The Roamin' Roman

Benvenuto! You have happened upon the blog of a wandering Catholic American college student studying for a year in Rome, the Eternal City. You will find here my pontifications, ruminations, reflections, images, and ponderings on my life in Rome. Ciao!

Thursday, January 12

While we're waiting for that encyclical...

Being that I found myself today with an afternoon comfortably spaced between the busy Christmas season/travel/writing papers, and the countdown to finals in a few weeks, I took an opportunity to try to catch up on some reading. What a glorious afternoon! I was able to finish reading Veritatis Splendor, the Spirit of the Liturgy by (then) Cardinal Ratzinger, and I also happened upon a papal message from the Christmas season that I had missed in the commotion... the Christmas Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia.

While I of course highly recommend that you also read the first two things I read, my point in this blog post is to encourage you all to read the last Christmas Address (if you missed it like I did!), covering the Pope's outline of the events of the past year and including a reflection on the meaning of Vatican II (40 years post-council) that is valuable enough to warrant its own document... Enjoy, while we're awaiting that encyclical (which the rumor mill says has been delayed precisely because the Holy Father would like to us to internalize all of the spiritual writings that were given to us over the Christmas season, like this Address)!

Wednesday, January 11

Silly Quiz Time!

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

That's reassuring... (Yeah, I finished my papers, as you might have guessed!)

Monday, January 9

The only picture of me in Poland, just as we were leaving the park I realized that for my mother's sake I'd better have at least one photo of me! :) Piotr is next to me, and on the other side is Kasha, the wife of his good friend Yacezk (who took the photo for us). Good night everyone, I must be off now to finish up the last bits of my two papers due in the next couple of days... please say a quick prayer to St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of students, for me!! :)

The largest park in Warsaw - after Mass we met up with a couple that Piotr is friends with (with a car! Always a bonus) and they took us over to this park for a good long walk in the snow before driving us off to the airport. Across this manmade lake is an old summer palace of the kings of Poland, very pretty area.

The old gated entrance to the city - rebuilt of course, but still in the same place that it stood for a thousand years.

The central square of the Old Town in Warsaw

The central square again. I loved the bright colors of the townhouses.

On Sunday morning, Piotr took me around his hometown of Warsaw, showing me the sights of the Old Town in particular. It is hard to believe that all of this was destroyed in WWII and had to be completely rebuilt.

A view of Jasna Gora from the field - the day looked much better, with blue sky, but it was a bit colder out.

In the morning I went over to the chapel for morning Mass. (There is Masses going on at the Sanctuary constantly, in both Basilica and chapel -- that is incredibly neat to hear, I prayed in the Blessed Sacrament chapel for awhile and my "background" was the sound of two Masses, and whenever one finished another one began!) Well, I happened to come to the chapel just as one of the priests was beginning a sung Latin Mass!! It was wonderful, finally I could follow along fully with all the Mass parts (Polish is an incredibly hard language to even attempt to understand... After a week of Polish Masses I still couldn't always pick up when the Sign of the Cross was being said!)

Jasna Gora's basilica by night.

At the monastery you can go up on the ramparts and walk around the monastery. One one end, overlooking the monastery and the broad field between the monastery and the town there is a large statue commemorating John Paul's visits to his homeland's beloved shrine.

The icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

Every day the icon is unveiled early in the morning, and again in the afternoon. Poles from all over the country come daily throughout the year to give thanks to God and to spend time in prayer before the blessed image of His Mother.

The entrance area to the chapel of the icon, all over the walls are arrayed countless votive offerings in thanksgiving to God for answers to petitions and prayers.

The interior of the Basilica - beautiful for the Christmas season.

The Basilica (on the right) and the adjoining chapel containing the icon of Our Lady.

The Jasna Gora Sanctuary in Czestochowa Poland, site of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The University's campus church of St. Anne, JP II came here often as student, priest, bishop and pope.

The Jagiellonian University, where Karol Wojtyla studied philosophy (Copernicus was also a student there in his day!)

