This month’s PC-in-Rome blog will have a very special guest editor!
Shortly before I arrived in Rome, I received an email from a former student and current PC-alumnus, Justin Gough. I had come to know Justin over the course of a few of my philosophy courses at PC, and remember how he distinguished himself with his characteristically reflective responses. Justin wrote to me this time not as a student, but as a colleague who is completing his studies at the Pontifical North American College here in Rome. As part of his duties, Justin serves on a team that helps the Apostolic mission of both the PNAC and PC, serving as an ambassador for our students by guiding their individual spiritual journeys as they study abroad in Rome. He and his colleagues at the PNAC have done our students invaluable service over the past weeks, from organizing volunteer activities like distributing sandwiches to the needy around St. Peter’s square, to weekly Bible study, to hosting an ‘American hamburger night’ for students wanting a taste of home. But so far the most special experience, to my mind, was our recent trip to the city of Bologna for the purpose of venerating the holy remains of the founder of the Order of Preachers, Saint Dominic.
In 2015, I graduated from Providence College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and completed the priestly formation program at the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. At that time, Archbishop William Lori assigned me to complete my formation in Rome at the Pontifical North American College and to study sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas “Angelicum”. I am happy to serve the seminary community as one of the house organists, and I enjoy the opportunities to play the instruments in some of Rome’s most significant churches. It is likewise a pleasure to minister to the study abroad students of Providence College as one of the seminarian chaplains. If it be God’s will, I hope to be ordained a deacon in May 2019 and a priest in June 2020.
On 1 November 2017, the students of the Pontifical North American College who serve as chaplains to the Providence College Rome program organized and accompanied some of our abroad Friars to the city of Bologna, in northern Italy. Bologna is home to the worlds’ oldest university in continuous operation and, more importantly for our purposes, to the mortal remains of St. Dominic. Thus, we marked the Solemnity of All Saints (Tutti i Santi––a national holiday in Italy) appropriately with a proper pilgrimage to venerate the tomb of the saintly founder of the Order of Preachers. To Dominic’s heritage, we are indebted; and to his intercession before Almighty God, we continue to rely.
The Pontifical North American College has served as the United States’ seminary in Rome since 1859. There, men from across the country, as well as some from Canada and Australia, are formed to be priests after the heart of Jesus Christ, with the added benefit of firsthand experiences of the universality of the Church and the ministry of the successor of St. Peter, the Pope.
As part of our formation, we seminarians are entrusted with various apostolic assignments across the city, and four––two deacons and two third year seminarians––are assigned this year to minister to the students of Providence College as their chaplains abroad. We also function as chaplains to their classmates at the CEA Rome Center. On a weekly basis, we are happy to offer the students Bible studies to strengthen their faith, as well as various social events to foster friendships and build up Christian fraternity. Above all formal events, the seminarians are pleased to be available to the students in whatever way we can be to their aid, to make their time here in Rome enjoyable and fruitful.
In Bologna, our pilgrimage began with a visit to a few of the city’s most notable churches, known especially for their architectural and artistic innovations. The Cathedral of St. Peter features a painted side-chapel that gives the illusion of being a three-dimensional marble baroque altar and a stunning terracotta sculpture of the “Lament over the Dead Christ,” which emphasizes the wailing agony of Mary and the disciples after the crucifixion.
Time in the marvelous Basilica of San Petronio rounded out our morning. By volume, it is the tenth-largest church in the world and, during the Renaissance, there were plans to expand the church to be larger than St. Peter’s in Rome––plans only to be halted by the Bishop of Rome himself. Today, the Chapel of the Magi, which depicts, among other things, Dante’s envisioning of heaven and hell, remains a ‘must-see’!
As no pilgrimage in Italy is complete without a due sampling of the regions’ culinary delights, our lunch in the city center afforded us the chance to taste some of the many wonderful flavors of Bologna, specifically a proper ‘pasta al ragù alla Bolognese’ and a veal cutlet ‘alla Bologense’!
Back on the ground, we walked through the painted halls of the University of Bologna, in the footsteps of some of its most notable alumni and faculty: St. Thomas Becket, Dante, Copernicus, Michelangelo, St. Charles Borromeo, and many others.
In the evening, we held Mass at the tomb of St. Dominic at the Basilica of San Domenico, a Mass offered particularly for Providence College and its Friars.
The sarcophagus that holds St. Dominic’s remains is itself brilliant and worthy of great study. Around the backside of the altar, his skull is visible behind glass in a reliquary. As one who dedicated his life to the preaching of the Truth and entrusted his Order to the very same, there is perhaps no part of Dominic’s mortal remains more moving to come in contact with than this.
