Category Archives: Life in Rome

Merry Christmas!

Dear friends,

I pray that that the Christ Child will fill your hearts with his peace and joy in the year to come.

Merry Christmas!

Yours truly,

Br. Eric Wandrey


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Nativity Scene with St. Lawrence and St. Francis, 1609



In Jars of Clay: Our Participation in the Priesthood of Christ


The Ministerial Priesthood

Thirty-five newly-ordained confreres of mine were very excited about being greeted by Pope Francis yesterday during the general audience, but I do not think that any of them expected how he chose to greet them: in an amazing reversal of protocol, he bent over kissed each of their hands.

Breaking protocol is nothing new for Pope Francis – we all remember how he caused a stir when he bowed to the Queen of Jordan – but I think that yesterday’s gesture was particularly significant. Traditionally, one must greet the Pope by kissing his ring (which is hard to do with Pope Francis, unless you duck in before he pulls his hand away), so what does it mean when the Vicar of Christ himself kisses the hand of a priest? I have been thinking about that since yesterday.

Many of the new priests are friends of mine whom I have known since my days in minor seminary and in the novitiate. I got to know some of them pretty well, so it was especially awesome to watch them be transformed instantaneously from ordinary men, with qualities and quirks like anyone else, into ordained ministers, “other Christs”. These comrades of mine with whom I have lived, worked, and prayed for years are now sacramentally identified with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity: a profound ontological change has occurred in each of them. They now have the power to act in persona Christi: with a word, they can transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and with another they can wipe away decades of sin.

Yesterday morning, ordinary eyes would have seen only 35 men going to meet the Holy Father, but Pope Francis10712430_612488242189180_4703237899532678699_o does not have ordinary eyes – he has eyes of faith. When he looked at that group of fresh new priests, he saw Christ: he bowed to reverence his Lord who had deigned to make Himself present in each of those men and he humbled himself before the One whose Vicar he is.

The Common Priesthood

Anyone who has done a tour with me of St. Peter’s Basilica will know that the first thing I point out is a large circle of imperial porphyry near the main entrance. Imperial porphyry is extremely rare and expensive (all of the quarries have been exhausted), so why is it not roped off? Why is it that anyone who wishes may step on it? The answer is impressive.

On Christmas Day, 800 AD, Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, was crowned by Pope Leo IV on that very stone. For centuries, the only person allowed to touch it was the emperor himself. However, it has been moved to its current position for a very significant reason: all baptized Christians participate in the kingship of Christ, and therefore, all of us have a right to tread upon royal ground. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9); we share in Christ’s threefold mission as priests, prophets, and kings.

It is truly marvelous to think that we are all royal priests: by virtue of our baptism, we are mediators between God and the world. We can carry out three essentially priestly functions of worship, intercession and sanctification. By living our lives as well as we can for the glory of God, we offer worship to our Creator; by offering up prayers and sacrifices, we intercede for ourselves and others; by ordering our work and relationships towards God, we sanctify all that we do and the people with whom we live.

Obviously, there are some roles that are unique to those who have been ordained to the ministerial priesthood since only they can administer the seven sacraments. However, this does not negate the fact that we participate in Christ’s priesthood in a very real way: just as Christ, the God-man, is the bridge between God and men, so are we called to be instruments through whom others are able to come to God.

Praying WomanIf we look at our lives with eyes of faith like those of Pope Francis, they will never seem boring or unfulfilled –  how could they be when we are royal priests? When we see life from this perspective, even the most ordinary things become extraordinary: waking up in the morning, getting ready for the day, commuting to work – all of these mundane activities can be elevated to a new supernatural plane; they can be made part of an ongoing priestly sacrifice which is offered to God as an act of worship, intercession, and sanctification.

From the outside, our lives may seem like unremarkable jars of clay, but the spiritual treasures they hold within are beyond compare.

Church-a-thon Video

Dear friends,

In St. Peter's Square (photo credit: Br. Brett Taira)
In St. Peter’s Square (photo credit: Br. Brett Taira)

In last week’s post, I requested prayer intentions for a special pilgrimage in which my confreres and I were to participate on Saturday, December 6th. I printed out all of the intentions that I received and I prayed for the them in each of the 25 churches that we visited.

Our pilgrimage was a wonderful experience. As was expected, we ended with sore legs and feet, but very happy nevertheless. The fatigue of a long day of walking was small compared to some of the intentions we had been asked to pray for.

Please take a moment to watch this video, which provides a beautiful snapshot of a beautiful day: 

Next week, I look forward to telling you about the priestly ordination of 35 of confreres which will take place on Saturday at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

God bless!

Yours in Christ,

Br. Eric Wandrey


882291_432687833484963_1123045903_oThis Saturday, December 6th, my confreres and I will be participating in an event that we like to call “The Church-a-thon”. Once every Advent and every Lent, we hit the cobblestone streets of Rome early in the morning and don’t stop walking until we have visited 25 predetermined churches.

