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!
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 now...so more later! Ciao.
The fortunate group, on the cupola of St. Peters Basilica.