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Final(ity)

Posted by: on November 29, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized
Fountain at Pantheon (detail)

Fountain at Pantheon (detail)

No one can believe it.  It seems that just yesterday our PC Friars were moving into their apartments, getting orientated to Rome, and starting their semester-long adventure.  This is the final week.  Students are presenting their research, submitting their papers, and taking final exams.  Students in several classes, including the New Testament in the Eternal City, are anxiously awaiting their turns to take oral examinations with their professors.

finalsThroughout the semester, students in Prof. Alessandro Zanazzo’s Photography class learned the fundamentals of photography  in class and by studying the works of world-renowned photographers.  They traveled to sites around Rome and in Italy to develop their artistic vision and hone their skills.  Last week, the exhibit of the fruits of their labor opened.  CEA and PC students enjoyed light refreshments as they viewed the photographs exhibited on the walls and saw the larger body of photographic work in slide shows viewable on the laptops of our student photographers.  Their comments and critiques contributed to the selection of the prize-winning photograph by Meghan Frazier.  All of  their photos were breathtaking in their diversity of subject, perspective, and  beauty.

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This is also a week of finals in another sense.  Students  are using up the last of the groceries and beginning the task of sorting and cleaning out their apartments.  They are making their farewell visits to their favorite cafe, ristorante, or bar.  They are anticipating the final cappuccino, the last slice of pizza from their favored pizzeria,  one more gelato, and that final visit to hangouts in the city that has been their home for the last four months.

Om Thursday evening, the staff and faculty at CEA will join the students at the Baja Boat Ristorante on the Lungotevere (near the Tiber) for a farewell dinner.  Although PC students will see each other on campus in January, they will be saying goodbye to the other CEA students, who come from colleges and universities around the country.  They have been flatmates, classmates, and fellow travellers.  It will be hard to say goodbye.

Finally, Friday is move-out day and most of our students will be saying a final good-bye to Rome.  Hopefully they will be saying arrivederci, until we meet again.  Thanks for tuning in.  Go Friars!

 

No one can believe it.  It seems that just yesterday our PC Friars were moving into their apartments, getting orientated... MORE

Ringraziemento

Posted by: on November 26, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized
St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

November 24, 2016 was a day for ringraziemento (thanksgiving).

PC Friars who remained in Rome for the holiday weekend enjoyed a turkey dinner with all the trimmings with the CEA staff at Mama’s Restaurant in Rome.  The owner is a native of New Jersey and the Thanksgiving meal served at her restaurant has been rated one of the best in the city.

Although they missed their family and friends during this special holiday, students were grateful for the incredible opportunity of having studied in Rome this semester.  They also expressed their gratitude to the staff at CEA who have done everything in their power to enable students to make the most of their experience.  This dinner, like so many other events and outings organized by CEA and PC was special, not only for the delicious food, but also for the camaraderie and the opportunity to be together to celebrate.

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!  Go Friars!

 

 

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November 24, 2016 was a day for ringraziemento (thanksgiving). PC Friars who remained in Rome for the holiday weekend enjoyed a... MORE

Time Accelerated

Posted by: on November 19, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized
Benedictine Monastery - Subiaco

Benedictine Monastery – Subiaco

img_6318Last week, PC and CEA students did a day trip to the hills overlooking Subiaco, Italy, the site where St. Benedict lived for three years as a hermit in the caves above the town and the place where he later built the first of twelve monasteries.  Seminarians from the Pontifical North American College talked about the role of Benedict’s rule and the contributions of the Benedictine monasteries in preserving and transmitting knowledge from antiquity and in propagating the faith. Dr. Alexandra Massini, an art historian, also accompanied the group and explicated the frescoes that depict both the life of Jesus Christ and the life and works of Benedict.  It was a cool, slightly rainy day and it was quite easy to imagine how difficult it must have been for Benedict to survive in the cave and to think about the kind of faith that contributed to his many good works.Equally difficult must have been the task of building the monastery on top of  the steep hill and visualizing pilgrims who traveled to the monastery over the ages to seek grace.  The earthquakes that shook Italy a few weeks earlier destroyed the cathedral in Norcia, where St. Benedict had been buried, so it was especially moving to be in this holy place where he had lived and worked.

