Goodbye to Rome and goodbye to Bernardi. We will never again be together as a group in Rome, but we will always be a group! We are the Spring 09ers! As I sit in the back of the plane, surrounded by English whispers, I am beginning to realize that it is finally time to go back to what was once familiar.
My experience in Rome is not merely something that I will look back on as a fond memory. It is an experience that is now a part of me and my fellow Bernardians. We will go on with our lives, but certainly a day will not pass that we will not find ourselves referencing or momentarily thinking about our time in Rome. As Fr. Giertych said to many of us on our way out the door, “don’t forget what you have learned here.” I suppose that would be a logical thing to say at the end of every class. But we knew that he meant something more. What we learned in Rome was not simply information and a new skill set. It is a way of life. I am so grateful to have been a part of the Catholic Studies in Rome semester, Spring 2009. There are too many graces to count and too many people to thank! To all who have had a hand in the program, thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! Thanks be to God!!!
For every day that passes, it gets harder and harder to think about writing a blog. Actually, this update has taken me well over a week from start to finish. How do you put a day in the life of a Roman study abroad student into a few paragraphs? Especially when every week is full of a new adventure completely unlike the ones before! I can attempt to work backwards and recap the graces of this experience, but know, that like Easter, words cannot begin to do it justice. This time around, I’m going to illustrate a day in the life (or a week in the life) of a Spring O9er at Bernardi…
Here it goes!
When the morning comes, wake up and head downstairs to the chapel or to the surprisingly noisy basement dining room for a cup of coffee, some special K and choco-flakes cereal, and the choice fruit of the day. I don’t know if it is the Bernardi dining room or the Spring 09 clan, but there seems to be a lot of laughing and storytelling in the early morning! Over breakfast, consider the time, and decide the route to school: walk the 40 minutes or find a bus on the way. Off to class! Most likely, you chose option one. You will find yourself walking past the Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Gregorian University, and finally the Angelicum. The “Ang” is our final destination, on the top of a short but steep hill. The feeling of achievement after reaching the top of the hill hasn’t faded yet- walking through the doors to the open aired courtyard is just as exciting now as it was day one back in February! Time for class. At break time, grab a quick cappuccino at the bar and use the remainder of your 15 minute break for chatting and socializing in the courtyard with classmates. If it’s Monday or Tuesday, you’ll have time to grab a panini, pasta, or pizza for lunch and rest in the Ang garden. The other days of the week are a bit more open. You’ll have time to check out another must-see destination, catch up on homework, picnic in the park, or even better, relax on the Bernardi terrace! Back home, Wednesday was hump day. Here, Wednesday is community day! The day is generally free – some of us cut vegetables for the Missionaries of Charity, some of us work in the garden and build furniture for the Little Sisters of the Lamb, and others attend the papal audience. Often, a few people will initiate a game of ultimate frisbee, football (or futbol) in Villa Borghese park. No matter the events of the week, the peak of the week is without fail, Wednesday night community night. 5:30 adoration, 6:30 mass, 7:30 discussion, 8:15 dinner. We all gather, 32 students, 6 members of the chaplaincy, and a handful of guests for a formal night of prayer, bonding, and good eats! It is our time of the week together as a full community- something truly unique to the study abroad experience!
As the week comes to a close, whether Thursday or Saturday, off you go! Tour the city or take a day trip to the coast. Find a new Italian destination or maybe even a transcontinental cheap flight! Two weeks ago, I took a glorious pilgrimage to Padua and Venice- two very different places but gorgeous in their own right! Padua was perfectly peaceful and full of devotions to St. Anthony of Padua. We woke up to the quiet rustle of people, attended mass in the Basilica of St. Anthony, meandered through the markets, and visited the famous Scrovegnie chapel with Giotto’s wall frescos. It was a refreshing oasis in it’s finest! We then took a quick train trip and a riverboat “bus” to our apartment in Venice. The city is like nothing you have ever seen before! It’s a maze of side streets and mini-bridges connecting the major ports to the tourist destinations. We quickly located the famous San Marco- it was a giant piazza with an unmistakably gorgeous basilica. Apparently the rest of the population had the same instincts we did. Venice is a widely known tourist destination. The only native Italians I saw were the polo-wearing sun tanned river taxi drivers and the gondola rowers. Last weekend, I enjoyed the less popular sights of Rome. In the lush Vatican Gardens and the huge park on the Juniculum hill, I was participating in the weekend life of a Roman. Now, I am on a nice Eurostar train to Milan, in route to the beautiful Lake Como on the border of Switzerland!!! I have been blessed!!!!
