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