Monday, September 7, 2009

NAC Orientation Part II - Castel Gandolfo and the Vatican Gardens

Well, brothers and sisters, it's been a long, long week since I posted, and I cannot possibly contain all of it in one post, so I'm going to be posting past events piecemeal. Two Sundays ago we had the great privilege of attending the angelus service at Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope had been staying. We heard the Pope give a talk on St. Monica and Augustine, terribly appropriate considering my home parish and pastoral assignment, and on the Catholic family. Even though I have seen the Pope a handful of times now and even gotten to shake hands with him, it is always very moving being so near to him and listening to the words of wisdom which pour forth from the man.

Here I am with the other Steubenville men in my class.

Here are the NAC seminarians waiting to enter Castel Gandolfo

We actually saw the Pope inside a courtyard inside Gandolfo. It was a small but exceedingly high chamber. Most of the people were center and back a ways, but we got to come in through the side and stand under and to the Pope's left.

...hence the poor angle for my shot of the Pope.
It was a good place to stand, at least.

After we cleared out of Castel Gandolfo we walked to a nearby restaurant overlooking Lake Albano. The food was spectacular, the view was great, both only superceded by the company. We had a great time- one of the tables of guys got rained out because they didn't have complete cover, so they had to move indoors. Don't feel too sorry for them, though- they got dessert first and even got comped coffee. The most unique part of the day came after pranzo. Archbishop Harvey, the head of the papal household, gave us a tour of the vatican gardens at Castel Gandolfo. It was a rather humbling experience to be able to walk through the Pope's personal gardens. They were, of course, absolutely beautiful, and since Gandolfo used to be a part of the Roman Emperor's summer home, there were serious Roman ruins scattered throughout the garden, some having been restored and some left the way they were, perhaps to add an air of antiquity. It was stunningly beautiful. Archbishop Harvey also informed us that the Pope had his personal swimming pool in the gardens. We could not quite see it, though, since it had to have a roof put over it to keep paparazzi at bay. We were also shown the vatican farms, which provide the vatican with a great deal of the food they eat. There is actually a store, open only to vatican citizens and certain individuals with a pass, where they sell the surplus milk, meat, and other produce from the farm, so you could go there and buy milk from the papal farm. Holy cow! (sorry, that was awful... I'll try to refrain from any other bad jokes, like it would just be ridiculous to comment on how the holy cows would have calves with the papal bulls... you can see how our minds were wandering a wee bit during the tour.)

It was really an incredible experience and I am grateful that Archbishop Harvey was able to get us in for a quick tour before the Pope came out for his evening walk. Last year's class actually had to cut their tour slightly short because the Pope was going to come out for his walk and prayers! After this wonderful event, we really hit the books and got to our Italian this last week. That went well, but the week was just constant movement. It's been truly great, but just as an example one day last week (I think Weds. or Thurs.) my free time that day, aside from my prayer time, consisted of lying down on my bed and staring out the window for the length of one song from my iPod to keep my sanity before running to my next meeting. It's been a real whirlwind, but I can't say that that's at all been a bad thing. It's really getting us oriented and settled in quickly. This last weekend we went to Assisi for a relaxing break, a little quiet prayer, and a chance to get to know each other better. I'll write more on that and other things next time. May God bless you all.

P.S. I suspect this post will need to be broken up into two since I think I've reached the limit of content. Either that, or the internet here is dying- either is a distinct possibility.

P.P.S. According to the preview, these paragraphs and pictures might get jumbled together. Believe me, if that occurs know that there WERE spaces in this post at least once upon a time...

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