Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gone in 60 seconds...

So I was sure that my blogging days were over after I hadn't blogged for like 2 months. But, my friend, and wise counselor, told me that I needed to accept that the last two months of blogging were gone, and just start fresh.

Since I have a problem letting things go, I am making a compromise. I am going to try and sum up the last 2 months in 60 seconds.



Started doing Apostolic Outreach with the Missionaries of Charity!!
Bologna with Dr. Liz Lev. Froze my butt off, but it was rather pretty.
I went to Assisi. Che bello! St. Francis=baller
Lent Begins! Station Churches. Wakin' up at 5am to make it to Mass in English. Amazing.
Amalfi Coast with roommates. It is my favorite place ever. So so so unbelievably beautiful.
Visited major basilicas in Roma! Oh yeah.
Sister Josefine's (from the Chaplaincy) vows. Such a cool experience.
Amalfi Coast



-Silent Retreat with Fr. Carola. The Lord blessed it abundantly. Our Father loves us so much!
-Found out I am a Godmother!!
-Holy Stairs and Cupola extravaganza. Basically we walked around Rome for 8 hours.
-Nettuno to see the Sea and St. Maria Goretti's body! Woot woot!
-Dinner made for Bernardian's at the North American College Seminary. It was so good. Peanut butter cheesecake. Enough said.
        --Poland. It was so amazing.
        --Loreto and Ancona. Beautiful and Sketchy.
-Holy Week. Catholics are crazy.
-Easter. Best Bernardi bonding ever.
-Bike trip through Tuscany. My butt has never hurt more.

Silent Retreat (pre-silence)

Dinner at the NAC


Old Town--Krakow, Poland

In line 7 hours early for Easter Vigil at St. Peter's

Bernardi Crew on Easter Sunday

Bike Tour through Tuscany

Gone in 60 seconds...

Christ is Resurrected in your heart! Rejoice!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oh hey Rome. So, I’ve been living here for a month now. I like you. Do you like me? Check yes or no.

So it has officially been a month (a month I tell you!) since coming to Rome. If anyone else thinks that that is crazy, please stand up because I sure as heck am flabbergasted (partly because I like using that word and partly because it’s actually true). Time is flying by, but it such a fruitful way!
Everyone tells you that living at Bernardi is an excellent place to work on your charity because of the community. Well, they were right, of course, but something has happened to me that I did not really expect. I have found that my heart is not big enough to hold the amount of love that I feel for my fellow Bernardians. My heart is exploding with affection! Every moment I spend with one of them I fall even deeper in love.  Creepy, you may say, but so be it. Now, I’m the type of person who likes to tell my friends I love them and being that half of the people living here are of the male persuasion, I have definitely gotten some funny looks. BUT, it is so true, and I count my blessings everyday to be surrounded by such beautiful and great people.
One of the things that is so fun for me about this group of Bernardians is that everyone (and I mean everyone) has a RIDICULOUS laugh. And when I say ridiculous, I mean AWESOME. My favorite thing to do is laugh, and I can’t tell you how many times I laugh during a day. Whether it is because I am part of the comical situation, or I hear someone else laugh across the room and then promptly erupt in my own fit of laughter just because that person’s laugh is so infectous. I seriously cannot describe to you the joy that is always oozing out of the Bernardi walls.
Classes are going well, but anyone reading this planning on doing this Rome program, get ready to be torn! Because I don’t know about other semesters, but we definitely have a lot of homework and absolutely no time to do it. Our faculty advisor Dr. Coulter has definitely made clear that homework is an obligation, not an opportunity, a plentiful amount of times. He warns us with anecdotes revolving around things such as swing dancing, rosaries, and the Holy Father. So, while the classes have been really amazing and the knowledge that I’m gaining is invaluable, the availability to do the homework for the class presents only the slightest of challenges (though it would be considered a large challenge for Dr. Coulter but, va bene).

