This past weekend I had the chance to travel around a bit. Since All Saints day this year fell on a Tuesday, Monday and Tuesday classes were suspended. One of the opportunities while studying in Rome is to travel abroad. So I went with three other guys to Romania for five days.
Rather than give a blow by blow summary I'd rather share with you some of my impressions. I was most impressed by how kind and patient the Romanian people are. Even though none of us spoke a word of Romanian the people we encountered were extremely understanding and patient. A trait that I find that I myself don't always have with other Americans let alone foreigners. After spending sometime in a foreign country it doesn't take long to sympathize with those who come to the US form other parts of the world. Patience is key.
I was also impressed by our Jesuit hosts. For a few nights we stayed with a few Jesuits at their retreat house in Cluj-Napoca. I was especially impressed by a 94 year old brother who I saw still faithfully living out his vocation as a Jesuit. His first words of advice to us was to be sure to study hard and to learn languages (something Romanians are really good at...). Also, just as another brother was taking him to bed he pulled out his rosary and said, "I can't go to sleep yet, I haven't prayed my rosary. Push me to the chapel." The other brothers laughed and took him to the chapel. What a witness of a life of pray and dedication at age 94. We also learned that he had spent most of his life as a Jesuit in prison for his faith. Inspirational...
We also had the chance to go to Mass in Romanian and Hungarian. Since most of the Roman-Rite Catholics in Romania are Hungarian almost all the Masses available were in Hungarian. Hungarian is a completely foreign language to my ears. I didn't catch a word, but it didn't matter since we were still praying and participating in the Mass. Romanian has Latin roots so it was easier to follow along. Most of the country is Romanian Orthodox. It is a fascinating mix of western and eastern cultures throughout Transylvania.
Finally, the weekend was an opportunity to drive through the country side and take in some beautiful sites. The fall colors were amazing. It reminded me of Michigan. When I was back home it was easy to take for granted the natural beauty of Michigan... And of course, we got to visit the castle that is attributed to Vald the Impaler or as he is better known, Dracula.
All in all, it was a great weekend of exploration and learning. I'm in awe of just how big the world is...and yet each person is loved and known by God.