(L'Osservatore Romano photo)
(L'Osservatore Romano photo)
SAT., NOV. 26:

Following our meeting with Pope Benedict, we returned to the college refectory for a meal.

Later in the afternoon, we traveled by bus to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. The original edifice, located over the tomb of the Apostle Paul, was burned to the ground in the mid-19th century and an imposing basilica has taken its place.

Along the walls of this immense structure are portrayals of the 262 popes from Peter to Benedict XVI. There remains room for seven more portraits. Some with an apocalyptic mentality have hypothesized that when the last remaining space is occupied, it will usher in the end of the world.

I had the honor and privilege of being the main celebrant and homilist at the Mass offered at the main altar of the basilica. I spoke about how St. Paul's gifts as a pastor, teacher, evangelist, collaborator, healer and person of prayer should serve as a role model for us in our episcopal ministry.

Blog entry
Earlier this month, I unexpectedly came across a blog by Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, that captures well the enormous contributions of Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle for the Gentiles. I believe Bishop Lynch's blog deserves repeating in this journal:

"'And so we came to Rome. The believers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. Three days later, he called together the local Jewish leaders...and they came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying' (Acts 28:16-17,23).

"Paul had interrupted his journey with some time spent on the island of Malta prior to boarding a ship, which would ultimately land near the present Italian city of Naples. Traveling with Luke overland to Rome, they found pockets of Christians.

"Excitedly, they sent word on to Rome that Paul had finally arrived and was on his way to the capital city. It is widely believed that many of the Christians from Rome traveled out to the Appian Way to greet him upon his arrival.

"Still under Roman guard, one needs to imagine, though, that after all he had been through since his conversion, he was finally being welcomed by Christians, believers. Ten years after expressing a desire to come to Rome, he had finally arrived.

"As we have seen in other places, Paul started with the members of the Jewish community in Rome and began to preach at the synagogue. Fortunately for him, the anger, antagonism, and opposition which marked the end of his preaching in Jerusalem and every place in between was not initially present, and he came to the Roman Jews without any advance prejudice having been sent ahead.

"They listened, but it did not take them long not to like what they heard, especially the prospect of a new religious movement following a so-called 'Messiah.'

"Perhaps he won a few converts from that community, but history had a way of repeating itself, and before long there were few left to listen to Paul. Once again, his message turned to the gentiles who offered more hope for conversion and more openness to the message.

"Luke, in Acts, tells us that Paul remained in his own rented house in Rome for two full years. Under arrest this whole time and mostly in chains, but with certain liberties, there is no record of any trial or punishment meted out on Paul while early in Rome. Like the Energizer bunny, he just kept on preaching Jesus Christ.

"Paul is growing older, more weary, and knowing that the end is near. Nero has ascended the Roman throne - not the most balanced person in Roman history - and seems initially to have had little to no interest in the case of Paul.

"Perhaps, too, those from Jerusalem did not pursue bringing the case once Paul was 'out of sight and out of mind' there. Whatever: There was a long period of waiting for the proverbial shoe - or, more accurately, sword - to drop.

"To get some idea of Paul's mind during this period in his life, one should read his second letter to Timothy, which is a personal reflection on his emotions, mind and heart during this period of his life. I shall not repeat it here, as it is a brief letter and you can read it in its entirety in minutes.

"Conscious of the growing division between Jews and Gentiles which Christianity is bringing and aware that his own credibility with the Jews of Rome is suspect, it is thought that Paul invited someone else to write the Letter to the Hebrews, often attributed to him as actual author but believed unlikely by most Scripture scholars. That is not to discount, however, that Paul may likely have been in the background saying to the actual author, 'No, write this!'

"Sometime in the third year, Paul's best friend and 'Johnny-on-the-spot' every time the great Apostle got depressed and desperate, Timothy, comes to Rome and spends time with his mentor, buoying his spirits. Other friends and converts from his missionary stops also come to Rome and that joy can be seen in his writings in Philippians. Luke dies before Paul, so our historian is no longer any help on Paul's final years.

"Paul wanted to die for his Lord just as his Lord had died for him and for us. He hoped for a trial before the Roman authorities and it seems he may have gotten his wish - and before Nero, to boot.

"Sometime in 63 or 64 A.D., Paul's trial was held. Death was the verdict and punishment, but it could not be a death like that of Jesus, crucifixion, because Paul was a Roman citizen and by law they were not crucified.

"We believe that Paul was led outside of the city where he was beheaded. Thirty years after being knocked off his horse at the gate to Damascus, Paul entered eternal life outside of Rome.

