This last Sunday many of us went to the Pantheon for Pentecost. Last year, when I was preparing my application for Rome, I met with a friend who had studied here a few years ago. One of the things that stood out to me was this Mass at the Pantheon. The morning of the Mass, I wanted (more than anything) to sleep in and go to an afternoon Mass. But I knew I had to go. I didn’t have much of a checklist for Rome, but if I did, this would be one of the items on the top of my list.
Christopher, a Notre Dame student studying with our program, wrote a beautiful entry for his personal blog about this mass, and I asked him to write a few words for this blog.
My roommate Kristen was able to travel to Belgium and then on to Lourdes, France. I asked her to share a bit of her experience with us.
She is a student from the University of Pittsburgh, and my roommate here in Rome. This blog was very helpful for her before studying with the University of St. Thomas. She wrote this:
“Thank you so much for this opportunity! As an “outsider,” I relied a lot on this blog to be able to learn more about the Bernardi program and to see what I was getting myself into. 😛 I’m glad I can provide a bit of my experience to share with others!
One of the opportunities we have while studying in Rome with the Catholic Studies program is a chance to work with either the Little Sisters of the Poor, or the Missionaries of Charity. Emily, a student from the University of St. Catherine, is the person in charge of organizing our apostolic outreach service.
She wrote a little more about the work we do.
Not all the students that live here in Bernardi are from the University of St. Thomas. In fact, we have several students from other universities including Marquette University, University of Pittsburgh, University of St. Catherine and the University of Notre Dame.
Since I’ve been a bit crunched for time, I asked Emily Laloggia, write a blog on her experience here in Rome and our household trip to Turin.
As a little birthday gift to myself, I decided to do a day trip to Pompeii to see it a second time. The first time I was there it was only for about an hour and a half, and let me tell you, that was not enough. Mike and I headed out to Naples (after a rough start- we were on the wrong train for about half an hour, waiting to depart Termini. Fortunately he decided to see if we were one the right train, and they directed us to the correct train). Pizza in Naples, and then off to the Archeological Museum. This time they had more rooms open! I just love this stuff! We toured the museum, and then we were headed to Pompeii.
Pompeii is only a short ride away from Naples, and now that it’s closer to summer they are open much later. This time I had done more reading about the city, and I was our personal tour guide. Pompeii in the afternoon is just enchanting.
This past weekend has been a whole lot of walking, waiting, and walking! John, Mike and I flew down to southern Italy for the week. We anchored ourselves in Brindisi, and toured some southern cities. It was nice change from the crowds in Rome.
Day 1- Brindisi!
We checked into our hostel, and took the little “water bus” to the center of town. Southern Italians take their pranzo very seriously. We arrived in town just in time to see everything closing for the lunch hour. We walked to quiet town, found some lunch, and relaxed in the sun for a few hours until dinner time.
Day 2- Lecce
We discovered it wasn’t just Brindisi that shuts down in the afternoon. So did Lecce! We walked around looking at church doors, since they were closed and we couldn’t get in. We found a nice park, bought some sandwich stuff, and enjoyed a sunny picnic. We wandered the town, and as evening approached we started searching for a place to eat. Mike saw a little old priest, and asked him if he could suggest a place for us to eat dinner. He motioned for us to follow him. Now, John’s Italian is pretty good, and Mike is decent, and my Spanish helps me understand most Italians, but none of us could figure out what this priest was saying! So we just followed along. We were able to communicate to him that we were from America and studying at the Angelicum. He led us down some winding, dark street, and took us to a small restaurant. He introduce us to the owners, and we had one of the best dinners: homemade pasta and great wine.
Day 3-Beach Day in Brindisi
We kept it easy this day. Just a trip to the beach. Since it’s not tourist season, we were the only ones on the beach. Not much to say about this day- just sandwiches, towels, sun and sand. It was a good day for this California girl.
Day 4 -Bari
I fell in love with Bari. We took a train there from Brindisi, and arrived a few hours before lunch. You have to make it through the modern end of town, with its perfect urban planning, before getting to the heart of Bari: the medieval center. Beauty. Beauty. Beauty! It had small winding streets, and colorful laundry hanging from the windows. We also payed a visit to St. Nick.
Day 5- Otranto
Otranto is pretty small, but we had two goals: venerate the relics of 800 skulls of martyrs killed by the Ottomans in 1480, and spend some more time in the sun. Done and done.
Day 6- Maria de Leuca
We had to travel the farthest to get to this town, but it was well worth it. We took a train from Brindisi to Lecce, and then another from Lecce to another town, then a bus to another town, then a taxi to Leuca. We made it, and walked along the coast. The significance of this town is that it’s the farthest point on the heel of the Italian “boot”. We enjoyed our time there, but soon realized that we were not going to be able to find a taxi back. So we walked 6.4 k, waited for an hour and half to get the bus to take us to the train station, to get a train to Lecce, to take another train to Brindisi, to take a bus to the hostel. Phew!
