#Vancouver2017

Vacation…what an multi-faceted word.  In one sense it means a break from the daily grind of life for a time and enter another world, in search of rest and rejuvenation.  In another sense it means adventure, where we go out from our homes to a new place and explore the amazing things God created on the earth, in search of excitement.  In yet another sense it means an inward discovery of oneself no matter where geographically a person finds oneself, in search of balance amidst the roller-coaster of life.  This kind of experience is crucial to any well-balanced life, even in the priesthood, and so in May I took the opportunity to do just that: I took a vacation.  Not a vacation from my vocation (as is often warned against; not a vacation from reality), but I went on a genuine vacation where I discovered God’s grace in my life in much deeper ways than I could have ever expected all the while being true to the man and priest God created me to be. Read more

Finding God in the Moment – My Weekend in Arizona

This past weekend I had the opportunity to head outside of Denver for the weekend.  This would be the equivalent to Seminary’s version of a “Fall Break.”  It occurred right after mid-terms for the majority of the seminarians and so it came at a very opportune time.  Many of us have felt the drag of the semester by now and were in desperate need of rejuvenation.  Just as Jesus, after feeding the 5,000, went up on a mountain to pray by himself (Matthew 14:23), we all, also, are very much in need of time away from studies and the busyness of life to retreat by ourselves and pray, to re-encounter God anew away from the distractions of our lives.  This weekend gave me that opportunity.  Now I didn’t go up a mountain as Jesus did, rather I went away from the mountains of Colorado to the desert of Arizona, which was where God wanted me to be.
I flew to Phoenix to see a really close friend of mine, Andy Miller, who was in seminary with me last year, but has since discerned that God is calling him elsewhere, so he now he lives at his home in Phoenix working at a local Catholic parish.  We spent time each day in prayer and just relaxed, enjoying spending time together, including playing the card game “Sequence” with Andy’s family and sitting on the roof of their house looking at the city.  Saturday was a fun filled day exploring some of the natural beauty in Arizona.  Stopping to see Meteor Crater (Experience the Impact!) was a spur of the moment decision that we made on our way north towards Flagstaff.  The site is the first “proven” meteor impact site in the United States.  The meteor struck the earth about 50,000 years ago creating a crater that is nearly one mile in diameter and almost 2.5 miles in circumference and about 550 feet deep.
The point of the day, though, was to see the Grand Canyon.  We arrived at about 4:30pm and was blessed to be able to stay and watch the sun set over the canyon.  We clambered out onto a rock that had a magnificent view of the canyon and just sat there watching the shadows slowly creep up the canyon and the sunlight disappear.  We prayed Evening Prayer for Sunday on that rock and soaked up the beauty of God in creation.  It was the first time in a while that I have allowed myself to just sit, relax, and enjoy something that beautiful.  The experience showed me once again the crucial importance of taking time out of our busy lives to enjoy life.  Too often I get caught up in what “needs” to be done and don’t allow myself to take time to enjoy the moments in life, I’m too concerned with what I have to do next, and in doing so, forget to live in the present.  God is the eternal “I AM”, not the “I WAS” or “I WILL BE.”  God is the God of the present and that is important to remember lest we forget to see God’s presence in our present.
Sunday was a beautiful day spent going to Mater Misericordiae Mission parish (the Latin Mass community in Phoenix).  What an incredibly beautiful liturgy the Solemn High Mass is!  I was graced by that experience and the community worshipping together.
Now I’m back at seminary, trying to remember to enjoy each God given moment in my life as I, again, try my best to study hard and pray even harder.  Keep me in prayer and know that I keep you in mine.
Meteor Crater
Andy and I overlooking the impact site.

 

Incredible view of the Grand Canyon with a great friend!

 

The natural beauty of the Grand Canyon.

 

Sunset!

 

Enjoying the moment.

 

From the rising of the sun to its setting, may the name of the Lord be praised.

 

Mater Misericordiae Mission parish.

It’s been a while!

So it’s been a while and I wanted to take this opportunity to post my last post for my trip to Guatemala.  I have actually been back in the United States for 2 weeks now (time sure flies) and am just about fully settled back into the seminary routine (see my upcoming post on that).  This is just a quick wrap-up post about my awesome summer experience.

Definitely the most exciting part of my Guatemala experience was summed up in the pictures of my previous post.  Climbing to a Volcano and going to experience the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal were definitely the highlights of my experiences outside of the city of Antigua.  The remaining weeks were spent primarily in my usual routine of spanish tutoring during the week and the weekends were spent just taking things easy, wandering around Antigua, and trying to catch up on sleep.  In those weeks we were able to take a school trip to a coffee farm.  We saw coffee plants and learned about the process of harvesting the plants.  After finally coming to appreciate coffee in its fullness it was remarkable to actual see the plant that provides for the drink that I am so accustomed to.