After reading all this rainbow and butterfly mumbo jumbo you might be thinking, “LIES!! No way it is that great”.  But alas, it is so true. Of course, it does not come without its challenges, and I know they will continue to come. I have already learned an enormous amount about myself, and the Lord has truly been working in my life. I am very interested in seeing how He keeps moving my heart. Little known fact, He loves you.
A quick prayer request to all your readers. So, a lot of the chaplaincy has asked me how community life is and if I have been annoyed or had trouble with people yet. After I thought about this for a little bit, I realized that while of course there are the little small things that might annoy us from time to time, I really haven’t been troubled by anyone in my community. But, then I realized that that probably means that I am the one who is troubling others. I am the one causing charity to grow in the hearts of my brothers and sisters. So, pray that I may love my community…buuuut probs pray more that my community may love me. 

Bologna is not full of bologna

We have this saying in the states that Oscar Meyer is spelled b-o-l-o-g-n-a. Well let me tell you something, Bologna is not the same thing as bologna.
We took our next out of Rome trip to Bologna! This time, Dr. Lev was our guide and boy she is a hoot and a half. What a firecracker of a woman! Anyway, in addition to Fr. Carola, I would also like Dr. Lev to accompany me on every trip I take out of Rome. She knows it all, that one.
Anyway, so we get on this bus for our 4 hour ride to Bologna and at about hour 3, we go through this tunnel for a minute and when we come out on the other side, there are snow covered hills as far as the eye could see. I, and many of my fellow Bernardians, thought we had stumbled into a portal that led us to Narnia. We still haven’t figure that one out, but either way, shortly thereafter, we made it to the city.
So, after getting dropped off about 15 blocks away from our hotel (I don’t know why either), we begin the treck to our hotel. As I walked along the bricks of the city, I realized that Bologna was also much different from Rome. It had an interesting clash of old school architecture meets graffiti and downtown St. Paul. It was quieter than Rome, but a much more shopping and fast past city than Siena. Once we got to  the hotel, we were pleased to be greeted by warm rooms and both warm and cold water (something that much of Italy seems to lack). Before we knew it, we were out on the town with Dr. Liz Lev!
As we met in the main piazza, Dr. Lev strained her voice as there was a concert being set up right where we were standing. So, to accompany her discourse on the development of Christian art in the 17th century, we had some weird Italian slow jam as her soundtrack. Once leaving that piazza, we saw some beautiful art and churches including the church of St. Dominic which held his tomb and the chapel of the Holy Rosary. The first Mass that we attended I’m pretty sure we all got frost bite because it was most definitely below freezing in the church, but it definitely gave a different meaning to the penitential rite.
At the hotel
Aside from the churches and art we were able to view, we had some nice Bolognese cultural experiences. Apparently it is the food capital of Italy, so we were ready to eat. First, I went to a small bar (aka café) which had great Panini and hot chocolate. However, the 3 of us there definitely were able to leave our mark. Each one of us took a turn at knocking a picture off the wall, spilling packets of sugar all over the table, and then knocking a table which made the container of sugar and napkins noisily tumble and scatter over the ground. Humility, humility, humility. After that, we went on a search for a watch but only a couple went into the fancy store while a few of us just stayed out. We were freezing and pretty much dressed like hobos, so you can imagine the amount of looks exchanged were plentiful. Humility, humility, humility. Once that was over and we got to go back to the cute hotel to freshen up (Oh, best part of the hotel? Heated towel racks. Definitely something to think about putting in the future house), we were swept across the street to a restaurant for a 5 course meal that was delicious and all the more delicious because it was paid for, and we had to make no decisions about what we had to order. Italian cuisine made easy.
The next day, our breakfast was basically a 5 year old girls dream with a tea party like set up serving cake and muffins. After we ate, we did some more browsing of art and architecture, and then hopped back on the bus. It was a long ride back because we got stuck at one point for an accident, but the company was splendid so it wasn’t so bad (plus we stopped at a rest stop and loaded up on cookies and candy).

To sum up Bologna, it was a great trip, and I'd say that I liked the city quite a bit. Bologna, I'm sorry I ever compared you to bologna.

