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
It’s hard to believe that the students and I have been in Rome for nearly four months. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This week is final exam period and our lives are full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We’ll enjoy a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic semester and then start packing to go home. Advent has begun and the traditional Christmas market on Piazza Navona reminds us that the holidays are right around the corner. The grocery stores are selling Italian delicacies and sweets that are only available at this time of year and we’re wondering how much we can fit in our carry on luggage.
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. By now all of us have thrown at least a few coins in that famous place.
During our last week of classes, I asked the students what they will miss about Rome. Many of them said this was a difficult question since they would miss so much about our study abroad experience. Sights and sounds, people and places, foods and drinks were all on the list. Here’s what some of them said:
“I will miss many things about Rome when I leave. One thing will definitely be the food. I have been spoiled this semester and I don’t think any Italian food will ever taste the same. Another thing I will miss is walking or driving past such important places in history. It has become normal to see St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and other amazing places daily. This has been a wonderful semester and I will forever cherish all the memories I have made!” – Maureen Murphy
“I’m going to miss having all of Europe (and their food), all of the historical sites, and so many different and great experiences at my fingertips! I appreciate it all in the moment, but once we’re gone, we’re definitely going to wish we were back!” – Lauren McNulty
“I am absolutely going to miss the amazing food and gelato!” – Chris DiPisa
“Although I will certainly miss all the different aspects of Roman culture, I honestly will miss the food, like street pizza and gelato, the most!” – Rachel Mano
“I will miss being able to eat the most unbelievable food on a daily basis!” – Joe Kirpas
“I will definitely miss the great food and gelato throughout the city”. -Mike Boland
“What I will miss about Rome: Sitting in a café, sipping on a macchiato, reading a good book and people watching- living fully in that present moment of time.” – Lauren Hoover
“I am going to miss the friends I made on this trip!” – Melissa Perleoni
“I am going to miss exploring all that Rome has to offer with my amazing roommates!” – Ali Pappano
“What I’ll miss most about Rome is its timelessness. I’ll miss seeing Roman ruins and to 20th Century Monuments. A church from the 4th century here, one from the 16th there. The bones of the first pope beneath St. Peter’s and the 266th pope inspiring thousands in the Square. They don’t call Rome the Eternal City for nothing.” -Joe Day
“What I will miss about Rome: I’m going to miss the simplicity of life: I love not being attached to my phone, constantly checking Facebook or texting, it forced me to actually look around when I’m walking and to have conversations with people, allowing me to make truer friendships than I ever have before. The Italians have forced me to slow down and realize how many hours I actually have each day and realize I can even make two days out of one.” – Elizabeth Ward
Arrivederci Roma! Go Friars!
It’s hard to believe that the students and I have been in Rome for nearly four months. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This week is final exam period and our lives are full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We’ll enjoy a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic […]MORE
Why Study Abroad? Why Study in Rome?
