Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The End of Classes, the Beginning of Summer

Summer greetings! As you may have noticed, there haven't been any posts recently, but the reason (or perhaps my excuse) is because I have been in a three week exam period since the beginning of June. Eight exams later, I can say happily and gratefully to have completed my first year of theological studies! Phew!
The classes and exams were difficult at times (especially when I spent days on end in the library) but I came through unharmed...and I learned a lot too. Most of the examinations in the European model are oral and count for one hundred percent of the grade. So instead of having one's grades decided by several tests, papers, etc., there is usually only one exam that other words, you'd better know the material! But this model helps you internalize the information, which has its benefits. To be honest, I do prefer papers and midterms, but eventually I will be familiarized with the system here. The examinations consisted of creation theology, patrology (the study of the Church Fathers), fundamental theology, latin, hebrew, study of the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), and moral theology. Our patrology professor decided to give us two final examinations, one written and one oral, so that is why we had eight instead of seven.
That's all finished, though, and I have begun to study italian once again and also prepare for the new seminarians coming in mid-July. It is refreshing to have some more time to get out of the library and the classroom (though I will miss the air conditioning), and I promise to post more pictures too!

To mark the "beginning" of the summer in Rome, yesterday was the Solemnity of Peter and Paul, a great feast day for Rome, since the holy day comemorates both of the apostles who were martyred here. It is also the day when newly installed Archbishops receive a special item called a "pallium." (Two years ago Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, the Archbishop of Baltimore, received his from the Pope). The pallium is worn over the vestments of the bishop in order to signify his primary role as shepherd of the people of God. The pallium is made of 100% lamb's wool, and all of them are placed on the tomb of St. Peter the night before the feast day, to represent the bond of unity between the bishops, St. Peter, and the Pope. All in all, this holy day is an incredible experience in Rome. There are thousands of people, bells, and hundreds of priests and bishops as well, comemorating the importance of sacrifice for the people of God by the bishops, who are called to be faithful, loving shepherds as the apostles of Christ (just like Peter and Paul). So I ask you to offer a prayer today for all bishops, that they may be faithful to Christ and His mission in all things. We need holy bishops and holy priests always, and be sure that your prayers help (and they help seminarians too!) Have a blessed summer and know of my prayers for all of you as I continue my journey here in Italy and Europe. Buon'estate a tutti!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Preparations for Examinations, Maryland Night, Southern Night

The examinations of semester two are fast approaching, and it seems that time is moving faster and faster (thus the less frequent posts here). I know I have in the past posted many times about traveling and other activities, but in between all of that, most of my time is spent at prayer and study. I like to share the great experiences I have had, and I forget sometimes to share what I do from day to day!

This semester I have seven courses, which are Latin II, Scriptural Hebrew, Fundamental Theology II, Patrology, Pentateuch, Theology of Creation, and Fundamental Moral Theology. As you can imagine, there's a lot of study to be done! Nonetheless, God has provided and will continue to provide even when there is so much to do from day to day. The work to be done, when I take time to pray and commit myself to trust in God's Providence, is not as difficult, because I know that God is guiding me.

My last examination is on June 18th, ending my first year of theological studies. Wow, it went by fast! I am looking forward to my different apostolates this summer, which will be in Northern Italy and France. It will be a time of rest and renewal, preparing for another year of studies in Rome. And perhaps, since I will have a little more time on my hands, I can post a bit more frequently! (And take some more pictures, too!)

The last two weekends were two College events: Maryland Night and Southern Night.
I promise to finish this blog asap, but I have to get some errands done at present. God bless you!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easter and London

This year the Holy Week liturgies were in the seminary with the whole community, and it was incredible. Archbishop DiNoia celebrated the Easter Vigil with all of the faculty and other priests who are sutdying here. I will attach a link to his homily when it is available. I was in the choir for all the events, so though the view was not too great, I was able to sing out the joy of the Lord in this holy season!

After spending Holy Week in Rome, I traveled to London for Easter week. We (I went with a seminarian friend from Washington D.C.) were able to stay in a small parish in the heart of the city, and so were able to see most of the historic sights and also help the pastor with a few Easter activities.

Here is a picture of the front of Buckingham palace...can you pick me out of the crowd?

Here is an video clip of the Choir during the Easter Vigil.

