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.