Saturday, April 27, 2013


If there's anything I've learned during my sophomore year of college, it's that a lot can happen in a semester.

I know you're probably thinking of my spring semester here in Rome, but my fall semester at CUA changed a lot of things for me.

Last fall, I was wildly over-committed. I was an Undergraduate Fellow, I was the VP of Catholic Athletes for Christ, I led Athletes Retreat, I lectored at daily mass on campus, I was a member of Gratia Plena, I had a youth ministry internship that I had to commute to every Friday night, the study abroad application to complete, and surprise, had a social life, friends, and family to maintain, not to mention a faith life. Oh, and 5 classes.

Every weekend, I would sit down with my desk calendar and map out my week, hour by hour for each day. And I know when it's all listed out like that above, it seems overwhelming and awful and chaotic. And sometimes it was. But it also made for a semester during which I saw myself becoming who I wanted to be. Every single one of those things that I blocked into my schedule were part of my life because I wanted them to be. I'm passionate about them. Those activities don't even include the 4 or 5 hours a week spent in daily masses and praise and worship, which I would hardly call commitments, since rather than being stuff to fit in, they were what helped me keep my sanity during all the rest of it.

I started last semester not knowing where I stood. I'd lost some friends over the summer, including one I honestly had never thought I'd have to navigate this thing called college without. I was hurt. I didn't know if I was worth becoming anyone's new best friend after having lost mine. I didn't even know my own roommate. I didn't know where I was going, but at the time that I was moving back into CUA last fall, I knew it wasn't the place where I had the friends I'd had when I left. It didn't feel like the home it had become freshman year.

But life has a way of putting people in your life when you least expect it, and when you need them most.

I met Joe and Ross, who became my friends somewhere between classes in O'Boyle and a Confirmation retreat we all ended up leading together, and who taught me that you can turn around someone's day just by having a genuine smile on your face, by doing that for me, and everyone else each of them meet, countless times.

I met Lauren Scharmer, who I'm sure is about to cry reading this, if she isn't already, and learned that I was not the first person to have every possible emotion that there is to have over studying abroad. I also learned that there are some people so kind that they will come up and hug you when they see you crying, and tuck you into bed when you're sick before they even know you, and that she is one of the even fewer people that will end up being your best friend afterward.

I met Colleen, who surprised me by wanting to be my friend just as much as I wanted to be hers, and whose easy friendship helped me get by in those first couple months more than I'll probably ever be able to express.

And most importantly, I met my roommate, Kelly. I met the girl who became my best friend out of nowhere, who is the first person I can honestly say I am always completely and freely myself with, who, by letting me be there for her, showed me how to let others be there for me, who can sing beautifully, who is comically shorter than I am, and who saved me.  Kel is my person. Strangers in August, soulmates by December.

So, yeah, a semester can change a lot. It can change your social circle, it can change your major, it can change you into someone who knows who she is, and more importantly, feels like she's growing into the person she wants to be.

And then I left to come to Rome. It was like starting all over again. No support system. Didn't know a single person coming in, not even by sight. But I did know that I had done this before.

Truth is, it was hard. It was hard getting here, orientation was hard, my grandfather dying was hard, it was hard a month in, it was hard when I was homesick, it was hard when I was happy, and sometimes it's still going to be hard.

That's the thing. Life is tough. But it's also good and incredible and exhilarating and emotional and it's worth it. I did so many amazing things this semester.

I went on a gondola in Venice.
I went to mass at Notre Dame in Paris.
I went wine tasting at a castle in Tuscany.
I saw the bones of St. Peter underneath the Vatican.
I prayed the Scala Santa on my knees during the Triduum.
I was in St. Peter's Square as Pope Benedict left the Vatican for the last time as Pope.
I was there again for the white smoke, and saw Pope Francis for the first time with all the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
I went to FOUR Papal Masses (Epiphany Mass with Pope Benedict; Inauguration Mass, Palm Sunday Mass, Easter Sunday Mass with Pope Francis)
I've been within 10 feet of both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.

