6:00 am. Mass at 7:00. Aboard bus at 8:00 or so. There’s a little bit of fog blanketing the ground this morning. A parishioner made homemade doughnuts for everyone on the buses for breakfast. I’m sitting next to two-year-old daughter for this leg; she got covered in sugar and cinnamon (from doughnut), but luckily, got most of it brushed off her.

Lots of good friends and loved ones aboard this bus!


11:00am: Crossing Bay Bridge


Noon: Civic Center Plaza is beginning to fill up!


1:00pm: Waiting for Walk to start.


1:30pm: Walk starts.


3:00pm: at Ferry Terminal





Wow, there might have been two dozen “counter-demonstrators” out along the route. The effort to mobilize the pro-aborts was reeeeaaaallllllly successful. One fellow creatively making use of the middle finger, some tired signs and a couple of angry megaphonists. That about sums up them up.





Abortion is murder. One of the counter-demonstrators (sadly, I didn’t get a picture) held a sign that said “Kill all babies / save the world.” That’s someone who knows what abortion is, and glories in its legality. If only “pro-choice” leaders were so honest.

Headed back on the bus. A great day. We are upon a slow, inexorable march to end this holocaust.

“Home School Days” at Monterey Bay Aquarium


The Monterey Bay Aquarium (if you’ve never visited) is truly a world-class aquarium, perhaps (arguably) the finest aquarium in the world. The exhibits are incredible, spectacular. The location (Monterey’s Cannery Row, situation in an old sardine factory) is stunningly beautiful.


FullSizeRender-2And, if you homeschool, the Aquarium offers a series of “Home School” days each year, and invites homeschooling families to visit the aquarium free of charge. For us (a family of six), this represented a savings of $180, which more than paid for our hotel room and a meal. We combined this trip to the Aquarium with our visit to the San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, so for us there was a science, history, and religion component to the trip.

We visited on January 12, and we prepared for the “field trip” the week before. We made an aquatic habitat at home, using a big sheet of paper, crayons and markers, and by coloring and cutting out the individual animals (available in the Education section on the Aquarium website) which were pasted onto our habitat. The boys enjoyed it (and since I’m not a very “artsy” homeschool teacher) as a fun art activity in addition to the science that they learned.


During our visit, there were a lot of volunteers and docents (who are very friendly and knowledgeable) at each exhibit to talk to the kids and answer their questions. There were FullSizeRender-1a lot of “interactive” activities, including the opportunity to work with arts and crafts, touch a lot of different animals, and even observe the dissections of several specimens.

The fact that the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers these “Home School Days” to the homeschooling community is a tremendous gift that deserves a lot of appreciation. I’m very grateful to them for opening up the Aquarium to homeschoolers, and giving us all an opportunity to learn.

Bl. Junipero Serra to be Canonized in Washington, D.C.?!?!?

Sour grapes.

Last week I posted an entry concerning the Holy Father’s announcement (aboard the papal plane from Sri Lanka to the Philippines) that during his visit to the United States in September, he intends to canonize Bl. Junipero Serra, father of the California missions.

IMG_1148speculated that this announcement could be a signal that perhaps Pope Francis would visit California during the same trip. But aboard the papal plane from the Philippines to Rome the Holy Father stated that the canonization would occur in Washington, D.C.. He said it would take an additional two days to go to California for the canonization. So?

It doesn’t make any sense. Sure, Washington D.C. is the nation’s capital, and California is now a part of the territorial U.S., but that is the complete extent of the connection between the District of Columbia and Bl. Junipero. Bl. Junipero is buried in California. His legacy is in California. Culturally, his connection is to Spain, Mexico, and California — not the East Coast United States.

When Bl. Junipero established the missions, he (to my knowledge) never traveled along the East Coast. He never visited Washington D.C., or Philadelphia, or New York. He traveled from Spain to Mexico, and then traveled from Mexico north to California.

I can’t even see the point of a canonization in Washington, D.C. It would be better (as the Holy Father indicates in the article linked above) to wait for a forthcoming trip to Mexico, and to do the canonization in Mexico City, where Bl. Junipero actually visited and made contact.

really hope that this decision is reconsidered. The canonization would be far more significant if it took place in: Rome, Spain, Mexico, or California. A canonization in Washington, D.C. might as well be Toronto, or Detroit, or Tokyo.

