There has been a lot to give thanks for this week. It was funny being here and getting excited for Thanksgiving when it’s such an American holiday. We actually had class in the morning, but we got out of Italian class early so that we could be back at Bernardi for Mass at noon with Fr. Carola. This afternoon replaced our normal Wednesday community night. We had an immense Thanksgiving feast! There was a 35 pound turkey! It was quite amazing!
Also, Thanos emailed our parents and had them send us letters, so each of us got mail to read from our families, which was such a blessing to receive since it was such a big holiday to be away from home. I incorporated some of my family experience by sharing a song my mom teaches her preschoolers each year, which was quite hilarious because it is about a turkey named Albequerque, sung to the tune of “Clementine”. Everyone sang along, which was really funny because it’s such a kid song. We also sang God bless America and Louie sang an opera style song we learned in Italian because he has an amazing opera voice. We are quite the musical group!
Saturday evening marked the start of Advent, and we celebrated it by attending first Advent vespers at St. Peter’s with Pope Benedict! It was wonderful to be able to begin this liturgical season with our Holy Father.
On Sunday Kalynn and I again went to the Missionaries of Charity. It was such a blessing to be able to be there on a Sunday, especially on the first Sunday in Advent. We were able to attend Mass there, and it was such a blessing. The men really enjoy being at mass and living their faith by participating in the sacraments. It was a wonderful experience of community–of coming together with a common faith and giving time to praise the Lord for the blessings they have in their life.
I was getting so choked up because I was truly seeing the fruit of the sisters’ ministry and vocation. Yes, the sisters work to provide shelter and food and health for the men, but the TRUE fruit of their ministry is the seeds of faith they sow that grows into a true love of Jesus. The men here are brought to life not just physically, but spirituality. Here they have regular prayer and Mass, and from the nourishment of the sacraments they love and serve each other more. The joy they all had at being there was very evident, and reminded me of the simple yet profound love of Jesus and how I need to be reminded of this beautiful poverty. Especially at the start of Advent, this was a great reminder of how to better prepare for the coming of our Lord at Christmas!
May God bless your Advent season and may you see Him every day, especially by coming to Him in prayer and Thanksgiving for the many gifts He has given you, of life and love!
This weekend we went on a silent retreat as a community. Yes…silence. I had never been on a silent retreat before and was excited to have this quiet time. Being in such a busy city with so many amazing things going on, I wanted to have a weekend to be quiet and just be with the Lord. It was kind of funny because I’m definitely not a quiet person. A few of the others and myself were kind of nervous about how the retreat might go, and if we could keep silence through it. I was mostly thinking I would randomly break out in laughter at dinner or at some other point.
The retreat house is on a hill looking over a beautiful lake, and across the lake is the Pope’s retreat house. The hills were filled with shades of green, orange, red, and yellow leaves on the trees. I’m not really sure if there can ever be a “true fall” here, since the leaves don’t actually seem to be falling off the trees any time soon!
Right when arrived we had Mass, followed by dinner. We got all of the talking we could do out, and once we left the room, we began our 36 hours of silence.
The weekend was beautiful. Fr. Carola, our chaplain, led five of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. We had a lot of time to reflect on those readings from scripture, celebrate the sacraments, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, enjoy the outside, and listen to the Lord. It is quite an amazing experience to learn to step back from the busyness of life and just speak with the Lord and most importantly, to listen to Him speak to your heart. It was even kind of awkward emerging from silence on Sunday during lunch, because I was just getting used to it. But the awkwardness quickly lifted and the room roared with laughter and excitement as we all shared our experiences and joys from the weekend. Dr. Cavanaugh noticed that we were especially chatty at dinner that night, and joked about how we were trying to make up for our lack of talking all weekend.
The Lord really blesses the times when we make the decision to take time away to pray and listen to Him. I am so happy we were given this opportunity, and hope to do it again!
God love you!
During my experience here, especially in my classes, I am constantly struck by the universality of the Church. Three of the classes I am taking are with students from the Angelicum and there are students from all over the world. There are students from India, Africa, Poland, the United States, South America, Germany, and the list goes on! It’s so wonderful to see how the Church is so diverse in Her peoples, but immensely unified in Her Truth.
We are so diverse in our nationalities, but also in our vocations. While the majority of the students at the Angelicum are religious brothers, sisters, and priests, there are a number of laity as well. Some of them are married, some are single. Some have law backgrounds, and some interested in art. Even among the religious, their charisms and apostolates are varied. The thread that binds us and makes us whole is the Truth and love we find in Jesus Christ and the Church He founded. It is so inspiring to see the way the Lord calls each of us. He has a specific vocation for us all. The first is holiness. He wants us to be a part of His mission in life, so He calls us to Himself, to imitate Him in our striving to be holy in order to gain eternal fellowship with Him in Heaven.
Our second call is to our specific vocation as either a call to religious life, marriage, or the single life. God asks us to draw closer to Him by giving ourselves more to others…taking the holiness we’ve drawn from Him and give it back to Him by giving Him our lives to make them fruitful. While these vocations are all so different, they compliment each other so well.
