Some "behind the scene" views of the Vatican

Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St Peter

Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St Peter
Sistine Chapel (Pietro Perugino – “Christ Handing the Keys of the Kingdom to Saint Peter” C.1475)

En-route into the Vatican Studios of Vatican Radio, to conduct the English language commentary of the Papal Mass from the Basilica of St John Lateran today, the Thirsd Sunday in Advent, during which the Holy Father opened the Holy Door of that Basilica; our own transitional parish deacon, Phil Andrews, studying at the Venerable English College in Rome, took these early-morning views of his walk from the College to Vatican City. Many of these places are not open to the public for security reasons becasue of their proximity to the Apostolic Palace, and Secretariat of State.
St John Lateran is the preeminent Church of the Christian world, being the Pope’s own Cathedral as Bishop of Rome, containing as it does his Cathedra, or seat, which is the sign of his teaching authority. Inscribed on the great facade of this building, originally built by the Emperor Constantine in AD324, are the words: Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput (which in England are rendered: “The Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the City and the world, the mother and head”. It was this celebration today which inaugurated the opening of the Holy Doors in Cathedrals around the world, including that of our own Cathedral Church of St George in Southwark.
Most of Deacon Phil’s current pastoral work in Rome is with Vatican Radio, part of which involves English language commentaries for Papal events, which are then carried by such media outlets as EWTN. Deacon Phil, and his colleague at the VEC, Deacon David Howell from St Raphael’s in Surbiton are due to be ordained to the Priesthood in Southwark Cathedral this coming 16 July, alongside Daniel Weatherly from Tunbridge Wells.

San Giovanni dei Fiorentini (This church, at the head of the via Giulia, has been designated the primary church for English-speaking pilgrims during the Jubilee of Mercy. During this year, Both Deacon Phil and Deacon David will officiate at Holy Hours and Devotions in Latin and English, for the English-speaking pilgrims in Rome. Holy Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation will also be available in English in this church. Note the humourous grafitti on the “No Entry” sign. The Romans invented grafitti over two thousand years ago. Without it, we may never have found St Peter’s tomb, which was identified by the presence of grafiti on a red wall enclosing his secret shrine!

Looking across towards the Castel Sant’Angelo (originally the Mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, c.AD134), the ancient Ponte Sant’Angelo (also constructed in AD134 for the Emperor Hadrian, and which is now surmounted by beautiful angels, carved during the Renaissance, some by Bernini), and in the foreground, the Ponte Vittorio Emanuelle II, built in the C19 following the unification of Italy under the Crown of the Savoyards.

Two views of St Peter’s Square, showing the Crib and Christmas Tree. Note the heightened security around Vatican City. In recent days, The Holy Father, the Vaticam, and Rome itself have been explicitly theatened by ISIS in a number of terrifying videos showing the city’s destruction. This, however, has deterred neither the Holy Father, nor the citizens of Rome, from carrying on with their lives, in spite of the increased security everywhere.


Porta Sant’Anna, the “Tradesman’s Entrance” to Vatican City, and used by all employees.


The Belvedere Courtyard, adjacent to the Apostolic Palace and Secretariat of State. Note the top of the cupola of St Peter’s just above what is in effect the liturgical south wall of the Sistine Chapel.


Three views of the First Loggia of the St Damasus Courtyard


Three views of the Sala Ducale



Two views of the Sala Regia, looking towards the Pauline Chapel, a private chapel of the Pope, which contains frescoes by Michelangelo, dating from 1541


Another view of the Sala Regia, looking away from the Pauline Chapel


A view of the door into the Sistine Chapel from the Sala Regia. It is this door which is ceremonially sealed when the Cardinals are in Conclave.


A fresco in the Sala Regia — the Return of Pope Gregory XI from Avignon (Giorgio Vasari, c.1572)


The Great Loggia of the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, looking liturgical north


The Great Loggia of the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, the window in the centre of the facade from which the Holy Father imparts his blessing to the City and the World: Urbi et Orbi


The Great Loggia of the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, looking into the basilica


The Great Loggia of the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, the throne


The modest sound booths, located behind the throne, and over the Arch of the Bells, of the facade of St Peter’s. It is from here that all commentaries are given in the various languages, regardless of where the Holy Father himself may be.


