domenica, novembre 27, 2005

At Rome's Opera House Several weeks ago

This is just way too cool not to put up. From the opera house. I just wish blogger would let it be a little bigger. (Courtesy of Danni Ampi)

From the ballet several weeks ago at the opera house.

sabato, novembre 26, 2005

Vespers with il Papa on the eve of the Catholic New Year.

Vespers with il Papa. See if you can find Julian. He's there. Oh yes, and Monica, though you'd have to really know that blond head of hers to pick it out.

Il papa.

Both Kaitlyn McCarthy and Adam Wilson can make the enviable claim that they have been the first of all of us to come close enough to, and to actually touch Benedict XVI. Ask them about it. I'm sure they'll be more than willing to do so.

St. Pete's Piazza earlier tonight. I love that place.

mercoledì, novembre 23, 2005

The Meaning of Mountains

The Meaning of Mountains

By Romulus

Sometimes it seems to me this pilgrimage has been nothing more than a seeking after the tallest peaks and the most fantastic panoramas.

In looking back I see that so far I have conquered four of the tallest peaks surrounding Assisi. In Valdobbiadene we four squires nearly conquered the pre-alps, hiking through the frigid air along the crest of the mountains to the wooden cross that marks the second highest point. From that lowly point we looked desirously at the cross in the distance that marks the highest; and more desirously still towards Switzerland in the West, and the harsh, ghostly points of the Alps looming above the plain in between.

And then, in Siena a few weeks ago, built as it is on a large hill, approaching the full height of an Italian mountain, I promptly climbed to the topmost point; I was disappointed, however, when the medieval houses, thick, tall, and hedging in on the narrow cobblestone streets, afforded me no bird’s eye view of the town. And in Rome alone I have been to the top of I know not how many of the seven hills, wanting to see St. Peter’s, the epicenter of the earth, from every possible angle, and in as many varied sorts of natural lighting at as many times of day, or night, as possible.

This is natural, I think; this desire for heights. I am confirmed in this by others, and think I understand something of why it is so.

This semester, in reading The Path to Rome by Hillarie Belloc, I came across this marvelous passage, which is one that our moral theology professor repeats as many times as he possibly can:

‘These, the great Alps,” says Belloc, looking down on the world, with his feet firmly planted on one or another mountainous footstool, “seen thus, link one in some way to one’s immortality…Let me put it thus: that from the height of the Weissenstein I saw, as it were, my religion. I mean, humility, the fear of death, the terror of height and of distance, the glory of God, the infinite potentially of reception whence springs that divine thirst of the soul; my aspiration also towards completion, and my confidence in the dual destiny. For I know that we laughers have a gross cousinship with the most high, and it is this contrast and perpetual quarrel which feeds a spring of merriment in the soul of a sane man.”

I suppose that most everyone who has read Paschal’s Pensees, walks away with something different; the broad mind of the mathematician touches on most everything in one way or another. However, when I first read him, I recall being most struck at his awe at the strange and unique position of Man in the cosmos, and this has become a recurrent theme of my own thoughts, pulled forward whenever I feel the need to be astonished; that is, how man stands at the center of existence, with an infinity of largeness above him, and an infinity of smallness below him. In the physical world alone there is an infinite cosmos of stars and planets and space above him, and an infinite cosmos of insects and molecules and atoms and quarks and space beneath him; and there is man, bizarre creature that he is, standing starstruck in the middle, confronted when he turns his eyes in either direction, with infinity.

A man not starstruck is no man at all. “The world will never starve for want of wonders” says Chesterton, “but only for want of wonder.” And the awesome fact is that the great and inescapable paradox of our race is that we only catch glimpses of, or find our completion in the contemplation of the Infinite. Despite the fact that we are haunted by the distinct sense that we are unable as finite beings to obtain or contain it, we are just as sure that anything less than it is too little; we won’t, we are quite sure, be happy or complete without it.

That is, I believe, why so many men, especially now, are so unhappy. Not only does the modern man rarely, or never, plunge into or consider the vastness of his own interior and soul and desires, for fear of what he will find, but he is rarely even confronted with the most obvious of the vastnesses, physical creation, for fear of what it will lead him to think and desire; perhaps, he fears, it may even lead him to pray. And so he never steps beyond the narrow, frenetic streets of his city, or apartment flat, or the television or computer screen, to stand instead on the top of a mountain to look down upon it all, to see it all as maybe, possibly only a part of something much, much, mind-reelingly bigger than what he ever believed.

And even if he is ever confronted with physical vastness, generally he is so unprepared for the experience that he quickly squashes it down from four dimensions to two; he’ll take photographs of it, or videotape it, or read a book about it, like stepping on a cardboard box that’s too cumbersome to carry. He’ll put a photo of a mountain as the background of his computer desktop. Anything to tie down that motion of his mind towards things bigger than himself, to tie down the part of him that wants to consider all things in their infinite mystery of being.