This was the first time I was able to sing in a choir for Easter and Holy Week, and though it was a lot of hard work, it was a great experience. Many people said that we sang very well, and so that our practicing paid off; not only because people could hear us sing beautifully, but also because we sang for the glory of God. There are many things to sing about, but to be able to sing for the glory of God during Mass, especially the Easter Vigil, that was an extraordinary blessing of this first year at the College. God bless and Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In the Vatican Gardens...while Snowing?

Lenten greetings and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Just a brief update on some things: Since it is the Year for Priests, free tours are being offered of the Vatican Gardens for all priests and seminarians, and so a group of us quickly too advantage of that and signed up for a tour.

On the same day of the snowed in Rome! (It has not happened in twenty-five years!)
In case you do not believe me, here is a picture to prove it!

After having a great tour (though it was very cold), we returned to the College to admire the city covered in snow (inlcuding our soccer field). It was a memorable day. The ecstatic Italians were going about the city like it was Christmas!

Tomorrow, on St. Patrick's Day, we will be having a small celebration at dinner with singing and entertainment here at the College. It will be a nice break from the studies. I'll be sure to post some of the fun; maybe I will be playing trombone for the band.

Friday happens to be a holy day as well: St. Joseph's Day. I have not decided yet what I will do with all the extra time since we do not have classes! There is a tradition in Italy (in some places) of making a particular kind of cookie (it is supposedly very delicious) just for this holy day. (aka, the St. Joseph's Day Cookie). Perhaps I will go on a search through the city for this precious and one-day-a-year treat, which I have heard is made in some small, family-operated pasticcherias. I will take a camera so that I can at least share the image of the cookie with you (I promise, with all my strength, to take a picture before I eat it...)

More soon! Ciao

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Paris, Churches, Examinations

Bonjour! I apologize for not writing sooner but the examinations were my main focus over the exam period. Blogging had to wait!
Anyway, after completing our exams, my brother seminarian Jason and I decided to travel to Paris (and some other places) before the second semester began. It was an incredible trip, as we had imagined. We stayed at the guest house of a beautiful 19th Century basilica, named after the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Sacre-Coeur Basilique). This basilica happens to be on a very large hill (Montmartre) overlooking the city, so before we really had a chance to explore it, we had a good view to whet our appetites!
We went mostly to the famous churches in the city, because we actually did not have as much time as we had anticipated (getting through the Metro system was more complicated than we expected). I guess I will have to go back there again to see the other important sites. We were able to see Notre-Dame, Sainte Chapelle, Notre-Dame des Victoires, and the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. All of these sites have had an historical impact on French Catholicism. Notre-Dame is and has been the Cathedral of Paris dating back to the 12th Century. It is famous for its Gothic style as well as its connection with French History (for example, Napoleon’s coronation). I found it to be very dark and gray, but I think that’s just because I am used to Roman churches’ Baroque style!
Sainte-Chapelle was the constructed by St. Louis, King of France, in the 13th Century to house relics. Honestly, this chapel might be the most beautiful place I have ever seen. I really can’t describe the whole of it, so here’s a picture instead!

It is now a museum owned by the French government, since it is attached to one of their government buildings.

The minor basilica Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is known for its many miracles, beginning with the pastor dedicating the church to the Blessed Virgin Mary after having a vision of her there in the early 1830s. There is an altar to the right of the sanctuary at which one prays for Mary’s intercession, and according to the custom, one’s prayer is always granted if it is in accord with God’s Will. It was very beautiful and more like what I was used to with the baroque style. It was also pleasant to see many Parisians stopping in the basilica to say a few prayers after the work day (we happened to be visiting this church at dusk).

The last chapel that we were able to visit was the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Both the bodies of St. Catherine Laboure and St. Vincent de Paul are buried there (though supposedly St. Vincent is buried in another church on the same street), two very important saints of French Catholicism. This chapel had a unique significance for me because both my grandmother and great-grandmother kept the devotion of the Miraculous Medal, praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her help and intercession. Regarding the chapel itself, St. Catherine Laboure had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the sanctuary. During this vision, Mary told St. Catherine to establish the devotion of the Miraculous Medal so that many who were not praying would come to pray through the grace offered by her Son. Today, there are more than a million people who keep this devotion worldwide. Here is a picture!

So it was a graced filled trip. I cannot fail to mention that the Sacred Heart Basilica where we were able to stay was also beautiful and had an interesting history. Jason and I really enjoyed it because the basilica had perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, so we could go and pray whenever we went to or from the guest house. Here’s another picture!

