Dear Friends in Christ,
Christmas greetings and prayers to you and your loved ones. I hope you are having a joyful celebration of the Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. We keep you in our prayers and ask God’s many blessings upon you. Remember, Christmas begins on December 25th and extends for twelve days.
Since I have returned from Rome, someone who read my one hundred postings about my life in the Eternal City over the past two years, wrote to me, “You never said what you precisely did for work there.” I’d better give an accounting now!
My work in Rome included first and foremost the praying of the Divine Office each day in the chapel at our curia Sant’Ambrogio, where I lived. Vigils is prayed daily at 5:30 am, and lasts about forty-five minutes and is followed by a period of Lectio Divina, holy reading, in one’s room, until the Office of Lauds at 7:00, followed by Holy Mass. Terce is prayed at the end of Mass and breakfast follows. The Office of Sext is at 12:45 pm, then None, both right before the main meal, which is taken at about 1:00 pm. Vespers is prayed at 7:00 pm, followed by supper and then dishes, and Compline prayed in the chapel at about 8:20 pm. Great Silence follows. All these prayers and Masses are celebrated in common with the other monks in residence at curia Sant’Ambrogio.
Our Abbot President Guillermo Arboleda, the head of our Subiaco Cassinese Congregation since late 2016, has insisted from the start that there be a “praying presence” in the place where the great Doctor of the Church, Saint Ambrose, once lived. There have been eight of us monks from different parts of the world (Brazil, Burkino Faso, Colombia, France, Italy, United States, Vietnam) living and praying in common each day, somewhat as “contemplatives in the city,” since our curia is in the historic center of Rome.
Daily work for me in Rome included making regular translations of documents from Spanish and Italian into English. These were done for the Abbot President or for our Procurator General. I was also Guestmaster at Sant’Ambrogio these past two years. There are some six rooms regularly used by monks in our cloister area, and another room near the entrance to the curia that can used by nuns and laity coming to Rome as pilgrims or in order to see the Abbot President. I was also in charge of the finances of the house, keeping track of funds going out and coming in, getting cash from the bank, keeping records of receipts and of monthly expenses. I answered the door, the phone and emails, generally speaking and writing in English, Italian and Spanish. On occasions, small tour groups come to Sant’Ambrogio to see some of the artwork housed at the curia, and I was in charge of arranging the requested tours and guiding the groups.
Sometimes I was asked to take guests of Abbot President Guillermo around Rome or to the famous Abbey-sanctuaries of Subiaco and Montecasino. I was, and technically still am, Rector of the small adjacent church of Saint Ambrose. This appointment was made by the Vatican, which oversees the churches of Rome. Some of the Nigerian community of Rome uses the church each Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. My work as Rector was mostly opening and closing the gates and doors to the church. In the historic center of Rome there is always need for vigilance and security concerns.
During 2017 and 2018 I also tended to the maintenance needs of our curia residence and the church, both of which are several hundred years old. I didn’t do the maintenance myself, of course, but identified competent workers to do the needed repairs to roof, walls, bathrooms, etc.
So these past two years I have been a jack of all trades and a master of none! Early in 2017 we were actively seeking a possible alternative place to have the curia, but the house search ended last year with a decision to remain at Sant’Ambrogio and to slowly make necessary repairs to the house itself, rather than move to another site, since no clear option emerged and there wasn’t sufficient funding to buy a new home in any case.
As a result of “always things to do,” I kept busy in Rome and wrote a weekly essay on various and sundry aspects of the Eternal City and other topics, usually more interesting than my several hours of work each day. I also tried to “take to the streets” of the city for an hour or so each day, for exercise and prayer. Thus summarizes my life and work in the city of Rome, from January 2017 until December of 2018.
The blessing of the new abbot here at Christ in the Desert will take place on Monday, March 25th at 10:30 am. The Archbishop of Santa Fe, John C. Wester, will preside at the ceremony of the Blessing of an Abbot. There will be a meal after the Mass. All are welcome to attend. There is likely to be a goodly number of well-wishers that day.
With assurance of prayers and always grateful for yours.