A view into St Peter’s Square from the Facade of St Peter’s (window beneath the Arch of the Bells)


Deacon Phil Andrews working hard during a Papal Mass commentary!


Santas waiting to undertake a charity bike ride in via della Conciliazione. Note the everyday sign directing tourists to the priceless frescoes by Raphael in the Villa Farnesina. Of course, the Stanze delle Segnatura within the Vatican are really the place to see Raphael at his best, notably, the “Disputation of the Holy Sacrament”, and the “School of Athens”.

Thank you

A big thank you to everyone from the parish for their kind best wishes, and generous gift, following my recent ordination to the diaconate at Palazzola, near Rome. I’ve received such a warm welcome since returning to the parish for the summer.
Below is a picture of the Southwark group who attended the ordination, including my co-ordained, The Rev. David Howell (from St Raphael’s Surbiton), Fr Matthew O’Gorman (ordained priest the following week, and resident in New Malden for August), and Fr Peter Edwards.
Please be assured of my prayers for you all.
(Special thanks to my confrere, Alex Balzanella, for the photographs.)

(L-R) Fr Stephen Langridge (Diocesan Vocations Director), The Rev. David Howell (St Raphael, Surbiton), Fr David Hutton (PP, Our Lady of the Rosary, Hayes), The Rt Rev. John Arnold (Bishop of Salford), Fr Matthew O’Gorman (Asst. Priest-elect of Purley), The Rev. Phil Andrews (St Joseph, New Malden), Mr Francis Murphy (Seminarian, parish of St Thomas More, Dulwich), Fr Peter Edwards (PP, St Joseph, New Malden)

Catholics, Come Home!


Whether you’re…

a Protestant, or of another faith;

or a Catholic, but not currently coming to Mass;

or a Catholic who wants to know more, either for yourself, or in order to help family and friends, ‘Come Home’…

is for you!

We are Catholic, Welcome Home!

Do you feel called: Priesthood or Religious Life?

If you feel called to the priesthood or religious life, you might like to read this article, which appeared on

