As with last semester, the PC/CEA Program in Rome has been lucky to work with students from the Pontifical North American College. The purpose of our relationship is to help PC students along the path of their own spiritual journeys, in whatever form those may take. Some of their sponsored activities involve volunteering with local charities in Rome, weekly Bible study, and sometimes just having fun around town — the guys from the ‘PNAC’ seem to know all the best gelato joints in Rome! And one of the opportunities they provide is a day-trip to one of Italy’s many magnificent Holy Sites. Last semester, we venerated the tomb of St. Dominic in Bologna. And this semester, we went to Assisi to visit the Basilica of St. Francis.
Born in 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant, St. Francis’s youth in Assisi was marked by a carefree and notoriously rambunctious lifestyle. When Assisi went to an ill-advised war with Umbrian neighbor Perugia, Francis was captured and imprisoned. Due to his father’s wealth, he was ransomed and returned to Assisi, — with a very different outlook on life. After a dream of God, Francis was led to reflect on his life of material wealth and the meaning of a spiritual life. He spent years in happy poverty reflecting on his relationship with God, with others, and ultimately with himself. At the church of San Damiano, Francis heard Christ speak to him from the cross: “Francis, repair my Church!”
We started the day with a two-hour train ride from Rome to Assisi. The Umbrian town sits high atop Mt. Subasio, and so the train requires a subsequent bus ride up through the winding streets, through a layer of fog, and into a Medieval world of umber-colored buildings.
Our first stop was the Basilica itself. Built in 1228, the year Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX, it is the Mother Church of the Franciscan Order. Students were surprised to learn there are actually two churches on-site, an upper (completed 1253) and lower church (1230). The churches are decorated in Romanesque and Gothic style respectively by some of the best artists of the time, foremost among them Cimabue and his student, the proto-Renaissance master, Giotto. At a still lower level rest the holy remains of St. Francis himself, which were hidden within a crypt to prevent potential relic looters until their rediscovery in 1818.
But what historical details like this can’t prepare students for is the overwhelming feeling of the sacred that pilgrims feel in the presence of St. Francis’s earthly remains. It’s impossible to put into words that inner profundity of the genuinely sacred site.
After some time in quiet reflection, Fr. Brian, Deacon Vince, and Deacon Colin offered us a rare opportunity: a private mass at a small chapel within the Basilica’s ‘Sacra Convento’. Deacon Vince’s homily called us to reflect on the Gospel’s words and Francis’ life within a contemporary context.
After mass, we explored together the city, climbing its steep hills and working up a healthy appetite in preparation for a decidedly non-Franciscan feast!
After lunch, we made stops at the church of San Rufino, who was the first Patron Saint of Assisi before St. Francis, and also the church of St. Clare, which houses her remains.
Our final stop was located in Assisi’s ‘new town’, in the valley of Mt. Subasio: the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels. The basilica was built in the 16th Century in order to contain a sacred site of the Franciscans, the “Porziuncola”. This church-within-a-church was the very one Francis worked on when he heard Christ’s voice say: “Francis, repair my Church!” Francis had been given this poor little 9th century building as a gift from the Benedictines. Taking Christ’s words literally, Francis repaired the physical church before setting off upon his life’s work to repair the spiritual church. Today the Porziuncola serves as a reminder of Francis’ conversion and work especially on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. And it serves to call the millions of Christian pilgrims who visit Assisi each year to continue his work to ‘repair the church’ through their living communion.
As with last semester, the PC/CEA Program in Rome has been lucky to work with students from the Pontifical North American College. The purpose of our relationship is to help PC students along the path of their own spiritual journeys, in whatever form those may take. Some of their sponsored activities involve volunteering with local […]MORE
Guiseppe Verdi once wrote: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” Nowhere is this more true than the Tuscan city of Florence. The home of Dante, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Brunelleschi, Savanarola, Galileo, Botticelli, and Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’ di Medici — if Rome is the cradle of Western Civilization, then Firenze is its crown.
Along with their university colleagues from around the US, PC students in the CEA Rome program jumped on the speedy ‘Frecciarossa’ train for the 90-minute trip to Florence.
After checking into “Hotel California” (fortunately, not the same one from the Eagles song), students were given a brief orientation to the city and the schedule.