I don't say all that to brag. I say it more to remind myself that none of this just "happened" to me. With the exception of all the conclave business, which obviously we can thank the Holy Spirit for, I made all this happen. I made the decision to study abroad in a country where I didn't know the language or anyone coming with me, 4500 miles away from all the new friends I'd just spent a semester making. I chose to make the most of my semester. It was so much harder than I thought it would be. I underestimated the power of foreign homesickness, how challenging it is to keep in touch with people, how emails and Skype never seem to cut it on the nights when you just want to be with the people you love.

I've learned about my faith and about myself.
I've grown.
I've made new friends.

And now, I have to leave this place where all this happened. Where I lived on my own for the first time. Where I was a 15 minute walk from St. Peter's. Where I spent 4 months surrounded by a foreign language in a foreign country. Where I cried and laughed and drank and lived exclusively on pasta and pizza. Where I woke up at the crack of dawn to go to Station Masses at 7am all around Rome during Lent. Where I had some of the highest and lowest moments of my life. Where I kinda figured out who I am.

So as I say goodbye to this place and head home to NH for a few days to see my family before I visit my other home and family at CUA, I can happily say that I achieved my biggest goal for this semester:

I made Rome my home.

To each person that contributed to the 2,500+ hits that this blog has gotten, thank you for letting me share this with you.

Love, Chris

Here's to the next adventure. Junior year, I'm coming for you ;)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

six dayz

..Til I see some of my favorite people at CUA!
 Can't wait!!

...herp derp.

 Love, Chris

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Photo Stream

Here are a couple little photo collages I made from some of my favorite pictures from the semester with all the great people I've been here with!

Finals week is upon us, so expect just 2 more posts from this blog! I'll have one up on Wednesday or Thursday with some photos from what my daily life here in Rome has looked like, and then one final post on Sunday morning before I FLY BACK TO THE UNITED STATES! ONE WEEK!! :)

(Expect the next posts to be heavy on the nostalgia and cheesiness)

Love, Chris

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Vienna Facebook album

If you take away the nightmare experiences of getting to Vienna and getting back from Vienna, both of which included delayed flights, missed busses, and near emotional breakdowns (okay, full-on breakdowns)... then I can honestly say that the 2 and a half days I spent in Vienna were a great experience.

My friend Cait and I took this last trip of the semester together. Cait is a girl I met here in Rome and who I traveled with over spring break, and actually someone I'm going to be living with next year! She's a great friend and we had a blast together.

We got to Vienna late on Friday night. We had all day Saturday and Sunday, and part of Monday in Vienna before our flight back to Rome. During that time, we saw 2 palaces, ate some schnitzel and strudel, and explored Vienna. We saw churches and parks and reveled in being a city that is so totally not Italian. I, for one, am so beyond ready to be back in the US, especially now after what happened in Boston on Monday, so it was nice to have a break from Italy and experience a city that was so different.

Everything in Vienna is closed on Sunday. The city has quiet hours every day from 10pm-9am. There isn't the claustrophobic hustle and bustle of Rome. There are no nagging street vendors. It's clean. Most people don't speak English. They eat meals at normal times. It was awesome.

It was just a little hard to ease into the routine of Vienna, because since we're now in our last week of classes, we have a ton of work and papers to do and finals exams to prepare for, so it was a little overwhelming to be away when we had so much to do.

I have my last class of the semester tomorrow, and then the following days will be filled with writing final papers, preparing for final exams, packing, and getting ready to say goodbye to Rome.

I'm sure by this time next week, when more of my assignments have been completed and I'm a little less stressed, I'll feel some more sadness about my time in Rome coming to an end, but right now I'm just really antsy to be back in the US. It's been a long time, and a lot has happened, and I'm just ready to come home.

Back to writing papers...

Love, Chris

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Capri Sun

Take me back to Capri. That's all that's coming to mind as I write this post. We had a incredible program trip to the Bay of Naples that made coming back to the reality of 5 page papers and final projects rough, not to mention the stark realization that we only have a few weeks left!

I saw Pompeii, went in the Blue Grotto, got sunburned laying out in the sun in Capri, had a memorable excursion into Naples, and probably most importantly, I got to do it all with a couple great friends.

Sounds pretty perfect to me.

I have plenty to do, so for now I'll just leave you with some pictures from the weekend, my words couldn't do it justice anyway!