In the past men thought that the earth was the center of the universe, and that there were ten crystal spheres, beyond the furthest of which was the kingdom of God. This is a claustrophobic cosmology, at least according to our current advanced understanding of the universe. And yet even then men were easily filled with awe. Even then men found something of a hint of what was to come, or what they were missing, by standing on the tops of mountains and spreading the world like a living map beneath their feet; in considering the paradox of their physical smallness and human largeness against the measure of the landscape.

And now physics and astronomy have told us of infinite space, and an infinite universe, and we are cold to it. Indeed, the new astronomer looks through a telescope and forgets that he is looking at the stars.

A symbol, it is said, is something that points towards something else. The richness of the Catholic understanding of creation has made it clear that in one sense all things are symbols; and this is precisely the great beauty of Catholic typology, and the mediaeval bestiaries. Thus, a man with an acute eye, and a finely attuned Catholic soul, will find in absolutely everything a sign of some great truth, and the greatest Truth. A man with an acute eye and a finely attuned Catholic soul will find symbols and meanings and significations in a cold dungeon cell as much as in a verdurous garden.

Yet, the simple fact is that there is a sort of simplicity of symbolism to be found in contemplating the world from great heights. Blessedly this serves to bring the process down to those of us who perhaps aren’t yet so attuned to symbols; for us it is a sort of primer course in Catholic perception.

There is also a certain simplicity of symbolism found in the very heights themselves; there is a barrenness, stripped of extraneous details, in which symbols spring out, or shoot forth, like a light from a beacon, which makes them almost impossible to miss.

Up on the pre-alps it was cold and desolate. And as we four raced to one of the crosses that mark all of the peaks, we passed by the carcass of a cow, dead and decomposing and grotesque, its protruding ribcage polished by numerous winds and rains and snows; and then, moments later, around the base of the cross against which we leaned to catch our breath were found tiny, brilliant flowers, shimmering with the colour of royalty, ecstatically alive. And beneath our feet the whole sixty or seventy flat, final miles of Italy, beyond which stretching plain may very well be the end of the earth; for nothing can be seen beyond the colossuses that stand watch over its borders, the Alpines.

There, in short, on top of that rock, that vast footstool, was everything. There was life, and there was death, and there was beauty, and there was the cross, and spread out before my vision something so very like infinity as to make one feel as though Heaven had already come, or was well on its way, and that this was it or something very like; and that was perfectly alright.

And that, I think, is something of the meaning of mountains.

martedì, novembre 22, 2005

The Decimation of Mr. Wunch's Class

The Decimation of Mr. Wunch's Class
By Kathleen Gilbert

(N.B. If ignorant, please refer to last week's article by Claire O'Reilly on the Cult of B.O.D. for background info before viewing this comic and enjoying ensuing hilarity)

domenica, novembre 20, 2005

Shameless publicizing

Meet Dala. Composed of Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther, these two girls are longtime friends of mine. Sheila is my brother's girlfriend of three or something years. They've just released their first album, called Angels and Thieves, under Universal Records, and this is me shamelessly publicizing them to Vestal Moron's reading public. Check out their website at (designed by my brother). Watch their music video. Buy their album. And most of all, enjoy their sweet, smooth melodies.

venerdì, novembre 18, 2005

The Invasion of Chesterton

Mr. Ahlquist hangs out with his best buddy in Piazza del Popolo.

The boys look very, very natural, strolling through the streets of Rome.

Hanging on the Spanish steps, also looking very, very natural. We also took some time to admire the Rolex billboard on the side of the church at the top of the steps.

Ah. Romulus and Remus reunite with their foster-mother.

At the Hassler Roof restaurant. Reputedly Chesterton stayed at this hotel, and ate at this restaurant some eighty-something years ago. At least that's what Mr. Ahlquist told us. I think he just really, really wanted to eat there. I can understand why. I'm not sure that his pocket did though.

Mr. Ahlquist gets cozy with Thomas Aquinas.

Father and son trying very hard to look very cool. I suppose they do a pretty decent job of it.

What is it with Mr. Ahlquist with this gold film guy anyway? I don't know.

Romulus and Remus enjoy the newest edition of Gilbert! magazine, complements of the president of the Chesterton society.

Mr. Ahlquist gives some talk about something or other in some icon shop somewhere in Rome or something. Anyway, it drew a pretty darn good crowd.

My future library. In the residence for American priests studying for their doctorate. They don't know it's my future library yet.

Translating the Latin text of St. Augustine's confessions. Me and Julian got through about a sentence and a half completely unaided. We felt pretty good about it. And after I took the book off the shelf I happened to notice that it was printed in 1729 and promptly freaked out and then spilled my pen with ink all over it. Actually, that's not true. But it was printed in 1729.

Chilling at the our favourite bar on Mr. Ahlquists last night in Rome. Good times. Oh and please ignore the fact that I look like a complete moron. You think you'd all be used to it by now.

Yes, that is a Caravaggio.

Cork Ireland

After a hellish day of traveling, with hardly a bite to eat, we finally get what we came for: a pint, and an honest-to-goodness burger. There wasn't a bit of pasta anywhere in sight.

At the top of Blarney castle.