This week the students and I had a chance to discuss how the program is going and how to get the most out of the relatively short time we have left in Rome. I asked them 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 “on the fence” concerning their decision to leave campus and spend a semester in a foreign country? Lastly, I asked them why, specifically, a Providence College student should study in Rome. Is there anything about their experience here that has convinced them that Rome should be the “preferred destination” for P.C. students. Here’s what they said:
“I would definitely recommend studying abroad to anyone who has even the slightest interest in it. As someone who has wanted to study abroad ever since freshman year of high school, I definitely knew I was headed to Europe, the question just became where. Choosing Rome was actually much easier than I expected the decision to be – PC connection, being able to see the Ancient Roman Forum with a quick 15 minute Metro trip (Classics minor wins), seeing Pope Francis with greater ease than catching the bus after a Friar basketball game. What more do you need? Rome is a city that would take years to uncover everything it has to offer, but the program acknowledges this and helps students see as much of the city as they can through different site visits – New Testament in the Eternal City, the required PC course, alone brings us somewhere new every week. I wouldn’t change my decision for anything; my parents are going to have a difficult time making me get on the plane in December to go home.” – Elizabeth Ward
“Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity that many people are not lucky enough to experience. That being said, if you are given the chance to study abroad it simply cannot be passed up! Before this semester I had never been to Europe and I have now seen things I never even knew existed! Studying in Rome has been ideal for me as it is in a great location with amazing weather, food, history and thousands of things to see! There truly is never dull moment in this city. I have gained a new appreciation for theology and as a Providence College student this is something that I was hoping for. I will never forget a day I have spent here in Rome and I would recommend everyone give it a chance!” – Briana Reynolds
“Studying Abroad is an incredible experience that cannot be fulfilled in the classroom. Rome is a city with a boundless amount of history and sites that are especially relative to the Providence College curriculum, you will need more than just one weekend to enjoy it.” – Jason De Nicola
“The ancient city of Rome itself is an education. Walking along the streets you can encounter thousands of years worth of western
history and appreciate the importance of Rome to Western Civilization. The Italian culture is vastly different from our own but it is a warm and welcoming one that encourages students to learn about the history, the culture and the language of Italy. PC students will especially benefit from studying abroad in Rome due to the education of DWC. Coupled with this vast wealth of knowledge about the history of Western Civilization and learning about its culture today, the CEA/ Providence College program opens doors to perspective PC study abroad students. You also can fulfill both of your Theology cores in the city that houses the capital of the Catholic world. With several sites to
see, both ancient and new, and new people to encounter and learn from, the CEA/ Providence College study abroad program in Rome is the perfect opportunity to put your DWC education to use and to experience a completely different but interesting culture. It is by far the most historic rooted city in western Europe but also among the most modern. Rome is home to Western Civilization and will continue your learning experience at Providence College.” – Zachary Keefe
“Studying abroad made me fall in love with life. Studying abroad in Rome was the perfect location because it has the most history and spending 4 months here makes it possible to see most of it.” – Melissa Perleoni
“I never traveled growing up, but there is so much to learn and experience through traveling the world. Most likely, most people will never get another opportunity to live for 3 months and have it be included in tuition. It helps people grow, in maturity and intellectually, and widens perspectives. Try experiencing Rome in a weekend. I dare you. There is so much to do and to see in Rome, and it is so different than any American or Americanized European city. Apart from that, the program takes us on site visits and we don’t take our theology core here- we experience the study of theology here. It’s amazing to see the things we learned in Civ come alive. Our program is small and really cares about our experience in Rome, so they make sure we really get to experience all that Rome has to offer.”- Lauren McNulty
“If you have the opportunity to study abroad, absolutely take advantage! Not only have I learned so much about other cultures but I have become so much more independent being on my own. There are so many unbelievable places to see especially since I am a Catholic. Lastly, and certainly not least, the food is unbelievable as well as the gelato.” – Chris DiPisa
“Rome is a bottomless trove of faith, history, art, culture, food, etc. I’ve been here for about two months, seen more than I knew existed, and still have witnessed only a fraction the treasures of the Eternal City.” – Lauren Janik
“Studying abroad opens the door to so many opportunities that simply cannot be experienced by staying at Providence College. Rome specifically has so much to offer with numerous churches, museums, monuments, and historical landmarks. Not to mention, it is so interesting to be immersed in Italian culture by interacting with locals, learning the Italian language, and of course, experiencing the most delicious food in the world.” -Ali Pappano
