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


  1. Grazie for the great blog Monqueque :)

  2. Monica, you are such a talented writer! This is a really engaging read--keep writing, friend. I love hearing of our crazy and life-altering adventures.

  3. Monica dear---I laughed so hard reading your description of the drivers I was crying!!! Excellently put!!....totally true.. I guess I forgot to warn you..Ha.
    You are an excellent writer Monica.. Maybe this is your true calling.. Keep it up.. I love reading your story.. Thank you.

    And as for the quote of Elisabeth Leseur.. I am reading her book right now.. Are you? She was incredible and is up for sainthood...

    I love you...Thanks for the beautiful sharing...
    It was all so fun to hear. You made my heart smile!! I needed that because yes I am still sick!!

    Love you bunches... Mom

  4. Monica! This is so great and hilarious and descriptive! Wow! I love reading it, you're such a good writer! This is so awesome! We're praying for you guys every night at night prayer. Keep having a blast and learning from the Lord. :)

    God Bless You.

  5. Natalie, Beth, and I jumped into a fountain, it was a lot of fun! Just don't get caught ;)

    Keep up the good work with the blog and pictures! I enjoy reliving my time there. I can't believe it's already been four years.

  6. Monica! You sure are enjoying yourself in Roma and I am so happy to hear it. I think it's hilarious that you have a strong sense of smell...they say that an overabundance in one sense is most likely when there is a lack of another sense...any ideas which one it is for you?

    We are being pounded by a snowstorm right now in St. Paul, girl..you are missing some BEAUTIFUL snow.

    Enjoy your classes, they sound incredible, but more so, enjoy the city and the beautiful people you are with. What a cool hodgepodge of seminarians, women, laymen and the Coulter family. Maybe you said this already, but what class is Dr. Coulter teaching?

    Ciao bella! Keeping you in my prayers.

  7. "Don’t let the gypsy’s bamboozle you."