Did you read fairy tales as a child? I did, and they most certainly had an effect on my formative years. However, until this past weekend, I think I had forgotten the magical feeling that they gave me, and can still give me. It is a feeling of joy that wells up from inside of me, flowing from hope-filled thoughts that refuse to be limited by the dreary restrictions of realism. Saturday I re-entered fairyland, when, led by our chaplain, Fr. Carola (who takes the group of students to Siena each semester), our entire Bernardi group made a trip to Siena. Whereas Rome is a unique and sometimes awkward-feeling mix of the old, less old, newer, and new, Siena has, for the most part, retained its medieval flavor. Nestled into the beautiful Tuscan landscape, Siena has seemingly remained quite un-changed by the encroachment of modernity. Entering the city is almost like entering a time capsule. This old Italian city was the home of Saint Catherine of Siena, and the pilgrim traveling to Siena (who is so inclined) still has the opportunity to venerate some of her relics. Personal highlights for me were visiting the Duomo (Cathedral), seeing the Eucharistic miracle at San Francesco, and climbing the Torre del Mangia in the town center for a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding landscape. That was a lot of steps!
Have you ever been in the presence of something so beautiful, so majestic, and so splendid—that you thought you just might be dreaming? I had such an experience last week when Fr. Carola (the Jesuit priest who serves as our house chaplain) took our entire group to St. Peter’s Basilica for a mini pilgrimage. After making the 30-minute walk from Bernardi House to St. Peter’s, our group passed through the Vatican security checkpoint and entered the magnificent structure that is the Basilica of Saint Peter.
Roma. I’m sitting in the Mediterranean morning sun, on a rooftop terrace, overlooking this ancient city that has been at the center of so much history, so much of what has shaped the Western world—the whole world—into what it now is. I can almost feel the collective memories of the untold millions that have passed in and out of this ancient place. I am, however, just one man, and the only memories I will ever truly feel are those that are created from that which I experience. Luckily for me, over the next four months, I am in the Eternal City. I will taste, touch, smell, hear, and feel Rome every day, and this will all mold together to become my experience of Rome. Oh, Roma! How is it that I get to experience you? Who am I to be so blessed?
Truly, there are times in each person’s life when everything seems glorious, fresh, new and exciting; and without a doubt, I entered one of those times when I entered an airplane bound for Rome. Since that moment, the memorable experiences are flying at me so fast, and with so much frequency, that I will surely never be able to remember them all. Nevertheless, throughout the coming semester, I will be filling this little corner of cyberspace with reflections on my favorite moments and experiences of life in Rome, and occasionally, greater Italy. Every week, I will be posting a new entry filled with the excitement of my foreign adventures, and I am inviting you to share in the fun! It is my hope, that by reading this little blog, you will get to know a little about what it is like to study abroad in the heart of the Catholic Church (Rome!), an opportunity that I have been given through the University of Saint Thomas Catholic Studies Program and the superabundant grace of God!
Ciao for now!