Saturday, September 24, 2011

Silent Retreat

I ask for your prayers as my class begins its annual 7-day silent retreat. I don't really know the name of the place we're going for the retreat, but I heard that it is in the mountains (they told us to pack a sweater). It will be a great time to spiritually prepare for the year ahead and reflect on the many graces of the past few months.

La Festa di San Pio

Friday was the feast day of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (25 May 1887 – 23 September 1968). St. Pio (also known as Padre Pio) was canonized by Bl. John Paul II in 2002. St. Pio is the patron saint of civil defense and emergency workers.

The Italians have a strong devotion to Saint Pio. Here in Rome there is a parish which houses some of the relics of Saint Pio. I decided to make a trip over to that church and pray. Since it was his feast day there was quite a few people there. The people were gathered there to celebrate Mass. I just kind of hung around in the back and took it all in. First, there was a procession with a marching band through the streets with a statue of St. Pio. Then everyone gathered outside in the piazza where a temporary altar was set up. The church bells started ringing while a cardinal made his way into the church to vest for Mass. I went into the church and prayed and listened as the clergy gathered and sang vespers as the cardinal vested at the main altar in the church for Mass. I couldn't stay for Mass since I had to get back to the seminary for our own vespers service. On my way out, an Italian women asked me why Mass was 20 minutes late. I laughed and told her the cardinal was still in the church vesting for Mass.

It was pretty amazing to witness and be part of the devotional life of the people of Rome. They have so many traditions. This of course be a relatively new one since St. Pio is such a new saint. It was especially meaningful for me to take part in the prayerful celebration because St. Pio is a patron of mine. He was born into eternal life exactly 20 years before I was born. For me he is a powerful example of priestly holiness and a life of sacrifice.

San Pio di Pietrelcina, prega per noi.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Running through Rome...

As you may know I enjoy running. Before arriving in Rome I had no idea what to expect while running in Rome. After 5 weeks here I've manged to plot several different running courses through Rome. One might think that because there is so much traffic in Rome that it would be nearly impossible to run here. On the contrary, there are so many different trail, parks and roads to choose.

My a favorite run so far was Sunday's run. Rome, as most ancient cities, has outside walls which were constructed and maintained as a means of defense. The outside walls of Rome were build about 1700 years ago. The NAC is just inside the Roman walls. So it was really easy, or so I thought, to run around the outside of of the city. The first half of the run was really nice. It was pretty easy to follow the walls around the city. The landscape was beautiful and there was a paved road/path all along. Over halfway around the city I ran into Termini (the train station) and I couldn't find the wall. So rather than look for it I just ran through the center of the city back to the seminary. In all it was about a 13 mile run. Once I got back I looked a map of the walls and realized where I took a wrong turn. So hopefully soon I can try it again and make it all the way around.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Permesso di Soggiorno

Today I was introduced to Italian bureaucracy!

I guess part of life in a foreign country is the process to apply for a resident alien card. In the Italian system one must apply for Permesso di Soggiorno (resident permit) in order for one to stay in Italy for more than one year and to travel throughout Europe. Anyways, the process is very confusing especially since everything is in Italian. Luckily here at the college we have a staff person who works all year to help us acquire our Soggiorno cards.

Let me describe for you my experience today...

Ten of us went to the 6:30am Mass at the convent and then went to the office of Ministerio d'Interno for religious near St. Peters. We got there at 7:15am to pick a number in order to wait until 8:30 (when the office actually opened). Of course they opened late, it is Italy.

Each one of us was called in and our paper work was examined and our fingerprints taken. So far not too bad. But around 10:30 we began to wonder what was taking so long. It wasn't until 12:30 that they gave us back our passports and told us to come back next Monday because the computer system was broken. This was of course mildly frustrating.

All in all it was a wonderful experience, because as I mentioned, this office is exclusively for religious sisters, priests and seminarians. So I got a chance to literally meet people today from all around the world. Since in most cases the only language we all had in common was Italian, we got a chance to practice Italian. It was encouraging to meet a Franciscan sister from Egpyt who was so positive even though it was her fourth time waiting in line at this office. For all of us in line Italian was not our native language, and it was even easier to communicate since we spoke slowly and clearly. Overall, despite the fact that we waited outside an office for 5 and half hours, this morning was really awesome.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Some people have been asking what life is like living in Rome. One of the first things once might notice is the difference in the food. The main meal in Italy is Pranzo. Pranzo in English is lunch. Food is so important to the Italians that they have a different verb for each meal:

Fare colazione = to eat breakfast
Pranzare = to eat lunch
Cenare = to eat dinner

Pranzo at the NAC begins with the salad. (NB. In Italy pranzo typically does not begins with salad but rather it is the second to last course, but since the Rector found that most seminarians were not eating enough salad it was placed at the beginning.) The salad is always served with oil, vinegar, cheese, salt and pepper on top. After the salad comes the pasta. After pasta comes the main course which consists of some sort of meat and vegetable. Finally desert is served. Half of the days the desert is fruit while the other half it is some sort of sweet.

Hopefully that gives an idea of what lunch time is like at the NAC in Italy.

Ad Assisi

We spent this past weekend as a new man class on a retreat in Assisi. It was an awesome experience. It was also great to get out of the business of Rome for a small town. Assisi is famous as the birthplace of Sts. Francis and Clare. Both saints are buried in Assisi. On Friday we were privileged to celebrate Mass in the crypt of San Francesco Basilica near the bones of St. Francis. On Saturday we had Mass up near the top of Mount Subaso where St. Francis built a retreat/hermitage for his friars. On Sunday we had Mass in the main church of Santa Chiara basilica (See right). I have to admit, I'm a bit exhasted from three weeks of travel. Yet, this trip to Assisi was really refreshing. For one reason the hotel we stayed in had AC and I finally was able to sleep through the night and secondly it was nice to be out of the big city.