Sunday, August 31, 2008

Italians Shun the Bible but surprisingly, flock to Latin Mass

The Roman Forum, a monthly magazine here in Rome, reports the following: A poll revealed that 88 percent of Italians who claim to be Roman Catholics are ignorant of ‘even the most basic facts’ about the Bible. The Catholic Biblical Federation survey found that only 14 percent know whether Jesus had written any of the Gospels, and if the Gospels are part of the Bible. Internationally, 75 percent of Americans claim to have read from the Bible recently, compared to Italy's 27 percent. The Vatican said the findings offered ‘food for thought’, however Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the pontifical Council for Culture, said that if the survey had included the Vatican, “it might well have produced some surprising results”. Masses held in Latin are luring in both the faithful and curious. Some 500 worshippers attended mass at Chiesa Trinità dei Pellegrini, Pope Benedict XVI's “personal church”, for Catholics appreciative of the rite in its ancient expression.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to Work

Ambrit -Rome International School
Today I returned to work for the first day of staff meetings before the start of school. It was great to see other teachers again, returned from vacations all over the world. We have a couple of exciting projects for this year. (1) We are initiating a web-based curriculum mapping program that will enhance our school program. (2) We are beginning the journey to become a PYP School, certified as a Primary Years Program, part of the International Baccalaureate.

I got the class list today and look forward to next Thursday, September 4th, when I welcome my 5th grade students into the classroom "On the Corner." (I have moved from the classroom above the front door of the school to the room that is on the corner of the building.)

I have much to do before the students arrive. I have to clean shelves, unpack boxes, put up bulletin boards and set up the classroom library. All of this is in addition to planning our curricular program with my colleagues who teach the other two 5th grade classes.

This is what my classroom looked like this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Granita di Gelsi

One of my favorite treats of the summer is granita di gelsi. It is a refreshing frozen concoction of water, sugar and crushed fruit that is often served with a sweet roll called a brioche. (Other flavors include caffè, pictured above with gelsi, strawberry, melon, lemon, mint... well just about anything!)

What is gelsi? It's mulberry.
I remember the children's song "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush." When I was in elementary school, I studied about silk worms eating mulberry leaves. I have often eaten in Italian restaurants on Mulberry Street in New York City's Little Italy. However, I don't think I ever saw a mulberry tree (or mulberry fruit) before this summer in Sicily.
This is the gelsi tree in Sandro's back yard in Enna.

This is Sandro serving some of his homemade granita di gelsi.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Feroagosto: It's Almost Over

During the month of August, pretty much everything closes down in Rome, except for tourist services! Even our church, Caravita, does not have services during the month of August.

In our Garbatella neighborhood, the bakery, the corner grocery store, the bookstore, the coffee bar... all closed for vacation.

There were billboards all over Rome like this one below, encouraging people not to abandon their dogs while on vacation.
Here is a translation from my friend at the blog Willy or Won't He?
You have the choice?
Are you humane
or inhumane?
Leave him with a relative. Leave him with a friend.
Leave him with a keeper. Leave him at a kennel.
But don't leave him in the street. Think about it!
It is a criminal offence to abandon an animal.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lunedì Letterario

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is a story about friendship, loyalty and betrayal, and the bond of fathers and sons. It is set in Afghanistan from the end of the monarchy to almost the current time and the images of the book usually had me feeling that I was reading a memoir rather than a novel. Much of it takes place 20 years ago as it explores the culture and beauty of Afghanistan as it is being ripped apart by warring factions. But, what is happening in the world today made me feel that the story is unfolding right now. These were some of the New York Times headlines while I was reading the book:
“Insurgency’s Scars Line Afghanistan’s Main Road”
“Military Death Toll Rises in Afghanistan”
“How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad”

This book gave me a greater understanding about the political turmoil of Afghanistan and that part of our world. It presented me with many insights into Muslim culture and the struggles faced by refugees. I experienced joy and pain as I read the book and I often paused to reflect, thinking about the world that Khaled Hosseini shared with me through the pages of The Kite Runner.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cameron Keating

Stained Glass from the Basilica de San Giuseppe al Trionfale, Rome
Yesterday I received an email message that caused my heart and soul to stand still - and join the angels in heaven as they welcomed a most talented person and special friend, Cameron Keating.

Today I received this message from Cameron's sister:
In the afternoon of Sunday August 10th my sister Cameron Keating went home to be with the Lord. She had struggled with Multiple Myeloma for fifteen years and now she is finally free from the incredible pain and suffering because she is now with the Glorious Saviour who loves her more than words can express. We will go to see her, but she will not return here. As I told my grandson Evan, be happy for her because they're having a "Cameron" party for her now in Heaven. A memorial service is being planned for her to take place on September 13th at three o'clock in the afternoon at All Angels Episcopal Church Manhattan.