Two weeks left. I have really learned the meaning of the phrase “bitter-sweet.” I anticipate that our closing weeks in Rome will be full of tears of happiness in one eye and tears of sadness in the other…. but more on that later.
Thanks for your continual support for us in Rome! I speak for everyone when I say that we cannot wait to share the graces of our semester with our friends and families back home.
Things to note:
-We have taken an art history course from a professor who may be seen on the history channel and we have shared dinner with the papal master of ceremonies who will most likely be seen standing beside the Holy Father in all papal events. Enough said.
-It is quite possible to use an entire Papermate ball point pen. Weeks of European lecture classes has increased the mortality rate of my pens by 200% since January.
-Beware: after 3.5 months of living in a community, you will no doubt adopt quirky mannerisms, regional dialects, and unique phrases of your housemates. (The hand motion, “shootskis,” “FACT,” “Va Bene,” “Oh Milanta!”…. to name a few.)
– I love Bernardi.
My curser is blinking on the screen in front of my face, and it is certainly not because I have nothing to say. I have too much to say! Words cannot capture Holy Week in Rome, in the heart of the church, and in our home away from home. But I owe it to you to try.
For three days we were focused completely on the preparation and celebration of Easter. The final preparation in Rome (after a full season of Lent), consisted of the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday papal masses. As Bernardi and company, with visiting friends and families, we made our way to St. Peter’s to beat the crowds and celebrate the Triduum with the Holy Father at the center of the Church. That’s no small thing! Three hours of anticipation to the moment of gate opening, a chaotic gate-jumping rush to get in, and an hour of seat-grabbing, waiting in the St. Peter’s Basilica, and there we were. Though I am painting a picture of total chaos, Good Friday mass was anything but chaotic. In this solemn feast, I had a direct view of Pope Benedict and the altar. It would be impossible to be distracted by the people when you are within the most incredible structure on earth in the face of the pope. I wouldn’t exactly boast about my ability to sit still in an instance, but in those few hours, I was almost frozen! Well, I do admit to a slight distraction from the celebration when I held my long arms above the crowd to catch a video of our very own Luke reading the English Prayer of the Faithful. We were so proud to have a member of our little community represent the English speaking peoples of the world in front of the pope- what a blessing! And it’s only Friday. We had a similar experience for the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday, but it was in no way the same. The Mass began in darkness. As the procession began, light slowly spread from candle to candle until the magnificent basilica above our heads was illuminated with an under glow of candle light. Beautiful! There is really no way to describe it. To make it better, Stephanie read the final reading before the gospel. Yet again, the people in St. Peter’s, the Cardinals and the Pope, and everyone tuned in on EWTN heard the Word from the voice of a Bernardian! Walking out of the doors that night, I felt a true feeling of celebration in the air, and especially in our group. We met at the obelisk and congratulated Stephanie with cheers and singing… have you ever been hurried out of the Vatican by security guards?!? We were. We made our way, speedily, to the nearest gelato shop to indulge in our first ever Easter treat. The night ended at different times for everyone, but it is safe to say that a good number was up to welcome the sun with morning prayer at 6:00 on the terrace. It was a full basement celebration with singing, dancing, laughing, and pure Easter joy!!!
Easter Sunday was probably one of the most memorable moments of the semester. Head-up by lead chefs, Victoria and birthday girl Marissa, we put together our very own Easter feast. It was community at it’s finest, in attendance were all of the Bernardians in town for the weekend, a few extra families, and Fr. Carola! While the ladies cooked inside and set the tables with Easter chocolates and a pot-luck of our favorite desserts, some of the boys managed the grill outside (which included a sampling of summer tunes and tossing around of the football). Lunch was delicious and truly joyful! I cannot count how many “this is wonderful”, “isn’t it great to be together”, and “good job, chefs!” I heard over the course of the meal! It was nothing other than a celebration. We followed up our meal with a quiet in-house Mass much unlike the three before. I personally benefited from the chance to really reflect on how incredible it was to have spent Easter week in Rome with Pope Benedict. As if the day wasn’t perfect enough, we sent out the sun with a large group game of football and world cup soccer. It was a great day, only to be followed by another adventurous week of travels.
