Sunday Homilies

from Father Kevin Laughery, Troy St. Jerome and St. Jacob St. James Parishes, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Note: Comments from this page do not reach me; instead, email:

The Podcasts

Sitting in Fiumicino Airport, I discover that there's free wi-fi.  U.S. airports ought to take a hint.

Some may be wondering whether I got any closer to Pope Francis than St. Peter's Square with him up in the window.  The answer is NO.  Fr. Pedacchio never corresponded with me.To be quite honest, I am pleased that there was NOTHING in the three weeks which resembled work.  Being at a papal affair would certainly have felt like work.

Category:general -- posted at: 2:17am CDT

Today I traveled no further than around the block for a midday meal of prosciutto and melon, fettuccine with sausage and mushroom, roast lamb with potatoes, spinach in butter.  A farewell meal in a country where you can't get a bad meal.

We went off Daylight Saving Time last night.  So now I'm only six hours off from home. 

I have been resting up for tomorrow's trip and using Wikipedia to read up on 1950s and 1960s U.S. TV trivia.

The last three weeks have amounted to a wonderful rest.  Now it's back to work!

Category:general -- posted at: 1:50pm CDT

Earlier today, I took a walk to the Pincio park.  The sky was cloudless and the temperature was hovering around 70.

This evening, Fr. Daren Zehnle, Fr. John Nolan (in Rome for the Institute for Continuing Theological Education), and seminarians Michael Friedel and Dominic Rankin got together for dinner.

Tomorrow is my last day in Rome before I fly back on Monday.

Category:general -- posted at: 5:52pm CDT

Friday is my normal day off, so it's fitting that I didn't do much today.  I sat at the Quirinal Palace for a while, went into the "center" of town, had a leisurely lunch (rigatoni all'amatriciana, pollo alla romana), strolled into the area of Piazza di Spagna, and came back to the hotel.

For old times' sake, I bought an International New York Times.  I used to read its predecessor, the International Herald Tribune, when I lived here.  Of course I have the paper online.  I was interested in seeing its hard-copy format.  With the crossword, there's Jumble, sudoku, Doonesbury, Calvin and Hobbes. and Peanuts.


Category:general -- posted at: 10:18am CDT

Following yesterday's post, I did some shopping in the Vatican area.  I found a very nice restaurant near my hotel (rigatoni alla carbonara, saltimbocca alla romana, spinach in butter).

This morning as I checked the weather, it was 41F in daylight here, while it was 43F in New Berlin in the dark.  I am reminded of the Italian expression "Fa freddo" which literally means "it makes cold" or "it does cold."  Thursday was a day off for me when I was at the university here.  We'd have classes Monday through Wednesday, then Thursday off, then classes Friday and Saturday, then Sunday off.  No weekends, therefore.  Today was like a typical Thursday in seminary days.  Often I would take a long walk.  Today I had a very nice walk in the Villa Borghese, a big park on the north side of Rome.  Tonight I went back to the same restaurant as yesterday, since I liked it so much (penne all'arrabbiata, steak in pepper sauce).

Category:general -- posted at: 1:51pm CDT

You may be wondering whether I did a gondola ride.  The answer is no, although I did take a water taxi (motorboat) from St. Mark's Square to get to the train station, thus sparing myself a lot of trudging through the city with luggage as on my arrival.

After a night train ride from Venice, with transfer in Verona, I arrived in Rome today at 6  am.  I walked to my hotel (the same one where I had stayed during my first week here), and I was amazed to discover that my room was ready.  At 8 am I took my laundry to the fellow around the block, and at 10 am I had it back.

I'm doing a lot of reading.  I am a fan of Tom Wolfe, and last night I finished I Am Charlotte Simmons -- an uplifting story, if you can stomach the cruelty inflicted on the title character, and the language.  I've started another Sinclair Lewis novel, Cass Timberlane.

Today I am going to see whether I can at least find our two seminarians, Michael Friedel and Dominic Rankin.  Lunchtime at the North American College would be the most likely point of intersection.

Category:general -- posted at: 4:45am CDT

The line for St. Mark's Basilica begins to form well before the 9:45 am opening time.  This being my last full day in Venice, I knew I had to hustle, and I did.  There is in New Berlin an establishment called "Capone's Hideout," with a very eclectic decor, including a poster of "The Horses of San Marco."  These ancient bronzes were on the facade of St. Mark's -- reproductions stand there now -- and the original horses are now in the museum within the walls of the basilica.  To say they are beautiful is a great understatement.  Their beauty is in a way heightened by the awareness of how old they are -- perhaps as many as 1800 years old.

