“Happy lay-man’s week!” the words echoed not only through the halls of the Bernardi residence, but had somehow found their way to our university, the Angelicum, were priests, nuns, and other religious would all acknowledge us on this very special time of “lay-man’s week.” It is true that with 14 girls, 9 seminarians, and only 7 non-seminarian guys, we do represent the minority, the lay-men, as it were. Previous years there has not been an official lay-men group, so how did it happen that this semester we ended up with not only a group, but an entire week in our honor? Well, the group was easy enough. It was formed when both the women and seminarians would be gone for their weekly formation. We were the only ones left. We were the lay-men. As lonesome as this might sound, it quickly turned into a highlight of every week, and thus was born our tradition of frequenting the local restraint, Ciacco e Peppe, which serves the best carbonara in all of Rome!
Our week long celebration began with our Bernardi Chaplin, Fr. Carola, offering to take us on a one-day pilgrimage to Subiaco were St Benedict, with the foundation of his monastery, began modern day monastic life. Subiaco, with its river, valleys, and tree-covered mountains, is absolutely beautiful! The day consisted of a 45-minute hike up one of the mountains to St. Benedict’s monastery, where it sits, apart from the city and on top of mountain like a fortress looking out for miles at open rolling hills. The monastery was actually built around the cave were Benedict lived and prayed for several years of his life. After paying our visits, we continued with another 30-minute hike to a second vantage point were we unloaded the meat, cheese and wine and ate a picnic lunch which finished with an hour of napping under the warm sun (and to think that I used to oppose naps as a kid)! With the special attention we had received we joked that this was our special week, but when Fr. Corola started our weekly community Mass by welcoming everyone into the celebration of lay-man’s week, it was official.
In closing, you don’t have to be a lay-man to visit the Subbiaco, or to eat the best carbonara in all of Rome. In fact, I would recommend both to everyone. If, however, you are a lay-man and looking at doing a semester here in Rome I would encourage you to gather together as guys and make a trip or pilgrimage together. For us, this week was a chance not only to grow closer, but also to enter more into the community already present here. So a happy lay-man’s week (and Mother’s Day) to everyone reading my posts.
Needless to say, after prepping for our art history mid-term we were all ready for a break when the weekend finally rolled around. Maybe it was the beautiful weather, or the cold blood of Minnesotans, but a group of seven of us made it out to the Ostia beach, and yes, we swam! This was our first of what is now two beach trips, but I still can’t believe it was possible to swim in mid-April when the lakes back home are still frozen (I say possible because while there were a few other people who ventured out into the cold water it looked like most the locals were content to just lay on the sand). Two important things I learned between the two trips were: one, no one wants to go to the beach during the earlier part of the season and two, everyone want to go as the weather gets hot! Our first time was great because the cooler weather, while keeping the locals away and the beaches free, was ideal for a pick-up game of soccer on the sand, and if you’ve never played in the sand before I can assure you that it doesn’t take much to work up enough of a sweat for the cold water to look pretty pleasant. For our second trip it was already getting pretty warm for beach soccer and based off of the masses of new people, it had also become impossible. Therefore, we were plenty content to just play some cards and make it to the water, this time alongside some of the bravest locals, whenever the sun became too intense.
I am really struck by how much Rome has to offer, from history, art,culture, and even those slightly more trivial (but to the college student such as myself often equally as important) experiences such as a day playing at the beach. Best of all, it is economical. At a one euro dollar each way and just a couple more for a picnic lunch, even with the exchange rate at an all time high of 1.64, it works out to be a ten American dollar day! I sure hope it works out for us to make it to the beach again. At the same time, with only a month left, it will no doubt become a bit of a juggling act to maintain full time student status with a demanding work load and pretend to be vacationing at the beach all the time. What about doing homework at the beach you might ask? Maybe. For now I really am just thankful to be able to enjoy all the opportunities as they come, taking them all one at a time. Such an attitude helps keep one open to new and exciting experiences and in Rome it seems there is always something left to surprise you.