 

Anagni

Anagni

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The group then traveled through the Italian countryside to the beautiful little town of Anagni, a town that has had an important history over the millennia.  During Roman times, it was strategically important because this hill town overlooks a valley with an important route to the sea in the south.  Many Roman emperors also liked to stay in Anagni to escape the summer heat.

Anagni is also known as the “City of Popes”.  During one 100-year period,  four popes came from two prominent families of the town.  During the 12th and 13th centuries, Anagni, which has maintained many elements from its medieval history, was more important than Rome.  While City Hall is at the center of the town, the Cathedral is at the top of the hill at the end of the main cobbled street that starts at the town walls.  Charming alleys and steep side streets branch off the main road.  After a delicious lunch where students were able to sample local and regional specialties, Dr. Massini led us on a tour of the Cathedral and the crypt below.

"Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages"

“Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages”

The Cathedral is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture  commissioned by the Bishop St.Peter of Salerno in 1072 and consecrated in 1104.  According to legend,  St. Magnus had a vision and instructed Peter, a Benedictine monk, to build the cathedral there, on the site of an ancient pagan sanctuary.  St. Magnus was later buried in the cathedral; and the relics of Sts. Secondina, Aurelia, and other martyrs are interred there.  Several Gothic additions were added centuries later.  A reliquary containing remains of St. Thomas Becket is included among its important holdings.

The crypt below the cathedral has been called the “Sistine Chapel of Middle Ages.”  The floor is an original and unrestored Cosma pavement dating back to circa 1235.  The walls and ceilings of the crypt are completely covered in medieval frescoes, most of them fully intact and still brightly colored.  They are among the most extensive and best preserved medieval frescoes in Europe and depict the lives of the saints, scenes from the Old Testament, the life of Christ, and most especially a detailed vision of the Apocalypse.

This type of excursion is typical of PC/CEA outings.  Students deepen their understanding of Catholic faith and practice, the history of the church and of the papacy, the history of Rome and of Italy, and the history of art and architecture during the Middle Ages. They also venture into the Italian countryside and are able to sample local and regional cuisine.  We strive to balance the academic, the cultural, and the fun!

One short week later, PC students participated in a career and reentry workshop.  They are already being asked to contemplate the ways in which this semester abroad experience has affected them.  How has their academic classwork been enhanced by site visits and using Rome as a classroom?  What kinds of skills and competencies have they developed as a result of being immersed in Italian culture, living in Rome, and traveling elsewhere in Europe?  How can these be communicated effectively in a resume, cover letter, or during a job interview?   This coming week is the Thanksgiving holiday, followed by final exam week.  Papers, projects, and presentations are all coming due.  At the same time, students are beginning to think about returning home.  The workshop also discussed some common experiences relating to re-entry, including “reverse culture shock”.  More than a few expressed disbelief at how quickly this semester has passed!  It is as if time has suddenly accelerated!  But for now, they are determined to savor every last second.  Go Friars!

Last week, PC and CEA students did a day trip to the hills overlooking Subiaco, Italy, the site where St.... MORE

Critical Perspectives in Rome

Posted by: on November 10, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized
Detail - Arch of Titus, Forum

Detail – Arch of Titus, Forum


 

Dome Great Synagogue

Dome Great Synagogue

The Jewish community in Rome dates back to 70AD, when Jewish prisoners and slaves were brought back by Titus after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  This historic event is commemorated on the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum.  For hundreds of years, this Jewish community was confined to a ghetto located on the banks of the Tiber, and Jews living there experienced all sorts of discrimination and periodic persecution.  The ghetto was abolished in 1870 and after the unification of Italy, Jews were emancipated and became Italian citizens.  The ghetto itself was razed, including the five synagogues within.  At the turn of the 19th century, a new synagogue was built that continues to serve as the religious and social heart of the Jewish community in Rome.  Its distinctive eclectic design and square dome, the only one in Rome, reflects the Jewish community’s desire to make visible their pride in their newfound freedom.