I feel a bit of sadness at departing from Venice, which I look upon as a place of great beauty and mystery.  I will perhaps return, but only with maps of the greatest intricacy.

As I report on yet another evening with spaghetti alla carbonara, this time followed by a pork chop, French fries, and tomato salad, I have been wondering whether my travel-blog is similar to what people do on Twitter, which has never made sense to me, because if you are telling everyone what you are doing, how do you get anything done?  It does seem to make sense to me that the readers of this blog are simply enjoying with me a moment of leisure in surroundings I enjoy very much.  I know you wish for me a good rest before going back to the work which will always be there.  And I thank you.

Tomorrow night, a night train from Venice to Rome (by way of Verona).  I don't anticipate being able to post anything on Tuesday.  Look for the next post Wednesday.

Category:general -- posted at: 1:32pm CDT

My shoes hit the pavement about 10:30 am, and I have been out walking around all day.

This afternoon I visited the original "ghetto," that is, the Jewish quarter of Venice.  I took part in a tour which included the German, French, and Sephardic (or "Levantine") synagogues.  Can I help it that the soundtrack in my mind is playing the Elvis song "In the Ghetto"?  

This Sunday is sunny.  I am finding more straight streets and direct routes.  I walked along the lagoon again -- this time with a view of an obviously artificial square island which serves as the city's cemetery.

I did not have the greatest luck with dinner.  Again I had spaghetti alle vongole, which I love, and then fried shrimp and squid.  At this particular restaurant, they were serving something I found unappetizing -- I think it was the heads of the squid.  Whatever it was, everything that looked similar I pushed to the edge of the plate.  Their artichokes were strange, too -- my serving was two discs.  I think of artichokes as being made up of many leaves.  Whatever.

Category:general -- posted at: 2:02pm CDT

I have referred already to the difficult task of navigating the streets of Venice.  I had another experience of this, this afternoon.  

One thing to be said for the streets of Venice is that there are NO CARS.  In fact it's quite a rare thing for any of us these days to have such an experience.

This evening, after penne with four cheeses, roast chicken and fries, and sorbetto al limone, I walked down to St. Mark's Square and discovered that I could walk freely, seeing where I was going, to a great length along the shore of the lagoon.  

Category:general -- posted at: 2:30pm CDT

I am in my hotel's lobby, reading the local papers.  There was an accident yesterday, a vaporetto (floating city bus) colliding with a barge, and seven people were hurt.  I was not there.

Category:general -- posted at: 5:14am CDT

Thursday evening was seafood night.  I had spaghetti alle vongole -- the signature pasta around here, with clams in garlic and oil.  I loved it.  Then, fried shrimp and squid, which was likewise very tasty.  I learned that sorbetto al limone is to be drunk, not spooned out.

Not much to report regarding Friday.  This hotel room has the comfort I found lacking in Rome.  I ended up sleeping a lot.  Friday's dining: prosciutto and melon, spaghetti alla carbonara, salad, and an Averna amaro.

It's Saturday morning (I was up in time to partake of the hotel's breakfast, served on very nice china) and my task was to find a laundry.  I found one close by, but it is closed Saturday and Sunday.  In 1997 I forgot to pack any socks, and so I was washing my socks in my room every night.  I may have to resort to similar arrangements until I get back to Rome and the friendly neighborhood laundry.

My hotel is very close to St. Mark's.  I must confess that I have little ambition to sightsee beyond this area.  I do want to get to the original ghetto, but today is not the day, since it's the Sabbath. 

Category:general -- posted at: 4:32am CDT

As it turned out, the packaging is shinier but the product is the same.  Wednesday-Thursday was my night train ride to Venice.  No internet; no electrical outlet.  I had enough power, however, to finish reading Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here.  Entertaining, but gruesome.  In the "trains-running-on-time" department, we arrived in Venice just one minute late.

Get ready to laugh.  It took me nearly three hours to get to my hotel.  Take a look at a map and you can appreciate how baffling the job of navigating Venice is.

The Blue Guide says that the best time to observe Venice is early in the morning.  I arrived at 5:30 am and at that hour I had the city to myself.  After finding my hotel, I wandered for a while since I had to wait for my room to be ready.  The view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto bridge is stunning.  And then there's St. Mark's Square, which has to be one of the great public spaces in the world.  