Kissing the Blarney stone. Many jokes were made about the necessity or prudence of my kissing it. Very funny.

Blarney castle.

Just hanging out in the gardens behind the castle.

Entrance to an old abandoned fortress. Pretty much the coolest place on earth...ever.

Inside the fortress.

Walking from the fortress to a path down by the shore to watch sunset we came upon an old, overgrown cemetary.

Ms. Shannon enjoyes the sunset.

...and the last final flare.

Drinking Irish coffee and hot chocolate in the pub on the way back to town from the fortress while the winds and rains raged outside. It was very comfortable...until we had to go back out into that to get back to town. The sheer amount of pubs in Ireland, and the amount of time they spend in them, makes a whole lot of sense.

mercoledì, novembre 16, 2005

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum Cont.

Oh, all right, so I didn’t call this thing the Roman Forum last week, so I don’t have much of a right to call it the Roman Forum 'continued' this week. But the fact is that it’s just such a bloody logical name for the thing, and unfortunately it only occurred to me after I threw last week’s edition together (at the last possible minute, as usual) and sent it whizzing off to the eagerly waiting Robert Turner. So this week it has a good name; or at least an appropriate, or appropriately obvious, name.

Anyway, here are some more of the thoughts of my fellow Romans. There was supposed to be one more articlette in the group, but apparently Mr. Clint Atkins had to watch Amadeus tonight, which, I suppose, is as good an excuse as I’ve ever heard from any procrastinating writer (and I’ve heard quite a lot of them, and come up with a few good ones myself). But the ever-faithful Julian Ahlquist also has his say, and I think it’s relatively safe to say that anything he writes is pretty far up there on the list the best things that have ever happened to this strange race of ours.

And so my second week of literary repose continues. I shall return in full force next week, to the chagrin of the article-length police. And for those who haven’t noticed, the thesis of a good number of these articlettes has been that you should come to Rome. You're an idiot if you don’t; really, I mean it.

John J. Jalsevac

Iona Matthews:

I can't say that I've waited my whole life to get here, yet I have come to know many things since first stepping a tentative foot on this peninsula that is Italy. Being dropped in the middle of Rome as a student and being told that this is going to be your proverbial playground for the next three months is completely first. But then excitement sets in, followed by a desire to see everything, do everything, taste everything! There are the thrills of the all the first time experiences: seeing St. Peter’s and all the Roman ruins, riding the metro, gypsies trying to steal your stuff, eating gelato, the list goes on and on.

Once the initial thrill of being a temporary Roman wears off you begin to learn about the truly important things of life as a Roman citizen. To name just a few: Rome is beautiful; moped drivers are insane; there are more churches to be visited in Rome than could be thought possible; Rome is the city of martyrs and saints on every street corner; and of course, gelato is the staff of life.

But when I leave Italy to return to my own home in the States I will easily say that the deepest love that I bring back with me from Rome is that for our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. He is no longer the Holy Father that I know only through the media, but he is the Holy Father that I have personally seen, been blessed by, and witnessed the love that crowds of tens of thousands have given him. Having a father away from home and feeling that the Vatican is truly my residence three thousand miles away from my land of habitation prove to be two very comforting elements that Rome offers. In short, life is good, Rome is good. Don't pass up an opportunity to visit the eternal city or you will eternally regret it.

The Cult of B.O.D.
By Claire O’Reilly

I wanted to share with those at home what has been on my mind here in Rome:
Tuesday night I was going crazy. My head itched so badly. I marched into Monica’s room and begged her, “Check me for lice!” Within ten minutes, she found some tiny eggs and a bug. This, of course, set all the girls in motion furiously searching through each other’s hair. Minutes later, my roommate, Bridget discovered that she was infested also. All told, there were seven girls chosen for this special vocation. Bridget had it the worst and thus, we concluded, she was the carrier. Everyone was just a little concerned because we did not know where they had come from. Rome is notorious for being dirty. Had Bridget contacted it on a bus, train, in brushing up against a street bum? Maybe it was even the hotel we stayed in? With this uncertainty in the air, everyone felt very uncomfortable and itchy, even if it was only psychological.

We stayed up late that night extracting the tiny bugs from each others hair. Although it took some time to adjust to the foul thought (and reality!) of providing a habitat for insects, we were able to joke about it. As we pulled bugs from Bridget’s ‘hotel’, she would joke, “Don’t take Tom!” or, “There goes Larry—he was my favorite.” We had also just returned from a three day silent retreat in Assisi where, afterwards, Mr. Akers had warned us that the devil would be out to get us because of all the graces we had recently received. Within 24 hours we discovered lice! For a bunch of young girls, it can definitely be humiliating! We laughed at God’s sense of humor. Though not contaminated, Danni Ampi generously and courageously helped in the nit picking. I heard her chuckle under her breath, “This is definitely going on my wife resume!”