"Peter would suffer the same death sentence at the hands of Nero as Paul, but, as a Jew, he would be crucified, upside down and buried in a communal pit on the Vatican hill outside of Rome.

"The charge given to Peter along the Sea of Galilee to 'feed my lambs...feed my sheep' gave to the 'prince of the Apostles' the position of heading the Church; and, other than the question of baptism versus circumcision, which led to and was settled by the Council of Jerusalem in 64 A.D., there is no evidence anywhere to suggest that Paul did anything other than respect Peter's role.

"There is no evidence in Acts or the Pauline writings or in the writings of the early Church fathers to indicate any antagonism or difficulties between these two giants of the early Church and of the faith."

Having celebrated Mass at the tomb of Peter yesterday and at St. Paul's today, I am so proud to stand in the line of succession of these two great Apostles of our Church.

SUN., NOV. 27

Today begins the new liturgical season of the Church's year, the beautiful time of Advent in which we are called to prepare for the Lord's coming: both His imminent coming in the Christmas feast, as we once again celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God; and His ultimate coming in power and glory, when we must render an account of our stewardship on earth.

A number of our delegation joined the seminary community for the Advent Mass at which Cardinal Edward Egan served as the principal celebrant and homilist.

Quite frankly, I am happy that I was a celebrant at yesterday's liturgy because I didn't have to use the new English translation of the Mass which commences today.

I stumble
I must also confess that I responded twice to the greeting, "The Lord be with you," with, "And also with You," instead of, "And with your Spirit," which the new translation calls for. I expect it will take a few months before overcoming the tendency to respond almost automatically with the phrases to which we have become accustomed over the past 40 years and gain familiarity with the new responses.

Hopefully, unfamiliarity with the congregational responses and the re-translated prayers of the presiding celebrant contained in the new translation will help us become more conscious or aware of the meaning of the Mass prayers themselves and lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our Christian life.

I offered today's Mass for those studying for the priesthood and for all those who have suffered sexual abuse by priests. I pray that this terrible violation of sacred trust may never be repeated.

Following Mass, a number of us walked down to St. Peter's Square to recite the Angelus with the Holy Father and receive his blessing. At noon each Sunday, he appears in a top window of the Vatican Palace and addresses the many pilgrims assembled in the Piazza. He greeted people in all the major languages and gave a short exhortation on the meaning of the Advent season as a time of spiritual preparation for the coming Christmas feast.

Five moments
While I have been in the Piazza many times over the years, five come to mind immediately:

• in June of 1963, gathering in prayer at the announcement of Pope John XXIII's death, and, a few days later, standing in the line extending from the Piazza into the basilica to view his body lying in state;

• several days afterward, present in the square to hear the dean of the College of Cardinals proclaim that the conclave had chosen Giovanni Montini, the Archbishop of Milan, to succeed Pope John XXIII as the successor of Peter, and that he had selected the name Paul VI;

• a few days later, watching Pope Paul being coronated with a bullet-like tiara;

• attending the outdoor ceremony in 1984 when Archbishop John O'Connor was elevated to the College of Cardinals; and

• mingling with a square full of pilgrims, including 300-plus from our own Diocese, who had journeyed to Rome during the Holy Year 2000, for a multicultural celebration of the Mass on Mission Sunday, presided over by Pope John Paul II.

Ordination memories
Following Pope Benedict's blessing, I continued down the Via della Conciliazione into the heart of Rome to visit the Church of St. Ignatius, where I was ordained a priest almost 48 years ago: Dec. 18, 1963.

My mother and Aunt Loretta; two family friends; Rev. Ken Doyle, then a seminarian at Catholic University; his parents and sister, Sally; and the parents of another Albany seminarian studying at the North American College, Jim Murphy, traveled to Rome for the ordination.

It was a brisk, drizzly day and the Church had no central heating. The ceremony lasted more than four hours. Half of our class of 62 received the sacrament of Holy Orders at the hands of the College rector, Archbishop Martin J. O'Connor, and the other half was ordained at the same time by Cardinal Luigi Poggi, the vicar of Rome, in the suburban Church of Christo Re.

The Church of St. Ignatius was built by the Jesuit community in the baroque style between 1626 and 1685, according to the plans of the Jesuit architect Oratio Grassi. A feigned dome or cupola was created in 1709, and the church houses the tombs of three great Jesuit saints: Ss. Aloysius Gonzaga, John Berchmans and Robert Bellarmine, all of whom were outstanding leaders in the Counter-Reformation.

