Heather in Rome

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

Wednesday, April 26

Vacation Life

Vacation was fun, prayerful, touristy. I leave in an hour for a week-long Bible retreat, which means a week spent in silence focusing on the Word of God, so I don't have time now to describe what I did. The retreat sounds crazy I bet, but I'm looking forward to it. We will be in the countryside outside of Rome and there will be time to walk and run in nature. Yea!
Anyway, I spent good time in Padua and Siena, managing to keep the spirituality of the year even when on vacation. A lot of the churches charge to enter, but I would go for Mass and get in for free. Took a boat along the Grand Canal in the morning, saw where gondolas are made. Got to pray in front of a Eucharistic miracle. I'll write more later.

Tuesday, April 11

Easter Preparation

(John Paul II's anniversary of death Mass. Carole and I were sitting so close because of the wheelchair. ----->)
It is good to be in the heart of the Church before and during Easter. I haven't experienced the "during Easter" phase yet, but the before is very cool. Two days ago was Palm Sunday and I doubt I'll ever experience the way we did this year. My community, along with 80 other people, got to carry palms in a procession before the Pope during the Mass. We walked into the Square and the crowd was pressed against the barriers and taking pictures of us lucky young people who somehow managed to be involved in this special Mass. We walked 4 across and ended up circling the obelisk and then the Pope walked to a platform at the base of the obelisk and a short Bible passage was read. After that the palm line processed to the front of St. Peter's, up the steps to arrive at the top of the outdoor stage, and then to the seats on the left. I would guess we were 2 lightposts away from the altar.

I want to write more, but it is time to leave for the Triduum retreat. I had more written earlier to explain it, but the computer shut down. The gist is 5 days in Rome, students from the ESM plus Emmanuel seminarians plus outside visitors who have come for the retreat, many triduum liturgies that are supposed to be amazing, the school leading the Stations of the Cross on St. Peter's Square on Good Friday morning (with me announcing each station and reading the Bible passages), Mass with the Pope twice.

The retreat ends on Monday, then I head to Venice and Florence for a week's vacation, and then when we come back it is time for a week long silent retreat. I won't be back in my room for 3 weeks. Sorry to be short, but it's time to go. Keep all these events in your prayers, if you please. HAPPY EASTER! Congrats to Jason and Lauren who got married last weekend. Happy birthday to my brother, which is Easter Sunday.

Saturday, April 8

End of Mission

(<-----Marco's hair treatment)The rest of the mission was great. We didn't get into many classes at the one school we were allowed to visit, but we were present for 3 days there. By the third day, students were coming up to us in the hallways and asking to where a certain missionary was to talk with him or her so there was a lot of discussion and even prayer the last day. I saw 2 missionaries praying with a young punk guy who wore black clothing, a spike bracelet, had long hair. Not to stereotype, but this was not the guy you would expect to see praying with 2 guys who are considering the priesthood. It was great.
There were some great evening events towards the end of the week. There was a youth concert on Thursday that had lots of people there. There was a soccer player from a professional team that came so he was a big draw. I'm telling you, the organizers were brilliant in getting him to come. There was also a really good Catholic band that played modern Christian music and two friars from the Bronx. Same group as Fr. Stan Fortuna, the rapping friar of the renewal. These 2 friars with long beards and short hair got all these kids to sit down and listen to their testimonies for probably close to 45 minutes. It was long, sometimes too long, but for the most part the kids were quiet and listened. Pretty impressive for kids who have no concept of God. The event ended with one of the friars asking who was going to go to confession that night, almost like an auction. "Who's going to be the first to go, who's going?" It was pretty radical and amazingly people started to go. There were 6 priests in the room and people started going to confession. It was so amazing because it had probably been a long time since most of them went and all they needed was an available priest and a push. Wow! It was a shocking night, especially for the super tolerant, don't-push-me, we've-been-hurt-by-the-Church Dutch people, yet in my mind it worked, it was a success.
Then we had the famous Mercy Night on Friday. Mercy Nights are the climax of any mission and we used it in Portugal and Ireland. All you need is Adoration, good prayerful music, priests for confession, candles to leave at the altar along with paper to write prayer intentions on, and people to come into the church. It's beautiful. The night went from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm and the church had a good number of people in it the whole time. Some missionaries were in front of the church getting passerbys to stop in for a quick prayer, others were inside to accompany people if they wanted during the night. So many people went to confession! (Confession is such a powerful sacrament, especially if you've been away for awhile, so it's exciting to see people go.) It was so great to see the response of the people in the town and how they turned out for the event. We had been hearing a lot of bad things about the Netherlands and how no one is religious (which is close to accurate), but it's just because, at least with the young generation, they don't know God. Their parents abandoned the faith and the whole country has abandoned the faith, so the new generation is clueless. And when we started to talk about Jesus and His love with them, they were hungry to hear more and investigate this God we were talking about.
I think the presence of 30 young missionaries (we had the help of 4 French guys discerning the priesthood and a group of Dutch people) helped spark something in the people we met. It's part of the dynamism and great witness of the school, the fact that there are 19 young people who will give a year to learn more about God and witness to His presence in our lives. It really strikes people and causes them to think about their own faith journey, or lack of it. My host family was really touched by us, by what we said, by what we are doing. There's power in this year, this experience.
Well, that's all for now. Holy Week is upon us and tomorrow the school is part of 100 people who will wave palms for the Palm Sunday Mass with the Pope. Oh yeah, the school has connections. And Monday, for the anniversary Mass of JP II's death, I was with Carole and because of her broken ankle and going to St. Peter's in a wheelchair, we got to sit just below the steps that the Pope walks up. Only the priests who distribute communion get to be closer. It was cool, just wish we didn't have a reason to be there. Keep praying for her. Peace out!