The University of St. Thomas

Farewell to Roma

Published on: Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

As I sit in the good old United States of America looking back on a semester in the Eternal City, I am having a hard time putting into words what the whole experience meant for me. I am back now, in my hometown with people and places so familiar to me. Yet, in a very real way, Rome, or at least parts of Rome, had become so familiar as well. There are certainly many dirty, smelly, annoying things about the city, and I am happy now to be back in the U.S., but I will always remember and treasure my time in Rome. There are little ways Rome is still with me, such as getting the Italian Mass part songs stuck in my head, wishing we had common dollar and two dollar coins to match the euro, or meeting every inconvenience with “Va bene.” In fact, last week as I was thinking through a trip to the store and my desire to put my purchases on two separate checks, my thought process went something like this, “How can I convey to the cashier that I want to pay for my groceries in two separate groups? Hmm, I wonder if they will even let me do that? – Oh wait, I’m in America now, I can just talk to them in English!” While I’m sure these kinds of thoughts will abate as I adjust back to the U.S., I think I can safely say that I am forever changed for the better by my European adventures.

The last days of the semester were certainly bittersweet, doing things I’d wanted to do all semester but hadn’t gotten around to it, and also revisiting favorite places to say goodbye. Jacqueline did such a good job capturing this aspect of the last few days that I’ll leave that to her, but here are a few pictures from my last week.

Our group picture from Florence where Fr. Carola took us women on a day trip shortly before the end of the semester.
Our group picture from Florence where Fr. Carola took us women on a day trip shortly before the end of the semester.
After visiting Gallery Borghese, one of those things I had wanted to do all semester, we stopped to take in the view of Piazza del Popolo from the Borghese gardens.
After visiting Gallery Borghese, one of those things I had wanted to do all semester, we stopped to take in the view of Piazza del Popolo from the Borghese gardens.
Then it was time to say goodbye to the streets of Rome and to St. Mary Major.
Then it was time to say goodbye to the streets of Rome and to St. Mary Major.
Goodbye to Piazza del Popolo and the twin churches.
Goodbye to Piazza del Popolo and the twin churches.
Goodbye to St. Peter's.
Goodbye to St. Peter’s.
Goodbye to the Bernardi chapel.
Goodbye to the Bernardi chapel.
And goodbye (for now) to all my Bernardians.  I wish all the best to the next group and all future students who take on that name.  Make the most of your time, it will go by fast.
And goodbye (for now) to all my Bernardians. I wish all the best to the next group and all future students who take on that name. Make the most of your time, it will go by fast.

From Jacqueline:

As our time in Rome grew closer to an end, tests and papers began piling up due to the Italian education system which saves everything till the end. The first floor lounge was filled with study parties and the commuter lab filled up with busy writers. Of course that didn’t mean that people stopped seeing the sights of Rome. Bernardians worked hard to complete their Rome bucket list.

During the last couple of days I was able to revisit many of my favorite places. Among other things, I looked one last time at Caravaggio’s paintings in Santa Maria del Popolo and visited the tomb of Saint Catherine at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. I also climbed the holy steps, the steps Christ stood on when he was condemned by Pontius Pilate. I remember the first time I saw all these holy places; I had been awestruck in wonder and surprise. Instead of that initial awe, there was now a quiet sense of peace and familiarity.

One of the privileges of living in Rome is the gift of being able to visit so many of our friends, the Saints. Thankfully, many Bernardians were able to get relics to bring home. I got relics of Saint Maria Goretti and Saint Gemma Galganni. I am so grateful to be able to bring these home with me, but I will certainly miss the toweringly beautiful churches which held many more Saints.

On our last night in Italy, all the Bernardians went as a group to A’ll Orsetto, a small family-run restaurant with which we had become quite familiar. Part of the beauty of Italian culture is that they really value regular customers, and there were a number of places where the waiters knew us by name, a way we really entered into Italian culture. After our lovely dinner many of us went to get gelato from Old Bridge, a gelateria right by St. Peters, and said goodbye to the Basilica that had become so familiar.