Following a quick pizza dinner, we made the journey back to Rome on a late train.
And so ended an All Saints’ Day pilgrimage surely to be remembered!
This month’s PC-in-Rome blog will have a very special guest editor! Shortly before I arrived in Rome, I received an email from a former student and current PC-alumnus, Justin Gough. I had come to know Justin over the course of a few of my philosophy courses at PC, and remember how he distinguished himself with […]MORE
Ruane Hall is lovely. The new Business School and Science Building provide our students and faculty state-of-the-art facilities. But there’s nothing quite like a PC-in-Rome classroom. On Friday, October 20th, students in Alexandra Massini’s “Angels and Demons” class and my own “Roman Stoicism” class joined expert guide Livia Galante for a day-trip to nearby Ostia Antica.
About 20 miles southwest of Rome, Ostia was the ancient harbor city of Rome. It’s history, if not as grand, is as complicated and fascinating as that of Rome herself. Used for defense and for trade from Julius Caesar to Augustus, Ostia was nearly double the size of the more famous ‘Pompeii’ archaeological site — and nearly as well preserved, too.
Here the students learn about different kinds of masonry in Ostia. Why learn about a brick? Because the quality of materials and craftsmanship teaches an intimate lesson of the ‘boom and bust’ times of the Ostian economy. Bricks tightly joined together evidence greater wealth than houses or civic buildings featuring more loosely-joined masonry.
With students taking notes on their trusty phones and Ipads, the surrounding Ostian classroom provides tactile and kinesthetic experiences that simply can’t be had anywhere else.
An intimate view into Ancient life around every corner, the latrines are always a big hit with students. Nothing shows the inner workings of a culture more than their private moments!
Ostia was also a prominent site for the Roman Cult of Mithras. Mithraism was the major religion in Rome from the 1st Century BC to the 4th Century AD. Many scholars have demonstrated its vast influence on early Christian rites, imagery, and even holidays. There were seven levels of ‘initiation rites’ associated with the Mithraian mysteries. A ‘Mithraeum’ is where these rites took place. Nearly always underground and depicting the hero Mithras killing a bull, Ostia’s Mithrauem is one of the most distinctive and best preserved.
Apart from the art and archaeological history lesson of Ostia, my own class on Stoicism was also able to make a unique connection with Ostia. Port cities were the major hub of economic transactions. And it’s unfortunately true that the slave trade was among the most significant aspects of the Ancient economy. While Stoicism is better noted as the principle Roman philosophy because of celebrity figures like Cicero, Seneca, and Emperor Marcus Aurelius, two of its most important advocates were the Turkish freed slave Epictetus and a slave whom we know came through Ostia Antica itself: Publius Syrus.
Brought to Italy through Ostia from Syria as a boy during the 80’s BC, we believe Syrus eventually earned his freedom through his wit and obvious intelligence. He came even to defeat Caesar’s own court poet in a literary competition of 46BC. His theatrical skills were also the stuff of legend, though they are unfortunately lost. What remains of Syrus’ writings are his ‘Sententiae’ or pithy little apothegms full of wisdom and advice for living that good Stoic life. Among some of his better gems are:
“Poverty is the lack of many things, but avarice is the lack of all things.”
“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”
“Fortune is like glass—the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken.”
This last quotation suggests one of the overriding concerns of Publius and of the Stoics generally: fortune. Not merely good or bad luck, Fortuna was worshiped, feared, and appeased by the Roman people as a quasi-deity. The entirety of Stoic practical philosophy can be summarized as a resistance to Fortuna, both good fortune and bad fortune. We do this not by becoming richer or more powerful. Instead, we should learn to value only that which stands within our power to control. What alone lies ever in our free control is our ‘prohairesis’ or ability to elect our actions. Even if fortune should prevent those actions being carried out successfully, it is always in our power to ‘aim rightly’ at the targets that are in our power to value.
Publius Syrus, as a slave, obviously had far fewer gifts of fortune than other Stoics like Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, and probably far fewer than everyday Roman citizens. But he considered himself happy and good insofar as he could choose to limit what he valued to the scope of activities and objects he could in fact achieve and acquire. And insofar as everything he valued was within power to achieve, he considered himself freer than even Caesar.
The real opportunity of a study abroad program, it seems to me, is the chance to expand one’s horizons of thinking. By spending time in the cold Mithraeum we get a better sense of what it would have been like to worship as a Roman. By sitting in the bright sun of their amphitheater, we get a better sense than any textbook could tell us what it would have been like to actually experience a Roman theatrical performance. And by walking through both the slave auction and the Temple of Fortuna, our students acquire at least some sense of just what it would have been like to hold one’s philosophical positions, not simply as a set of theorems, but also as a living, breathing, way of life.
