The Papacy at a Crossroads

In this candid interview, veteran Vatican observer Tracey Rowland shares her rare insights with Regina Magazine. An eminent theologian in her own right, Dr Rowland is Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia and author of Ratzinger’s Faith: The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Oxford University Press).

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI brings to an end an era. What was your reaction to the secular media coverage? In Australia we were hearing reports that some 5,000 journalists were in Rome waiting for the news.  My impression was generally one of amusement – for an organisation that is supposed to be irrelevant, the Church gets an enormous amount of front page publicity.  The papal conclave dominated the news for two weeks.

Can you comment on the presumption that the secular media shows regarding the ‘necessity’ of modernizing the Church? I did four radio interviews in Montreal a few days after the resignation of Pope Benedict.  People were very excited that Cardinal Marc Ouellet from Quebec was being discussed as a front runner.  The Mayor of Montreal  joked on TV that if Cardinal Ouellet was elected, the Vatican would be moved to Montreal. In every one of my interviews I was asked whether a new pope might change the Church’s teaching on contraception, the ordination of women and abortion.  I had to calmly explain that the pope is not an absolute monarch, he is a constitutional monarch.  Constitutional monarchs can’t do whatever they like, they can exercise power only within certain limits.  In the constitutional monarchies of the world these limits are set out in a constitution, or in the case of the United Kingdom, in constitutional conventions.  In the case of the papacy these limits are prescribed by revelation or what we call the ‘deposit of the faith’.  I referred to Pope Benedict’s final homily in which he said that the Church belonged not to him or to the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, but to Christ.  If Christ didn’t ordain women then the Pope can’t either.  The secular media find this very hard to understand but I think the constitutional monarchy idea helps.  Of course, when 1960s generation nuns get interviewed on television and say that they are in favour of the ordination of women, it causes an enormous amount of confusion.

Pope Francis receives Madagascar's transitional leader Andry Rajoelina at the end of a private audience in his private library at the Vatican on April 26, 2103.       Do you think that Pope Francis has a bigger challenge inside the Church than outside? Every Pope faces challenges from outside the Church.  The devil will cause trouble until the end of time.  But some Popes enjoy more internal unity. Pope Francis has inherited a situation where there is very little unity, so much so that Pope Benedict believed that only a younger, stronger man, could handle the problem.  While both John Paul II and Benedict XVI produced wonderful documents and homilies, their teaching was often blocked at various ‘middle management’ levels and never made it to grass roots or parish level.  There is still an enormous amount of confusion about Vatican II.  In some countries like Australia Catholic children spent 12 years at schools administered by the Church but unless they happen to be fortunate to be taught by someone who actually practices his or her faith and understands it, they are unlikely to be catechised.  They leave 12 years of “Catholic education” quite ignorant of what the faith is about.  This is often explained by the word ‘secularisation’.  Some people think that secularism is some kind of nasty force external to the Church which attacks it from without.  However secularism is a kind of heresy which arose within Christian countries when people within the Church thought that they could sever the ‘fruits of Christianity’ from actual belief in the Trinity and participation in the sacramental life of the Church.  As Cardinal Angelo Scola has written, only Christians can make the anti-Christ possible.  The anti-Christ is always parasitic about Christianity.  When Christianity becomes decadent, then all kinds of diabolical actions and people can flourish.  Pope Francis has inherited a Church weakened by decadence and disunity within and by several centuries of oppression from without.

Some note Francis’ simplicity and dedication to prayer with approval. Others fear that he will not support the Extraordinary Rite. What is your take on this? I don’t know what to predict because, unlike our previous two popes who were world class scholars with mountains of publications people could read their way through, this Pope rarely ever gives interviews and he has not published very much at all.  So one can’t trawl through public statements and scholarly articles to get an insight into the way he approaches theological issues.  There is also an old saying “as lost as a Jesuit in Holy Week”, meaning that Jesuits are not renowned for their deep liturgical sensibilities.  They are not Benedictines. My intuition is that he is not  someone who shares Pope Benedict’s liturgical sensibilities, but he might nonetheless take the view that so long as people attending the Extraordinary Rite are otherwise faithful Catholics, that he doesn’t really care about their ritual preferences.  Quite a few members of the hierarchy adopt Mao Tse-Tung’s maxim of “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom”.  In other words, while they may have no personal preference for the Extraordinary Rite, they acknowledge the sociological fact that significant numbers of people do prefer this Rite, and their attitude is that so long as people are actually going to Mass, their ritual preferences are a matter of legitimate choice.  The more bureaucratic types however don’t like pluralism, don’t like choice, because choice increases the demands of education and administration.  For example, when there are two Rites, seminarians need to be trained to say both.  I think that people who prefer the Extraordinary Rite need to make it very obvious to their local Ordinaries that they are on board with the Church’s official teachings, that they are otherwise involved in the life of the Church and that they are not insisting on attending the Extraordinary Rite in order to make a political statement about their opposition to the Second Vatican Council.  In short, they need to send a message that it is all about beauty and transcendence, not political resistance.

trowland3OUT-POSITIONED AND OUT-CLASSED:  Secular media coverage of the 2013 conclave was outshone by upstart US network EWTN – founded by Mother Angelica, a ‘nun with nerve’– and anchored by Raymond Arroyo and Colleen Carroll Campbell.

