Here's a little present to you all for Christmas: a digital Chris Little!
Have a blessed Christmas season, filled with the joy of Christ's coming.
Sorry for the huge quotation, but I wanted you to get the background to the situation into which I was entering. That is, I was able to experience the very streets, the very houses, the very church where Saint Monica and Saint Augustine lived and prayed--and who knows, perhaps I walked by the very house where St. Augustine and St. Monica spoke!Ostia Antica is now in ruins. After the fall of Rome, the Roman economy collapsed (more or less) and so the Ostia (the port of Rome) had no economic means to sustain itself. So the city of 60,000 people became a village of a few hundred until the modern era. (Though it does have a medieval castle on the outskirts) Anyway, today anyone can enter the ruins (it is basically a park) which have been excavated by archaeologists. Here are some pictures!
Something of historical interest is that if Rome had not fallen when it did and as it did, then the Ostian ruins would have been buried (and not preserved) over the centuries, just like in Rome (Romans today have literally built a city on ruins). Instead, however, Ostia's abandonment has left us today with a untouched Roman city of the past. So we can really get a glimpse into Roman life from these ruins. For example, this port of Ostia had running, clean water from the mountains and indoor heating. They also had hotels, markets, and a fire department (in other words, human needs have not changed).
Okay: so I actually walked on the exact roads where St. Augustine walked--the very same stones and all. Since he is one of my heroes, well, that's pretty awesome! It was a profound experience.
The internet is getting slow and it is getting late. I will add more when I can. Ciao for now!
A picture of me in the park "Lungo Lago," meaning along the lake.
And then the clouds began to break...
And right before I left to return to Rome, the sun came out and I got to see the Alps! It was amazing and hard to describe.
I will write about what I did on my trip tomorrow (I have to go to bed now). Enjoy the picts!
This is a painting of St. Augustine being baptized. His mother, St. Monica, is to the left kneeling in joy for seeing her son converted to the Faith. The bishop baptizing him I believe is St. Ambrose.
PopeBenedict XVI, above us at the general audience.
At the papal gardens, Castel Gandolfo.
More later! Ciao!
This picture is of the chapel where St. Francis received the stigmata (the wounds of Christ).
I am again out of time. So I will continue this blog later, and hopefully finish the other two which I have not finished yet.
Now let me tell a little about what I have been doing in my spare time. I have visited the Basilicas of St. Francis, St. Clare, and St. Rufino. I have been to several other churches in the city as well (I will not list them all). I have visited all the different piazzas in the area, and have eaten as much delicious gelato in each of them as I could. I will be a gelato expert in no time!
I am here with about thirty other seminarians in my class, who are studying Italian with me. They are an awesome group, and I must admit that I am youngest of them, so I am the “Little” one of the group. That’s fine with me, because they do not mind helping me pay for gelato! I just put a sad face on, and say: “aw…I don’t have enough euros on me,” and bingo, a free gelato for the “Little” one. Works every time!
I hope to travel to Siena, Perugia, and the beach in the next couple of weekends. Until then, I will just continue to enjoy the wonderful sights here in Assisi. The city is on a mountainside, so one thing that I am adjusting to is walking up and down all the time. I enjoy not having to deal with a vehicle, but walking up two hundred some steps (one way) in the hot afternoon is not my idea of an alternative! That’s okay, though. I am getting used to it, and it will only make my body stronger for the return to the big city of Roma. My room is in the highest part of the city, and as you see below, I have the best view in the whole building.
Yes, it was a random pick, and I got the golden ticket! The picture is nothing like the real thing, let me tell you. It is incredible to wake up looking out on the countryside of Umbria, and hearing the hustle of an ancient town just waking from sleep. There are a lot of dogs, cats, chickens, pigeons, and other birds around, so there is a lot to hear at the dawn, too. (My room is high up enough not to be disturbed by the noises, though.) I hope also to be able to hike up to the summit of the mountain nearby, so that I can take some amazing pictures of Assisi. We’ll see. It is a big mountain (I think 2000 meters). There is a lot to do, clearly. I have mainly been focusing on the Italian, though; but as opportunities arise I will take advantage of them, and I will let you know what happens then!
