Taking Stock

There is a scene in the movie The English Patient, after they have discovered the Cave of the Swimmers, when one of the group of archaeologists says to the others something like, “How does one express in words the feelings that right now are quite natural?” 

This is the sentiment I feel as I sit here writing these words at a very late hour.  This evening we had the privilege of speaking with a handful of people who are intimately connected with some of the happenings in the Synod Hall today, due to the connections of a friend of a friend of a friend.  The discussion was one I will never forget, and it will all be in the news cycle in due time.

But I am putting the cart before the horse.  Let me back up and begin at the beginning.

In yesterday’s episode, we had managed to carefully dodge the devil’s tail, so this morning we confidently brought a heavy load of boxes to the area near St. Peters and began distributing books in earnest.  That lasted perhaps 30-40 minutes before we were approached by…haha…yes, more police! 

We explained the conversation we had yesterday and that we had been given the “thumbs up.”  But they explained that the Police we spoke to were the STATE police.  They, on the other hand, were the MUNICIPAL Police.  Different animal.  Because yeah, here in Italy it really is that Byzantine.  It’s like an onion the size of the dome of St. Peters…one layer after another after another, ad nauseam.

They told us they didn’t care what the other Police told us, or about the Flyer permit, etc.  The area surrounding the Vatican is a controlled area, due to the heightened threat of terrorism.  It’s not that they suspected us, they were actually nice and saw that what we were doing was not harmful, but here they are sticklers for their insane maze of rules.  We had to have a permit to be there if we weren’t simply tourists.  It’s not a seller’s permit, or a flyer permit, it’s an I-have-permission-to-stand-here permit.  Don’t laugh, no really…

So once again we were shooed away, but as usual, the office hours for the particular government office we had been sentenced to “do time” in were so crazy that we couldn’t get there before they closed for lunch, and they didn’t open again until…wait for it…5PM.  So we had a LOT of time to kill.

Several of our group have connections at the Angelicum, also known as The Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.  So we took our heavy load of books there to share on the “free books” table for the students.  While we were there, we were invited to sit in on one of the Philosophy classes taught by Father Francesco Giordano, who is the Director of the Rome office of Human Life International.  This was quite a rare treat, especially when we also had the chance to speak with him at length after class.  Here is a true warrior of the faith, who deserves many prayers of support.

Since we were in the area, we made a brief visit to the churches of Mother of Perpetual Help and St. Mary Major, where we prayed a late holy hour.  Then it was off to our unexpectedly unique dinner.

All through these hours of contemplation, I took stock of our project and though we are taking advantage of the stumbling blocks to simply find other routes of distribution, in particular to get them into the hands of seminarians, I still feel strongly that we were called to put these in the hands of the man on the street.  Those who would never find something like this, because they are not looking for it.

Though I have little interest in standing in another government office, I have resigned myself to trying once more to iron out the red tape and once and for all get official permission.  I’m not holding my breath, and if I find that it will take a week, then it’s out of the question, as we will be on our way home by then.

But I am not prepared to abandon our primary mission.  So…please pray that tomorrow morning Our Lady will open the doors for us and allow us to continue doing what we came to Rome to do.  And as usual, tune in tomorrow to find out what happens.

Back on Track!

Wednesdays are the big Papal Audience days at the Vatican and despite yesterday’s tribulations, we couldn’t afford to let a big day like this go by without getting some books into people’s hands.  We couldn’t get to our big stash of boxes because they are being kept in an office building that we can’t access until after 9:15…and we wanted to get an early start, while everyone is in line to get into the Piazza.  So we had to work with the small stash we have at our apartment.

We had been lent a small grocery cart by one of our volunteers who lives here in Rome and it was just perfect for putting the contents of two boxes inside while still being able to bring it on the bus.  We thought it best to stay mobile at all times in order to avoid the police.  We emptied the entire cart in about 20 minutes and went back for more…but when we returned, the same policemen found us.

This time I was prepared.  I had obediently done as I was told yesterday.  I did spend half the day in those offices.  And got nowhere.  But one of the many things they told me yesterday was that this book didn’t qualify as a flyer, so they weren’t sure if they could give me a flyer permit.  Now, the way things work here in Italy, that means you are stuck in an endless loop that is basically a dead end.  You don’t need a permit, but that doesn’t mean that they will tell you that you can do what you want.

The Comune di Roma, the government offices here. It’s not just the building that dates to the 1930s. It’s like stepping into a time warp. I almost expected to see typewriters, but at least they had 1980s computers.

Of course, while we were in the throes of yesterday’s pain, we reached out to many of our supporters and were told that indeed, there was no need to get a permit for what we were doing.  Only if we were selling would we need a permit.  And we’re not selling.