“Studying abroad is a great opportunity to learn outside of the classroom in a new environment with cultures and beliefs that differ from those in the US. Rome is a great place to study because it has a rich history, it is the center of the Christian religion, and well the food and gelato are to die for. If I could do it again I don’t think I would change a thing.” -Michael Boland
“Throughout this semester, I have been fortunate enough to travel to thirteen different countries across Europe and, as a person who had never left the U.S. before studying abroad, I can say the experiences I’ve had while traveling have been the greatest experiences of my life. I highly recommend studying in Rome because, like Europe, the Eternal City has an endless amount of sights and attractions to visit during your semester abroad.” -Joe Kirpas
“If you have not considered studying abroad, you definitely should! It is a great way to experience different cultures and to open up your world to a whole new set of values and traditions! Rome, in particular, is full of so much history that you really feel connected to a whole new world!” – Rachel Mano
“Although it is hard to take a semester off from PC, Studying Abroad is well worth it. The opportunity to live in another country, to immerse yourself in a different culture is an invaluable experience. There is nothing like living in Rome. No city is so appropriate for PC students who have taken Civ. You can see first hand so much of the art, architecture and history that you learned about. You can walk down the street and stumble upon beautiful church after beautiful church or a Bernini fountain. You can visit the tombs of martyrs like Paul and Peter and then see their successor, the pope!” – Joe Day
“Study abroad lets you learn so much more than you ever could in a class. You definitely develop a different perspective of the world, and it lets you see how other people and cultures do things differently than we Americans do. Rome is the ideal place to study because it is a very European city. It is distinct and unlike anything another city you can find in America. While all European cities are spectacular, some northern European cities are in some ways similar to American cities. Rome definitely is not. Its amazing to see all the old ancient and medieval buildings, most of which are still in use, and eventually you realize just how old the city is compared to the things we consider ‘old’ in America.” -Dan Gagnon
Why Study Abroad? Why Study in Rome? This week the students and I had a chance to discuss how the program is going and how to get the most out of the relatively short time we have left in Rome. I asked them what they would say to a student back home who is considering […]MORE
This past week we enjoyed a surprise visit from Fr. Ken Sicard, O.P., the Executive Vice President of Providence College. Fr. Ken was in town for meetings of the Economic Council of the worldwide Dominican Order. He stopped in to the PC/CEA Center to see the new premises, greet students, and get to know our Rome Program better.
The students really appreciated the fact that Fr. Ken took the time to visit. They were able to share with him the good things that have been happening here this semester and to learn about how things are going back home on campus. Indeed, his visit helped all of us to feel connected to Providence. Having a Dominican visit our Rome Program highlights the Dominican identity of Providence College.
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.
One of my priorities this year as Faculty Resident Director is to look for ways to enhance the Dominican Mission of our Program here. Exploring the Dominican charism through publications, conference papers, and keynote addresses around the country has been part of my academic pursuit since being hired at Providence College. And so my time in Rome has given me the opportunity to introduce our students to the Dominican tradition in very direct and tangible ways. In addition to bringing the students for a tour of Santa Sabina, the international headquarters of the Order, as was done in the last two semesters of PC Rome, I’ve been working on expanding our “Dominican-related activities”. To that end, here’s what I’ve done:
Our Academic Colloquium in October was given by Fr. Alejandro Crosthwaite, O.P. from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).
Last week, Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P., a doctoral student in Canon Law at the Angelicum, led us on a Site Visit of St. Peter’s Basilica.
And on Sunday, Fr. Dominic Izzo, O.P., Socius for the USA, celebrated a Mass with us in the Cell of St. Dominic at Santa Sabina.
In November, Fr. Michael Mascari, O.P., Socius for the Intellectual Life of the Order, will lead an extensive Site Visit of the Basilica and Convent of Santa Sabina for our Program.
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. These experiences should provide that. After all, a Friar is more than just a basketball mascot!
This past week we enjoyed a surprise visit from Fr. Ken Sicard, O.P., the Executive Vice President of Providence College. Fr. Ken was in town for meetings of the Economic Council of the worldwide Dominican Order. He stopped in to the PC/CEA Center to see the new premises, greet students, and get to know our […]MORE
October 16, 2013 is a day that Joe Day (’15) will never forget. The PC in Rome Program attended the weekly Papal Audience with Pope Francis. We were thrilled when “Providence College” was officially welcomed over the loud speakers in the list of English-speaking pilgrim groups. But we never imagined what would come during the Pope’s drive around the Square.