Despite the joking, we had still become lepers. The next morning we could not go to class because we had to wash all our clothes at the laundry mat and then treat ourselves with shampoo to kill the lice. During that time, to surprise us, the hotel fumigated all the rooms, so even the “clean” students were homeless for the rest of the day. That night, all the infected girls and some of their uninfected roommates were sent to the basement of the hotel to spend the night in a big hostel dorm room with a large bathroom and many showers. We took turns lathering our scalps with lice disinfectant shampoo, containing chemicals that render it illegal in the U.S.

At this point we were still trying to figure out where these creatures had come from. As girls traced through Bridget’s hair, she traced through her past. She remembered babysitting some kids over the summer, not realizing that they had had lice until afterwards. She had so many bugs that it was most likely that they had been with her that long. We now refer to all the girls here who have lice as belonging to the Cult of B.O.D. (Bridget O’Donnell)

So, in the end, lice cannot be attributed to Rome. The lice are American and we become ‘dirty’ Americans. However, lice are picky and prefer clean, unscented hair. In defense of my roommate, Bridget does wash her hair all the time. One of the preventatives for lice is olive oil. I suppose it is a good thing then, to be in the land of olive oil. Ironically, in this fight against lice, greasy hair can be an ally.

Also, thanks to Mr. Alquhist (Julian’s Dad), who is visiting, we have plenty of American lice shampoo.

I know that every Rome semester is different, but this one definitely has had an interesting twist! The girls of the cult are combing and disinfecting their hair furiously, so we will be clean by the time we come home before Christmas. Lice is the biggest problem when it goes undetected. So if your head itches, find somebody who knows what to look for and have them check you!

Julian's Rambler Article

The Floor
By Remus

After my Mildew article last week, I realized my Rambler publications had reached an all time low. As one excavates deeper and deeper into the baseness of human existence, one, like Augustine, will have a dramatic conversion. Thus, I will now proceed to write a serious article. So, for those of you without the ability to read serious things (such as I), do not read further.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a problem with liking things. Specifically, liking things that are good and beautiful. I’ve gotten better with effort. But still, whether it be my sins, the culture, bad friends, or something unknown, I have a real problem with appreciating a truly beautiful, good thing. Maybe that’s not true. But somehow, I’m immediately turned off to something that another person enjoys – initially, at least. But I’ve gotten better. Through effort, through some prayer, through some thoughtfulness and personal experience, I’ve suddenly inclined my head and seen something anew and understood what the big deal was. Normally, I tend to get distracted, sometimes by pretty trivial things that no one else notices. Other people, simpler people, see and awe at the big picture, while I get bogged down on the details and miss the overall point. At the same time, I pride myself in noticing these overlooked details. On the other hand, I am envious of simpler people’s more profound knowledge.

In Rome, specifically, I’ve encountered this phenomenon. Going from basilica to basilica, I see people’s faces in their wonder. I appreciate the artwork as well, but with a more forced spirit. People look up in awe, and I look down in discomfort. I cannot ascend to the higher appreciation of beauty – I just look at the floor. But the floors of basilicas are very beautiful. They do tend to be the more meaningless parts of churches, but that’s not so bad. Their “cosmotesque” designs are inoffensive geometrical decorations that even the atheist would like. They do not try to express any dogma. They do not force upon one a supernatural guilt-trip and sense of unworthiness. They are the basest of decorations, the most humble, for they are trampled underfoot. Like humility, the floor is a good foundation for everything else. It one day struck me that these marble designs lay on the floor as if prostrate, as if to indicate all creation, no matter how low, gives praise to the Christ. I don’t know how I arrived at this. I then thought, if these beautiful things glorify the Creator, they have something in common with these statues of the saints. I could then understand the statues in a new light, who had actual faces that look toward the altar, their hands pointing inward to their hearts. I could start to understand the church as a whole. I could understand them to their domes and to their spires that stretch up to heaven like spiritual antennae.

My father, this week, came to Rome to visit me. We climbed the holy steps on our knees – the holy steps brought over from Jerusalem that Christ ascended when condemned to die by the decree of Pontius Pilate. I realized later that Christ actually ascended those steps. Here in Rome you ... daresay, take for granted all these relics ... and personally I forget to realize that Christianity is true – that God is real. Even so in Rome. The Holy steps are now covered in wood lest the pilgrims continue to wear it down, but certain spots of it can be seen through holes in the wood protected by glass, against which people touch their rosaries. Through those holes you can see the faint stains of Christ’s blood. Even now my eyes water. I’ve never felt this way. For most of my Catholic life I’ve prayed for some heartfelt reaction to the passion, and this now has happened. Next to the holy steps there’s a statue of Christ at the Agony of the Garden, kneeling on a stone, looking up to heaven, and shedding a tear. Even a year or so ago I would not have felt anything at this. Here in Rome, I have learnt the startling thing that Christ is a person.

For years and years, I could not identify myself with Christ. I would look at the Eucharist, look at the statues, look at the holy cards and my eyes would gloss right over. Other people around me seemed to understand. Frustrated and pissed off, I would mentally scream, “I don’t get it! What’s wrong with me?!”