And yes, I definitely over used the Bologna-bologna pun on the trip too :)


So we made our first trip outside of Rome into the beautiful city of Siena! This is an exciting event in the Bernardi life.
Great thing about it? Free. Bad thing about it? Very serpentine-like roads. Famous last words of this trip, “I need an opaque bag.”  Fr. Carola warned us all that every single semester someone throws up on this bus ride to and/or from Siena (thanks a lot you hilly Tuscan country side!). Luckily, he warned us to get drugged up on Dramamine to avoid motion sickness. Now, I didn’t know if I was one to get sick on a bus ride, so because I am all about prevention over intervention, I took (and probably overdosed) on motion sickness medication. Guess what? It worked! No sickness for me (praise God). Alas, I cannot say the same for another one of my Bernardians. Suffice it to say, our semester was no exception to the norm. Which was fine with me because I didn’t want to be left out of the tradition anyway J

Cathedral of Siena
Anyway, as far as the actual day trip was, I found that Siena was just a beautiful, quiet city. It had a lot of Italian character with the beauty of Tuscany. We got to see many churches and the head of St. Catherine of Siena. On top of THAT, we got to adore a Eucharistic miracle. There were consecrated hosts that were stolen from the tabernacle (thieves wanting the gold and silver). They were later found in another church followed by a great celebration for the Blessed Sacrament’s return. The priests decided not to consume the hosts, and they found that they did not decompose as ordinary bread would. So what we saw were the hosts that were consecrated over 200 years ago, still perfectly intact and fresh. The presence of Christ in that small chapel was incredible. By far one of the coolest things we’ve done in Italy so far.
We got go to the Cathedral of Siena too which was beautiful. However, it seemed that Siena has gotten in the habit of putting large stripes on their walls in their churches. Now, some people really liked the stripes. I, on the other hand, found that they made me a little dizzy. The church was uber ornate and gorgeous on its own. But ya add the stripes and you just added a whole new level of intensity. Regardless though, it really was stunning.
Fr. Carola-Our Chaplain
We ate a picnic lunch in the piazza di campo and then some of the chaplaincy took us to their favorite gelato place. After all this was said and done, we had Mass in the place where Catherine of Siena lived and then drove to a monastery in the middle of the countryside for night prayer.  Aside from the fact that you could see your breath and the snot in your nose was frozen in this stark church, it was really a moving experience to hear the monks chant night prayer.

View of Siena
Overall, Fr. Carola showed us a really good time, and I wish that he could come with me on every trip that I go on. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible, so I will enjoy the memories that were made on this wonderful adventure in Siena.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Somebody Get This Group a Quote Book

16 Women + 7 Laymen + 9 Seminarians= Somebody get this group a quote book.

“Seminarians, you may think it weird to be living in the same house as women…but, imagine how they feel.”

Roomies! Mary on the left, Morgan on the right
Life in Bernardi is pretty cool. We live in this huge house that looks like UST stole from old Italian aristocracy. There is a beautiful terrace, great rooms with real Italian character, and a small little chapel (which is most definitely the best part…we live with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!). There are always opportunities for prayer, community building (games, cooking, talking), or writing notes on Thanos’ (our director) door. I live in a triple with Ms. Morgan Rosand and Ms. Mary Burns. This was a providential placement because I don’t think you could find 3 more sarcastic and goofy style humored women in the house. The Lord only gives us what we can handle…and well, I don’t think anyone else could have handled us. Or, I should just speak for myself; handle me. In our room, we have 3 beds, 3 desks, and 2 closets. Space is tight, but we made do just fine. Who said using a night stand for an underwear drawer wasn’t kosher? Either way, it has been a great blessing so far to live with these 2 women. Granted, I pretty much live with everyone on the floor since we are all living in such close quarters; so really, they are all great roommates too.

The bathrooms are a cozy 1 person space shared by 4 people. Welcome to community life! And the real treat is that about every 1-2 hours (give or take), the bathrooms seem to emit a pleasant stench of sulfur. At first, we secretly blamed it on our fellow floormates. However, as the days went by, we realized that this recurring smell was going to be with us the entire semester. The problem for me is that I have extremely strong olfactory glands (and if you know me well, you know what I am talking about…pretty sure it is genetic). So, as much as I try, I will never be able to “get used to it” or “just let it slide”. I promised my floormates that every time we walk up those stairs, I will moan that the bathrooms STINK! It is simply an olfactory gland reaction. Oh sulfuric stench, how you attack our souls. What gifts you give us oh Lord! Make us holy by this suffering.  
But, on a more serious note, it has been a little over a week, and it is not difficult to see that this Spring is going to be one heck of a semester.  Not only are the people amazing, but the graces of the Lord are already so evidently at work. So, it is true what they say. Catholic Studies didn’t just hire those students to come talk about how beautiful the Rome experience was. I see, even with just one week under the belt, that this is a program that the Lord actively has His hand in (don’t worry, more to come on that in later posts).