During these weeks I was definitely feeling homesick so in order to feel a bit more like home I had my mom email me her recipe for chocolate chip cookies and I did my best to bake some with my host family.  We then ate cookies and played “Uno” (yes “Uno” is played in Spanish speaking countries too!).  It was a lot of fun, we got to converse with the kids and play a fun game too.  I won one of the games.

We also finally made our way up to the Cerro de la Cruz – a huge cross that is on the hill overlooking the city (see my picture below).  It was an awe-inspiring view at 6:00am with nobody up there besides ourselves.

All in all my summer was one full of God’s grace.  It was very challenging being in a place so far from home and feeling a bit isolated from everyone back home but I had God with me and persevered.  I even learned quite a bit of Spanish along the way!  (and made some great friends too)  I am no where near fluent in Spanish, but I am able to converse simply and have quite a solid foundation in grammar to continue in learning Spanish on my own back in the United States (by hopefully engaging in conversation with hispanic seminarians and by means of Rosetta Stone).  I also am very familiar with the Mass in Spanish and that will help me as I learn how to celebrate the Mass in Spanish as a future priest.  My experience in Guatemala has taught me to be grateful for everything that we, as Americans, are blessed with and typically take for granted (wide sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.).  I will never quite look at a shower in the same way again, definitely not without gratitude in my heart that we have what we have in the United States of America.

Gratitude.  Gratitude is the virtue that I would like to cultivate this year in seminary, and this summer experience was a good launch into that endeavor.

Real life coffee beans!
Coffee farm!
Out for a walk with my teacher.

 

Making Mom’s chocolate chip cookies with my host family!

 

Cerro de la Cruz – overlooking Antigua.
The “reflection shot” of the Arco de Santa Catalina.

 

The soil of the United States of America was a welcome sight!

Volcanoes and Ruins

Another impressive couple of weeks! I am now well into my fifth week here in Guatemala doing my best to learn Spanish and immerse myself in the culture. It’s going well, but I’m definitely feeling a tad homesick, the German in me wants more punctuality and rule following than what is commonly lived here (along with paved streets and wider sidewalks). It’s all good though! Living here definitely is making me appreciate the life that I am blessed with in the United States and I will take that gratitude with me when I return in August.

Two weekends ago I got to check off a bucket-list item. I hiked a volcano! (well in actuality we didn’t hike THE volcano, but hiked as close as we could). We hiked Volcan de Pacaya, which is an active volcano in the southern part of Guatemala. It is one of the most common volcanoes for tourists to climb because it is the safest (robbers sometimes frequent some of the lesser hiked volcanoes). The last major eruption of Volcan de Pacaya was in March 2014 (just 3 months ago!) and we even wandered out onto the lava bed that the volcano created then. The lava bed had residual heat beneath it that in some areas we were even able to roast marshmallows and ate S’mores. It’s truly incredible what our Earth is capable of!

Roasting marshmallows! Yay S’mores!

This past weekend was also filled with adventures as a group of us traveled to the northern part of Guatemala to see the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. Some of these ruins were built around 8,000 B.C. and are still standing today! We spent a day in Flores (on an island in a lake near Tikal) and just enjoying a bit of vacation (we stayed in a hotel with AC). We got to eat supper at a restaurant and watch the sun set over the lake. Very beautiful. The day in Tikal was absolutely stunning. It’s quite literally in the jungle in Central America. It was incredibly humid and the heat index was roughly at 105ºF. We had a guided tour around the ruins and got to see all of the major temples and places the Mayans would have lived and were told the history of the ruins. We even got to see a bit of wildlife, we saw a couple spider monkeys, a tarantula (which was sure to stay a number of feet away from), and heard howler monkeys in the distance. We were able to climb a few of the temples and see the impressive view over the jungle and just marvel at the engingeering and intelligence of the ancient Mayans. Their mathematical and astronomical knowledge would have been on par with our modern understanding. Tikal is truly an incredible place to visit and I do not regret the crazy travel that it took to get there. We took two overnight buses (8 hours to get from Guatemala City to Flores) and when we were getting back to the bus station at the end of our time in Flores, we crammed 7 people in a taxi… eh, it’s Guatemala, these things just sorta happen without missing a beat.

Templo 1 (Temple 1).
The Star Wars nerd in me rejoiced when I got to see the same place where the Rebel Base in Ep 4 was filmed (at Tikal)!

Please continue to keep all of us here in Guatemala in your prayers. A number of seminarians are finishing up their time here and are headed back to the USA, but we still have three and half more weeks of learning. As the weeks keep going it will be difficult for us to keep focused, so pray for our ability to absorb as much Spanish language as we can in the next few weeks! We’ll be back stateside before you know it!

Geronimo! Guatemala, estamos aqui!

