It’s already over??

My dear friends,

I really don’t have ANY time for this, but I just wanted to say (if anyone’s reading…) that I WILLWILLWILL put up my pictures and stories from Rome!
I’ll have at least 2 weeks at home before I go off to Colorado for Totus Tuus (another AMAZING blessing of God!) and I’ll make myself write these stories.
This semester has been crazy, but super good at the same time – I’ll have to write an update on “Life After Rome” soon ^_^

Remember to smile!

Harold and Ethel

 

Love and Prayers!!

~Cheryl

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A different life…

((I wrote this while waiting in JFK for my flight to Tampa 😀 I hope you enjoy! ❤ ))

The Floridian finds a palm tree in Warsawa <3 TOTALLY real :D

The Floridian finds a palm tree in Warsawa

I wasn’t prepared for this. (The video is really not relevant…more the lyrics :D)

I REALLY wasn’t prepared for this. That’s what I thought when we landed in Poland and it was SNOWING (!). But then I realized that the entire semester was kind of like that…

Part of the reason I haven’t blogged in so long, apart from being busy as nobody’s business, is that I really cannot do justice to the immense goodness of this semester with my words.

There’s something that I think all of us who studied at our beloved Villa realized at the end of the semester – we were all different. I could list a thousand different things that I learned from so many different people and amazing experiences, but there’s just something that’s different and wonderful deep inside me, and it kind of tickles. ^_^ God has a super cool way of getting inside like that, especially when you want Him to, and a person can’t be touched by Someone that immense and not be fundamentally changed. I literally am just sitting here, **feeling** and trying to think of some way to describe it…

Something that I think is an amazing and tangible difference is that, in all of the little miracles which God worked out for us (which I’ll blog about later :D), He has increased my faith in such a small and simple way. Honestly, the daily choices to follow God in each occurrence, and just invite Him in with transparency and trust make all the difference! We can make ourselves so distant from the One Who loves us the most for who knows how many reasons, but He is the Good Doctor, our most intimate Friend, and our only Savior. To quote the dear Bl. John Paul II “Be not afraid!” No matter what God asks of you, He is there, and whatever He has in store is honestly, completely, wholly better than whatever we have in mind, and will totally fulfill! I totally admit that this doesn’t make it easy to give up my will every day, but reminding myself of these truths helps me to keep the end in sight, and suffering becomes bearable.

Okay, preaching is over (for now…for this segment..)
I never thought that it would feel so good to be back in the US! I almost cried when I got off the plane from Helsinki! I was completely surrounded by people who looked SO Finnish and spoke a language which I understood not ONE lick of (which was weird, because with Italian, French, and Polish, I at least knew some basic phrases). But I did get to watch movies like the entire time on the flight, and it made it go by really quickly – andplus everyone was super nice, and I forgot to ask for gluten-free food, but somehow they had a meal for me! That was the best overseas flight I’ve had (out of two, lol :D) OH, but anyway, I was saying all of this because I really just wanted to mention how much more I appreciate America as well as Europe after having left. There is no place like home, but the Europeans have a lot of practices which I’m a huge fan of 😀 I’ve only been here like an hour or so, but I’m quite sure it’ll take a while to get used to our culture again!
I like snow. It snowed in Otwock and Lublin. I felt like I was living in a beautiful dreamland of amazing Christmassy Polishness.
Ok, so, yeah. I’m just really excited to see what God wants me to do with this semester, because we all agreed that we were totally spoiled like little children. I’m glad God delights in our delight, because this semester was so full of wonder and adventure, it was unreal! One of the best parts was the family we formed while we were in Rome – it would have been so different (and less beautiful) if any one of us had not come. I am so impressed by how awesome everyone there was, and looking back, I can see the immense difference that the little choices to respond to grace made. The entire semester was just pervaded by joy, faith, and SO much charity. As one of the guys said at our Christmas party “You all really taught me how to love,” and I completely agree with him – I use words like “brother, sister, sibling” because that is really how my classmates related to each other, and it was like living in a refreshing paradisiacal oasis. I hope that we will never forget, never give up, and always remember the reality of our time together.
God.is.so.good. Amenamenamenamenalleluia!