With every passing hour, the streets of Venice become ever more crowded.  I have been taking it easy this afternoon, and when I'm good and hungry I will find a place to eat.  Besides the numerous restaurants, Venice is sort of an endless shopping mall.

Category:general -- posted at: 9:50am CDT

... but was not in a position to upload it until now.

Believe it or not, I have been spending a number of very pleasant hours in the Rome train station!


There has been a big change here from my younger days.  Back then, you entered this vast building and saw nothing but the interminable windows (some of them with bureaucrats inside) where you stood in line interminably, waiting to be told of various complications.  


By contrast: today there is scarcely a window of this sort to be found.  Everything is done with self-service computers.  Before I left for this trip, I paid my fare for Rome-Venice-Rome on the RailEurope website.  All that remained for me to do at the station was to use one of the computers to retrieve my ticket for Venice!  Nothing to it!


The space the bureaucrats used to take up is now filled with cafes, restaurants and shops where I have enjoyed myself.  Even the passenger waiting area is less grim.  Besides having a breakfast pastry and a couple of cappuccinos, I am now at the end of my meal at the "Roadhouse" where I had a ribeye and a baked potato, Italian draft beer, fruit salad with vanilla ice cream, and espresso.  


The Italian passenger rails used to be known as FS of "Ferrovie dello Stato" (Ironroads of the State).  This name has been abandoned in favor of the breezier "Trenitalia."


They tell me that there is wi-fi on the train.  I hope this is true.  I hope there are also electrical outlets, so I can use my iPad all through the nighttime trip.  I chose night trips so I can save a couple of nights of hotel rooms.  


I have, of course, been reading up on Venice in my Blue Guide.  They say that Venice can be compared only to itself.  I've been studying the maps so as to figure out how to get from the train station to my hotel.  This should be tricky.

Category:general -- posted at: 9:36am CDT

Quickly: I have arrived in Venice.  I will write more once I have resolved a keyboard problem.

Category:general -- posted at: 9:04am CDT

Today was quite a full day.  I spent a good bit of time at St. John Lateran, which is the cathedral church of Rome (St. Peter's ISN'T).  They have done some wonderful restoration to the facade, and the Latin inscriptions declaring this to be the "mother and head" of all Christian churches really jumps out at you now.  I kept in mind Fr. Augustus Tolton, whose priesthood ordination was here, and two popes buried here: Innocent III, who approved the establishment of the Franciscans, and Leo XIII, who engaged the modern world with his teachings on the rights of workers.

I found a great place for lunch, between the Lateran and the Colosseum, and then inspected the Colosseum area.  It is undergoing restoration and the restored stone is noticeably cleaner.  

This evening I met Fr. Daren Zehnle for dinner.  He is in the second year of a three-year canon-law program at my alma mater, the Gregorian University.

There was a little rain this evening.  My main recollection of this day is that I seem to do nothing but sweat.

Category:general -- posted at: 4:19pm CDT

Today was a time for taking it easy.  Yesterday I developed a blister on my left foot.  Tomorrow promises a good bit of running around.  I stayed within a couple of blocks of the hotel all day.  I dined on pizza and salad.  

The climate of this hotel room is curious.  There is an air-conditioning unit above the door, and it does keep the room cool, but it seems that the air stays humid.  Rome has had 100% relative humidity the last couple of days, although no rain.  I decided that the thing needed was a fan, in accord with my dictum in the title of this post.  I bought a small fan (some assembly was required), and the air in motion will make for better sleeping.

I downloaded a Sinclair Lewis novel, It Can't Happen Here, and have been enjoying it.  There's always a connection!  Sinclair Lewis died in Rome.  This is a 1930s novel about prospects for fascism in the U.S.A.

Category:general -- posted at: 1:28pm CDT

Today's main object was to get to St. Peter's Square (actually, it's an oval) for the 12 noon Angelus appearance of Pope Francis at the traditional window of the Apostolic Palace -- a tradition which continues despite the fact that Francis doesn't actually live in the Apostolic Palace.  It was cloudy in the morning, but the clouds soon gave way to the typical sunny weather of these parts.  The high was supposed to be 80, and I believe we reached it.  Francis's appearance lasted about 14 minutes.  The crowds in the Square were pretty big, but orderly!  Currently in the Square they have a couple of giant TVs, which are a help because, from the Square, the figure in the window is tiny.  I should also note that the famous colonnade of St. Peter's Square has been restored to a shade of white which I thought was not natural.  Most of the travertine stone of Rome has a brownish cast to it.