I recently saw a meme on Facebook that said, “Why is it that the Catholic Church doesn’t go crazy when they change heads of the International Society of Atheists?” Why IS it, do you think, that the Church seems a source of endless fascination for the secular media? I think that pop culture is extremely banal and as such it lacks pathos.  Drama doesn’t work well as drama unless the events which take place are of eternal significance.  Catholics believe that the Pope is Christ’s vicar on earth.  They believe that he holds the keys of St. Peter – to forgive sin in Christ’s name, no less.  The secular journalists find it fascinating because whatever it is, it is not boring.  It also satisfies the human need for tradition.  Modernity has been described as a culture of forced forgetting.  The memory of the Church however stretches back not only to the Incarnation, but to Creation, and her imagination reaches forward to the consummation of the world.  The Christian approach to time is liturgical.  As Cardinal Scola says, Christianity is the moment when the now meets the forever. 

We are living through a period in time when our general culture is really awful, really low, and we have to use our imaginations to think of a different way of being, to make friends with people who are not trapped in the culture of death, and to look after one another.  As the world becomes more and more ugly, Christians will start to stand out precisely because of their personal dignity and the beauty of their family life and then the task of re-evangelisation will become much easier. 

I think that initiatives like Regina Magazine are precisely what are needed.

The first time I attended an Extraordinary Rite Mass, I was struck by the drama of the moment of consecration.  I was at the Church of St. Eugene in Paris in the late 1990s.  It was before Summorum Pontificum but the priests were in Communion with the Pope and their local bishop.  It was not a Lefebrvist service.  The choir chanted the Sanctus which went on for some minutes over the voice of the priest who continued silently saying the Eucharistic Prayer.  Towards the end of the Sanctus the music became more and more dramatic, more like a fugue and then the priest held up the host, every single altar server fell completely prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary and the bells of the Church were peeled.  The figure of the priest was in part blurred by a curtain of incense and one could simply see a blotch of colour created by his vestments.  The only way this moment of consecration could have been any more dramatic would have been if an honour guard of officers had presented arms – something which was a tradition at Corpus Christi Masses.  No journalist watching this could have found it boring. In Sacramentum Caritatis Pope Benedict wrote that at the moment of consecration there occurs a kind of nuclear fission when the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ.  Sometimes there are moments when the Church makes this nuclear fission palpable, and grace triumphs over despair.

In short, my answer is, the world craves an encounter with eternity, the world craves transcendence and this is what the Church has to offer when her officer class has not been overrun by philistines or people with psychological disorders in league with the devil.  Secular journalists are often people who yearn for transcendence and an experience of the infinite as much as anyone and they can see glimpses of it in the Church, notwithstanding all the blemishes.

“Pop culture is extremely banal and as such it lacks pathos.  Drama doesn’t work well unless the events which take place are of eternal significance.  Catholics believe that the Pope is Christ’s vicar on earth.  They believe that he holds the keys of St. Peter – to forgive sin in Christ’s name, no less.  Secular journalists find it fascinating because whatever it is, it is not boring.”

What do you see as the greatest source of hope? The many sources of hope include the numbers of younger women entering religious life, often in new religious Orders that are seeking to re-evangelise the countries of the Christian West.  If one thinks, for example, of the Sisters of Life in New York or the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville or the Sisters of the Immaculata in Sydney, in every case the order is teeming with vocations and the young women are all highly educated, gracious in manner and otherwise highly marriageable.  They are not entering religious life to escape poverty and acquire an education.  They are not people with limited social options.  They are entering religious life because they really do want to be in a spousal relationship with Christ and spend their lives leading others to Christ.  Then there are the young Catholic families where both parents are fully across the teachings of Blessed John Paul II on marriage and family life and are doing their best to turn their families into domestic churches, notwithstanding the fact that most government economic and educational policies are stacked against them.  When I go to Mass and see a young family with several children, and see that the little girls look pretty with ribbons in their hair, and the little boys are made to stand back and allow their sisters into the pew ahead of them, then I think that the culture of death will not be victorious.  We are just living through a period in time when our general culture is really awful, really low, and we have to use our imaginations to think of a different way of being, to make friends with people who are not trapped in the culture of death, and to look after one another.  As the world becomes more and more ugly, Christians will start to stand out precisely because of their personal dignity and the beauty of their family life and then the task of re-evangelisation will become much easier.  I think that initiatives like Regina are precisely what is needed.

trowland4A GREAT SOURCE OF HOPE ARE THE NEW TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS ORDERS, teeming with vocations — and the young women are all highly educated, gracious in manner and otherwise marriageable.  They are not entering religious life to escape poverty and acquire an education.  They are not people with limited social options. They have a spousal love for Jesus.


