This past Saturday marks the two week Anniversary of my arrival to the Eternal City. And what an Anniversary it was! The day started off with Confession and Mass with Fr. Johnny Burns (a Bernardian’s newly ordained brother – Praise God!), followed by a delicious breakfast. Then, it was out the door to the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere to complete a homework assignment for our Christian Art and Architecture class. The assignment was to compare two mosaics in the apse of Santa Maria (Hey, you won’t hear me complaining about spending an hour in a beautiful Church for homework!) Upon completion of this “homework,” the big group we were with split up into smaller groups and spent time wandering around Trastevere. This section of Rome is exactly how you would imagine a small Italian town—so quaint and charming! My favorite part was all the beautiful live Italian music!
This past Thursday all the Bernardians went to see the Vatican Museums and on the Scavi Tour at St. Peter’s Basilica with our Art History class taught by Dr. Lev. She is a super cool professor that everyone in class absolutely loves. She has such a spunky, feisty, and witty personality—just imagine that combination. In fact, one Bernardian went so far as to say, and I quote: “I have Dr. Lev in my ear; This is the best day EVER” (we were wearing head sets throughout the tour of the Vatican museums). We saw gorgeous paintings and sculptures, as well as… drum roll please… the Sistine Chapel!! Magnificent, absolutely magnificent. I think I can speak for all the Bernardians when I say that we were blown away by all the art work. If I could have 1/1,000,000,000 of the artistic talent as these artists and sculptors, I would be more than satisfied.
It’s a funny thing, living in one place for several months, and then returning back to the place you know as home. Everything seems the same, and yet somehow it is different. As a (very) recent re-entrant into the US of A, I find myself looking about and asking, “Did I ever really leave?” Of course the answer is always in the affirmative, but still these first several days after my departure from Rome seem strange—as if I simply lived another life for several months, and now I must return to life as it was—the only problem is, life isn’t as it was before.
These strange first days back home will pass, and life will regain a sense of normalcy, but the experience of living, studying, eating and praying in Rome for a period of four months (yikes!) will remain a part of me. I was recently speaking to one my fellow Bernardians about this very topic, and we agreed that it is a tremendous challenge to hang onto, and bring back some part of the Rome experience to share with family and friends here in the U.S. I think that the way one hangs onto such experiences is that they become integrated into the very fiber of one’s being. One might say that Rome has become, in a certain sense, a part of me, and now I must share that treasure with those around me by sharing myself.
So much has happened in these past four months. I’m still in disbelief that I had such a remarkable and life-changing opportunity. It will be the project of a lifetime to realize all the many blessings that I’ve received from living in Rome. I’m filled with gratitude for all those people who made it possible. Most of all, I’m grateful to God, who in His infinite generosity, saw fit to route my life’s journey through Rome and Europe for a short time. It is truly a gift undeserved—a grace. The challenges were many, the blessings were even greater in number, and the Rome experience has changed me—and consequently my life—forever.
Is there a better way to finish off a semester in Rome than by taking in a Roman sunset from the Dome of St. Peter’s? I think not. That’s what I call going out on top!
After spending nine hours in the air and six hours in airports, we made it safe and sound to Roma, Italia; Praise be to Jesus Christ! Although it has only been one full day at Bernardi (the residency where all 32 students and faculty stay while studying in Rome), there have already been plenty of stories and experiences to go around.