Showing posts from February, 2014

In Memoriam

The night before Brian, Lindsay, Sarah and I left the United States to fly to Rome, we received a message.  After a time in the hospital, our friend Charlie had died.  We were unable to be there to support his family and friends, and even to grieve with them or attend the prayer vigil and funeral.  Most of us didn't sleep the whole night before we left, because the shock and the grief was so strange and overwhelming.  However, we have been offering prayers for them all across Italy, and will continue to do so.

Charlie was a good man, and I count myself blessed to have known him, however little.  I'd been looking forward to his marriage to Monica, but now I will pray for him and ask for his prayers in return.

The following link is to a post written by a good friend of both me and Monica, which speaks better than I can.  Thanks, Em, for your words.
On Grief, and on Moving On

Top Tens

At the beginning of my semester here, I think I'll do a bit of before-and-after analysis. My experience of Italy consists thus far in 3 days in Rome, 3 in Assisi, and 3 in Siena. So, here are my top 10 likes and dislikes about Italy based on my small knowledge.

Top 10 Things I Like about Italy
1. St. Peter's.
2. The fact that churches are plentiful and generally very beautiful.
3. The fact that public water fountains, with constantly-flowing clear, cold spring water, are everywhere in Rome. For the tourist, pilgrim and student, this means that it's very easy to stay hydrated in the city.
4. It's actually very easy to cross the street. You just look around, wait a second, and step out. They'll stop. A good insurance policy consists of other pedestrians crossing at the same time between you and the oncoming smart cars and vespas.
5. So many nuns and priests clearly visible on the streets and in the churches.
6. Lots of people speak enough English to make ordering food and g…

Madelyn's Gift: Adventure 2

I decided that steeple-climbing could be appropriately interpreted as bell-tower climbing, even though this was technically not a church steeple.  It's as close as I can get, since in Rome, no church can be higher than St. Peter's.  This is the Torre del Mangia in Siena, which stands above the piazza in which the Sienese hold their world-famous Palio, the summer horse race.  

It was quite a fun little adventure!  I don't think my climb reaches nearly the level of some of Madelyn's, since this tower was only 289 feet tall.  According to Wikipedia, it's one of the top three tallest secular-built towers in medieval Italy, though.  

[caption id="attachment_1414" align="alignnone" width="645"] Piazza del Campo[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1416" align="alignnone" width="645"] The church in the background is San Francesco, the place where St. Catherine of Siena's head is enshrined.[/caption]

[caption id=&quo…

On Beauty

Is it really possible to get burnt out on beauty? I've been trying to decide that these last couple of days. I've seen so much that is beautiful, from the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica to the simple hermitage of St. Francis and the Italian countryside. In the first couple of days, I instantly reacted to the beauty that I saw, whether with an internal gasp of awe or sometimes, with tears. Yet today, when I saw the Duomo of Siena, it was as if I already expected beauty, and in expecting, I lost the joy of the immediate experience.
I think the problem lies in the fact that in the first days, the visual reaction led immediately to an appreciation of the creators and the Creator of that beauty. Now, sensory overload is getting in the way of true appreciation. Beauty is never only physical. Women know that a man's "appreciation" of her body on a purely physical plane is neither real nor good, for it ignores who she is in herself and reduces her to matter. …


Greetings again!  I am currently at a hotel in Siena in pouring rain, so I'm taking the opportunity to email, blog and journal.  As regards the latter, I am doing my best to write every day or two, so that I don't lose the marvelous experiences I'm receiving.

One thing that struck me about Rome, and which I found again in Assisi, is the many times that Our Lady appears all over the streets.  You'll be walking around, just wandering or maybe on your way to a basilica, and you look up.  In the wall above you, or next to you, or above the intersection, is the Madonna.  Sometimes it is a tiny statue set in a niche, where some pious person has placed a red candle.  Sometimes there is a large fresco surrounded by stonework.  Sometimes there is a painted tile image.  At any rate, she is truly a Madonna of the Streets everywhere you go.

We've seen many sites, all of which are completely worth the visit and the walking.  However, the best blessings from God are the unexpected…

Madelyn's Gift: Adventure 1

I absolutel cannot get these pictures to download the right way, so I really hope they work.  Strawberry gelato is  wonderful!

Poem of the Month: February 2014

In Rome - Fr. Abram Joseph Ryan

At last the dream of youth
Stands fair and bright before me,
The sunshine of the home of truth
Falls tremulously o'er me.

And tower, and spire, and lofty dome
In brightest skies are gleaming;
Walk I, to-day, the ways of Rome,
Or am I only dreaming?

No, 'tis no dream; my very eyes
Gaze on the hill-tops seven;
Where crosses rise and kiss the skies,
And grandly point to Heaven.

Gray ruins loom on ev'ry side,
Each stone an age's story;
They seem the very ghosts of pride
That watch the grave of glory.

There senates sat, whose sceptre sought
An empire without limit;
There grandeur dreamed its dream and thought
That death would never dim it.

There rulers reigned; yon heap of stones
Was once their gorgeous palace;
Beside them now, on altar-thrones,
The priests lift up the chalice.

There legions marched with bucklers bright,
And lances lifted o'er them;
While flags, like eagles plumed for flight,
Unfurled their wings before them.

There poets sang, whose deathless name
Is …

Hello from Rome!

Greetings and salutations!  My travelling companions and I have arrived in Rome safe and sound, and spent most of the day wandering around Vatican City.  We saw St. Peter's and the church of the Holy Spirit, found the residence and classroom building that Christendom will use, and generally had a wonderful (though utterly exhausting) time.

The Roman taxi ride was...interesting, with Italian opera music blasting as we careened around Fiats and Mercedes at (occasionally) 200 km/hour.  No worries though, we made our way to Casa Paulo VI with no difficulties besides a bit of traffic.  The hotel is a wonderful little place, run by the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, who luckily have a nice English-speaking employee.  Our rooms are very clean and neat, though small and simple.  It's right across from the Vatican Walls!  The rest of our day was spent circumnavigating Vatican City, successfully wearing ourselves out and (hopefully) conquering jet lag.

Entering the Eternal City genera…

Adventure Is Out There!

Ideally, this post would be chock-full of inspirational quotes.


At any rate, I bid my native land a temporary farewell!  Tomorrow morning, I and my travelling buddies depart for Chicago, whence we shall wing our way to the Eternal City.

I've had mixed feelings all week - stress, fear, sadness, excitement, et cetera.  Truly, this trip is a wonderful gift.  It's a blessing to be able to travel to such a wonderful place in these circumstances.  While the semester will be tough, just being so far away from family, friends and boyfriend, it will also be a chance to spread my wings and explore.  Not too far, because I will come back.  Just far enough.

This blog will turn into a travel journal for the next three months - I promise to post as much as is humanly possible.  For pictures, however, my travelling buddies and I have set up a Shutterfly site for everybody.  Look at!

In the mean time, please pray for me and my friends as we depart for bella Rom…

Packing for Rome

[caption id="attachment_1378" align="alignnone" width="645"] Things I have learned about packing for overseas travel.
1. I probably have too much stuff.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1377" align="alignnone" width="645"] 2. My dad is amazing.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1379" align="alignnone" width="645"] 3. My stuff will never fit into my suitcase this way again.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1380" align="alignnone" width="645"] 4. Lugging all this stuff around Rome and Ireland is going to either build muscle or knock me out.  Hey, at least it's pretty much done!  Mostly...[/caption]