Up next: I’ll recount my trips over the span of Christmas break – I can’t promise they’ll be long and involved, but I’ll put up pictures and captions at the very least!

Once upon a time…

…there was a young girl who went on a grand adventure.  Before she left, she vowed to herself that she would keep a daily account of her travels.  Unexpectedly, when she arrived at her destination, the Silver Fox demanded that she write two incredibly detailed and ridiculously long stories every day.  In addition, neither of these could include anything personal or emotional.  The young heroine was unsure as to whether or not she could complete such a task – stripped of everything human.  As she traveled day by day, she found that not only was this task possible, but she was led to the most wise sage.  How she loved this sage, and desired to sit at his feet and listen to him all day! But alas, she could not.  With an aching heart, she decided that the next best option would be to record everything she heard in a pink leather-bound journal.  Faced with so many tasks, in addition to the daily adventures and the new friends she made, the bella principessa found that she had sorely neglected her personal vow.  Thus it came about that one day, after many trials, she decided to reward herself by renewing that vow, and making good on her promise…

I’M NOT DEAD!! 😀 I just met this super cool princess who inspired me to catch up on my blog, so here I am!
Ok, so I haven’t really been THAT busy, but there’s just so much to do, and I don’t make the time to blog. Mia colpa.
I’m pretty sure it’s been about a MONTH since my last post…so I’m just going to give you highlights with a few pictures, cool? Cool.

So, Margaret decided that we needed to have a day.  But not just a day. The DAY of days.  And we talked about this day of days for days.  It became infamous, and even received an Italian title: il Giorno di Giorni.  Basically, we wanted to go do all the touristy stuff that we can’t do with Dr. Connell because of the lack of urbanitas that it entails when done by a group of college students 😀 I don’t have any good group pictures, but it was a super beautiful day, and really good for photos of architecture, so I just posted this one 😀 We went to the Colosseum, walked around some ruins, wandered near the forum, tried to find Mass, went to lunch, shopped on Via del Corso, walked, and walked, and walked, and then we ended in the Piazza del Popolo and asked the guys in blue shirts where they were from.  He said they were Chilean police, but Annie said his eyes said “I’m single.”

It was a super good day! We even made it to the Trevi fountain…but to be completely honest, I’m not sure why it’s so famous.  It’s a bit anticlimactic, in my (spoiled) opinion.

Dr. Connell is super cool.  I probably couldn’t say enough great things about him 😀 One of the most awesome things is that he takes off on some Saturdays and takes us on trips to places that we need to see while we’re in Italy!  Ostia Antica was absolutely beautiful and amazing.  Another perfect day.  The ruins are surprisingly intact, and it was amazing to wander and contemplate what the busy port city was like when St. Monica was there.  The Romans were seriously ingenious.  And a bit extravagant, but it’s pretty awesome to see it.  Like the baths at Ostia: they were basically like free public saunas, with multiple parts, running water, and kept warm constantly by slaves working underground.  A healthy mind in a healthy body!

Also, after Ostia, we continued on the metro to the BEACH! I jumped into the Mediterranean fully clothed, thanks to a dear friend of mine, and I don’t regret it in the least 😀

Wow. My next set of pictures I uploaded has a ton of places.  Most of them are random churches from tour, so I won’t post those, unless they’re super awesome 😀

The trip to Orvieto deserves at least two pictures.  It was another really cute one that Dr. Connell took us on.  The basilica was amazingly beautiful and there was a group from America on pilgrimage there, so we got to stop for Mass! It was wonderful.  And seeing the Eucharistic Miracle there was super awesome, too.  Jesus is so good to us – we don’t even need to believe without seeing! He understands how tangible and carnal we are as humans, and in sublime humility, He stoops to us, because He loves us that much.

There were also TONS of cats there while we ate lunch.  I got kind of super excited. And took a lot of pictures 😀

I think that the next momentous event was the infamous “Bonding Weekend,” but this is taking longer than I thought, so I’m just going to write a separate post about that weekend and beyond, but I just wanted to say that this has been so wonderful, and everything that happens is a new adventure! There are so many opportunities here, and 3 months is so short! It’s only going to get busier from here on out, but if I keep my posts short, I should be able to keep up 😀

Pax et Bonum!

