Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pope Benedict's Last Papal Audience

It still hasn't sunk in that I was that close to the Pope today. He was literally less than 10 feet away from where I stood as he passed by during his procession on the Popemobile.

I definitely had tears in my eyes as soon as I saw him coming down my aisle. (His route is left unknown for security purposes, so even though we were by a barricade, there wasn't a guarantee that he would come down our aisle).

If you can make out the 6 different sections in the center of the square (4 in the front, 2 long rectangles in the back), I was in the very front of the middle section on the right side, near the central aisle.

It was so incredible. It started at 10:30, so we got there by 8:30, and worked our way toward standing room in the front of that section. We were waiting for about 2 hours, but the atmosphere was so exciting that it really wasn't bad at all, plus the weather was beautiful today. I had one of the 50,000 tickets that were handed out by the Swiss Guard, but there are estimates that about 200,000 were gathered in the square today. People from everywhere in the world, and speaking what felt like every language. Chants of "Benedetto" would break out every now and then, as did, "Benedetto, sempre con noi" (Always with us).

So that was an incredible morning. And then for class in the afternoon, Msgr Irwin brought in Msgr Wadsworth of Westminster, who is the guy that was basically in charge of the new English translation of the missal- the guy who made us all say "consubstantial," and "with your Spirit." So that was really cool, he was great to listen to and it was cool to learn about the extensive translation process.

Anyway, this will probably be my last post for a couple weeks, as I'm off for Spring Break on Sunday! Next time you'll hear all about my adventures in Barcelona, Geneva, London, and Edinburgh!

"The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world's greatest figures - from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline."
Love, Chris

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Being a Theology major in Rome

This has been an incredible week in terms of opportunities I've had as a Theology major here in Rome. I'm taking both TRS courses that are offered here and taught by Msgr Irwin, and because of his connections here in Rome, he's been able to take us to some pretty cool site visits for class.

Last Wednesday, we went to the Holy Offices of the Vatican for class. Just a quick nod to the Swiss Guards at the gates and we were in.  A representative from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith talked with us, and it was so interesting. It was really cool to see that Msgr Stephen Lopes, who has been with that office for 8 years, is really young, only in his 30s.  I asked Msgr Irwin if you could plan on doing this kind of work or request to work directly in the Vatican, but apparently you just have to get noticed by some higher-up early on. None of these guys ever thought they'd be living and working in the Vatican. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith deals with matters of discipline in the Church, so matters of making sure that priests are following correct Church doctrine and dealing with any crimes against the sacraments. These are the guys that deal with the sex abuse scandals (which would be crimes against the vows of Holy Orders). Despite the heavy work they do, it was a really great visit.

I've also been going to Station Churches this week. Station churches hold Mass celebrated in English every day of Lent at 7am. The Masses are often in historic churches all throughout Rome, some of which are only open once a year precisely for these Masses. On Thursday, I set my alarm for 5:40am and was out the door by 6am on my way to the station mass at 7am. It was really beautiful, plus I got to see some seminarian guys from the NAC I've made friends with, Chris and Taylor.

Taylor (on the right) is a goofball
Thursday was also a crazy day. I got back from mass around 8:30am. I then had Theology class from 9-12, Philosophy class from 1-2:30, and then my Italian final at 3:30! It was a nonstop day for sure. Thankfully, I think my Italian final went well, plus I now have all my afternoons free! I'm psyched to no longer have Italian class for 9 hours a week. However, midterms are this coming week and I have about 18 pages of papers to write, so those 9 hours will be sorely needed. The crazy day was capped off by a great night at Abbey Theatre, an Irish pub here in Rome near Piazza Navona, with some good friends.

This morning, I went to another Station mass at 7am. Today it was at St. Peter's! I feel so blessed to have been able to go to Mass there for a second time, plus, I can never emphasize enough how much I now appreciate being able to celebrate Mass in English!! Mass in Italian has been a spiritual hurdle I really hadn't anticipated. One of the best things I feel that our Catholic Mass has to offer is how we, as lay people, get to participate throughout the Mass. It's incredibly hard to feel in tune with the Mass when it's being said in Italian, even if you can follow the order of the Mass.

We had Mass right in front of the Holy Spirit window, which is easily my favorite part of St. Peter's.
I also saw Taylor again and met Stephanie, someone my really good friend Lauren became close with when she was studying here last spring.

Though I have a ton of work to do next week, it will have one huge highlight before setting off for spring break. On Wednesday, I'll be at Pope Benedict XVI's last Papal Audience in St. Peter's Square. Can't wait!