This is the view of Antigua from our rooftop in the afternoon when it’s probably going to rain and visibility is poor, it was taken on the first day we got into Guatemala.

Hey everyone! I am now in Guatemala, beginning to learn Español as best as I can. We are 1 week into our 8 week program at a language school called Probigua in Antigua, Guatemala. This place is a whole different world! (por supuesto). I was expecting a drastic change in culture from the USA, so my transition to life in Central America is going extremely well. As long as I am able to just go with the flow everything happens smoothly and I am able to not get stressed out. We flew out of Denver on Sunday June 22 to Guatemala City. I was surprised at how relaxed I was about the whole process. I knew that we would land and someone would be there waiting for us with our names on a sign. That was all I knew, and I was okay with that. I knew God would take care of me and so I let things happen as they would. Everything went very smoothly and we were picked up and we drove out of Guatemala City to Antigua and were dropped off at our host family’s house. Our host family is great, a single mom (dad passed away) with 3 children (a teenager boy, and 2 girls ages 12 and 10). Her grandpa lives here too and other family members live very close by. I get my own bedroom and Deacon Augustine (another seminarian from Wyoming) has his own bedreem and we share a bathroom. We basically have the top level of their house to ourselves. Their house is organized differently from houses in the USA. My bedroom opens onto the rooftop (it is an outside door), and Deacon Augustine has the same setup. The first floor has a small kitchen, dining room, living room, and other bedrooms and a bathroom.

I was impressed by the beauty of the land in Guatemala. We are in a valley surrounded by montains and the weather is vastly different from Wyoming. It rains almost everyday here. Out of the 6 days we’ve been here so far, only one day was without rain. The seasons are backwards to what I’m used to. The locals call this winter even though we are still north of the equator (we are in the rainy season). It’s a good thing I brought an umbrella…it’s definitely getting used! The morning after we got here I was blown away by the view I got when I stepped outside and looked south. Guatemala has volcanoes! Antigua has 4 volcanoes nearby and a huge one directly south of town that overlooks the city. This particular volcano is called: “Volcan de Agua.” It is called the Volcano of Water because it is an inactive volcano and a long time ago the crater at the top of the volcano filled with water because of rain and overflowed down the mountain destroying the nearby towns.

Volcán de Agua from our rooftop.
Volcán de Agua
Probigua Language School

A typical day for me here in Antigua consists of breakfast at 7am, classes from 8am to 10am then a thirty minute break (which is nice for grabbing coffee or tea) and then class again until 12pm. Lunch is at 1pm back at our host family’s house (about a 15 minute walk). In the afternoon I have class from 2pm to 4pm and Mass is at 5pm (at La Merced). I am hoping to go to the gym every day after Mass before supper which is back at our house at 7:30pm. Then it’s homework and study and bed. My days during the week are very full. Class for me is one-on-one learning with a tutor. My teacher and I sit and talk completely in Spanish the whole time. She knows only a little English so occasionally we look up words in a Spanish-English dictionary. She is teaching me the grammar of Spanish and a whole lot of vocabulary words (I’ve got quite a bit of memorization to do!). I find I am remarkably better at understanding Spanish that I thought I would be. I can understand my teacher fairly well (of course she is using a much simplier vocabulary) and am able to communicate many things that I didn’t think I could. I am growing in confidence and with 7 more weeks of this I hope I will improve a lot.

La Iglesia de La Merced
A typical lunch: Carne de vaca, frijoles, potato, nachos, y tortillas.

I also find that I love the food here in Guatemala. I have always liked Mexican food and the food here is very similar. Typically for breakfast we get lots of fruit (bananas, apples, mangos, and papayas) and sometimes eggs or toast or cereal. We also get orange juice and instant coffee. I am definitely not used to instant coffee. Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day and includes meat, potatoes, refried beans, and (my favorite) corn tortillas! Supper is a lighter meal and so far has been soups with pan dulce (sweet bread). The food here is much healthier than typical meals in the USA. Our house mom doesn’t prepare anything that has been processed, everything is fresh. The fruit especially is extremely fresh and local. And it is all delicous! Is it bad that I really look forward to every meal?

A typical supper: mushroom soup (with cheese sauce) and pan dulce.
Volcán de Fuego was smoking one morning as we walked to school.

This first weekend we stayed in Antigua and did a bit of exploring around the city. It is a small touristy city so there are a lot of things to see and shops to visit (there is even a McDonald’s). Also, this Sunday is the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, but in Guatemala each Church takes a Sunday throughout the months of mid-June to mid-August to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in a grand way. So we went to Mass at La Mercad where they were celebrating Corpus Christi this Sunday and that meant fireworks outside the Church as Mass began and a Eucharistic procession after Mass throughout the streets of Antigua. The people covered parts of the streets with flowers and leaves for Jesus. The procession was a few kilometers and took a number of hours to complete and there were fireworks practically at every part along the way and a marching band too. It’s definitely a vastly different experience than what we experience in the United States.