Our student, Joe Day (’15), brought a zucchetto for Pope Francis (the white skull cap he wears). Inside the hat was a note saying “Providence College loves Pope Francis”. The Pope put it on his head and said “It’s too big!” Then he handed the hat back to Joe. This gesture of “exchanging hats” has become popular at the Papal Audience. So, Joe Day decided he’d like to try it. And since we were sitting on the aisle it worked!
Here’s how Joe described the experience:
“It is a tradition in the Church that some pilgrims bring a white zucchetto (skull cap) to present to the Pope at his audiences. The Pope either exchanges zucchetti or places the pilgrim’s on his head for a moment before returning it. I had heard of this custom shortly before leaving for Rome and have had the opportunity to see it performed several times. It used to be the case that the Pope would only exchange zucchetti in private audiences. Swaps during general audiences weren’t all that common under Benedict XVI and John Paul II, probably in part due to the use of an enclosed, bulletproof Popemobile which was used after the assassination attempt on John Paul II. Pope Francis does not use the bulletproof Popemobile, making him more accessible to the crowds. Because of this I mentioned to some other PC students my idea of getting a zucchetto for Papa Francesco. On Wednesday morning we arrived at St. Peter’s at 6:00AM and waited in line until the square opened at 7:30. We had scoped out some prime real estate in the front right section of seating by the central pathway leading from the Obelisk to the steps of the Basilica. What we didn’t know was that the Swiss Guards were going to line that pathway with those in wheelchairs. This acted to our advantage. Around 9:50 Pope Francis entered the Square and drove around it, kissing babies, smiling, and waving. Near the end, he came down the pathway in front of us. We were all ecstatic with the excitement of being so close to our Papa. We all leaned over the barricade as he slowing (because of the wheelchairs) drove towards us. To be honest, I can’t really remember what happened next. It was all such a blur filled with so much emotion, so much joy. But according to what everyone else remembers this is what happened. I stood on my chair reaching as far as I could with the zucchetto as I yelled, “Papa, Papa!” As he approached us he signaled for the driver to stop. Smiling at us he reached out, taking the zucchetto from me and brushing my hand. Still smiling he looked down at it and the note we had placed in it, which read “Providence College Loves Papa Francesco” with our names signed beneath it. Looking up at us he said, “Providence College” and then, always smiling” measured our zucchetto and his. With his characteristic simplicity, he said in Italian, “Its too big.” He then placed the zucchetto on his head for a moment, closed his eyes and said a prayer before handing it back to us with a smile and wave! Words cannot describe what it was like to be so close to the successor of St. Peter, to touch his hand, to have him speak to me, to have him take and wear that zucchetto for a moment before returning it as a gift, blessed for us. My hands didn’t stop shaking for hours! I spent the rest of the audience in a dazed state of joy, cradling the zucchetto in my lap. It was a blessing and a gift, a grace that will remain with me always: my moment with the Pope!”
October 16, 2013 is a day that Joe Day (’15) will never forget. The PC in Rome Program attended the weekly Papal Audience with Pope Francis. We were thrilled when “Providence College” was officially welcomed over the loud speakers in the list of English-speaking pilgrim groups. But we never imagined what would come during the Pope’s […]MORE
This past week, the PC/CEA Rome Program offered its second Academic Colloquium. Besides taking classes, going on site visits, and participating in cultural experiences in Italy, our students also attend Academic Colloquia each month.
According to CEA Assistant Academic Dean, Marcello Di Paola, “the Colloquium is an opportunity for students, faculty, and guests to engage in high-quality academic exchange, confronting one another in the framework of constructive dialogue.”
This month’s Colloquium was sponsored by Providence College. I invited Fr. Alejandro Crosthwaite, O.P., from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, (Angelicum) to be our guest lecturer. In this way we could introduce the other CEA students to the Dominican mission of P.C. and give them a taste of the theology of Thomas Aquinas. Fr. Alejandro is Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and an associate professor of Catholic Social Teaching, Social and Political Ethics, and Media Studies. He also serves as Public Relations officer of the Angelicum.
