Rome Update #2: March 6, 2011

 Dear Friends,

 Well. I kept waiting for things to slow down and they didn’t and my good intentions of sending more frequent updates hasn’t worked out, but today there’s a chance to write something.

 It has almost been a month since my first update and a lot has happened. Where we left off was that I was going to the dentist the next day. Well, that turned out well. He turned out to be friendly and competent and knew some English so the filling that he replaced is still there and seems to be working just fine.

 We’ve had a chance to meet the priest who helped us find the apartment where we’re living a few times. He has a position in connection with the Vatican Museums and also invited us to a Mass where some members of his order were renewing their vows. We’ve also had people over for dinner a few times and only burned the food the first time, although it was still edible, and Fr. Matthew George, a priest from India who graduated from our STL program at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, and is now in Rome also working on a doctorate didn’t’ seem to mind. Not having an oven but only a stove-top and microwave has limited some of Anne’s repertoire.

 One thing I must say is that there are a lot of sirens in Rome. It seems that even when there isn’t traffic blocking the street in any way, ambulances, fire engines, police cars, all turn their sirens on full-blast. Sometimes it’s because one of the many “dignitaries” who visit Rome are driving by in their motorcades. One time I couldn’t cross a street for a while because the President of Russia was arriving in a very long motorcade with lots of black tinted windows in limousines and lots of police on motorcycles to see the Pope. Just a few nights ago Anne was returning from evening Mass at St. Peter’s – our new parish Church – and noticed a very heavy concentration of police around one of the Vatican gates. A few minutes later the Pope drove by. We don’t know where he was going but it sure wasn’t “incognito.”

 There’s a prayer meeting at the North American College—where many dioceses in the US send one or two seminarians for their theology studies—every Monday night run by some of the young priests and seminarians. We’ve only been able to go once because of conflicts on Monday nights – dinner with a Cardinal last Monday, and this coming Monday, dinner at the Rome apartment of the leader of the Emmanuel Community here in Rome. The prayer meeting that we were at was wonderful, full of very genuine praise and attentiveness to the Lord. Maybe 30 seminarians were there and another 10-15 of us from outside the seminary.

 About that dinner with a Cardinal. It was thanks to Lavinia Spirito who some of you know from her Bible Studies or her attendance each year at our annual Gatherings where she often participates in the music ministry. Lavinia brought about 45 folks from her Bible Study in Lexington, Kentucky on a pilgrimage that included Rome. She and Cardinal Ivan Dias, head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, when they were both in Rome maybe 30 years ago, started a prayer group together which is still going. She had arranged for a meeting with the Cardinal whom I also have known for many years that she invited me to, and then the Cardinal invited us all – the whole group, and Anne and I, to dinner that night at a typical Roman restaurant and paid for everyone!! Have you ever heard of that happening!!!  I think it was a sign of the Cardinal’s high esteem for Lavinia, a truly noble woman of the Lord. He invited Lavinia and Anne and I to sit next to him and it was a great opportunity to discuss many things. I had spent time previously with Cardinal Dias when he was a Monsignor in the State Department of the Vatican in charge of negotiations with Communist governments, and then in India when he was Archbishop of Mumbai, and then Peter Williamson and I traveled with him throughout Albania when he was appointed Papal Nuncio there just after its liberation from communism where he was sent to reestablish the Catholic Church and appoint its first post-Communist bishops.

 When we talking about some of the very serious problems in the Church and in the world he shared something that I want to pass on. He said that he thinks there is really something to the vision of Leo XIII where the Pope saw the Lord give Satan a certain limited time where he would be able to work “without restraint” but that that time would at a certain point draw to an end. The Cardinal thinks that we’re in the last stages of this right now and that the devil is throwing everything he can into the battle, destroying as much as he can, because he knows his time is limited and Christ will soon arise to scatter his enemies. A hopeful perspective. Persevere.

 Cardinal Dias’ responsibilities are really great. He’s responsible for 1,100 dioceses in the world, including all of Africa, all of Asia except the Philippines, most of Oceania except Australia, and other “missionary dioceses “from Northern Canada to Latin America. Pray for him. He is a holy man but needs our prayers for continued wisdom, strength and courage, as well as for physical health.

 Besides working on my dissertation quite regularly I’ve also been able to meet with officials in a number of the Vatican offices and have had very useful conversations which I’ll share as I can. It was great to spend a good part of the afternoon last weekend with Cardinal Cordes who is a long-time friend with whom I’ve collaborated on many things over the years. He has just recently retired as head of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which is responsible for the Pope’s charity and relief work around the world.

 Anne just finished four weeks of daily Italian classes and celebrated by inviting her class to lunch at our apartment a few days ago. She’s looking forward now to volunteering with Mother Teresa’s sisters helping cook for the homeless people who come each day to their shelter near the Vatican.

 Beginning next week we also have a stream of friends and relatives arriving who we are looking forward to seeing but Anne will be taking the main responsibility for hosting as I need to continue to focus on the main purpose for being here, writing my dissertation.

 From now until March 23 seems to be the most demanding time of my stay here – at least until my Doctoral Defense is scheduled. I have to present, on March 18, a scholarly paper on “Baptism in the Spirit and the Sacraments of Christian Initiation” at a Colloquium which is being jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services office he in Rome. Then that same evening I begin to lead a retreat for seminarians and priests at the North American College on “A New Pentecost for a New Evangelization,” during which I’ll give six talks. The retreat ends Sunday afternoon, March 20. Then on March 23 I present a 9 page paper at my weekly Doctoral Seminar. If you could remember these days in prayer I would appreciate it.

 Thank you for your ongoing interest, prayer, and support in the multi-faceted mission of Renewal Ministries.

 Your brother in Christ,

Ralph Martin