Monthly Archives

November 2009


Art and Architecture trip to Bologna

We’re all just back from a weekend with Dr. Lev (art and architecture) up in Bologna. The trip was a marvelous experience of the vaunted Bolognese cuisine, glorious Gothic architecture, and the joy and camaraderie of community. We visited the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the West. Dante Alighieri, composer of the Divine Comedy, is one of the many famous individuals to have studied in Bologna. The highlight I would like to share (selected from the many, I might add) would be our time spent in San Petronio, the 5th largest church in the world. It took 700 years from when building began to the consecration of the church. Trivia aside, what really blew me away was the sweeping, mystical majesty of its Gothic architecture. Before coming here, I had never realized the power that architecture has to lift mind and heart to God. From the Roman basilicas of S. Maria Maggiore and S. Sabina to the Romanesque Bolognese church Santo Stefano to the Gothic masterpiece S. Petronio, the various styles employed are far from haphazard. There is a specific path to God that artist and artisan are pointing to, beckoning each of us further up, deeper into the mystery of Church both historical and eternal. Among the massive pillars of S. Petronio, a group of American students began to experience the joyously audible silence of Gothic architecture.


Looking Ahead to Midterms and Silence

Well, we’ve been here for over a month now. Our first midterm is looming on Monday. As dangerously easy as it is to lose oneself in the experience of Rome, and think more of visiting the Forum, or the Vatican, or that new favorite restaurant down by Chiesa Nuova, the thought of a midterm is the surest wakeup call to the primary focus of our life here at Bernardi: studiare.
Last Sunday was All Saints Day, and some of us went with Fr. Keating to Santa Sabina. There’s actually a little story about this trip up the Aventine. As a little background, Santa Sabina is a 5th century church on the Aventine hill. the international headquarters of the Dominican order. I have two older sisters who are both Dominican sisters in the Congregation of St. Cecilia centered in Nashville, TN. My oldest sister, Sr. Beatrice, celebrates her feast day on All Saints, so to be at the Dominican church par excellence for her feast day was a blessing. What made it even more beautiful lies in the significance of both the feast and my sister’s name. Beatrice comes from the Latin word beata, which means “blessed,” and refers to the communion of saints, through which the Church is unified through space and time. So despite the barriers of distance and disparity of experience, the Church is one. The feast of All Saints, all the “blessed,” highlights this reality. So to pray in Rome at S. Sabina for my sister in Tennessee on this feast day was for me a profound experience of the communion of saints.
I’m really looking forward to this weekend. All of us here at Bernardi are going on a silent retreat, led by Fr. Carola. The retreat center is actually right across from the Pope’s summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. It’s only about 15 miles outside of Rome, and to the southeast, which was surprising to me. I guess I had assumed that the Holy Father had a place “up north” as we say in Michigan. Anyway, there’s a lake in a volcanic crater beside the property, and we’ll also be able to see the Mediterranean past the Castel Gandolfo. It sounds beautiful.
Since we live in the heart of Rome, and the clatter of a major city is unavoidable, I welcome the opportunity to take time in silence, collect myself, and be better able to hear the voice of the Lord. We’ll be boarding the bus this afternoon, and coming back on Sunday. Which means that this is a crucial time for studying for that art history midterm on Monday. Pace e bene.