I will have to send out a full update on the second week of spring break in a later blog. For now, we are all busy in the midst of multiple papers and quizzes. Here’s to the fourth quarter of our semester!
Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. Be assured that we are offering ours to you at home also!
Things to note:
-Bring thick-soled shoes, a limited amount of baggage, a rosary, a snack, and patience to all papal events. You would be surprised how quickly a 2-3 hour wait and a good seat can turn a papal Mass crowd into a reverent MOB.
-It is possible to grill a delicious meal with limited Italian meat options.
-Gelato tastes significantly more delectable after 40 days of Lent.
Speaking of slowing down the hands of time, I am now reporting from April 9th, a full 20 days since my last update. The Bernardi community is reuniting from a week of travels for the excitement of a blessed Holy Week in Rome. I cannot yet imagine the magnificence of spending this week in the eternal city, but hopefully in a few days the experience will earn some words to help describe it! Look for an update to come!
These past few weeks have been nothing like the weeks before. In short, it has been a family-meeting and Europe-traveling good time. After a few weeks traveling by plane, train, and automobile in foreign lands, I have a new appreciation for the phrase, “the one thing you can plan, is that things will not go as planned.” True. My most recent traveling experience in Prague, Czech Republic, could not be a better testament to that statement. But in all truth (just like in Subiaco), everything turned out for the better! Every day, actually every hour, Laura and I wondered how it could get better… and sure enough… it did!
There seems to be a pattern of adjusting to a new culture. First, you stumble around town in awe of the beauty of the city and the richness of the culture. Then, you pick up your map and read up on Rick Steve’s guide to prioritize the major sites of the city. Plan on finding them, but realize that you probably won’t. Or at least when you planned to find them! Instead, you will probably encounter a new hidden gem that you didn’t expect finding, and that is what makes it exciting! Soon, through time and repetition, you begin to identify personally with these popular destinations. In Prague, the singing and dancing of the Easter festival and the hourly chime of the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square transformed from an incredible photo-op to a meeting place for our new fellow traveling friends. In our first visit to the square, 3 hours was not enough time to sit, observe the gothic architecture, people watch, and take in the festival with all our senses. By the end, the clock was the first step to a fun social evening on the town with friends. Though certainly tourists of the city, we were yet a part of a smaller community of English-speaking student travelers searching for a cultural and social experience! In stead of recycling the “where did you go to high school” and “what are you studying” questions, you ask the “where have you been in the world” and “where are you going next”! It’s a different world! I am still deciding if it is the check list of world famous monuments and places, the letting go of control/ comfort zones and surrendering to uncertainty, or the social experience that makes me love traveling so much. I do know, however, that I have a serious case of the travel bug!
Good news, world! Though I’d love to see all of you, I’m going to have to return home to lovely Minnesota at some point. Hopefully someday I can make my way across the border again. For now, I am thankful for my time here, and I look forward to the chance to share my experience abroad with my family and friends back home! Luckily, I have been blessed with the chance to share a week of the Bernardi experience with my family (or 4/8ths of them) already. And I am not alone. Time with visiting families has been a special treat for the Bernardi community- although Wednesday night community night has undergone some transformation with the over-capacity of guests! As we say, “we’re all family here” 🙂
On my week with the family, I played the role of tour guide, spoiled daughter, and lucky big sister. We visited major cites and enjoyed full Italian meals (and of course the youngest member of the Lahti family requested more than enough gelato outings… thanks Anna!). We celebrated the successful completion of the Rome Marathon by Bernardians and extended Bernardians: Nicole and her Mom, Ryan, Fr. Beaudet, and Gwen, a former Bernardian! That deserved not only a few cheering sections along the 42 kilometer route, but also a celebratory dinner and outing with the a gathering of 15-20. Congrats! As a family, we also took advantage of the coastal beauty of Italy at Sorrento and the Island of Capri. I could not have imagined a better relaxing escape than the moments on the terrace overlooking the gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvias. Gorgeous!