I knew we weren’t going to be able to hide from the police forever, so I actually was glad that the same cops found us.  I explained to them that we obediently did as we were told, but that we were told that we didn’t need a “volantaggio” permit because these weren’t “volanti” (flyers).  Which is 99% true.  Once again they had to huddle.  We waited while one superior called another superior until we had the capo with us.  They argued, they discussed.  But in the end, they couldn’t find a reason to stop us.  We swore up and down that we weren’t selling them.  And finally…they said…OK, I guess you can do it.

**Heaving sigh of relief**

The rest of the day was spent in administrative tasks.  That’s code for things like networking, resting, eating and generally trying not to lose one’s mind.  We even met some very interesting priests from New York sitting at the table next to us at tonight’s restaurant.  I think we closed the place discussing Newman and Latin and Rome in the 1960s over Amaro and Sambuca.  This is how one recharges batteries in Rome.  We are ready for more soldiering tomorrow.

Sometimes you just gotta have some green sambuca.

Speak of the Devil…

Ever since this project began, I knew that once the Evil One got wind of what was happening that we would face all-out war.  It has surprised me that it has taken this long for that force to kick in, but today we were overdue for it!  After all, we have overcome a lot of stumbling blocks in these past few days with the near miraculous help we have had.  But few things are quite as entangled in the devil’s tail as the Italian government system.  Anyone who thinks that Socialism is a good idea should be forced to live in Italy for a year and have to obtain permits for every single thing they want to do.  It’s like being in one of the rings of hell.

How do I know this, you ask?  Well, I’ve dealt with it before, but I got a really lovely taste of it all day long today after the Vatican police started asking questions of us…and then the Italian police joined them…and by the end, we had 7 cops on both sides of the fence that separates the Vatican from the rest of Rome, all asking me questions at the same time.  I was suddenly extremely glad I have a reasonable command of Italian.  It made a big difference. 

Among the many questions they grilled me with, they were particularly interested to know if I was with…sneer…Church Militant. I could honestly say no.

Gee, two middle aged ladies distributing free books about the Mass…how frightening!!!  I can certainly understand that if they let every Tom, Dick and Harry come and do whatever they wanted near Piazza San Pietro, then it would be a riot all the time. 

Strange, though, when you consider what’s been going on not far from the Vatican, in the Carmelite church of Transpontina. (And today being the feast of St. Teresa too! She must be rolling in her grave…) I’m tempted to post pictures but…I won’t. You’ve probably already seen them anyway.

And in fairness, they weren’t gruff or mean or anything, just…Italian. None of them could agree what was the best thing to do…and some of them were quite nice, saying “What’s the problem?  It’s a nice book, they’re giving it away free, why not let her?” 

But that was not to be.

We were directed to the government offices to get a leafleting permit.  We arrived at the building and were told to go to the second floor…where there was no clear direction as to which long line to stand in.  No one we asked knew, no one who worked there would answer us, and so we had to make our best guess and stand in the line that seemed most promising.  Then…they closed for two hours for lunch.  The “take a number” system wasn’t working, so…we just had to come back and start the line all over again at 2.

By this time it was pouring rain and I realized I had forgotten to bring the books themselves for approval, so I had to run back to our apartment in the rain…a solid 15 minute walk.  I was soaked despite my umbrella.  But I faithfully returned and stood in line for another two hours, only to be told that we couldn’t get a permit because 1) we didn’t have an Italian tax number (yeah I know we’re not selling them, doesn’t matter I guess…) 2) the books don’t have this “no littering” symbol stamped on them:

OK, no problem, I’ll print up stickers and put them on.

Nope.  No stickers.  Only a stamp.


So…we now have little choice but to do one or both of two things:  1) Follow the yellow brick road and get the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West; 2) Find other means of distributing these books.

Tune in to our next segment to find out what happens…

He Hath Done All Things Well…

The past 24 hours have been an education in God’s marvelous ways.  Though He never fails to show them to us, we weak humans always manage to forget.  And in our days, we have so many distractions and worries and influences that cause us to focus inward, on ourselves and our little problems, so that we begin to think that God doesn’t concern Himself with our little problems…that the forces arrayed against the inexorable power of worldliness and its prince are not enough to counter the coming darkness.

Quia adversarius vester diabolus tamquam leo rugiens circuit, quaerens quem devoret…

Being here, involved at the very epicenter of the maelstrom that is the Pan-Amazon Synod, has been a powerful reminder that God is everything, and we are nothing.  No matter how powerful the influence of the devil may seem, no matter how invincible the power that is holding our beloved Mother Church captive, they are as dust in the wind before God.  He is enough.  But He allows these tribulations, and we cannot understand why, because it is so painful to see our Lord being crucified once more in His Mystical Body.  One day, when His Victory is complete, we will see that His plans were glorious beyond our ability to conceive.