We started with a 2-hour city walking tour from the resident art history instructor at our sister institution, CEA Florence. Among the first highlights was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del fiore, better known as the ‘Duomo’. Begun in the late 1200s by Arnolfo di Cambio, its magisterial dome was finished by Filippo Brunelleschi only in 1436! But even after two hundred years of work, the church wasn’t finished: the famously colorful facade was only added in the 19th Century.
The group continued on through the winding streets, regaled with tales covering the Medieval birth of the city, its height during the reign of the Medici, and even the contemporary manifestation of the mafia.
As always with Florence, the highlight is art. While much of Florence’s beauty is contained within the walls of museums like the Bargello, the Uffizi, and the Accademia, students were surprised to learn that a number of masterpieces were open to the elements. At the side of the Palazzo Vecchio stands the Loggia dei Lanzi, which houses chief works by Giambologna and Cellini. And although a few students snapped shots of the statue outside the palace itself, they would have to wait for the real thing!
Of course, not all art is painting or sculpture. It can be argued that Italy’s greatest artist was its Florentine poet: the author of the Divina Comedia, Dante Alighieri. Scholars are relatively certain the church which still stands there today was the very one where Dante met the love of his life, Beatrice.
Less certain, however, is whether Dante ever lived in the building now known as the ‘Casa di Dante’. More likely, this Medieval building was preserved from the 19th Century on the grounds of a rather spurious claim to being the home of the poet. Similar house museums can be found in Florence for Michaelangelo, Cellini, and Galileo.
The last stop on the walking tour was maybe the most picturesque: the Ponte Vecchio. The double-storied bridge serves today as it did in the Renaissance: both as a scenic storefront of gold and jewelry merchants and the epicenter of youthful Italian romance. As our guide related, the bridge was very nearly destroyed by bombers in World War II. With every other crossing of the Arno river already destroyed, the legend at least goes that a German commander named Gerhard Wolf resisted orders to destroy the bridge, on the grounds that he could not destroy something so beautiful as the Ponte Vecchio.
After the walking tour, students were free to explore Florence on their own. From my conversations with them afterward, I think they made the most of the famous Tuscan cuisine: stewed boar pasta, ribolita soup, panzanella salad, bistecca alla fiorentina — and one brave student even ventured into true ‘foodie’ territory with a lampredotto sandwich! For the uninitiated, lampredotto is the fourth stomach of a cow…
The next morning brought somewhat more palatable delights. After breakfast, the group had their appointment with Michelangelo’s masterpiece: the David. So different from the Old Testament’s tale of the frightened young boy about to fight the giant Goliath, Michelangelo portrayed his figure as a man possessed of tranquil but penetratingly focused confidence, both mind and muscle tensed in readiness. As the story goes, David’s gaze was originally positioned to look toward the south. The message for his Renaissance was clear: Florence was the David to the Goliath of Rome. Though smaller, they were prepared to stand tall for their way of life. And in the end, little Florence conquered the cultural world.
One last meal after the museum, and it was soon time again for the train ride home. Once more, Providence College and CEA Rome reveals what incredible beauty and diversity our world’s culture has to offer.
Guiseppe Verdi once wrote: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” Nowhere is this more true than the Tuscan city of Florence. The home of Dante, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Brunelleschi, Savanarola, Galileo, Botticelli, and Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’ di Medici — if Rome is the cradle of Western Civilization, then Firenze is […]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
After a full day of travel and checking into their homes for the semester, orientation began this week organized by the capable staff at CEA-Rome. Late August in Rome tends to be hot and humid. Students are simultaneously dealing with the weather, jet lag, culture shock, excitement, and trepidation. For Abigail Post, (Marketing)the language barrier is the biggest challenge, while Brenna Farley, a Management major, sees acclimating to the culture and lifestyle that is so different from her routine at home as her greatest personal challenge. All of this is normal, and the staff at CEA are trained and experienced in helping students acclimate to their new surroundings, responding to their concerns, and insuring that students are safe and happy in order to make the most of their experience. This week, central Italy was stricken with a 6.2 earthquake that left entire towns in Umbria devastated. This highlighted the importance of precautionary measures the CEA and PC have in place when natural or man-made disasters occur. Luckily, no on in our group was harmed in any way, but it certainly underscored the importance of knowing where our students are and how to contact them (and their families) in the event of an emergency.
Some highlights of the first orientation day included a frank discussion by the CEA staff and an Italian police detective on how to stay safe. The first day also included neighborhood tours that incorporated many practical suggestions such how to read a bus sign and use bus passes, how to shop in a grocery store, and where to find ATM’s, post offices, and other services.
