Sunday, June 20, 2010

From Monte Cassino to Nun Shops

Greetings All,

Monte Cassino was amazing on our tour day! The weather was cool and clear with a wonderful breeze, and the clouds hung just a little around the tops of the mountains as we drove up the switchbacks to reach the summit and monastery. Gorgeous! The tour of all the little places was very nice and the crypt of Benedict and Scholastica was very impressive, but I had a favorite spot in the church and I skipped the museum to return to it. The four corners of the dome illustrated what the artist (and monks) considered to be the four vows at the time...obedience with the listening ear (I bought one for you Kathy!), poverty looking to the cross and pouring away all her wealth, chastity a glowing angel with open arms, and stability with a mountain behind and an anchor in hand.

I loved, LOVED the angel illustrating the vow of poverty. I found the image to be filled with meaning for me. In fact, I looked to the fresco as an illustration of converstatio: looking away from all else to follow Christ. My deep sorrow is that the monks or Italian state only sell the obedience angel in the gift shoppe, so I took all I could with the little Kodak camera from Mom & Dad and prayed that another sister with her super camera (seriously it should have a cape) has a better shot that I can borrow.

Yesterday, I went with Kym our Auzzie director and a few others to the nun shops near the Pantheon. What is a nun shop you may ask...well, it sells modest sweaters in blue, black, gray and white. They also sell cotton slips and long bloomer pants : ) There were three shops in the area. The first had sweaters for 35 Euro, not bad considering they were made well of either cotton or wool. The next shop carried a similar line for 55 Euro; I paused as I looked in the mirror to ask her to write the price just to make sure I had it right. I took their card and moved to the third shop. By this time the other sisters had moved from shopping to visit Gesu church. Here I fell in love with the most gorgeous sweaters, slips, and skirts...73, 24, 70 Euro! I kid you not! My jaw dropped open and I asked for a card to write the prices. When the sales lady continued to look at me expectantly, I told her it was so expensive that I needed to check with my sisters : ) Then I quickly walked out.

I enjoyed walking about the Trestevere area by myself a bit. It is such a beautifully vibrant local neighborhood with families, business professionals, and nuns in all sorts of interesting outfits strolling the avenue. Apparently, they don't hurry too quickly unless the train is being announced. I found my way very easily back to the Tram and Train to reach the Casa...all in was a wonderful shopping day in the sunshine of Rome.

We three are starting to get very excited to our trip up to Switzerland! We have continued to be in contact with both contact sisters as we near the end of our time here in Rome. Imagine, in just a few days, we will be trying to figure German prayer and we had finally gotten used to the music of the Italian! I will try to e-mail before we move on to Switzerland, but after we leave I don't believe I will be able to e-mail another note. Be assured, I'm keeping a journal to help me tell the tales when we return home!


"...ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus."
"...that in all things God may be glorified."
Rule of Benedict 57:9 (1Peter 4:11)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Greetings to All,

I have just returned from the Vatican Museum and the only word I have is...WOW! I wandered the halls for over three hours and loved every minute of the crowd infested trip!

I begged and pleaded and looked through Maribeth's "Rick Steve's" guide and so we began with the Egyptian Rooms! I love mummies and all those old statues. It was fascinating to read the little plaques and consider how old the displays were and wonder how they decided who they had discovered. The next stop was down the long hall of bits of Roman statuary. I found more than a few goddesses to bring home in case I can use them in a future classroom. And I must confess, I didn't only take the pictures of the four muses of tragic & comic theater and epic & lyric poetry; I also said a little pagan prayer for their assistance in my job search. We wandered on and on and until we saw what we thought was the final direction sign for the Sistine Chapel.

However, you all raised us well; Maribeth, Erin and I stopped for a lunch break and rest before tackling such a final stop on our museum tour. The best blessing of the lunch break was that it was AIR CONDITIONED! Refreshed and ready to go we continued on to the Sistine...hallway? We had forgotten the miles of hallway depicting maps from history. Hmmm...wandered slowly, but since I didn't know any ancient names for cities, I kept moving along. Finally, We arrived at the Sistine Chapel and amid the crowd and announcements of "Silencio", we agreed on a meeting place. I enjoyed the final judgment and the corner story of Judith, but quickly found a spot on the bench surrounding the room and sat to take it all in. At the appointed time, we met and snuck out through the side door.