 

img_6312This week, Prof. Jim Schwarten and I took some of our students on a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter, including visits to the Great Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, and 16 October 1943 Square—the site where Jews were rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz and Birkenau.  All around the quarter are bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalks or marble placards on the face of buildings indicating where individuals who had lived in the quarter disappeared forever.  Students were particularly moved by one indicating the home where one man had returned, only to find that his wife and nine children had been seized.  He never saw them again.  The violence against the Jewish citizens didn’t end there.  Another moving memorial is one dedicated to Stefano Gaj Taché, a two year old child who was among the victims of a Palestinian terror attack in 1982.  More than thirty men, women, and children were also injured as they left the synagogue after weekly prayers. Having seen this, the students could understand the large police presence at the entrances to the quarter and the presence of so many security cameras.

 

PC and CEA students with Prof. Schwarten

PC and CEA students with Prof. Schwarten

 

Great Synagogue of Rome (detail)

Great Synagogue of Rome (detail)

Prof. Schwarten is a sociologist who teaches Critical Perspectives on Italy:  Contemporary Society and Culture.  My students are in my History of the Modern Middle East class.  Both of these are electives courses  available to students in the PC-Rome/CEA program.  Prof. Schwarten and I approached the site visit from different academic perspectives:  he from the point of view of Jews who stayed, particularly after the trauma of World War II and the Holocaust.  His class explores questions of identity, healing, and reintegration.  My class, in contrast, approached the site visit from the perspective of Jews who left, particularly those who immigrated to Palestine before World War II or to Israel in the postwar era. The long-term persecution of Jews and the Holocaust convinced many Zionists that their only hope lay in returning to Eretz Israel, the Biblical lands promised to them in scripture. Our class also explores the enduring impact of the Holocaust on Israeli politics and society.

 

Bas-relief - Museo Ebraico

Bas-relief – Museo Ebraico

While Rome is the heart of the Catholic Church, it is also home to a large Jewish community and the site of one of the largest mosques in Europe.  Since 1986, three popes, including most recently Pope Francis, have visited there to promote healing and interreligious dialogue. Students at CEA/PC-Rome have unique opportunities to learn about these communities and their efforts to deal with questions of identity, diversity, and religious coexistence.  Thanks for tuning in.

Go Friars!

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Terremoto

Posted by: on November 2, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

 

St. Paul's Basilica

St. Paul’s Basilica

St. Paul

St. Paul

Last week students in the New Testament in the Eternal City class had a site visit at St Paul’s Basilica, or St. Paul’s Outside the Walls as it is commonly called.  It is one of the five arched basilicas in Rome and the place where St. Paul was buried.  Among the relics there are the chains that bound him while he awaited his execution.  The basilica dates back to the 4th century.  The entrance to the basilica is fronted by a beautiful courtyard surrounded by a marble colonnade.  Less than twenty-four hours after the class visit, an earthquake hit central Italy.  The aftershocks could be felt as far south as Rome.

_92164815_norcia_fault_lines_624This weekend another major earthquake hit central Italy, the fourth major earthquake in less than three months.  It destroyed ancient buildings in Umbria, including the Basilica of St. Benedict in the town of Norcia.  Thankfully, most people in this region were living in shelters or sleeping in their cars as a result of the seismic shocks, so there was little loss of life.  The aftershocks and tremors hit Rome on Sunday morning at 7:41am. Buildings shook, windows creaked, and bits of ceilings fell.  The colonnade of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls cracked. Cracks appeared in some of the walls of St. Peter’s Cathedral.  The tremors were significantly stronger and lasted longer than those that hit four days earlier.

When PC students first arrived for orientation this past August, an informal poll asked them to list one major fear or concern they had about studying abroad and one of their fondest hopes for the semester ahead.  As can be expected in the age of the War on Terror, their responses included fear of a terrorist attack.  Other concerns included fear of being victims of pickpockets or other petty crime, a worry that they would not be fully immersed in Roman life, and concern that their language skills would not be sufficient to enable them to navigate daily life in Rome.  NO ONE listed  seismic activity as a concern.  No one predicted that during their first week in Rome, central Italy would be hit by a major earthquake that would kill more than 300 persons, cause thousands to be left homeless, and destroy countless ancient and  contemporary buildings. Towns like Amitrice, which was crowded with visitors there for the annual festival celebrating  Amitriciana pasta sauce, were decimated.