And so, ironically, the joy that we are feeling right now is an immediate consequence of having found ourselves yesterday afternoon in a situation that brought us to the brink of despair.  With just 20 hours to make arrangements (many of which were supposed to be spent sleeping by ordinary humans), we had to find a place and a means to move 150 heavy boxes of books.  We had to humble ourselves to ask huge favors of everyone we knew…even the sort of people that you would never dream of pestering with such a ridiculous problem.  For someone as shy as me, this was one of the most difficult things I have done, almost more difficult than the monumental task we had just finished in St. Peter’s Square.

But in hindsight, it seems clear to me that all of this happened not simply to hinder us, but rather to show us that His ways are always better than our ways.  God wanted an opportunity to show us that we are not trusting Him nearly enough.

(A surprising idea, considering that our team has already made huge sacrifices to take on a project of enormous size that is as crazy as it is unlikely, relying almost entirely on providence…one might easily think this was in fact a presumptuous overabundance of trust, but apparently God didn’t think so.)

We set aside our frantic search for answers last night to attend a Mass being celebrated by Bishop Athanasius Schneider.  It was a great island of solace and refreshment after the cares and toil of the day.  We even had the opportunity after Mass to speak with him briefly and present him with copies of our three books along with a description of our project.  He was incredibly friendly and gracious.

We returned after Mass to find that we had some true friends in high places who had taken the time to respond to our pleas for help and had found us the answers we needed.  We slept peacefully in the knowledge that our situation was no longer bleak. 

We attended a Latin Mass at the Vatican this morning at one of the side altars dedicated to St. Michael, along with just a handful of other attendees.  The remaining arrangements for transferring ourselves as well as our books were made afterward with surprisingly little effort on our part (thanks to the goodness of those who so graciously assisted us).  The solution was so well-orchestrated that we managed to move all the books and leave the apartment in great shape, overstaying our checkout time by a mere 30 minutes.

Both the Owner and the manager of our new apartment came early to let us in and show us around, and then we had just enough time to make our daily Holy Hour before heading to a reception in honor of Bishop Schneider’s new book, Christus Vincit.  Our dear Cardinal Burke was the keynote speaker.  It was truly an inspiration to see these faithful shepherds of our Church speaking the Truth with charity and without fear or discouragement.  As might be expected, those in attendance were a “who’s who” of the Traditional Catholic world, running the full gamut from several Cardinals to ordinary laity like us.  And as the day ended, we again reflected on the great privileges we have been afforded in these past three days.

The conference was moderated by Fr. Gerald Murray and yes, that is the back of Cardinal Müller’s head. And I think that is Cardinal Sarah to his right, but I never saw his face clearly so I can’t be certain.

We are hoping that things will start to settle in to a predictable rhythm now that the biggest days are behind us.  We will continue to update you as we can.

God bless you!

Miracles of Grace

Today was D-day for our project, though without the sort of planning that went into that attack.  As anyone who has ever lived in Italy can attest, you really never can know what to expect until you get there.  We heard widely differing accounts of what we might expect when we tried to set up our books near the square, and were very much afraid we would have to walk great distances to get past the barriers.

As 5AM rolled around and we scoped out the actual situation, it was the best we could possibly hope for, no doubt thanks to the outpouring of prayers of support from those following our project.  We were able to pile up our boxes in two key spots near the north and east of St. Peter’s square without being bothered at all by the police, security or military, all of which were present.

Our gratitude for answered prayers was almost turned into total disaster when we found after transferring the first load of three boxes (all we could move with our single dolly) that despite great care, we had managed to lock our keys in the apartment.

Did I mention that this happened at about 5:30 AM?

In total despair we had no choice but to ring one buzzer after another until someone awoke and kindly buzzed us in.  Those of you reading or listening to this now, I ask you to reward this unknown angel by showering her with your prayers.  Without her, this entire project would have been canceled.

This morning’s team consisted of a mere 7 people, including myself and a fellow homeschooling mom, two students from the Angelicum, a local woman and her 32-year old son, and a friend from Brazil.  Three had to leave when the Mass began, but aside from this, 5:30 AM until 3:30 PM every one of them worked uncomplainingly, carrying heavy loads of boxes long distances to our station points and humbling themselves to join the hawkers that crowd the Vatican, offering our free wares to the passersby.