This let us bypass to the side of St. Peter's Basilica! After a few stairwells and some ramps, we arrived on the front porch of the Church. Now I was able to find the statue of Benedict...he really does look right at you from his perch on the pedestal and pray at the toes of Peter's statue! This bit of touristing was enough and I found my way to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to pray. I spent about 30 minutes in the quiet Adoration Chapel. Much of this time was praying for my being able to accept God's will in seeking work...I hope this balanced out the short pagan stint. Overall, it was an amazing day.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Back from Roamin'

Greetings All,

Whew! The weather turned overnight and it has gotten hot! Yes, I can hear you former pilgrims saying, "it's about time!"

We just finished our weekend of free travel and it was wild! Maribeth, Erin, and I chose to do two different day trips through the tour group and then spend Saturday and Sunday seeing various sights around Rome.

First we went to Assisi; well, we planned on going to Assisi. The tour company misfiled us and ten of us (two different tours) sat at the gate from 6:30 until almost 8:00! Then Sister Cunnegunde helped us straighten matters out with some very severe Italian. We met the tour in Assisi after a wild taxi ride through rush hour traffic and an almost airborne Mercedes Benz minivan trip through the countryside. The reason we chose a guided tour was to have someone help us see the sights, we just didn't plan on the sights becoming a walk through of Claire's Basilica, Francis' sites, and his basilica, and then off to lunch for over an hour. Sad, I wish we had just taken the train and wandered about on our own.

The next day was very exciting for all good reasons...we went to Pompeii! I have been dreaming about this city since I was a little girl watching PBS! And other than the 100 PLUS degree heat, I loved every single minute of Pompeii. We had a super tour guide for this day, Fabiano (very cute too). He told wonderful stories and history as we hiked through the heat of the excavated city. I couln't help but just touch the walls and wonder who lived here. After the two our guided part of the tour, he allowed us another hour to walk on our own and explore the city; but I was too hot, tired, and thirsty to go another step.

Saturday, we joined up with Marie Therese from Tulsa and Emily from Watertown too see the Catacombs! There too I was struck with wonder at all those who have lived, loved, and carried on the faith before us. The Auzzie priest who was our tour guide explained the Callisto catacombs well and had a good sense of humor with the folk who didn't get the church aspect of all this...I suspect some of the visitors paid the 8 Euro just to be in the 65 degree coolness for the duration of the tour.

There is so much more to share and tell, but too much typing becomes a blur of words. I love and miss you all, only a couple weeks and we'll be home!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Challenges from the Rule of Benedict


We have been studying chapter four of our Rule with Sr. Manuela, OSB for two whole days. Her wisdom about Benedict's Rule shines through her study and reflection on the chapter about "the tools for good works" and it has been challenging me a great deal.

In verses 20-21 of the Rule, Benedict writes that "Your way of acting should be different from the world's way, the love of Christ must come before all else." This may sound simple for a nun, but living our monastic way in today's world can be quite the challenge. Manuela explained that we should think of these two verses as "not a NO to the world, but a YES to Christ." In this way, we are living out of a choice of active love. We work and live in an increasingly secular world, but it is a chance to share our faith and monastic heritage with those we meet everyday. This allows me to affect change on the world through my monastic living and sharing. The challenge comes when I must carefully look to see how I am living in the world. Yes, I e-mail, blog, and facebook; these are not bad things, but how I use them to enrich and share my monastic life with the sisters of my community could bring blessing or curse. see the challenge.

Sister reminded us that this challenge is not for monastics alone, but all Christians are called to choose Christ before all else as part of our baptism. So, I wonder what would happen if we all began to take a second look at our we were able to bring change to the world through the way we live? Mighty deep thoughts during my siesta time here in Rome!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

On The Go...In the Roman Countryside

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi!

It has been awhile since I've taken the time to write so here is where I've been...

Thursday began way to bright and early for my taste. We had breakfast at 5:15 and were on the bus by 6 so we could spend a good part of our day in Norcia! At breakfast, Sr. Sophia came to wish us a good trip and gave me a goodly bit of teasing because I was taking my pillow on the bus for a snooze on the way to Benedict's boyhood home. I assured her it was only for the good of community (Maribeth and Erin agreed). The day was cool and the fog laid low on the hills around Rome and draped the mountains like movie scenes once we started to climb higher. Mom would never looked out the windows, there seemed to be a drop off or tight squeezes as we met oncoming traffic all up and down the mountians.