Here we are in the midst of Easter. After dealing with the long lines, crowds and waiting for hours, I’m glad to finally have a moment to breath and take it all in.
For the Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s, the members of Bernardi camped out for almost 7 hours outside in the square. After some crazy shoving to get in, we made it. Candles in hand, and Fr. Carola by my side (he translated for us) I was ready for this mass. I found myself easily distracted, but I would stop and remind myself to be present. Never have I been to an Easter Vigil with the Vicar of Christ, and I might never have the privilege again. And then I would think of my grandparents and the rest of my family. There is even a great chance that they will never have this opportunity. Being in Rome is something they would only dream of. And there I was, sitting in St. Peter’s. It’s because of my family that I am here, and I am here now for them. The thought brings me to tears. What a gift they have given me. Their sacrificial love has borne beautiful fruit. What a gift to partake in the fruit of the greatest sacrificial Love in the same mass as the Pope.
Spring break is here! Eleven of us just came back from spending 5 days in Poland. We flew into Katowice and took a taxi to Częstochowa where we stayed for the night. We walked through the market, and then made our way to venerate the image of the Black Madonna. We spent the night in Częstochowa, and then went to visit Auschwitz the next day. On our way to Krakow we stopped in Wadowice to see the house that Pope John Paul II grew up in. Our final stop was Krakow. I think I can say that the whole group fell in love with Krakow. The city was beautiful, and the people were kind.
We were blessed to be there for Palm Sunday, and we went to the Dominican church for mass. The church was packed and there was standing room only. What amazed me even more was that it was packed with young adults. Then, after 10 minutes of trying to exit the church, we realize that there is a procession coming down the street for the next mass. There was a procession of people singing, playing hand drums, carrying palms, twirling sticks with flames, and carrying a large image of the face of Christ. We stood there with our jaws on the floor. The Church is alive and kicking! Poland’s passionate youth blew me away.
We finished the week checking out the Wawel Castle, celebrating a birthday, and then hitting up the salt mines before spending the night in the Katowice airport. I left a little bit of my heart in Poland.
This weekend the Bernardi household spent the two days in silence. Father Carola and the rest of the chaplaincy led the retreat for us. We stayed at a retreat house on Lago Albano across from Castel GandolfoI (the Pope’s summer residence). I actually got sick on the first day of the retreat. I took some sudafed, and knocked out. After missing a whole session, I woke up and made my way down to find Fr. Carola. He smiled and told me to enjoy the private room and rest. I was frustrated. Frustrated that I was sick. Frustrated that I was missing out on sessions, and missing the opportunity to pray with the group. It was in my room, alone, and in my sickness that I met Him. I went through my old journal. Reading entires from over a year ago, I recognized that I continue to fall in the same ways, and the Lord continues to pull me out of myself time and time again. How could I not be joyful!
This is the beauty of the Catholic Studies program. The staff and professors care about our growth, not only intellectual but spiritual. This was the main reason that I drove 2000 miles from the west coast to study at St. Thomas.
This weekend I went on my first weekend trip without the whole group. Six of us went to Naples, Sorrento, and Capri. We were incredibly blessed in that we never missed a train the whole trip. We spent a few hours in Naples the first day, and made sure to get pizza. We spent a couple of hours strolling through the National Archeological Museum in Naples. It was absolutely beautiful! I’m so glad we were able to see the Pompeian paintings before actually seeing the city itself. With so few ancient Roman paintings left, the several rooms of paintings in this museum are a real gift.
After spending the majority of the day in Naples, we hoped on a train and headed to Sorrento, where we would be staying for the next two nights. With no address, and the sun down, we were happy that we were able to find the place! We stayed at the convent “La Culla” (which means crib). The view from our room was spectacular, the sisters were so sweet to us, and we had some of the best coffee and lemon cake there.
We spent most of that day on the island of Capri, doing some sight seeing, and taking a chair lift to the top of the island for a better view. One of the guys who was with us, Mike, stayed up a while longer to get some more pictures, and he noticed a couple on one of the look outs. The guy was proposing to his girlfriend! Mike snapped a picture, waited a while, and went up to be the first to congratulate them. He exchanged info so he could send them the picture, and found out that they are both students from Ave Maria University (in Florida) who are also studying in Rome. We look forward to meeting up with them again.
Sunday we woke up early, went to mass with one of the sisters, and before we left she showed us the giant icon that she is working on for their private chapel! Again, what a gift! We made our way to Pompeii, and walked the ancient Roman roads for a couple of hours. We then made our way back to home/Rome.