Love, Chris

Also, check out this post by my friend Cait about the night we had before escaping to Capri! (Note to self: NEVER AGAIN... so it's back to writing my paper for now!)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Experiencing the Triduum in Rome

For Holy Thursday, my parents were still here, so they joined me and some of my friends from the dorm for Mass at Santa Susanna. Santa Susanna is the American parish here in Rome. I sometimes go to their 6pm daily mass. It's a really beautiful church, and Holy Thursday mass was completely packed, which was great to see. Holy Week tends to mark the beginning of the tourist season in Rome.

Santa Susanna
On Good Friday, my parents met me in St. Peter's Square to see the Stations of the Cross acted out by students that attend a missionary school here in Rome. The students did a really great job.

At 3pm, a few friends and I headed to the English College, which is the British seminary here in Rome, for the Good Friday service. The College is really beautiful, and the seminarians did a wonderful job. Afterward, I headed to my family's apartment that they rented while they were here, to spend their last night in Rome with them. It was tough saying goodbye, but it helps knowing that I'll be home in a month! (Wait, what???)  

Holy Saturday was a really great day. We started out the day by climbing the Scala Santa, or Holy Stairs. These are 29 steps that are supposed to be the stairs that Jesus climbed up to Pontius Pilate. St. Helena brought them to Rome, among other things, back when transporting an entire staircase was apparently a feasible thing to do.  Now, I said climbed, but the thing about Scala Santa is that you ascend the stairs on your knees.

It was a painful and spiritual experience. Kneeling on each step praying the entire way can't help but bring you closer to Christ's suffering, and having just watched the Passion the night before certainly enhanced the experience.

Afterward, it was a beautiful day, so we went to see St Maria Maggiore, which is one of the four major basilicas of Rome. Then we went grocery shopping for our Easter dinner, and then took naps in preparation for the Easter Vigil!

After dinner at Abbey Theater, Cait, Mary, and I headed back to the English College for the four hour Easter Vigil. It was really beautiful and it actually didn't feel four hours long, though part of that may be due to the fact that I spent most of the first hour playing with the wax from my candle and making shapes with it. Anyway, they really did do a great job with it, and afterward we stayed for a bit for some champagne and chocolate with everyone before heading home.

After a mere 3 hours of sleep (ouch) we were back up again for Easter: Round 2- this time with Papa Fran! We were out the door by 7 and managed to get great seats up front for Mass at 10:30. We got a little nervous because he didn't process at the beginning before Mass like he had for his Inauguration, but never fear, turns out the 3rd Papal Mass with Papa Fran was the charm for me, because I finally got a great picture of him! He finally came around our side of the barricade on the last aisle he went down before heading into St. Peter's to deliver his Sunday Angelus Easter message to the crowd. 

After fighting our way back to school through thousands of people, it was back to bed until it was time to make Easter dinner. We had a great meal with 6 people from the dorm.

And today, Easter Monday, we went on a program-offered trip to Castel Gandolfo. We left school at 4 and went about an hour south of Rome to the small town where Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI now resides. It was so cool coming up on the center of town, because I recognized the building that Benedict met the crowds at as he arrived at Castel Gandolfo on the day he resigned. It was so weird and awesome to be in the place that I had seen him waving from on TV as I had stood in St. Peter's Square. 

The weather was really rainy today, so it wasn't ideal, but the restaurant we went to had the best antipasti. The wine also seemed to be never-ending, which made for a fun bus ride back. (It's possible the entire bus joined in a rendition of "Die Young" by Kesha as it came on the radio). My bus buddy Cait and I also had a great time singing "Thrift Shop" to each other. 

It's the little things like that which are becoming more important as we all realize that we only have one more month here in Rome!!

"I've learned that a storm isn’t always just bad weather, and a fire can be the start of something. I’ve found out that there are a lot more shades of gray in this world than I ever knew about. I’ve learned that sometimes, when you´re afraid but you keep on moving forward, that’s the biggest kind of courage there is. And finally, I’ve learned that life isn’t really about failure and success. It’s about being present, in the moment when big things happen, when everything changes, including myself." - Cynthia Hand

Love, Chris