Rome is really at the heart of the Church. It’s streets are thick with rich history and filled with Catholics from all over the world who gather to study or even to come for just a little to see Papa Francesco. I was blessed to physically see the family of the church. It is a family which spreads horizontally across the world but also vertically throughout time as seen through apostolic succession and the Saints from the different centuries. While it is time to come home and finish school here, I know that our lives are changed from experiencing a new culture. Yes, there are cultural marks that people can see such as getting a slightly crazier hair cut or wearing more scarves, but there are also things that are much more profound. Traveling has given me a deeper understanding of what culture even means. My fellow Bernadians have given me deeper understanding of what community means. Rome has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be Catholic, and that is something which will impact the rest of my life.

The Little Sisters of the Lamb

Published on: Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Every Thursday a small group of us go the Little Sisters of the Lamb to do gardening work, cleaning, or whatever else they need done. These mornings were some of my favorites in Rome. The sisters are so trusting, relying entirely on God’s providence, and their simplicity is so beautiful. It doesn’t matter whether we are raking leaves, cleaning the chapel, trimming trees, or pulling weeds, just spending time with the sisters, getting to know them and learning from their way of life is a wonderful experience. They are some of the cutest sisters I have ever met. The four sisters we work with are from France and Spain and are working on their English. They are always very excited to learn new English words. They are always laughing and so joyful. At the end of our morning of work they always give us tea and cookies, which is a great time to talk to them more than the gardening work allows. Here are a few pictures from our last day with them.

The sign outside their door. (It says Little Sisters of the Lamb).
The sign outside their door. (It says Little Sisters of the Lamb).
This time we also helped them make lids for the boxes they store their music in.  Here is Elizabeth Heaney measuring the wood.
This time we also helped them make lids for the boxes they store their music in. Here is Elizabeth Heaney measuring the wood.
Sisters with power tools!
Sisters with power tools!
Sister Benedetta brings out the wood stain.
Sister Benedetta brings out the wood stain.

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Raking leaves in January...who would have thought?!
Raking leaves in January…who would have thought?!

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Washing up at the end of the morning.
Washing up at the end of the morning.

 

It was sad to say goodbye to them on the last day.  I had a wonderful time, and I will never forget them.
It was sad to say goodbye to them on the last day. I had a wonderful time, and I will never forget them.

 

An Italian Fiesta

Published on: Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Something that is sorely lacking in Italy is Mexican food, so for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12th, all of us Bernardians got together and prepared a Mexican feast. There were of course some adventures, such as successfully finding the only place in Rome that sells cilantro, but at the end of the day, it all worked out and it was a great time.

Dan Foley, Kyle Laylan, and Andrew Dieter work on the piñata.

Dan Foley, Kyle Laylan, and Andrew Dieter work on the piñata.

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Cooking chicken for the enchiladas.

Cooking chicken for the enchiladas.

 

Elizabeth Heaney works on some guacamole.

Elizabeth Heaney works on some guacamole.

Annie Junker wanted to help, so she and Hannah Polsky rolled the ice cream in corn flakes for the fried ice cream.

Annie Junker wanted to help, so she and Hannah Polsky rolled the ice cream in corn flakes for the fried ice cream.

 

The completed piñata.

The completed piñata.

Even little Benny Junker helped out in the kitchen.

Even little Benny Junker helped out in the kitchen.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

More Glimpses from Roma

Published on: Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

This semester is going by so fast! Every time I turn around, another week has past, and next week we will all disperse for Christmas break. I have a ton of photos that didn’t fit into any of my other posts, so, here are some random pictures.

This is from our picnic lunch in Piazza del Campo in Siena, where Fr. Carola and the rest of the chaplaincy took us on a day trip.

This is from our picnic lunch in Piazza del Campo in Siena, where Fr. Carola and the rest of the chaplaincy took us on a day trip.

The Junkers came with us to Siena.  Here is Dr. Junker with little Benny.

The Junkers came with us to Siena. Here is Dr. Junker with little Benny.

Liz Shearer and Annie Junker in Siena.

Liz Shearer and Annie Junker in Siena.

The friars from New York came with us as well.  They are in one of our classes at the Ang.

The friars from New York came with us as well. They are in one of our classes at the Ang.

Fr. Carola and Annie Junker walk hand in hand through Siena.

Fr. Carola and Annie Junker walk hand in hand through Siena.