In future weekends we plan on getting out of Antigua and seeing Guatemala as a whole. We want to visit Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlán) one weekend, go see the Mayan Ruins at Tikal (northern Guatemala) another weekend, and also climb a volcano (Volcán de Pacaya most likely). This summer is going to be a great way to see and live in this amazing culture in Guatemala, learn the language, and keep growing ever closer to God, our Heavenly Father, as I am constantly reminded to place all my trust in His most Sacred Heart. Keep praying for us down here and know of my prayers for you all and that I miss you!

Mountains, Hills, Retreat, and Camping

More travel has been in my life this past week. Late last week I traveled across the state to go to the Grey’s River Valley (south of Jackson Hole, WY). All the seminarians of Wyoming that could had gathered for a 3 day retreat to focus on deepening our relationship with God and also focus on growing in brotherhood with each other. This is one of the few opportunities we have to spend time together since we are spread among a few different seminaries throughout the country. We stayed at a guest ranch 30 miles into the Grey’s River valley. It was absolutely beautiful and void of any cellular signals (which is always a blessing to be able to completely “unplug” from the outside world). Each day we would gather specifically for Morning Prayer, Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and Evening Prayer. We spent a day on the Snake River, white water rafting. It was a bit intense of a trip, the river was flowing very fast and high and cold from the runoff due to it being springtime. The next day a few of us were able to go hiking around in the valley and it was cold enough outside that it was misty and even rain/sleet fell on us as we worked our way back to the cabins.

Coming off of a retreat in the mountains, my family and I headed east into smaller hills, the Black Hills in South Dakota, and got to spend a couple days camping. I think this was the first time in a couple years since my immediate family has all been together for a camping trip. These kind of trips are becoming rarer so I did my best to relish the experience. We went camping with another family (good friends of ours) and so when it rained (of course) we camped out in my parent’s camper trailer playing “20 Questions” for a couple hours and eating JiffyPop popcorn. During the day we fished (2 fish were caught) and we drove through Custer State Park and found the buffalo. My brother, Greg, and I also took all the kids to the Flintstone Village theme park in Custer, SD that afternoon and it was enjoyed by all. I even ventured onto the swing set with the kids, I haven’t done that in years, it was exhilarating! All in all a good time to spend enjoying family, friends, and God’s beautiful creation outside in the Black Hills.

I am now in a brief, brief calm before the next round of activities. This weekend is the ordination Mass of Deacon Brian Hess and Deacon Bob Rodgers in Cheyenne, WY. I am so excited for them and for the their ministry! Please keep them in prayer as they begin their wonderful life of service as ordained priests! And then shortly after celebrating with them, a small group of us seminarians will board a plane for Guatemala to learn Spanish for the next 8 weeks. So stay tuned for pictures and updates as I live, learn, and pray in Guatemala.

 

1 week, 4 states, and almost 2,000 miles…plus a Diaconate Ordination!

This past week gives me yet more reason to agree to the name of my blog. I have definitely been roamin’ about the country in the past several days, almost 2,000 miles so far! Travel seems to be a constant experience of my summers and more travel is coming my way (including an 8-week immersion to Guatemala coming up later this month). I have currently managed to work my way through 4 Star Wars audiobooks to help ease the long hours on the road.

Last week I headed down to Denver for a couple days, saw some good friends and got to spend a retreat day at the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia, CO with the priests of my diocese (Diocese of Cheyenne). It is always a joy to be able to spend a day praying and socializing with the priests whom I will, in just a couple years, be a part of their shared presbyterate.

This past weekend was also exciting as I made my way across I-90 in South Dakota into Sioux City, IA for diaconate ordinations. It was such a blessing to be part the ordination of my close friend, now Deacon Brian Feller. After his ordination I traveled up to his home town and joined in the celebration at his house and got to meet all of his family that were present. What an awesome family, they were all kind and extremely welcoming. The next moring, Pentecost Sunday, Deacon Brian was deacon for the Mass at his home parish and I assisted as Thurifer. Deacon Brian preached about how the Spirit gives us gifts to live as beloved children of the Father and how we must “let it go” and let the Spirit lead us in our lives. It was such an honor and a blessing for me to be present for Brian and all of the events surrounding his ordination.

Next week I go on retreat with the seminarians of Wyoming. We are headed to the west side of the state to enjoy being with God, enjoy being with each other, and enjoy the immense beauty of Wyoming. That means another long road trip ahead of me, maybe I’ll work through a few more Star Wars books… 😉

 

Reflections on 2nd Theology

So once again I’m trying to get a blog going and this time I think I may have something that I want to stay with. The Roamin’ Catholic Seminarian… to chronicle my life and its many journeys throughout Wyoming and the rest of the world, specifically when I’m in Guatemala this summer and elsewhere in the future. (Plus it’s punny…get it?)