Walk for Life West Coast 2015 is Tomorrow!

WFL_original-logoThis is a great event that needs your support. Please pray for an end to abortion tomorrow, and please also consider attending the Walk if you can get to San Francisco. A lot of nearby parishes charter buses to carry down a load of people, and there are always last minute cancellations. Call you parish and see what they’re doing!

Some pressing prayer intentions:

– For our godson (just a few months old, born with a chromosomal deletion; he’s very small) who went to the pediatrician and tested positive for RSV. Praying a hospital admission is averted. And for said godson’s father who interviews for a job tomorrow.

– For the grandmother of a family with whom we are very close, recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that has metastasized.

– For the repose of the soul of our brother-in-law’s cousin, who recently died while still a young man to an extended illness.

– For our two youngest kids, sick this week with normal crud.

– For anyone suffering depression, anxiety, or despair, that they be comforted by the saving mercy of our Lord.

– For a safe and fruitful Walk for Life 2015 in San Francisco this Saturday.

– For conversion of hearts, and the reconciliation to the Church of several close loved ones.

– For two personal intentions.

Will you please pray?

Roman Dining and Lodging for the Pilgrim

I’m still sorting through pictures, and trying to decide subjects that might make good blog posts. For example, I’ve now visited Italy twice during the holidays, and so I’ve amassed a huge assortment of nativity scenes, and I’d love to throw the whole lot up into one giant post for you to enjoy. But I wonder, do you want to see nativities in January or February, or would it be better to wait until the start of Advent 2015? At that point, they’ll be so last year, but it might be fun to see them during the proper liturgical season. Thoughts?

Roman Food

First, a view or two from the street. Scenes like this are pretty ubiquitous throughout Rome, and a shop window like this (to me) is really charming:


See those guys standing in a row behind the counter? They are professionals. Italians take things like meat and cheese, as well as waiting tables, very seriously. These are not jobs taken likely. They are professions.

Now, here’s something that may well hold the record for most girthy, and longest, encased meat product:


I love the fact that it sits in a trophy case just inside the front entrance, and people can actually come in and order slices off it.

Two Worthy Dining Recommendations

Readers of this blog know that I don’t make many specific recommendations. But I have visited these places multiple times, and I think they deserve it. One place is great for lunch after visiting St. Peter’s and the Vatican, and the other is great for a special evening meal in the heart of the city.

Perfect for Lunch, Near St. Peters: Graziella & Alberto da Spinosi a S. Pietro, Via del Mascherino, 60-62-64

If you are familiar with Borgo Pio, just a few blocks north of Vatican City (exit Bernini’s colonnades, head north), look for the green awning over this tiny trattoria. Despite its prime location, this place is not tremendously touristy, and I can attest that it is mostly frequented by locals. A lot of priests and sisters eat here. I’ve even seen a few bishops here before.

My priest friend Fr. A suggested this place to me, and told of how during his time studying in Rome, he and his friends would visit on Sundays after mass for Bruschetta alla Romana, which is indeed a sizable lunch on its own. I’ve tried to replicate their bruschetta for him here at home.

The restaurant is run by husband (Alberto) and wife (Graziella), who are friendly, but also somewhat vocal. They, like many Italians, communicate with their hands. Graziella (who runs the kitchen) will likely tell you that you are having Amatriciana, and half the time it will come to the table even if you haven’t ordered it. But if it comes, don’t send it back. Eat it; her version is great.

This time, the weather on Sunday afternoon was warm and sunny, and so I ate outside. The inside is adorned with old photos and memorabilia, and the tables are more crowded, a la family style. I had Spaghetti Vongole-Cozze (clams) and some house white wine:


I’m not normally a big seafood and red sauce kind of guy, but this was really good. I’ve been pleased with nearly everything I’ve ordered here.

For a Special Dinner of Fresh Seafood: Da CesareVia Crescenzio, 13 – 00193 Rome

Da Cesare serves a mix of tourists and locals, and generally people are enthusiastic about this place. This past time, I was approached by a retired Italian couple sitting nearby, who simply wanted to know whether I was enjoying my meal, and to tell me that they think Da Cesare is a good restaurant. If you are looking for seafood, this is what you want to see in Rome, and this is what greets you at the entrance of Da Cesare:


You will spend some money on fish here. A lot of the best choices are priced by each 100 grams, so the cost (if you order a whole fish) will be somewhat unknown until the bill arrives. Their prime cuts of beef (the famed Florentine steaks, for example) are priced in a similar way. Proteins are cooked very simply, either pan-fried or grilled.