I gave thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood I received in this venerable church and for the joys and blessings it has brought. I also took this opportunity to pray for my beloved parents, my two sisters and their families, and for the priests, deacons, religious and laity of our Diocese.

Meeting columnist
Afterwards, I joined Robert Mickens, a regular columnist for The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper of London, whose accounts of Vatican news I have enjoyed immensely over the years. I had never met him previously, but we have a mutual friend who suggested that we get together for lunch during the ad limina visit.

Bob is a very engaging man who shared his own background as a one-time student at the North American College. While he left the seminary prior to ordination, he has remained in Rome for the past 25 years - first with Vatican Radio and now as a correspondent for The Tablet. He has sage insights on what is happening not only at the Vatican, but throughout the universal Church.

Dining with Bob meant I missed the outdoor barbecue at the college and the traditional upperclassmen vs. the new class football game.

Although the upperclassmen prevailed 28-14, the new men had nothing to be ashamed of: At halftime, the game was tied at 14, but the new class was outmanned 3-1, so they faded in the second half.

Later in the afternoon, I joined the seminary community for solemn vespers. The chanting of the choir was truly beautiful.

The priests and deacons of our Diocese will be surprised to learn that I was chosen to chant the Gospel in Latin at the college's Christmas midnight Mass the week after my ordination to the priesthood. They will not be puzzled, however, as to why no one has ever invited me to attempt such a feat again.

The day concluded with a trip down the hill for a treat of gelato.

MON., NOV. 28

Today marks the fifth straight day of dazzling sunshine and blue skies. While needing a jacket and a sweater in the early morning or evening, most midday temperatures have been in the high 50s or low 60s.

Our first visit this morning was to the Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees Catholic schools and colleges, formation for priests and seminarians and the formation of deacons.

The cardinal prefect of the Congregation was in Taiwan, so the meeting was conducted by his second-in-command, Arch-bishop Jean-Louis Brugues, a French Dominican priest, who prior to this posting was a professor of moral theology.

The meeting began with an expression of gratitude on the part of the Congregation for the documents on the formation of priests and deacons developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The archbishop commented that these essential documents on the theological, pastoral, human and spiritual formation of our clergy were exceptionally well-done.

Priests' issues
The archbishop inquired about how well the apostolic visitation of seminaries in the United States during the past decade was received. It was the consensus of our delegation that the visit was both helpful and constructive.

Further, coming on the heels of the 2002 revelations about clergy sexual abuse, the visitation was an assurance to our people that every effort is being made to assure the suitability of candidates for priestly ministry.

A discussion ensued about the profile of today's seminarians. There was a consensus that candidates are coming at an earlier age than a decade or two ago, and had a more firm vision of what they wanted to accomplish with their lives. They also seem very open to and hungry for spiritual formation.

Some of the challenges are that their academic background is often less comprehensive than previous generations, and fewer are coming from intact families, which requires more counseling to address the problems this can create. Also, with more international candidates, there is a need to work diligently with them on accent reduction and inculturation.

Deacons lauded
We spoke at some length about the explosion of the diaconate since the Second Vatican Council. There are now more than 40,000 deacons worldwide, with the United States having more than any other country. All of our bishops were in accord that the academic, pastoral and human formation of diaconal candidates has improved since the restoration of the permanent diaconate 40 years ago.

While deacons have a liturgical role to exercise, their ministry is not limited to the sanctuary. In all our dioceses, deacons are serving well - not only in delivering homilies, baptizing, witnessing weddings and presiding at wake and graveside services, but also in baptismal and marriage preparation, in outreach to those in hospitals and nursing homes and in ministry to the incarcerated, as well as assuming administrative responsibilities.

We underscored the necessity of the wife's support before a diaconal candidate is accepted, and the necessity of providing her with the opportunity to participate in her spouse's formation so that she can appreciate the training he is receiving and the monumental demands that diaconal ministry will make upon them and their family.

Catholic education
Finally, we discussed the critical importance of Catholic identity for our grammar schools, high schools, colleges and universities. We noted that there are improved relationships with most of our Catholic colleges, which are flourishing.

On the other hand, while all agreed about the importance of Catholic grammar and high school education, every diocese in this state is struggling with the economic challenges of financing these schools, as tuitions are more difficult for parents to sustain, as are the subsidies needed from the parishes and dioceses.

Saints of note
Our meeting with the Congregation for Catholic Education ran a half-hour overtime, so the six of us who had signed up to meet with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints were late for our visit.