In This Year of Faith….

I woke up this morning to a beautiful rainstorm, and the first thing I thought was “I don’t want to travel today.”  Thus far, *not* going to the Amalffi Coast has been a really good decision.  I can only run on empty for so long, so I’m glad to have this day to chill out and not stress!

On a completely unrelated note, I just ate an Italian carrot that looked like those twirly bamboo plants people put on their kitchen windowsills. It tasted kinda funny.

I don’t really remember what I blogged about last, but I should probably just let you all know the highlights of this past week 😀 It’s actually been pretty quiet.  As usual, the tours are awesome and Dr. Connell is full of wisdoms and insights galore.  On Tuesday, we visited the Tiber Island (not sure if that’s the legit name, but it’s an island. in the middle of the Tiber. and Livy mentions it in his history. yeah, it’s pretty old ^_^) And it’s super cool because there are only a couple of buildings there and one is a hospital (where you get a room which overlooks the Tiber and get to go eat pasta and drink wine on the terrace O_O I want to work in a hospital like that!) and the other is a Church.  But the cool thing was, it’s St. Bartholomew’s Church (and there may have been a relic…I forget :/) BUT all of the side altars were dedicated to modern martyrs.  It was really inspiring to see the relics of these (some yet uncanonized) saints, and pray for their intercession.  They lived in our world…some were martyred only last year.  It is possible to be a saint today, and persecution does happen.  By their example, I hope to be inspired to stand up for Love and Truth with courage and strength.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over how ordinary the extraordinary is here.  I am walking the streets which the Saints walked, and I’ve already seen the Pope twice!  I am surrounded by BEAUTIFUL art and a Church on every corner.  I am living and breathing centuries-old history. My classes are wonderful, our meals are cooked for us, our laundry done for us…my companions are beautiful, positive, God-fearing people. And I still find things to complain about. -_-

Life is wonderful!!

Something I think we can learn from this culture is to value beauty – in art, architecture, food, quality time, dress, decorum, etc. Our culture tries so hard to not “judge” anyone or make them uncomfortable, that we’ve come to the point where anything goes.  That’s no way to live in a civilized society.  I really appreciate the cultural norms and the enjoyment of things which aren’t “useful.”  Utilitarianism sucks in so many ways.

I also got to see so many WONDERFUL works by Bernini and Caravaggio at the Villa Borghese yesterday.  Here’s a shout-out to my Mama, who taught me art history when I didn’t really care about it — thank you so much!!! It’s a pretty legit feeling to walk into a gallery and know what’s going on…what “chiaroscuro” is, what is characteristic of a Peter Paul Rubens work 😀 I was captivated by the *motion* which Bernini (at the age of 20, mind you) was able to put into his sculptures.  His statues were fascinating….to take a cold, dead piece of white marble and be able to turn it into a figure at the height of tension – with toned muscle, delicate hair, a tear-stained and distraught face. That’s awesome. I came to better appreciate the patience and skill of artists…I’d probably have just given up.  ALSO, I don’t want to go into detail, but I do want to point out that, when it comes to nude art, the intention makes the difference.  We are more than simply physical beings, and the fact that we can tell the difference in a work of art based upon the intention attests to that fact.

As a last note before I go: I just wanted to post this article (In This Year of Faith: Thank You, Mr. Monaghan, for the Catechism.) about Tom Monaghan.  This man is incredibly generous, and while he is a man and not perfect, his dedication to and love for the Church are inspiring.  I’d also just add one thing to the article: as a student at one of the schools he founded, I want to point out that, when I graduate, I am much more than a person “well qualified to effect change in the culture.”   While that is valuable and certainly our vocation (Year of Faith…New Evangelization… ❤ ), I also am someone who came to the University to grow as a person.  I, as an individual, have been incredibly blessed by my time at Ave Maria University – by the education, religious opportunities, my peers, professors, staff, etc. Due to the generosity and faith of Tom Monaghan, I have grown so much as a person, and been given the roots and connections I know I need to continue to grow in the Love of Our Lord and in faith.  As an individual, and a grateful student (and birthday buddy!) I would like to thank Tom Monaghan for giving me the opportunity to attend such a wonderful and life-changing school.  May God bless him always!