I trust that all the Bernardians are having similar experiences abroad. From what it sounds, Poland, Austria, Germany, Medjugorie, England, Ireland, France, and the rest of Italy are just as exciting. Even within the city limits, spring break has been adventurous! Just ask Nicole and Holly – they ran into plenty of new experiences in this seemingly familiar city… like surviving an earthquake! (We’re thankful that all of our group is perfectly safe, but please keep the victims from the Italian earthquake in your prayers!)
Following the pattern of life abroad, I’d say that the Spring-09ers of the Catholic Studies semester are successfully in the social stage. We enjoy sharing personal experiences with one another- after a long day of traveling, my first move walking through the campus doors was to see who was home! We enjoy sharing our families with one another- you learn a lot about a person when you get to meet their families! Finally, we enjoy sharing our unique gifts and talents with one another- guitar and singing on the terrace, jokes and insights… where to begin!?!? Even late night paper writing has found a nice place in the community!
A special thank you to all the families that have made the trip to Rome! We really appreciated your visit!
Things to note:
-Rick Steve’s should be a celebrity and a traveler’s best friend. Commonly asked question while abroad= “Did you bring Rick?”
-Expect the unexpected! Did I mention that we happened to see Obama in Prague? Good thing we were watching CNN the night before he decided to follow us to the Czech Republic, or we wouldn’t have even known that Mr. President was paying a visit!
-McDonald’s has tainted the world with greasy fries and McFlurries. Or as the Aussies say, “Mackers”. They are everywhere.
-Multiple flavor-infused variations of the same cola pop is strictly an American fad… I have yet to see anything more than Coke, Coke Light, Sprite, and Fanta in Europe.
It is quite possible to fit 52 people in the basement dining room. 52 of us have lived to tell the tale of the tight and cozy community night on March 25th!
It begins! The time for adjusting to life abroad, life in a community, and life in Rome has come to a close. Now begins the inflow of family visits and the excitement of traveling on our own!
I had the opportunity to take part in a road trip adventure an hour out the city to the town of Subiaco. We arrived safely in the city, and ultimately to our final destination at St. Benedict’s monastery on the cliffs of the mountain. Keyword= Ultimately. The journey proved just as exciting as our final destination. We followed “montesteri” signs to the walking path, and from there we stayed on the pilgrimage path guided by faint white and red paint squares. This might explain why, when we finally reached our destination, we had no idea. Somehow, we decided to sweat our way through a trail up an additional mountain peak. The most unplanned, unexplained, and difficult leg of the journey proved to be the most rewarding. The view from the top cannot be captured by words. If I were to try to explain what I saw from the top of the mountain, I would say that before my eyes was a undeveloped river valley fading slowly into the background, flanked by rolling hills, and covered by the largest sky I have ever seen.
We recognized that, undoubtedly, the hand of God had guided us to, not our destination, but His! We finally turned around, retraced our steps down the mountain, and curled around the bend to find the monastery. Inside, the frescoes, the chapel, and the cave of St. Benedict (where he stayed in solitude for 3 years) were a breathtaking testament of Beauty. However, looking out the sides of the cliff, down to the river and across the mountain peaks, smelling the grass clippings and fresh labor of the monks, and hearing the sounds of birds, captured Beauty in an entirely different way. And sharing these moments with 4 other positive and happy young women, priceless! There definitely are some things money can’t buy.
After spending weekends together with the full Bernardian clan, having a free weekend was truly an adjustment. Though sad to be away from most of the group, small-group travel ended up being an unexplainable bonding experience. The best part, each and every person in the house was genuinely interested in the weekend travels and tales of each other! Sharing the joys and mishaps, jokes and memories has been almost as exciting as the experience itself.
Although, it can be difficult to capture Assisi, Florence, Pompeii, Sorrento and the Almalfi coast, Paris, London, and skiing in the Swiss alps with just words and pictures. It is just one of the many blessings about being in a community!