I love a good seafood risotto, and the one at Da Cesare does not disappoint:


I’ve had this dish here before, and my only quibble this time was that the rice was slightly undercooked. Risotto should certainly be al dente, meaning that each grain should retain its own structure and not form a gloppy mass with the other grains. This risotto needed one more ladleful of stock in order to be perfect, but slightly undercooked is better in my book than overcooked, and it was properly seasoned.

I tried something new at Da Cesare, one of the “second-tier” steaks:


I think the United States produces good beef. We have sort of lost of way with other types of meat, especially poultry, where volume has eclipsed quality and flavor. But trying a steak like this in Italy, you can certainly compare and realize that beef is raised differently there. This steak had a real deep beefy flavor that was augmented by the simple method of cooking over a fire grill. I would be guessing that the more “prime” cut offered at Da Cesare is even more tender, with a little less gristle. But for me, and for the price, this steak was extremely satisfying.

Not a “Wine Snob”? Try the House Wine

think I know a thing or two about wine, but when traveling in Italy (especially when I am on my own) I am extremely content to order house wines at restaurants. House wines are one of the great bargains in Italian dining. In some places, you can easily spend more on special bottled water, or soda, than the house wine. And unlike American eateries, where house wine is likely to mean something nondescript from a box or plastic bladder, in a decent trattoria great pride is taken in their house wines, and they are served without fuss, usually in a generous little pitcher.

Most importantly, I don’t think I’ve ever ordered a house wine that was not drinkable. Most of the time, the wine is much more than drinkable; the house wine properly compliments the food being served, and is quite enjoyable to drink. And you save a little money.

Where to Stay in Rome: Domus Carmelitana, Casa di Procura S. Alberto – Via Alberico II, 44 – 00193 Roma

domuscarmelitanaI realize that everyone has their favorite place to stay. There are certain other bloggers who even have their favorite religious houses in Rome which have been recommended.

When it comes to lodging, the one thing I haven’t done in Rome is stay in a hotel. For the longterm stay, there are some good websites for renting a flat during your stay in Rome. We’ve done this, and it’s a lot of fun to “live like a Roman” for a while, preferably in a neighborhood with some character. The benefit of a flat rental is the kitchen that you can use to prepare some of your own meals.

Rooftop Terrace

Rooftop Terrace

For a shorter stay, there are a number of monasteries and religious communities that are set up to welcome pilgrims. The Domus Carmelitana is in a perfect location, very near to Castel San Angelo, and within a short walk of Vatican City. In addition to the location, there are a few reasons I prefer this house above others.

First, the rooms are always clean and well appointed (I noticed that this time my room had a security safe, as well as an iron, tv, phone, etc.).

Second, the entrance to the Domus is secured by an iron gate. You ring the bell to be “buzzed” inside. It’s a safe place to stay, in a quiet neighborhood. But unlike a lot of religious houses, where there is a curfew (sometimes as early as 10pm), Domus Carmelitana is staffed around the clock, just like a nice hotel, and there is no curfew to worry about. The staff is extremely courteous, professional, and accommodating. They have helped me with transportation to the airport, directions, dining recommendations.

Dining room

Dining room

Third, a lovely breakfast, far more extensive than the typical “continental” fare, is served every morning for all guests. Pastries, cold cuts, cereals, coffee and tea, a variety of juices, yogurt, and so on, are served. Many of the other guests are also pilgrims and it’s fun to go down to the dining room to see who else is visiting Rome.

DomuschapelFourth, there is a chapel at the Domus, and the simple decor has a religious theme. I prefer a room with a crucifix in it. That’s just me.

Finally, the Domus is a very reasonable place to stay, considering the amenities, location, and services offered. Single rooms start just over 100 euros per night. You could easily spend twice or three times that at a conventional hotel. I think it’s a very good value.

Pope Announces Canonization of Bl. Junipero Serra

Is this a sign that part of the pilgrimage to the United States
will include a visit in California?