Amitrice After the Earthquake

Amitrice After the Earthquake

Italy is a small country roughly the size of Arizona.  Students could witness firsthand and in a much more intimate way how the Italian government, the Catholic Church,  nonprofit organizations (such as Doctors without Borders), and the Italian people responded to the catastrophe.  They  watched rescue crews frantically racing time to save victims buried under the rubble.  Pope Francis offered a mass for the victims and made a special trip to the region to offer support and prayers–churches around Italy took up a special collection.  Many local restaurants donated a portion of the proceeds whenever their patrons ordered pasta Amitriciana, a pasta sauce  that originates in the town of Amitrice made with pepper, pecorino cheese, and tomatoes cooked in guanciale, Italian salt-cured pork jowl.  Students might have noticed the candle-light prayer services, the blood drives, and the multiplicty of ways in which the entire Italian nation responded to the suffering. In addition to its other efforts, the Italian Red Cross also organized a series of concerts to raise money for the victims. The CEA center in Rome collected toiletries and other personal care products donated for the victims of the earthquakes.  Sometimes the study abroad experience encompasses learning that extends far beyond visiting popular tourist sites or tasting local cuisine; in times of crisis, students can gauge the kinds of resources that are harnessed to respond to unexpected needs.  These shed light on cultural values and priorities.

Naturally,  parents and families  worry about the safety of PC students studying abroad when they see the news reports of natural disasters such as these earthquakes, or man-made catastrophes, such as the Paris terror attacks of a year ago.  CEA and PC Rome have well-established protocols to reach out to every student to ascertain they are safe and to assist them should the need arise. The CEA also maintains an emergency phone line that is staffed 24/7. Luckily, none of our students have been negatively affected.

As the colder weather nears, let us keep the earthquake victims of the hill towns of Italy in our hearts and prayers. Thanks for tuning in. Go Friars!

  Last week students in the New Testament in the Eternal City class had a site visit at St Paul’s... MORE

The Bernini Moment

Posted by: on October 28, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized
Detail Bernini's David

Detail from Bernini’s David

Students in the PC-Rome and CEA program may choose from a number of  courses that integrate the city into the classrrom.  One popular option is Angels, Demons, and Artists in Rome:  Art through the Ages, a class taught be art historian Professor Alexandra Massini.  During the semester, students make regular site visits to archaeological sites, museums, and religious spaces of Rome in order to engage first-hand with great masterpieces while acquiring the skills to analyze and decode their hidden meanings.

At the Villa Borghese

At the Villa Borghese

If you ask Romans about the top ten not-to-be-missed-while-in-Rome sites, inevitably you will find included the Borghese Museum and Gardens, once described as one of the most beautiful places on earth for Renaissance and Baroque art.  On this day, students accompanied Prof. Massini in an examination of Renaissance paintings by Rafael, Del Sarto, Bronzino, and Titian.  They also examined (although experienced is a more accurate description) Baroque sculpture by Bernini, including Apollo and Daphne, David,  and The Rape of Persephone.

Earlier in the semester, the class traveled to Florence where they saw some of the masterpieces of the High Renaissance, including Michaelangelo’s David.  Bernini was a risk-taker.  Unlike Michaelangelo who only used a chisel, Bernini also used a drill; one wrong motion risked fracturing the marble and ruining the entire work of art.  By comparing and contrasting the two artists’ depictions of David and his encounter with Goliath, students could see firsthand the characteristics that distinguished Baroque sculpture from that of the Renaissance, namely, the capture of a climactic moment, the multiplicity of viewpoints, the complexity of movement, the drama, and the detailing.

Apollo and Daphne by Bernini (Detail)

Apollo and Daphne by Bernini (Detail)

According to the Greek myth (as later retold by Ovid), Daphne, the daughter of a river god, had rejected the advances of Apollo, a god who had fallen passionately in love with Daphne after being struck by a golden arrow from Eros. He pursued her relentlessly, and Daphne implored her father to save her.  Just at the moment when Apollo finally caught her, she was being transformed into a laurel tree.  Bernini captures this precise moment in   Apollo and Daphne.  Carved out of a solid block of marble, its positioning  intends for it to be viewed first from the rear.  As the viewer walks around the sculpture, they see the story unfold.  Hundreds of years after the sculpture was completed, our students walked around the sculpture seeing her transformation with their own eyes.  Students remarked on Bernini’s vision, noting the roots developing from Daphne’s toes, the branches unfurling from her shoulders and hair, and the quality of movement captured in a static piece of art.