This is the vineyard in Tuscany I walked through.  It was an unforgettable experience.

This is the vineyard in Tuscany I walked through. It was an unforgettable experience.

This is the view of the Forum from the top of the Palatine Hill.  It was amazing!

This is the view of the Forum from the top of the Palatine Hill. It was amazing!

 

Mary Conway and Elizabeth Heaney at a Jewish restaurant where we had dinner to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah.

Mary Conway and Elizabeth Heaney at a Jewish restaurant where we had dinner to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah.

There is a Eucharistic miracle in Orvieto, and when we got into town, we were greeted by a giant monstrance!

There is a Eucharistic miracle in Orvieto, and when we got into town, we were greeted by a giant monstrance!

This is just a random fountain we stumbled upon walking to the Vatican one day.

This is just a random fountain we stumbled upon walking to the Vatican one day.

As Advent continues to fly by, more and more lights are going up in the streets as Rome prepares for Christmas.  Now all we need here is some snow.

As Advent continues to fly by, more and more lights are going up in the streets as Rome prepares for Christmas. Now all we need here is some snow.

 

The “Ang” (Angelicum)

Published on: Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

My School … In Rome
Every time I walk past the statue of St. Thomas Aquinas at the Angelicum (the
Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas), I think about the St. Thomas campus back
in St. Paul. It’s like I can’t escape the guy! But it does remind me of how soon I will be
back on my home campus and how blessed I am to be able to study, just for a
semester, at this university. Because it is a Pontifical University, half of the students
are religious, priests, and seminarians. We have classes taught by some pretty cool
Dominican priests, including Mother Teresa’s spiritual director (not that that’s a big
deal or anything). Plus, the Ang campus is just beautiful.
 
The classrooms open up to a courtyard in the middle with clementine trees and an old, broken fountain

The classrooms open up to a courtyard in the middle with clementine trees and an old,
broken fountain.

 We have really cool hallways (often complete with sisters walking through).


We have really cool hallways (often complete with sisters walking through).

And we have staircases next to beautiful large windows.

And we have staircases next to beautiful large windows.

We have a pretty great classroom for Dr. Junker’s class (with more large beautiful  windows.)

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      The Ang gardens are one of my favorite places on campus. There are about a dozen
lemon trees, which come in handy if you happen to need a lemon to make scones.
Some in our group even eat the lemons straight. The benches in the garden are a
great place to eat lunch between classes, or work on some reading. It’s just like being
on the quad back on the home campus – except it’s in the heart of Rome, a few
minutes’ walk from the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Trevi fountain. All in all,
it is a great place to learn and grow, and if you are a student considering coming to
Rome – do it.
 

Tutti Santi

Published on: Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

 
       Ciao! This is Jacqueline. This year I was able to celebrate Halloween, the Feast of All
Saints, and All Souls Day in a unique way in Rome Sweet Home as well as through old
traditions.
       Halloween is definitely the time for apples, dressing up, and lots and lots of candy. We
made sure that we had all of those. We were able to find or make costumes, some of
which were super impressive (for example, we had a pretty convincing Lion and
martyrs, Saint Ignatius, and Cindy Lou Who). We also got mounds of candy and let the
Junker children trick-or-treat from door to door which was absolutely adorable.
While Halloween is not as big in Italy as it is in America, they take the Feast of All
Saints to a whole new level. They have lots of Saints buried everywhere around here
and even more relics all of which are venerated and celebrated on this day. It was
awesome to be with many of the Saints on their feast day and see so many people
from all over the place, gathering to see their patrons. As inconvenient as crowds can
be, it’s also amazing to think about how universal the church is. And, it reminds me of
how blessed I am to spend an entire semester visiting as many Saints as I want.
One neat thing about this time of the year was that there were flowers everywhere.
People flock to the cemeteries outside the cities limits at this time and lay flowers on
the graves of those they love. Actually, visiting a Roman cemetery on All Souls Day
was one of the most unique things I have experienced so far. Father Carola took us to
see the cemetery which was above ground and was massive. It is hard to describe
because it was so unlike anything I had ever experienced before. There was
mausoleum after monument after gravestone, stretching in every direction for as far
as the eye could see. It was a necropolis filled with flowers, people, and silence. As
dusk fell and shadows filled the entire space, the flickering of the candles became
more visible and the whole place was filled with the movement of dark and light, a
place filled with sorrow and death but also hope of those who had lost their loved
ones.
       Rome has been filled with so many incredible experiences like these; it allows me to
see and touch my faith in a real way. I am able to see the relics of the Saints, sit where
they sat, and not only pray where they prayed but also what they prayed when I join
them in the mass. All you Saints in Heaven, Pray for Us!!!
 