If you don’t get that He loves you, if you don’t understand that He has an affectionate love for you, then on those days where you struggle, on those days when the Accuser or your own voice calls you worthless, calls you a screw up, calls you a failure, calls you unlovely, when you don’t understand that He loves you and that love is built upon Christ and not you, then I don’t know that you’ll ever really run towards Him.” —Matt Chandler

Love, Chris

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Weekend under the Tuscan Sun

Hey everyone!

I was in Tuscany from Saturday to Monday, and it's been non-stop ever since I got back, but I decided now would be as good a time as ever to procrastinate studying for my Italian final tomorrow, so here goes.

This weekend was a program trip. This means that everyone goes (45 students), our transportation and hotel and dinners are paid for, and our tour guide is our very own Dr. Dawson-Vasquez, the director of the program and fondly referred to as DDV. It's certainly not a bad way to spend a weekend, and Tuscany was beautiful to see.

We boarded our bus at 8am on Saturday and headed to Siena. There we saw a museum, a cathedral (Duomo) and St. Catherine of Siena's house.. and her head.

If you spend any time in Rome, you will be sure to see a lot of relics and many bodies of saints. Nearly every church you walk into has some saint's body on display or in the altar. It's something that in itself can be a little uncomfortable, but becomes even more so when the matter of splitting up said bodies gets involved. You see, I've seen St. Catherine of Siena's body, in Santa Maria sopra Minerva. I went to Mass right next to her body, in fact. Her head, however, rests in Siena. It's something I've wondered about often during my time here, what with the different aspects of how Catholics see the physical body, and the Theology of the Body and how that plays into it, and some other factors, and on this trip, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask both DDV and Msgr Irwin about it. It's definitely something I'll keep looking into.

View from Siena
The next day, we went to San Gimignano. Sunday was probably my favorite day. It's a beautiful little town with incredible views that my pictures cannot hope to do justice to and tons of little shops with beautiful ceramics. Also, we got to go to a Mass celebrated in English, which is always a huge bonus for me. Later that day, we went to Castel de Trebbio, where we did a wine tasting! It was so fun. I'm not much for red wines, but I did like the white wine they gave us. We sampled 4 different wines and then were treated to a wonderful 4 course dinner.

Wine tasting. I think you can tell the white one in the middle was my favorite.
San Gimignano
Dinner at Castel de Trebbio

On Monday, we had a few hours in Orvieto, where we saw another Duomo. I have to admit, I was not a fan of either of the Duomos we saw. The colors of Siena are black and white, so the whole thing is built with black and white stone, and frankly, to me it made the churches look like circus tents.

All in all, Orvieto was a bit of a let-down, since it's definitely the off season for them there and almost no stores were open. We even had a hard time finding a place that was open for lunch. However, Orvieto had one huge redeeming factor. The Duomo there houses the corporal with the blood of Jesus from the Eucharistic miracle in 1260 on it.

A corporal is the cloth that is laid over the altar while the priest consecrates the host during Transubstantiation (the bread and wine becoming Christ's Body and Blood). The story of the miracle is that there was a priest who was doubting the true presence of Christ in the species of the bread and wine, and during Mass, while he was consecrating the host, the corporal started to bleed.

Here's a link to a priest explaining it if you want to know more!
"The Eucharistic miracle of Orvieto is an extraordinary reminder for us of a simple truth, that Jesus Christ, God Himself, the creator of heaven and earth, Our creator, comes to us and gives Himself to us in the Eucharist." 
 It really was an incredible thing to see.

Should be another crazy week, keep me in your prayers!

Link to the Tuscany Facebook Album: Under the Tuscan Sun

Love, Chris

P.S- please tell me someone appreciated the pun of the Blood of Christ being a redeeming factor #TheologyMajorHumor

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New cousins, new Pope, and other news!

What a crazy week it's been!

First of all, congratulations to my Uncle Steve and Aunt Cathy on the birth of twins Jonathan and Isabelle! They were born on Friday, February 8, in the midst of a blizzard! I can't wait to meet them once I get home.

I was in Paris this weekend! I flew out on Friday night and spent Saturday at Disneyland Paris, and a day in Paris on Sunday, before flying back to Rome early Monday morning. It was a whirlwind weekend with a lot of travel and new experiences, and also some pretty awful weather.

Disneyland Paris is somewhat of a far cry from Disney World and is a little lacking in the Disney magic we all love, but it was still fun! Saturday was cold and rainy, so some rides were closed, but they had the Buzz Lightyear ride and Space Mountain, so it still had some of the magic.

On Sunday, we commuted into Paris and went right to Notre Dame. I was so excited because I actually got to go to Mass there! It was such a wonderful experience and something I'm really blessed to have been able to do. Of course, it was mostly in French, but it was an international mass, so a few parts were in English.

