I invite all of our singers and pilgrims to contribute their Papa Francis sightings. Imagine them elbowing, gently of course, through the crowds, mountain goating on the general audience chairs, and holding cameras aloft blindly hoping they are pointed in the right direction judging by the roar of the crowd.

Our last opportunity to see Pope Francis was perhaps the funniest. We waited patiently at his exit area by the Swiss Guard, and just as he was almost within range, he suddenly veered the pope-mobile back around the corner for another lap. The crowd heaved an audible sad trombone sigh, and I saw the shadow of a smirk pass the lips of the guard, as I said the first thing that popped into my head, perhaps a little too loudly, “Papa Francis is a flirt!” Well, he did finally come and waved to us as he scooted through the security. We love you, Papa.


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Not Hearers Only


The following are the English translations of messages that we heard from the Holy Father at the general audience, the Consistory, and the Mass at the celebration of Christ the King. I shall not comment on them except to say that Pope Francis elaborates on the mercy we have received in Christ and Christ’s call to share that mercy always and everywhere. How precious it is to have had this experience and to savor it more through reflection.

GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Bearing Wrongs Patiently (Zenit)

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus never stops “coming down from the mountain”.  He constantly desires to enter the crossroads of our history to proclaim the Gospel of Mercy.  Jesus continues to call us and to send us to the “plain” where our people dwell.  He continues to invite us to spend our lives sustaining our people in hope, so that they can be signs of reconciliation.  As the Church, we are constantly being asked to open our eyes to see the wounds of so many of our brothers and sisters deprived of their dignity, deprived in their dignity (Pope Francis “Homily for the Consistory”).

Full text of Pope Francis’ homily for the Consistory (Vatican Radio)

Pope: Full text of homily for Solemnity of Christ the King (Vatican Radio)

O Caecilia Felix!

Thursday was a day full of graces. We began with a pilgrimage through the streets to enter the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. Choir member Zach Worthing carried the cross before us as we walked and sang. It was a blessing to realize we are not alone in our faith. Passersby gathered along the way, smiling, filming, and some even following us to the Holy Door.

Meet Sister Margaret, our gracious host at the Basilica of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, where we ventured on Thursday afternoon to pay homage to our patroness, St. Cecilia. We were honored and humbled to share our songs in Cecilia’s resting place. The afternoon began with a prayer service led by our chaplain, Fr. John Pietramale, to offer intercessions for the Holy Father, for the Church, for the Benedictine sisters of the Basilica of St. Cecilia, for the pilgrims, and for all the intentions of our own St. Cecilia parish, friends, and loved ones.

Sister Margaret shared with us the story of St. Cecilia’s life and martyrdom before leading us into the tomb where we were each able to reverence her remains. The beautiful vaulted chamber was so still as we entered. After all the pilgrims had paid their respects, we began to sing, and the room bloomed with joyful faces and rich harmony. O Cecilia, Be Joyful!

If that were not enough, we were then offered a unique honor. Sister Margaret led us into the monastery, where we were conducted by a silent little sister through a private elevator to the prayer room containing the Cavellini fresco of Christ Enthroned at the Last Judgement. This room is more than a precious museum collection. It is a place for devotion. I could not look away from Christ whose wounds still appear to flow, pouring out his mercy.


Returning to the Basilica, we joined the cloistered sisters as they observed Vespers. At the close of Vespers, we sang our hymns for St. Cecilia for the sisters. We were delighted when they emerged from behind the screen to greet us individually, and we pledged to continue the bond we have begun.

The evening ended with a sumptuous banquet and cheerful fellowship. What a wonderful day.


Joining in Prayer


Fellow pilgrim and St. Cecilia parishioner, Paula Richstein is recording special intentions that we will carry with us to the tomb of St. Cecilia. There we will join with the nuns who attend her grave to pray. The bound prayer journal will be left at the tomb.  It is not too late to add an intention. Post it to comments, and Paula will record it in the book.

Christ, the Face of Mercy

Icon of Christ. St. Cecilia Cathedral, A, Nebraska

Our pilgrim prayer, penned by Deacon Tardy: All-powerful and ever-living God keep us safe all through our journey. Protect us, your servants, and in your Mercy walk by our side to assist us; Be our companion and strength on this road and keep us from all adversity. Lead us safely in this journey and give us refuge in your Grace only. Lead us Lord with the Gift of voice the Holy Spirit has endowed us with to honor and sing joyfully the praises for your great gift of Mercy to all we encounter in this pilgrimage of love. Amen.

St. Cecilia, pray for us.


Are we there yet? Blessings, miracles, and times of testing along the way to Rome.


We averaged 20,000 steps a day!

This post is a work in progress. I will share a bit of my own journey, but I’m also eager to hear from my fellow pilgrims about their experiences of this pilgrimage through the comments of this post. One thing is certain; for each of us, the pilgrimage began when we said, “Yes, Lord. I will go.” Our pastor, Father Gutgsell, reminded us today that at the end of each mass, we are sent: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” and he called it a “fierce responsibility.” We are witnesses to that truth.

As a teacher, making the pilgrimage required some cooperation from my school. I was grateful to have the support of my principal and superintendent as they could see that the experience would “recharge my batteries” and enrich my life experiences to share with my students. Like many of the other pilgrim singers, I was also concerned about coming up with the money to pay for the trip. Slowly the funds came together, brick by brick, with the help of generous donors and a variety of fundraising opportunities. As the time for our pilgrimage drew closer, I had a call from my brother letting me know that Mom’s battles with Alzheimer’s and heart problems were coming to an end. As I journeyed to say my final goodbyes and then to her funeral, I was comforted by the growing closeness of my choir family. Marie Rubis Bauer and I shared mutual grief and consolation, as her mother passed shortly before mine. We rejoiced together in knowing that our mothers are safe in heaven now. It would be nice to say that the road has been smooth, but it has been more like the cobblestones of Rome that make you so aware of your feet. It is a good pain if pain can be good. If it were easier it might also be forgettable.

What did you learn today?

Educators recommend one of the most important questions you can ask your children at the end of their school day is not only, “How was your day?”, but rather, “What did you learn today?” Recently, I have adopted this as part of my mental checklist as I unwind, reflect,  and prepare to close my day with prayer. That silent question is changing my life.

Discovering a cat in your philodendron is delightful too, but not so much for the philodendron.

Perhaps its merely my pessimistic bent, but when asked how my day was, I usually recount the disappointments and frustrations before getting around to the successes or delights.  Delight, in fact, is a seldom word in my lexicon, but what a good word it is. I wander into its neighborhood when I describe something new that I’ve discovered, something too good to hoard. That’s how I view spiritual truths that I learn from scripture, or good teaching, or the exemplary lives of saints. These are delightful, in that knowing about them changes me for the better, and so I am moved to share them in places like this, or in response to my alternative translation of, “How was your day?” If I learned anything worth remembering, committing to, or sharing, then it was a very good day.