Thanks be to God, with even these few soldiers, our little army managed to distribute over half of our 7000 books.  They made their way into the hands of priests, religious and Religious Education Directors as well as ordinary folks from every continent.

Though we craved rest after the day’s taxing labours, we had other urgent problems to attend to.  Our current apartment just steps from St. Peter’s Square was only available for the weekend and we were scheduled to move to another AirBNB on Monday morning.

Unfortunately, we got the bad news yesterday that the owner had cancelled at the very last moment, leaving us stranded.

The good news is that we were able to find another that was not three times the original price.

The bad news is that it is not suitable for storing the 150 boxes of books still packing our courtyard.

So we have gone begging for help in the hopes of finding a place to store these in enough time to remove them from the apartment before our check-out time of 11AM.

Sigh…so…we need your prayers once more to find a solution to our latest crisis. 

We leave now to attend a Solemn High Mass celebrated by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, yet another of the rare privileges we have been given in the few days since we arrived.  We are praying for all of you and are grateful for all your prayers.  God has worked miracles of grace so far and seems to be outdoing Himself.

It begins: Day One

Today was our first full day here in Rome and to say that it was busy is an understatement. Our biggest day is going to be tomorrow at the Canonization Mass, so we had to spend the day getting everything ready.  We woke up very very early and went to Mass, then to St. Peter’s Square, where we did a short trial run trying to hand out some of the books so we can see what worked. We got rid of 50 copies or so in about 20 minutes.

Next we headed off for an audience with Cardinal Burke. He gave us most generously of his time and we had a wonderful conversation with this true Prince of the Church. It was a rare treat that we will all remember. He took us into his private chapel and solemnly blessed us, promising to pray for our success tomorrow.

Since our team was all together at that point we spent some time strategizing for the morning. Then after lunch we headed to our ground-floor apartment near St. Peter’s which was stacked high with all the boxes of books. A little over 320 boxes that is!  And each one of those 7000 books needed to have a flyer inserted. So we spent the entire afternoon stuffing flyers in the books.

Yup, that’s 320-someething boxes, each weighing 13 kilos. I have no idea what that is in pounds, but it’s not light.
Stuffing flyers in the books…all 7000 of them. I have 7000 micro-papercuts…

After all that work we needed some R&R so it was off to dinner and a glass of wine or two.  We can’t wait to find out what will happen in the morning! 

Please be sure to pray for us! We are being told that most of the streets between us and the square will be blocked off in the morning, meaning we may have to schlep these 300-some boxes 10 blocks or more to get around the barricades. And we have just one small dolly.

Please in your charity pray that God may make straight our paths.

May the angels assist us!

This is what our books look like, with a redesigned cover especially for the Synod.

We walk the Way of the Cross.

Catholics the world over are watching what is happening in Rome now with a mixture of anxiety and frustration.  It is hard to watch our beloved Mother Church being treated in this way, and thus it is natural to allow this anxiety and frustration to turn into anger and hatred.

I dreamed, as a certain prince of the Church came to my mind, that I heard a voice telling me, “I place his soul entirely in your power.  You may do as you choose with it.  You may crush it if you wish.”

I found a shadowy substance, soft and pliable, in my hands…it seemed like Peter Pan’s shadow.  But as I felt it, I felt along with it a dread sense of responsibility for that soul that rendered me powerless.  Though it was nearly shapeless to my eyes, I felt as though I held a frightened child.  How could I not feel compassion and yes, even love, for this helpless creature?

I looked questioningly at the one who had spoken and I saw the face of Christ crucified, gazing with deepest sadness upon me and the substance in my hands.  I prayed that He would give me His own love for this soul, and as I was flooded with the sweetest sense of equal sadness and joy, the image melted away and I awoke.

As we travel together through this dark valley let us all bear in mind that though we fight with Powers and Principalities, what we fight for are souls, each one purchased at great price through the blood of our Savior.  Let us then gain the double blessing of fighting to love those souls—all of them—with the love of Christ.

Join us in Prayer…

During our project, we will be spending more time in prayer than in distributing books. Indeed this project is equally dedicated to evangelization and reparation.

If you would like to join us in prayer during these weeks, here is what we will be praying…

  • Daily Mass followed by Prime
  • The Prayer to St. Michael, Consecration to Mary, Prayer to St. Joseph, and the Breastplate of St. Patrick (text for these provided below)
  • Holy Hour of Reparation at noon
  • The Rosary
  • Vespers and/or Compline

Because the Patron Saints we have chosen for our project are St. Joseph and St. Patrick, I wanted to find just the right prayer to St. Joseph and thanks be to God I have found that. In fact, this prayer was prescribed for the month of October by Pope Leo XIII and could have been written for our present circumstances. You can find this prayer below the Consecration to Mary here below. Please share this prayer far and wide so that all the faithful can pray it together.

