Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Greetings!

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.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The New: Thanksgiving, New Man Show, Football

I have been waiting for pictures from other photographers for pictures of Thanksgiving and the other events. I have not heard back from them, sadly, so I will have to write for now.

One thing I did get was the following link:
It is the beginning of our "New Man" Show. Enjoy.

The New Man Show is a performance which the New Man class must perform for the entire house. It is one of the many traditions at the NAC. And yes, I was one of the actors. I played the role of one of the spiritual directors when he was a seminarian (I guess I impersonate him pretty well). It was fun for me especially because I got to descend onto the stage from a lift (supposed to be in hot air balloon). The thing was a blast: we had jugglers, break dancing, impersonations, parodies, and more. I think it really brought the class together, too, which is ultimately the point of it all.
Another tradition at the NAC is (for the New Man class) to play the other seminarians in a flag football game. It is infamously titled the "Spaghetti Bowl." I played one of the linebackers. It was a very intense game, but a lot of fun, too. We almost beat the old men, which has not happened in eleven or so years. (The final score was 33 to 36). Maybe next year...
Of course, I cannot forget to write about Thanksgiving. We actually did have my favorites: mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, and some good pumpkin pie. For the whole meal there were somehwere around 400 people (it is a well known event for Americans living in Italy). We even had some friends from ol' Carroll County visit us! The best part for me was singing "God bless America," especially since I know now what it is like not to live there (to some degree--we still have turkey, after all). Thanksgiving, the New Man Show, and the Football--all different ways of celebrating "my home, sweet home."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Old: Ostia Antica

Cordiali saluti, i miei amici italiani!

La settimana schorza io ho fatto la mia esame prima alla universita. Non era troppo difficile, ma vedremo se ho fatto bene. Si spera. (Ma certo, in Dio solo)

Greetings, English speakers!

Last weekend my hopes were finally fulfilled, as I was able to make a trip to Ostia Antica, the ancient port city of Rome. This port is very important to me because it is where St. Augustine lived for a time and where his mother, St. Monica, died. (St. Augustine is one of the most well known saints of the Church. He was the Bishop of Hippo, in Africa, and is known most of all for the extensive philosophical and theological writings he composed). St. Augustine describes his time in Ostia in his famous book Confessions. Here is the famous part, on Ostia Antica, when he and his mother are speaking before her death:

23. As the day now approached on which [St. Monica] was to depart this life--a day which thou knewest, but which we did not--it happened (though I believe it was by thy secret ways arranged) that she and I stood alone, leaning in a certain window from which the garden of the house we occupied at Ostia could be seen. Here in this place, removed from the crowd, we were resting ourselves for the voyage after the fatigues of a long journey.
25. What we said went something like this: “If to any man the tumult of the flesh were silenced;
and the phantoms of earth and waters and air were silenced; and the poles were silent as well;
indeed, if the very soul grew silent to herself, and went beyond herself by not thinking of herself; if fancies and imaginary revelations were silenced; if every tongue and every sign and every transient thing--for actually if any man could hear them, all these would say, ‘We did not create ourselves, but were created by Him who abides forever’--and if, having uttered this, they too should be silent, having stirred our ears to hear him who created them; and if then he alone spoke, not through them but by himself, that we might hear his word, not in fleshly tongue or angelic voice, nor sound of thunder, nor the obscurity of a parable, but might hear him--him for whose sake we love these things--if we could hear him without these, as we two now strained ourselves to do, we then with rapid thought might touch on that Eternal Wisdom which abides over all. And if this could be sustained, and other visions of a far different kind be taken away, and this one should so ravish and absorb and envelop its beholder in these inward joys that his life might be eternally like that one moment of knowledge which we now sighed after--would not this be the reality of the saying, ‘Enter into the joy of thy Lord’? But when shall such a thing be? Shall it not be ‘when we all shall rise again,’ and shall it not be that ‘all things will be changed’?”
26. Such a thought I was expressing, and if not in this manner and in these words, still, O Lord,
thou knowest that on that day we were talking thus and that this world, with all its joys, seemed
cheap to us even as we spoke. Then my mother said: “Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath answered this more than abundantly, so that I see you now made his servant and spurning all earthly happiness. What more am I to do here?”
27. I do not well remember what reply I made to her about this. However, it was scarcely five
days later--certainly not much more--that she was prostrated by fever. While she was sick, she
fainted one day and was for a short time quite unconscious. We hurried to her, and when she soon regained her senses, she looked at me and my brother and said: “Where was I?” Then looking intently at us, dumb in our grief, she said, “Here in this place [Ostia] shall you bury your mother.” I was silent and held back my tears; but my brother said something, wishing
her the happier lot of dying in her own country and not abroad. When she heard this, she fixed him with her eye and an anxious countenance, because he savored of such earthly concerns, and then gazing at me she said, “See how he speaks.” Soon after, she said to us both: “Lay this body anywhere, and do not let the care of it be a trouble to you at all. Only this I ask: that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you are.” And when she had expressed her wish in such words as she could, she fell silent, in heavy pain with her increasing sickness.

