Heather in Rome

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

Thursday, May 25

St. Maria Maggiore Mission

Last weekend, the school had a two day mission at St. Maria Maggiore, one of the four major basilicas in Rome, and it was wonderful. I am constantly amazed by what happens when we go on mission.

Friday I met a 5 year old girl and her mom. The girl started hitting the bongo drum and strumming the guitar with me. It turns out that the grandma takes the little girl to church (she's evangelical pentacostal), but the mom is afraid of religion because her mom used to have exorcisms performed on her when she was little, stuff like that. I kept the little girl occupied while other missionaries talked to the mom. This little girl, Aida, was so cute. She knew the story of Jesus' birth and when I asked her if she wanted to repeat the Hail Mary after me, she said no but that she wanted to make one up herself. I don't remember what exactly she said, but the prayer was profound for a 5 year old who probably doesn't hear about the importance of Mary from her grandma.

Saturday an older man went before the Blessed Sacrament and put his prayer intention in the box and when he picked a scripture passage out of the basket, I could see it struck him. He went to the side of the chapel and started crying. Another young guy finally came into the church to pray for work after Jean-Fran├žois and I spoke with him for awhile. For a guy who didn't seem interested in praying, he sure spent a lot of time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and later in front of the relic of the crib of Jesus. It is great to see.

Thursday, May 18

A Franciscan Pilgrimage

Ahhhh, time spent in the great outdoors; how I love it. Last week we were told that the school would spend two days this week following the footprints of St. Francis by walking to four sanctuaries where Francis spent time during his life. My ears perked up immediately. This would be my type of trip. I knew some in the school wouldn't feel the same excitement about walking 4-6 hours per day through the Umbria countryside, but I was loving the idea.

Let me tell you, it was exactly what I needed. Before going, I was stressed about the future, wondering what I will do for a job when I get home and if I made the wrong decision about Camp Gray. I love being in nature and after spending time in it during the silent retreat, I was questioning why I chose to deny a job that would let me be in it. The doubt was occupying my mind quite a bit, but after talking with my spiritual companion on Monday night and doing the walk on Tuesday and Wednesday, I have peace with the unknown future. Something about hiking and praying at Franciscan sanctuaries (after all, he was a great preacher of peace) combined to soothe the soul.

I realized why I like hiking so much. Besides the visual beauty that can be taken in at the pace of a walk, there is time to think and time not to think at the same time. I guess it depends on what mood you are in. For example, when I'm stressed about the future there is time to think about what is really important to me in a job, what will bring me fulfillment and allow me to contribute to the common good at the same time, etc. These are important things to think about and while walking there is a lot of time to mull over them. At the same time, though, time stands still when I'm hiking. The focus is on that day and how long you have to walk and how your feet feel and are you drinking enough water. You really live in the moment so your mind is not concerned as much with what will happen a month later. It fits with the message of Matthew 6:34: "So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." That's one of the reasons why I like hiking. Ah, heaven.

Before I sign off, a week or two ago the school got to visit the Congregation on Divine Liturgy. Who is the head of this congregation? Cardinal Arinze, the African who was one of the front runners for Pope during the last conclave. He was amazing. He joked with us, told the truth as it is, yet said it in a friendly way. It was great to get some answers on Liturgy from the top guy himself.

Monday, May 8

Good Friday

<-----Yves preparing to play Jesus

I was the narrator for each station. I had to yell as loud as I could to make sure I was heard by all. ----->

<----- Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to die

Jesus picks up His cross ----->

<----- Walking from one station location to the next. This is all happening in St. Peter's Square.

Jesus meets His mother ----->

<----- Veronica wipes Jesus' face

One of the guards with his mean face ----->

<----- Jesus is stripped of His clothing

The crucifixion ----->


I've added pictures to the recent entries, going back as far as the middle of March. I think that's when that entry was written. You can check them out. It should make what is written more interesting. And the next large chunk of time I have, I plan to put pictures from the Stations of the Cross that we did on St. Peter's Square on Good Friday. There are a lot.