The Franciscan church and complex. Pope John Paul II stayed here with the friars when he came to visit Krakow in the 1980s, and when JPII's health grew critical, and at the time of his death and funeral, the faithful of Krakow turned this large square into a site of vigil prayer and memorial, filling it with flowers, candles, and themselves in prayer - the photos I saw of it were very moving.

The walking path around the "outer ring" of the city center of Krakow, which is basically a moat of parks circling the city, heading north towards the Franciscan church and the Jagiellonian University.

Here is the seminary for the Archdiocese of Krakow, where Karol Wojtyla studied for the priesthood.

When I returned to Krakow that day, I had some time to do some more of the walking tour of John Paul II. Here is another shot of the Cathedral on Wawel Hill.

Birkneau barracks, originally designed as horse barns for 40 horses, then for 300 men, but as the camp got going there were up to 1000 men kept in a single building.

Birkneau fence with guard posts.

Birkneau, the sister camp of Auschwitz, with the famous railroad approach to the camp entrance.

The entrance to the gas chamber & crematoriums.

The Auschwitz Cross.

St. Maximilian Kolbe's cell in Auschwitz, where he died. Click here for his amazing story of martyrdom, in which he gave his own life for the life of a Jewish father and husband in Auschwitz.

The steps to the basement, where the starvation cells were.

Entrance to Block 11, where St. Kolbe and many others were kept, the "death block".

The "death wall", where many camp inhabitants were shot, the area between Blocks 10 and 11. St. Kolbe's cell was in the basement in Block 11, with a window right next to this -- one can only imagine his prayers for those dying outside.

The Nazis cut the hair of their victims, and sold it... mountains of it was left in the warehouses of Auschwitz, what was found still in the camp when the Nazis left now takes up an entire side of one of the barracks.

Cans of the poison gas that was used in the gas chambers.

I took a "photo of a photo" of this moving image of Franciscans being marched to Auschwitz, from St. Maximilian Kolbe's congregation.

A mound of shoes from the victims of Auschwitz, one of many exhibits in Auschwitz to witness to the humanness of the tragedies there. (Yes, I selectively did a focused black and white, leaving the blue shoe in color. That is the real color of the shoe.)

Inside the main gate in Auschwitz.

Ok - now it is time for photos from Auschwitz. This was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had in my life, to visit this place of so much darkness - and light. In particular, I came on pilgrimage to visit the death cell of St. Maximilain Kolbe, and to visit the area where St. Edith Stein also gave her life (an anonymous body sent to the gas chambers of Birkneau, the neighboring concentration camp to Auschwitz). Also - I have decided to adjust the photos I took at Auschwitz to black and white images, as I think it is more fitting.

The main square looked particularly beautiful as well, and so did St. Mary's.

The next morning I got up bright and early to catch a train to Auschwitz - and found that there were new inches of snow on the ground! Glorious!

Another look at Wawel hill in the late afternoon, with the old walls and castle.

Another view of the exterior, they are doing renovations on the whole hill so they are routing people out the side entrance.

It is interesting to me how the exterior of the Cathedral is prettier than St. Mary's Basilica, but the interior of St. Mary's is prettier.

The interior of the Cathedral, with the tomb of St. Stanislaw in the center altar. Fr. Karol Wojtyla celebrated his first Mass in this Cathedral.

The Cathedral of Krakow, St. Stanislaw's.

Next I went up to Wawel hill, where the king's palace and the Cathedral is.

The room JP II lived in as professor - now a part of the Archdiocesean museum with personal artifacts of his life and ministry.

On a walking tour of Krakow, I ended up on the street where John Paul II lived as Fr. Karol Wojtyla in his earlier days, and later as bishop of Krakow.

The main square outside the basilica, a bit of a wet day, but it was warmer than it looks thank goodness.

A view of the beautiful colors of the interior, and the gorgeous gothic ceiling

A view of the artistic centerpiece of the church, the Veit Stoss altarpiece in its glory in the apse end of the nave.