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!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Santa Maria Degli Angeli and More

Fall Greetings!

The weather has clearly (or not so clearly) changed here in Rome from sunny and warm to rainy, cloudy, and cold. Of course, it is not that cold as it is in the US in some places, but one must bundle up in the mornings. It is not so bad, though, and Maryland is definitely colder at this time of year.

Speaking of the US, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the NAC has a lot planned to celebrate Thanksgiving here as best as we can. We are having the customary "Spaghetti Bowl," which is a football game between the first year seminarians (that's me) and all the other 150 seminarians (the odds are not in our favor). I have promised the coach that I will be putting on 75 pounds of pure muscle for the game (putting me at 250 pounds), and I am making some progress towards that goal...I am in the position of linebacker, after all.

All joking aside, we are having a fantastic Thanksgiving Day meal at the NAC with the traditional American food (turkey, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and more). It will definitely be a nice way to remember and celebrate with the US in spirit.

We also are having two "shows" being performed for the college. One is called the "New Man Show," which is performed by the first year seminarians, and the other is the "Old Man Show," which is done by the other seminarians (again, the odds are against us). It is not really a competition, but both shows are expected to be clever, funny, and meaningful for the NAC community. We'll see what happens, especially since I have yet to learn my part!

On a more recent note, last weekend I went to visit the Basilica (in Rome) called Santa Maria degli Angeli, which means Saint Mary of the Angels. All the Baltimore seminarians here went together because actually this Basilica has a special connection with the Archdiocese. Let me explain.

Every time a bishop or priest is appointed as a cardinal, a church within the Diocese of Rome is given to him as (I suppose) a sign of unity and spiritual support from the Holy See. Santa Maria degli Angeli happens to be the titular church of William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore. So, we Baltimore seminarians decided to go and not only visit the beautiful and historic Basilica, but also to have Mass said for the Cardinal and for the Archdiocese. Another opportunity to be in spirit with the people of Maryland and the US!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Il Più Bella: Switzerland

Greetings from Rome!

This past weekend I went on my first out-of-country trip to Lugano, a small city in southern Switzerland. To start, here are some pictures which will say more than I can about the beauty of this place.

At first glance, on a cloudy day, not too bad...Lake Lugano.

A picture of me in the park "Lungo Lago," meaning along the lake.

The high altar at the Cathedral of Lugano.

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!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Living in Rome, Part I

The Eternal City...

The beautiful St. Peter's Basilica

A panorama of Roma

Greetings from the eternal city! There has been as usual a lot going on here. We have had an opening banquet, a Halloween festa, and our first soccer game of the season (which we won)!
And my first test is next week, translating Latin into Italian. We'll see how that goes!
Walking through the streets of Rome almost everyday is familarizing me with life in Rome.
Getting to meet new people, see a new culture, and learn about the "Roman" life today, has been really an experience. Here are a few things I would like to tell you about.

A picture of Roma, and where the university which I attend is located.

Winding Streets with Shops...

