Monthly Archives

March 2009


Chapter 2: Tourist season!

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.
hillsAfter 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/, 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!


A Snapshot

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.