Ruane Hall is lovely. The new Business School and Science Building provide our students and faculty state-of-the-art facilities. But there’s nothing quite like a PC-in-Rome classroom. On Friday, October 20th, students in Alexandra Massini’s “Angels and Demons” class and my own “Roman Stoicism” class joined expert guide Livia Galante for a day-trip to nearby Ostia […]MORE
Last Wednesday, 48 Providence College students participated in one of Rome’s most meaningful spiritual activities: the Papal Audience. To judge by the numbers on the tickets, we joined 20,000 Catholic and non-Catholics at St. Peter’s Square, between Bernini’s grand 284 columns, under some 140 statues of Saints, and in front of the most significant building in Christendom. There they saw in person Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who in March 2013 became the 266th Pope, Francis I, the Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of Vatican City, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.
Papal Audiences are the traditionally given each week on Wednesdays to provide an opportunity for the faithful to not only see the Holy Father, but also to receive the Papal Blessing from the direct successor of St. Peter. The day starts with the Pope taking a tour of those gathered in his iconic so-called ‘Pope Mobile’.
The Audience then begins with a short reading from the New Testament in a number of languages: English, French, German, Italian, and Pope Francis’ native language of Spanish. The Pope offers a greeting in each of these languages, either personally or through a translator, signaling out some of the larger groups in attendance. And finally, in those several languages, the Pope offers a brief teaching.
“I am not usually a morning person, but on the day of the Papal audience it was easy to be. I was immediately woken up to women in wedding dresses and people from all over the world quickly walking towards the Vatican. We all shared one thing in common, and that was our excitement. We were filled with anticipation and hope that we would be lucky enough to have the Pope pass by us. Our wish was more than granted. I’ve never felt like I understood a different language more than I did while listening to Pope Francis speak. I couldn’t interpret it, but I still felt like I knew what he was saying. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go home and tell people about it.” –Jaime Warren
The first Jesuit Pope, and the first Pope from South America, Francis chose his name in homage to Saint Francis of Assisi. And like his namesake, Pope Francis focused his message upon the social teaching of the church. The message on Wednesday mainly concerned the nature of hope, or ‘speranza’. Where there is God’s love, there is always hope. And where there is hope, there is always the possibility of human redemption. Hope is what leads immigrants to search for a better life. And hope in our futures and our children’s futures is what should lead us to care for our natural environment. Hope is accordingly among our greatest gifts, which we should endeavor to cultivate among our neighbors throughout the world, with special concern for the poor and dispossessed.
Many of our students grabbed a prime place along the rail to view the Holy Father as he processed down a main aisle. Although his car did not stop, he did acknowledge several PC students as he was driven by, offering us the Sign of the Cross in blessing.
“Attending the Papal Audience was one of my most memorable experiences from my semester abroad thus far. Seeing Pope Francis ride through St. Peter’s square waving and smiling to people from all over the world was amazing! I loved that I was able to share this experience with other students from PC, it is truly something I will never forget!” — Kathryn Rosseel
Two students, Olivia Ferri and Michael Splann, even brought ‘Zucchetti’ to the Audience. These small hats worn by Cardinals and Popes are endearingly nicknamed such due to their alleged resemblance to a ‘zucca’ or pumpkin. The students had purchased them from none other than the famous “Ditta Annibale Gammarelli,” who have provided ecclesial clothing for Popes since Pope Pius VI in 1798 .
But with all the fun and excitement of this festival-like environment, we are reminded what it means to be Catholic. We are Providence College students and faculty, we are Friar Basketball fans, we are finance majors and history buffs and aspiring doctors and lawyers — we are a collection of individuals who work toward our individual goals and individual interests. But as Catholics, we are also members of a universal family: the Church. It is a church that knows no national borders and no divisions among those of different races, genders, or legal status: all are called to be united in the life of Christ. Joined by some 20,000 other human beings in this holy space — praying together in dozens of languages with Christians from dozens of countries — reminds of of who we are and what we really ought to be hopeful for.
Pope Francis’ message of ‘speranza’ is a hope for the peaceful unity of the entire human family.