This period of bonding and adjusting is wrapping up, and before you know it, we will be in the heat of tourist season, Easter, and spring break. Just in case the day-to-day was starting to get repetitive, our city and our schedule is bound to change right before our eyes. I am already noticing the first sign of tourists: herds of of wide-eyed non-Italians with manual Canons around the neck, following one individual holding a vibrant flag. Spring break plans, anyone? I’ll be catching a plane to Prague, then back to Rome for Easter, then off to Barcelona and Sevilla. (Not to rub it in, but it sure beats Daytona and the Dells 🙂 ) The excitement of what lies just ahead forces me to reflect on just how fast the time has really gone! It’s time for a deep breath and a “thank-you” for the graces of this first month and a half. Perhaps a “slow-down” of the hands of time would also be appropriate. There’s so much left to see and so much left to do!!!
Thanks for the support from back home!
Love and Prayers!
Things to note:
– The walk to school is filled with much more than just world famous monuments. Ask the ladies, the spring collection window-shopping is an exciting change of pace.
– Don’t be dismayed at the sight of Italian youngsters better dressed than half the American population. (Picture a 6-year old brunette in a long peacoat with leggings and a trendy pair of boots).
-Target, traffic laws, gum, fitted sheets and comfy towels, K102/ Cities97/ Pandora.com, grilled food, english, Mississippi River Road smooth running path, rollerblades, bonfires, lakes, sweatpants, The Grill, The Quad, and yes, Frey library….oh how I miss thee! Or, at least, come June, I know I will be looking forward to reuniting with these aspects of Minnesota! But it can wait until June!
Of the seven wonders of the world, I believe I may have just captured six of them in one panoramic view. From the back steps of our retreat center last weekend we gazed over (1) Lago Albano completely surrounded by (2) volcanic cliffs, where we looked straight across to the (3) summer papal palace, picturesque in itself. With the help of a well-trained eye, we spotted the (4) dome of St. Peter’s amidst the buildings of Rome, and to our left, the (5) Mediterranean Sea occupied the horizon. (6) The horizon to the right of mountains and cliffs fading off into the distance. Imagine the scene, and repeat in the morning sunrise, the afternoon sunshine, the evening sunset, and the moonlight night, as that is what we experienced on our silent retreat last weekend.
The silent retreat was nothing I could have predicted, and nothing I can really explain. It was not a weekend in silence or a weekend in thought. It was a weekend to just simply, be. To be in prayer and to be in mediation, quiet, but not in the slightest bit alone! The presence of God has never felt so real as it did on the cliffs above Lago Albano. Though challenging at times (especially for one prone to giggle-fits), I know that the fruits of this experience will continue to unfold throughout the semester. Actually, it already seems to be proving itself as a surprisingly rich bonding experience for the group already!
Last weekend in Ravenna, however, was far from a silent retreat from the city. Just as the other passengers in our train car! We can be a noisy bunch! After a couple hour trip to Bologna, and then from Bologna to Ravenna, we arrived in what was a gateway to Rome from the East. It was a brick town adorned with the most beautiful mosaics in the world! As students of “Church and Culture” and “Worship in the City of Rome”, we were fortunate enough to put beauty in the context of history and truly understand the beauty in relevance of this art to our Catholic faith.
It may seem, from these updates, that I am living from weekend to weekend and what happens during the week is not worth noting. Quite the opposite! It is the unexpected things, and there are many, in which you find the best of foreign travels! Last week, we celebrated a March madness of birthdays at a true Italian restaurant, fully equipped with a family of waiters that had been serving there for years. The meal was fabulous, but bringing a herd of 19 Americans into a restaurant with only Italian families made the experience. That’s cultural immersion for you! And though we are allowing the culture to slowly soak in to our behaviors, in true American spirit, we bring a little bit of home to Italy as well. By that, I mean we have no hesitancy to sing “Brown Eyed Girl” and Disney songs down the streets or to start up a game of Ultimate frisbee in the park. If IHOP pancake night for Fridays in lent classifies as American, we might be exposing Italy to a little of that too! Also, just this evening, Fr. Murray referenced Christianity’s use of pagan beauty in the columns of the Church of St Clement, and most of us were looking at those very columns, by chance, this morning. When you begin receiving print-outs and picture books in class of images that you see in real life on a daily basis, you know you are residing in a truly phenomenal place. It is the random and inexplainable moments like these that force me to step out of myself for a second and thank God for the spectacular experiences at my very fingertips.
Thank God for the the opportunity to be in the eternal city! Love from Rome! Best wishes to all in Minnesota, my thoughts and prayers are with you (you know who you are)!