The streets of Rome are really amazing to walk through, especially in the centro (central) of
the city. The streets are narrow and windy, surrounded by tall buildings that are quite old (and sometimes ancient). The roads in this part are cobblestone, and every few blocks there is a piazza with fountains and beautiful works of art.
Unlike today in most United States' cities, there are little shops all over the place with every kind of knick-knack imaginable. There are no Walgreens or Walmarts, but a thousand different "family run" shops that are just trying to make a living. The diversity of things to find in these shops is really interesting; I love to look in the windows as I pass by to see what will be in the next shop! I know that all you shoppers who are reading this are probably rubbing your hands together or something, but sadly a lot of beautiful things in the shops are "molto caro" that is very expensive. (Especially with the US dollar as it is) That does not mean, however, that you cannot dream about all the beautiful furniture, artwork, and clothing that are just waiting to be bought by a tourist just like you. I will take some photos...

Roman Symphony...

Last night I went to my first Roman Symphony concert. The concert was of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, and it was incredible. What a perfect choice to begin the season! The upcoming concert this week is a piece composed by Scarlatti, (I think it is called Europa Galante).
I will keep you updated on the pieces in the season ahead...and maybe sneak some pictures too (not of the actual concert though, because that is "vietato"--in English, illegal).

Pasta and Pizza...

Upcoming Trips...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ordinations, Visitations, Canonizations

Yes, it is time for me again to post—the weeks have been flying by—and there is certainly a lot to post about! That is the reason for the above title. This past week has been probably the busiest of weeks since I left the United States.
Here is a sketch of the week’s schedule:

My grandfather’s 86th Birthday
My theology studies begin
Choir rehearsal for Diaconate Ordination

The Rector of my college seminary visits the NAC
School continues
Choir rehearsal again

The Archbishop of Baltimore visits the NAC for the week
School again
Choir Rehearsal again
Vigil for seminarians to be ordained, with choir

Diaconate Ordination at St. Peters Basilica, with choir
Reception at the NAC

School again, first week of theology completed
Baltimore gathering for dinner in Rome
Cardinal Keeler arrives in Rome to visit

Last gathering with past seminary rector
Studying for next week

Canonization Mass at St. Peters Basilica
Preparing for second week of classes

So, all these things plus studying, praying, and more, have kept me pretty busy this week. And despite the fact that it was busy, it was a wonderful week. I had the honor of being able to sing in a choir at St. Peters Basilica; I was able to meet new families and old friends who were visiting Rome; I was able to participate in the Canonization Mass of five saints, with tens of thousands of people (and a few of Prime Ministers, a king and queen, and the Pope and hundreds of priest and bishops). It was amazing…and so here are some pictures:

The ordination and the canonization were especially memorable. A friend from college seminary was ordained and also a priest of Hawaii was canonized (St. Damian of Molokai). Here is a link to a biography on the priest and his heroic life in Hawaii:

I am very happy to be studying at L’Universita Santa Croce. The classes there are very engaging, and I find the professors to be charitable and prayerful (I see them in the chapel before classes begin). So I am very excited to continue to study in this university. Here is a link to the universities website (and yes, they have an English version):

I forgot to mention as well my silent retreat. I had a great and profound experience up in the Italian mountains. It is very beautiful and peaceful there, and thus it helped me focus on God and prepare myself for the busy week which I have just finishing describing. I remember thinking of the phrase: “The calm before the storm.” I can say now, instead, that the “storm” was not so terrible; instead, I really found God in busy times as well as in the times of peace and silence. The key for me is to make sure that I am looking for Him, whether in busy times or not. So, if you find yourself in the midst of a very active life, that does not mean you cannot find God or pray to Him. Actually, at least in my experience, the busyness has nothing to with it; finding God is simple all the time, we just have to be looking and searching for Him.