Last Wednesday, 48 Providence College students participated in one of Rome’s most meaningful spiritual activities: the Papal Audience. To judge by the numbers on the tickets, we joined 20,000 Catholic and non-Catholics at St. Peter’s Square, between Bernini’s grand 284 columns, under some 140 statues of Saints, and in front of the most significant building […]MORE
A few days into the semester, I had recommended the students see the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Built upon the former Egyptian Temple of Isis – long mistakenly thought to be that of the Greco-Roman goddess Minerva – the church is the spiritual home of the Order of Preachers here in Rome. It was likely Christianized in the eighth century by Pope Zachary. Pope Alexander allowed the Friars to use it in the thirteenth-century, and by 1275 it became officially Domincan. In the 16th Century, the surrounding buildings came to house the College of St. Thomas Aquinas, then the forerunner of today’s Angelicum, which is named in honor of the “Doctor Angelicus” himself. In 1628, it was used as a tribunal for the Inquisition. It was where, in 1633, Galileo was convicted as being “vehemently suspect of heresy” for his non-Copernican worldview. And it houses the remains of two of the most historically significant Dominicans: the blessed Fra Angelico (1395-1455) and Doctor of the Church, St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1480).
For its centrality to Roman history, Christian history, and specifically the history of the Dominican Order, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is an absolute must-see for our students. Besides all this, it is one of the most beautiful churches anywhere in the world. With its deep lapis-colored ceiling dotted with stars, it is the last remaining Gothic Church in all of Rome. It showcases Michelangelo’s 1521 ‘Christ of Minerva’ and Bernini’s haunting 1647 memorial to Sister Maria Raggi.
A number of our students, taking the suggestion to attend Mass at Santa Maria, had a unique and irreproducible experience. I’ll let them tell the story in their own words.
Michael Splann: “My roommates and I walked about a half hour on one of the hottest days of the year to arrive at the gorgeous gothic basilica for their 11am mass in Italian (which proved to be less difficult than we thought it would be to follow along).
Matthew Branagan: “The outside façade is largely undecorated and could even be considered unnoticeable. However, we found that the interior was exciting and remarkable. We found our seats in the wooden pews, in silent awe of the majesty before us. The mass began and although it was completely in Italian [we were able to understand some of it]. After we were ready to leave, both Michael and Aiden both wanted to light a candle for a prayer in front of St. Catherine’s altar.
Aiden McGoldrick: “As I was saying a prayer at the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena after mass, the priest who had said the mass approached […] Mike and I. He began asking us questions such as where we were from and why we had attended his mass. We got to talking and he told us his name was Father Cassianderbes and was a Dominican priest at the church.”
Michael Splann: “He showed my roommates and me all around the basilica including a room in the back sacristy where St. Catherine died and he allowed us to go inside the enclosure to see the tomb up close.”
Charles McDonald: “Giving us some information, he told us that the tomb was only open one day a year (on her feast day I believe) and that the line to go inside would be incredibly long. After a brief pause he said, “So do you guys want to go in?” I cannot express how shocked we were at this incredible offer. We honestly thought he was joking. But lo and behold, Fr. Cassian got the key to her tomb and opened it up to let us in. Fitting about three at a time, we took turns saying prayers, taking pictures, and simply marveling at the opportunity we had just been given. Quite simply, it was one of those rare opportunities that we would simply never get if we stayed back at PC. It is a perfect example of an experience that I personally came to Rome in search of.
After seeing St. Catherine, Fr. Cassian then took us to the room in which she lived and died in. If going in her tomb was a once in a lifetime experience, going to that room must have been a once in 1,000 lifetimes experience. […] Between the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena and the room she had lived and died in was actually the church sacristy. It was at one point, the venue in which two separate popes were elected. I will never forget that as we first walked into the room Fr. Cassian pointed to a painting over the door and said, “That painting depicts pope Nicholas V being elected during the 15th century. Do you know where that was?” Shaking our heads no, he pointed to the opposite side of the room and proclaimed, “At that very spot”. And lo and behold, by comparing the painting to the spot he had referenced, it was clearly the spot Pope Nicholas had been elected. Personally, it was a powerful moment comparing that painting to the actual spot in the room. So often do we go to spots of great historical significance but to have that side-by-side comparison of what had happened and what is there now allowed us to really step into the past and vividly imagine a papal conclave occurring some 600 years ago.”
Matthew Branagan: “With utmost certainty, I can say that venerating Saint Catherine’s tomb was the most holy place I have ever been in my entire life. The experience was exceptionally humbling and I was reminded of Saint Catherine’s virtuous life. I contemplated her devotion to the faith and the intense majesty it inspired within me. The feeling of being in such a beautiful basilica combined with having the opportunity to praise St. Catherine still sends chills up my spine. The coincidence of running into a friar that knew one of us and that exact mass was nothing short of Providence. I still cannot believe that this event took place, but I know that I will be eternally grateful for such an incredible educational and spiritual event.”
