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!