Until next time, Ciao Belle!! ❤

 

Oh, P.S. – I’ll post a bunch of pictures soon, so you can see some of the awesome stuff I’m up to also 😀

 

“The only thing I really wish for…”

“…is to love until I die of love.” ~St. Therese of Lisieux
I wrote this post over the past few days, and it definitely does not even begin to encompass the awesomeness that was this weekend, but it’s a little taste, and I have to sleep 🙂
With Love,
Cheryl

Something that we just cannot stop repeating is how supremely and amazingly blessed we all are to be here.  Everything is just so beautiful.  I can’t lie, there are times where I get tired, homesick, anxious, impatient, etc. but it is so beautiful to see every moment as the blessing that it is.
I cannot even describe how good God has been, and how much I have not appreciated it.  There’s a delicate balance to be had between taking advantage of every opportunity and recognizing your limits.

I am a human being. I am limited. I cannot do everything. Lather, rinse, repeat. 😀

BUT – first world problem and proof of blessed-ness: my biggest problem is that there are so many good things to do that I don’t sleep, resulting in a lack of proper appreciation for the ones I do. Winning? It’s all the glory of God 😀

UPDATE: The completion of the above post was interrupted by a delicious dinner (per usual), study time (which turned into a party – somehow our room is the undeclared party room. No idea how *that* happened ;D), Miss Congeniality, and a Skype session with my little sister.  And before I had a  chance to continue extolling the amazing opportunities and blessings……drumroll please.


I SAW THE POPE.
10 feet from me.
Eye contact.
‘Nuff said.
So, how did this come about, you may ask. Or maybe you won’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway, because it’s pretty awesome.
We got tickets to the Papal Mass for the opening of the synod for the New Evangelization.  They were free, so no big deal, but it’s still an awesome Mass to attend.  So, we left super early and I was pretty pooped, but I knew it would be worth it, so I put on a smile 😀 And when we got to St. Peter’s Square, we decided to divide and conquer with the entrances.  The one I decided to go to had a group of people in front, but no more than 150, so it wasn’t bad at all.  It was so inspiring and amazing to see so many priests and sisters, and to think of their sacrifice, dedication, and how their missions fit into the Body of Christ.  I was so overjoyed to see those religious everywhere I turned.  And also to be there with so many other lay people.

I really cannot find sufficient words to describe the beauty in that unity and solidarity.  Throughout the entire Mass (they prayed a Rosary in Latin beforehand – we all knew the same language!!), I was continually amazed and blessed by the power in the universal Church and Her wisdom in even the smallest aspects.  It was so beautiful to chant together “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat” followed by a litany of the Saints in intercession for the Church, our Holy Father, the Bishops, and each other.
So often we feel that we’re the only ones striving against a depraved and overpowering world.  Being together for the Mass which declared St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the Church and also opened the Synod on the New Evangelization was indescribably grace-filled and empowering.

I am so excited for the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith.  Our Holy Father is so wise…and nothing happens on accident.  There is a reason we are all here, being strengthened, empowered, and formed during this time.  God has called us to “Go out and make disciples of all nations.”  Why do we so often ignore that, or think of it as something that we should do later, or can put off, or is a call to someone else?

Today, I will begin to live my life in service of the Gospel.  I will pray to the Lover of my soul, and submit my rebellious will to His – a sweet obedience, resulting in the salvation of souls, since He has made us to be like Himself.  I know that I’ll fail at times, but I also will renew my dedication every time I fall.  And every morning, I will throw myself at the Blessed Feet of my Merciful Savior.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

