Monthly Archives

January 2011

Burton

He’s Not the Pope, But He Gets Pretty Close

masini

Apparently, the Bernardi community has some friends in high places, and by high places I mean the Vatican. For one of our recent Wednesday community nights, we had the honor of hosting Monsignor Guido Marini, who is Pope Benedict’s personal Master of Ceremonies. That means, that whenever you see the Pope at any papal event, Msgr. Marini is the man standing right next to him (in the photo, Marini is the man in the red cassock directly behind the Pope).

Msgr. Marini is a delightful man. He is a clearly devout, humble, and holy priest. His love for the Liturgy is tremendous to behold, and it was a great privilege to have him take the time to answer our questions about what it is like to work so closely with the Pope, what it is like being around the Pope, and what he had learned from the Pope. His love and respect for the Holy Father is obvious, and it is an inspiration to me, precisely because he works so closely with the Pope, and still thinks so highly of him. Marini personally knows the very man himself—in his humanity—not just the larger than life figure that Benedict becomes as Pope. In all likelihood, meeting Msgr. Marini is as close as I’ll ever come to meeting the Pope himself, and where else would I have had the opportunity to meet him, visit with him, and dine with him, but at Bernardi? ‘Nuff said.

Ciao for now,

Burton

Burton

An Unexpected Weekend in Paris

paris1 

Sometimes, things happen that are completely unexpected and wonderful. We Christians often refer to them as “graces.” Whatever you call them, they are gifts, and the best response to a gift is pure, simple gratitude. This past weekend I received such a gift; I got to go to Paris. I wasn’t planning on going to Paris this semester, and it certainly wasn’t in my budget, but when a friend of mine had an unused plane ticket, and asked me if I would join him, how could I refuse? After all, it’s Paris!

Paris is wonderful. I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “This guy gushes about everything. Not everything can be that wonderful.” You’re right. Not everything can, and I do admit, I’m kind of enthusiastic with my descriptions sometimes, but this time I really mean it. Paris is wonderful—or remarkable, beautiful, romantic, astounding—pick your adjective. I love Paris. 48 hours is not enough time for Paris, so when you go, plan for more time.

I have now lived in Rome for almost four months, and in that time, I’ve come to appreciate—and despise—certain aspects of this city. It is a city of opposites. Juxtaposed against one another are the spiritual and the secular, the Church and the State—and it has been that way for over two thousand years! Romans have their strong points, but they aren’t anything like Minnesotans (which, by the way, can sometimes be good, and other times deeply jarring). One weekend, they are flocking to a papal event, and the next, they’ll be rioting in the streets, blowing up police cars (seriously, it happens). Whatever they do, they do loudly, and with much (apparent) aggression (or enthusiasm?). It has become clear to me that, in four months, one can only come to surface level understanding and appreciation of what makes Rome different from all the other cities in the world. So clearly then, I am not an expert on what makes Rome—well—Rome.

I am even less of an expert on Paris. I was only in Paris for approximately 48 hours, and so my sample size is quite small, but as a person who tends to be particularly tuned in to “gut feelings,” I was quickly aware of the fact that Paris agreed with my own personal constitution far more than Rome. I’m sure that, once you get to know it, Paris has many of the same problems as Rome, and certainly, one cannot properly understand Paris without first understanding Rome—it is the Eternal City, and I love it for that—but Paris just resonated with me somehow. It is like when you get to the end of a piece of music and the orchestra strikes a chord that just makes your heart leap—that’s the feeling I got in Paris.  Rome is fabulous, and it is a wonderful place to spend a semester studying the Catholic Faith, but I don’t think I could live here long-term. Paris now…well, it must suffice to say that I hope I can go back to Paris one day, if only to see if it is really as awesome as it seemed last weekend.

The photo is from inside the upper chapel of La Sainte-Chapelle, which was built to hold some of the relics of Christ’s Passion. The structure is a masterpiece in Gothic architecture, and the windows are simply astounding.

Ciao for now,

Burton

Burton

A Dream Come True

mountains

When I was a small boy, I used to spend hours looking at pictures of the mountains–the Rockies, the Andes, the Himalayas, the Cascades, the Smokies, the Alps–all of them looked so beautiful to me, and all I wanted was a chance see them–to climb to the top of one of those majestic peaks and see the world. Perhaps my dream of climbing a mountain was a metaphor for my grander childhood dreams for life, or perhaps it was just one of my romantic ways of wishing that I could do something great. Does it matter? Do the dreams of little boys have to make sense, or can they simply be dreams, completely unimpeded by the heavy weight of reality? I think they can, and yet, somehow, this dream of mine has come true.

 This semester has been so full of awesome sights and glorious splendors that I feel almost guilty to add to the list, but I will. I am happy to say that I have now seen the mountains–the Swiss Alps, to be exact. I had the opportunity to visit them over Christmas break, and they did not disappoint me. It is a funny thing finally seeing something that you’ve dreamed about your whole life, but that you have only seen in pictures. I’m not even really sure what I expected. Something beautiful and majestic? Something that would raise my spirits and lift my mind and heart to God? Perhaps, and seeing the Alps was certainly all of that for me, but just being on those mountains ended up being something particular for me–another milestone, of sorts. Maybe it is superficial, but gone are the days of having to admit to people that I haven’t, actually, in person, seen any mountains. Whatever else I may be, I am now a person who has seen mountains, and I am a person for whom (at least some) dreams do come true.

Ciao for now,

 Burton

Burton

A Christmas Event to Remember

pope

December 24th had come once again. The day for the highly anticipated Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s with Benedict XVI finally had arrived (or rather, the “Mass of the Night” as it was called, because it started at 10:00pm). What will people go through to see the Pope? The phrase, “No pain, no gain” comes to mind. Then again, there is nothing quite like standing outside in the cold rain for four hours to make you appreciate something that you have been anticipating for some time. It’s like being tortured with the idea of opening your presents for a long time, only there is cold water being dumped on your head.

We were such eager beavers. Our group arrived at St. Peter’s square at 4:00pm, four-and-a-half hours before the doors were to open. It poured. And poured. And poured. Everyone, and everything on everyone, was completely saturated. It rained so hard that water started running through the umbrellas. By the time the gates opened, my feet were so wet and cold that I couldn’t feel them being stepped on by the mad stampede of eager Catholics, vying for a “prime” spot in the Basilica. Yes, I have to admit, I was one of those very same “eager Catholics,” and I wasn’t about to let myself get pushed aside by a surprisingly strong little Italian nun—not after standing in the rain for that long.

Perhaps you are not surprised that the Mass was amazing. The music was beautiful, and the liturgy was Roman Catholic at its finest. We had fabulous seats right on the center isle, more than halfway up the nave. The Pope walked by me twice, no more than three feet away. I could have reached out and touched him but for the fierce looking Swiss security guards. Maybe it was moisture and cold induced delirium, but St. Peter’s had never looked so beautiful to me, and Mass had never seemed quite that adventurous, as it did that night. I guess good things come to those who get wet.

girls

Photos are courtesy of Allison Koop.

Ciao,

Burton