Bernini's David

Bernini’s David

Unlike Michelangelo’s version that captures David steeling himself before his battle with Goliath, Bernini’s sculpture captures David at the moment he is about to unleash his stone from his sling. Bernini’s takes place in the moment and  is intended to be viewed from a variety of perspectives, each telling part of the larger story.  The athletes among the students were struck by the physics of the piece, trying to figure out what sequence of motions would have been necessary to unleash his attack.  Walking around the life-sized statue carved from a single block of marble enabled students not only to understand the key differences between the two masters, but between the Renaissance and Baroque eras.  Understanding the patronage of Sciopone Borghese and viewing the piece of art in the site for which it was designed provides students with insights into the lives of the Roman elites and their connections to the Papacy.  Shortly after having completed the David, Bernini’s friend Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope Urban VIII who commissioned churches, sculpture, fountains, set designs for papal audiences, and other works of art.

Travel abroad is an enriching experience.  Studying abroad can be transformative.  A course like Angels and Demons provides students with a priceless opportunity to study art and architecture, to develop their visual literacy, and learn more about the history of art, the history of Rome, and in this case, the history of the Church as well.  Thanks for tuning in.

Students capturing the Bernini Moment at the Borghese

Angels and Demons and their professor capturing the Bernini moment at the Borghese

Go Friars!

Students in the PC-Rome and CEA program may choose from a number of  courses that integrate the city into the classrrom.  One... MORE

All Paths Lead to Rome

Posted by: on October 17, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

2016-10-16 21.36.42Four young seminarians from the Pontifical North American College approached the PC Rome program about doing some apostolic work.  Like our PC students, they are American students studying in Rome.  While PC still draws primarily from New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, they hail from the heartland of America:  Wisconsin, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Minnesota.  The PC-Rome program is a semester program; students at the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) are there typically for five years.  They too struggle with learning Italian, dealing with the hustle and bustle of Rome, and coping with homesickness.  They enjoy eating pizza and watching football, the camaraderie of their classmates, and they take advantage of opportunities to travel in Italy and around Europe whenever they can.  At the same time, they have answered the call of God and are preparing for the priesthood.

Coat of Arms - Pontifical North American College

Coat of Arms – Pontifical North American College

PNAC was formally inaugurated by Pope Pius IX in 1859, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, who is also the patroness of the United States.  The college was established on the grounds of a 16th century former monastery located at the foot of the Janiculum hill. Bishops around the US and in Australia send young men to Rome to prepare for the priesthood. The motto of the College as seen on the coat of arms to the right is Firmum Est Cor Meum (“My heart is steadfast”),and it comes from the first verse of Psalm 108. The courtyard of the campus features 48 orange trees one for each state (they’ll plant trees for the other two one of these days!) and a fountain with red, white and blue colors.  Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy both visited there.

Courtyard of PNAC

Courtyard of PNAC

The four seminarians came to introduce themselves to the students in the PC-Rome program.  They described their roads to Rome and their paths to a life dedicated to God.  It is clear from hearing their personal stories that it was not always easy, nor was it always a foregone conclusion that the priesthood was the right choice for them.  They struggled with their conscience, with trying to understand who they are and what their place is in the world.  Some actively resisted, thinking they preferred to marry and lead a different sort of life.  But the call came to them and after reflection, prayer, and personal introspection, their path became clear. Their joy is evident. They also invited the students to share in a number of programs here in Rome.

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Third year seminarians, Colin Davis and Vince Fernandez, and Deacons Aaron Becker and Joseph Scholten

In the course of this semester and the next, PC Rome and the seminarians will work together on offering PC students in Rome English-language masses, opportunities to meet informally to discuss theology and/or questions relevant to the church in sessions known as “Theology on Tap”, and a chance to do some service in and around Rome.  Several students will participate in the 7th Annual Turkey Trot, a 5k race around the Vatican on Thanksgiving morning…it is the only race around a sovereign state!  We will also try to schedule mass or vespers on a Sunday evening, followed by live-stream football game.  There were many sandwiches leftover from that initial meeting.  The seminarians distributed these to the homeless around the Vatican.  Already, the efforts of these young men have had unexpected benefits!  Stay tuned for more!