Australian Catholic children spend 12 years at schools administered by the Church, but unless they happen to be fortunate to be taught by someone who actually practices his or her faith and understands it, they are unlikely to be catechized.  They leave 12 years of “Catholic education” quite ignorant of what the Faith is about…”  Dr. Tracey Rowland


Featured Pope Benedict picture Osservatore Romano with permission

Photo of Pope Francis by Stefano Spaziani with permission


Young, Rich, Beautiful & Martyred

First, find your way to this ancient church on the Vimian Hill, at 160 Via Urbana. Then, notice that you must step down off the street level to enter the Basilica of St Pudentiana. This is because you are going down to the level of the street in ancient Rome, and you may be forgiven if you get a chill up your spine. You are about to step into a church literally built on the house of an ancient Christian martyr. The beautiful young Pudentiana was martyred in the second century AD during persecutions of the Christians under the  Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161).

The story of the Roman sisters, Pudentiana and Praxedes, dates to the very first Age of the Christian Church. Pudentiana was a daughter of wealthy Roman Senator Pudens, a kinsman of the Pudens spoken of by St. Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy (II. Tim. iv. 21). Legend has it that Saint Peter himself visited this house in the time of the girls’ grandparents.

Pudentiana was a daughter of the wealthy Roman Senator Pudens, kinsman of the Pudens spoken of by St. Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy

Pudentiana and her sister Praxedes were among the earliest members of the Church, and both of them consecrated their lives to Jesus Christ. Upon their father’s death, the two sisters distributed their fortune to the poor, and devoted their time to good works, fasting and prayer. It was through their influence that their entire household, which consisted of ninety-six persons, was baptized by Pope Pius I.

In consequence of the decree issued by the emperor Antoninus (see our story on ‘Communion, Roman-Style’), which forbade the Christians to offer sacrifice publicly, Pope Pius celebrated Mass in Pudentiana’s house, and the Christians assembled there to assist at the celebration. She received them with much charity, and provided them with all the necessaries of life.


You are about to step into a church built on the house of an ancient Christian martyr. Legend has it that Saint Peter visited this house.

At the age of sixteen, Pudentiana was arrested and martyred on the fourteenth of the Calends of June (by our calendar May 19). She was buried in her father’s tomb, in the Priscilla Cemetery, which is on the Salarian Road.

Pudentiana’s house was willed to Pope Pius, and is now one of the most venerable Churches of Rome. Her relics lie under the high altar, according to ancient Christian tradition, which held that any place that contained the remains of a martyr was itself made sacred. This is the origin of the Catholic practice of venerating the relics of saints.

norcia2012 024HALLOWED GROUND’: Ancient Roman Christian tradition made any place containing the relics of a martyr sacred, because by their death for the Faith they were certain to be in heaven.

This is the origin of the Catholic tradition of consecrating churches with saints’ relics under the high altar.


Do’s and Don’ts in Rome

To be perfectly honest, Romans can cope with anything. For centuries, their city has been a target for hordes of tourists and barbarians. Through it all, Romans have remained inscrutable – insouciant, unsinkable and ready for just about anything. That being said, however, if you plan a visit to the Eternal City, it is a good idea to follow a few simple rules:

DO PREPARE YOURSELF: Films and books will help you really enjoy your Roman Holiday (1953), The Cardinal (1963), Three Coins in a Fountain (1954), The Bicycle Thieves (1948), The Scarlet and the Black (1983), La Dolce Vita (Adults only, 1960) and Only You (1994). My favorite classic books include Hilaire Belloc’s Path to Rome, H.V. Morton’s A Traveler in Rome, Bishop Sheen’s This is Rome, Louis De Wohl’s The Spear, Roger Wiltgen’s The Rhine Flows into the Tiber and John Walsh’s The Bones of Saint Peter.

DON’T EXPECT ROMANS TO SPEAK ENGLISH: Give yourself three months to learn some touristic Italian. Never mind the stares from your fellow motorists — drive around with CDs from your local library, repeating “Il conto, per favore?” and “Ho bisogno un medico” with an Italian accent.

DO STAY IN A CONVENT: There are 2,762 hotels in Rome. Convents are cheaper, cleaner, safer and WAY more authentic than any tourist trap, They are the single best way to see Rome – especially for Catholics who would like to attend Mass with the sisters. (Secret Catholic Tip: To find a convent that gladly takes in tourists, visit which calls itself the ‘home of the American Catholic church in Rome.”)

insider2DO CHECK OUT THE VIEW: Some famous vistas are to be seen from myriad vantage points in the old city. (Secret Catholic Tip: The views from the cupola of Saint Peter’s and the top of the Castel San’t Angelo are unbeatable. And for a sunset that will take your breath away –see above– quietly take the elevator to the roof of the Helvetia Hotel.)

DO GO TO LATIN MASS ON SUNDAY: 11:00 Sung High Mass at Santa Trinita Dei Pellegrini, the church of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, just steps from the Piazza Farnese. Dress appropriately, please.

insider6DO LEARN TO USE THE BUS: Forget those dangerous mopeds, although the brave and the foolhardy like Audrey Hepburn (left and below) can rent one for 40 euros a day. Red Roman buses are cheap and plentiful. Find one that stops by your convent, buy yourself a pass at the local newsstand/tobacco store and soon you’ll be zipping around Rome for basically nothing – without losing a limb.



DO VISIT SAINT PETER’S FIRST: For first time visitors, stepping inside the arms of Bernini’s amazing Colonnade is a real thrill. (Secret Catholic Tip: For a free, fascinating personal tour of Saint Peter’s, stop by the Vatican post office and look for a small, unobtrusive sign advising English-speaking visitors when an American seminarian will be there. Impress him by pointing out that the statues on top of the Basilica are the Apostles.)