“It could happen to you…”

We started out this semester with some great orientation experiences. Thanos (our Bernardi director) and Remo (our we don’t know what he does director), ushered us immediately into the life of Rome. In addition to explaining how our meal tickets work, when breakfast is served, when the doors lock etc., there was a healthy dose of scare the living crap out of you. Especially if you are a woman! Yay for the biological truth of men being stronger than woman.

Some suggestions:
  • Don’t talk to anybody you don’t know.
  • Don’t set your drink down or take a drink of it if you leave it unattended for more than .3 seconds. EVER.
  • Don’t walk at night without guys. Actually, don’t really walk many places without guys. In fact, just don’t ever really be alone.
  • Don’t get caught in a demonstration. Many cars, public property, police officers, and Americans have been harmed in the making of Italian protests.
  • Oh, and don’t forget about the soccer mobs (not to be confused with soccer moms…which is what happened to me) on game nights. You’re basically in Bernardi lockdown on soccer game nights.
  • We also had the U.S. Embassy representative come and speak to us about being a guest in Italy. She also gave us many “it could happen to you” stories. But really, I don’t really think getting drunk and peeing on a police car (while the police is IN the car) and/or jumping into a fountain or off a bridge and getting arrested is on my or any other Bernardian’s “to-do” list. So, for now, at least we’re safe from that threat.

“I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast…how can I fully grasp the fact that I am looking at the Rock upon which our Church was built?”

We’ve basically hit up most of the touristy sites in Rome i.e. the Vatican (and all that entails), Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Coliseum, Roman ruins, catacombs, the big piazzas, some big churches etc…Though, I do know that there is much more to see than the tourist driven sites. In fact, I appreciated getting all the touristy stuff out of the way the first week, so we can now actually get into “living here”.  
St. Peter's

Probably the coolest thing we’ve done is go on the scaavi tour. That is, we basically took a tour beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. We saw the bones of St. Peter and it was just so beautiful to see the Bible passage of “upon this Rock I will build my Church” come to life both figuratively and literally. I just thought it was wonderful and such an experience! Then, to end the tour, I was able to pray in front of the tomb of Pope John Paul II. There were so many people there asking for his intercession through prayers and tears. I offered up many prayers for all of you back home! Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it yet, I get to be here for his Beatification. No big deal. (eek! :D)

Santa Maria Del Popolo
The thing about Rome that is cool is that everywhere you go, there is beauty. Has anyone ever told you how dang pretty Italy is? Well let me take the time. It’s just so good-lookin’. But, probably the most breathtaking and the part of Rome I’ve liked the best so far are all the churches. My favorites so far (though I really haven’t seen many at all, so this is very preliminary): Saint Agnes, Gesu e Maria, and Santa Maria di Popolo. You don’t see beauty like this every day (or any day, for some). I really cannot believe that any human hands could make such beauty. I think that such beauty is divinely inspired. They are like Heaven on earth. These churches are meant to build up the Heavenly kingdom on earth! They definitely look close to what I think Our King might have in Heaven. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit was in the hand of so many of these artists and architectures.  They are simply awe-inspiring. Seriously! Every INCH is covered with something which glorifies the Lord in the most beautiful way our senses can experience. Oh, also, it’s like every little side chapel is its own beautiful church. A Bernardian joked that in the states, churches put a flower pot in the corners of a church, but in Rome, they put a spectacular gold mosaic and floor to ceiling Caravaggio painting. Kind of funny to think about the stark differences, isn’t it? What capability for transcendence these churches provide! It’s amazing how these little “glimpses of Heaven” are all over the city, and yet you walk out of the church doors into a street filled with designer stores and Lady Gaga blaring out of the windows. Quite the juxtaposition if I do say so myself. Lord, revitalize the appreciation for your Church in the hearts of the Italians!