Rev. Robert Sarno from the Diocese of Brooklyn has worked at this Congregation for the past 30 years. He pointed out with enthusiasm the number of cases pending before the Congregation from our New York Province: Dorothy Day, foundress of the Catholic Worker movement; Bishop James Walsh, co-founder of Maryknoll; Father Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulist Fathers; Sister Rose Hawthorne, foundress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Rose of Lima; Pierre Toussaint, a layperson born in Haiti in 1760 who emigrated to New York City, where he did great work with a newly-thriving Church before his death in 1853; Rev. Nelson Baker, a priest of Buffalo, renowned for his work with orphans and youth; Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the most famous Catholic prelate of the 20th century through his radio and TV programs, who also served as Bishop of Rochester; Rev. Felix Verela Morales, a Cuban-born priest who came to New York City in the mid-19th century to minister to Irish immigrants and became a staunch abolitionist; and Siser Marianne Cope, a Franciscan sister of Syracuse who ministered with the famous Hawaiian leper priest, St. Damien of Molokai. Sister Marianne was beatified in 2005 and her canonization appears imminent, as the Congregation has just made such a recommendation.

Blessed Kateri
I was particularly interested in the causes of three candidates with connections to the Diocese of Albany: Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Mother Angeline Teresa McCrory and Rev. Patrick Peyton.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American, was born in 1656 at Ossernenon - which is now called Auriesville - and was baptized in 1676 by the Jesuit missionaries in the Fonda area of our Diocese. She contracted smallpox, which left her severely scarred, but she lived a life of heroic virtue. Later, she moved her tribe to Kahnawake (Caughnawaga) in Quebec, Canada, also known as Sault St. Louis, where she died at the age of 24.

Her life of humility, kindness, patient suffering and prayer made a deep impression upon her fellow Native Americans and she drew many to Christianity by her exemplary discipleship.

Her cause for 1980 beatification was introduced by my predecessor, Bishop Edmund F. Gibbons, and the postulator (promoter) of her canonization has been the Jesuit priest Rev. Paul Molinari. Another miracle necessary for canonization has been attributed to her and has already been reviewed by the medical and theological experts with whom the Congregation consults on such matters.

Soon, her cause will be thoroughly discussed by the cardinals and bishops who comprise the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and, hopefully, a positive recommendation for her canonization made to our Holy Father.

Her canonization would be a source of tremendous joy for Native Americans in the United States and Canada and, hopefully, will attract pilgrims to the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs at Auriesville, where Blessed Kateri was born, and to the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, where she was baptized.

Mother Angeline
Mother Angeline Teresa McCrory is the foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm, whose motherhouse is located in Germantown in Columbia County. Her spiritual daughters staff Teresian House in our Diocese. The Diocese of Albany is sponsoring her cause with Rev. Mario Esposito, the Carmelite priest spearheading this effort. Rev. James Donlon, the judicial vicar for our Tribunal, has been very instrumental in gathering testimony about her life from people who knew her well.

Mother Angeline was born in Ireland in 1893 and became a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor. After coming to the United States, she had a somewhat different vision of how to care for frail elderly and, with the blessing of the Archbishop of New York, formed her own religious community, which now has residences for the elderly along the Eastern seaboard and in the midwest.

I had the privilege of meeting Mother Angeline in 1958 when I stayed overnight at the motherhouse in Germantown along with another seminarian, Matthew Clark, now the Bishop of Rochester. She treated us like kings and gave each of us a relic of St. Pius X with the hope that we would seek his intercession on our journey to priestly ministry.

I met with Mother Angeline many times between my ordination as bishop in 1977 and her death in 1984, when I presided at her funeral. She had a remarkable spirit and hospitable charism and was a great innovator of services to the elderly and a staunch promoter of religious life.

I can testify firsthand to her legacy by the care my aunt, Loretta Burke, received at Teresian House before her death in 1999, and the present care being accorded my sister, Kathy.

Mother Angeline's life of virtue has already been reviewed by the theological consultants to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and we are waiting for authentication of a miracle which, then, could lead to her beatification.

'Rosary priest'
Rev. Patrick Peyton's cause is being sponsored by the Archdiocese of Baltimore - the country's primatial see - because Father Peyton served in so many dioceses throughout the United States.

Like Mother Angeline, Father Peyton was also born in Ireland and came to the United States as a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Before being ordained a priest, he took seriously ill and promised our Blessed Mother that, if he recovered and was ordained a priest, he would promote devotion to her through the Rosary.

Recover he did and was ordained to the priesthood. Initially, however, his health was frail, so he was assigned to less-demanding duties as a chaplain to the Holy Cross brothers serving on the faculty of Vincentian Institute in Albany.