 

So to kick it off I wanted to share a brief look at my life this past year in seminary. I was in 2nd Theology this year at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO and wow, what a year! Many graces came my way during this year including a newfound interior freedom to love myself, new friends, new theology classes, new mountains climbed, new trails hiked, new races run, and new places visited. It was quite a busy year.

 

If I were to synthesize my year I would have to say that, interiorly, it was characterized by a spiritual movement of love to accept the person God created me to be: a Beloved Son of the Father. I spent the time unpacking the graces received last summer at the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF). At IPF I was blessed by experiencing an 8-day Ignatian silent retreat where I was able to encounter God the Father in a way that I had never experienced before. I learned how to receive the Father’s love for me and began to finally see my life in a radically new way: my life, with all its triumphs and trials, is not bad or corrupt (because I know my own failures), but is a blessing and God is using it to reveal His glory. My own sufferings will only help me in my future priestly ministry to bring others to God’s healing love as well. My semester at St. John Vianney was an unfolding of that primary grace. I readjusted back to seminary life easily and made some incredible new friends. I found myself much more comfortable just being me, which hasn’t happened in a long time. I managed to get outside a fair number of times, hike a mountain (Mount Bierstadt), find some geocaches (Roxborough State Park), run a few races (the Run Denver series) and still felt like academics were a little too much and preventing me from heading outdoors. I also was assigned to a local parish, St. Vincent de Paul, and was involved there and met the wonderful parish family and was blessed to minister there. The primary spiritual push from God this spring was to encourage me to learn how to enjoy God in the individual moments of life, even amidst the crazy, stressful, and hectic academics that were occurring.

Right now I am home for just a couple of weeks, soaking up as much vacation as I can, allowing myself to be renewed and rejuvinated by God before witnessing the priest ordination of my fellow seminarian brothers, Deacon Brian Hess (see his blog here) and Deacon Bob Rodgers in the middle of June. Then I’ll be headed off to Guatemala for 8 weeks for a Spanish immersion to learn the language and the culture where I will hopefully be able to update my blog for you all to keep you informed of my progress and, of course, to share pictures!

 

Enjoy the barrage of pictures below from my 2nd year of Theology in Denver!

St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
Hiking on our annual seminary-wide camping trip. Bryce Lungren (Helena, MT) and I atop Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range (near Laramie, WY).
This year I have formed a great friendship with Andy Miller (seminarian from Phoenix, AZ). Together we kicked off the school year and summited Mt. Evans (we drove a car up the mountain).
Atop Mt. Bierstadt (14,065 feet)
Celebrating the hike up Mt. Bierstadt.
John Paul Lewis (Oklahoma City, OK) and I on Mt. Bierstadt.
Last fall I was blessed to be installed as a lector. My family came down to share in that moment with me.
In October I flew to Phoenix, AZ to visit Kim Komando and her staff. We got to watch her broadcast her show live and toured the Musical Instrument Museum afterwards.
Deacon Keith Kenney (Phoenix, AZ) really likes Christmas (and so do I!).
One of the races I ran with a group of friends, including Deacon Brian Hess.
I was blessed to be a part of the wedding ceremony of some great friends, Sean and Mary.
I ran a 10K in Arvada, CO in January: the 2014 Polar Prowl.
We watched the annoying defeat of the Broncos in the Super Bowl…and had a cupcake war.
Deacon Brian and I were visited by Padre Pio!
I was surprised with brunch by a group of friends for my birthday.
Andy also took me out for my birthday. We spent a fun day in Dillon, CO.
The next weekend we found the botanitcal gardens…in March. The outdoor exhibits weren’t growing yet…but the catci were cool!
Climbing Castle Rock and I almost got stuck.
But we still summited Castle Rock.
Deacon Brian and I made a whirlwind trip during Easter break to Ontario, Canada. The Niagara Falls were beautiful!
We arrived at St. Meinrad School of Theology for the diaconate ordinations of two Wyoming seminarians, Augustine and Hiep!
Last hike of the year…Maxwell Falls trail in the foothills of the Rockies, near Evergreen, CO.
It was very fitting to begin and end the year in the mountains with Andy.
Until next time!
-AK

 

Rome Trip 2009

“Incredible”, “Amazing”, “Well worth it”, “Awe-inspiring”, and “Fun” are just fraction of the words that I could use to describe this pilgrimage to Rome, Italy that I went on.  I traveled with a group of parishioners from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, SD lead by Fr. Mike (the rector of the Cathedral).  We left for Rome on October 8, 2009 and got back on the 18th of the month.  I want to give a day by day account of what we did, what thoughts came to me during those times, and generally what we did.  Obviously I won’t be able to share my whole experience because it’s my own journey and these are all experiences unique to me, however, I hope to convey some of the emotion and feelings of my experience to you.