Things to note:
– If you plan to visit Bernardi Campus and would like to make some quick friends, bring peanut butter and label it “per tutti” (for everyone). Last night’s visitor earned a standing applause and a few rounds of cheers over a jar of Skippy.
– Leave your bright pink sweaters at home. They scream “Americana”.
– Never underestimate the power of the imagination. Some among us shared their incredible abilities to produce full-out motion pictures in their minds with a bible verse prompt and an hour of silence. Who knew that visual meditations could alter the “Call of the Disciples” passage and send Peter’s boat speeding around in circles like a modern speed boat?
– Pricing is subject to the will of the employee. If you purchase a phone card in the evening, there is a good chance that in two hours they will be more expensive. Or they might just mysteriously stop selling them.
What would you do after a weekend in Siena, Lanciano, and Monopello? (May I remind you that by weekend I am referring to the 24 hours of daylight on both Saturday and Sunday combined!) Well, if you are studying in Rome, you should probably get rested and ready by next weekend, because it is off to Ravenna you go!
Just when we were getting accustomed to the day-to-day of a Roman, we were introduced to a fresh new side of Italy. The rolling Tuscan hills and the quaint town of Siena was a perfect and picturesque oasis away from the city noise of Rome. On Saturday morning, 7 a.m. departure time, we piled into a coach bus headed for Siena. When we arrived in the home of the young St. Catherine, we spent some solemn moments in the church San Domino where her relics survive today. We saw her home and where she spent 3 years in silent prayer. In those moments, we prayed where she prayed and saw what she saw. The story of St. Catherine was close almost to the touch! Well, maybe besides the fact that she was 24th of 25 children… Nonetheless, I felt privelaged to be in her presence. The stunning view of the Sienese rooftops and the foothills in the distance don’t hurt much either. A day in Siena would not be complete without a stroll through the valley and some relaxation in the Centro watching dressed-up Italian youngsters chasing one another, and without a care in the world!
As if that wasn’t enough for one weekend, Sunday became another tour-de-Italy. The women initiated our own pilgrimage to the sites of the Eucharistic miracle at Lanciano and the home of the veil of Veronica in Monopello. In these two places, I was personally able to see beauty in the mystery of miracles. It challenged my mind and guided my heart to feel the magnificence of what was before me. Our trip, besides purely inspiring, was also a laughing work-out. If you are ever in need of a good laugh, please ask me about the jokes and hilarious summer-job horror stories and embarrassing moments that were revealed on that adventure! Also, we were graciously treated to a full Italian meal at the cutest side street restaurant. MMM good 🙂
These experiences are too much for words! And besides just that, it is only a snapshot of what goes on at Bernardi. I’m growing not only accustomed but attached to the community night Mass and dinners on campus, to the nights and dinners out on the town, to the 45-minute walk to class, to the Italian espresso, to the church visits and ever-presenf beauty and history, to the group runs through the park, to the music-sharing, singing, and dancing in the basement, to the spiritual encouragement and incredible examples of my peers, to the normality of seeing priests and nuns on the street, and to the sunshine!
I’m so thankful to be a part of this experience!!!
Things to note:
– Meals are an experience. A true dinner should take around 3 hours.
– Restrooms have a price tag in the outskirts of Italy, budget accordingly.
– Future Bernardians: bring a watch! Cell phones are no longer the primary keeper of time!
– Remember that if you are in the church of St. Agnes, it is very likely that she is too- keep an eye out for important relics of saints!
Tracing steps…literally and figuratively! As the first week in Rome is coming to a close, we are getting a lay of the land. We follow the paths of our first ever trip to St. Peter’s and to class at the Angelicum, and make our own variations along the way. I’m pretty sure I could lead you to the Vatican, the nearest Piazza (plaza to the English speaking among us), the Coluseum, and the metro stop no problem! I may even be able to find you a nice pasta stop. But I’m not promising I could help you cross the street safely, though. I’m still working on figuring out the Italian pedestrian situation on my own! I can be certain, however, that every time my foot hits the pavement, there is a long line of history behind me. Though sometimes more clear and obvious than others, this weeks adventures united us with the past in a way unlike a native Minnesotan could have imagined! The universality of the Church transcends not only space between nations, but also all of time!