Keep looking and searching then, friends, and I will continue to pray for you during the many activities of my life here in Rome.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More Italian and St. Monica's Day

Greetings from Rome! I am sorry it has been awhile since my last posting, but it has been very busy here at the North American College. Since returning from Assisi, we have had to attend four hours of Italian class from Monday to Friday (plus homework in the evenings), and also juggle many other activities in the afternoons. We have just finished all of the Italian studies for the year, and next week we will be on a silent retreat. During a silent retreat, in case you did not know, we do not speak except for community prayers and to our spiritual directors. We are to keep a spirit of silence, in order to allow God and the individual to communicate without distraction. Every seminarian and priest is to make a weeklong retreat once a year, so as to continue to cultivate the intimate relationship which exists between God and the priest.
Personally, I have been on silent retreats before, so I am used to the silence, which at first sounds very difficult (at least I thought so years ago). One of the aspects which I really enjoy about silent retreats is the extra time to pray for you and all the people God has placed in my life! The silence is really a means to more (and different forms of) prayer, and more prayer is always good.
Now, I am sure you are wondering what else has been happening since early September. Well, to name some major things: we went on a tour of the Swiss Guard barracks in the Vatican, we visited our different universities, we went to St. Peter’s at night, we went to the tomb on St. Monica’s Day and prayed for our mothers, we went to the beach again, and we played a softball game on Labor Day (which my class won). I must also note that I got my first “Italian” haircut—and he was even singing along to old Italian songs (on a casette!), just like in the movies! So, I have clearly been kept busy with all these adventures.

Here are some pictures from some of these adventures:

The attire of the Swiss Guard today. The main uniform is to the right, where the one to the left is for the Colonel. (The commandant of the Swiss Guard)

The armor which the Swiss Guard wear. Nick, this picture is for you...

The pantheon, where the Romans used to worship. It was destroyed several times, and then rebuilt in the 2nd Century A.D. The original structure was built in 27 B.C.

In front of St. Augustine's Church in Rome (the tomb of St. Monica is inside).

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.

After we return from retreat, we start studies at the university which I am attending (Santa Croce University). That same week is the NAC diaconate ordination, at which the choir is singing (that’s another thing I have been doing). Also that week is the NAC welcoming Mass for Archbishop Di Noia, who was recently appointed to Secretary of the Congregation of Divine Worship. I do not know his exact connection with NAC, except that he has given conferences here for many years to the seminarians. The choir is singing at that Mass also. So there are a lot of upcoming events, and I promise to somehow take pictures in the midst of all of it. That way I can try and share some of the experiences with you.
In case you were wondering what exactly a first-year theologian studies, here is a list of my classes (all taught in Italian):
Introduction to Sacred Scripture
Introduction to Theology
Fundamental Theology
Dogmatic Theology I
History of the Church: Ancient to Medieval
Ecclesiastical Latin
Regretfully, I am out of time for now. I will post once returning from retreat on what Santa Croce University is like, and what preparations are being made here for the diaconate ordination. (And I promise to try and post more frequently in the future, as time permits.)
God bless you!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Seeing the Pope, First Time

On Sunday, we took a trip to Pope Benedict's summer residence in the
area known as Castel Gandolfo (it is in the mountains outside of Rome). This villa has been used by the popes for centuries, and this Sunday we were able to join him for the Angelus prayer at noon. If you check the Vatican Youtube channel (which is at the bottom of the blog),
you might be able to catch a glimpse of me in the group of men in black to the left.

It was an amazing trip, and I promise to elaborate on it and post pictures
when things slow down a bit here...

Here are some picts!

A Swiss Guard (they have guarded the Pope for centuries).

PopeBenedict XVI, above us at the general audience.

At the papal gardens, Castel Gandolfo.

More later! Ciao!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Italian in Assisi, Part Two

I will be returning to Rome this coming Wednesday, to begin preparation for school in October. It has been a truly profound experience to be here in Assisi for five weeks. I have seen so much! I have visited six basilicas, three monasteries, a hermitage, and at least ten churches. I have been to two concerts, watched three firework shows, and played in two soccer games (with other Italians, might I add). And yes, with the little time I have had left, I have been studying Italian.
I am amazed at how one can learn so much in a month, particularly regarding language. The human mind is incredible!

This picture is of the chapel where St. Francis received the stigmata (the wounds of Christ).