The lecture was entitled: “The Question of Good and Evil in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy“. His presentation used philosophy, theology, and film studies to explore the problem of good and evil. He began by asking the students if we are born basically good or basically bad. Then he launched into a survey of how major philosophers like Rousseau, Hobbes, and others have understood human nature. (Lots of DWC references here!) Then he analyzed the recent “Batman films” by Christopher Nolan. Using images and quotes from the films, he pieced together Nolan’s views about good, evil, and the human condition.
After discussing the philosophical views of human nature as well as the Batman films, Fr. Alejandro ended with the Catholic view. He offered a summary of Aquinas’ view of human nature and a beautiful description of our salvation in Christ.
The question and answer period was a robust conversation since not everyone was convinced by the account of “good and evil” given by Aquinas. Then the real fun began! Fr. Alejandro was more than adept at answering objections and giving further explanations with real life references and down-to-earth examples. We ended by talking about the media stir concerning Pope Francis’ references to human conscience in his recent interview in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica.
All in all, the Colloquium helped to “keep the study in study abroad” – which has been one of our mottos here this Fall semester. Keeping the kind of academic integrity that Providence College expects and requires is a constant focus of our programming. And this month’s Colloquium went a long way to help promote the tradition, passion, and promise of P.C.
This past week, the PC/CEA Rome Program offered its second Academic Colloquium. Besides taking classes, going on site visits, and participating in cultural experiences in Italy, our students also attend Academic Colloquia each month. These public lectures bring together all of the CEA students, who number close to 70 this semester. […]MORE
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says: “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” (15:5). Recently, the Providence College Rome study abroad students got a first hand experience of this rich Gospel metaphor.
The CEA Rome Staff organized a day trip outside of Rome for our students to see how wine is produced in Italy. Part of an extensive calendar of student life events, this “Friday fun” excursion was a great example of the importance of cultural immersion for American students in Italy.
Travelling about 90 minutes north of Rome, our group was taken to Tuscia, in Northern Lazio, close to Viterbo. There they visited a working vineyard. Since it is now harvest time for grapes, the students had an opportunity not only to hear a talk on wine making – while standing among the vines themselves – but also to pick some grapes. (Bushel baskets full of grapes in fact!)
Student life activities this semester include events such as “Climbing the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica”, a “Gelato and Pizza Crawl”, “A Bike Ride down the Via Appia Antica”, and “Roman Neighborhood Walking Tours”. These organized events are included in the Providence College tuition and coordinated by the CEA staff here to offer our students more than just the “classroom experience” of Study Abroad.
After the grapes were picked amidst much laughter, frivolity, and “farmhand fun”, the students were served a gorgeous luncheon at a nearby Agriturismo.
The Agriturismo Giulia di Gallese is a beautiful spot that overlooks the medieval town of Tuscia.
Besides vineyards, the area is also known for its oil and nuts or nocciole. These nocciole, in fact, are used to make the incredibly popular Nutella that we eat so much of here in Italy. The hosts served a “slow food” pranzo which included only food that was grown locally. Of course, the students also had a chance to taste the local wine produced from the same vines where they had picked grapes in the morning.
By “hands on” learning about the legacy, atmosphere, and life of agriculture in Italy, our students were able to immerse themselves in Italian culture in a very unique way. Viva Italia!
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says: “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” (15:5). Recently, the Providence College Rome study abroad students got a first hand experience of this rich Gospel metaphor. The CEA Rome Staff organized a day trip outside of Rome for our students to see how wine is produced in Italy. […]MORE
Recently, we have been learning about the apostolic foundations of the Church and the New Testament. The Gospels that we have been studying these past weeks all have their roots in the preaching of the apostles. Their witness, oral testimonies, and martyrdoms are the earliest legacy of the Church we know today. And studying in Rome gives us the chance to get to know the two “chief apostles”, Peter and Paul, in a special way.