Bl. Junipero Serra, and his “pectoral” cross

St. John Paul II started the “tradition” of having press conferences aboard “papal planes” on pilgrimages. JPII was the most traveled pope, air travel was a less than common occurrence for prior popes. Some might be nostalgic for the pontificate of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was, shall we say, circumspect during such occasions. Our current Holy Father has been rather more, uh, candid than his predecessors.


Painting of Bl. Junipero Serra and company from Spain via Mexico arriving at the Monterey Peninsula, and celebrating mass

But it was exciting news to learn that aboard the flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines,  Pope Francis announced that he is dispensing with the miracle requirement for Bl. Junipero Serra (as he has done with a few other recent canonizations) and will declare the Franciscan friar who evangelized Alta California and established the string of California missions along the El Camino Real a saint of the Holy Catholic Church.

The subject of Spanish imperialization of the New World remains a delicate and touchy subject for many. I recall that in college, nothing got my liberal tenured history professors more twisted and upset than when discussing the treatment of America’s natives at the hands of the English, French and Spanish imperialists. Far more than the need for miracles, in the case of Serra the cause should have been very careful about scrutinizing his actions relative to methods of mission work, and ensuring that he was indeed saintly in his actions to the people who he worked with, and evangelized.

Courtyard of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission

Courtyard of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission

Bl. Junipero was accompanied by Spanish soldiers as he established the missions. At the time, Spain was interested in staking a territorial claim to Alta California, and viewed the missions as a means not just for evangelization, but also its commercial and imperial interests, which included maintaining a toehold on California and preventing expansion by Russia and others.

It appears that Bl. Junipero was focused on his mission, and worked hard to protect the natives from Spanish soldiers. He effectuated the removal of at least one Spanish governor of the territory (in part due to this governor’s cruelty toward the native population). It appears that Bl. Junipero was a kind and benevolent man who was earnestly interested in bringing Christ to the indigenous people.

Altarpiece in the mission church at San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. Bl. (soon to be St.) Junipero is buried beneath the altar.

Altarpiece in the mission church at San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo. Bl. (soon to be St.) Junipero is buried beneath the altar.

He suffered an injury to his leg that tortured him for many years, preventing sleep and easy travel, but Serra steadfastly refused to return to Spain or Mexico, for fear that it would dissolve his work. But he was also a man of his time, and held attitudes toward the native people that some today find less than defensible. True historians must always allow for context, but canonization isn’t only concerned with context; rather, the process is meant to arrive at a declaration of holiness. Holiness is not necessarily tempered by context.

The other exciting piece of this news is that the canonization will take place in the United States, while the pope is here in September. There will be some speculation, will the Holy Father travel to California? It certainly would be a boon for all of America to have Serra canonized in the U.S., but to date the impression has been that the pope will confine his visit to the East Coast, and possibly a city like Chicago, but would not be traveling to California. I’d argue that the Serra connection to New York or Philadelphia is pretty tenuous, not the ideal venue for the canonization.

Front of the mission church, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

Front of the mission church, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

I think Serra should be canonized at or near the place where he is buried, at the second mission he established, San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo in Monterey, California. Incidentally, our family (as part of our homeschool / mission curriculum) visited this mission last Sunday, which has recently undergone a seismic retrofit to the mission church, and is awaiting structural repairs and general freshening to the other buildings in the mission complex.

In terms of logistics, access, etc., the mission would not be ideal for the canonization, but it is a beautiful place to visit (JPII visited in 1987) and soon will be home to the remains of St. Junipero Serra! The canonization could occur at a nearby stadium, or the cathedral in Monterey, Los Angeles, San Diego, or even San Francisco.

In Rome: St. Andrew’s Basilica

Note the depiction of the crucifixion of St. Andrew, on a diagonal cross, behind the altar

Note the depiction of the crucifixion of St. Andrew, on a diagonal cross, as angels bless him with a crown of martyrdom, in the painting located behind the altar

IMG_5275“Why Rome?” is always a good question, and there are many answers. For myself, one great answer is that one doesn’t have to look very far at all to placed very close to the foot of the Lord.

Even for the fortunate Catholic, there is perhaps only one opportunity to attend mass in a day. Imagine a place where God needn’t perform a miracle to literally provide a dozen or more opportunities for mass!