After that, I walked from Notre Dame to meet my friends at the Eiffel Tower. It's a long walk, but I really love Paris, so it wasn't bad, plus I got to see the lock bridge on my way! I've visited Paris once before, and the locks were by far my favorite part, so I was excited to have the chance to see them again. They're called "Locks of Love" and it's a custom for couples to write their names or initials on a padlock, attach it to the bridge, and then throw the key into the Seine. It's definitely something that's on my bucket list to do, just like I saw the couple below doing!

Sunday night I stayed in a hostel all by myself! I don't think I've ever felt more independent. I mean, I wouldn't recommend doing it, it's just how it worked out for me with my travel plans for me to stay right in Paris so I wouldn't have as long of a commute on Monday morning. As it was, I left the hostel at 5:40am to get the the train station. I was at the ticket counter when it opened at 6, expecting to buy a ticket for a 6:30am train, only to be told that my student discount applied to a 6:05am train. Thus, a mere 4 minutes later, I was on my way out of Paris! It worked out really well, and I ended up meeting a Canadian girl who was on the same train, shuttle, and flight to Rome as I was, so we stuck together, which was really nice.

Once I got back to school, I had to head right back out again to get fingerprinted at the immigration office for my student visa, but not before I heard the news that Pope Benedict XVI is retiring, which means I GET TO BE IN ROME FOR CONCLAVE!!!! I still can't believe it. Slight possible complication- the pope resigns on Feb 28. Spring break is March 3-11. So let's all pray for the new pope- just that he gets elected after I get back from Barcelona, Geneva, London, and Edinburgh!

Also, hope everyone had a blessed Ash Wednesday!

"Remember, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return."
"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." 

Here's to a blessed Lenten season! Crazy to think we're entering Lent with one pope and will be ending it with a new one!

Love, Chris

Sunday, February 3, 2013

One Month In...

One month ago today I landed in Rome!

It's hard to believe. This weekend I yet again got to experience "coming home" to Rome. Last weekend was my first time leaving, as I returned from Venice. This weekend I went on a couple day trips to towns outside Roma. Yesterday I went to Tivoli with Eva-Maria and Paul.  We were lucky that the bad weather held off as we viewed the town's main attraction, the Villa D'Este.

It had some beautiful gardens, and the view of the Italian countryside was amazing.

I also developed a slight obsession with tile...

Today, Cait, Caitlin, Eva-Maria, and I went to Caserta. We had a train out of Rome at 8:15, and pulled in at 10:30, which gave us enough time to pick up tickets for the town's main attraction, a Versailles-like castle, and then head into town to find an 11:30 mass we had looked up. 

Today, however, we were not so lucky with the weather :( It was forecasted to be sunny with a mere 20% chance of rain. My soaking wet shoes and broken umbrella due to the high winds would beg to disagree with this assessment. 

I'm not gonna lie, the damp weather definitely brought down our spirits.  After the Mass, which was, of course, celebrated in Italian (At some point I'll have a post about my thoughts on going to Mass in Italian) we worked our way back toward the castle, with hopes of finding a place to eat lunch on the way. This search was somewhat unsuccessful. Most places in Rome are even closed on Sunday, so it's not surprising that in this little town, we only found one cafe open.

Language barriers are a funny thing (as in not fun at all in the moment, and pretty amusing in hindsight). We were given menus, which we ordered drinks from. We picked out sandwiches from the menu- and then were told that the chef was not in, thus we couldn't order any actual food from the menu. We attempted to explain that we would just have our drinks, then, and find somewhere else to grab food. It wasn't clear until about 15 minutes later that despite what we had thought we said, apparently we had ordered food- when a platter of various counter snacks, was served to us, cold. It ended up being a happy accident, despite the fact that all of the food was meant to be served hot - a slice of lasagna, 2 mini hamburger patties, some potato slices, etc, since we never did happen on any other places that were open.

The rain was still torrential and the wind was cutting through us, but we made our way to the castle.

Every room was incredibly ornate. We also made a heroic effort to get out to see the gardens, during which my umbrella broke and I found out that not only is it possible for Sperry's to take on water, it's also possible for them to gush it out with every step. I don't think I've ever been so cold in my life. I was actually having trouble forming some words at one point, I think because my top lip was so freezing cold. Yikes. 

Our return train was scheduled for 19:58 (7:58pm). When we finished going through the castle, it was approximately 3:15pm. There was no way we were staying sodden for another 4 hours, so we went to the train station and managed to change our train to the one that was leaving for Rome at 4:00 (19 euros later). 

Needless to say, I am very happy to be home in Rome!

"I didn't know it was possible to lose all feeling in your feet and still walk!" - Caitlin

Love, Chris