One of the earliest titles for the Bishop of Rome is “the successor of Peter and Paul”. This early title is a concrete expression of the spiritual presence of these two apostles who “founded” the Church at Rome by the word of their testimony and the shedding of their blood. The current successor to Peter and Paul, is, of course, the beloved Pope Francis. All sorts of attendance records at papal events have been broken through his popularity – especially among the Italians themselves. His direct, simple, language and down-to-earth gestures and examples have inspired tens of thousands to flock to his Wednesday Audiences, Sunday Angelus, and other outdoor functions.
Last week, a delegation of Providence College students were among the huge crowd for the Wednesday Audience.
Attending a Wednesday Audience is a very unique experience. Although open to all, you do need a ticket if you want a seat. Tickets are free, but you must show up very early to get inside the Square since it’s open seating. The Audience begins with the Pope riding in his “Popemobile” around the Square to be close to the people. Pope Francis has the custom of making several passes through the Square so that as many people as possible can see him up close. Our P.C. delegation got up early so that they could get seats near the aisle where his Popemobile would pass.
The Audience consists of prayers, Bible readings, a short talk by the Pope, and then greetings and blessings to all who are present, in several languages. At the final Blessing, the Pope also blesses any medals, rosaries, or other mementos that those present have brought for his Blessing.
Here are some their reflections and impressions:
Lauren McNulty (’15)“It was amazing that we were able to attend the Papal Audience this week. We knew we wanted barrier seats, so we could be close to the Pope when he came around, and that we did- in addition to being in the 7th row. Seeing him and hearing what he had to say was not only relatable, but inspiring. I find it very fitting that Pope Benedict XVI declared the “Year of Faith” before he announced his retirement, and Pope Francis was definitely the right person to replace him, especially at the right time. His efforts to engage the world and welcome others back into the church have been inspirational, and hearing his words live from him make that very evident. It was amazing to see St. Peters Square packed with pilgrims, visitors, etc. to listen to him speak. The crowd was excited and lively, and it was great to see that much excitement over the Pope in person. It was truly an amazing experience.”Joseph Day (’15) even delivered a letter to the Pope!“St. Peter’s was filled with pilgrims from all over the world, all brimming with an excitement and joy that Pope Francis mirrored. He was all smiles as he waved to the crowds and kissed innumerable babies. We were right up against the barrier, just a few feet from him when he passed by. He looked at us and smiled at us. I was able to give, through a one of his guards, a letter that I’d written him. It was a moment of so much joy for us and for everyone there. It reminded me again of how the Church is a place of joy.”
Dan Gagnon (’15) was impressed by the universality of the Church present:“The Papal audience was one of the best experiences I’ve had since being in Rome. We arrived very early and got seats in the front corner of the audience so that we would be able to be close to the action. Hearing the priests translate the Pope’s speech into so many different languages was a definite reminder of how people came from so many countries just to be present there at St. Peter’s.”
Recently, we have been learning about the apostolic foundations of the Church and the New Testament. The Gospels that we have been studying these past weeks all have their roots in the preaching of the apostles. Their witness, oral testimonies, and martyrdoms are the earliest legacy of the Church we know today. And […]MORE
Our second site visit was the famous Roman Forum. The format of our course, The New Testament in the Eternal City, includes not only classroom lectures but also site visits each week. More than simply “fun field trips”, these site visits are an integral part of the academic component of our study abroad program. Each week the site is to be integrated with the content of the classroom lecture. And while we’re on site, there is even more academic input from me and the occasional guide who leads us. So, pens, notebooks and course texts are not left behind! Instead, the site itself becomes both our classroom and the focus of our study – our “text”.
Our lecture was on the Roman context of early Christianity and our trip to the Roman Forum gave us a feel for what it was like to live, work, shop, participate in politics, and pray in ancient Rome. The basilicas, government buildings, temples, and areas of commerce included in the Forum helped us to understand how it functioned as the political, religious, and social center of ancient Rome.
Haley Bryan (’15) had this reaction to our trip to the Forum:
“The trip to the Roman Forum yesterday showed me how “ancient” Rome really is. It’s unbelievable these ruins from the most powerful empire still remain more than two thousand years later. The politics of the Roman Empire all happened here.”
