Saturday, 10 March 2007

The Massimo Miracle


This Friday (16 March) sees one of Rome’s most picturesque feasts – a commemoration of the Massimo miracle of 1583. The location was the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, now on the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, the home of the oldest of Roman families – claiming descent from the great consul and dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus (d. 203 BC).

The miracle involved St Philip Neri and young Prince Paolo, who was lying on his deathbed. The saint was called but could not come immediately since he was celebrating Mass. By the time he arrived, the fourteen year-old had died and the family was stricken with great mourning and was preparing to wash and dress the boy’s body, as was the custom. St Philip, however, was not perturbed and sprinkled the boy’s mouth and face with holy water and lay his hands on him. He called the boy twice - ‘Paolo, Paolo’ – and he returned to life, to everyone’s amazement. The saint spoke to the boy for a quarter of an hour and finally asked him: ‘are you willing to die, or to continue longer in this life?’ Paolo replied that he preferred to die, ‘for he knew that he had a certain place set aside for him in heaven, to enjoy the splendour of God…and so, in his longing for death, as if he was entering the land of the living, he breathed forth his spirit a second time, in the sight and in the embrace of the holy Father’ (Gallonio).

The miracle provides an appropriate festa for Lent, inspiring us to consider our mortality and to live each day in readiness to meet the Lord. The ancient doors of the Palazzo Massimo are swung open every 16 March and Romans pour in, greeted by the traditional doorman.


They crowd the magnificent rooms, especially the chapel (the room where Paolo died), where Masses (in Old and New Rites) are continually said at the three altars. The Institute of Christ the King often helps with the liturgy, especially the Missa Cantata celebrated by a visiting Cardinal (all photos courtesy of them).



First year seminarians even dress as pages!


I publish this post early because I’m away this coming week at the Royal College of St Alban, Valladolid (Spain), an English seminary founded by Fr Persons during the reign of the first Elizabeth. This is not, I hasten to add, a holiday but a sort ‘in-service training week’ for a group of about 20 Westminster priests called the ‘Under 5s’ (i.e. 'baby' and 'toddler' priests in terms of Ordination year). I hope we’ll be able to enjoy the Christian heritage of Spain and not spend TOO much time in workshops discussing time-management or faith-sharing. We’ll be joined by H.E. the Cardinal and his Auxiliary, Bishop Alan Hopes. Be assured of my prayers as I walk in the footsteps of St Teresa and St John of the Cross and visit Avila and Segovia. God willing, posting will resume next weekend.

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Andrew said...

Fr. Ronald was talking about this to the Brothers of the Little Oratory a few months ago. I'm suprised that the old rite is even allowed up there without any interference.

12:58 am  
Blogger Hebdomadary said...

As I was saying! :-) I'd forgotten the name of the family...shameful of me as a little brother...I do so wish I could be there. Thanks for posting this!

7:39 am  
Anonymous Paul said...

With the best will in the world those two 'pages' look a spooky pair, especially the one on the right. Are they really seminarians?

4:14 pm  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Are you a Brother of the Little Oratory as well Hebdomadary?

I believe Fr. Scofield also a Brother too in Oxford Oratory if I'm not mistaken? Is that right?

12:06 pm  
Blogger Vernon said...

NOT FOR DIRECT PUBLICATION AS A COMMENT

Father, As you know, there is justifiable opposition to the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

On the 10 Downing Street web site there is an electronic petition (e-petition) that ALL Catholics ought to sign. It requests exemption from the SOR for Faith Based Adoption Agencies.

The e-petition is at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Adoptionprotest

Please can you give this exposure on your Blog since there are so far less than 2500 signatures and the petition deadline is on 26th April.

2:07 pm  
Anonymous Castor said...

What happened was that the Institute got involved with the family and thus got the Old Rite. Still, the Cardinals never used to celebrate the Old Rite. Sometimes it was a New Rite that looked old or had bits of old in it. in the Late 90's, Ratzinger celebrated the New Rite there with a completely silent Canon. Instead of the epistle, they read the story of the miracle. In the 90's of the Institute priests was having a moral crisis over having to read it. However, his scrupulosity did not last. Last year a Czech seminarian (de Lobkowitz, I think) could barely get through the Latin. De Magistris celebrated the new rite (old style), complete with concelebrants in stoles. From time-to-time, one of the private Masses is in the Byzatine Rite (complete with stabbing the host to death = its a sacrifice)

9:03 pm  
Blogger hilary said...

oo! Father. You made me all weepy. Probably just because I'm a Philip fan and a sucker for the sweet stuff. Mercy of God and all that, always makes me misty.

9:01 pm  
Anonymous Castor said...

Yes, they are/were 1st year seminarians of Gricigliano. For the same scene, see the opening of the "Pricipessa Domitilla" and clerical fashion show, in Felini's Roma. It's exactly the same as your photos. Is pages the right term?

10:38 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Castor - I suspect pages is not technically correct but, as I was posting in a rush before going to Spain, I couldn't think of any better term.

Andrew - when I was aged 17 (c.1993) I became a Brother in London, at the hands of Fr Barrett-Leonard. I haven't been to any meetings since entering seminary in 1997.

9:48 am  
Anonymous Paul said...

Castor, I, too, was reminded of the clerical fashion show in Felini's Roma but thought it inadvisable to mention it. It brings out the spookier side of the era of Pius XII and is a marvellous satire on the church furnishers of Rome. The vestments they sell today are every bit as bad. I am glad that this annual commemoration continues but I wonder what the Colonna family really think of the liturgical variations in their private chapel? I suspect they are too polite to comment except among themselves. Good for Cardinal Ratzinger to have celebrated the Mass of Vatican II in the spirit of Vatican I, exactly like the Oratory.

5:43 pm  
Anonymous Castor said...

The point of the scene is to depict the then contemporary (1972?) nostalgia for the past of the Black Nobility. More than a spoof on the church furnishes, I think the fashion show is an allegory of Vatican II (see the prelates sitting in the stands on each side), where all sorts of ecclesiastics were parading through Rome and the vestments started changing.

That's the Massimo family, not Colonna. They certainly made some comments to me, albeit very polite ones.

10:47 pm  
Anonymous Castor said...

The point of the scene is to depict the then contemporary (1972?) nostalgia for the past of the Black Nobility. More than a spoof on the church furnishes, I think the fashion show is an allegory of Vatican II (see the prelates sitting in the stands on each side), where all sorts of ecclesiastics were parading through Rome and the vestments started changing.

That's the Massimo family, not Colonna. They certainly made some comments to me, albeit very polite ones. Among others, there was some polite astonishments at the two priests who tried to concelebrate the Old Rite, and one of them was not even Latin Rite! They were quite shocked to get to the altar and find only an antique missal.

10:49 pm  
Anonymous Andrew said...

No worries Father.

It'd be a nice suprise if you did grace us with your presence though, when you are free (which can't be very often but then...) Do you remember Pat Roberts? He's still there. And there is another Catholic blogger who goes regularly too.

2:29 am  

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