During this trip, we also took a train to Poitiers (though we did not get to explore the city), and then went to a monastery for a few days in the country. I promise to tell that part of the story another time, because I think it is quite a good story and therefore deserves its own post.

Examinations went very well. We could respond to the professors in English but the questions were posed in Italian, but by now I can handle that just fine. The most intimidating of the exams, which involved 45 questions that had to be memorized, ended with the professor saying to me, “Hai fatto bene, continuare a lavorare bene.” (You have done well, keep up the good work.) Those words have been with me ever since!

Lent has begun here at the NAC and we have begun the “station churches,” which is the tradition in the city of Rome for Lent. Everyday there is a different church to which we walk for Holy Mass inside the city, and since there are more than 300 churches in Rome, 40 is not a bad start to seeing some of them. I will be sure to offer prayers for my family, friends, and bloggers as I march around the city to see the rich history and keep the tradition during the season of Lent. Au revoir, arrivederci, and take care!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Walk in Annecy, France

This is a video clip of when we were walking through the very old town of Annecy, right on the eastern border between Switzerland and France. If you look closely, you might be able to pick me out of the crowd. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Christmas in France: Lyons

We are only a week away from exams (my first here in Rome) and so I have been studying for the last weeks in order to prepare myself for them. However, I do want to take some time to "flashback" to my experience in Southern France during Christmas.

The above picture is of the city of Lyons. It lies in the eastern part of France, right before entering the Alps. It used to be, I believe, a Roman outpost during the Roman Empire. It is one of the oldest Christian cities in the world, with connections all the back to the 1st Century.

Yet if its history is not enough, as you can see, the city is quite beautiful. There are two rivers which run through city, the Saone and the Rhone. There is a large church to the right in the picture which happens to be the Cathedral of Lyons. It actually used to be bigger, but during the French Revolution, most of the building was destroyed. Actually, most of the churches in Lyons are from the 19th Century (or rebuilt) because of the French Revolution. When speaking with an elderly lady in one of the churches, she revealed a lot regarding the peoples' view of the Revolution. The majority of people outside of Paris were very much against it, and many historical churches and other sites were destroyed and looted. Though the French became free from monarchy, they lost many other aspects of French history as well, and so the Revolution is somewhat of a painful memory to the French people.

Our group was only able to stay in Lyons for a day, regretfully. We visited two basilicas and the historic area of the city. The historic area had little shops all over the place and roads for people to walk on (no cars like in Rome!). There was about four inches of snow on the ground, so the whole place looked picturesque. We grabbed some crepes and "vin chaud" (delicious hot wine with spice) and then went up to the basilica on the hill overlooking the city. The basilica there reminded me a lot of Montreal, Quebec, with the Basilica (like St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal) being built on the hill with the entire city below. Everyone in the city seemed to be very busy...and then I realized that they were getting ready for Christmas, of course! I had forgotten that the Christmas season was about to begin in only a few days. It was very strange to be able to watch the hustle and bustle without being a part of it.

Veramente bellissima, no?

It was a great experience to get such a historical and cultural perspective during the Christmas break. The buildings and city looked so untouched by the world of today (at least the old part of it). There were still little family shops, cobblestones, lamps needing to be lit, and smoke rising from a thousand or more chimneys (all the old buildings still had them sticking out of the rooftops).

Well, I must get back to my studies. After reading over what I have just written, I must admit that I have failed to express the profound sense I got when I entered this ancient city. The strangest thing was that it was not like Rome, which has buried its past underneath of it. Lyons still had the feeling of a living past which is alive in the present moment, and that I had entered into a history greater than I could never fully comprehend. I liked that sense; to be able to enter into such a history--which was still happening! Really, I think I was getting a European sense of history, which is obviously new for me. I am certainly hoping to have this sense again as I travel around Europe in the future.

I will continue my "Christmas story" soon. Ciao for now!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Roman Christmas Present: Meeting the Pope

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I promise to be updating the blog soon about what I have been up to in the last three weeks, but first I wanted to attach this link below. The NAC was able to have a private audience with the Pope this past Saturday for the 150th Anniversary of the College. Somehow I ended up on Vatican TV, and you can see me if you look carefully!

It was an incredible and profound experience. I was able to get only two feet away from the Pope as he was passing by. How many blessings; it's like Christmas again and again!
God bless you during this New Year! Ad Multos Annos!

The Vatican