Just another day in paradise :D

So, funny things happen in different countries when you’re not used to the culture. Like, a strike in the public transportation arena.  So, class in Rome was moved to today and everything’s been shifting around, but working out perfectly 😀
This morning was beautiful. The weather is cooling off, and there’s a full moon, and we had an awesome bonfire last night, and I went shopping down the street and got super cute (and cheap :D) clothes, and there’s nutella on my shelf and green tea during theology class…only a small amount of the things that help to put me in a good mood.
Today, during our tour, we went to the church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere.  I can’t explain why, but I felt connected and attracted to St. Cecilia and deeply touched by her witness.  Something that Dr. Connell explained to us (which connects to my good mood :D) is the reason St, Cecilia is depicted with an organ in art and is the patroness of music.  There was a Latin inscription (maybe on her tomb?) that mentioned something about “organum…musicam” and it actually meant that her heart sang, but they thought that it had to do with her actually playing the organ. So, there you go.  But I think it’s really beautiful to think about her heart singing…there are so many times when the only way to describe how you feel is that your heart is singing, and to think of a Saint who is distinguished like that is beautiful.  She must have had contagious joy and peace – I mean, she converted one of the soldiers/guards/executioners by her witness.  Some things speak louder than words and are deeper than any philosophical or theological argument.  We ought not limit God to having made us so cerebral and rational that we cannot admit a mysterious connection and influence between people.  Also, if you’re not aware of the story of St. Cecilia, it’s pretty awesome. And I LOVE the statue of her body in death…it’s sculpted the way it was found when she was exhumed around 1599 (incorrupt!).  And she died in witness to the One God in Three Persons after they tried to smother her and behead her (it took three tries and even then, she bled to death…I believe after three days of suffering – such beautiful parallels there in her martyrdom.)
Today was so packed and wondrous – I still can’t get over how beautiful every street is and how captivating and exciting even the smallest side street and little cultural custom is.  As Margaret keeps repeating – we are so lucky to be here.  If you ever had any doubts about whether or not you want to go abroad – seize the opportunity! It is seriously something that you will not regret.
I also saw an Incorruptible today! It was Blessed Anna Maria Taigi – Dr. Connell said she was a mother and housewife known for her kindness. Her face looked so peaceful…but I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda eerie, but serenely beautiful.
We also went to a church built in the 700’s which housed the room where St. Benedict slept when he studied in Rome (and where he also decided to drop out because he didn’t want to compromise his morals.)
It is so amazing to be able to go to these different sites and, just like it’s no big deal, pray in front of the room where a Saint slept, and then walk on the streets where he followed God in his vocation.
In the Parrocchia San Francesco a Ripa, the sacristan took us upstairs to a room where St. Francis stayed three times when he was trying to get his rule approved for his order.  He refused to use a pillow and we saw the rock where he laid his head.  ALSO, there was this magical reliquary behind the altar.  I believe the sacristan said that this mechanism was made in the 15- or 1600’s.  Basically, two of the paintings on the side of the altar swing forward, then there’s a crank and it turns all of the facade in different ways to reveal 30 some relics of saints.  It was breathtaking.
The devotion to St. Francis here is amazing and inspiring.  He definitely wants to teach us all (or at least me) something during this trip! His feast day is tomorrow, so the church also had a wonderful FREE concert tonight with a lovely organist and soprano.  So we just took the bus in, popped into a centuries-old church, listened to a glorious musical gift to St. Francis to celebrate his transito (death from this life into the next), and then got gelato on the way back. It’s kinda magical ^_^ And somehow, my heart is not bursting with joy and thanksgiving!
Well, tomorrow we’re off to the NAC ordinations to the transitional deaconate in St. Peter’s, so I should get some sleep.
Until next time (and always, actually), may the Lord bless you and keep you, and make His Face shine upon you. ❤

Potentially the best trip ever….