In Rome, churches abound, and by natural extension, so do masses, even during the week. There are MANY neighborhoods where churches are less than 50 or 100 yards apart. In the span of 15 minutes, you could visit 3 or 4 churches if you wanted to do so.

FullSizeRender-1Such was the case, when I kept walking into church after church, and it seemed that I was stricken with a bit of the unlucky; I’d enter to find that mass was being celebrated, but already under way. I asked God if maybe I could find a church where I wasn’t going to be “crashing” a mass in progress.

Shortly after that, I found myself in a church I’d never been before — Basilica di S. Andrea della Valle — for a solemn mass presided by His Eminence, Joao Braz de Aviz, in commemoration of the feast day of San Giuseppe Maria Tomasi, buried there. I didn’t even know why the cardinal was there, since I hadn’t paid any attention to the sign announcing the mass (I just wanted to go to mass!), and I found it curious that following the entrance procession, the thurible with incense was carried to a side altar (where I later learned that the saint is buried) that I could not see from my position.

FullSizeRender-2This visit to St. Andrew’s basilica also caused me to ponder the depiction of his crucifixion, martyrdom and burial behind its main altar, a series by Renaissance master Preti. Tradition depicts St. Andrew being crucified on a diagonal cross. Perhaps you’ve noticed (if you’ve visited St. Peter’s basilica) that one of the niches surrounding the main altar (and Bernini’s famous bronze baldacchino) provides a similar view of the Saint. He seems strong and manly in both representations; he’s not dwarfed by the telephone-pole-sized crossbeams. Rather, he is a substantial figure, and his posture points toward Heaven as he meets his reward.

Anglican Archbishops continue to Lament…..

…..the serious crisis facing their communion, saying that attendance continues to dwindle, church pews are evermore far from full. For Britain in particular, part of the problem simply boils down to caring for edifices (usurped centuries ago from the Catholic Church) without congregations.

Catholics should be grateful to the Anglicans for raising the curtain on what happens, secondary to acceptance of: contraception, abortion, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage, and the ordination of women. These things are entirely incompatible with a body of believers being truly faithful to Jesus Christ. Far from a blossoming, the branches have withered, and the stump of a trunk is about to retract into itself.

While I was in Assisi, I enjoyed dinner late one evening in a nearly-empty dining room. A husband and wife were together on holiday, seated at a table near me. I did not eavesdrop, but I did come to a realization that they were English speakers, most likely from England.

IMG_0818Toward the end of dinner, I took a few pictures of the dining room. The waiter and owner brought them some Limoncello from Sorrento to try. They had paid their bill and were soaking up the glow of the last few minutes of post-prandial satisfaction in such a peaceful place.

It must have been the way I was holding my phone to take the picture, because the wife, correctly observing that I was dining alone and thinking that I had just taken a “selfie”, asked me if I wanted to have one of them take my picture. I explained that while I had previously succumbed to taking a selfie (with my wife) in the past, I was not doing so in the restaurant, but was only taking a picture of the lovely dining room. This led to an opportunity to chat briefly about what we were each doing in Assisi.

When I explained that I was on “retreat”, the husband quickly became animated, and wanted to know a little more about me. I was given to the realization that I was in the company of two Anglicans, who were interested in my conversion from the Episcopal Church to Catholicism. He seemed intrigued that I would leave the Episcopal Church, and while I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I believed that all of Anglicanism was in rapid decline, I was emphatic about the fact that the Episcopal Church would soon cease to exist as a functioning body of believers in the these United States.

I believe my words were, “The Episcopal Church in America is dying, and will soon be dead.” And then I provided some evidence, using the Washington National Cathedral as a prime example (a worship space so underused that it is now being considered for skateboarding, flying paper airplanes, and prayer to Allah), he astutely did not try to argue these points, and we continued our chat so peaceably and jovially that when I mentioned Pope Francis, he became even more animated: “He’s my guy! I really, really like him!”

I readily agreed with him regarding Francis, and pointed out that the Catholic Church was fortunate to have had truly wonderful popes (BXVI, JPII) in recent memory. So pray for the conversions of Mr. and Mrs. Anglican who found themselves in Assisi over the New Year, headed back to England via Florence!