Even a couple years ago, if I read those words I would feel nothing. I would be bored by them. I would have heard them before in other ways from so many other people that seemed to get it. But recently, the Gospel was the parable of the lady going to the unjust judge, showing how if one can sway an unjust person by constant requests, one can sway God who is just with even greater ease by perseverance in prayer. I’ve been trying to figure out how to attain some personal relationship with Christ because I saw it in other people, though not in me at all. I prayed and prayed and eventually it clicked. That’s how prayer works. It’s hard and miserable and frustrating and no one likes it, but the saints show how it can be done. And, the scary thing is, all prayers are answered.

I had been seeing Christ too much as a concept. Christ is a person. I don’t know how I came to realize that. It was too obvious to notice in my case. Too clichéd almost. But, think of people and friends you admire, and think of their qualities, and think how you think about them. In some scary way, that’s how you should think about Christ. It’s scary, I think, because Christ has seemed this distant abstract mystical thing, an ideal and all good, but hard to love, while in fact, he is very personal, like an actual friend – a really good friend – who cries for you, who suffers for you when you don’t know it but suffers anyway. You don’t understand. You don’t understand what the passion is for. But he suffers anyway. And you don’t care.

But like the floor, be humble. Be humble and honest. Humility is the foundation of all virtue. In prayer be humble and lay out on the ground what is on your heart, and God will purify those desires. Even if progress does not seem to happen, be humble again, knowing that you are too small to see everything, and so keep praying. Be humble and open and let the Architect work his designs, and he will build a basilica for your soul.

martedì, novembre 08, 2005

Ramblings from Rome

Ramblings from Rome

By Romulus (not really)

For Christendom College's The Rambler

At this juncture of the semester, we Christendom students, so blessed to be studying in Rome, have traveled at least from one side of Italy to another, and many of us much further besides. We have seen things, and heard things, and felt things, that we would never have seen, heard or felt in North America; and all these things have made enormous impressions on all of us.

Since my arrival in Rome I have been writing a weekly column for The Rambler, trying with much futility to communicate these things to those back in Virginia, and to the many parents and friends elsewhere whom I have gradually discovered have been religiously reading Vestal Morons, or at the very least enjoying the photographs. Many have expressed pleasure and thanks that there has been this contact between the Christendom of Rome and the Christendom of the United States. This contact is vital, I have been told.
People love to hear from the Rome students.

And yet I am well aware that I have been wholly unable to communicate the full depths of the experiences we have had. In fact, for the most part I have shied away from trying my hand at expressing some of the deepest lessons that we have learned, the most striking and lasting impressions made, knowing the limitations of my abilities. Furthermore, I have only been able to even attempt to communicate a mere fraction of our ever-burgeoning store of experiences, and only from my own, personal, narrow perspective.

After this week’s retreat in Assisi I decided that enough was enough, that the other students here should really have their say, their chance to offer their point of view. And so I asked as many of the students here as had the time, if they could please write a little something about their experiences for The Rambler. A very many of them responded enthusiastically to the invitation. And so here are a very few of their short, off-the-cuff compositions. These will serve as this, as well as next week’s, official installments of Ramblings from Rome.
Cheerio and God bless.

John J. Jalsevac

Kaitlyn McCarthy:

We all knew that it was coming. Angela McNeely and John to my left and right respectively both knew. We had sat there since seven AM waiting. It had rained, drizzled, poured, stopped, and a combination of any one of those somewhere in between.

And then it happened.

A very refined English Monsignor spoke: “And from the United States, lecturers and students from Christendom College.”

We all shot out of our seats and cheered. And cheered. And did I mention that we cheered? We were all so loud that the Germans turned around and looked. The English were appalled as usual. Even the rowdy Spaniards were surprised. We cheered in front of 50,000 people. But we just couldn’t help ourselves – We love the Pope.

A few weeks ago, when Dr. O’Donnell came over with the Christendom pilgrims, we attended a Wednesday audience. Since we arrived so early, we were able to grab seats up close, about twelve rows from the front. Although it may sound silly to some, this audience was exciting. There was an energy running through the entire crowd – perhaps their first time seeing His Holiness or their first time in Rome. After they said Christendom’s name, we shouted, hooted and hollered, and Pope Benedict waved. Twice. Just ask Mr. O’Herron, and I’m sure he would be more than happy to tell you all about it.

For myself, it just kept hitting me -- that’s the Pope! Right there. He wasn’t on TV or on a Catholic newspaper, but close. I may not have had the honor to meet him, or take a photo with him, or tell him how white is my favorite color too, but just to see the Vicar of Christ was enough for me.

Mary Bergida:

Mystical places—sanctuaries on earth where the Divine has dramatically brushed the human. These places have always seemed remote and far away from my own experience. But last Thursday, I found myself in the midst of one…The rhythm of my dogs on the damp road, the air moist and hushed, the gilded forest rising over me…I could have been taking a stroll through the Shenandoah Park on a November afternoon. Mount Subiaso felt like home, felt like the Blue Ridge Mountains. How could this be the stage for the fiery Seraph to brand it’s wounds on St. Francis? I would have expected an ethereal landscape. Yet, Christ, apparently, was content with this natural setting to transform His small friend even more into His holy image. And now, over seven hundred years later I too was seeking God on this holy, but almost familiar mountain.