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A Reposo in Umbria

Published on: Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

As great as it is to be in Rome and as many cool ancient Catholic stuff there is here, Rome is still a big city, and for those of us who aren’t city people (and even some who are) the dirt and sweat and crowds start to get to you after a while.

Last weekend, Fr. Justin, one of our chaplains at Bernardi, took our whole group on a day trip to Perugia for their annual chocolate festival and then to Assisi. It was wonderful to get out of the city and experience Italy outside of Rome.

The view in Perugia was stunning, so of course we had to stop and enjoy it for a while before heading to the chocolate festival

The view in Perugia was stunning, so of course we had to stop and enjoy it for a while before heading to the chocolate festival

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The only thing I had heard about the chocolate festival was that there was a lot of chocolate involved, which certainly turned out to be true. The streets were filled with tents selling chocolate in any and all forms.

Chocolate with nuts...

Chocolate with nuts…

Truffles...

Truffles…

 

Chocolate pies...

Chocolate pies…

 

Chocolate with creamy layers of delicious...

Chocolate with creamy layers of delicious…

So much chocolate!  They even had "hot chocolate," which in Italy means basically just melted chocolate.

So much chocolate! They even had “hot chocolate,” which in Italy means basically just melted chocolate.

Lizzy enjoying her nutella crepe

Lizzy enjoying her nutella crepe

Once we were sufficiently filled with chocolate, we sat down on the edge of town to enjoy the view.

Once we were sufficiently filled with chocolate, we sat down on the edge of town to enjoy the view.

Mary Conway on the mini-metro from Perugia back to our bus.

Mary Conway on the mini-metro from Perugia back to our bus.

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Fr. Justin gave us a tour of Assisi, full of all things Fransiscan. Unfortunately the chruches in Assisi are very camera shy (NO FOTO!) so I don’t have pictures inside any of the churches, but we got to visit the tombs of St. Francis and St. Clare in their Basilicas, the convent where St. Clare died, and the cross which came alive to St. Francis telling him to rebuild the church.

Basilica di San Francesco

Basilica di San Francesco

Here is Father Justin being the best tour guide every.  He is pointing out the parish church St. Francis attended as a child.

Here is Father Justin being the best tour guide every. He is pointing out the parish church St. Francis attended as a child.

It was a real burden having to walk down this incredibly picturesque path through an olive orchard with the countryside spread out before us, but we bore it well.

It was a real burden having to walk down this incredibly picturesque path through an olive orchard with the countryside spread out before us, but we bore it well.

 

This is the courtyard in San Damiano, the convent of St. Clare where she died.  Fr. Justin celebrated mass for us in one of the chapels here to conclude our day.

This is the courtyard in San Damiano, the convent of St. Clare where she died. Fr. Justin celebrated mass for us in one of the chapels here to conclude our day.

Most of the group returned to Bernardi that evening, but some of us took the opportunity to stay in Assisi

Most of the group returned to Bernardi that evening, but some of us took the opportunity to stay in Assisi

The view from our hostel

The view from our hostel

The Junkers, who were also staying in Assisi that night, invited us to have dinner with them.  Every semester, a Catholic Studies professor and their family came to Rome to live in Bernardi with the students.  This semester we have Dr. Junker, his wife Therese, and their three adorable children.  They are a wonderful family, and it is so great to have kids in the house.

The Junkers, who were also staying in Assisi that night, invited us to have dinner with them. Every semester, a Catholic Studies professor and their family came to Rome to live in Bernardi with the students. This semester we have Dr. Junker, his wife Therese, and their three adorable children. They are a wonderful family, and it is so great to have kids in the house.

The next morning these three hooligans went off to climb a mountain while I found a peaceful place to work on homework.