Don’t Just Discern Your Vocation

by BR. GABRIEL T. MOSHER, O.P on OCTOBER 18, 2013 

There’s a cause for today’s vocation shortage that’s rarely addressed. Too many people are discerning; not enough people are deciding. I know they mean well, but instead of courageously pursuing the priesthood or religious life they form safe communities where they can muse on ideals instead of act on principles.
I call them the Order of Perpetual Discerners. I’m not questioning their piety. I wouldn’t dream of impugning their intentions. However, they fundamentally misunderstand how to discern God’s will. They agonize over the call. They seek spiritual directors and confidants to emote about the vexing feelings they’re experiencing. The sad result is that they never actually discern; they only dream.
The narcissism pervading our culture is a major cause of this trend. We act as if it’s a virtue. Popular culture promotes it. Popular Christian culture is ensnared by it. It’s not surprising that the modern obsession with self-care was bound to cause some problems. The philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard provides intellectual soil for it. Personality cults popularize it. Televangelists and magazine rack mystics sell it. Our contemporary culture has been perfectly constructed to cultivate narcissistic Christianity. Combine the popular psychologism preached in our parishes with a society steeped in postmodern despair and you get exactly what we’ve got — a simulacrum of the Corinthian Christianity that St. Paul fought against.
Common trends of vocational discernment typify the Catholic appropriation of this narcissism. The problem isn’t whether people are or are not discerning. The problem is people are stuck in their heads. It’s like they’re waiting for an infallible neon sign from God. “Constantine got his in hoc signo, so should I!” The truth is, however, God doesn’t usually operate that way. He’s the author of the ordinary, the mundane. God reveals the extraordinary only after we’ve embraced the ordinary.
The scenario I’m describing is ubiquitous. I frequently see it among candidates inquiring into my own Order. This narcissism is why so many will “come and see,” but so few will “stay to pray.” They’ve gotten stuck in the discernment trap and they lack the tools to get out. They try to get out by doing exactly what our culture has taught them to do. They look inward. Yet, by doing this they’ll never find what they’re seeking. Why? Because the answer is found on the outside not on the inside. Thankfully, this sickness isn’t unto death.
Technically the word discernment is a good one. It describes the ability to wisely chose one thing over another. It’s not simply the ability to separate good from bad. More specifically it’s the ability to place all the good things we encounter in a hierarchical order from what’s good to what’s best. Discernment is essentially an intellectual process of ordering perceived goods. However, we can get stuck in the process if we lack critical information. When this happens we become paralyzed because all our possible choices seem to be equally good. In this scenario we become incapable of discerning which vocation to choose. This is the discernment trap. The lacuna in our knowledge is often the result of asking the wrong question. We usually ask ourselves which vocation is better for me. Instead we need to simply ask which vocation is better.
I can already hear objections and outrage at what I just wrote. That’s because savvy readers know what I’m about to say. The best vocation is the one immediately ordered to contemplation. The best vocation is religious life. Moderns think this statement  is an insult to married couples. They think it’s antiquated hogwash. After all, didn’t the Second Vatican Council do away with thinking of religious life as objectively superior to married life?
Well, not exactly. The Council desired that we avoid minimizing the dignity of Holy Matrimony. Lord knows there’s been enough of that! What, then, does it mean for religious life to be objectively superior to married life? It’s simply the consequence of religious life being a more perfect reflection of beatitude. Married life is good but religious life is better. The Second Vatican Council affirms this position when it calls religious life an eschatological sign. It literally allows us to begin living on earth what the saints experience in heaven.
Probably most people reading this article have never heard this before now. That’s because it’s never, or rarely, preached. But it’s also because we rarely consider how God’s love affects our daily lives. What does this mean? It means God desires our highest good. This isn’t limited to His desire that we get to heaven. His love extends to all the particular aspects of our life. God wants the best for us at every moment of our lives in every possible way. When His love intersects with vocational discernment the ramifications are clear. He desires that we participate in the highest of form of Christian life. God desires that each of use enter religious life.
Once discernment is seen this way everything changes. The question is no longer about whether God desires me to live one way or another. No. I already know that God desires me to choose and possess the greatest good. Knowing this the process of discernment is no longer about guessing what’s in God’s mind. Discernment becomes a question of whether I’m capable of living religious life or not.
St. Thomas Aquinas was no stranger to the difficulties of discernment. He also excelled at placing things in their proper order. Wisely, he left a practical guide to help us get out of the discernment trap. Much of what I’m saying is found in Question 189 in the “Secunda secundae” of the Summa Theologiae. Each article asks very practical questions about religious discernment. Each are real questions from his day. Many of them were surely his own questions. Most of them are the same questions we continue to ask today. His conclusions are as helpful today as when the ink was still fresh. Tolle lege!
The reality is, however, that you can read about discernment until your eyes fall out. There is a simpler solution that Aquinas would appreciate. Enter the novitiate! Enter the seminary! Among good things there is no replacement for experiential knowledge. The Church knows this and has designed these structures to help your discernment. A pair of pants may look nice on the rack, but you’ll never know if they fit until you try them on. And, if you already know your size, what are you waiting for. Buy the pants! Entering the seminary or the novitiate doesn’t involve signing a contract in your own blood. They are trial periods for both you and the community. They are designed for you to “try on” the community. If a community doesn’t fit, you can always put it back on the rack.
Remember, you’ll never discover your vocation in your own head. Stop over-thinking it! Follow the example of our Blessed Mother.  When God calls, answer. After you answer, ponder. While you ponder it follow Him wherever He leads you. Be at peace. Abandon yourself to God’s will and you will undoubtedly save your own soul and win the salvation of many more. Make a choice and live it.

Br. Gabriel T. Mosher, O.P


Br. Gabriel Thomas Mosher, O.P. is a Dominican Student Brother with the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, studying at the DSPTand residing at St. Albert Priory in Oakland, CA. He attended Texas A&M University but completed his B.A. in Philosophy at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. When Br. Gabriel, O.P. isn’t studying he is frequently engaged in the work of the New Evangelization through the responsible use of Social Media, giving talks on a variety of topics, and leading retreats. You can contact or follow Br. Gabriel, O.P. online at his site The Eighth Way, on Facebook, or Twitter.