Once we were at Sant' Eutizio, we all climbed off the bus to stretch our legs and peep about the church and abbey grounds that would have been part of Benedict's growing up. Maribeth and Erin crawled through the tunnel beneath the altar to St. Spez to cure their back ailments (I have the photographic proof). Since it was quite COLD, we were happy to clamber back into the bus to get to Norcia. I LOVED touring about Norcia, it felt like a small town. First we toured the San Benedetto Church and prayed in the oratory below. It amazed me that you can be where they might have lived, that the bricks of the home are still there...very cool. Somewhere between touring another church or two with Maribeth and Erin and stopping at the monk's gift shop, I lost everyone and just wandered about the streets of Norcia. I sampled hams, cheeses, visited the market, and stopped for café. For lunch, we all met at the Benedictine sisters' guest area for the best noodles with pesto that I have ever tasted! This was followed by some of the best tiramisu that I have eaten...I like Italy.

Friday (June 4th), we thought of you all and the chapter meetings often, but we were having fun as well. The morning included class with Fr. Dan McCarthy at Sant' Anselmo about churchy things and tours to give good examples. Lunch was held INSIDE Sant' Anselmo with the student monks and priests. The obligatory spagetti was followed by some perfectly done calamari with peas in a light sauce (yup, I've been enjoying the food the last few days).

Yesterday, I enjoyed visiting San Giovanni in Laterano; we were there for over three hours between the Church and the Baptistry. The beauty of the place was amazing. There were lost of nooks and crannies to sit and pray. However, we also discovered a lesson in the Italian siesta. Jesus too rests during siesta...No Mass between noon and 6PM, No Adoration between noon and 3PM, and No Holy Stair climbing from noon to 3:30PM. Hmmm...we had some rather unholy humor to explain all this time off. I'm sure Sr. Marielle's theological 'toes' were curling on your side of the ocean.

Today? Well, to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Abbot Primate Notker Wolf will celebrate the Mass this afternoon and then stay for a Q & A session and then supper. I plan on quietly observing the questioning session and look forward to sharing supper with the Abbot. The sisters will be sure to do something marvelous for our Benedictine guest, and I hope there will be gelatto for dessert! It's better than the custard at Kopps!

In all seriousness, the past few days have been rich in prayer and meditation...There is so much to see and even more to consider as the days go by here in Rome.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Inbetween


Sometimes the inbetween events have more humor and excitement than the planned outing!

First I should share that at this writing, we have had two and a half days of Sr. Aquinata's teaching on the Rule. I have only one word for that...Amazing. If one of the sisters has a question, she only has to think a moment to create a list of quotes from the Rule with chapter and verse noted! Amazing! There is so muc to learn from here that Erin, Maribeth, and I are trying to catch all the bits of wisdom in our notes.

Last night we travelled to Santa Maria in Trastevere to pray with the Sant' Egidio lay community. The trip out for prayer was uneventful and we toured the Basilica in advance and enjoyed all the murals and mosaics. Then we had an hour to enjoy the piazza and surrounding alleyways. Prayer itself was also wonderful, surrounded by Italian chant it was enjoyable to add our own voices and psuedo Italian to the mix.

However, it was the trip home that was a blast! The priest that was explaining the Sant' Egidio community ran a bit long in answering questions and we had to hurry to meet the tram to take us to the train, except we hadn't turned in our prayer books or translator headsets yet! Father let us out through the back door of the Basilica (the front had already been bolted!) and we began our powerwalk back to the tram. Once on the little cement island between the roads going this way and that, we waited and waited and waited for the number 8 tram...that never arrived. By now we were going to miss our 9:59 PM train and would have to hope for another. Finally, Sr. Marcia et. al decided we should take the number 8 bus to the train...this did get us to Trastevere train station! Phew! And we knew God loved us because there was another train arriving at 10:24 PM. Yippee!

We discovered the wonders of the "Self-Service-Bar" while we waited for the train. These vending machines had it all: chocolate, soda, sandwiches, chips and even beer...and it was COLD. Maribeth had a cold orange drink, Erin got a coke, and I discovered a wonderful chocolate bar with whole hazelnuts! Other sisters tried new types of chips and drinks, one poor soul thought she had pushed the code for a ham sandwich but got a salmon and cheese sandwich instead! The Italians must have thought we had gone mad, we were laughing, trying each others snacks, exclaiming over the 'odd' items in the vending machine, and offering each other change to try something new. All this excitement did wear us down. After the long march up the hill, it was about 11:oo PM when we all headed to bed so we could be well reseted for Sr. Aquinata's last presentations today.