Thursday, September 10, 2009

NAC Orientation Part III - Assisi, The Scavi, and My Random Musings

Alright, I managed to get another set of pictures to load today, as well. Last week all the new men were required to go on a tour of the excavations beneath St. Peter's Basilica. I had already done this once before, but it was just as incredible the second time. One gets to see the tombs of early Christians, culminating in the tomb of Saint Peter himself, which is a mind-blowing experience. Understandably, they did not allow pictures of anything down there, so you'll just have to acquire tickets and go on the tour yourself to see it, which I would highly recommend. Other than that, we had a lot of Italian studying and numerous conferences to attend in preparation for the school year.

Assisi was a wonderful break after a long week. We got a chance to do a lot of praying, reading, and socializing during our time there. On Saturday, we walked up to the hermitage where St. Francis and his friars spent some of their time in prayer. Last time I was in Assisi I had walked up the road- the "easy" route, being only probably 50 minutes of somewhat gradual uphill. This time I opted to try for the nature trail, which, unbeknownst to me, was tantamount to mountain climbing. We had an incredibly steep climb which ascended much more directly toward the hermitage- there was no real meandering to this trail. It was, admittedly, an awful lot of fun. I was hiking up part of the way with one of the Monsignors from the College, which was an impetus to keep going, lest I get schooled by someone twice my age. We made it just fine and, thankfully, my asthma did not rear its ugly head, so the walk was quite pleasant. I sweat through three shirts in the course of the hike, but it was a lot of fun.

One of the evenings we were there, there was the equivalent of a Miss Italy pageant or some sort of girls' talent show going on in the middle of Assisi of all places. Suffice it to say I did not watch to see who won, but it was hard to even think, let alone pray or try to fall asleep during much of the show, what with the square being so crammed full of people and the music being so loud. It was actually kinda funny, hearing American music resounding through the town being sung by girls who probably had no idea what the words they were singing even meant. Anyway, it wasn't exactly the ideal outing for a group of seminarians, so I spent my night trying to pray, talking with some of the other guys, and just catching up on my sleep.

Here's a picture of the Basilica of St. Francis I took the night of the pageant while I was trying desperately to find a quiet place in the town to pray by myself. The frustrating thing which only complicated matters was that most of the churches closed rather early, and the only church which was still definitely open at that hour was literally RIGHT in the square with the talent show, and was probably closed anyway because of the show.

Here's where we had Mass at the hermitage of Saint Francis at the end of the long hike up the hill. It was really a beautiful, peaceful place. I could definitely see why they chose it.

A view of the hermitage from the top of the hiking trail just as it met the road in the final stretch.

Here's a few pictures showing the nice view from the place close to the top where the trail finally levels off a bit and opens up so you can look down at the countryside. It was stunningly beautiful- the picture does not do it justice.

Finally, I took a shot of the sunset over Assisi. I know sunset pictures never turn out on film, but this one actually did alright. The whole valley just glowed and shimmered with the light of the dying day. A few of us just stood there and quietly (well, kinda sorta quietly) watched the sun go down over Assisi.

Assisi is truly a beautiful town and the time for prayer and fellowship was most welcome during the chaos of these opening days. It was really good for forming those relationships amongst the men of our class which will be so helpful and encouraging in upcoming days. I really have been very blessed in a number of ways, but the great realization of that first week and a half was the caliber of so many of the men here.
Perhaps it's due in significant part to the "big fish in a small pond" syndrome with which so many of us can be afflicted, especially in a relatively small town with a relatively small high school, but it has been humbling being surrounded by so many talented, devoted individuals. The great diversity in our class is also quickly apparent- contrary to what one might think at first, we really do boast the full spectrum of individuals, from serious jocks to math nerds to artistics types to really any other stereotype in existence. This isn't to make it sound like these are actually adequate descriptions, though. This is merely to describe the surface appearance and impression a person makes. Here it seems that really every man breaks out of his particular stereotype and expresses a much greater fullness of the human person. Many men are talented leaders, athletes, singers, engineers or historians or [fill in the field of study], possessing a great store of knowledge on Church history and devotions, all at the same time. It is, in a way, much akin to my time at Franciscan University. You just don't realize that people like that exist in any number. It's encouraging to realize that there really are a great number of individuals your age who are trying to live out their faith, both in their spiritual lives and in their interactions with others. It is a prayerful, charitable community, knit together in our shared faith and dedication to our Lord and our shared status as resident aliens, "strangers in a strange land", so to speak. We certainly possess our flaws, which will no doubt become much more apparent and better known as time goes on, but my class, as well as the other men here, does fill me with hope for the future of the Church. Only time will tell... Vergine Immacolata, Aiutateci!

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