We were all on the second day of our silent retreat in Assisi. I can’t conceive a more serene, yet spiritually charged landscape in which to deepen our relationship with Christ. Throughout those three days of silence, Saints Francis and Clare walked out of the pages of their biographies, and became as spiritual friends as I trod the same streets and mountains as they did.

I have found this same bond woven in St. Peter’s, the Coliseum, St. Catherine’s cell, St. Agnes’ tomb, as in a hundred other places. It is the bond of the Church Triumphant and Militant—an initiation into the Communion of Saints like none other. These historic places where the Church has triumphed in the past—where martyrs have been shredded by wild beasts for Christ, or saints have conversed with God. I have been able to touch them, walk through them, pray among them. These “mystical places” are wet, cold, smelly, sometimes filthy. Often they are also beautiful—but always in a natural way. The Divine brushes humanity in ordinary places.

So as I hiked up Mount Subiaso last Thursday afternoon, I realized Francis too was an ordinary human, on an ordinary mountain, given an extraordinary gift.

As I have walked with Francis and so many other saints this semester, their lives have become a deeper call to holiness. A journey which can be entered into in any age or in any place, even places whose appearances are less than mystical.

Katie Pondo:

Dear People of the United States of America,

These are my very first, and probably last words in The Rambler. So I suggest everyone clip this, frame it and hang it in your dorm rooms.

So Rome is nice, Florence was great, Siena amazing and Assisi outstanding. I have to say Florence was the best for shopping and I found if you argue long enough you can get great prices!

Altogether living in Italy so far has been an incredible experience, although the classes are crammed and studying is rushed and hard. But the overall experience you receive is well worth it.

I would definitely suggest it to all those who need to lose fat and gain some major muscle! Italian walking works wonders. I think Dr. Top should promote this trip titled “fat camp”.

I must put a warning out there to all the girls coming next semester (from all the girls this semester) to watch out for those Italian men. Especially the old ones who look cute, innocent and old, but actually like to be very affectionate. Thank goodness for superhero Jeff who doesn’t mind giving them a piece of his mind!

To sum it up (as I’m running out of things to say), if I live today and die tomorrow seeing what I’ve seen and experienced what I’ve experienced, I would die a happy Katie Pondo.

So I guess I’ll end by saying I miss you all (especially Chris of course) and I’ve been praying for you all.

Love you lots,
Katie Pondo.

P.S. Hi Beth Trunie, Stitch, Ferdi and all my good old buddies that live and party at Chris’ house. Love you all; be home soon.
P.P.S Everyone should definitely come to Rome for Spring semester! (You’re welcome Nancy.)

Angela Von Ehr:

From the day I was accepted at Christendom, I looked forward to participating in the Rome program. I was excited about spending a semester in Italy, but most of all, I wanted to see the Pope. I was saddened that Pope John Paul had died and I wouldn’t see him in person, but I was also very excited to see the new Holy Father, Pope Benedict.

I saw Pope Benedict for the first time at Castle Gandolfo, the summer papal residence. The castle is in a little town, on a high hill, above a large lake. We stood in line outside the castle for three hours, in order to enter the inner courtyard of the castle where the Pope comes out to give his blessing and lead the Angelus.

At noon, Pope Benedict came out on the balcony overlooking the courtyard and the Christendom students were about twenty feet away from him. I had never imagined I would be so close to the Holy Father, and able to see him up close! I realized that the pope is a very real person, and my own spiritual father. When the pope greeted each group of visitors, in their own language, I knew how much he truly cared for each and every member of the Church.

The second time I saw Pope Benedict was at the Papal mass for the opening of the World Synod of Bishops. Not only did the Holy Father pass within a few feet of me, during the opening and closing processions, but I participated at a Mass celebrated by the Supreme Pontiff. This was the most profound experience with the true nature of the Church which I ever hope to experience.

As I watched Pope Benedict XVI celebrate mass, at the high altar of St. Peter’s, I knew it was directly over the tomb of the fisherman and surrounded by statues and tombs of 2,000 years of popes. I realized I was seeing the fulfillment of Christ’s words to Simon “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church.” St. Peter’s Basilica, the central church of Christendom, is literally built on the tomb of St. Peter, and filled with 2,000 years of papal history. But the true center and foundation of the Church is the living successor of the fisherman, the small man in white, with the wonderful smile. Seeing Pope Benedict, surrounded by pilgrims, priests, and bishops from all over the world, I understood the true meaning of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I think that every Christendom student should take advantage of the unrepeatable opportunity to live in the Eternal City. Not only the 2,000 years worth of Church heritage, but the real and living “rock” of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI.

(As always comments, questions, concerns, personal slurs, insults , or donations of multi-millions--we accept Visa, Mastercard and even American Express--may be e-mailed to John at, or Julian at



On the way to Assisi the boys feel the strange urge to sing the song "Alcohol" by what's-his-face-country-singer-dude at the top of their lungs. They give in to the urge.

One blue gloaming in Assisi.