Elizabeth Ward (’15) said: “I greatly enjoyed visiting the Roman Forum. It is fascinating to walk along the same streets that were once inhabited by Caesar, Cicero, and so many other greats that we have learned about in history classes. I love being able to see how much of today’s world is taken from structures and practices of the Ancient World. Rome continues to surprise me with each turn; one moment you’re riding on the 21st century Metro and then the next you’re walking among ruins from the age before Christ.”
Hearing the story of the assassination of Julius Caesar and seeing the spot in the Forum where his body was cremated struck Alissa Pappano (’15): “I thought the most exciting part of the Roman Forum was viewing the site of the ashes of Julius Caesar. It was interesting to learn that his was one of the first cases of a burial within the city of Rome.”
Another University of San Diego student, Danielle Brasher (’15), simply stated: “The
forum was an incredible glimpse at what life was like thousands of years
Our second site visit was the famous Roman Forum. The format of our course, The New Testament in the Eternal City, includes not only classroom lectures but also site visits each week. More than simply “fun field trips”, these site visits are an integral part of the academic component of our study abroad program. […]MORE
On Saturday, September 7th, Pope Francis invited the world to pray for peace. His focus was on Syria, of course, but also included the Middle east and other places of conflict. The day of prayer and fasting ended with a four hour prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. Among the estimated 100,00 participants, there was a delegation of Providence College students from the PC/ CEA Rome Study Abroad Program.
One PC student, Joseph Day (’15), was even interviewed by the international agency, Catholic News Service:
“A gathering called by the pope is also more potent than a locally-organized demonstration in a city center, said Joseph Day, a student from Rehoboth, Mass., studying in Rome.
The pope is “the leader of more than 1 billion Catholics who live in all nations, including those wanting to go to war. They will have an effect on people in those countries and I hope and think they will have an effect on politicians, too,” said Day, who was sporting a grey T-shirt emblazoned with “Pope Benedict XVI” on the back — a souvenir from the retired pope’s 2008 visit to the United States.
“Prayer is very powerful, it can do all things,” he said. If God is there when just two or three people gather together in his name, then having thousands in Rome and thousands more worldwide gathering in his name “will make a very effective prayer,” he said.
In his Homily, Pope Francis said that war is always a defeat for humanity. Instead, he urged the path of forgiveness, dialogue, and reconciliation.
“May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one against the other, no more, never! … war never again, never again war!” (Address to the United Nations, 1965). “Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love” (World Day of Peace Message, 1975). Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! So may it be.” – Homily Sept. 7th.
Lauren Janik (’15) also attended the Vigil and offered these reflections :
“On Saturday, I joined Pope Francis, tens of thousands of people in St.
Peter’s Square, and hundreds of thousands around the would in praying for
peace, especially in Syria and the Middle East. The peace Pope Francis
spoke of is not a fluffy happy feeling that we hope will radiate from the
square. It is a concrete peace – one that must start in each of our hearts,
then in our families, then among those we interact with every day. Only
then can we expect to have peace in the world. The vigil stood as a
witness and testament to this peace, as well as another concrete way of
achieving it – through prayer. Pope Francis led us in asking Mary, Queen
of Peace, for her intercession and praying the Rosary. He gave an
address, and then joined in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Office of
Readings, and led Benediction.”
Zachary Keefe (’15) expressed his experience at the Vigil in this way:
“It was simply a wonderful occasion to hear the words of Pope Francis for peace in Syria. Gathered in St. Peter’s Square, you gained a sense of the power of prayer and assembly for a just cause. By the end of the Vigil, I left hoping that Syria heard our prayers and can resolve its civil war quickly and peacefully.”
On Saturday, September 7th, Pope Francis invited the world to pray for peace. His focus was on Syria, of course, but also included the Middle east and other places of conflict. The day of prayer and fasting ended with a four hour prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. Among the estimated 100,00 participants, there was […]MORE