 

Four young seminarians from the Pontifical North American College approached the PC Rome program about doing some apostolic work.  Like... MORE

Encounters with Papa Francisco

Posted by: on October 6, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

Pope Francis once told a group of students visiting the Vatican that he “didn’t want to be pope.”(7 June 2013, Catholic Herald).  The Catholic Church had experienced a series of sexual abuse and financial scandals and the world seemed to be devolving into sectarian violence.  During his papacy, Papa Francisco, as he is called by the Italian people, has launched a multi-pronged campaign to address some of these problems.

logo_mont_7CEA and PC-Rome organized its first colloquium of the semester this past week.  Students and faculty screened a documentary, The Cross and the Gun, directed by Jesus Garcès Lambert, investigating the relationship between the Catholic Church and organized crime in the wake of Pope Francis’s condemnation of Italian crime syndicates, such as the Mafia and ‘Ndranghetta.  The documentary has been shown in more than 40 countries and is based on the work of historian John Dickie, whose books are assigned in two of the elective classes that PC students are taking this semester. (Click here for a filmography.)

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Jesus Garcès Lambert

Describing organized crime as a “permanent emergency”, Pope Francis was the first to excommunicate all Mafiosi.  The documentary traces the close relationship between the Mafia and Catholic organizations who joined forces in the early days of the cold war to prevent communist and socialist parties from taking power in Italy.  Ironically, many of the Mafiosi consider themselves men of honor and are devout Catholics who have been generous benefactors of parishes, religious festivals, and church charities.  Many priests have followed the Pope’s lead in confronting the Mafia in their parishes and in their communities, risking arson, personal attacks, and even death.  Jesus Garcès Lambert was there to take questions and answers from members of the audience.  He told a fascinating story of some of the risks involved in making such a documentary, filmed primarily in Calabria.  It was a unique opportunity for PC Friars in Rome to encounter the work of the Pope.

PC Friars at St. Peter's Square

PC Friars at St. Peter’s Square

The following day, students encountered the pope directly, attending an udienze papali (papal audience) in St. Peter’s Square. From the first moments, when the Pope circled the square in his open pope mobile, the the crowd of roughly 80,000 people was electrified!  It was a very special moment. St. Peter’s Square was packed with pilgrims from all over the world. After a short reading, the Pope talked about his recent trip to Estonia and his hopes for interfaith dialogue and ending sectarian violence in the Caucuses, the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world.14566283_10210976711838606_6283321442677332934_o (Next semester, one of the CEA/PC-Rome colloquia will include a screening of a Vatican-produced documentary made on the anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II document on interreligious dialogue.)  The reading and the pope’s message were repeated in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Russian, confirming in a tangible way for our students, the universal character of the Catholic Church. (For a Catholic News Agency recap of the Pope’s comments, click here.)

 

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After the singing of the Our Father in Latin, the Pope bestowed an apostolic blessing on us, one which extends to our families and loved ones, and by virtue of reading this blog, to you as well. Thanks for tuning in.  Go Friars!

Pope Francis once told a group of students visiting the Vatican that he “didn’t want to be pope.”(7 June 2013,... MORE

We (heart) Roma

Posted by: on September 28, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

IMG_5897As our students have discovered,  Rome has some problems.  The hordes of Vatican tour hawkers are direct descendants of the locusts from biblical times.  There is a lot of traffic, the sirens are ear-piercingly loud, the graffiti in some neighborhoods needs to be cleaned up, and the trash and recyclables should be collected more often and more thoroughly. Despite all of this, it is a vibrant city that glows in the warm Italian sunshine.The piety and devotion of pilgrims who travel here from all over the world is striking; their awe at being where the church was founded, and their wonder as they touch the feet of the Christ on the Porta Santa is inspiring. There is a spirituality here that is palpable.  Despite all the rushing around, Romans take their time at dinner…from the chefs who cook the fresh ingredients al dente to the hospiti who converse at dinner and linger over the caffè.  The food is as tasty delicious as it is beautiful.