Mass in front of the Holy Manger during last year's Church-a-thon.
Mass in front of the Holy Manger at St. Mary Major’s.

At each stop, we entrust to Our Lord and to the patron of the church the specific intentions of those who have asked for our prayers.  We usually start walking at 7 am, have mass at St. Mary

With my good friends brothers: Br. Keegan, Br. Daniel and Br. David.
With my good friends and brothers during a past Church-a-thon: Br. Keegan, Br. Daniel and Br. David.

Major’s Basilica around 9 am, start walking again, have lunch at 1 pm, keep on walking, and finish around 7 pm. Needless to say, we all end the day with sore legs and feet!

Send me your prayer intentions! You can do so by leaving a comment here or by sending me a message using the contact form below.

To find out more about the Church-a-thon, visit I look forward to telling you how it goes!

Making Your Life a Masterpiece

Crashing a Party at the Vatican: 

St Peter's at nightI don’t usually crash parties at the Vatican, but that’s effectively what I did last week! It was Sunday night at the Taverna Angelica (an excellent restaurant in what is otherwise a culinary black hole surrounding the Vatican), and I walked in at about 7:30 pm to join some friends from out of town for dinner. After a  glance around the tiny establishment, I realized that I had just walked into the midst of an impressive gathering of American Catholic intellectuals. And when I say “Catholic intellectuals”, I mean “heavy-hitting Catholic intellectuals:  I think that the only heavy-hitters not present were George Weigel and Archbishop Chaput! Everywhere I looked I saw writers, theologians, bishops and cardinals.

So, I felt a little out-of-place as I walked through the erudite crowd to join my friends. When I found them, they were also marveling at the number of diplomas and credentials filling the restaurant. One of them looked at me and said, “Did we walk into a First Things meeting?”

I did not mean to disturb the event, but I was wearing my Roman collar and speaking English, so everyone I bumped into assumed that I was a part of their party. Even though I explained why I was there, and it was not my intent to capitalize on the initial misunderstanding, I did end up exchanging cards and meeting a number of very interesting people involved with influential Catholic institutes and think tanks. The highlight was meeting Dr. Robert P. George, the renowned Catholic professor of jurisprudence from Princeton.


humanumI soon found out that the high density of Catholic-American brainpower was due to a conference taking place at the Vatican that week called “Humanum: International Interreligious Colloquium on The Complementarity of Man and Woman”. The event, hosted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and sponsored in part by the institutes represented at the gathering I had stumbled upon, was organized to produce a joint declaration on the importance of traditional marriage.

Later on, I went to check out the colloquium’s web site and was instantly impressed by its quality. The event’s video was a highly attractive compilation of images, testimonies, and pithy statements, all in defense of marriage. It is well-worth taking the time to watch it. (You can find it at this link:

The Cathedral

The part of the video that struck me the most was on a sculpture bycathedra Auguste Rodin known as The Cathedral. They interview Fleur Nabert, an attractive and articulate sculptress, who powerfully describes the masterpiece:

He put [the hands of a man and a woman] together with a very delicate gesture where they are slightly and gently touching each other. They are forming a perfect architecture, a kind of sanctuary, between the two hands. It looks like there is nothing [between them], but there is everything!

Ms. Nabert goes on to say that Rodin’s Cathedral makes a powerful comparison: just as the great cathedrals of Europe were constructed to be splendid spatial reminders of God, so marriages are “constructed” by the effort of both spouses to be relational, human reminders of God.

When a man and woman come together in the sacred bond of marriage, it is so much more than a legal agreement to live together. It is the joining of two immortal persons who through their love for each other participate in God’s life-giving and creative power. When men and woman come together in matrimony, they create a dwelling place for God. Within the sanctity of their exclusive, unitive, and procreative bond, they offer an image, a sacramental icon, of the loving and  creative union of the Holy Trinity.

notre dame apseThis is how marriage can be seen truly as a work of art. There is so much more to marriage than daily domestic grind: it is actually a masterpiece in progress. The more the couple works together in love and self-giving, the more beautiful there union becomes as an icon of God’s love and as a dwelling place of His presence.

As one beautiful Nigerian mother put it in the video: “Marriage is your own project for the world.” Its beauty is not just for the couple, nor even for just the family; it is meant to be a splendid proclamation of the beauty of God for the whole world to see.

Your Life, Your Masterpiece

michelangelo_-_creation_of_adam-29p8ptcBut this is not exclusive to marriage: it applies to all vocations. Everyone, whether married, single, or clerical, is called to live a beautiful life of love, one that announces God to the world. Ms. Nabert summed it up aptly at the end of her interview: “All of us can be creators of masterpieces of goodness, beauty, and spirituality.”

Whatever your state in life may be, remember that you are called to make it into a masterpiece of God’s love, one sacrifice, one task, one ordinary day at a time.