DON’T BE A TARGET: Avoid drawing attention to yourself. Keep your voice low. Leave your sneakers at home. Wear dark, conservative clothing. Don’t wear a fanny pack or keep your wallet in your back pocket. Americans, especially, need to remember that we have a reputation for being loud and naïve – perfect targets for pickpockets and flimflam artists. This goes TRIPLE at night, or if you have been drinking. Don’t be paranoid, but do be smart. (Secret Catholic Tip: The young woman begging at church doors with a new baby is not starving to death. This is an age-old scam targeting naïve tourists and seminarians.)



Togas in the Backyard

Dorothy GillI must confess: I’m not a particularly energetic, clever or imaginative homeschooler. I just have attitude. 

And while I’ve been at this for over 20 years, like the Velveteen Rabbit, I sometimes sit still in the bracken of stacked teacher’s manuals and hope that the other homeschool moms won’t notice.  As they hop sideways, on their hind legs and whirl round and dance, I am longing to join them, but am keenly aware of my lack of artistic legs.   So while scope and sequence recommendations and Common Core standards do not intimidate me, I have always longed for the creative flair.   

Above all, teaching history requires imagination.  While I generally detest for-classroom text books with their “read the chapter, answer the questions approach,” left to my own devices I can never seem to fully launch into the “living history” method that homeschooled kids love.

This is where belonging to a homeschool support group really pays off.  With all sorts of talented homeschoolers —   left-brain, right brain, and menopause brain — you are sure to find people who will complement your strengths, compensate for your deficiencies and create magic for your students. 

Ancient History assignments had my kids merrily creating maps, time-lines, poetry, vocabulary or costumes for the Big Day. We recited the bloody portions of “Horatius at the Bridge” (did I mention I have only boys?) 

Birthed in the crucible of necessity, the modern homeschool co-op harnesses this diversity (sorry, I usually avoid this word)  and yields a blend of arts & crafts, literature, research, home-ec,  drama, composition and public speaking — all rolled into performance art.  They don’t teach history to your kids, they invite them to discover history.

I experienced textbook-free, blended-age learning in an Ancient History co-op with families from Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon. My first clue that I was onto something special was my kids asking, “When do we get to go to co-op?”  They were actually begging to do history!  Soon, they became the enforcers of the schedule, hounding me for assistance as they prepared for the Big Day each week. The younger kids would listen to stories read out loud and maybe draw a picture while the older ones would work on reading a novel or encyclopedia article.  Their Ancient History assignments had them merrily creating maps, time-lines, poetry, vocabulary or costumes for the Big Day.

My math brain boggled at the cornucopia of offerings: carpentry, cooking, plays, painting, pottery, sewing, singing, sculpture, science, weapon making, architecture and games.   No one mom could hope to teach such a series of classes, and not collapse in exhaustion.  And yet, joined together, the burden was light as our kids experienced a culture distant in both time and space in a way that no text book could compete with.  It was memory-making magic.


In studying Ancient Rome, we examined the five century development of the Republic and worked through the Pax Romana.   But instead of only reading, we immersed ourselves. Tarquin brutally ruled over all in the household chores one day, which led to Brutus leading his overthrow, and the tension between the patricians and plebeians which led to a workers strike and no dishes getting done until terms of tribune representation were agreed upon.  We recited the bloody portions of “Horatius at the Bridge” (did I mention I have only boys?)  and constructed catapults and armor.

When our Ancient History adventure was over, we celebrated. The dads joined in, all of us wearing bed-sheet togas and declaiming in simple Latin.   We reclined in the backyard at our plywood table and guzzled grape juice “wine” from goblets as we were served by “slaves.”   We ate with our fingers off a common platter, dipping figs in honey and bread in olive oil.  

We will never forget these lessons and memories that our co-op adventures have brought us.  And while my legs remain as inartistic as ever, to my kids I am a dancing real homeschool mom.

The dads joined in, all of us wearing bed-sheet togas and declaiming in simple Latin.   We reclined in the backyard at our plywood table and guzzled grape juice “wine” from goblets as we were served by “slaves.”

pax2pax3ROMAN ‘SLAVES’ PREPARING FOR A BACKYARD FEAST: AnAncient History homeschooling co-op by parishioners at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon culminated in a ‘feast’ for all who taught their kids about the legacy of ancient Rome.


by Dorothy Gill

What Our Readers Say About REGINA


Rev. Anthony Patalano, Rector, Holy Family Cathedral, Anchorage, Alaska

What you are doing is WONDERFUL! I will offer several Masses for you and the success of REGINA.


Dr. Tracey Rowland, John Paul II Institute, Melbourne, Australia

This is fantastic!  I have been raving on about truth, beauty and goodness for a decade, and now finally someone has done what I have been arguing for in theory.  This is exactly what is needed.


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You are to be commended.  It is truly a work of art – interesting, informative, funny, human, thought provoking, real and the list goes on….  Congratulations!  I love the dedication to our beloved pontiff and agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments.  I also like that you addressed the issue of pornography which is so huge but generally swept under the table.