October 8, 2009 – Travel Day
This day was very short because as we flew to Rome we lost 8 hours making this day the shortest I have ever experienced, only a measly 16 hours!  We flew from Rapid City, SD to Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN to Amsterdam, Netherlands to Rome, Italy.  By the time we got into Amsterdam it was 6am (on October 9th) but only 10pm Rapid City time (on October 8th) so I wasn’t tired at all.  On the flight from Amsterdam to Rome I crashed though and slept for most of the 2 hours plane ride.

October 9, 2009 – Such a  looooong day
In order to help our bodies adjust to the new time, we made this day a full day.  We flew into Rome around midday, then delivered our bags to the Convent where we were staying and walked to an ATM to get some Euros for the week.

On this day we went and saw some of the following:

The Piazza Navona – A large open area with street vendors that was once a race track (circus) during the Empire.

The Pantheon –  The oldest continuously used building in Rome.  Built first in the first century A.D. and rebuilt in the 3rd century.  Even after almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still an amazing architectural feat.
 

 

The Republican Temples – Ruins of three temples from B.C. (home of some of Rome’s many cats).
October 10, 2009 – God gave us rain…
This day was a good day, not quite the one we had expected, however.  This was supposed to be our day to tour Ancient to Medieval Rome but with the downpour of rain in the morning Fr. Mike decided to show us some of the old basilicas so we didn’t have to be out in the rain.  The basilicas were magnificent!  In the afternoon we went to the Musei Capitolini.  Lot’s of art and sculptures and history there, wow.  Also had a very good view of the Ancient Roman Forum from the hill.  On this day we visited the following:
Basilica San Clemente – This church was built on a church built on a house church.  This basilica was very interesting.  We got to tour the basement and got to see the foundation of the first basilica built there and got to see some of the really old frescos down there as well.
Saint Giovanni in Laterano – This is the Cathedral Church of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.  It has magnificent statues of all the apostles.  We also visited the Baptistry of the Cathedral.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon – The original picture of this image of Mary is located in this church.
Saint Maria Maggorie – This is one of the oldest churches dedicated to Mary in the Catholic world.  Also contains the grave of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

 

Saint Paolo fuori le Mura (Outside the Walls) – This church of St. Paul (Outside the walls) was rebuilt in the 1800’s after a fire.  It captures the feel of the medieval churches, has an Easter Candle stand that is truly amazing and mosaics of all the popes from Peter to Pope Benedict XVI.

 

 

Musei Capitolini – This is a two building museum on the Capitoline Hill.  The museums are filled with Roman sculptures, some mosaics and paintings.

October 11, 2009 – Sunday!
On this day we got a magnificent tour of the Pontifical North American College Seminary.  The view of Rome from the roof is second best compared to the view from atop St. Peter’s Basilica Dome.  The chapel in the NAC was extremely beautiful, I loved the mosaics on the walls.  The Joyful mysteries were depicted on the left wall and Jesus’ life was depicted on the right wall (of the sanctuary).  It was breathtaking!  Sunday Mass was also very cool there, there were many priests con celebrating and some seminarians there as well.
 
 
 

 

 

In the afternoon we toured Ancient Rome.  The ruins were super cool! It’s hard to imagine some of those buildings being as magnificent as they were once.  I wish that I could time travel to just see what it was like for real.  We walked through the Colosseum and also walked through the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum.

 

I also made a new special friend on that day, Nicholas.  He was the 9 month old that came with his parents, Bob and Rebecca.  I carried him around the ruins somewhat and it was cool showing him the world.  He also really liked candles so when we went into one of the churches after viewing the ruins, Nick and I lit a prayer candle for “everyone back home” so if you are reading this, Nick and I prayed for you!

 

October 12, 2009 – St. Peter’s Basilica
This was the day we finally got to see St. Peter’s Basilica.  It is truly a spectacular place!  The view from the dome of St. Peter’s was incredible and the tomb of the Popes was very moving as well.  There were people at John Paul II’s grave praying.

 

The afternoon was interesting.  We went to see some of the catacombs and it rained on us again.  I didn’t bring my umbrella this day but did bring a poncho so Bob and I ended up being “fashion models” for ponchos while everyone else scrambled for their umbrellas or bought one from the street seller for 5 euro a piece.  The catacombs (underground burial chambers of the early Church) were very intriguing and I wish we could have spent more time there, but we had to stick with the tour group.  I wanted to go off on my own and explore the catacombs, however I knew that I would get lost down there, it’s a huge maze it seems like, plus it probably isn’t safe to wander off.  But the explorer in me still wanted to.  It was also interesting to learn that the first Christians would celebrate Mass down there because it was a place where they could gather without getting caught by the Romans and they tended to celebrate Mass on or near the graves of martyrs to the church.  The bus ride back into the city was very crammed, but thankfully I am not that claustrophobic and we managed to get back just fine.
 