PC students live in apartments in the Prati neighborhood of Rome. Rather than living segregated in dorms, they live in buildings with Italian neighbors—in some ways, this immersion experience—taking out the garbage, walking to class, shopping in local markets, eating at local restaurants and cafes– can be one of the most transformative aspects of study abroad. These are learning experiences in and of themselves.
Several students identified becoming immersed in Italian culture as one of their “fondest hopes” for the upcoming semester. Chris Chiocco, a Finance major, hopes he will “come away with a proficiency along with a true appreciation of their culture,” while others expressed the hope they could become “cultural sponges.” Andrew McLaughlin hopes he will feel at home and not want to leave. As participants of the PC-Rome program, students are not just visitors; they become inhabitants of the local community. Long after they may have forgotten what they learned in a particular class, they will have vivid memories of their daily lives in Rome.
During our first PC orientation session, we reviewed many of the policies and procedures, recognizing that jet lag can be debilitating, particularly in the first few days. More importantly, I also asked students to identify their personal challenges and goals for this semester. Daintry Calnan, (Marketing) hopes she will be able to make the most of the opportunities, and “to learn more about myself.” Katlin Foster (Finance) aspires to enhance her “ability to communicate with many different people internationally.” Bridgette Clarke, a Theology major, hopes her study abroad will enhance her “love and knowledge of the Church’s history and provide me with insight and tools to continue to serve the Church later on in life.” Jennifer Dorn, an English and Theater Arts double major, hopes to “enhance my artistic and cultural knowledge and awareness.” Nicholas Sweeney (Finance and Management) hopes to learn more about foreign policies, and Jake Karas (Finance) aspires to enhance his understanding of the global economy.
During the next several months, we will, at our monthly meetings, PC Friday excursions, and other times together, ask them to be mindful of how their understanding of Italian and/or European culture has changed and grown, how their own sense of identity as Americans has developed, and finally how their personal sense of self has been changed as a result of their experiences, both academic and cultural.
Classes begin on Monday. Academic work in a foreign setting has its own sets of challenges.
A prossimo (Until the next time)
After a full day of travel and checking into their homes for the semester, orientation began this week organized by the capable staff at CEA-Rome. Late August in Rome tends to be hot and humid. Students are simultaneously dealing with the weather, jet lag, culture shock, excitement, and trepidation. For Abigail Post, (Marketing)the […]MORE
It’s hard to believe that the students and I have finished our four months in Rome. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This past week was final exam period and our lives were full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We enjoyed a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic semester last night and today most of the students are flying back home.
I like to say that “Rome is not a city, it’s a drug!” And all of us have become addicted! Already some of the students are planning a return trip to the Eternal City as soon as their bank accounts allow. The Italians believe that one way to assure a return to Rome is by throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. During the semester, all of us have thrown at least a few coins in that famous place.
For me, personally, this is more than just the end of another semester, but rather the end of my three year term as Faculty Resident Director here. I will be returning to the home campus in Providence after six wonderful semesters of having the blessing and the privilege of teaching Theology at the heart of the Church. Since the days of my doctoral studies in Rome at the Angelicum, I always dreamt of being able to teach in “the city of apostles, martyrs, and saints”. And these three years have been a dream come true.
During our last week together, I asked the students to share their thoughts about their experience with PC/CEA in Rome. I asked them to reflect on their time here in Rome and their experience of studying Theology. What they would say to a student back home who is considering studying abroad next year? What advice might they give to someone who was considering spending a semester in the Eternal City? Is there any reason why Rome should be the preferred place for studying Theology?
