Heather in Rome

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. - St. Augustine

Thursday, December 1

Special Events

Hi everyone, I've been on a tw-day silent retreat and we just finished at lunch. We didn't go away to a retreat center, but stayed at the Domus Aurelia. This way we can learn to take times of quiet in the midst of ordinary life (that is, when we return to ordinary life. We're so very sheltered here in our Catholic bubble).

We have had some great celebrations in the last week. One week ago was Thanksgiving and all of us Americans brought Turkey Day to Italy. So while most of you probably have been sad for me, thinking I was missing out, I didn't miss out at all. In fact, it was a very special Thanksgiving, full of blessing and things to be thankful for. We set the room for 50 people, the students and staff and the families of the people who work in the hotel. The tables were done very nicely with Pilgrim and Turkey placemats, fall leaves, orange napkins, etc. Dinner was the norms: turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beans, broccoli, dinner rolls, pumpkin and apple pie. It was yummy and we ate it the next day too. At the beginning of dinner I was called over to a table that didn't have any Americans sitting at it and so I got to explain our Thanksgiving foods to Belgians, French, and Canadians. We opened dinner by singing the Star Spangled Banner and ended it with America the Beautiful. Before dessert, we Americans put on a skit about the history of Thanksgiving, complete with pious Pilgrims, Indians, and a turkey hunt. For additional fun, we threw in stereotypical French, Irish, Italian, and German narrators. Man, it was so much fun. We even played "Hot Potato" with oranges for some reason. No Thanksgiving tradition there, it was just something fun to do.

When I looked around the room that night, I saw the spirit of America. We had people from Canada, Belgium, France, Ireland, Slovakia, Germany, Slovenia, Scotland, Italy and more singing songs celebrating America, the land of the free. We are a country of immigrants, where all cultures mix to form American culture, and that is so amazing and unique. So I really didn't miss home much on this special day because it was special here too. I could look around at people that I have known for only two months who have become close friends, family really, and share an American holiday with them. There is much to be thankful for.

So that was Thanksgiving. Four days later was my birthday. Again, celebrating special events in community is so great because any celebration is 10 times bigger because there are so many people attentive to the fact that it's your special day. The night before my birthday, Therese kept telling me, "One more sleep, birthday girl." Then the group tells me to arrive for breakfast at 7:15 so I know there's a breakfast planned. So it's funny because the celebration is supposed to be secret, but you know something is going down.

Monday morning, Carole comes to my room to get me. There's a Happy Bithday sign taped to my door. It was another girl's birthday too, Janelle, so we stood outside the door to the table room until we were told we could enter. We walk in and all the drapes are drawn so the room is dark and there are candles lit on the tables. I could see everyone crouched behind the tables and then they jumped up and yelled, "Happy Birthday" like a surpise party. It was so funny and great because a lot of people were there. Usually, the household of the birthday person is the only group that participates in the morning event, but this time almost the whole community was there. For breakfast we had crepe pancakes (in the fact that they were too thin to be called pancakes and the French said they were too thick to be crepes) with Nutella (Italy's finest food creation), scrambled eggs, and more. It was so good. Janelle and I each got crowns woven from ivy vines so I felt like a forest fairy princess. I wore the crown all day, even to Mass at the youth center near the Vatican.

For lunch we had birthday cake/pie and everyone sang Happy Birthday. Then some of us girls and Alvin went to the bar downstairs and had cappuccinos, hot chocolates, leftover cake. For dinner I walked into the dining room and people were decorating, blowing up balloons, stuff like that. I laughed and walked out. That's sort of how it was here, I would catch hints of what was coming later and just laugh. So many times I saw the group passing our birthday cards arond the classroom. But you have to love it. It makes you feel special having everyone put so much effort into your special day. So back to dinner. We ended up having dinner by candle light and there were balloons and streamers hanging from the walls. The tables were decorated very nice again. We had ice cream for dessert.

After the dinner, some of the girls wanted to pray over us in the chapel, but that didn't end up happening because it was study time and the director cracked down on following the schedule. But they wanted to, which is what counts. When it was time for bed, people wished me a happy birthday again. At every turn there was someone remembering the birthday. Wow, it was so great. So much love. And I got birthday cards and emails from home. But I must go. There is a line waiting for the computer. I'll attach pictures when I get them.


  • At 3:17 AM, Blogger The Michael said…

    Hello My Friend,
    So good to hear that all is well. Your trip seems blessed with spirit and love. Very proud! In my thoughts and prayers! Merry Christmas girl!

    The Michael

  • At 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm enjoying reading your updates. I'm so glad you had a great Thanksgiving & birthday, and I hope you got our card! :)



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