….begins in Assisi.
Seriously, guys. Assisi was like a dream. but not the horrid nightmare kind. Like, the kind where everything is wonderful and perfect and you can’t even believe it’s true.  In the words of a darling lit major “Words cannot describe.” There is so much going through my head, and so many amazing things I’ve seen and experienced in the mere WEEK that I’ve been here…I can’t even begin to tell you (or even remember it!) I guess I’ll just have to go with whatever stuck with me and hope that it means something to you also!
First, as a kind of side note, I have been consistently amazed by the people I’m here with – they are just so wonderful, sweet, friendly, positive, loving, and hilarious.  God has given me a much greater appreciation for life as a means, rather than an end, and as my companions as true sisters and brothers.  People tend so often to use each other, sitting upon our high thrones and pretending to know everything about those around us.  How frequently are we entirely wrong?  God knows our hearts, and He has determined, in ineffable love, that each of us is worth the price of His Blood.  When My Love loves those around me enough to pour out His entire Life for them, who am I to say or think that they deserve any less than the best service I can offer them? “For it is in giving that we receive and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”  As we so often hear, men do not become fully themselves until they give fully of themselves.  Look to the Cross – the reason for which Christ came to earth – it is in utter self-denial, pain and death that we come to see what men were meant to be and join in the Resurrection.
The beauty of pain, penance, and sacrifice is that it frees us from attachment to the world.  Since The Fall, it has been far too easy for men to become attached to the world and fail to see Him Who makes it all good.
“For the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6 – cool side-note: I had a marker in that spot already ^_^ thank you, Dr. Dentino!)
Just like a good father who leads his son to those things which don’t harm him, God sometimes allows us to suffer in order that we may come to see that which He knows is better.  (granted, sometimes the answer isn’t apparent, but He knows when waiting is the best option, also :D)
Along the spiritual vein, this weekend was honestly life-changing (nearly everything over here is!).  Learning more about St. Francis, St. Clare and their followers was amazing.  The amount of courage and humility these men and women had is truly astounding and inspiring.  I appreciate much better their devotion and love (not just as those nice poor people who love animals) after seeing the houses they lived in and hearing their stories placed in contrast to the customs of the times.  In the early 1200’s, those in the Church were very accustomed to a comfortable and perhaps decadent lifestyle.  When the crucifix at San Damiano (I SAW BOTH OF THESE! O_O) spoke to St. Francis and told him to rebuild the Church which was falling into ruins, St. Francis (after some trial and error) established a way of life which followed the Gospel values more closely through poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Something which I may have mentioned before is that the Italians value art, beauty, and finery.  Understandably, the churches are decorated wonderfully, with beautiful art which engages both the senses and intellect in portraying theological truths.  When St. Francis, a holy man, renounced the finery of his contemporaries, it was shocking.  As Corinne put it, “What are these holy men doing dressing like bums?” Typically holy men dressed well because they served God and He deserves the best and most beautiful, but St. Francis had a different understanding.  He fearlessly imitated the poverty of Jesus in the Gospels, despite the concerns of well-intentioned and well-respected people.  Also, St. Clare, an 18 year old coming from a noble family, ran away from home to live with the brothers in this radical lifestyle and eventually established her own order.  Her dedication, courage, persistence, and sacrifice are wonderfully inspiring.  We were able to see some amazing relics, such as the cloaks St. Francis and St. Clare first wore when they renounced their previous lives, some of St. Clare’s hair, both of their tombs, the places they lived and died, their rules, their handiwork – I was entirely surrounded by holiness, miracles, the Eucharist, AND the cutest Italian town ever.
I didn’t really believe Karen when she told me that I would love it and that it was so quaint and peaceful and quiet, but she was totally right.  I am extremely blessed to have spent an entire weekend there.
Aaaaand, now my attention span is running out, but I’ll post pictures with little comments and let you all know some more about what we did.  But overall, this pilgrimage was the best way to begin a semester abroad.
Theme song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0_rr1APv6M

P.S.
If you have time, I put comments on the pictures explaining them more ^_^ sorry this post is so long, but the weekend was amazing and super full!

Purity

So, I probably won’t have time to post more than once a day, but I just wanted to share this really quickly.
I was reading on Made In His Image a ton of really encouraging quotes with pictures (you know, the super cute artsy ones :D) and they’re about purity and selfless love and hope – it’s all so beautiful 😀
and then I read this article (http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/raquel-welch-the-era-of-porn-has-annihilated-men) on Maura’s blog http://ifighthimwithlove.wordpress.com/ – it’s super interesting!
Like Maura said, please pray for purity! St Maria Goretti and St Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