I was recently wondering why, despite all the wonderful Italian food I have been eating, I have not gained any weight (yet). One of my seminarian brothers explained to me the reason: there are two hundred plus steps between my room and the dining hall. This means, every day, I have walked approximately up and down one thousand steps (250 x 4 trips). My legs are definitely getting a workout! It is good, though, because when I return to Rome, the main means of travel will be my legs. The more I walk now, the more I will be able to travel comfortably in Rome. There is a lot to see and do in Rome, so I better get ready for it.

Peter, from New York City, and me chilling in the shade.

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.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Two Small Cities and One Big Mountain

I will be finishing this post soon, but until then, enjoy the picts!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Italian in Assisi, Part One

(July 26th to August 9th)

Well, it has been awhile since I have had time to post. Sorry about that! My excuse is that I am in an ancient city that has very little internet access. That’s the truth. Plus, I am in Italian class for six and a half hours every day, so I must admit that by the end of the day I am pretty tired!
Of course, I will try to relate every detail about my adventures here in Assisi to you, but I am regretfully certain that my words will not (and cannot) express the true beauty of this place. So, when my words fail....I will post pictures for you instead!

La città è bellisima, vero?

The city is really amazing. Everything is made of stone and bricks. The houses are made of stone and brick, the roads are all stone and brick, the sidewalks are stone and brick…I could go on. What I really love are the frescoes which are painted here and there on every street. There are pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, depictions of St. Francis and St. Clare, and pictures of the city patron, San Rufino. Certainly, I love too that almost every street has a chapel on it. I really cannot describe it well, to be honest. I will try to take good pictures for you to see!

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!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adventures in Rome: First Week (Updated)

Buongiorno, Americani! I, regretfully, have been having trouble with both my camera and camcorder. I will put the awesome videos and pictures on as soon as I can. For now, though, I thought you might want to know what exactly I have been doing this week.

Well, to begin, I thought that we (the new seminarians) were going to Assisi within the first week. I was wrong. We actually have been in Rome this entire week, in order to settle in and explore the city. And we all have seen a lot already; it really is amazing how much can happen in a "happening" city!

So, let me break down the week for you:

On Monday, we arrived in the Fiumicino/Roma airport around 12:30pm. We arrived in the city of Rome about an hour or so later. I have a video of our arrival, but sadly I do not have the proper file type to put it on the blog, yet. Before unpacking, we had "pranzo," which is the italian form of lunch (but pranzo is actually the biggest meal of the day). Then we unpacked and settled in for a few hours. Then in the later afternoon, we went on a building tour of the North American College. It is big enough to hold two-hundred some seminarians, so you can imagine the size of the building and property. I will post a short tour video on, when I can, of the property.

After the tours, we went to Mass in one of the chapels in the building. Afterward, we had a cookout on the roof which overlooks the city of Rome. (One of the best views in the city, as you will see soon.)

The cookout lasted until around 9:00pm, so after that--being exhausted--I went to bed. Of course, I called my parents to let them know I had arrvied safely, and only then did I collapse on my bed. Staying awake for twenty hours is a lot harder than I thought!

On Tuesday, we had a meeting in the morning after breakfast in order to get some paperwork done. We then has Mass and pranzo. The morning was pretty easy-going, which was nice.

The afternoon, on the other hand, was not so relaxed. We went on an excursion to San Lorenzo Church, which held the remains of St. Lawrence, St. Justin Martyr, St. Stephen the proto-martyr, and Blessed Pius IX. The original building was constructed in the 2nd century A.D., and so the tomb was about 1800 years old. (Now, that is really old!) We all had the opportunity to pray by the tombs of these holy men, and I really cannot describe the experience to you. "Powerful" is a good word to use. We spent about an hour there, praying and exploring the large church (the "newer" building is from the sixteenth century). What was also great was that San Lorenzo Church was on the other side of the city, so we got to experience the Rome of today for the first time. From that experience, I definitely do not recommend driving in the city. Everyone does their own thing on the roads (and sidewalks too); there are barely any lanes or speed limits. It was also amazing to see the people who lived in the city too. (I will describe all that later)

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 more later! Ciao.