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You have done a beautiful job. Much success for REGINA in the future!

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I loved my first issue. I am so impressed with the magazine and as a fellow Catholic in this culture we need to inform and keep our faith strong. I truly want the magazine to be a success.

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**standing ovation here**

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Karl Keating in California, USA

REGINA is a fine-looking publication. Congratulations! Your inaugural issue has quite an array of women on the cover. I am especially pleased to see Empress Zita and Madame Curie. (I visited the latter’s tomb in Paris a year or so ago and noted that it was the only tomb in the whole of the Pantheon that was strewn with flowers and notes from admirers.)

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I’m so excited for you – I just KNOW it will be a HUGE success! This is perfect timing, and needed very badly.

First Communion, Roman-Style

In 155 AD – roughly 125 years after Christ’s death – St. Justin Martyr wrote to Emperor Antoninus to explain what Christians actually did during their rituals.  Christians were persecuted for their ‘atrocities’ and the Saint was appealing to reason, pleading for the Emperor’s clemency.

“On the day we call the day of the sun, all who live the country or the city gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read…when the reader has finished, he who presides (priest) over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

communion1communion2Then we all rise together to offer prayers for ourselves and for all others, wherever they might be, so that we might be found righteous by our life and actions. Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine to him who presides over the brethren.  He takes them and offers praise and glory to the father of the universe through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist, no one may take part in it unless he believes what we teach is true…”


St Justin and second century Christians were carrying out the wishes of their master, Jesus of Nazareth. 

In the two thousand years since, Catholics have carried out Christ’s command by celebrating the memorial of His sacrifice.  In so doing, we offer to the Father what He has given us – fruit of the vine and work of human hands – bread and wine, which by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, become the body and blood of Christ. Catholic children wear white because it is the Christian color worn for Sacraments.

(Secret Catholic Insider’s Note: In the tradition of his Catholic ancestors, when England’s Prince Charles is crowned, he will wear white – the ancient symbol of a Christian King.)



A Parents’ Guide to First Holy    Communion 

Long after the party is on Facebook, your child will carry the memory of their First Holy Communion in their heart. Parents need to ensure that their children understand the high seriousness of the occasion and know the basic facts about the Faith when they take Holy Communion with Our Lord for the first time in their lives.

communion4Why age seven? For centuries, the Church has considered seven to be the “Age of Reason” – when a child can discern between right and wrong.

 Why First Confession? Confession – also called “Reconciliation” or “Penance” – is your child’s first experience with the great feeling of peace that Catholics have after they have unburdened their souls. Respect this sacrament, and teach your child to make a good confession.

For centuries, the Church has considered seven to be the “Age of Reason” – when a child can discern between basic right and wrong.


(Photo courtesy of Victor Di Corcia)




What can a young child have done that warrants this formal confession of sins? At the age of reason, children can understand a simple moral code – and they know when they have violated it. Also, the experience of seeing everyone go to Confession shows the child that we are all sinners – and that we are all forgiven because Jesus died for our sins.  Respect the Sacrament, and teach your child to make a good confession

What is an Examination of Conscience? Before the Sacrament, be sure they have quiet time to examine their conscience:

Why wear white for Communion? White is the Christian color, worn for all first sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders — and even the crowning of Christian monarchs!

How is the Catholic belief about Communion different from other Christian traditions? This is huge. Catholics – along with all Eastern Orthodox, Maronite, Coptic and Syrian Christians – believe in Transubstantiation. This means that the bread and wine are transformed in their substance to the Body and Blood of Jesus, by the actions of the priest who consecrates them at Mass.

Why is this such a big deal? Once consecrated, the Host and Wine are regarded by Catholics as the Real Presence of Jesus. This is why the priest carefully consumes all of the consecrated Host and Wine.

Catholics – along with Eastern Orthodox, Maronite, Coptic and Syrian Christians – believe in Transubstantiation. Once consecrated, the Host and Wine become the Real Presence of Jesus.

How should children be taught to behave when they receive Holy Communion? Catholics behave with utmost respect in the Real Presence. When the Host and the Chalice are raised, we are absolutely silent, eyes fixed on the Sacrament. Children should take Communion on the tongue if at all possible. They should also be taught to fold their hands reverently, keep their eyes down as they walk and never to chew the Host.

More questions? Google the Catechism of the Catholic Church for Children, the Baltimore Catechism or the Catechism of the Good Shepherd.

Pope Benedict: ‘What I Saw At Vatican II’


Vatican II opened the Church…”

“And all the people left…”

“There was the Council of the Fathers – the true Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council in and of itself, and the world perceived the Council through them, through the media.

So the Council that got through to the people, was that of the media, not that of the Fathers. And while the Council of the Fathers evolved within the faith, it was a Council of the Faith that sought the intellectus, that sought to understand and try to understand the signs of God at that moment, which tried to meet the challenge of God in this time to find the words for today and tomorrow.

So while the whole council – as I said – moved within the Faith, as fides quaerens intellectum, the Council of the journalists did not, naturally, take place within the world of faith but within the categories of the media of today– that is, outside of the faith, with different hermeneutics.

It was a hermeneutic of politics. The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world.

vatican3“(In 1965) the media saw the Council as a political struggle…It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world.”


