Tanti aguri a mi!
One slight problem though, just before I left for Norcia last Friday morning my Dell laptop's power adapter cord decided to die entirely (sparks and everything! Yikes!). Of course, I was almost out of battery power too, so that means no computer for me until I get back to the States next week, and then until I can find a new power adapter (I have a Dell 600m laptop - if anyone has any leads on a cheap AC adapter for it please let me know... I think if I buy a new one from Dell it is going to be really expensive!)
At the moment I am online at a Net cafe in Vienna - nice place, but a bit pricey to do more than a few minutes... And no way to post photos either - and boy do I want to! I will as soon as I possibly can, but that won't be for awhile yet.
This past week has been amazing. On Corpus Christi Thursday I had my first totally free day in Rome in a long time, with no school stuff hanging over my head... I celebrated by pretty much wandering around the whole city, from the Aventine to the Center to the Forum to the north end of town and then back down by the Colosseum and forum. I ended up going over to the Little Sisters of the Lamb's place in the afternoon, and lo and behold they had an extra ticket that I could use to get into the seating area for the papal Mass that evening! God bless them, it was fabulous to go over to St. John Lateran then with them. We had some amazing seats, close to the front and in the central area. The Mass itself kind of surprised me, it was done mostly in Italian and done more like a "parish Mass" than I had expected (complete with slightly corny sounding Italian songs). At the end of Mass the Blessed Sacrament was placd in the monstrance with almost no fanfare, and sadly almost no reverence shown to it outside the sanctuary area. It was like it was in a bubble and everyone outside of it was just gawking... When they brought the car around for the Holy Father to lead us in procession with the Eucharist to St. Mary Major, we were right in front of it - it was very moving for me to see our Papa so reverent, calmly praying admist so much chaos (even people hollering out Viva Papa and whoo-hooing). As it happens, I lost the Little Sisters in the mad rush to make the procession immediately behind the Eucharist... I somehow ended up right behind the papal car, immediately behind the cops in the front of the line. It was wonderful, as I was stuck in a "holy bubble" of Legionaires of Christ seminarians - they were the calm of the storm, fending off the pushy Italians who were hollering at each other behind us, leading us all in hymns and keeping the pace steady without rushing the people in front of us. Thank God for them! They saw how short I was too (and how tall they were) so they let me up front so I could see! :) So, I walked with our Lord up the Via Meraluna towards St. Mary Major, eyes fixed upon Him the whole way there. It was amazing.
Fast forward to Norcia... It was a wonderful weekend in Norcia, but not as much of a retreat as I had hoped. I was just so happy to be there, in the quiet hills, in a perfect little medieval town (with tons of kids, praised be Jesus! Families! Oh how I have missed seeing families!). The American Benedictines there are incredible, with such a prayerful way of life - the liturgies make one feel as though you have really died and gone to heaven. In particular, they chant in gorgeous Latin the Liturgy of the Hours - that was my favorite part of the whole weekend, joining the monks in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Benedict - in the very spot where he and his sister St. Scholastica were born - for morning, evening and night prayer.
Actually, that wasn't my favorite part of the whole weekend - but only because this was Corpus Christi weekend!! Yes, I got to celebrate Corpus Christi twice, and for the first (and maybe only...) time in my life I was HAPPY that a feast day was moved from its proper day to the Sunday - because that meant that I got to experience the splendor of the people of an ENTIRE town joyfully accompanying our Lord in the Eucharist on a procession throughout the village!! My goodness, I cannot describe to you the joy that this brought. The people had been up for hours carefully designing gorgeous flower petal artwork all around the main square, and up and down all the streets - everywhere that the Blessed Sacrament was to go there was a "red carpet" of petals for the priest to walk upon bearing the monstrance. Every house along the way had done their own designs, and all the public areas too. I cannot wait to show you the photos from this!
I cannot write much more, as this Internet cafe is too darn expensive... Vienna is as I left it in January - except much hotter! (Right now it is even hotter here than it is in Rome!) Today, actually, is my birthday (the big quarter century!) - and so tonight I am thrilled to be able to go to a special performance of my beloved Lippizaner horses at the Spanish Riding School here in Vienna. It has been something that I have dreamed of doing since I began riding horses when I was 9 or 10 and saw Disney's "Miracle of the White Stallions". Other than that, I am just taking it easy here in Vienna, returning to Rome tomorrow night.
I will be in Rome for only a few days and then flying home to the States at last next Wednesday. I doubt that I will be able to post to the blog before then, so I suppose this is good-bye from Europe.
I will be keeping the blog going however, not only to post up all the stuff from this past week, but also to just post up all kinds of things that I've learned here, things that really moved me and things that really annoyed me. For me, I see it as a way to help "unpack" a year abroad, but perhaps it will also be useful to others out there who are planning a trip to Rome (or Europe in general).
So it is not a final good-bye, but merely a pause - I will see you soon, and you are in my prayers! Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher - ora pro nobis!!!