Aiden McGoldrick: “For my friends and I to be given such an incredible and once in a lifetime personally guided tour is definitely one of the most memorable experiences that I think that I have had in Rome so far. I have never experienced anything like this back home. […] Everyday I am learning something new about the city and its history. Everyday I am learning more and more about the Catholic church itself in Rome. Everyday I am growing and learning something new about myself as a person. I am seeing all of these incredible things and it has changed me for the better.”
Charles McDonald: “I came to Rome to have a unique experience; one that I could never have staying in Providence, Rhode Island. Going inside of the tomb of St. Catherine, seeing where she lived and died, standing in a room in which two popes were elected, and seeing the visible effects of Napoleon are the types of experiences that I came in search of. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to go where I went and see what I saw because I know it was absolutely a once in a lifetime experience.”
Michael Splann: “Fr. Cassian and I have already met up again since then. The Dominican community is one of my favorite things about PC and is something I had thought I would miss coming here to Rome, which is why meeting Fr. Cassian that day gave me great hope. As I reflect on this experience on my first Sunday in Rome, I am reminded that it’s truly God’s “Providence” that has led me here to the Eternal City this semester and I look forward to encountering everything He has planned.”
Rome continues to surprise us. A few days into the semester, I had recommended the students see the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Built upon the former Egyptian Temple of Isis – long mistakenly thought to be that of the Greco-Roman goddess Minerva – the church is the spiritual home of the Order of […]MORE
“I think I’m just going to head home tonight.”
After the third day of Orientation at the CEA Center in Rome – and a whirlwind of information – that was a curious thing to hear. 46 PC Students had just said goodbye to families and friends, boarded planes with overstuffed luggage, and crossed an ocean. Filled with hope, filled with natural anxieties, they one-by-one entered their new lives for an academic semester in Rome. Finding their apartments, they would meet their roommates: a mix of old friends and new ones.
The next morning, they would find their new school at Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, 27.
They would order their first meals in bravely-attempted Italian and pay with their freshly-exchanged currencies. They would learn to jump breathlessly out of the way of speeding scooters and learn to grab tight to the straps of bumpy buses. And they would, exhausted but holding steady, take their first steps through the Eternal City.
The wondrous, the unfamiliar, the frustrating, and the unspeakably beautiful –all of this they would they would, just a few days later, refer to as ‘home’.
But what is ‘home’?
Certainly, it’s where one feels comforted after a long day. It’s where the familiar takes the place of the strange – where there’s safety and relaxation and much-welcomed serenity from the stresses of life. In the past, our students used ‘home’ mostly to describe their family house and their Providence College dorms. But those lie an ocean away now. The students are definitely finding Rome a very different kind of home. Rome doesn’t do peace and quiet. Her streets are hard and hot and demanding. For every familiarity, Rome offers a challenge. In place of ease, it offers the hectic. The mundane gives way to the extraordinary with every step. And it’s not just Rome. The students are learning that anything foreign requires our open-mindedness and patience. Anything new requires a constant willingness to learn. Anything difficult demands our intrepidity.
I won’t pretend it’s what the exhausted student meant when she said: “I think I’m just going to head home tonight.” I suspect she was simply tired. But for me, as their professor, I had to smile.
Home is where you grow up.
With this in mind I asked a few students what calling Rome ‘home’ meant to them. It was a general question that I left open to their own interpretation.
“After being in Rome for about a week now, my mom has asked me on multiple occasions if I am home sick. Maybe it’s the culture shock and jet lag talking, but no I’m not! Via Belli may not be my home forever but it sure does feel like home right now!” — Catherine Maguire
“There is a saying “home is where the heart is” but how do we ever know where our heart truly is? Does it come with being comfortable? Being happy? These next three months I hope I can find my home in Rome and hopefully Rome will always be a piece of my heart.” — Chris Campanelli
‘This past week has been a been a pretty significant adjustment for most of us: time change, weather, school, a new culture, a brand new city. It’s hard to not miss the familiarity of home once and awhile. For me, that is New Jersey and Providence College. Two homes. Two years ago I was sure that I could only have one place that really makes me feel at “home”, but when I got to PC that changed in a short matter of time. For some of us, Rome already feels like our new home. So while it definitely isn’t always easy being away from family and friends, I know that soon enough Rome will start to feel like a third home that I will miss in December.” — Kristen Gatens
“I think I’m just going to head home tonight.” After the third day of Orientation at the CEA Center in Rome – and a whirlwind of information – that was a curious thing to hear. 46 PC Students had just said goodbye to families and friends, boarded planes with overstuffed luggage, and crossed an ocean. […]MORE
Today is the official end of the CEA/PC in Rome Spring 2017 program. Students are packing their belongings, moving out of their apartments, and saying their final farewells. Most find it incredibly hard to believe that the semester is over…it seems like yesterday that everyone arrived filled with high hopes and expectations. Now it is time for some final reckonings.