After the Angelus, I peeled away from the crowds and had ravioli "alla gorgonzola" (with blue cheese), chicken breast with mushrooms, zucchini, and peppers, and a big salad which I ordered specifically because it contained fennel.  This vegetable resembles celery , but the short description of it is that it "tastes like licorice."  For dessert: pineapple.

Once one acclimates to the concentrated urban environment of Rome, one cannot help but develop a survival/comfort strategy: figuring out routes for avoiding the crowds.  Today I came up with a pretty good route for getting from my hotel to the Vatican: it involved the piazza (square) of the Quirinal Palace.  It worked on my way to the Vatican, but coming back there was a restriction of movement because Army and Navy marching bands were doing what marching bands do.

I found a laundry very close to my hotel, and I will pick up clean clothes tomorrow around noon, alleluia, alleluia!

I am quite pleased with my use of Italian.  I seem to make myself understood, and, just as important, I understand what people are saying to me!   Not bad after 17 years of non-use!

I have come to a conclusion which began to be clear to me in Israel last year.  The traveler's cheque is DEAD.  (Come to think of it, Karl Malden is dead, too.)  I exchanged some on my arrival.  There are limited opportunities to change these, and the commissions are pretty hefty.  It's far more convenient to go to a "Bancomat" and, with a debit card, cause euros galore to emerge!

Category:general -- posted at: 12:59pm CDT

Today in Rome, I spent some time in the Campidoglio or Capitoline Hill, then walked to Trastevere (the old neighborhood "across the Tiber") for lunch.  I had a backpack with laundry (the place I wanted to take it to was not open) and a couple of books.  With time, the backpack, which was not especially heavy, began to weigh on me.  On my way  back to my hotel, I visited an area of Rome especially familiar to me, as I had various paths for walking from the North American College to the Gregorian University.  The "northern," "central," and "southern" routes all cross Piazza Navona, where I lingered briefly, and only briefly, since the crowds were so great.  Once again, the weather was 70s and sunny.

You can't beat Italy for bread.  I buy so-called "Italian" loaves at Schnucks, but they don't compare to the real thing here.  There is something about the slightly burnt quality of the crust here.  I had an LOL moment at lunch today.  The bread I was given was the hollow panino which we always had at breakfast at the College and which we always called "moon rocks."   

I woke up at 9:30 am, so I am making progress in getting synchronized.  It will have to be early to bed for me tonight.  I have yet to make it to breakfast here at the hotel, and I have plenty of time for it, as it runs from 7 to 10 am!

Category:general -- posted at: 10:57am CDT

As I reported yesterday, I did resist the temptation to go immediately to sleep.  That did not keep me from sleeping till noon today.  (A tribute to how quiet this hotel is!)  Upon getting my feet in gear, I walked up to the Via Vittorio Veneto for a big lunch outdoors; then I walked in some areas which I particularly enjoyed so many years ago: the Pincio park, the Spanish Steps, and Piazza del Popolo.  The temperature is 77 degrees and it's sunny.  There was supposed to be a big demonstration here at 3:00 pm in Piazza Venezia, but I avoided that area.

Category:general -- posted at: 11:26am CDT

I arrived in Rome today and had to face down a big temptation.  I had to resist the urge to go right to bed as soon as I entered my hotel room.  The only way to adjust to the seven-hour shift is by staying on schedule with everybody else.  I did successfully get myself out of the room and into the streets.  From my hotel near the train station, I walked to my old university, the Gregorian.  I was pleased to see that the lecture halls have been updated.  It appears that they have everything for computer audio-visual stuff.  Even so, an overhead projector was very prominent.  The old coffee bar is now called "Greg Cafe."  I wandered over to the Trevi fountain (in process of restoration) and stepped briefly into the Pantheon, which is my favorite thing in Rome.  No matter how many times you've been there, you can't help but be awed by the vast space under the dome with the hole in the top.  Rome is heavy with tourists; the weather happens to be ideal.  This evening I dined outside.  

Rome is as I remember it: people and traffic and celebration of itself.  These characteristics may well have intensified since the last time I was here, seventeen years ago.

Category:general -- posted at: 12:49pm CDT