The next morning these three hooligans went off to climb a mountain while I found a peaceful place to work on homework.

Altogether not a bad place to write a paper.

Altogether not a bad place to write a paper.

Stacy Lona chilling out in Assisi's main Piazza

Stacy Lona chilling out in Assisi’s main Piazza

San Rufino

We also visited San Rufino, where Francis and Clare were baptized, and stumbled upon a choir recording a musical about the life of St. Francis.

At San Rufino we discovered a room with a whole series of frescoes of John Paul II, by Giuseppe Afrune

At San Rufino we discovered a room with a whole series of frescoes of John Paul II, by Giuseppe Afrune

Just one of the seventeen gorgeous frescoes

Just one of the seventeen gorgeous frescoes

That night as we watched the sun set over the Basilica of San Francesco I realized I am basically in love with this place.  Was I ready to return to Rome the next day?  Not really, but it was a great experience, and maybe I'll get to go back someday.

That night as we watched the sun set over the Basilica of San Francesco I realized I am basically in love with this place. Was I ready to return to Rome the next day? Not really, but it was a great experience, and maybe I’ll get to go back someday.

 

Bernini and the Beach

Published on: Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Ciao! Today,  This is Jacqueline.  I have plans to see Bernini’s famous “St. Teresa in Ecstasy” and explore some other random churches. Last time I did this, I stumbled across the oldest Christian mosaic in the world which was pretty awesome!

Classes have been going well. I saw the oldest surviving written Italian in the world yesterday. This is a typical day with Dr. Lev. The week before in class we went under St. Peter’s Basilica and were able to kneel beside the tomb of St. Peter. Then from the tiny room which held the body of such a powerful Saint we walked up into the grandeur of the basilica where we were surrounded of the masterpieces of geniuses like Michelangelo and Bernini, as well as the tombs of people like Pope St. Gregory the Great and Bl. Pope John Paul II (soon to be St. Pope John Paul II!). There is an incredibly overwhelming amount of beauty and holy presence in the Basilica.

Outside classes we have also been exploring. Two weekends ago a group of us went to the beach at Ostia Lido. It was wonderful to get out of the busy city for a little bit. Despite Italy’s temperamental weather and forecast of rain, the sun was shining and the water warm. We swam, waded, collected sea shells, tanned, and some highly motivated people did a little homework.

This past weekend we visited Perugia for their chocolate festival. Imagine every street filled with the smell of everything chocolate! It was basically a small taste of heaven on earth. After that we went to Assisi. I had heard only good things about Assisi and it still surpassed expectations! But that will have to wait for the next post!

Here are a few pictures from the beach.

 

Stacy Lona and Jaqueline Lucca, and the ocean

Stacy Lona, Jaqueline Lucca, and the ocean

Our resident geologist, Andrew Dieter, scours the shore for interesting rocks.

Our resident geologist, Andrew Dieter, scours the shore for interesting rocks.

And of course, one of the best things to do at the beach is just wade in the waves.

And of course, one of the best things to do at the beach is just wade in the waves.

 

 

Saints, Churches, and the Pope

Published on: Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

 

Saints, Churches, and the Pope

Greetings from the Eternal City! My name is Lisa Northenscold, I am a junior at St. Thomas double majoring in Catholic Studies and Elementary Education. This semester I am studying in Rome with 28 other students from St. Thomas. We all live in a house called Bernardi and attend classes at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum for short, or the Ang for shorter).

Because of my obsession with photography, this will be mostly a photo blog, but I have teamed up with my fellow Bernardian, Jacqueline Lucca, who will balance out my photos with writing, to give you a glimpse into what it is like to study in the Catholic Studies Rome Program.

One of the most crazy-awesome things I have learned about Rome so far is how much of a spiritual powerhouse it is. Where else in the world is walking off the street into a random church and finding the bones of a martyr a common daily occurrence?

St. Peter's Basilica where our group attended the ordination of 41 men to the diaconate

St. Peter’s Basilica where our group attended the ordination of 41 men to the diaconate

Tomb of St. Monica

Tomb of St. Monica

 

Last week I was blessed to be able to kiss the tomb of St. Monica, my confirmation saint, and ask for intercession from her whose unceasing prayers helped bring her son St. Augustine back to the faith. I also visited the tombs of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Catherine of Siena, the heart of St. Charles Borromeo, the hand of St. Francis Xavier, and many others. I also got to experience my first Papal Audience. With just one week down, it’s hard to imagine what the coming months will hold.

