Monthly Archives

November 2010


A Brush With a Consistory

rome continued
When I signed up for the Catholic Studies semester abroad in Rome, there was no possible way that I could even have dreamed up the opportunities that I would have while I am here. For example, ­­­­within the first two weeks of being in Rome, a cardinal came to Bernardi to celebrate our community night Mass. In addition, we’ve had opportunities to go to a diaconate ordination, a canonization Mass, and now, a consistory—where all the Catholic cardinals in the world come together for a ceremony in which new cardinals are created. Needless to say, a consistory is kind of a big deal. The college of cardinals totals around 120, so when they’re all gathered together in one place, everybody sees red.

There are cardinals from all over the world, so one gets a real sense of the global nature of the Catholic Church—its universality. Where our group was sitting in St. Peter’s Basilica, we were surrounded by a group of people who had traveled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to see one of their bishops elevated to the iconic high ecclesial office that shares a name with my favorite North American songbird. Their expressions of jubilance at the occasion were distinctly foreign to me, and quite probably caused me to experience more culture shock than I have ever experienced before. I give them kudos for originality, though; I would never have thought to bring vuvuzelas and cowbells to a consistory.

After the consistory, we had the opportunity to go to a reception at the Pontifical North American College for the two new cardinals from the United States: Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Donald Wuerl. After waiting in line for a considerable amount of time, our group even had the opportunity to greet Cardinal Burke. As some members of our company have a personal acquaintance with Burke, this was a special moment.

All in all, after a long day standing in lines, going hungry, and getting pushed around by barely controlled crowds of Catholics numbering in the thousands, I was grateful to return to the (relative) calm of Bernardi. Welcome to a day in Rome, to St. Peter’s, and to the world of the Pope. I am beginning to understand why people say, “I love the Pope, but I hate his crowds.” Nonetheless, I will be back on quiet country roads before I know it, and I more than likely will never again be at a consistory of the Catholic Church. Besides, one must leave one’s comfort zone if one wants to see new things, right? I think the proper perspective helps.

Ciao for now,



The Gift of Silence

Lake Albano
Encounter. This word, in many ways, expresses the goal of spiritual retreat. In spiritual retreat, one has the opportunity to go into the silence, and for a little while, get away from the many distractions that fight for our attention every moment of our busy lives. Going into the silence has been often compared with going into the desert, and the use of this imagery is quite apt, for retreat often feels like a being in the desert. Nonetheless, there are such tremendous wonders awaiting us in the silence. There, in the quiet of our hearts, God’s voice is heard. In the stillness of prayer we can encounter our Creator and our Father, we can encounter our Savior and our King, and we can encounter the Living Spirit of Love moving within us. In the silence we can truly encounter God.

Every time I am able to go on retreat I try to remember how many people are not able to set apart the significant amount of time it takes to enter into silence, and spend time “apart” with the Lord in prayer. One of the tremendous opportunities that the Catholic Studies Rome Program offers is the chance to go on a weekend retreat. A retreat is a gift amidst the business of anyone’s life, but to be able to experience quiet was especially refreshing after the chaos and noise that is Rome.

Our retreat house was on a beautiful volcanic lake to the south of Rome (the same lake upon which the Pope spends his summers), and it was a truly beautiful setting. For a country boy like me, it was wonderful just to be able to sit outside and drink in the beauty of creation—to see the lake in all its serenity, to see the stars at night, and to hear the wind in the leaves instead of cars honking. For all the wondrous things that man has made, I still testify to the incalculable superiority of God’s creation. He still does it best.

Ciao for now,


A Weekend in Venice


Recently, I went with four friends to see the ancient Italian island city of Venice. We were able to spend two nights in the old city, and in the time that we had, we made sure that our feet encountered as many of the charming little sidewalk-like-streets of Venice as possible. Every once in awhile you get to see something completely unlike anything else you’ve seen before, and when I first set my eyes on the streets of Venice, I realized that this city is a place unlike any other.

Venice is a city spread out over 117 small islands nestled together in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea, just off the coast of Italy. As you most likely know, the cities main arteries are canals, and the city is entirely devoid of cars. One either must take a boat or walk. Those are the options. Consequently the city has a different feel—it remains stuck in a completely different time. Because of the necessity of getting everywhere a piedi (on foot), the city has maintained a very compact size. Buildings are nestled close together, often actually adjoining. The fact that it is completely free of car traffic made it a lovely place to take a break from the hectic streets of Rome. As a person who often loves the quieter side of life, I thoroughly enjoyed the break from sirens, car horns, rumbling busses, and buzzing motorinos.

Venice offers a lot of history as well. While we were there, we were able to go to the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the Scuola di San Rocco, the Basilica di San Marco, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, where we saw numerous paintings by Tintoretto, Titian, Bellini, and other Venetian masters. We also took in a small string ensemble concert featuring music from Venice’s own, Antonio Vivaldi. Hearing Vivaldi’s four seasons in Venice was truly unforgettable.

In many ways, seeing Venice is a bit bittersweet. One has the realization that this city may not be here forever, at least not in its current state. It has been well documented that Venice is sinking, and it is quite easy to be skeptical about such theories until you go to Mass in the Basilica of Saint Mark’s and the narthex of the church is under a foot of water, or until you stand in Saint Mark’s Square on a 30 inch wide sidewalk set up on two foot stilts so as to avoid being in 18 inches of seawater. Apparently, this type of water-assault now occurs over 100 times a year.

            Venice is kept alive by the millions of tourists that visit every year, and thus much is done to keep the city in repair. But signs of decay are everywhere, and it appears that even Venetians won’t be able to hold back the hands of time forever. For this reason, I feel quite blessed to have been able to spend a couple of days in this magical, one-of-a-kind city with friends now. For who knows? Maybe my grandchildren will see a very different city than I just saw.

Ciao for now.



With My Own Eyes


One of the perks of going to school in Rome is being able to see, in person, the vast array of artwork that has been created over the last two-thousand-plus years. Some of it is extremely beautiful, some less so, but all of it is part of what makes European culture what it is now.

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