We stopped by the Trevi Fountain on our walk that afternoon.  This is the famous fountain that guarantees your return to Rome if you throw a coin in.  I threw in a couple…so maybe I’ll come back more than once?? 😉

The theme for supper that night was “variety” because for antipasta we all got a mixed plate of cheeses and vegetables and then for the main course we all got a 3 pasta variety meal.  The bread also came in a variety and had the normal bread plus a good type of flat bread.  I also tried both the red and white wine and both were very good.  Overall I tended to like the white wine over the red wine.
 
October 13, 2009 – More Rome…

We got to tour the Castle of San Angelo on this day.  That was a cool place.  This was the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian.  It was gradually transformed into a fortress and was used by the popes from time to time for security.  There is a passageway that connects the castle to the Vatican.

 

The Scavi tour was also on this day.  The “Scavi Tour” or “Excavation tour” was the tour underneath St. Peter’s Basilica.  We descended into the history of the early church.  We got to see the cemetery that received the body of St. Peter, the foundation of the original basilica built by the Emperor Constantine and finally the grave of Peter the Apostle.  We actually got to see what the Vatican believes are the actual bones of St. Peter!  I have no reason to doubt so I believe they are the bones of St. Peter.
That afternoon Fr. Mike went to St. Peter’s to get our tickets for the Papal Audience so the rest of our group finished our lunch slowly and wandered back to St. Peter’s Square.  I was holding Nicholas at this time and playing with him.  We got to St. Peter’s and Nicholas was getting tired and promptly settled into my arms and fell asleep.  His presence on this trip was an absolute grace to me.  He was so fun and loving and I gained so much from him.  Him falling asleep in my arms was an experience I will never forget, absolutely indescribable and yet so good, so peaceful, so loving.  It was truly remarkable.
 
Then went to the church of Peter in Chains.  It contains the chains that supposedly held St. Peter in prison.  This church also has a famous statue of Moses carved by Michaelangelo.

We also got to see the Baths of Diocletian and St. Maria dei Angeli that afternoon.  This is a church located in the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian.  The baths (there are several ruins in Rome) were recreational facilities of huge proportion where Roman citizens came to experience hot tub and cold baths, exercise, massage and other recreations.  They were also meeting paces for gossip and discussion.  The Church of St. Maria dei Angeli was built into the ruins.
St. Maria dei Victori – We also got to visit this church has an incredible sculpture by Bernini called “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa.”

Lastly, we saw the Spanish Steps.  This was near the end of the day and since most of us were tired, we weren’t sure we wanted to climb the Spanish Steps.  Fr. Mike pointed out an elevator to us that would take us to the top, so Bob, Robin, Gary, and I took the elevator to the top and looked around and weren’t sure where the Spanish Steps were.  We finally got to top of a series of steps and immediately all commented that they were less massive than Fr. Mike implied they were.  If we had known that, we may have walked up them too.  So we walked down the Spanish Steps and continued on our journey.
 
October 14, 2009 – Papal Audience!
This day we got up at 5am (9pm MST) so when most people in the USA were thinking of going to bed, we were already up for the day. We got to St. Peter’s Square by around 6-6:30am and were the first in line for the Papal Audience.  We waited in line til around 8am (the line formed up behind us quite a bit by then).  Then they opened the barriers and it was like a mob trying to get through.  Luckily our group managed to navigate the huge rush and flow of all the people towards the open barrier and got first in line at one of the security stations.  We stood in line there for a bit and then finally they started letting people through security.  We all got through security and rushed towards the seats hoping we could get some good ones.  Luck was with us and we managed to get front row seats!  We then waited another hour and  half for the Papal Audience which started at 10am.  Since we were front row we had an amazing view of the Pope as he came by on his Pope-mobile!  Within 15 feet!!!  He rode around and went through all of St. Peter’s Square where everyone was.  He then got up to the front and sat down on his chair up on the platform in front of the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica.  The Papal Audience continued with an introduction to all the groups that came to honor the Pope.  “Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, South Dakota” was mentioned during the English speaking portion and our group stood and cheered for that.  That was pretty cool hearing our group mentioned.  The Pope then said his message to all of us and spoke his message in 7 different languages.  Very cool!  We then finished by saying the “Our Father” in latin in together as a huge group and then the Pope gave his blessing to all of our religious artifacts and extended his blessing to our families back home.
 