The signature class for every PC student studying in Rome is The New Testament in the Eternal City. Every week Dr. Erik Walters balanced lecture, class discussion of the readings, and site visits that correlated with the topics and themes of this theology course. The last two site visits were on back-to-back Fridays, culminating with a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel and then a visit to St. Peter’s, including the scavi (excavations) beneath and, for those inclined, a climb up to the dome. These visits, along with the Papal Audience, are hallmarks of the class and connect our students intimately to Scripture and to the Catholic Church, past, present, and future.
Student have been engaged in a lot of finals these past two weeks. Those in the Prof. Alessandro Zanazzo’s Photography in Rome class exhibited the best of their works. This year, Dr. Alexandra Massini, the Academic Director, invited a professional photographer to join faculty and staff in judging the final works. The students have done incredible work on a range of subjects using a variety of techniques perfected over the course of the semester. We plan to host a exhibit of their photography at Providence College in the fall. These will include work from both semesters of the 2016/2017 PC in Rome academic year.
Immediately following the student photography exhibit, CEA and PC students celebrated the end of the semester at a farewell dinner with faculty and staff at Camillo B., a trattoria just around the corner from CEA near the Piazza Cavour. It was a bittersweet moment, filled with both laughter and some tears! I, and all of the faculty and staff here at CEA-Rome will miss them!
We wish all of our students best of luck in the future and hope that this experience has been transformative for them in the best sense of the word. I know that this is only the beginning of a lifetime of exploration. Until we meet again….a la prossima!
Thanks for tuning in! Go Friars!
Today is the official end of the CEA/PC in Rome Spring 2017 program. Students are packing their belongings, moving out of their apartments, and saying their final farewells. Most find it incredibly hard to believe that the semester is over…it seems like yesterday that everyone arrived filled with high hopes and expectations. Now it is […]MORE
Last semester 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 was filmed shortly after Pope Francis excommunicated Mafiosi and detailed some of the difficulties that local priests and parishes were having in carrying out the papal order; various Mafia groups ordered arson attacks, personal attacks, and even killed some courageous priests in retaliation. It was a remarkable documentary that intersected with Italian social history and church history.
This semester, students in Dr. Schwarten’s Social History of the Mafia class had a unique opportunity to attend an exhibit entitled “Just for Passion.” This exhibit at the MAXXI features the photographs of Letizia Battaglia, also known as the “Photographer of the Mafia.” Her portfolio of work is a photo-essay that vividly documents the crimes, murders, and desecration of life by members of the Mafia. But her corpus of work extends so far beyond that, chronicling also life in Sicily spanning a forty-year period. The black and white photos are stunning in their subject matter, their beauty, and provide a lens through which to see Sicilian life from all points of view–from the most powerful to the least politically significant. Battaglia was also a journalist and many of her photos served as the anchors for news reporting on Mafia crimes and the victims of Mafia violence. Click here to see some of her most well-known photos.
The site visit is in keeping with the mission of CEA and the PC-Rome program to use the city and its environs as a classroom. As a result of that excursion, students in the class had a visual, physical way to understand the social history of the Mafia. They will be expected to integrate the photos and commentaries by Battaglia into their analysis with other course readings and materials. Interestingly enough, on the following day, headlines in Italian newspapers reported that a bishop in Sicily had banned Mafiosi from acting as godfathers in baptisms or to be admitted to confirmation. If you are interested in seeing one of the news reports, click here. It seems that we have come full circle…
Last Friday, CEA and PC students also had a wonderful opportunity to take a day trip to the gardens of Ninfa, a Romantic landscape garden created in a unique micro climate about two hours outside of Rome. Ninfa was a thriving medieval town located on the Appian Way. Pope Alexander III was crowned there in 1159. The buildings in the town date back to the 9th and 10th centuries and have fallen into ruin. The gardens were designed to flow naturally around the ruins of of the medieval town, including a castle, several churches, town walls, and towers. It features flora from all over the world. Because it is a fragile ecosystem, visitors are only allowed infrequently and must follow strictly along a prescribed route. The trees were in full spring blossom and were beautifully reflected in the many streams, springs, and ponds that dot the 260 acre park. Ninfa is an Italian natural monument and is run by a private foundation created by the Caetani family (the original owners). After a truly idyllic time in what has been called “the most Romantic garden in the world,” we proceeded to a nearby vineyard outside of the hillside town of Cori. It was founded by Marco Carpineti and features organically grown grapes and olives.
