Sunday, January 24, 2010

Now Back to the Present

Praise God, I think I got it all up there for you. There are still a couple little things I didn't post, like my visit to the Venerable English College around Thanksgiving and the Urbe et Orbi Christmas address the Pope gives, but all the big stuff should be caught up now. Don't feel obliged to read it all at once- I just posted a whole lot of stuff, but it's all well past, anyway, so it's not like it becomes less timely if you don't ready it promptly. I'm glad I finally got it all up here now, though.

This week we had another priest from the diocese in town, Father Brian Stanley. He was in town for a military chaplaincy conference, so we got to spend some good time with him. It was really great catching up with him; I didn't have too many role models growing up, and Father Stanley was definitely one of the bigger priestly influences in my life for the short time we had him at St. Monica. It was nice having a relatively young priest to look up to while in middle school, even if only for a short time.

Alright, please everyone pray for those in Haiti, please pray for all those in positions of authority, in our Church and in our country, especially for Bishop Bradley and Pope Benedict, for President Obama and our House and Senate representatives, please pray for all those in most need of our prayers, and, if you have any time or prayer left in you, please pray for all of us over here and please pray for me. We have now entered exam season, and there is much studying which needs to occur between now and the time of my exams if I want to represent Kalamazoo well. I'm not looking for a summa cum laude over here, but good enough grades to move on to my theological grad studies would be nice. [:) I'm probably not going to be online much, if at all, for the next couple weeks, but I would definitely appreciate all your prayers. I will continue to keep all of you in mine. May God richly bless you all, and, as we grow closer to our Lord in our preparations for exams over here and you grow closer to our Lord in all your struggles over there, may God bless up with

The light of His wisdom and insight...

and the quiet peace of heart only He can bring


Flashback 5: Alumni Reunions and The Papal Audience

In honor of the 150th anniversary of our college, we had the distinct pleasure of being able to attend a private papal audience in the very room out of which a newly-elected Pope comes when he is chosen by the college of cardinals. It was very moving being so closely present with him. The Holy Father gave a short talk to us and greeted all of us. Most of us got to shake hands with him and kiss his ring, myself included. He was his usual determined, thoughtful, and peaceful self, but he seemed very tired. I don't know if he was ill that morning or if age really is finally starting to catch up to him, but we all noticed it- everyone was commenting on how his energy level seemed a bit low. It was great to get to see him and it was also very nice to get to see and meet some of the visiting bishops and archbishops, as well. Archbishop Dolan was there, and he even paid for drinks and snacks for everyone in our college lounge in the evening. We were most appreciative.

In spite of all the chaos, the spirits in the house really were high during our alumni week. Fathers Richardson and Grondz came into town and we got to spend some good time with them. They cooked dinner for us a couple times and we caught up on how things were for them both and for the diocese. It was a great week for all of us, I think. They seemed to be glad to catch up with old classmates and to just spend a little time in the Eternal City once again.
Here are some of my pictures from the papal audience. Some of them didn't turn out that well, and I didn't dare make myself too obvious for too long, snapping pictures like some dopey tourist. Cardinals and Popes probably don't like being treated like rare zoo animals or national monuments. Though it happens often enough, I prefer not to be marked as having added to it, so if some of the pictures aren't as good as usual, it was probably because they were done as quickly and as inconspicuously as I could make them.

Here was the hall in which we met the Holy Father

I liked the white bow-tie look of the papal MCs (or whatever job they happened to hold)

Here was our rector with all the bishops, archbishops, and cardinals.

This was cool- here is the very window out of which the Pope exits to greet people after his election!

It's a bad picture, but you can kinda see the colonnade outside, to give some perspective of where we were.

This was the window out the other side. Again, another poor picture, but you can kinda make out the image of the Paraclete from over the altar of the chair, revealing that the windows on the right side of the room actually looked out on the inside of St. Peter's Basilica! How cool is that?! I would have gone to the other side to snap this photo, but the Pope was just about to arrive and the guards appeared slightly edgy and I didn't want to die.

Il Papa!

Here is Monsignor Checchio, giving an address to the Pope on behalf of the college.

This was one of the works of art adorning the room outside- we were moving, so I couldn't really spend more time in there and capture it all. It is a nice depiction of the Battle of Lepanto, I think.

May the Lord bless our Pope with all the wisdom and guidance, strength and courage he needs to carry out his task as chief shepherd of the Church until the day our Lord calls him home.