The view, if I am not mistaken, from Christina's room (Courtesy of Christina)

One rainy night in Assisi. One quickly falls in love with the very buildings and paths, and alleyways and stairways of Assisi.

One foggy morning in Assisi... (Courtesty of Christina)

One foggy afternoon in Assisi.

One foggy morning in Assisi.

The same foggy morning.

On retreat. Unfortunately because we spent three days in silence and contemplation and not taking photos I have very few photos of father Dylan. This is the best one I could come up with. An astoundingly inspiring, and very practical and mystical (the two aren't opposed to one another) retreat master.


Julian's Rambler Article for this week

By Remus
For Christendom College's The Rambler

Recently, I discovered a large ball of wet laundry in my suitcase. “Oh,” I said, “I wonder if this is going to be a problem.”

Apparently, there is a fungus called “Mildew” that grows on clothes that are left wet for too long. When first I decided to leave this pile of soaking garbs in this small concealed prison, airily I thought what unfavorable consequences might come of it.

Learned men and, moreover, women to whom I disclosed this discovery told me I was an “idiot” and beckoned me to re-wash them so as to destroy the attack of mildew, who, elusive but ripe now with resources, could attack and conquer at any moment. They urged that the cotton and polyesters then be purged with sun-rays afterwards; but this grandiose process did not please me.

Before the revelation, I spent 8-hours washing these meddlesome fabrics. The hotel fortunately provided two washing machines, one of which we are banned from using. The other machine, two-feet in diameter, takes 1.5 hours to do its thing, and for our consolation, they tell us that it’s an average brand in Europe, and for some reason, they think that’s a good thing. It took me hour just to figure out how to turn it on. Abstinence from dryers they also practice, and this too they uphold as a good and honorable thing. They don’t practice the faith anymore though. Drying racks, their substitute for dehydrating material, I have experienced, religiously don’t work. Furthermore, prior to the recent purchase of more drying racks in the hotel, there still does not exist adequate room for all the drowned laundry to heal among the competing students of Christendom’s Rome program.

I had never heard of mildew before. Rather, I had thought it some romantic condensation of crystal-sparkling water formed on the grass of a cold autumn morning. A fantastical concept it was to think that it was an evil cancer of the clothes that now threatened to strip me naked.

I would, I said, Febreeze them if they got any ideas – Febreeze being that spray of beautiful cosmetic fragrance – and though evil would not be extinguished, this gentle snow covering upon the dung would provide me satisfactory camouflage in society. I, however, still feared evil. I asked around if anyone understood the chemistry of mildew, trying to justify my nonchalant inactivity toward fixing this problem. All my advisors did not satisfy my scientific curiosities but plainly commanded me to wash my clothes again.

I began believing that this mildew scare was a bad dream or at least an old wives’ tale. How ridiculous it was to think that clothes, brand new clothes such as mine, could all of a sudden become victim to a fabric leprosy. I smelt them for the first two days and found nothing wrong with them. “Ha,” spoke I, “Fools. They thought to condemn me for these fabricated crimes. They thought to fool me with stories of boogey-monsters, but there is nothing here to fear.” Every time I would lift a questionable dress shirt to my nose and proclaim its innocence, I felt in the back of my olfactory subconsciousness, “You know, thaht didn’t smell right.” Soon, the feeling got worse, perhaps psychologically worse at first and then physically. I settled for the fact that my paranoia had clouded my perception of reality, so I went for second opinions. I would stuff the shirt in a person’s face and say, “Does this smell like mildew to you?” but I received different diagnoses, and this threw me into greater confusion and madness.

My roommate, John Jalsevac of Toronto, a connoisseur of human experience, knowledgeable in music, literature, and liqueurs, began telling me, “This room smells like mildew.”

“How do you know?” I snapped, rancorously.

“Because I know what mildew smells like.”

“No,” I countered, “It’s just a weird Italian laundry detergent I used.”

This conversation ended awkwardly. No more than a day passed when John raised his objection again.

“This room really smells like mildew.”

“Shut up!” I roared. “It’s not mildew, it’s laundry detergent!”

“No, man, it’s mildew. Trust me.”

“No, it’s not true, that’s impossible!”

The incubus was real. The monster breathed its hideous breath. I would have sooner believed in vampires, but now the evil presence was manifestly among us. But I did not take steps to slay the beast but rather held onto the faith that it could not harm my body, though perhaps my soul.

I could not smell it except under point-blank nasal inhalations. John would complain that he could sense it everywhere. I would tell him,“Some cultures consider the smell of mildew a very beautiful aroma.” John then informed me that I was lying and that mildew was unhealthy to breathe. Death! First, a harmless mythological mushroom that ate socks; now a spirit of the air that persecuted humans. It was getting out of hand. Eventually, though I had largely lost my mind as well as sense of smell (in previous college dorms), I myself had begun detecting this airborne pestilence. When I would enter the room, a strong tidal wave of fungus would smack me in the face, as I would shout back, “Get thee behind me!”

