Thursday, September 27, 2012

Benedetto XVI

The past several days have been marked by profound silence, and then profound noise.  Allow me to explain.  
This past week, the seminary community made its annual silent retreat.  Sr. Marie Joelle Bec, former Superior General of the Marianist Sisters, gave us conferences each day, reflecting on the thoughts of Mother Adele, Foundress of the Marianist Sisters.  Except for her talks and our times of common prayer, we were asked to remain in silence.  This included meals.  I can now signal "Can you hand me some wine?" without saying a word :)  I probably "speak" better in silence than I do in Italian!  The retreat was a time of great grace and listening for me, and I thank everyone for their prayers.
Our group at the end of the retreat.
As we ended the retreat, we hopped on the train and went directly to St. Peter's for Pope Benedict's General Audience.  These are typically held on Wednesdays, and when the weather is good, they are held in the Square in front of the Basilica.  It was an intimate gathering with us and several thousand friends filling the square!

However, our General Secretary was able to get us good seats on the side of the stage, putting us very near to the pontiff.

The Pope enters the square in his popemobile and winds through the gathered crowd to cheers and much applause.  He is quite the celebrity!  After a scripture reading is proclaimed in several languages by various bishops (and in our case one abbot), the pope gives a talk in Italian.  This time, it was on the liturgy, "the work of God...and the work of the people."  Afterwards, pilgrim groups in attendance are recognized according to language and the Pope greets them in their own language.  Typically the groups cheer or sing when their name is called.  Not to be outdone, the "Members of the Seminary of the Society of Mary" gave a rousing cheer to which the Pope turned and waved to us.  At the end, all chant the "Pater Noster" (Our Father in Latin) and the Pope gives his blessing.  Finally, any dignitaries that are present greet the Pope individually and offer him gifts.

I offer you some pictures from the day.  It was a quite joyful experience, and goes to show that the Pope is very much loved and respected by many, many people.

Among the pictures, is something that has never been seen before - I am wearing a Roman collar.  It is recommended that we don clerical attire for "official" events such as this one.  I will admit that it was a little "weird" to put it on for the first time.  But, just another thing to get used to in this crazy adventure of mine!  And as our rector continues to remind me, "piano, piano" (slowly, slowly.)


So, there it is!

Waiting for "Il Papa."  With Brothers Bosco, Daniel, Nereo, and Chinnaia.

With Bro. Javier.

You've heard of "Where's Waldo?"  The new game is "Where's Benedict?"

I love the expression captured on Pope Benedict's face.  It's either that he was surprised to see me, or the popemobile was going too fast.  I'll let you be the judge :)

Pope Benedict giving his talk.

Yes, we were close enough to get pictures like this.
Trying to capture just the right picture...

...and the Pope turns to wave at me :)

The final prayer and blessing.

As Pope Benedict was leaving, he stopped to hold and bless a baby.  Afterwards, many people were lining up to get their picture taken with the baby and her parents!

It's not everyday you get background like this.

Some of the new seminarians with our directors:  Fr. Pachi (Rector), Brothers Nereo, Daniel, Me, Javier and Les (Vice-Rector)

As we were heading home, Bro. Les made a new friend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

St. Pete's

(Quick Note: From Wednesday September 19 to Wednesday September 26, the Marianist seminarians will be on retreat.  Be assured of my prayers for you, and I humbly ask for your prayers as we spend some quiet time with our Good God.)

Yesterday, Bro. Dan mentioned that he's never been to St. Peter's Basilica.  (Yes, that's the big one.)  We've been in Rome (minus our time in Verona) for well over a month now, so I figured it was time that we made a visit.  After debating on which bus to transfer to (the community had told us but we got our numbers all mixed up) we made it Vatican and several thousand of our closest friends! To say this is a popular destination for tourists is a bit of an understatement :)  Here are some pictures from the day. 

Channeling my inner Swiss Guard before entering the Basilica.
The facade of St. Peter's

A view of St. Peter's Square from the porch of the Basilica.

Michelangelo's "Pieta"

Some of the vaulted ceiling.

The tomb of Pope John Paul II
There's our guy, St. Peter himself.  There is a tradition that you touch his foot as you walk in front of him. 

It was a sunny day.

This is the "baldechen" - a sort of canopy - that is over the main altar.  This was a typical artistic element when the present church was built.

The main cupola (dome) of the church.  Eleven years ago, my mom and I walked to the top of this!
Putting the two previous pictures together...

The back window of the church, representing the Holy Spirit.

Looking towards the entrance.

Being "guarded" as I leave the church.

St. Peter once again.

Bro. Dan - happy after his first visit.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Back in Rome...