This week, we spent our days touring places where memorable people walked before us. We went to St. Peter’s again, but this time for the papal visit. As our name, “students from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota, Rome Campus” was read aloud, I was able to capture a picture of Pope Benedict’s welcome wave!!! Now that’s a keeper!
That evening, our group traveled to Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, where we sat and prayed in the very spot where Mother Teresa sat and prayed. What a powerful experience! The following day, we toured through the catacombs. These ancient burial places were deep underground and stacked one above the other, so not as to contaminate the precious land above. Today, they house the first piece of Christian art of Mary and Jesus. We walked (and crouched, for those of us 6 feet plus) through the dark tunnels and observed the remains of life in the fourth century. I found it almost as amazing to stop and look closely at the individual carvings on the wall- somebody wrote/ chiseled that! And it was 1700 years ago! It may sound elementary, but at the time, it seemed like quite a revelation! (Actually, graffiti from 1862 struck us all as “new”. Ponder that.) Of course, our tours this week took us to some more magnificent places. The Scavi tour under St. Peter’s led us around the remains of the first basilica and ultimately Peter’s bones! These visits and the amount of priceless relics available brings the past to life.
It’s been one week full of sights to see. But in all honesty, establishing a community with my fellow Bernardians has been just as rewarding. It’s only been one week? No chance. We have had plenty of painful stomach laughs and uncontrollable giggles. Long, heartfelt conversations and mindless movie nights. We have shared a bit about our families, our past, our likes and dislikes over dinner and long walks. Fun times, let me tell you! I cannot wait to share my Roman experience with the Catholic Studies Spring 09ers!!!
Thanks for thoughts from back home! Love and Prayers from Roma!
Things to note:
1. “Old” has an entirely different meaning on the other side of the Atlantic.
2. 10:30 am is synonymous with 10:37 am, 10:48 am, and maybe even 10:50 am in Italian culture. I guess punctuality is an American virtue.
3. Dominican priests do not provide syllabus, notes, outlines, and/or class times at the Angelicum. Figure it out
Here we are, safe and sound! After 17 hours of waiting, plane-riding, waiting, plane-riding, rushing to catch a plane, and a final session of plane-riding, we were welcomed into the beautiful city of Rome with fresh 50 degree weather and a a few surprising rays of sunshine! My first reaction- take off the winter coat and breathe in the new air! But who could stop there. Having been in the city for 3 full days (minus .75 days of orientation), it is difficult to see how anyone could take it all in in anything short of a semester. So here we begin, 32 strong, on our journey to come to know the Church, the city of Rome, and our home away from home.
Thanos greeted us outside the door of Bernardi campus, where we entered two-by-two to find our rooms. 10:00 am and we already had 17 hours of the day behind us! After 3 full days, it seems that the orientations have slowed and we are on our way to acclimating to our new home. As each moment passes and each pilgrimage walk ends, it becomes clearer and clearer that we are, in fact, in Rome! And it is exactly where we should be!
Our first destination, and rightly so, was St. Peter’s Basilica. Amazing. From this day forward, when people reference the Vatican, I will not have to reference blurry birds-eye photos or still snapshots. I have seen the Basilica in the evening and in the night glow. I have seen the holy father’s window and Michaelangelo’s Pieta. No image could capture the depth, perspective, and meaning of this beauty with an image. Celebrating this, the heart of the church, with people who see it than more than a tourist destination is a gift in itself.
Speaking of destinations, my steps thus far have taken me through the Pantheon, on the Spanish steps, and by the Trevi fountain. I have gone along the Tiber River, up the steps by the Piazza del Popolo, and down the Via del Corso. Rough life, isn’t it though?
There is so much to learn and so much to see! And the more I see, the more things I realize I have not yet seen. Rome in three days. It just cannot be done! I can’t wait to see what the next four months will bring.
Grazie, Roma, for making us your home for a while. Thank you from back home, for thinking of us from across the Atlantic! Also, for a small introduciton to me and this blog, check out this post on the Catholic Studies blog.
Things to note:
-“Yield to pedestrians” is not a well-understood Italian phrase.
– Get lost. It’s the only way to find your way around town.
– Choosing a gelato flavor is not a simple task… plan ahead! Or get started on a flavor of the day!