So, I will make sure to pray for you all, and thanks for yours! I will often think of you, especially as I watch the Italians live out their lives here. There are a lot of tourists, but there are also locals living here. It has been great experiencing people living in a town like this. They do not need “new” or “big” things, they have old, small houses. They take care of what they have, and they celebrate and share their lives with one another; I noticed that right away. It is ironic that the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen are in the middle of Assisi. It is not the size, but how one loves and cultivates what they have. The locals have figured that out, and I am glad for them. They have God, family, and friends, and the love to bring those together. God bless you, and I will post whenever I can! Promise!
Ciao, Americani! Pace e bene!
We arrived back at the NAC around 7:00pm for dinner (cena in italian). After that we were all really tired from making our way through the city, and so must of us went to bed, though some stayed up to watch a movie. There are about fifty of us here right now, so we are even now still trying to learn one anothers' names. We are all from different states in the U.S., except for about six seminarians from...Australia (they fit in quite well, actually). So it is a great group of guys, and we all are getting along very well. I will continue this post sometime this weekend, but I have to go bed now, because tomorrow we are taking a day trip to Orvieto. (I need to sleep at least a few hours!) Buonasera!
(Okay, to continue...)
On Thursday, we went to the beach after Mass and breakfast. We went to Ostia di Lido, which is the newer part of the city of Ostia (in contrast to Ostia Antica). I was really excited to go because I love the beach, and also because I really wanted to go to the city where St. Augustine had his conversion (in Ostia Antica). Now, regarding the Mediterranean beach we went to, the water was cool (which was nice), but there were no waves (I like the waves). So we all basically relaxed and played some American football and volleyball. It was really funny when we played football, because basically everyone at the beach turned around to watch the game because they had never seen it before (at least in person). So the Europeans really had a treat with us being there, because they got to see a real game of American football, backyard style! They definitely looked fascinated!
Anyway, we were at the beach for Thursday, which was a good break from all the excursions in Rome. (I have never walked so much in my life!) A separate group, instead of going to the beach, went to Tivoli on Thursday, which is a small town outside of Rome. They said it was a great trip; however, being from Maryland, I am glad I went to the beach (I mean, the coast is my natural habitat).
On Friday, we went on a tour to St. Peter's Basilica. It was the first time I had been in St. Peter's since my arrival, so it was a profound experience to finally enter it. (I had been looking at the dome all week from the college, and now finally I was able to go there).Something kind of funny but awesome happened while I was there (which is usual for me). I had forgotten to take off my nametag from the NAC, so I was walking in St. Peter's with it on. For this reason, two different Italians came up to me and began asking me where different places were--as if I worked there! And if this was not odd enough, I met a young man who worked there, who for some reason liked me so much (after one conversation) that he offered me free access to the cupola! So, I grabbed four other seminarians nearby, and we followed him into an elevator, and up we went! Here are some pictures:
Pretty awesome! Afterward, I went and thanked him for being so generous. We had another conversation, and after giving me the customary kisses on the cheeks, we said farewell. He was returning to his own country (Romania?) that coming week, so we would not have the chance to meet again. In the first week, and so much happened! La vita e' dolce!
On Saturday, the entire class took a trip to Orvieto. Orvieto is a small but very old city northwest of Rome. It is in this (or nearby it, technically) where the first Eucharistic miracle occurred, when the Host became flesh. The corporal from this miracle is exhibited at the Cathedral in Orvieto. You can still see the stains of blood on the corporal, which is really amazing to see. Orvieto is also where St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican saint, wrote several works of his which are famous. Msgr. Mueggenberg celebrated Mass in the Cathedral, and it was an incredible experience. He told us in his homily the importance of not becoming distracted with all the amazing things we were going to experience here, but to focus on who makes these experiences valuable: God. None of these places are much different from Maryland, except that the Church has been in Europe for many centuries, and God has transformed all of Italy--even the smallest towns--because of that Faith. I have to get going now...so more later! Ciao.
The fortunate group, on the cupola of St. Peters Basilica.
Here's me leading the songs.
Here I am drinking juice with some of the campers.