And I think I can say the third call is even more specific, to the vocation each of us have in the mission given to us in Jesus Christ. For some it may mean going off to proclaim His Truth in foreign missions, some of us to stay at home and proclaim Him to those at home. It may be through teaching, being a doctor, a counselor, an artist…whatever gifts we have been given we are to use for the greater glory of God!
This is the most exciting thing I see about my time here—seeing the universality of the Church and Christ’s specific calling in each of our lives. May we always seek to strive for holiness and listen to His very specific calling in each of our lives, to “Come to the Father” and allow Him to lead us completely.
This past weekend we went to Assisi. It was wonderful to be able to get out of the city for once and see the countryside! We left on a bus from the Angelicum early Saturday morning. Fr. Benedict, one of the Domincan priests, was the leader of our bus. He is an extremely joyful Dominican from Colorado. He became fearless leader for the trip.
Right when we got there we attended Mass at St. Mary of the Angels. There were seven thousand pilgrims from Rome, and it was wonderful to see all the youth there. They led the music for Mass, and itt was the first time at a large Mass that I had heard guitars and more modern music. I enjoy the traditional music, but this was quite refreshing as well.
All the pilgrims were quite packed towards the front of the church. Behind us stood the little church where St. Clare had her hair cut off. It separated the church of St. Mary of the Angels in two. It looks quite cute and a bit comical stuck in there, but so precious that they wanted to persevere such a remarkable little chapel, especially the history of such great saints as St. Francis and St. Claire!
After Mass we started the pilgrimage up to the Basilica of St. Francis where his body lies. Fr. Benedict had the Angelicum flag wrapped around him like an Olympic champion. Bryant and him found some sticks and hung it high.
The hike and especially the view from the basilica was absolutely beautiful. The sunlight and the fog shining down on St. Mary of the Angels made it look just like Heaven…or about what I would imagine Heaven to be. It was so wonderful to be able to see the extensiveness of countryside. I really do miss that when I am in Rome.
All day they had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the basilica. Seven thousand youth, religious, laity were all gathered together in prayer right over the tomb of St. Francis. It was such a blessing to be able to visit St. Francis and see everyone else there also desiring to get close to this inspiring saint. I managed, in my time of prayer, to lose the rest of my group. I was kind of disappointed because I wanted to see the other churches of Assisi and did not know how to get to them on my own. This came as a blessing in disguise, because I was more free to also take in all the beautiful countryside of Assisi. I ventured off on my own and was able to soak up the Italy I truly enjoy—seeing the little houses perched on the hilltops and being chased down by a dalmation guarding his house. (Okay so I didn’t enjoy that too much, but it was quite amusing).
After a refreshing day of exploring the hills that St. Francis called home, we ended with a candlelight prayer vigil. We processed down the hill singing and praising God with the light of Christ guiding our way.
I cannot wait to go back and visit more of St. Francis’ home!
Last Friday Kalynn and I started serving at the Missionaries of Charity here in Rome. I have been very excited about starting to do some service here, especially being able to work with these sisters. They are working on the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa, who has been such an influence on the world, and especially to me and in my seeking of my own vocation. Our first visit with Fr. Carola we were able to visit the room Mother stayed in while she was in Rome.
Friday morning we managed to use the metro, which was the first time I’ve really done it outside of being in our big group. It is pretty easy, but gets a little daunting when we have to switch lines at Termini, which is the busiest and most chaotic stop of all. Most of the time you are sandwiched in like a bunch of sardines. It is borderline ridiculous but also hilarious watching it all happen.
We made it to the sisters at 8:30 am on Friday, greeted by one of the men from the home. The sisters at this site run a house for men, most if not all who are immigrants and couldn’t go back to their homes. We quickly meet Sister Gabriella, a short Indian sister who is about a foot shorter than I am and was busy cutting up broccoli. Sister Gabriella orders us to both put on aprons and we dig into work right away. I have never served with the Missionaries of Charity before, but Kalynn has on many occasions and gave me the heads up of not knowing what to expect—every day is an adventure with these sisters! I put on my apron and awaited my mission for the morning.
I stayed with Sister Tobit and cut up vegetables and cantaloupe while Kalynn was sent off to do a variety of tasks—starting out with helping serve breakfast, cleaning windows, tidying up the men’s room, washing clothes by hand, and ending with helping serve lunch. I struck up conversation with Sister Tobit and kept her amused at my lack of cutlery skills. A good part of my cantaloupe slices lept into the garbage before I was able to grab them. Sister Gabriella came bustling back every once in a while to make sure everything was going okay, and shook her head at me and wondered why most of the food looked discarded. Sister Tobit stifled a laugh and muttered “God is merciful!” to help me feel better about my lack of talent in the kitchen. She also told me that no matter what I study or what I will do in the future, I must know how to cook and clean. These are the essentials of life.
Wow, do I have a lot to learn! It was beautiful morning and I look forward to all the Fridays to come that we are able to spend with the Sisters.