“Italians must have really buff ankles…”

In addition to the church hopping and site seeing, we walk about 45 minutes to class and 45 minutes back from class everyday (and about 45 minutes pretty much to anywhere else you want to go to in city). The walking is really not so bad! I actually like it a lot. Especially since the weather has been perfect. Sunny and between 50s and 60s (and yes, I am knocking on wood right now)! So gorgeous to walk in. But anyway, for those of you who don’t know how Italian traffic laws go, let me help you:

  • Green light-Avanti, Avanti
  • Yellow light-Just for decoration
  • Red light-Just a suggestion
  • Drive as close to any person as you can (which I actually think the Italians like to look at as some sort of game or something)
  • Drive as fast as you can on small streets and whip around corners like there is no such thing as a break
  • Honk as many times as you can in 30 seconds for no apparent reason to the bystander
  • The amount of sirens that go by each day makes one think that ever Italian car has their own siren

  • If you don’t walk out into oncoming traffic, you will  never leave the sidewalk
  • Walk with confidence and a purpose
  • If you make a decision to walk or not walk, stick with it. Your chances for collision are higher if you hesitate.
  • Walk as closely as possible to the driving cars (it makes things more fun for the Italians…watch your toes!)
  • There is no such thing as j-walking (this one is my favs)

“I think that guy just touched my leg…”

On Pickpockets:
  • Hold your possessions close to you at all times. And even when you do that, they still can get ya!
  • Watch out for crowds. You don’t know what kinda of riff-raff prowls there.
  • Don’t let the gypsy’s bamboozle you. Your guard must always be up.
  • Don’t let those who are dressed nicely fool you, says Thanos. Pickpockets make a lot of money…they should be dressing well!

Are you excited to walk to the streets yet?!

“I’ve got Dr. Lev in my ear right now…best day EVER!”

Well, despite all that you have read in this post, a Bernardian’s life in Rome is great. We have class at the Angelicum Monday-Thursday and aside from 2 days of 8 hours of class straight, the schedule seems pretty legit. To accompany this schedule we have been provided with some crazy incredible professors.
Dr. Lev is our art and architecture professor. We insist she is a cross between Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter and Ms. Frizzle from Magic School Bus (because she has red hair and takes us on adventures). Aside from her extremely expansive knowledge of Christian art, she seems to know absolutely everyone in the Vatican and is one of the most sassy women I have ever encountered. She is definitely a hoot.

Fr. Paul Murray is our God and the Poets professor. He is Irish. He is funny. He is jolly. He was one of Mother Teresa’s confessors. He is going to be my best friend.

Fr. Giertych is our Fundamental Moral Theology Professor. He’s just one of the theologians for the Pope. Whatevs. No big deal. (just kidding, if you didn’t catch that…this is awesome!).

Marta is our Italian teacher. She is also a hoot. A really tan, skinny, blonde hair, fashionista who is just as, if not more, expressive than all other language teachers I have had. Just the fact that she is a sassy Italian teaching at the prestigious Angelicum makes it all the better. I love those language teachers.

And of course, there is Dr. Coulter. He has not failed to let us know that our homework is our only REAL obligation here every time he has been with us. Although many people are terrified of his class, I am excited. The readings are hefty, but they seem really fascinating. In fact, despite the fact that Monday and Wednesdays are really long, all of the courses seem like they are going to be nothing short of life altering.

Dang what a line up! But to again bring things back into reality, I must point out the enormous blessing and gift this semester is. How often does one get the opportunity to go away for four months to learn about their faith? Not only that, but to learn about their faith in the heart of their faith! Which for us crazy Catholics (and in reality, ALL Christians) is here in Rome, Italy. The city that is eternal, dirty, quick-paced, high-fashion, and has no seeming traffic laws is the home to the greatest tradition known to mankind. One of the dear seminarians Ephrem pointed out that the beauty of Christianity is that it is not just a set of doctrines. Rather, it is a love story. Christ redeemed us in love with his death and resurrection and then He established His Church on earth by asking Peter, the Rock, if he loved Him. Our Church is built upon a love story. And the setting for our love story is in Rome. Where Peter lived, died, and where the universal church is built (both literally and figuratively). Oh what a tremendous gift. Lord may I never forget it.

“Italians can be mean, wretched, and downright cruel…I love it here.”