 

Roma Cityscape

Roma Cityscape

Rome is a huge city at the crossroads of the world refugee crisis, the ongoing European Union identity crisis, and deep-seated problems with corruption and economic inefficiency.  And it is a mecca for those who love the antiquities, art and architecture, history, and music.   At the same time, it is also a place where the ancient, the medieval, and the modern collide and intersect in the most fascinating ways. The Romans were masters of re-purposing: the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, built in 1561 to honor the angels and martyrs, also serves today as a national church where Italian soldiers killed in war are buried.  While it was also the last project of Michelangelo during the Renaissance,it also happens to be built on the site of the largest public baths in the Roman empire (built during the time of the emperor Diocletian, the same emperor who ordered the persecution of the Christians that resulted in the martyrdom of St. Agnes, about whom you have already read).

Angel Castel Sant'Angelo

Angel Castel Sant’Angelo

You can go around the corner, or up a stairwell, or into a building with an unprepossessing exterior and find yet another objet d’art that is breathtaking in its beauty.

 

Rome never ceases to delight or to amaze, and the PC students who are lucky enough to study here, clearly recognize it. Many students use their weekends and holidays as an opportunity to travel elsewhere in Italy and Europe.  Last weekend, for example, many PC Friars went to Munich to experience Oktoberfest.  This weekend, many are staying in and around Rome.  Some will go to the beach in Ostia, a few will bike along the Appian Way, and some will attend a soccer match on Sunday night. Some are on the quest for the perfect slice of pizza, while others continue to hunt for the best gelato. Next week, students will attend both a Papal audience and our first colloquium of the semester, but in the meantime, they will continue to enjoy the sounds, sights, and tastes of Roma.

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As our students have discovered,  Rome has some problems.  The hordes of Vatican tour hawkers are direct descendants of the locusts... MORE

Friars and Saints, Old and New

Posted by: on September 19, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized
Ruins of the walls of Domitian's Stadium

Ruins of the walls of Domitian’s Stadium

Students of the New Testament in the Eternal City class visited Domitian’s Stadium, a huge arena where spectators in the first century could watch footraces and other athletic contests.  The Romans were the first to use concrete, and today, the concrete and brick walls of that stadium first dedicated in 86 AD continue to support the buildings that line the perimeter of the Piazza Navona that was built directly over it centuries later.  Between races, the Romans sometimes staged public executions of convicted criminals as a sort of half-time show.  For roughly two hundred years, Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire, and periodically, Christians were persecuted. St. Agnes, a young Christian born into a patrician Roman family in the 3rd century, was executed there in the stadium during one of these periods of persecution.

St. Agnes of Agone on the Piazza Navona

St. Agness of Agone on the Piazza Navona

Later, the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone was built in the piazza Navona, using sheets of marble taken from the stadium as part of its interior decoration. Many today mistakenly translate this to mean St. Agnes in Agony—since it is located over the site of her martyrdom.  In fact, agone is the Greek word meaning “in the site of competitions” and it was the original name of the huge square.

Students had the opportunity to visit a side chapel in the church that contains her skull—(her body is located in the catacombs).  Later in the semester, they will learn about the cult of relics in the early Christian church. Walking from the ruins of the stadium far below the piazza to the Church of St. Agnes on the piazza was a physical way to connect the past and the present.

Some of the students studying in Rome this semester also had the chance to witness the canonization of another saint, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, a way to connect the past with the future.  In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis proclaimed her a saint, as another woman who had lived her faith and sacrificed for her beliefs.

Pope Francis Proclaims Mother Theresa a Saint

On a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon, several of our students participated in this historic event.  Ryan W. McSweeney said he felt “uniquely lucky” to have been present to celebrate the life of someone whom he had learned about since he was little.  He added the whole experience was almost surreal. If you are interested, click here to read the full text of the homily.

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Pope Francis Proclaims Mother Theresa a Saint

Bridgette Clarke, Jennifer Dorn, and Thomas Nee in St. Peter's Square

Bridgette Clarke, Jennifer Dorn, and Thomas Nee in St. Peter’s Square

 

 

Several other students from Providence College were also lucky enough to have received tickets to the canonization and joined a crowd estimated at 120,000.  They were impressed with both the solemnity and the joy of the occasion. They counted themselves blessed.  Next month, all of the PC students will attend a papal audience, another one of the unique opportunities of the PC in Rome program.  Thanks to our student photographers for their contributions to this posting.  To be continued.

Go Friars!

Students of the New Testament in the Eternal City class visited Domitian’s Stadium, a huge arena where spectators in the... MORE