Thursday, May 4

Easter Triduum, Vacation, Silent Retreat

A lot has gone on since April 12th, when I packed my bags, moved out of my room in the Domus, and headed off for the Triduum retreat, located near the Pantheon in the center of Rome. After that there was one short morning/lunch at the Domus with just enough time to pack a new bag and head off for Easter vacation. I checked Venice, Padua, Florence, and Siena off my places to see in Italy and came back to the Domus for one night and the next morning/lunch, again to wash clothes and pack a new bag to leave for the week-long silent retreat. Finally, we came home yesterday for good (at least for the remainder of the school year, sigh...) and it's time to unpack the bedroom again. What a busy 3 weeks and each so different from the other. Unfortunately, because there is so much to write about, I'll only give the abreviated description of what I did.
So, the Easter retreat. Let's see if I remember. The guys and the girls stayed in separate locations and had their teachings (talks) in separate places and we came together for the Masses and other Liturgy celebrations. Holy Thursday: Chrism Mass with the Pope in St. Peter's in the morning, Mass of the Last Supper at the French Seminary where the guys were staying in the evening. Good Friday: we reenacted the Stations of the Cross on St. Peter's Square, the only group to have permission to do it on Good Friday. I was the narrator for each station, Yves was Jesus and he really felt the part with the heavy cross and the sun beating down on him, and other characters from the school. It was powerful. I have it on video. The Liturgy that day was at the French seminary. Watched The Passion that night. Saturday: Easter Vigil, starting at 9:30 pm at the French seminary. The choir was good, the songs were good. They really helped to feel the excitement of this night when Jesus rises from the tomb. There was one song with a bongo and horn and it was like the Israelites were marching to victory after crossing the Red Sea, amazing! After the vigil, we praised with Alleluia songs from 12:15 am to almost 1 am, then we had to run to where we girls were staying. Sunday: Easter Mass with the Pope in St. Peter's Square, festive meals with the guys. Monday: time to leave.

Vacation... I stayed with some nice people. In Venice I stayed with Annalisa, a member of the Emmanuel Community who is a school teacher and lives with her sister and 83-year-old mom, who is the typical Italian grandma: picking herbs from the side of the road to cook with, telling you to mangia (eat) all the time, feeding this little dog that is way too fat from table food. It was hilarious. Venice was nice. I don't know if it lived up to my expectations, but I wasn't disappointed. To be on the water reminded me summer vacations with the family and the boat. Padua was great for the prayer. Relaxing, putting my hand against the tomb of St. Anthony. Then Florence, an art lover's town. Which isn't the best for me because I don't know enough about art to appreciate everything, but I visited where Fra Angelico lived and saw his frescos. While there I stayed with a wonderful lady from the community, Graziella, who is so generous. She spoiled Yvonne and I. We checked out a sunset from Piazzelle Michaelangelo, which is on a hill, walked all over the city, and then rode out to Siena for the day. there was the Eucharistic miracle, which I will have to look for information on. I have some on paper, but I bet there is information on the internet.
Silent retreat. Augghh, I need to go to bed. What can I say about the retreat? Someone from the school said, "It is wonderful and awful." I agree. Some days were good and I really got into the Bible, which we were reading 3 times a day; other days were miserable and I couldn't wait for the retreat to be over. But these feelings are normal from what we were told. The location was beautiful, just outside the city of Rome but feeling like miles away. There were paths to walk on lined with wild flowers, a garden, an adventure course like something you would find on Survivor. It was so fun, but a major distraction for me because I was thinking about competing and dreaming fantasies of Survivor. I'm such an adventure junkie! While walking, one also had to watch out for the dogs that weren't leased and likely to attack. Crazy Italian dogs and their nonchalant owners! On the bad side, the first few days it rained and the building was damp and so cold. Most of the time it was wicked cold, which made it hard to fully enjoy the retreat. As to why it was both good and bad, I was distracted about the future, wondering if I made the wrong decision about Camp Gray. Strange because I made the decision almost 2 months ago so I think it was probably the devil trying to distract me. Sometimes it worked. I think it was more that the school year is rapidly coming to an end and I don't have a job lined up and that makes me nervous. I don't want to move back in with the parents for the long term or have to get a boring job when I could have been teaching kids about the environment. So I was very stressed at times. The good thing is that when the retreat ended and I was talking about this with some of the students, Anna said she had a thought about me during the retreat and how God has something better planned for me than Camp Gray. Okay, good, because I said no to them.
So, there is everything. One of the cool quotes from the retreat: "This is the will of God, your holiness.." 1 Thessalonians 4:3. Time for bed.