Catholic Church Italy Papacy Travel

Corpus Christi

In the Catholic Church, today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, a day we commemorate Christ’s desire to remain with us always in the Eucharist.

This special feast began centuries ago in the Umbrian town of Orvieto.  The story is somewhat lengthly, and I think I’ll save it for another time.  Today, I wanted to write about the town of Orvieto and it’s great Cathedral, two of my favorite places to visit in all of  Italy.

Several years ago, I was leading a tour of Italy, and many close friends were on the trip.  We visited the usual tourist sites, and after leaving Assisi and heading south to Rome,  I built into the itnerary a visit to Orvieto.  As we were leaving, someone came up to me and said something like, “My whole life I’ve heard about Florence, Pisa, Assisi and Rome.  I can’t believe no one ever told me about Orvieto.”  Once you go there, you’re hooked!

Orvieto is situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuffa.  The site of the city is one of the most dramatic in Europe, rising above the almost vertical faces of the tuffa cliffs.  Since there is very little car traffic allowed in the city center, buses have to stay down in the valley below.  To reach the city, you have to travel on a funincula, a kind of tram that hugs the mountain as it goes up to the top.

You may recall the song Funincula Funinculi.  The story goes that, at one time, these kinds of trams were operated by people pulling ropes that lifted the tram either up or down.  I always get it mixed up, but I think  funincula meant going up, and funinculi meant heading down. I can’t imagine the strength that was necessary to get these people movers up and down.

Back to the Cathedral.  To me, it’s facade is one of the most beautiful in the world.  Done primarily in mosaic, the artist used a lot of glass pieces that must have been gold -leafed on the back, because when the sun hits the cathedral, it’s like a thousand lightbulbs going off.  Remarkable.

The cornerstone was laid by Pope Nicholas IV in 1290, and the magnificent church was completed in the mid fifteenth century.  The walls are striped in white travertine  and greenish-black basalt, in narrow bands.  This was the first church I had ever seen this style, and it is striking.      This great cathedral was built to commemorate the Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena.  The pope at the time, who verified the miracle himself, later asked St. Thomas Aquinas to write songs to commemorate the event, and he produced two pieces that are still sung on a regular basis in Catholic Churches all over the world, O Salutaris, and Tantum Ergo.

There are two main things to see in the cathedral.  One is the chapel of the miracle, and the other is the Brizi Chapel, which houses one of the great frescoes of the Renaiassance, the masterpiece by Lucca Signorelli known as the Last Judgement. I think this fresco is one of the greatest works of art I have ever seen, and I could sit for hours in this small chapel and take in the artistic drama and mastery captured there.  It is no wonder that historians say that this is where Michaelangelo came for inspiration before painting the Sistine Chapel.

Any photograph can’t really caputure the powerful imagery on these four walls of the chapel.  One day, I hope you’ll have the chance to see it for yourself in Orvieto.  In the meantime, there are Signorelli paintings in museums all over the world, including one right here in Baltimore.  If you can find one, I don’t think you’ll  be disappointed.

Dessert Travel

Simple Dessert

Every so often I visit Frances Maye’s blog.  She’s the author of a bunch of books on Tuscany and Italian life, and when I check our her site, I get a taste of la dolce vita. When I checked today, I saw that she was cruising around the Mediterranean, giving onboard talks on Italian life to about 100 people.  What a life!  Not only does she spend half her year in a villa in Tuscany, she gets hired to give a few talks on a cruise, probably being paid handsomely for her time and effort.  Actually, I love her writing style, which draws you into the scenes she so wonderfully describes.   I also greatly respect  her ability to reinvent herself at middle age into a travel guru.  She’s over twenty years into it now, and still going strong.

Now, here in Maryland, it’s almost 90 degrees and 90% humidity.  I work up a sweat by just opening the back door.  Hot and sticky doesn’t begin to describe it, but maybe tomorrow will be a bit cooler.  One can only hope.