The fortunate group, on the cupola of St. Peters Basilica.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

QuickPost: Vacation Bible School at St. Paul's

Happy 4th of July!

We started Bible school this week, and we are having a great time.
I have been helping all the kids with singing, making crafts, and outdoor games--and I eat
some snacks with them on occasion too!
Here are some pictures.
Have a great July and August. I am leaving in two weeks for Rome. The countdown
has begun!

Here's me leading the songs.

Here I am drinking juice with some of the campers.

Here are some of the campers singing.

More to come! God bless.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hearts Unlike Our Own

The Sacred Heart of Jesus
and the Immaculate Heart of Mary

I have been at St. Paul’s Church for three weeks now, and what an amazing experience it has been! I have learned so much already, and met so many people—my head is spinning! In just a few weeks, I have done and seen more than I could have ever expected. I wish I could tell it all, but I would not have time to do the work of the Lord if I did so! I will share what I can…

Since Friday and Saturday were the celebrations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I thought it would be most appropriate to write about some of my experiences in light of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Being at a parish, I anticipated having the opportunity to meet many Catholic families. I have been impressed many times, because it is evident that these faithful families are bound by a love which is genuine and devoted. They on several occasions have shared their faith experiences with me, and their stories are all very beautiful and inspiring. How I wish I could share them all with you! What I can share is that Christ is surely in the midst of these families because they have given their hearts to one another, that is, their genuine love and devotion. Each faithful family I have met has been a clear image of the love of Christ and His Mother. Recall how Mary stood by Christ’s side even at His death. That is the love which I have seen reflected in the parents and children of these families—and I believe it is this profound love which unites them and sustains them. God bless them for their genuine love—what an image of God’s love for us!

Of course, an image is never perfectly like a real person; and so, we must admit that sometimes we have failed to love our family members as Christ loves them. I admit that sometimes I have failed to love my family as I should, and I think we all have on occasion failed to love our families as we should. That is why I titled this post: “Hearts Unlike Our Own.” Christ’s Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Heart are very different from our own. They have never failed to love one another in a familial way, but neither have they failed to love others as if they were family. The love of their Hearts envelope all people with no preference or partiality, save those who love them in return. “And stretching out His hand towards His disciples He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:49-50). It is clear, then, that the Christian mission is to love all as if they were our family—indeed, they are our family. This is obviously not easy, because we all know how much easier it is to love those who love us. Nevertheless, let us start by loving our families as we should, and then love those outside of our families in the same way. After all, it is the love we give that we receive!

Christ’s Heart and Mary’s Heart are different from ours because they love us as if we were their children, their “brother and sister and mother.” However, Christ has a higher love for His true brothers and sisters because they do the will of God the Father. He loves His true brothers and sisters because they love Him as brother and as Son of the Father. That is why He said: “Here are my mother and my brothers.” He prefers those who love Him to those who do not. This does not mean He does not love all; but that He desires all to love Him and to love one another (He cannot force us to love). “To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 13:12). When we fail to love, we reject Christ’s love for us, and so we reject our brotherhood with Him. Truly, we break His Heart because we have broken the bond of love between us and Him.

I have seen this profound, heartfelt love here in the community of St. Paul’s Church. The families I have met who love one another in a devoted way, beyond weakness and partiality, are the same families who love others in the same way. The familial love strengthens the love of those outside the family! I hope I have expressed my point. May you and I open our hearts today, not just to receive the love of friends, but to share our love with strangers. And what a perfect day to love, on Father’s Day! Let us love as the Father loves us. We were once strangers to Christ, but He loved us anyway and now considers us as faithful disciples: His brother and sister. Amen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

QuickPost: Pictures from Ordination

Good evening!

I thought some pictures from the recent priesthood ordination
might interest you. It was a great event and I really enjoyed being
able to partcipate in the Mass in such a proximate way.

Enjoy the picts, and I promise to write a full post in the near future!

God bless

The Vatican