Through the help of Sister Mary J. Buckley and the business class at Vincentian High School, and later with the assistance of many students from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, Father Peyton launched a worldwide Rosary campaign with the now-famous motto, "The family that prays together, stays together."

Although he would open a branch of the Family Rosary Crusade in Hollywood - where he attracted stars like Bing Crosby and Loretta Young to promote the Rosary, conducted Rosary crusades with huge rallies in all parts of the globe, and eventually expanded his vision to Holy Cross Family Ministries - the foundation of Father Peyton's work was always in Albany, and so was the main office until his death. His ministry continues in our Albany Diocese today under the auspices of Laetitia Rhatigan.

I left the Congregation confident that all these cases were proceeding well and looking forward to an eventual successful conclusion to these three worthy causes.

Special chapel
After lunch, we traveled past the Roman Forum and Coliseum on our way to Mass at the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

The Mass was celebrated in the gorgeous Renaissance chapel dedicated to "Our Lady, the Help of the Roman People." Over the centuries, people in Italy have maintained a special devotion to Mary as their mother and protector. In times of crisis, Italians have come by the thousands to pray before the portrait of the Madonna and Child enshrined in this chapel.

This chapel has special affection for me because it was here that I celebrated my second Mass following my ordination in December 1963. The first Mass was in the catacombs of St. Priscilla and the third at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica.

Again, Cardinal Egan was the celebrant and homilist. He preached movingly about the humility, joy and trust in God's providence found in the Magnificat prayer proclaimed by Mary when she announced to Elizabeth that she was pregnant.

Cardinal Egan suggested that reflection upon this Magnificat prayer would serve as an excellent way for each of us to examine our conscience daily, in order to discern if we are truly living as trusting servants of the Lord, as Mary did.

After Mass, we proceeded to the Villa Richardson to meet with the American ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, and his wife, Dr. Mary Diaz. The Villa Richardson has been the residence for the ambassador to the United States since formal diplomatic relationships were established in 1984.

Constructed in 1901, the villa was purchased by William Symes Richardson, an attorney who served as an advisor and professor at the American Academy, located across the street. The villa, with its beautiful gardens, is gracious and spacious, and often serves as a place of exhibit for American art.

American ambassador
The ambassador and his wife met when they were undergraduates at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The ambassador was raised in Florida and his spouse in Minnesota. Both pursued post-graduate degrees in theology: Miguel, in dogmatic theology; Mary, in biblical and pastoral theology. They married and have four children who matriculate at the American Overseas School of Rome.

Prior to being named ambassador to the Holy See, both Mr. Diaz and his wife were members of the theological faculty at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. It is interesting that Ambassador Diaz was never a member of the diplomatic corps before his posting to the Vatican, although he enjoys the great facility of being multi-lingual.

Both the ambassador and his wife were very welcoming. In a private conversation, the ambassador expressed concern about the recent failure of the so-called "supercommittee" of the U.S. Congress to come up with a plan to reduce the national debt over the next decade.

This failure will lead to dramatic cuts in the State Department, reducing embassy staffs throughout the world. Already, the ambassador has had to lay off three staff at his embassy, and things could become worse.

The ambassador fears that America's diplomatic outreach is being compromised at a time when it is more needed than ever, given the Arab Spring, the economic crisis in Europe, the turmoil in so many African countries, the economic and technological growth of China and India, and the great uncertainly as to what will happen in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and between the Israelis and Palestinians.

In his formal address to our delegation, Ambassador Diaz stated that the foundation of the relationship between the United States and the Holy See is based upon our mutual respect for the dignity of human persons and a commitment to advance universal human rights and uphold religious freedom.

The ambassador has been working with Vatican officials to promote interfaith dialogue designed to combat religious extremism. He is also involved in efforts to foster care of the environment, hunger reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention and stopping sexual trafficking.

The ambassador serves as co-chair of an initiative by our U.S. State Department to foster among the members of the diplomatic corps a greater awareness of the role religion and faith-based communities play in nations throughout the world. It is hoped that, with a greater sensitivity, our embassy personnel can better utilize faith-based partnerships as a way of advancing our diplomatic goals throughout the world. I am privileged to serve as a member of this task force.

I was truly impressed that the ambassador and his wife are so proud of their Catholic upbringing and heritage and are seeking to harmonize Catholic social teaching with the diplomatic thrust of the United States government.

Bishop Hubbard just returned from his "ad limina" visit to Rome to meet with the pope. Read part I of his "Rome diary" at www.evangelist.org; the conclusion will appear in next week's issue.