While you may be thinking that this blog post is slightly contradictory, and you don’t really know if I love, fear, loathe, or tremble in the presence of Rome. But, quite honestly, I don’t think that is the point. While this program is lined and paved with extreme graces and amazing experiences, it is not without its beautiful challenges. Sure, we may miss our families/friends, our beds, ketchup, or the ease of getting change (still haven’t found a solution to the change conundrum, by the way), but in the end, we all must rest and trust in the Lord. I sure have already learned that here in Rome you will not get far without relying on God completely and fully. The extreme need for adapting to this place the first couple days would maybe have sent me into a breakdown if it were not for my Jesus and Mother Mary. Praise God for their mercy and love. It is exciting to look forward to the growth of our community and getting to know the city a little better and get done some more Italiano. These next four months will be cobble stone step by cobble stone step further into the arms of the Lord and the pulse of the city.  Pray for me and my community please, and I am praying for you all everyday!

***All the quotes you see are quotes that were made by a Bernardian

“I want to be eucharistic, a hidden apostle of the divine heart. To practice complete, confident, and loving abandonment. To go to God through the cross, through the heart of Jesus, under the tender protection of Mary, my Mother. May I welcome whatever the future holds, since it comes from the heavenly Father and the one Friend. As the future arrives, it will bring its own graces. Until then and even afterward, I must remember that ‘today’s trouble is enough for today’ (Mt 6:34), and that I can work and suffer for others and for the glory of God only today.”-Elisabeth Leseur

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Change is everywhere but there is no change to be had

First annoying and extremely confusing part of the Italian culture:

Exact change is what every vendor wants. If you give them too much, they say give less. If you don't have less, they still say they need less (the language barrier causes problems at this juncture). Oh, and "keep the change" sure doesn't work. It's almost like an insult to them. You'd think, all this time arguing, they could have just pulled out change for you.

But the real conundrum is, how does one get change, if no body gives change?  I have yet to figure out how I will ever have exact change. I guess this is just something I need to change in the way I look at things while I am here in Roma...even though there is no change to be had.

Okay, just a tidbit for the masses. Roma is different than the U.S. Go figure.

More stories about my Roman adventures to come!

Miss you.

Love you.

God bless you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Have you ever had the feeling...

Where I live! Bernardi.
Have you ever had the feeling that you are in a dream and you are just waiting to wake up? That you aren't quite in reality, and you are just kinda chillin' in these moments waiting for the "great pinch" and you will be awake again?

Welp! That's the feeling I am experiencing right now. There is so much in Rome. An overwelming amount of things to do, see, run from etc...Maybe it's the jet lag (which sure is a treat, by the way), but I already see after day 3 that the upcoming adventures will be endless. For example, I was walking around the Angelicum area (the school I am attending), and around the corner what else did I stumble upon but the Colosseum and some Roman ruins. No big deal. Oh also, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain just so happen to be on the everyday path to class. Again, no big deal.

Spanish Steps

Anecdote by some Bernardians: The Spanish Steps are not Spanish. However, there is a Spanish building across from said steps. So, some Bernardians wondered if the steps were dubbed by women. Why, you may ask? Well, due to research and experience, it has been found that women are more prone to use landmarks in giving directions. So, it was proposed that the steps got named when people would ask for directions to them and women would say "oh yes, they are over by the Spanish building". Pretty soon, that phrase probably just morphed into "Spanish Steps". So, there you go. Spring 2011's first Bernardian anecdote. Va bene.

Though I feel like this is still just a field trip and I'll be home in a few weeks, all the veterans say that after the first few weeks of the "honeymoon period", reality truly sets in. You are in Rome. And you are in Rome for a few more months. That is when things start to get hard, so they say. But, you know, I think I am up for the challenge. Prayers accepted. You are all getting them sent your way.

The Angelicum
Anyway, I had class for the first time today (45 minute walk to school everyday! don't worry, it's really not so bad). I gotta say, I am excited for these classes. They are long. They are temperature variant. But they are going to be fabulous.

I wish I had more to say at this point, but like I said. I really am still just chillin' in a dream. But, like the Lizzie Maguire Movie portrayed so wonderfully "This is what dreams are made of" (sorry for those of you who don't get the reference).

Love you all.

God bless you.