It’s strawberry picking time here, so in honor of Frances Mayes, I’m going to give you one of the easiest recipes I know for delicious strawberries.  I know it may sound strange, but the key ingredient is basalmic vinegar.

Basically, take a pint of ripe strawberries, cut them in half, and throw them in a bowl.  Add three tablespoons of a good quality basalmic vinegar to the berries, and  toss to coat.  Put in refrigerator to cool, at least one hour.  I like to bring them to room temperature before serving, as this intensifies the flavor.

I’m not a chemist, but I’ve been told that there’s a chemical reaction that takes place between the strawberries and the vinegar.  The berries come out super sweet, and you hardly taste the vinegar.  You won’t need to add any sugar unless the berries are not quite ready. Just try it!

I always serve these berries with a nice biscotti cookie.  A dark chocolate one with almonds is in the photo, and you can pick them up just about anywhere.  This makes a nice, easy, and light dessert, and goes great with a good cup of coffee.  Enjoy.


Here Be Dragons

According to legend, on certain ancient maps you can find the letters H.B.D. written at the edge of where the uncharted territory begins.  The story goes that the letters stand for “Here Be Dragons” and warn that there may be dangerous creatures in the unexplored and mysterious waters.

Maybe one of my studious nieces or nephews can find out if there really are maps with H.B.D. written on them. Until they do, I think the concept is fascinating, and it has relevance to many of the postings I’ve been doing lately.

Unexplored territory can be scary.   Anytime you move from an old way of doing things to a new way, it’s pretty easy to quickly become uncomfortable.   Going into this new territory, whether be changing a diet, developing an exercise regime, settling into a new job, or making some other change in your life, committing to unfamiliar practices can make you feel lost and unsure of yourself.  Sound familiar?

What can you do when you confront one of these dragons in the uncharted waters of your own life?  Many folks seek refuge in the harbor of their old habits.  Yes, going back to where you were might make you feel comfortable and may give you shelter and a sense of safety, but it could deny you the success you will experience if you stay on course.

The feedback and support you get from others can help you navigate this unfamiliar territory. When its all said and done, some adventurous sailors did venture out into those mysterious waters where they had never been been before.  Did they ever really encounter the dragons?  I think you know the answer.

Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from boldly developing a new course for your life.  For some, this might only mean making small changes and easily achieved goals.  Good for you! For others, it might mean developing life-changing goals and objectives that won’t be easy to achieve. Not easy doesn’t mean  impossible, however.  I bet there will be a lot of people to cheer you on. I’ll be one of them 🙂

Ignatian Spirituality Inspiration Mind Spirit

Heroic Living

The title of the book, Heroic Living, intrigued me, so I picked it up.  Written by Chris Lowney, the book uses Ignatian Spirituality as a tool for developing a personal life strategy to achieve your “mighty purpose” in life.

Lowney was a high-powered investment banker for JP Morgan.  He got out in time.  I don’t even know if JP Morgan exists anymore.  Well, before he was an investment banker, the author was a Jesuit seminarian for a time.  While he was in formation, he developed a love for the Ignatian Spirituality which reminds us to “find God in all things.”

So, Lowney combined the leadership skills he learned at JP Morgan with his passion for this centuries old spiritual way of living, and presto, this book was born.  I’m not sure if you can get it at your local library, but maybe.  If not, it came out in paperback not that long ago,  and I think it can be a helpful tool for anyone who is desiring to make changes in their lives.

This comes from the introduction,

You were born to change the world.

You can make the most of this unique opportunity by mastering three vital skills:

  • Articulate a purpose worth the rest of your life.
  • Make wise career and relationship choices in this changing, uncertain world.
  • Make every day matter by mindful attention to your thoughts, actions, and results.

Is that a great teaser, or what?  I know many people who are in my life, some reading these words, who want to make changes so they can begin to be the person God is calling them to be. Whether it be this book, or one like it on your shelf, the time to start making these changes is now. We have to get moving.