You might recall that when I first arrived in Rome (that was about three months ago) the first order of business was to apply for my legal residence permit which included several trips to different offices and waiting at the "Questura" (police station) for four hours.  The next step was to attend an "Italian Civics" class.  Last week, I had the honor of watching a four hour video that taught me how to be a good resident in Italy.  It was in English, and for all four hours it was simply two people (one form the U.S. and one from Great Britain) reading at a camera.  One of my favorite parts was when the British guy comes on with a t-shirt that says "Brooklyn."  Naturally, I thought to myself, "So this is what it means to be Italian!!!"   I also learned that...
    1) There are almost 1000 members in the Italian Parliament. 
    2) Work is good for you and for the state, so get a job.
    3) Make sure your kids go to school.
    4) Social workers are good people.
I am happy to say that Friday I returned to the Questura and picked up my "permesso di soggiorno."Woo Hoo!  Here is the new class proudly showing our newly acquired "permessi."
 Of course, I still need to get an identity card from the local government (that takes 3 passport photos to get) and then I can purchase my annual bus pass.  I also think I have to sign up for the government health care.  I figure that by the time I'm finished with school, I will have everything completed :) 

In the meantime, I'll share a few more photos.  When we were returning from Pallanza, we had to switch trains in Milano and had four hours.  So, a few of us hopped on the subway and went downtown.  I'll warn you that one of the pictures is a little strange, but I had to share it. 

Here we are at the Duomo (Cathedral) of Milan.  We were there in the morning, but that afternoon the funeral for Cardinal Martini took place in the church.  We were able to walk past his coffin in the sanctuary and pay our respects.
The Duomo really is an exquisite building.

This advertisement was in the subway.  I wanted to go because it says that "Charlie and his friends are waiting for me!"  But, the brothers said we didn't have time to go.  By the way, this is not the strange picture.

The Church of St. Ambrose.  He was Bishop of Milan in the fourth century.  This is also probably the place where Ambrose baptized Augustine after his conversion.  When we were here, it started to rain, but I think it was just Monica's tears.  (You theology nerds will understand this.)
And finally, in the crypt of the church, one can see the tomb of St. Ambrose.  Or, rather, one can see St. Ambrose!  Here he is (dressed in white) with a martyr whose name I don't remember (sorry).
Seeing skeletons of saints dressed up like this is more common here than you might expect.  I have also seen seen the body of St. Francis of Rome and the skull of St. Dominic (in Bologna).

After all, they always say that two heads are better than one...
Bro. Jinu posing with St. Dominic's head (it's hard to see it, but it's encased in the reliquary.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012


After two months of studying Italian (I’ll write about that later) it’s time for a break (sort of).  Yes, the classes are over, but the Italian goes on….in Pallanza, a city in the North of Italy (I can see Switzerland from here) on the banks of Lago Maggiore, a large lake nestled in the mountains that begin the Alps.  Myself and six other Marianist seminarians are staying at our community here for a bit of relaxation before we return to the hustle and bustle of Rome.  Of course, the Brothers here don’t speak English (but are very quick to make fun of my American accent when I speak ItalianJ) so the learning goes on…but in a more practical way.  We are enjoying regular community life (prayer and meditation in the morning, mass in the evening, and meals together) and are also seeing some of the sites of the area.  And, of course, the afternoons are usually free for napping, reading, and just good-old-fashioned relaxation. 
As I sit and type this, a fresh breeze blows through my open windows (it was almost cold this morning), the bells from the local parish are marking the quarter hour, and this is what I’m looking at. Yes, Pallanza is a beautiful and peaceful place, and just what I needed!

Enjoy the rest of the pictures.

The city of Pallanza.

The Marianist Brothers House (where we are staying).

The Marianist Sisters House (which is right next door.)

An icon inside the Brothers' Chapel.

"Lungolago" - Along the lake.
A little town across the lake...typical of the region.

Bro. Jinu pointing to Switzerland.

I know my brother-in-law Sean can be bad with directions, but what's our boat doing in Northern Italy??

This is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption in a little church.  I had to laugh because, "Where's Mary?"  I guess she has been assumed into heaven???  (So the statue was in the front of the church, but it still made me laugh.)

The family home of St. Charles Borromeo.  Not too bad when your uncle is the Pope and makes you a Cardinal. 

The view from our house.

After all, this is vacation!

However, it's not all fun and game.  Last Saturday a terrible storm (including a tornado) came through the area.  There is damage (mostly fallen trees) all over the place.  The Brother's garden is almost all destroyed, but Mary survived.  We have been helping the Brothers clean up some of the trees. 

This scene is typical...trees just snapped in half!  There is a botanical garden nearby that announced it will be closed for at least a year due to clean up.  They estimate that over 300 trees fell in the garden.

Back to the peacefulness of the water and mountains.


Memorial for those in World War I.

"Isola Pescatori" (Fisherman's Island) in the lake. 

While this photo doesn't do it justice, the night scene out my bedroom window is amazing, with the adjecent city ascending up the mountain.

Even a some clouds and rain can't dampen the beauty of this place.  This is what I see from the other window in my room.

Here we are one day with our tour guide Bro. Remo.  At 86 years old, I think he moves quicker and works more than any of us "giovani" (young ones).
We made a visit to the Brother's cemetery.

Lago Maggiore.

Along the lake.