Here’s what some of them said:
“Rome might actually be the best place in the world to study theology, especially Catholic theology because of the historical and present relevance. You can’t go three blocks without passing some important church or site, with the biggest site, of course, being the Vatican.” Bryan Blum
“Studying theology in Rome is a unique experience because we have been able to learn not only from lectures and textbooks, but from the city itself. I have gained so much more insight about theology and also about my faith through the incredible sites that we have visited throughout the semester.” Alex Brady
“I think Rome is one of the most important places in the world to study theology. I have found that studying so close to the Vatican has given me so many opportunities to broaden my faith and learn more about Christianity than I ever could in a classroom in the states.” Abby Chave
“Rome is the ideal picture book to use to teach Catholics about the historical, political, and religious significance of their religion.” Caragh Corcoran
“The city of Rome is a visual theology in itself…” Lacey Sullivan
“Rome is the center for the theology of the Catholic religion and the heart of the Papacy. There is no better city to explore the beliefs of Catholicism than Rome…” Peter DiCenso
“The sites that we have visited this semester in the eternal city of Rome have brought theology to light in a whole new way that is unmatched by any other city.” Erin Wallace
“My experience of studying theology in Rome is much more than learning the history of the papacy or learning the different Christologies of the Gospels. Having the opportunity to study theology in Rome has brought me to a greater understanding of the values that Providence College stands for and how these values create such a strong sense of community.” Haley Grant McHugh
“Everyone knows that Rome is the center of the Catholic Church. However, it is not until you visit all the basilicas, catacombs, and historical sites firsthand while learning about the New Testament and its history that you truly understand what this entails. With every site you visit in Rome, you get a little better sense of the history and foundation of the Catholic Church and how it is still relevant in your life today.” Jamie Russo
“Rome holds the threshold of the apostles, over 500 churches, and an undeniable spiritual richness that attracts pilgrims worldwide. Studying in Rome and studying theology go hand in hand, complimenting each other in a way that allows the pilgrim to see both in a new and invaluable way, that has the potential to reshape from the inside out.” Alley Harbour
“The amount of Christian history that is available in our backyard is amazing… Rome is filled with historic sites that have shaped the foundations of Christianity. I would not want to study theology anywhere else.” Griffin Colpitts
“Studying theology in Rome is a fantastic opportunity because Rome is the center of the Catholic faith. There is no better way to learn about Peter, Paul, and their teachings on which the Church was built than doing so minutes from their burial sites.” Marco Scozzari
“To study theology in Rome has been truly an incredible experience. It has given me the opportunity to really learn about and understand my faith in an entirely new and enlightening way… through the visual theology we were so lucky to be able to witness on our weekly site visits here in Rome, the center of the Catholic faith.” Nick Berardi
“Studying prominent figures in the Bible has been an incredible learning experience, but there is definitely something special that happens when you get to see what you are learning come to life through the visual theology. Studying in Rome has enhanced my understanding of Theology because of our site-visits.” Paige Silengo
“I believe that it is important to study theology in Rome because of the rich spiritual history that lies deep in the roots of Roman history.” Grace King
“I really feel that there is no better place to learn about Christianity that here in Rome. In just about four months, we’ve visited so many locations that are important to Christianity. We’ve walked through the holy doors, gone to the Papal Audience, visited the basilicas of Peter and Paul, and seen some of the oldest frescoes including images of Mary and the infant Jesus. We would not have been to experience these things in any other country!” Gianna Luciano
“In college, it is easy to forget the foundations of your faith that you were taught when you were younger. Being in Rome and not only learning about the beginnings of Christianity, but also being able to see the places where they happened, or great churches erected in honor of saints and martyrs, it gives it such a deeper meaning.” Lilly Steeves
Student quotes like these – and many others in past Blogs during these six semesters – say more than I ever could in an executive summary or an administrative report about my time here. I’m convinced that the PC in Rome Program flows from the very heart of the Catholic, Dominican mission of the College. And each year student testimonies have confirmed that.
I would like to end my final Blog with one more quotation. It’s a well-known quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow concerning Rome and it expresses quite well my thoughts and feelings during my bittersweet departure from this beautiful city.
“There is the centre to which all gravitates.
One finds no rest elsewhere than here.
There may be other cities that please us for a while,
but Rome alone completely satisfies.
It becomes to all a second native land by predilection,
and not by accident of birth alone.”
It’s hard to believe that the students and I have finished our four months in Rome. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This past week was final exam period and our lives were full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We enjoyed a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic […]MORE
All of our day trips and Friday excursions have as their goal some sort of Italian cultural immersion. But this outing could have even been dubbed an “environmental immersion”. The Ninfa Gardens, declared a protected natural monument in 2000, include ruins of a medieval town, an English-style romantic garden, a 17th century hortus conclusus, a river, and a lake. The best time for viewing is the Spring with an extravaganza of blooming plants, flowers, and trees.
This day trip was part of the curriculum of the popular “Environmental Ethics” and “The History of the Culture of Food and Wine in Italy” classes offered to P.C. students this semester by CEA. Not a bad homework assignment!