There were those who sought a decentralization of the Church, power for the bishops and then, through the Word for the “people of God”, the power of the people, the laity. There was this triple issue: the power of the Pope, then transferred to the power of the bishops and then the power of all … popular sovereignty. Naturally they saw this as the part to be approved, to promulgate, to help.

This was the case for the liturgy: there was no interest in the liturgy as an act of faith, but as a something to be made understandable, similar to a community activity, something profane. And we know that there was a trend, which was also historically based, that said: “Sacredness is a pagan thing, possibly even from the Old Testament. In the New Testament the only important thing is that Christ died outside: that is, outside the gates, that is, in the secular world”.

Sacredness ended up as profanity even in worship: worship is not worship but an act that brings people together, communal participation and thus participation as activity. And these translations, trivializing the idea of ​​the Council, were virulent in the practice of implementing the liturgical reform, born in a vision of the Council outside of its own key vision of faith. And it was so, also in the matter of Scripture: Scripture is a book, historical, to treat historically and nothing else, and so on.

And we know that this Council of the media was accessible to all. So, dominant, more efficient, this Council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed liturgy trivialized … and the true Council has struggled to materialize, to be realized: the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council.

But the real strength of the Council was present and slowly it has emerged and is becoming the real power which is also true reform, true renewal of the Church. It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost and the true Council is emerging with all its spiritual strength.

And it is our task, in this Year of Faith, starting from this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council with the power of the Holy Spirit is realized and Church is really renewed. We hope that the Lord will help us.

I, retired in prayer, will always be with you, and together we will move ahead with the Lord in certainty. The Lord is victorious. Thank you.

“This Council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed, liturgy trivialized…”
Featured Pope Benedict XVI photo by Stefano Spaziani. with permission.


Why The Media Always Get It Wrong

“Habemus Papam!” The smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel was white. On March 13, Pope Francis greeted 100,000 joyful Catholics who thronged St. Peter’s Square.

It was a perfect time for the talking heads in the “24-hour news cycle” to begin their incessant – and wrong — speculations. Columnists, politicians, and anyone who can get close to a microphone were telling the faithful what the church has to do to become more relevant.

In the days since the accession of Pope Francis to the Throne of St. Peter, the din has only gotten louder. I have a request to all of above: Put a sock in it. There is nothing as unattractive as a person with great knowledge or experience on more mundane matters discussing things about which he or she knows absolutely nothing. In the days leading up to the election and since, the punditry class has continued to ferret out dissenting opinions seeming to determine the best way for the Church to “get with it” is to harangue it.

CBS had to find two gals in the square of the estimated 250,000 that demanded ‘wymynpriests.’ Other networks did the same, and more. From divorced couples in their second marriages to homosexual activity to a plethora of other gripes, the news media was out in force not trying to understand the orthodox position, but rail against it. So let’s go through the list: women priests? Ain’t gonna happen. Same-sex marriage? Ditto. Birth control? See one and two. Pope Francis is a staunch defender of traditional Catholic doctrine (a key word, remember it).

Unlike many of the people spouting off in the media, this writer has spent much of his life reading, learning and understanding the doctrines of the church. Not only do I know the doctrines of the church, I understand their bases, and where they originate. I also know the difference between doctrine (women priests and same-sex marriage) versus discipline (clerical celibacy). Many in the punditry class not only get the two mixed up, they never attempt to understand them in the first place. That’s where I get angry, and I’m not the only one. Many Catholics are tired of having a caricature of our beliefs paraded around by people who don’t want to know any better.

When it comes to women in the clergy, this question was decided by John Paul II more than 17 years ago, and is considered part of the magisterium of the church (that means teaching authority, pundits), but it is also considered part of the infallible deposit of faith. To simplify, JPII’s statement simply said women can’t be priests because it is outside the realm of the church to change something that has been handed down to it. This isn’t politics, it is doctrine.

As far as same-sex marriage goes, we believe that man and women have different natures. We don’t buy into the current fashion that men and women are interchangeable except for the (to quote Monty Python) “naughty bits,” and that any differences are sociological or bred into the person. We believe the nature of a man and a woman is essentially different. They are complementary and that allows for the procreation of children as a real and necessary part of marriage. In fact, in our religion it is a sacrament, one of seven.

You, Mr. or Ms. Pundit, see marriage as a strictly social construct.  We see it as a physical and metaphysical union. Your limited outlook sees marriage as a matter of politics; we go far beyond that. Would it hurt to find out why Mother Church teaches on the matter? Google it if you don’t want to sift through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or use Wikipedia. You can have your questions answered in seconds.

And while we’re on the subject of doctrine, I realize that many denominations have synods or conventions or confabulations of some sort wherein they determine what their doctrine is or isn’t. That means some ecclesial communities have women clergy or now bless same-sex unions. Let them, and more power to them. If people want to go that route, they can join those communions. We don’t and can’t put doctrines to a vote. Then they’d cease to be “doctrines” –by definition.