As Pope John Paul II reminded us so often, quoting from the words of the angels found throughout the Bible, “do not be afraid.”


Who I Am Makes A Difference

This morning, my sister emailed me about this powerful video.  For some of you reading this blog, it will have deep meaning.  Mother Theresa used to say that we didn’t need to do great things, just little things with great love.  The video speaks for itself….

Body Inspiration Mind Nutritional Supplements

Todd Burrier

Todd Burier is a friend of mine and he works hard at helping people live healthier and happier lives.  He does this as a motivational speaker and wellness expert.  The other day, he sent me a really inspirational email, and I asked him for permission to share it with you.  He said yes and you can read it below.  Todd has two websites at the bottom of his email.  Take a minute and check them out.

Sunday as I was traveling, I landed in Memphis and was picked up by the man who typically shuttles me to and from the airport. As we were walking to the van I noticed someone walking very closely behind us. Almost like they were going in the same direction as us, but didn’t realize they were walking so close to us that it seemed strange. As we got to the van, this woman was still right next to us and at this moment the man introduced me to her as his daughter. This was the first acknowledgement that she was with us.

This woman is 40 years old, and the man had told me in the past about the disease that she and some of her other siblings were born with. Essentially they were born with no sweat glans, no ability to have teeth, and no hair. I don’t know the name of the disease only that the things I descirbed are just the tip of the ice berg. For many years it was questionable that they would live very long.

As we were riding to our destination I learned that she had spent all day at a Zumba seminar to get certified to teach this aerobic dance/fitness style (which she must teach with an air conditioner blowing directly on her or her body will overheat and she could die). It was hard to get her to talk because she was very shy.

On the way back to the airport a few days later I asked her Dad some more questions. She is unemployed, has had a very hard life (as you can imagine…not just living with the disease, but dealing with the verbal abuse she took from schoolmates making fun of her) and is trying to start her own business teaching Zumba. She has no experience running a business and no money, but she rented a little warehouse space and is giving it a try. I told the man that if he had her call me I would be happy to help her in any way that I could.

I was surprised when she emailed me and said she would like to talk. I called her yesterday and spoke to her about 20 minutes. I learned that she has a passion for helping peoiple with their weight (because she has had her own struggles) and she has a passion for dance, and Zumba gives her a way to do both at the same time. Of course she is going out on a limb by renting space in a warehouse, with no experience and no way to pay her bills, and no understanding of how to run a business.

I gave her a few ideas about how to make sure she could keep the doors open first, while she kept a roof over her head. She was so thankful, because she had no idea how to even think about what to do. Basically all I did was encourage her and help her see that she can do it.

That phone call felt very good for me. There is no interest or gain in this for me. It was purely to encourage and help someone else. And that’s the point of the story.

People who are trying to accomplish something need encouragement. They need people to cheer them on and be there for them. Not just because this helps them, but because there aren’t many people who do it.

People spend more time telling people why it won’t work or questioning the attempt. Why?

Sometimes out of ignorance…they simply don’t know any better.

Sometimes out of jealousy….you are doing something which makes them reflect on themselves.

Sometimes out of fear….that you will succeed and things will change between you.

Sometimes out of concern…they genuinely are worried you might fail (unfortunately this is a limited view becasue it is far better in life to try and fail than to not try)

Sometimes out of selfishness…because your goal will take time away from them.

There’s more, but this gives you an idea. Having been someone who has strived for goals in a very open way for years I can attest first hand that encouragement is a rare commodity. Anyone who is attempting to accomplish something is going to have struggle, doubt, fear, fatigue, etc. at various times.Help them. Be there for them. Encourage them.

Think of someone you know today who is working toward something. Call them up and let them know how much you respect what they are doing and how much you believe in them. Let them know that you know they can do it and that when times get hard, you will be there for them. Ask them if there is anything you can do for them. It will be a gift to them…and not bad for you either.

Many Blessings,


Todd Burrier-Making a Million Lives Better

“When we know about something that can help people we have a responsibility to share.”