 

 

 

 

After the Papal Audience we found a place for lunch and then had a little free time.  One of the nuns at the Convent gave us a brief history of the Convent and we learned about their founder, St. Paula Frassinetti.  Then wandered back to the Piazza Navona and wandered amidst the many vendors looking at water color paintings of Rome and just enjoying the area.
 
 
 
October 15, 2009 – Orvieto
This day was very nice.  We got into a train and rode it for about an hour to a small mountain city called Orvieto.  It was a very much relaxed day.  We met up with some of Fr. Mike’s friends from there and they gave us a tour around the city.  Orvieto is located on a mountain so the view from up there was absolutely amazing!!  It was fun to just wander.  This city was always what I thought of when I thought of Italy – small cobblestone streets lined with shops, quaint alleys, clean streets, crisp air, and a relaxed pace.  Rome is awesome, but much much busier.  A very nice day!  The Cathedral was beautiful and when the sun set, the rays from the sun would hit the Cathedral and just make the front shine.  Inside the Cathedral housed a corporal that was bled on by the most precious body in the Eucharist.  The priest celebrating Mass when this happened did not believe in the true presence and when he broke the bread, the host bled on the corporal.
 
 


October 16, 2009 – Museum day
This day we went to the Vatican Museum in the morning up to and including the Sistine Chapel.  That was stunning.  So much art and history, absolutely amazing.  So much to see, so very little time.  I carried Nicholas in his backpack for the last part of the museum and up til lunch.
 

 

After lunch we headed to the Borghese Museum.  That museum was great!  It has a huge collection of artwork and sculptures.  This impressive collection is housed in the Borghese Family’s little summer residence in the middle of their expansive villa which is today a park for the Roman people.  After using audio guides through the museum we walked through the park at a “wandering” pace and walked down to the Piazza del Populo.
 
 
 
That evening after supper Fr. Mike took Bob and I to the Piazza Venezia and showed us how to get to the ruins and then back to the convent.  We wanted to see the ruins at night.  We walked the length of the ruins and got to see the Colosseum at night.  Very beautiful how they have it all lit up!  We then walked around some more and walked the length of the ruins again and up the Capitoline hill and Bob got some good pictures of the ruins.

October 17, 2009 – Free Day
This day was our free day.  I went with a small group back to St. Peter’s Basilica and I went through security to go back into the Basilica itself.  Went to the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament chapel and prayed for a little bit.  I headed back out to St. Peter’s Square and caught up with my group.  We wandered around the vicinity of St. Peter’s and did some tourist shopping, bought some souvenirs.  I bought a scarf that I thought just had the Rome symbol on it, but later came to realize it was the University of Rome’s symbol and colors and I had a few Italians make comments on it — teasing me because they liked the rivals and didn’t like my scarf.  The afternoon consisted of us taking up the challenge of getting onto the buses by ourselves and seeing the city.  We took a bus to out beyond the Pantheon and wandered back by the Trevi Fountain and back to the Pantheon.  There were quite a number of street sellers out that day and it was interesting to look at their merchandise.  Wandered some more and then caught another bus back to the convent.  Fr. Mike celebrated Mass for us that evening at the convent (I altar served).  It was a nice small comfortable group for Mass, I really enjoyed it.
October 18, 2009 – The trip back home
Now this day I can honestly say is the longest day I have ever had.  A whopping 32 hours!!  Also a long day of travel.  Going through customs was a new experience, didn’t have any problems thankfully!  Overall on the plane trips I watched the new Star Trek movie 2.5 times or so, plus a couple other movies.  I also played games on those little computer displays and watched the current position of the plane in relation to the world.  The trip back was uneventful which is always a good thing, luggage arrived just fine.  We flew out of Rome mid-morning Rome time and flew into Rapid City around 11pm MST.
Random thoughts from the trip…
The drivers are scary!!  With much less rules they drive all over the place.  Motorcycles weave in and out of lanes (and between lanes up to an including sidewalks) just to get through and ahead of traffic.  The cars are super small and they park them absolutely crazily – anywhere they can fit, they park.
The food was amazing!  What they say about Italian food…it’s all true!  Their pizzas are different but oh so good!  and their pasta, amazing!  Gelato, marvelous.  I had zero complaints about the food. 🙂

 

 

 

Water is very much abundant.  In being in a dry area here in Wyoming/South Dakota I found it amazing that Rome had many public water fountains that were just running constantly that you could drink from and the water was good water too!  No worries about whose lawn can be watered on what days, that’s for sure.
McDonald’s were also very much prevalent, which surprised me.  A couple of us on the trip came up with a game that whoever spotted a McDonald’s first in a specific area would get a point and I came out on top at the end of the trip.

Again, Obviously there is still so much more I could share.  If you want to talk more about my trip, I’ll be happy to talk about it.  Just ask! 🙂  Thanks for reading!