Friday, December 9
The Holy Father and our Blessed Mother
Amazing, we've only been here a few months but we've already reached the point where we can go to a papal event at the Vatican and actually FIND people in the crowds that we know. We've got nothing on Fr. Carola's contact list, but hey, we all have to start somewhere! We were able to get fairly decent seats, which put us just off of the center aisle, and just across the aisle from a group of girls studying here from Franciscan U in Steubenville that we know, and the wonderful Little Sisters of the Lamb, an active Dominican order from France. The seminarians and deacons from the North American College served for the Mass, we were thrilled to see them on this special feast day, the feast of the patroness of the United States. The Pope's homily was wonderful, though I had to wait until Amy found this English translation online to get the full details (Fr. Carola sat with the NAC guys instead of us this time, so we were left to our own meger mental translations powers - "What'd he say?" "uh, something about the Immaculate Conception." :)
After Mass, I stuck around the Vatican to attend the Pope's Angelus prayer and address, it was a surprise to hear him bless the Olympic flame (I couldn't see the Swiss Guard holding it, didn't know that part until later!). Text of the Angelus message can be found here.
After going home for a bite to eat, a group of us headed out again, this time to join the Pope at his annual laying of roses at the foot of the statue of the Immaculate Conception in the Piazza di Spagna (a little ways from the Spanish Steps), and of offering prayers and entrustment to our Mother. News story here.
Those were the only times I saw the Pope today. :) Near to the Piazza di Spagna, there is an Irish convent that our friend Zadok the Roman knew about, that offers a bit of an afternoon tea and refreshments every year following the Pope's appearance in the piazza. A very neat place, tucked away by the metro stop (another one of those secret doors of Rome, I'm telling you, behind every plain looking door in Rome there is some really cool garden, house, convent, church, something) and they had some very fine tea steaming hot for us - very well-received after standing in the rain for over an hour with 10,000 other humans.
No, that's not the end of the story either (wow!), because after I made my way back to the house, people were getting ready to walk over to the NAC to join them on their annual day of Consecration to Jesus through Mary, according to St. Louis Marie de Montfort's teaching, as I think I mentioned in the last post. It was beautifully done, a lot of people came. Through the consecration we affirmed (or reaffirmed) our intention to live out a life of faith in Jesus Christ, following Mary as our highest example of the Christian life, making her fiat, her "yes" to God, our own.
We finally got back home for good at around 10pm last night. Whew!
Oh, and did I mention that we had our first oral final exam bright and early this morning? (No fear - we all did just fine :)
Wednesday, December 7
Smile! It's a Holy Day of Opportunity!
(Confused? Why the Immaculate Conception)
Tonight, in honor of the feast day, Fr. Carola and two of our spiritual directors celebrated a wonderful Vigil Mass for the feast in the house chapel, as part of our weekly Wednesday Evening program (Wednesday is our "stay-at-home" night, with Adoration, Mass, discussion and dinner).
Fr. Carola celebrated the Mass in chanted Latin for the special occasion, and we had prepared all this past week to be able to chant all of the responses properly (we mostly needed help with the Gloria and Credo). It all paid off, tonight's liturgy was splendid. Every celebration of the Mass is, of course, THE Mass, and Jesus Christ is the center of our worship. But as humans created with bodily senses, and an innate yearning for a sense of mystery and transcendence in our worship, it's always nice to participate in a liturgy that engages all of our God-given senses.
Here in Italy, which still recognizes the major holy days legally as public holidays, we don't have any classes tomorrow. We are thus free to go to the Papal Mass at the Vatican in the morning, then to the papal Angelus, and then to go to the annual offering of flowers by the Pope to the Virgin Mary in the Piazza di Spagna in the afternoon. Later on, a group of us are going over to the North American College seminary to participate with them in the Consecration to Jesus through Mary. As you can see it will be a full day of celebration for us here!
I know most of you won't be quite that busy celebrating the feast day :) but I pray that God will bless you all abundantly, and fill you full with His grace, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother. And hey, while you're at it, enjoy the added blessing of a plenary indulgence!
Tuesday, December 6
Before we left for home, I was able to stop into one of the other churches in the town, where this beautiful fresco is kept. On the left is St. Benedict, holding the church, our Lady with the Child Jesus is in the middle, and on the right is St. Scholastica. That's all for tonight, I'll see you later this week, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is Thursday - have a blessed Holy Day!
The phrase of the Benedictines is "ora et labora" - pray and work. Here is Nate at prayer, after we worked really hard to make it back to to town via a "shortcut" (ie, clambering straight up the side of the hill to the road running around the town wall... a slope covered with not only prickly groundcover but also a lot of wicked trees with trunks covered with thorns that almost got me!).
After Mass we enoyed a picnic lunch on the steps of the Town Hall, right next to the Basilica overlooking the piazza. Scrumptious - with fresh bread, vino, sausages, a few kinds of cheeses (Norcia is also known for their truffles, and there was a wonderful tarturfo (sp?) cheese with them - yum!), and all kinds of random picnic items, as you can tell from the "wreckage" around us!
Here is Fr. Carola proclaiming the Gospel at Mass. We we able to join with the Benedictine monks for Sunday Mass, in the Basilica - beautiful liturgy, complete with chanting, bells, and that distinctive Benedictian incense. The Benedictine story of Norcia is quite interesting in itself, as the church and monastery was taken over by Napoleon, and the spot of Benedict's birth was without Benedictines. Then, not so long ago, a group of American (yes, American) Benedictines got permission from the Italian government to re-establish a Benedictine presence here in Norcia.
Monday, December 5
"Ora et Labora" - Benedict's Norcia
We had been looking forward to going with Fr. Carola to Norcia, not only for the spiritual edification that it promised (though of course that was our main priority!), but also for the famed Norcia sausage (which I discovered that I didn't much care for... there's just something about cured meat... ugh.) and Umbrian chocolate (now THAT I could appreciate!), and of course, the hope that we might be graced with beautiful weather and SNOW on the hills at least (we got it, thanks be to God!).
It was an early morning, and a long day with all kinds of new transportation experiences - I'm telling you, by the time I leave Italy I expect I will have tried pretty much every form of transportation currently known to man. Right now I think I can now identify on sight all the major year models of the Eurostar train. But, I digress. (As usual.) I think I'll move straight to the photos now - enjoy!