The day of Cameron's death was also the Feast of Saint Lawrence. It was on August 10th, 258 A.D. that a young Roman Christian named Lawrence was martyred by the emperor Valerian by being roasted alive on a grid iron. Later that night as his mourners carried his body away dozens of streaks of light fell from the sky, which prompted his friends to believe that even the heavens were weeping for him. And every year since, almost to the date, the skies weep again on what some still call "The Night Of St. Lawrence's Tears." This year, the skies are not weeping, but they were shedding TEARS OF JOY, celebrating the life of Cameron Keating.

(Astronomers have identified this phenomena as the Perseid meteor shower, which occurs every year at about this time.)

I first met Cameron about twenty years ago when we were parishioners at All Angels' Episcopal Church in New York City. She was an outstanding singer and through her music brought many people to a closer experience of God. Together, with many others in the parish, we welcomed displaced people into the life of the parish, and through a Sunday evening "Gospel Music" Eucharist, dinner and outreach activities, the church came to include the homeless and people on the margins as actual "confirmed members" of the parish.

The pictures are from the NYC subway station at Prince Street on Broadway

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Out of Gas?

In Palermo I found a filling station... for wine.  You bring in your containers and go to the pump. The cost was €1.30 a liter. That is about 20 cents less than the cost of  gasoline! 

Feast of Saint Lawrence

I was named me after the 3rd century martyr Lawrence of Rome, and today, the anniversary of his death is my "feast day," called "Onomastico" in Italian. I started the tradition of celebrating my feast day because I usually find myself in academic settings and celebrating a birthday on the 2nd of September was a time too busy with the start of a new school year to think about a birthday party. Friends in New York will remember many great Bar-B-Que experiences on the feast of St. Lawrence!
A ceramic made by monks in Valyermo, California, on our table today

I offer you a couple images I have taken of Saint Lawrence, followed by a short biography from
In front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Rome

19th century window in the duomo of Perugia

From the facade of the Municipal Building in Perugia

From the Cathedral in Monreale, Sicily

Lawrence was a third-century archdeacon of Rome, distributor of alms, and "keeper of the treasures of the church" in a time when Christianity was outlawed. On 6 August 258, by decree of Emperor Valerian, Pope Saint Sixtus II and six deacons were beheaded, leaving Lawrence as the ranking Church official in Rome.

While in prison awaiting execution Sixtus reassured Lawrence that he was not being left behind; they would be reunited in four days. Lawrence saw this time as an opportunity to disperse the material wealth of the church before the Roman authorities could lay their hands on it. On 10 August Lawrence was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted by the pope. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome's crippled, blind, sick, and indigent. He announced that these were the true treasures of the Church. Martyr.

Statue from the cathedral in Palermo, Sicily

Lawrence's care for the poor, the ill, the neglected have led to his patronage of them. His work to save the material wealth of the Church, including its documents, brought librarians and those in related fields to see him as a patron, and to ask for his intercession. And his incredible strength and courage when being grilled to death led to his patronage of cooks and those who work in or supply things to the kitchen. The meteor shower that follows the passage of the Swift-Tuttle comet was known in the middle ages as the "burning tears of Saint Lawrence" because they appear at the same time as Lawrence's feast.

Lawrence was born at Huesca, Spain. He died cooked to death on a gridiron on 10 August 258; buried in the cemetery of Saint Cyriaca on the road to Tivoli, Italy; tomb was opened by Pelagius to inter the body of Saint Stephen the Martyr; his mummified head removed to the Quirinal Chapel; the gridiron believed to have been his deathbed is in San Lorenzo in Lucina; garments in Our Lady's Chapel in the Lateran Palace.
from the Cloisters Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Miniature Fire Fighters in Enna

(With a tip of the hat to Laurent, our friend in Rome, who collects miniatures.)

A walk in Enna took us past a store selling fire extinguishers. The front window contained a display of miniature fire fighters from around the world. It was difficult to get a good picture through the glass, but maybe you can still see why these small figurines captured our attention.

The bottom of the window had two shelves of fire trucks.

Erice: The Church of San Martino

We discovered a few interesting things in the early 17th century church of San Martino, located in the hill top town of Erice..

It is also dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory.

Above is a poor soul from the pulpit and below are a couple more souls from the facade.

The church has a mesmerizing cupola of stucco and fresco.

In the center of the nave was an unusual harpsichord/pipe organ combo that was being set up for a concert.

In a side room there was a life-size 16th century wooden sculpture of St. Martin on horseback. Legend has it that St. Martin cut his own cloak in half to clothe a beggar he passed on the road.