Ninfa combines history, architecture, and nature. One of the internationally famous aspects of the Gardens is its micro-climate and rare eco-system due to its location between the two contrasting geological formations of the Pontine plain and the Lepini hills. It faces south and has at least four natural springs feeding the gardens with pure spring water and keeping the atmosphere temperate.
It is well known that Pope Francis has made environmental awareness part of his pontificate. His 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si, is a breakthrough in papal teaching concerning the common care of creation. In numerous speeches and press conferences the Pope has emphasized the moral dimensions of protecting the environment. Both the Environmental Ethics class and the Italian Food and Wine Culture class have considered this important document of Pope Francis.
Our tour of the Ninfa Gardens complex not only provided a wonderful Spring day experience of sights, sounds (over 150 types of birds!), and smells (so many flowers in bloom!), in anticipation of Earth Day next week, it also gave us a chance to think about Genesis and the human responsibility of the stewardship of creation.
Last week the Providence College in Rome program had an academic excursion to the famous Ninfa Gardens, a beautiful nature reserve south of Rome. All of our day trips and Friday excursions have as their goal some sort of Italian cultural immersion. But this outing could have even been dubbed an “environmental immersion”. The Ninfa Gardens, […]MORE
This week the P.C. in Rome program hosted the second academic colloquium of the Spring semester. Our topic was “Muslims in Europe: Immigration and Integration”. Academic colloquia are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to speak about their field, their recent research, and implications for current events.
Our distinguished speaker was Dr. Mustafa Cenap Aydin, director of the Tevere Institute for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue here in Rome. The title of his hour long presentation was “The Youngest Son of Abraham and/ of/ to Europe: Muslims in Europe between Immigration, Violence, and Dialogue”.
Currently he is a visiting fellow at the Institute for the Study of Philosophy, Politics, and Religion at the Wolfson College, in Cambridge, England. His remarks were the result of his current scholarship. He began with a discussion of the relationship between majority and minority religions in the history of Europe, tracing the emergence of Christianity and later Islam in Europe.
Dr. Aydin then unpacked the notions of citizenship and religion as well as how secularism has been defined in European history. He also stressed the definitions of “Islam(s) and Islamism(s)” suggesting that Islam is not monolithic either in its history or in its current manifestations.
Perhaps the most challenging part of his talk was about the growth of the modern nation state and realities of secular citizenship. That is, a model of citizenship wherein religion is not and cannot be expressed in the public sphere.
Through the use of historical and contemporary examples, Dr. Aydin outlined citizenship and religious identity issues facing Muslims in Europe. The discussion was helpful in giving our students a wider perspective, a cultural sensitivity, and a religious appreciation of what the European Union is facing in the re-emergence of Islam in its member states. “Identity politics” is a very hot topic, and one which the students can now understand, perhaps, on a much deeper level.
This week’s academic colloquium helped to raise the level of academic engagement among students and faculty. It’s experiences like this that help to ensure that our time here is not spent simply in “study tourism” but in “study abroad” – learning in the context of a culture and society that is different from our own.
This week the P.C. in Rome program hosted the second academic colloquium of the Spring semester. Our topic was “Muslims in Europe: Immigration and Integration”. Academic colloquia are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to […]MORE
This week the PC in Rome program had its first academic colloquium of the semester. These colloquia are organized a few times a semester by CEA and the PC Center for Theology and Religious Studies. They are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to speak about their field, their recent research, and implications for current events.
This semester it was decided to focus on the immigration crisis in the European Union. There is a course running at CEA this Spring called: “Immigration, Race, and Identity” and the professor, Dr. Volker Kaul, invited a colleague, Dr. Daniele Archibugi, to offer an academic colloquium on this challenging and controversial topic.
Dr. Archibugi is a research director at the Italian National Research Council in Rome and is affiliated with the Institute on Population and Social Policy. His work centers on the economics and policy of innovation and technological change and on the political theory of international relations.
Dr. Archibugi began his lecture tracing the history of the refugee crisis in Europe after the Second World War. The creation of the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention and its critera for seeking asylum and the principle of “non-refoulement” were the focus of his remarks. After this historical overview, he explained the current crisis in the E.U. and offered some observations on the obligations of the international community, the necessity of welfare and financial assistance, and the uneven burden of refugees across the various countries.
The lecture went on to unpack the challenges facing refugees including integration into the host society, problems of public order, unemployment, and aspirations of citizenship. He also explained the creation of new political parties in Europe specifically to close the borders to refugees and combat immigration.
