Sunday, March 23, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome

They say that all roads lead to Rome.  That might be true, but today was about the roads in Rome.  While many athletes competed in the Rome Marathon, running 42 kilometers and change, about 80,000 of us opted for a somewhat smaller distance - the Rome Stracittadina .  It is a fun, festive 5km through the heart of Rome starting just after the Marathon and traveling the first 3km of the Marathon route.  So, I have no problem saying that I ran the Rome Marathon (5k) - ha, ha!  I can't ever imagine doing a full marathon, so for all those who did it today: Bravissimi!

Here's a few pictures from the day's festivities.  Enjoy!

Yes, I did the FUN run.
Just call me a Gladiator.
Now here are some real marathoners - a Marianist and a friend from Spain who came and did the whole thing!  They let me bask in their glory.

It was quite a crowd

An Italian family insisted on taking my picture since this was my first Rome 5k.

Just the scenery (Colosseum and Forum in the background) was worth it.

Here we go!

Caesar salutes us.

Bro. Dan came along to cheer on the Kenyans.  He also told me that I could be an honorary Kenyan today so that I would run faster!  I'm not sure that it helped.
By the Theater of Marcello.

The Vittoriano and Campodiglio in the background.

Running by the Baths of Caracalla.


After party at Circus Maximus.

My attempt at a selfie...they're harder than I thought.

Afterwards, they had the running of the dogs.

Who doesn't love a beagle?

Breakfast of champions. (Thanks to Bro. Lester for making cornetti - Italian donuts.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

One year ago...

All day, I have been asking folks what they were doing one year ago today.  Most just shake their head and look at me kind of funny (okay, that's a normal reaction around me).  However, I can tell you exactly where I was (even down to the hour) exactly one year ago today.  In fact, as we were walking home from school today, Bro. Javi and I recounted our exact actions and whereabouts. 

With Bro. Javi on a recent trip to Siena.
To put it shortly, I was in St. Peter Square at the Vatican this time one year ago.  And like the rest of the world, I got my first glimpse of Pope Francis.  The only difference - I was there!
Yep, I actually took that picture.

As I think back on that historic and joyful day, I still get goosebumps.  I can still remember seeing the first whiff of white smoke.  I can still remember hearing the bells of the basilica start to ring.  I can still remember the shouts and cheers, the hugs and high fives.  I can still remember the excitement and electricity as we awaited and then heard "Habemus Papam," and then the confusion of the name:  Bergoglio?  An Argentinian?? A Jesuit???
Celebrating one year ago.

And then, I remember Pope Francis stepping onto the balcony and saying, "Fratelli e sorelle, buona sera" ("Brothers and Sisters, good evening") to which the crowd went NUTS!  The first words of the Pope to his flock were words of welcome, spoken as from a friend, normal words. 

Now I don't consider myself an analyst or an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  But, I think in a way, these first words signified what he has tried to do in his pontificate.  He has tried to be a welcoming voice to the world - welcoming all into the fold and welcoming us all back into the mercy of God.  He has tried to treat us as brothers and sisters, and to show us what it means to be a friend of God.  He has tried to speak to us not as a theologian, but as a pastor speaks to his congregation.  He hasn't, as some feared, gone and changed any doctrine of the Church.  But, he has shown what it means to be a servant and what it means to be with others, particularly those on the margins of society - two things that all Christians need to be reminded of daily.

Perhaps this was best shown in the words that followed:  "I would like to give you my blessing.  But I ask you a favor.  Before the Bishop gives his blessing, I ask you to pray that God would bless me, that the people would pray for God's blessing on their Bishop."  It was a very simple act of humility, but one that has left a deep impression on me, and one that I hope to carry with me in my future ministry. 

I will never forget the silence that followed - a profound silence like no other, especially considering the tens of thousands of people who had filled the square.  This, surely, was a gift of grace.
During a recent audience. It's never quiet at an audience.

Finally, as the new Pope prepared to leave, he simply greeted his flock once more in the most familiar of terms: "Buona notte, e buon riposo." ("Good night, and sleep well.")  In a weird sort of way, I remember sleeping well that night!  Let's hope that Pope Francis can continue to lead us as a servant and help us to follow Jesus Christ, Son of God who became Son of Mary for the salvation of all.