Consecration to Mary

HOLIEST VIRGIN, with all my heart I worship thee above all the angels and saints in paradise as the daughter of the eternal Father, and to thee I consecrate my soul and all its powers.
Hail Mary, etc.

HOLIEST Virgin, with all my heart I worship thee above all the angels and saints in paradise as the Mother of the only-begotten Son, and to thee I consecrate my body with all its senses.
Hail Mary, etc.

HOLIEST Virgin, with all my heart I worship thee above all the angels and saints in paradise as the spouse of the Holy Ghost, and to thee I consecrate my heart and all its affections, praying thee to obtain for me from the ever-blessed Trinity all the graces which I need for my salvation.
Hail Mary, etc.

MOST holy Mary, my Lady, to thy faithful care and special keeping and to the bosom of thy mercy, today and every day, and particularly at the hour of my death, I commend my soul and my body; all my hope and consolation, all my trials and miseries, my life and the end of my life, I commit to thee, that through thy most holy intercession and by thy merits, all my actions may be directed and ordered according to thy will and that of thy divine Son. Amen.

My Queen! my Mother! I give myself entirely to thee; and to show my devotion to thee, I consecrate to thee this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being, without reserve. Wherefore, good Mother, as I am thine own, keep me, guard me, as thy property and possession.
Hail Mary, etc.

Prayer to St. Joseph

TO THEE, O BLESSED JOSEPH, we have recourse in our affliction, and, having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt assist us in our need by thy power and strength. Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen offspring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in heaven. Amen.

Breastplate of St. Patrick

I bind to myself this day
a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
The belief in the threeness
The confession of the Oneness
Of the creator of the elements,

Of the creator of creation.

I bind to myself today
The strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
The strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
The strength of His resurrection with His ascension
The strength of His descent for the Judgement of doom.

I bind to myself today
The strength of the love of Seraphim
In the obedience of Angels,
In the service of Archangels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In purity of Holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of heaven,
The Light of sun,
The Brilliance of moon,

The whiteness of snow,
The Splendor of fire
The flashing of lightning
The Swiftness of wind
The Depth of sea
The Stability of earth
The Firmness of rock.

I bind to myself today
God’s power to guide me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to teach me
God’s eye to watch over me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to shelter me,
God’s host to secure me
against snares of demons
against temptations of vices
against inclinations of nature
against all men who wish me ill,
whether far or near,
whether few or many.

I bind to myself today
All virtues to stand between me and evil,
Against every cruel and merciless power

that may oppose my body and my soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and Druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
That I may receive abundant reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left

Christ in the fort, Christ in the chariot, Christ at the helm, Christ on the deck,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself this day
a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
The belief in the threeness
The confession of the Oneness
Of the creator of the elements,

Of the creator of creation.

Domini est salus,
Domini est salus,
Christi est salus
salus tua, Domine, sit semper nobiscum.

Carol P’s story…

Our latest story is from Carol P.  A few months ago her parish was about to have their first Tridentine High Mass, and her friend’s daughter from out of town gave her a copy of Treasure and Tradition

Here’s what she said:

“When I received the first book (before our first Latin Mass) I contacted my pastor and showed him the beautiful book.  He loved it!  My sister and I ordered 4 cases of this book to share with people, and last week I ordered 2 more.  I pass them out to people that I think would be interested.  

The reception of these books has been incredible.  One woman “danced” for joy.  Many people had tears in their eyes. Everyone was happily astounded.  

The day I received my first copy I read it all in three hours….and was very spiritually moved. This showed me that we need to revere our faith and renew and refresh our beliefs.  When there is more knowledge and respect for the Holy Eucharist people will return.  

Many are leaving because of the way the Bread of Life/Angels is received.  When I watched the Fr. Solanus Casey beatification last year and saw how people were receiving Jesus, I was horrified and even wept a bit.  Our priests need to preach, teach and lead us to dress properly; to show respect; to prepare for reception and to thank God for this unbelievable gift—-which might even disappear as time goes on.

God is using me to spread the word of the beauty of the Tridentine Mass—-which I had no desire of attending again until I read the book.  I had not been to the Latin Mass since 1965.  When I just attended the second one we had, as I stood for the Credo and heard the familiar melody, all the Latin words returned to me and I sang it In Latin.  Needless to say, I was astounded.  It was in my soul from my youth.”

Carol continues to give away copies of this book and asks earnestly for prayers for the conversion of her husband.  Let’s help her out…

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