Dear readers (now including former Bernardians of spring 2008),
As promised, I wanted to share a little bit of my travels after my time at Bernardi in Rome. Immediately after finals, even while the group was still in the airplane, I began my plans for a study break in the Tuscan region. So with a little planning on my part, and a lot of generosity on the parts of others, I found myself for 4 days in a small apartment in the city of Castagneto Carducci which was just a short walk from the ocean. I have to say, the pace of the trip was quite slow and focused more on leisurely reading on the beach than it did of sight-seeing, but I did get to tour the vineyard of Michele Satta who makes some of the regions finest Bolgheri wines.
Tuscany has some of the beautiful countryside I have ever seen in my life, with a sunset where the green rolling hills and the pinks in the sky crash together and fall over the horizon of the Mediterranean in a way which no doubt inspired the poetry of Carducci. The Tuscan region is full of small cities which are off the beaten track which was a nice break from the tourist hubbub of Rome. The break had appeared long enough on the calendar, but in reality passed all too quickly.
Finishing my time in Rome, I attended the American Academy of Fertility Care Professionals (AAFCP), a Catholic medical conference focusing on novel fertility treatments and surgeries which are in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church and the encyclical Humanae Vitae, material I had studied in my Catholic Studies courses that very semester. For me, the conference was a breath of fresh air, both because it provided concrete procedures in medicine grounded in Church teaching and because the conference stimulated the synopsizes containing my previous biochemistry studies which had gone dormant. The conference helped me realize how much of love the sciences, but also, how valuable this semester has been by providing an education which will shape both the way in which I will do medical school and the way I hope to practice medicine. (*Future Rome student tip: If you are interested in double majoring with Catholic studies, start planning early, especially if your other major is not going have many overlapping classes, as is the case is most sciences).
Goodbye everyone and stay tuned for my next, and probably final, post from London, England where I will be shadowing a surgeon for a few days and hopefully seeing a little bit of London. Ciao, ciao.
Dear readers (now including former Bernardians of spring 2008),
Sadly this blog marks the end of my time here at the Bernardi Campus, however, like several of the other students from this Rome semester, I am going to be spending some extra time traveling Europe and invite you to continue following my posts. Regarding our last days together I should really start by talking about finals, since it is what consumed everyone’s last days. As a biochemistry and Catholic Studies double major my science friends assured me that this semester would be a breeze without science courses and labs. Quite to the contrary, I have been pleasantly surprised by the rigor and depth of material which I have learned during the semester, which became apparent as I began studying for my oral exams. The format for such oral exams seemed to be universal and consisted of teachers giving you a sheet of paper with the topics which had been discussed during the semester and asking you to be prepared to speak about any such topic. The task, I must admit, was quite daunting, but by no means impossible and during the exams the teachers were helpful in aiding you to demonstrate your grasp of the material through questions.
Finishing out last exams on Wednesday afternoon and the group flight home leaving Friday morning at 3:30 a.m., our final hours together were short, but sweet. Personally, and I would venture to say for the entire group, our final night together was yet another confirmation of how we have grown as a community. Briefly, the evening consisted of dinner out, 35 carbonara at Ciacio e Pepe (yes it’s that good), singing together at Piazza del Popolo, and a final Mass at 2 a.m. Regarding the Mass, I can’t help but chuckle because only at the Bernardi Campus would it be so appropriate to finish out time together with the Mass, even at 2 in the morning!
Singing together was really a beautiful way to stay together, singing songs mostly in English, a few in Italian, ranging from current hits, praise and worship, and of course American Pie in it’s entirety. Goodbyes of course are never easy, especially with those students who weren’t from St Thomas who I won’t bump into walking between north and south campus. And we all had to say goodbye to Bernardi.
Looking back on my time and experiences, this has been a semester full of growth through challenges both academically and spiritually. What strikes me most about this semester, and the Catholic studies Rome program specifically, was how it was not a pause or break from my studies, not even in my pursuit of a medical career. Instead, what I’ve learned here, through encyclicals such as Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor or my Fundamental Moral Theology class taught by the Papal theologian, will be an integral part of my understanding of medicine and the human person. This semester has brilliantly integrated a study abroad, focusing those elements such as theology and art history which only Rome could offer, with my course of study in biochemistry. Furthermore, it has truly been a unique opportunity to live within a community of faith in the pursuit of truth and I can’t wait to continue to realize the discoveries which I have made during this time abroad, and to share my experience with family and friends. Closing my time here at Bernardi I’d like to open up my email, available through the Catholic Studies Department, to any future Bernardi students. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions regarding Rome. God bless tutti!
Here goes a bit of an overdue update, as a result of the busyness of these last weeks. I do realize that not being updated because there has been so much going on sounds ironic. After all, isn’t that the main reason for reading my posts? I can assure you, however, that the majority of my time has been spent in the safe haven of the Gregorian Library studying and writing papers for finals. (*Future Rome student tip: Ask about getting a Gregorian library card. It is a new option as of last year and the library is great for studying and equipped with wireless for your research projects.) The good news is that even locked in the library most of the day, due to the long walking commutes and the bright sun of Rome, I’m still going to return home with more sun than the average Minnesotan in early June!
OK, how about a little life outside of the library now? At our last community night dinner we had the privilege of hosting US Ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon. If you don’t know exactly what this position entails don’t worry, neither did most of us here at Bernardi, and as the Ambassador herself said, neither did she when she accepted the position, though I’m inclined to think she was just being polite in regards to our own ignorance. In brief, her job is one of diplomacy between the Vatican State and the US Government. Her main point which stuck with me was what an exceptional time this year has been for relations between the US President and the Pope, and how Bush so graciously welcomed the Pope for the first time outside of the White House. I don’t know what the response has been in the States regarding the Pope’s recent visit, but I can tell you that in Europe, and especially in Rome, those interactions speak highly of US politics and do not go unnoticed.
Lastly, I’d like to close with a story of what started as a rosary and turned into a sing-along, all in St. Peter’s Square! The evening was organized by Fr. Corola. It began with a picnic dinner (father is quite fond of picnics) while we waited together to maintain our prime seats for the Popes candlelight rosary that evening. The rosary was beautiful and I am always struck by how strong the Pope’s presence is. I just can’t help but be moved every time he raises his hands to salute us. His presence is not one of youth and beauty, but one of true strength and joy, and every time I see him, a little bit of that joy comes through as a smile on my face. After the rosary, we kept our candles burning and out came the guitar. I don’t know whether it was because we looked like a bunch of hippies singing songs in St. Peter’s Square, or whether it was the real sense of joy in the notes which we sang, but regardless, we managed to attract a faithful audience of about 50 people and a couple extra voices too. For me, that night was a real verification of how much we have grown together as a group and a community, because we stayed together that evening in a way which wouldn’t have been possible at the beginning of the semester. Singing at St. Peter’s was definitely a gift and a great memory of my semester here in Rome.