There our guide explained the completely organic way in which the wines are produced. Some of the wines produced there are aged in clay vessels reflecting ancient wine-making traditions. Interestingly, they are topped with a plastic contraption that enables the gases of the wine to escape (see photo at right). Thanks to this device, the winemakers are also able to test the wine without having to open the entire jar. Our guide pointed out the device was based on one of Leondardo DaVinci’s designs. Our tour included lunch, featuring olive oil pressed at the vineyard and a wine-tasting.
The trip to Ninfa is one of the featured AICAP’s (Academic-Integrated Cultural Activity Program) required for students in the Photography, Environmental Ethics, and Food and Wine classes, but open to all. Once again, students enjoyed a field experience that related directly to their course readings and themes; or in the case of the Photography class, provided them with a unique opportunity to practice their natural light and landscape photography skills. Two of our professors who teach the mandatory Italian classes also accompanied our group…this really enhanced the experience since students had another chance to grow their Italian language skills.
These intersections between academic study and field experience are the essence of a truly authentic study abroad experience and is one of the strongest features of the CEA/PC-Rome program. It was a memorable experience for student and faculty alike. Thanks for tuning in! Go Friars!
Last semester 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 was filmed shortly after Pope Francis excommunicated Mafiosi and […]MORE
Students in my class on the US, Italy and the Cold War traveled to the outskirts of Rome today to a small peaceful hill town, Sant’Oreste. It is the site of the Soratte Bunker, envisioned by Mussolini as an underground city built into Monte Soratte to house up to 1000 people in the event of an attack on Rome during World War II–it later served as the command post for the German occupation army. There are some 14 kilometers of massive reinforced tunnels, most of which survive to this day. The bunker included workshops, communications centers, dining and residential halls, a hospital, a movie theater, and provided a host of other services. During the Cold War, NATO asked its member states to prepare for the possibility of a nuclear attack, and the Soratte Bunker was fortified and re-purposed to protect up to 100 people against thermonuclear attack or attacks using chemical and/or biological weapons. The Italian Prime Minister, members of the Italian cabinet, and a host of others would have sought shelter there in the event of an attack. The peace and beauty of the small towns and hills surrounding the bunker are strangely incongruent with the dark purposes of the structure itself.
The students in my class were all born years after the Cold War ended. They were toddlers when terrorists flew commercial airliners into the World Trade Center in 2001.
It is hard for them to understand or even visualize the reality of the Cold War, which has also been called the Age of Anxiety. As you can see in the photo above, the entrance to the complex is framed with the the words “percorso della memoria”–literally translated as the path of memory. For Europeans living especially during the 1960s and 1970s, the threat of a nuclear attack was very real. They were within easy reach of the intermediate-range missiles that had been developed by both the US and its adversary, the USSR. The volunteers who are working to preserve the Bunker and make it more accessible to students and the public see it as a visible reminder of the threat of nuclear annihilation that was a dark shadow on the landscape for decades–this was, after all, the era of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). For more photos of the bunker, click here.
The renewed tensions with North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs, wars in the Middle East, and tensions in the Ukraine, coupled with the specter of devastating climate change have recently advanced the doomsday clock by 2 and a half minutes. Ironically, technological advances have rendered the bunker and similar structures obsolete. The new neutron bombs do not destroy physical structures; they only wreak havoc on organic life…plants, animals, and humans. That, perhaps, was the most devastating scenario the students had to consider.
The passion and commitment of our guide. who is also the architect in charge of the entire project, was unmistakable. Every person needs to walk on the path of memory, if only to prevent history from repeating itself.
Thanks for tuning in. Go Friars!
Students in my class on the US, Italy and the Cold War traveled to the outskirts of Rome today to a small peaceful hill town, Sant’Oreste. It is the site of the Soratte Bunker, envisioned by Mussolini as an underground city built into Monte Soratte to house up to 1000 people in the event of […]MORE
Years ago a colleague of mine gave a lecture in a Development of Civilization class on the Romantic artists and their search for the sublime, focusing on the poetry of William Wordsworth and the landscapes of JMW Turner and John Constable. The concept incorporates the beauty, grandeur, and indeed the terror of the natural world and brings the human person into contact with the divine. At a more ordinary level, the sublime can be defined as beauty that inspires awe, reverence, or uplifting emotion. It is a beauty that transcends time or cultural difference and brings us close to something that is bigger than ourselves. This past weekend, PC and CEA students traveled to Venice on a weekend excursion. The tour included visits to the islands of Burano and Murano, and collectively, their beauty inspired our students with awe, wonder, and delight. The following photos highlight some of the moments of light and color….a Venetian version of the sublime.
Thanks for tuning in. Go Friars!