Since now it threatened my body as well as my roommate, I surrendered myself to laundry-washing reconciliation. I examined my clothes and took them to the washing machine, which sat opened-mouthed at my sudden return. I stuffed its mouth with the moldy food, let it wash it down with water for awhile, and then strewed its regurgitations up on the sunroof to cook. We’re not allowed to expose underwear there, so I had to walk along the roof discretely and find a concealed area to do so unseen. When I returned at the end of the day, nothing had dried. I raised my fist up to the sun and shouted, “Curse you, Phoebus! You cook my temper but not my pants!” I took the underwear and hung the licit articles on the rooftop racks which also hung the other Christendom student laundry – smarter people’s laundry.

The next day, it rained. Not too badly. I figured it would dry and figure things out so I didn’t mess with it. The following day, it stormed. I didn’t even want to know what was happening up there. Periodically, I would look out the window, and moaned to the person next to me, “Oh. My ... laundry. Oh. Man.” People either urged me to rescue it or let it hang to dry the next day, but I predicted an unending cycle of despair. The storm within me swayed back and forth, but I finally got to the roof and opened wide the door:

All my clothes were in wet clumps on the ground. The drying racks had fallen, and all my clothes were scattered like little sheep. One drying rack had miraculously flipped entirely over, which is not meteorologically possible considering its shape. It looked like a deliberate act of vandalism on Jupiter’s part. I simply inputted the wreckage back into the machine for a third baptism.

Not all leprous clothes received this privilege on account of its limited capacity, so complaints of stench were still submitted. Never did I suspect that I myself, however, carried this aura. This changed when someone told me. Apparently, I smelled like mildew. This dejected me. I knew I was losing friends.

Before we left for Florence, where I required another load of laundry, the one usable washing machine in the hotel broke down. Mr. Akers, our teacher and dean, the day before our departure, commanded me to take my clothes to a Laundromat.

This I did.

And all was well. In Florence, Clint Atkins discovered this nice little Indian restaurant which we attended three and almost four times. During my last visit, having ordered Mutton and Kous-Kous for a boastful third time, one of the chunks of mutton slipped from my fork and left its juicy trace down my sweatshirt and cargo pants. We continued eating for half-an-hour until Adam Wilson reached under the table and retrieved the deserted chunk, as we proclaimed, “The lost sheep!”

Anyway, that sweat-shirt and pants were pretty much the only clothes I had on this trip to Florence, and the convent which housed us at the time did not offer washing machines. I scrubbed them in the sink, but when they dried, the mutton stains came back, so I washed them again. They did not dry for some time. When they finally did, I feared I had conjured the demon of mildew again, but I didn’t. It was okay.

Then, when we came back to Rome, where I had access to the rest of my clothes, I found that the plague had festered a bit and breathed new life. Ruthlessly, I hunted down the possessed socks, underwear, and shirts, locked them up in my suitcase, mowed down the room with Febreeze and cried myself to sleep.

Even now, they sit imprisoned in that pandora’s suitcase of death.

I will not dig a moral message out of this heap of nonsense but just encourage you all to tell your friends not to read this article. Don’t worry. Next week’s article will be good.

domenica, novembre 06, 2005



Uh...girls...turn around. Florence is behind you. No, no, it's not inside your camera...I swear.

Would you hate me if I didn't tell you what they were all looking at?

Claire doing deep things in Florence.

A very weird photo. I love it. The entranceway of a church up on one of the hills of Florence. Amazing singing of Compline by the monks. Haunting and beautiful.

Oh don't ask me the name of the church please. It was in Florence and I could get you there no problem if you put me back in Florence; that much I know. But it was gorgeous. This is just a reminder of the sort of thing we're encountering all the time over here. It is a good lesson on how to give glory to God. 70's architecture with its silly semi-circular structures and slanting roofs, and spinning ceiling fans, can go suck a lemon.

Ms. Erin praying in the gorgeous nameless church.

Oh, all right, it's a photo of me. But it's a photo of me with a $600 Florentine leather jacket (Florence is quite famous for its leather). And no, Cassidy and all concerned sisters may breathe easy; I did not buy it.

Some of the most incredible jazz musicians/guitarists I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. These were not your typical street buskers. I feel like somebody should just give them a million dollars or something for being as good as they are. We gave them what we had, a glass of our wine we had brought up to the hill with the intention of watching sunset fall over Florence. They appreciated that.

A very bizarre picture of some of the girls dancing to the smooth melodies of the very awesome jazz musicians.

Florence by night, after a very lovely sunset and all accompanied by some rather spectacular jazz.

The cathedral in Florence. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn)

Katie moves in on the drummer boys. Chris immediately flies to Florence.

Mrs. Akers, she tried so very, very hard to give a tour on this day. The microphone, it tried so very hard to help. The gods were against her. I won't say much more. I think Julian plans to say more about this in the near future. (Courtesty of Kaitlyn)

After seeing all these statues of this, that and the other thing, I really do wonder why people haven't made more statues like this. Anyway, this photo is awesome. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn)

Some church some where in Florence. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn)

The creation of...Clint? Adam? Wait a minute... (Courtesty of Katilyn)