It’s the same with contraception. Does it interest you to know that this issue was discussed in some of the earliest documents the church has? It was proscribed then, and is proscribed now for the reasons that, among other things, frustrating the sexual act objectifies the people involved. Isn’t that something you are against? Would it interest you to know that up until 1930, every Protestant denomination taught the same as the Catholics? Yup, it wasn’t until the Lambeth Conference in that year that the Anglican Church broke with almost 2,000 years and other denominations quickly followed suit.

And bringing on such old dissident war horses like Matthew Fox or Sr. Mary Pantsuit of the Sisters of Charity, who ceased living the rule a long time ago, makes no difference. These people bring to life a famous quote by the Anglican convert Ronald Knox. He said the basic difference between Catholics and Protestants is that with Protestants they lose their faith and then their morals, with Catholics it’s the other way round. These people lost their moral bearings, but still want to call themselves Catholics, when in fact they ceased to be Catholic a long time ago.

Many of our modern-day politicians are in the same boat. My own congresswoman from the Connecticut Third Congressional District likes to trot out her First Communion photo,  but when it comes to abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage, she talks more like a Democrat than a Catholic. But, she still likes to call herself a Catholic. I can call myself an elephant, but that doesn’t make me one. The point is we’re not going to change our stance on moral teachings or any other doctrine just to “get with” the times. These are considered immutable truths. I know thinking of things as true and false is not something you’re used to in your world of ‘relativity,’ but some of us do think that way.

Ronald Knox said the basic difference between Catholics and Protestants is that Protestants lose their faith and then their morals, whereas with Catholics it’s the other way around. These old dissident war horses lost their moral bearings, but still want to call themselves Catholics.

And just so we’re clear: We don’t meddle in politics except when politics meddles with our beliefs. Abortion and same-sex marriage are two issues that encroach on our beliefs. We have a right and a responsibility to speak out against something that we believe is morally wrong.  Does that mean we’re perfect and without sin? Nope. That’s why our churches have confessionals – and guess what, confession is coming back in style. It’s a lot cheaper than hiring a shrink and the priest can say three little words that a shrink can’t, “Ego te absolvo.”

And we know we’ve had problems with scandals, but if you look at it, we’re not better or worse than other segments of society – just more visible. We’re working on those difficulties and the hurt our people caused. It means we’ve got work to do, but we’ve faced issues just as painful. But if you want a real good side-bar to the abuse story, find out why so many above-mentioned psychiatrists and psychologists put offenders back into circulation. Many of our bishops were only doing what the professionals were telling them, you know, the experts. That’s the part of the story yet to be told.

The point is, if you’re going to opine about us, at least have the intellectual honesty and journalistic integrity to find out what we believe and why. If you’re not going to do that, please gasbag about something else, and leave those of us who take these things seriously alone.  What you have is not an opinion, but a prejudice because, in the final analysis, you want it that way.


dumb2Bill Riccio, Jr. is editor and publisher of the West Haven (CT) Voice, a weekly periodical. He is an assistant organist at St. Mary’s Church, Norwalk (CT) and an instituted acolyte in the Diocese of Bridgeport. He may be contacted by email.  Bill Riccio photo be Stuart Chessman.

Featured photo attributed to Vdp (edição), This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.


Crowning the May Queen



In May, Catholics hold a ceremony wherein a statue of the Blessed Mother is crowned by children, accompanied by solemn hymns, joyfully sung. Mary’s crown is made of woven May flowers.

The Catholic practice of assigning a special devotion to each month goes back to the early 16th century. In the late 18th century the May devotion to Mary arose among Jesuits in Rome.  In the early years of the 19th century, it quickly spread throughout the Western Church, and, by the time of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, it had become universal.

May crownings in honor of Mary stem from this time and many parishes are reviving them to honor the role that the Blessed Virgin played in our salvation through her fiat–her joyous “Yes” to the will of God. This Irish hymn dates back as far as the 13th Century, though in 1883, Mary E. Walsh adapted it.




Queen of the May  (Bring Flowers of the Rarest)

Bring flowers of the rarest
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale
Our full hearts are swelling
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale

Our voices ascending,
In harmony blending
Oh! Thus may our hearts turn
Dear Mother, to thee
Oh! Thus shall we prove thee
How truly we love thee
How dark without Mary
Life’s journey would be

O Virgin most tender
Our homage we render
Thy love and protection
Sweet Mother, to win
In danger defend us
In sorrow befriend us
And shield our hearts
From contagion and sin

Of Mothers the dearest
Oh, wilt thou be nearest
When life with temptation
Is darkly replete
Forsake us, O never
Our hearts be they ever
As Pure as the lilies
We lay at thy feet


REFRAIN: O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!



Many parishes are reviving the Crowning of the May Queen to honor the role that the Blessed Virgin played in our salvation through her fiat–her joyous “Yes” to the will of God.

Rome, England and the Faith


Monty Python’s The Life of Brian begins with a radical Jewish insurgent named Reg, (John Cleese), who asks a rhetorical question of his fellow conspirators, ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’

They built the roads, Reg!’ they answer him.

John Cleese’s character responds, ‘Well, that goes without saying!’

He’s then inundated by a litany of the benefits the Romans brought to Palestine until finally, one person utters in a quiet voice, ‘Peace?’

This article  – the first in a two part series – explores ‘what the Romans did for’ author Michael Durnan’s native Britain. Part One tells the fascinating story of ancient Rome’s enduring legacy, influencing Britain’s development until Christianity was legalized in the 4th century.