Years ago a colleague of mine gave a lecture in a Development of Civilization class on the Romantic artists and their search for the sublime, focusing on the poetry of William Wordsworth and the landscapes of JMW Turner and John Constable. The concept incorporates the beauty, grandeur, and indeed the terror of the natural world […]MORE
Overheard on a bus: “I wish PC didn’t count the courses that we take in Rome. Other programs don’t!”
The reality of study abroad is that it is different from being on campus back at home. Students are living in a city full of potential distractions. They live in apartment buildings with families and other working people, not in dorms. They share these apartments with both PC and CEA students from all over the US—from what I hear they are highly social spaces. The CEA has extended hours during the week and provides a quiet space for studying and working, but it is not the same as living on campus with more facilities open for longer hours. Our goal is not to relocate campus life from PC to Rome, but rather to immerse them as authentically as possible into Roman and Italian culture. This poses many challenges.
Students can either shop for food at local markets and then cook their meals (and clean up), or they can go to restaurants and cafes to eat. Either way, it takes more time than dropping in to the campus cafeteria for a quick bite to eat. They have to walk to campus or use public transportation which means they have to manage their time properly. Friends studying in other programs around Europe and friends and family from home often plan on visiting while students are studying here in Rome. The students eagerly anticipate these reunions with friends and families, but also find themselves challenged to find time to do academic work.
The CEA and PC programs take students on guided visits to other cities in Italy—Florence, Naples, and Venice this semester. The New Testament in the Eternal class, a required theology class for all PC students, takes students to the important churches and basilicas all around Rome as they trace the four evangelists and the early history of Christianity and the Catholic Church. Likewise, other elective courses, such as Angels and Demons, Photography, Food and Wine, and my own class on the US, Italy and the Cold War, take students to historical and cultural sites all around the city. It requires students to approach their studies differently, because they are expected to integrate their site visits into their analysis and with their readings and other course materials. For that, they also need time to reflect on their experiences and how they relate to one another and to course themes.
At the same time, students try to make the most of the opportunities for exploration because of Rome’s central location. Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest—all of these capitals call them! Naturally students travel as much as they can on weekends and during semester breaks. This means that many students are overtired, and for some, their studies have suffered. Last week was mid-term week. Most students had some combination of in-class or take home exams and other kinds of papers and projects due. Some students were chagrined to receive lower grades than they are used to receiving. Some freely admitted they had not dedicated enough time to their work. Others mentioned the difficulties of dealing with the special challenges of living in a foreign country. Although we warn students about these challenges during their orientation week, we remind them again that this is PC in Rome—the primary goal being to provide students with enhanced opportunities to study and learn, and especially using the entire city of Rome as part of their classroom. So, part of their personal learning experience during the rest of this semester is to better manage their time and their resources so that they can both enjoy Rome, Italy and Europe and continue to meet high academic standards.
We also encourage our students to stay in Rome and explore their city in greater depth. Everyone has had a chance to visit the Colosseum, the Forum, the Parthenon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps, many several times. For me, the best part of living in a foreign city is the great luxury of time—time to explore some of the hidden gems or less-well known neighborhoods and sites in and around Rome. For example, just a short bus or metro ride away is Ostia Antica, the ruins of the ancient port of Rome, a city that housed some 60,000 people, had numerous baths, bars, warehouses, and other public spaces. (See photo above) Visitors are allowed to roam freely through many of the ruins and enjoy the peace and quiet of this remarkable park. One of the smallest districts of the city is Quartiere Coppedè, described by Roming It, as a “hidden world of whimsical and strange beauty” and by others as “fantastical mix of Ancient Greek, Roman Barroque, Manieristic, Medieval, and, overall, Art Nouveau” inspired by the imagination of the architect Coppedè. This tiny neighborhood contains dozens of inimitable spaces. It’s enchanting.
On the first Sunday of each month, visitors can enjoy free entrance to the public museums of Rome. Students might explore the Capitoline Museum, designed by Michelangelo. The three buildings and their courtyards contain an incredible variety of priceless artworks, sculptures, jewelry and other objets d’art. It is where this charming fellow, Marforio, awaits. Marforio dates back to the 12th century and is one of the six “talking” statues in Rome. Students can visit him and countless other gems both at the Capitoline and at other museums around the city on the free Sundays.
PC and CEA students are headed to Venice this weekend; several of those students also have oral presentations in my class (Monday morning at 9:00am). We’ll see how well they balance work and leisure!
Thanks for tuning in! Go Friars!
Overheard on a bus: “I wish PC didn’t count the courses that we take in Rome. Other programs don’t!” The reality of study abroad is that it is different from being on campus back at home. Students are living in a city full of potential distractions. They live in apartment buildings with families and other […]MORE