Sunday, June 23, 2013

One year later...

So, a few weeks ago, I celebrated my one year anniversary of living in Rome.  Twelve montht earlier, I'm not sure if I knew that I was going to make language, new culture, new coffee-drinking-habits.  But, here I am.  So, in order to celebrate, I offer my top 10 list of things I've learned about Italy and Italians.  Of course, I offer this in good fun!  And I apologize to Paolo, the one Italian who will probably read this.

10.  New Olympic Sport - Competitive Parking:  If there were an Olympic sport in finding a space to park a car, the Italians would consistently take the gold, silver, and bronze.  No space on the street?  Use the sidewalk.  Only half a space left?  Just pull in frontwards.  And for you pedestrians out there, forget about using the little sidewalk ramp to the street; there's probably a car parked in front of it.  And actually, just forget about crossing the streets at all...unless you're really good at the game "Frogger." 
Outside our house.  All the other cars o the street were parallel parked.

9.  Communion Procession Coming to Next Year's X-Games: In the US, we're used to taking turns to enter the communion line.  Not here.  It's a free for all.  Pretty much, you enter the line when you want to.  At the Vatican, I think I was once hit by a nun!  While we're talking about lines, it should also be noted that there are no traffic lines painted on the streets, so lanes are meaningless.  Also, traffic signs are mere suggestions.

89.  Pasta, Pasta, Pasta:  Now, I like pasta just as much as the next person, but it gets a little ridiculous (and old) after day 246.  Sure, there are an infinite number of combinations of pasta types and sauces, but really?  Must we have pasta every day?  (In their defense, I was once taken out to dinner by three Italian friends and we went to the China Buffet.)
Yes, you can buy posters that have different types of pasta on them.

7.  Worlds Record for Continuous Talking (usually about nothing):  The Italians have a knack for being able to talk...and talk...and talk.  During a dinner in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, our Italian host interrupted dinner about 10 times to thank someone, offer a bit of history, or say something that he forgot to say earlier. 

6.  Can you find the coffee?  Oh Starbucks "Venti" (or even grande for that matter), where are you?  Italian coffee has the force of a full pot, but the volume of a recommended dose of cough syrup.

One object in this picture is not smaller than it appears.

5.  It's Never Too Warm:  Temperatures are relative over here.  Every time I was out jogging in shorts and t-shirt (and sweating horribly) I would always pass someone in running pants and a sweatshirt.  And then don't get me started on the lack of an appropriate air conditioning setting.

4.  Construction Habits (OSHA Beware):Almost everyday as we walked to school, Bro. Dan and I would comment that the Italians always seem to be doing something to the roads or buildings, and yet there doesn't seem to be anything getting done.  I think they just like to set up fences, dig up the road, repave the road, take down the fence, and then repeat next week.  And I'm still mad at myself for not snapping the picture of two construction workers wearing orange vests, leaning on a front loader, drinking a Peroni (that would be Italian beer).

3.  It's a good day for a strike:  There's not much worse than your rector telling you that there will be a "sciopero" tomorrow.  That's Italian for "transportation strike."  Usually a few times a month, the bust drivers decide to go on strike.  There's no mass demonstration, no picket signs, no last minute negotiating.  Just a day off for the drivers and havoc on the roads.  (Interestingly, they usually happen on a Friday or Monday.)  While we're talking about public transportation, I've also learned two things about the buses.  First, the schedule posted is meaningless, and there's always room for one more person on the bus (I've even learned to push my way in and then inhale to make rooms for the doors to close.)
The first rule about waiting for the bus: don't trust the times on the sign.

2.  Forty-five minute masses:  Unless you're with the Pope or at one of those crazy English-speaking parishes, mass will last 45 minutes.  With music or without.  With incense and processions, or just a simple liturgy.  I'm not sure how they do it, but I think it has something to do with the homilies (see number 7 above.)  Incidentally, I think my brother-in-law Sean might be Italian.

1.  Americans eat hamburgers and French Fries everyday:  In fact, it's all we eat and the only thing we know how to cook.  At least, this is what I've been told.

The Bright Side: With all this being said about the Italians (I hope you laughed once or twice) they are much kinder and accommodating than we make them out to be.  For the most part, they have been very patient with my poor Italian, often speaking in English before I open my mouth (I guess I look American).  And, they do know how to "festeggiare" (that means celebrate) - it's pretty easy to come up with an excuse for gelato or champagne. 
It doesn't hurt that there's a really good gelato place two blocks from our house.

Finally, this little video about says it all.  Hope you enjoy, and I'll be seeing some of you State-side very soon!

Click here for a video about life in Italy.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  It was my turn to offer the reflection for our Seminary Community at mass.   Here's what I had to say (in Italian, of course :)

On this Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Church offers us the image of the Good Shepherd in the Gospel.   This is the Good Shepherd who goes and searches for the lost sheep.  Now, we are all students of the Scriptures.  In fact, I recently passed my Synoptics (study of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) exam!  So, we know that there are two versions of this parable – with two different settings (sitz im leben) for two different communities with two different messages.  I’m sure we could all reflect on this today.  But instead, I propose that we forget all that .  I propose that we focus on the heart of Jesus – the heart of the one who loves us with an unquenchable love.  Let us focus on the heart of the Shepherd who leads us, his flock.

            We all heard the famous quote from Pope Francis at the Chrism Mass:  We are to be shepherds living with “the odor of the sheep”.  I dare to say, that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is full of our odor.  Like the shepherds in today’s readings, Jesus will give up all else to find us, to carry us home, to embrace us to himself.  The shepherd looks after his sheep with loving care.  Likewise, the heart of Jesus is big and wide, full of compassion and love, always forgiving and tender.  The shepherd knows every one of his sheep.  Likewise, the heart of Jesus knows each of us.  The Shepherd is always with his sheep, protecting the herd from wolves.  Likewise, the heart of Jesus yearns to be with us and keep us from all harm.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will give up everything – even life itself – for you, for the whole world.

It is no wonder that this image of the Good Shepherd is so beloved.  We turn to it at funerals.  From the catacomb paintings here in Rome, we know that it was present in the early days of Christianity.  We find comfort in praying Psalm 23: In Jesus we find all that we need.  In Jesus we find peace and consolation, comfort and abundance, goodness and mercy all the days of our lives.  The Good Shepherd protects us and loves us.  And this is the heart of Jesus, the heart of the Shepherd.  

In the English world, there is a beautiful hymn that expresses so much of what the heart of Jesus means.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to sing it.  But the title says so much:  “The King of Love my Shepherd Is.”  It is the tenderness and love of the Shepherd that shows us the heart of Jesus.  Today, brothers and sisters, let us fall in to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  And in doing so, we will fall in Love.