When the Romans arrived in “Britannia,” the inhabitants were Late Iron Age Celtic tribes. Centuries before, they had migrated from the Danube Basin, a tribal warrior people always seeking to expand their territory. The Romans found the Celtic Britons a well-organised society with strict laws, a relatively advanced bronze and iron technology and skilled craftsmen who made fine jewellery and weapons. Celts lived in round houses of wood, wattle and daub — with roofs made of thatch, or dry stone. Their houses were enclosed in huge, impressive hill forts, behind ramparts and ditches, all surrounded by wooden fences to keep out intruders or wild animals. Celtic Britons had a priestly caste known as the Druids, custodians of knowledge who allowed no written language in order to protect the secrecy of their sacred rites and their position as keepers of tribal law and history.

After Julius Caesar had conquered TransAlpine Gaul (France) he set his sights on the conquest of Britannia.  (Mediterranean explorers had earlier named them ‘the Pritani,’ which Latin speakers mispronounced as ‘Britanni.’) Caesar knew there was mineral wealth to be had as well as an abundance of wheat for his hungry Legions. Caesar had good military and political reasons for launching an invasion, too, as the British Celts were assisting the Gauls in their ongoing resistance to Roman conquest and occupation. Alas, both this effort and an invasion the next year were ultimately in vain, as Caesar was again forced to withdraw back to France to subdue the fractious Gauls.

Nearly 100 years passed before the Romans once again attempted to conquer Britannia. This time it would be the Emperor Claudius who would lead the invasion, seeking prestige and support from the Senate and the citizens of Rome since being proclaimed Emperor by The Army. What also helped persuade Claudius to invade was the arrival in Rome of Verica, a Celtic British tribal King who sought Claudius’s help in restoring him to his throne after he was ousted by King Caratacus. In 43 AD, an invasion force of nearly 40,000 landed on the Kent Coast and then advanced on the Celtic tribal capital of Camulodunum (modern day Colchester). Claudius arrived with elephants (guaranteed to strike fear into the Celts) and the city was soon captured.

durnan3One of the most famous and ambitious building  projects undertaken by the Romans was the construction of Hadrian’s Wall.  Remains of Hadrian’s Wall can be seen to this day; it has been designated a
UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of his Wall, ‘To separate the barbarians rom The Romans and allow occupation to be consolidated in peace’. The Romans were constantly being attacked by the Picts from Caledonia (Scotland) and in 122 AD Hadrian visited Britannia, decided on a policy of damage limitation and ordered the building of a defensive Wall ,  constructed by Roman Legionaries who were as skilled as civil engineers as they were at warfare. It was a massive undertaking requiring huge amounts of labour, materials and money as well as logistical support. The wall was built 7 ft. wide and 15 ft. high with a deep ditch in front of it to entrap any would be attackers. Troops were garrisoned every mile in small castles with turrets in between each milecastle and behind the wall larger cavalry and infantry forts were constructed to house more troops to relieve or reinforce the guards in the milecastles and turrets. The whole project, including the quarrying of 27 million cubic feet of stone, took only seven years and a force of between 11,000 to 12,000 troops were needed to man the 156 turrets, 79 milecastles and 16 forts.

Today, even after 1,600 years of decay and purloining of stone for other building purposes, large stretches of the original wall and forts remain which follow the outlines of the bleak undulating landscape of present day northern England. What remains is a great monument to the ambition, skill and enterprise of one of the greatest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in ancient Britain. Excavation work at some of the forts on the Wall has unearthed examples of letters written on slivers of wood which provide valuable insights to daily life on the Wall. As Roman rule consolidated, many Celtic British monarchs and their more affluent subjects adopted Roman ways in dress, food and houses.


In 1960, the remains of an extensive Roman palace, named Fishbourne, were discovered in southern England. It is thought the palace belonged to a British Celtic leader, named Cogidubnus  who was appointed by the Emperor Claudius as a client King to help rule the local Celtic Britons on his behalf.  It is thought Cogidubnus was possibly the son, or related to King Verica who sought Claudius’s help as mentioned earlier. The palace at Fishbourne extended over 10 acres and was very opulent, boasting fine marble imported from Greece and Italy.

The legacy of the Romans in Britain includes that of religion. Although Christianity did not become the official religion of the Empire until the reign of Constantine, in the 4th C. AD, it did arrive in Britain secretly as Christianity was persecuted throughout the Roman Empire.

The Emperor, Septimus Severus, campaigned in Britain in 209-11 AD and to discourage the Christian faith prescribed the death penalty for anyone converting to the new religion.

A Romano-British soldier, named Albanus, was stationed at Verulamium and here he sheltered a Catholic priest during this period and was eventually converted by him. Alban was discovered and refused to renounce his new faith and so was put to death. He is the Christian proto-martyr of Britain. The Roman city of Verulamium is now named St. Albans and its cathedral, a former abbey church, which is partly constructed out of re-used Roman bricks, is also named after him. Two other Romano-British saints, Julius and Aaron, were also martyred for their faith during the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Diocletian in 304 AD.  (Part Two of this article in the Summer issue of Regina Magazine.)