UPDATE:
I just wanted to check in here at the end of my day 😀 today was nice and slow – I had my first class and it should be super fun! We’re reading the Aeneid and Robert Frost.  I’m liking the Aeneid the second time around – seeing it more as a sort of propaganda to make the Roman people proud and guide their thoughts in a certain direction 😀
What was best about today though, was the Chiesa del Gesu, the Jesuit church with St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier’s relics. It is probably the most beautiful church I have personally seen.  Also, God is just really wonderful and amazing in all ways.  Something that struck me is the wisdom the Church has in placing relics of the Saints and *real* beautiful art in churches.  Some may call it distracting, but I believe it really serves to elevate your mind.  And where your mind is, there your words and actions are.  They all form the person you are and become.  Given the rich theology taught through the symbolism in the paintings and sculptures, I could have spent hours there.  It was all around beautiful, refreshing, inspiring, and gratitude-inducing 😀
God speaks to those who listen in the beauty and goodness of the extraordinary, as well as the ordinary in life.  Guided by the Wisdom and Prudence of the Holy Spirit, may we share the gifts God has given us, material and spiritual, with wild generosity and self-denial.  Through the intercession of Sts. Anne, Francis Xavier, Ignatius, and the Blessed Mother, may our hearts always be tender and attentive to the voice of the Loving Shepherd, calling us to service in His Name, and eternal bliss with Him. Amen.

P.P.S
This is an absolutely beautiful meditation and reading which we received this morning in class.  I hope to live by it this semester.

The Decalogue of Pope John XXIII

 


  1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
  2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
  3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
  4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
  5. Only for today, I will devote ten minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
  6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
  7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
  8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
  9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
  10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for twelve hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

To conclude: here is an all-embracing resolution: “I want to be kind, today and always, to everyone.”

In this way, we can put Pope John’s hope for every Christian into practice: “Every believer in this world must be a spark of light, a core of love, life-giving leaven in the mass: and the more he is so, the more he will live, in his innermost depths, in communion with God.”

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Oct. 11, Memorial Mass of Blessed John XXIII

The Eternal City, il Papa, e Old Bridge Gelato

Hello again! Today has been absolutely glorious, but before I can tell you about that, I need to update on what we did yesterday!
Friday night was spent chilling in the Dublin airport. Let me tell you, I have pulled more all-nighters in the past week than I have in my entire life! Granted, this amounts to 2 1/2, BUT it’s a lot for someone used to sleeping at least 6 hours a night 😀 So, after not sleeping more than 15mins Friday night, we had a 7:10 flight to Rome.  It was super cute, because while we were waiting, this nice old man started talking with us about our travels and our majors and all sorts of stuff.  We were again assured that every person who hears the words “theology major” asks what we are going “to do with that.”  It’s pretty hard to explain to some stranger that I wanted to study Theology because I love learning about the Lover of my soul and the Creator of the Universe, and that this knowledge not only serves my eternal soul, but also unfathomably enriches every aspect of my life, regardless of what my major is or what I end up being/doing.  But maybe I’m just too cowardly to say that…I’m sure there’s a nice, charitable, non-preachy way to explain that.  I usually just default to, “I’m thinking of going to Chiropractic school once I graduate.” Is it possible to explain to a world focused on the present life the reason you’re using this life to get to Heaven in the next?
But, I digress.  This man was SO happy and jovial (and his Irish accent only helped) because he and a huge amount of his extended family were all traveling to Rome for his daughter’s wedding the next day.  It was really really cute how happy they all were and to see them all together.  It would be absolutely amazing to be married in Rome (or at Castel Gandolfo like a couple we saw today).  There is so much history and beauty everywhere!! And great food 😀
The airport was an experience, but I honestly didn’t feel too well after the flight and all, and I haven’t slept well in too long for any memory to stick for an extended amount of time (bummer when you’re studying abroad for the ONLY TIME IN YOUR LIFE).  But we went into Rome after our super cute family lunch with two courses and the most amaaaaazing apples and grapes ever! And I didn’t have to eat gluten ^_^ I’m pretty sure it’ll still make me feel bad :/ we’ll see in a couple weeks when I try it.
SO, in Rome it was amazing and beautiful and busy and distracting and diverse and I STOOD IN ST PETER’S SQUARE! Totally surreal and  wonderful.  I’m also really glad to be able to share it with the group we have here…I really like them all so far, and Catie mentioned that “we’re all specifically placed here to learn something from each other.”  I truly hope to do so, and to always remember that as the semester goes on.  Rome is so full of history, beautiful architecture, awesome little shops and side-streets – I can’t wait to update you as to my adventures exploring there (once I get my monthly bus pass for October :D).  Our excursion to St. Peter’s (p.s. the water in those fountains, and the fact that you can drink it safely is preeeeetty magical) included OLD BRIDGE GELATO. It’s wonderful, it’s cheap, they’re generous, and nice.  There’s really nothing to not like about it.  I just hope that I don’t get too fat or lose all my money on it 😀
TODAY we woke up early and, just like everything in this trip so far, God worked it out absolutely perfectly with all of our buses and connections, etc. and we went to Castel Gandalfo to see the Pope.  No joke, I’m pretty sure we were like 60 feet from his balcony.  He is a beautiful man and servant of God.  He comes out of his vacation home to pray the Angelus with his children (who love him so much) and address them and listen to the Poles play their music and sing their song to him (they legit brought a band with a bass, trombone, violin, accordion, singers/dancers and played beautiful music the entire time 😀 it was awesome).  He gives us 15 minutes of his time and everyone loves him so much – but I do wonder if he ever *really* gets a break or a retreat….it has to be tiring being the Pope!
The city of Castel Gandalfo is also amazing, quaint, adorable, and situated right above a BREATHTAKING lake.  We went on an adventure to find a way down to the lake and got in (it was like quicksand! I sank in past my knees…in capris 😀 lol!).  But it was literally just perfect.  We had a picnic on the lake, in the breeze, with the sun shining, the blessing and words of the Pope in our hearts, and Jesus under our roofs.  Even if the hike was sometimes on an 85 degree incline, everyone thoroughly enjoyed our visit with il Papa.  Viva, Benedetto!
“God was not afraid to put Himself last.” ~Papa Benedetto