 

Swiss guard at the Papal Audience

Swiss guard at the Papal Audience

Pope Francis with students from St. Thomas

Pope Francis with students from St. Thomas

Pope Francis takes a note out the hand of St. Thomas student Elizabeth Heaney.  The note was written by other students, inviting the pope to dinner at Bernardi.

Pope Francis takes a note out the hand of St. Thomas student Elizabeth Heaney. The note was written by other students, inviting the pope to dinner at Bernardi.

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Kevin Klump and Teresa Wolfgram pray in front of the heart of St. Charles Borromeo.

Kevin Klump and Teresa Wolfgram pray in front of the heart of St. Charles Borromeo.

Students wait outside the catacombs for a tour by our professor, Art Historian Elizabeth Lev.

Students wait outside the catacombs for a tour by our professor, Art Historian Elizabeth Lev.

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Hannah Polsky at the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena.

Hannah Polsky at the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena.

Mary Conway in St. Peter's square.

Mary Conway in St. Peter’s square.

Jacqueline Lucca

Jacqueline Lucca

 

Ciao! I’m Jacqueline Lucca. I am a senior, double majoring in English and Catholic Studies, and my favorite type of gelato is stracciatella.

The picture to the left was taken on one of the best days of my life—my first Wednesday in Rome and the day I came within a foot of our beloved Papa Francesco. Leaving at the brutal time of 5:30am ensured that we got close to the front of the “line.”(Incidentally, when Italians say line they mean constantly shifting mob of highly energetic people, which came to a culture shock to some of us and highly amusing for others). Our group of Bernadians made it to the front section and were along an isle. Pope Francis went right by us, twice, coming within a foot of many of us and looking directly at others! So, as you can see by Lisa’s pictures, the past week was basically exploding with grace and blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

“It is Time”: Putting the Mane on the Lion

Published on: Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

I had a bit of an inspirational moment today, so bear with me.  I couldn’t help but picture a well-known baboon sitting on top of a tree.  He rose to catch some seedlings from the air, examined those wind-blown portents inside his tree house, bit into some fruit, and it dawned on him: “He’s alive!  He’s alive!  It is time.”  He laughed and ran to an old picture of a little lion on his wall.  As a final touch, he drew a mane on the little lion, making it into a big one.  In a similar, yet less maniacal way, I have become well aware that “it is time” to recognize the sifting Rome-based thoughts in my head—the ones about just what last semester was.  In a way, I’m putting the finishing touches on my Rome reflections: putting the mane on the lion.

Rafiki Drawing

You might be wondering why this has taken me so long.  That’s a valid concern. I have spent the last couple months settling back into American culture, have been posed question after question about my European experience by curious family and friends, and have been increasingly dissatisfied with my answers and reflections on the topic.  How can I sum up what has been one of the most life-changing time-periods in my entire (admittedly short) life?  How can I possibly use limited words to describe so many experiences even I don’t fully grasp yet?  How can I adequately testify to things that can only been seen first-hand or personally learned and embraced?  In short, I can’t.  And that key realization, more than anything, now leaves you free to read and me free to write.

As I promised, I’d like to briefly allude to Cinco de Mayo (aka, Quattro a Maggio—we held festivities a day early and in Italy).  It was great and fostered a lot of fun and handmade-tortilla-making.

Tortillas in Rome (complete with winking man on the bag)!

Tortillas in Rome (complete with winking man on the bag)!

But, back to my main reflections…

I remember going on a few past vacations and excursions with my family or my friends, as well as a couple trips for school.  No place I’ve been has left such a deep imprint on my consciousness and my heart as the Eternal City.  Fittingly, since there is not a day that passes when I don’t think of it and remember, I think it will be on my mind forever.  When remembering, I often smile.