His talk challenged the students with some thought provoking questions near the end: How do we distinguish economic migrants from refugees? How can benefits for immigrants be standardized across the E.U.? And, after one year, are these people still refugees?
The notion of “hospitality” was his final challenge. Yes, most E.U. citizens want to be hospitable to those seeking asylum for political, racial, and religious reasons. But, as a community of nations, the E. U. needs to decide how much of the burden is given to each country. A standardized system of “welcome and welfare” needs to be articulated for all countries.
After the lecture, I reminded some of the P.C. students that Pope Francis has spoken many times on the topic of refugees and immigration in his homilies, Angelus messages, and public speeches. In fact, just recently on Palm Sunday, during his homily, he departed from his prepared text to speak about this issue.
Diverting from his prepared remarks, the pope drew a parallel between Jesus being abandoned to his fate and European countries that are refusing to help the more than 1 million immigrants that have fled to Europe seeking refuge from persecution, war, and hunger in Iraq, Syria, and northern Africa.
Jesus was “denied every justice,” the pope said. “Jesus also suffered on his own skin indifference, because no one wanted to take on the responsibility for his destiny.” “I am thinking of so many other people, so many marginalized people, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees,” Francis said. “There are so many who don’t want to take responsibility for their destiny.”
“There they are, at the border, because so many doors and so many hearts are closed,” he said. “Today’s migrants suffer from the cold, without food, and with no way to enter. They don’t feel welcome.”
This week’s academic colloquium helped to raise the level of academic engagement among students and faculty. It’s experiences like this that help to ensure that our time here is not spent simply in “study tourism” but in “study abroad” – learning in the context of a culture and society that is different from our own.
This week the PC in Rome program had its first academic colloquium of the semester. These colloquia are organized a few times a semester by CEA and the PC Center for Theology and Religious Studies. They are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of […]MORE
Providence College was founded in 1917 by the Dominican Order. The Dominican Tradition has its origin in the life and ministry of St. Dominic de Guzman (1172 – 1221), the son of a Spanish noble, who founded one of the largest religious Orders in the Catholic Church. His charismatic vision of a way of responding to the needs of the Church in the thirteenth century led to the establishment of the Order of Preachers –popularly known as the Dominicans.
The Providence College in Rome program is rooted in and flows from the Catholic and Dominican mission of the College. The students are able to experience, in very tangible ways, the Dominican “ethos” and “narrative” while studying here in Rome.
One way this happens is by visiting the world headquarters of the Dominican Order at Santa Sabina. Santa Sabina basilica is the Mother Church of the Dominican Order and is located on top of one of the seven hills of Rome – the Aventine Hill.
This semester our tour was led by Fr. Michael Mascari, O.P. Currently, Fr. Mascari serves on the General Council of the Order and works closely with the Master General. His position is known as “Socius for the Intellectual Life”. He is also a former member of the Board of Trustees of Providence College.
Santa Sabina is a 5th century early Christian basilica built over the family home of St. Sabina. In the first century, the Aventine was the site of an affluent patrician neighborhood. It is thought that Sabina was the patroness of a “house church” which means that Christians met at her home for prayer, worship, and celebration of the Eucharist.
While explaining the art and architecture of this beautiful church, Fr. Mascari also wove in the story of Dominic, his foundation of the Order, and his experiences while living in Rome.
After exploring the basilica, we went inside the residence or “convent” of the Dominicans. This is where the cell of St. Dominic is located. Transformed into a chapel, this room of Dominic made a deep impression on the students. We said a prayer there together asking for Dominic’s help and inspiration.
Besides St. Dominic, there are other famous Dominicans who have lived at Santa Sabina. A plaque on the wall listing former residents offers a veritable “Who’s Who” of Dominican history. St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope St. Pius V all lived here at one time or another. We also saw St. Pius V’s cell, which has been turned into a chapel as well.
I think it’s important for our students to get a sense of the international character of the Dominican Order, its history, legacy, and mission in the Church today. Experiences like our tour of Santa Sabina should provide that. After all, a Friar is more than just a basketball mascot!
Providence College was founded in 1917 by the Dominican Order. The Dominican Tradition has its origin in the life and ministry of St. Dominic de Guzman (1172 – 1221), the son of a Spanish noble, who founded one of the largest religious Orders in the Catholic Church. His charismatic vision of a way of responding to […]MORE