P.S. – I completely forgot to mention that we went to Adoration in a church which had tons of St. Pio’s relics and Blessed Pope John Paul II’s stole.  It was amazing. and I’m also amazed that I FORGOT that. I think the fact that it slipped my mind attests to the amount of awesome blessings we’re receiving here.  May we have the strength, courage, wisdom, and prudence to give back and take all of this as means to The End. ❤

Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland

“There were people of all ages, gathered round the gable wall.
Poor and humble men and women, little children that you called.
We are gathered here before you, and our hearts are just the same,
filled with joy at such a vision, as we praise Your Name.”

Knock was definitely *the* highlight of our trip to Ireland.  Our Lady simply worked everything out perfectly.  We thought about climbing Croaghpatrick, but we couldn’t find a bus, so, after a snuggly “full” night’s sleep of 5-6 hrs at Snoozles, we woke up and caught a bus to Knock.
The town was very charming, small, and catered to tourists/pilgrims.  We honestly didn’t see much of the town, but the Shrine was beautiful!  St. Matthew and Our Lady gave us a wonderful and rare sunny day in Ireland.  The weather was beautiful, and when we asked for the best place to start looking, we were offered a free tour.  Our guide was super nice and sweet.  Interestingly, one of the first things she mentioned was that we were so young, and chose to come on our holiday.  Each of us noted that this was very telling of the state of affairs in our society and Church.
Catie mentioned that “the young in the Church need to wake up.”  Where are the young people? In the video we watched, the pilgrims traveling to Knock were primarily very old.  Granted, Our Lady is known for Her healing there, so the sick and old come, but I think that the problem of the young being largely absent still stands.  This is where we come in.  God has given each and every one of us select and beautiful gifts.  He has placed us right where He desires for us to be.  And He gives us the strength to follow Him in every choice, every moment, every day.  Our Lady is our Intercessor and the Mediatrix of all graces.  She is the perfect person which we are all called to be – in beautiful, humble, submissive love for our Savior.  Through Her example and gifts of grace, we are inspired and uplifted to imitate She Who is closest to God – to become the person whom God is calling us to be.
“Be not afraid!”
“Behold, I know the plans I have for you…”
“If you are who you should be, you will set the world ablaze.”
Our Lady of Knock, pray for us, that we may have the strength, perseverance, reflection, prayer, and drive to follow Your example of utter submission to the Will of God in every moment of our lives.  Totus Tuus.