One of my most bittersweet memories explains much of the impact Rome had on me.  What felt like a couple hours (and wasn’t far from a couple hours) after our last final, those of us who had slept at all woke up.  We did the last checks of our rooms, weighed our suitcases for the last time, attended our last Mass together in Bernardi, and many of us found ourselves awaiting outgoing rides while standing inside the Bernardi gates.  We hugged, we said goodbye, and I hoarded about 5 packs of Kleenex for the bus ride to the airport and flight out from it.  Once aboard the bus, a much smaller group of us drove past St. Peter’s Square for the last time.  I used a tissue.

I spent a couple hours of the long plane ride reading and re-reading the encouraging and affirming words of many of the 33 people I lived with for 4 months.  We kept one small notebook in every mailbox downstairs so the Bernardians could write to each other.  By some miracle (maybe because I was so busy studying and squeezing sight-seeing in the last few days) I had successfully saved the first reading of those words for my flight home.  I expected to cry as I read them—I had all the armies of Kleenex at the ready.  And, instead, I simply laughed.

I laughed with the joy that comes from an understanding of how ridiculously blessed I was, and am, to have known these people, to have been quite literally embraced by the Church and to have been loved by the Trinity.  Most especially, I laughed with the bittersweet joy brought by an empty tabernacle in Bernardi’s Chapel.  Something beautiful had indeed ended there, but Christ, His mercy and His torrents of grace went with us.

Grace like rain: rain-dancing in Bernardi's courtyard.

Grace like rain: rain-dancing in Bernardi’s courtyard.

It’s admittedly harder to laugh these days.  In many ways it’s much easier to see and believe in Catholic-infused Rome; the Church’s heartbeat is very loud at its center.  It’s easier to stay in touch when people are near and it’s easier to pray when my schedule comes with prayer time already built in.  However, it would not have made sense for the 34 of us to stay.  And so, the adventure goes on for all Bernardians: those of the past, and those of the future….

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Bernardians, Spring 2013

Speaking of future Bernardians, here’s our advice (compiled by the Spring of 2013 Bernardians pre-departure from Rome; with advice they learned themselves or heard from wise Bernardians before them):

  • Make memories.  Stop every once in awhile and just soak in where you are and what you’re doing.
  • Remember, even in Rome and abroad, you are still you and life is still real.
  • Know thyself.
  • Be brave and take smart risks.
  • Eat gelato and lots of it.
  • Speak Italian, even when people respond in English.
  • Pack less than you think you need but still take along slippers, vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, peanut butter and a semester’s worth of Cheetos…
  • Be intentional with your time, in your relationships with others in the house, etc.
  • Spend your time with the real, live people around you, not your computer.
  • Make an effort to organize community events (i.e., Talent Show, Monte Cassino, Cinco de Mayo, etc.).  They tend to bring out the best of household gifts and friendships.
  • Ditch the camera, at least every once in awhile.
  • Do your homework, kind of…
  • Shout this every chance you get: “Viva il Papa!”
  • Get to know the saints, especially Mary and St. Peter.
  • Speaking of saints, seek out relics- they are everywhere!
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes!
  • Take some days just to look around.
  • Don’t buy the roses (just smell them).
  • Your umbrella will probably break…
  • …but still bring/buy an umbrella (or mooch off others!).
  • People are more important than places, which are more important than things.
  • Always be patient and kind with the Italians and remember you are their guest.
  • Try not to rip your pants.
  • St. Peter’s has been around for a long time.  It’s not going anywhere, so enjoy other Churches too.
  • Bring shorts.  No one thinks you’re European anyways.
  • Don’t ever leave your Facebook open.
  • Go to the station Churches in Lent- they’re worth getting up early for!
  • Rome is so dynamic; don’t come with too many set expectations.
  • Don’t rely too much on advice (Ironic, isn’t it?).  Make the semester your own.

Grazie a mille for reading the blog this past semester.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to think deeply and to type vigorously.  I hope the reflections herein have shed light on incredibly blessed adventures and given glory to the Author of all.  I also hope you feel joy after reading, and that you keep up with the semesters and semesters of Bernardians to come.  Be assured of my prayers and thanks for any of yours.

Finally, a special shout-out to Mom for putting up with my lateness (but, really, what would you expect from Italy?! :) )!  Mwah!  Mwah!

Ciao ciao, a tutti!

Mane on Lion