Flashback 4: Thanksgiving and New Man Weekend

Back in November (gosh I forgot how far behind I had gotten on these blog posts) we celebrated our first Thanksgiving away from the states for many of us (it was my second, as my first had been during my semester studying in Austria during my time at Steubenville). We made a very big deal out of the weekend, especially for New Men. This was, I think, both to really help solidify the camaraderie in the house and amongst the first-years, as well as to keep us too busy to be homesick. We took the day off from school, slept in, and had a big breakfast on each hall. Our hall deacon had many of us help him prepare eggs and bacon, a rare commodity in Rome, I can assure you, as well as some banana smoothies. We had an enormous Thanksgiving dinner after our college Mass. They broke us up according to states, so we had a joint table as Michigan with another state which I can't remember right now. Ambassador Diaz delivered a speech from President Obama for Thanksgiving. Many bishops and cardinals were present as well- pretty much all the American ones get adopted at Thanksgiving. It was an outstanding time. Finally, in a most ridiculous move, the fifth-year priests by tradition give 'the presenting of the pies'. A few of them got up and sang I Believe I Can Fly with the lyrics appropriately modified ('I believe in the pie/ I believe in the pumpkin pie... I believe I'll have some more/ Keep it coming through that kitchen do-ooooo-OR, etc.) while the others brought out the homemade pumpkin pies to each table. It was pretty hilarious. We then had a movie showing that evening for some college classics that really can't be described in a blog post.

Then, New Man weekend began. We had a big New Man dinner Friday night, consisting of homemade Mexican food- guacamole, salsa, and fajitas, among other things. It was wonderful, since Mexican is a very rare treat overseas. Saturday evening we had our big New Man Show. Again, this is something almost impossible to describe here. It was essentially a one hour comedic show that we first-years had to get together and perform, a little akin to Saturday Night Live or something of the sort. Every year does it differently, but I guess ours turned out exceptionally well. The Old Men were a tough crowd- making animal noises and calling out during scene transitions if things took longer than they wanted them to, but people were very impressed. They thought it was one of the best in a long time. I got a lot of compliments, as well- the skit in which I played a part was a parody of the Bud Lite radio commercials "Real Men of Genius", except for the seminary, so it was "Real Men of Virtue". We parodied various elements of the seminary life in each one-minute song. I got to be the radio announcer/narrator for each of them, which was a lot of fun. It took a great deal of practice time, but it paid off. People were very impressed that we decided to do it live and not tape it, as some people do with skits of that nature. We even had a live drummer and pianist for the bit, and our show director, who was the backup singer, did an exceptional job. The show really brought our class together in a way that hadn't occurred up to that point, so it did its job. The Old Man show followed, which was also hilarious.

Finally, the weekend was capped-off with the Spaghetti Bowl and Thanksgiving Weekend Cookout. It was a flag football game between the New Men and the Old Men. The New Men hadn't won in ten years (not surprisingly, given the intentional imbalance in the teams), and we were really hoping to break the losing streak. It was a really tough first half, with us ending it down 12-27. We really came back after that, though, and made it a game worth watching. The final five or ten minutes were incredibly tense, and we screamed our lungs out. People were getting really excited. Except for the first set of downs of the second half, we had completely shut-out the Old Men. We got a couple needed interceptions, made a couple exceptional plays, and when the smoke cleared...






we lost the game 32-35. *sigh* We came in for the final huddle post-game a little disheartened, but Ross, our coach and fellow New Man, was very gracious and he and the rest of the community applauded our efforts (and his own, very importantly). Ross was an assistant college football coach for a while before becoming a seminarian, so his expertise went a long way toward making it as close of a game as it was. We had a lot of fun and, like with the New Man Show, grew in fraternity through the game. I played D-Line, which is probably pretty much the only thing I could have done, not having played football formally before. We actually did really well- we cut through the Old Man line easily, but they played very cleverly and had their quarterback what must have been at least eight yards back, if not more. It took them a long time to find a guy who could hike the ball that far, but it paid off big time. That gave him enough time and space to get rid of the ball before we could take him down.

It really is rather impressive how many gifted athletes we have in our class. I think people sometimes lose sight of the fact that, while we're studying for the priesthood, we're still young men. We have a couple marathon runners, a couple college football players (and one college football assistant coach, as well!), and any number of other athletes. Our AMERICAN college soccer team, the North American Martyrs (on which our very own Father James Adams played and plays), managed to place second in the Clericus Cup last year against all the other international schools. That's not too shabby, if you ask me. We actually have one of the nicest fields in Rome- the Swiss Guard come to play sports on our sports field!
I took some pictures on Thanksgiving and gave Francis Marotti my camera so he could take some shots from the game, so here they are.

Here is the Ambassador giving his speech.

Here are the fifth-year priests singing their pie song. [:)

If you look closely you can see OUR fifth-year, Fr. James Adams, serving champagne below.

Some pre-game stretches

You see some of our spectators

Here we are, slowly coming together

Man, that's a fierce football player! What a game face!

The two teams jogging to loosen up and get warmed up for the big game.

Here we are, being led in prayer by our rector, Monsignor Checchio, prior to the kickoff.

Our band and color commentators

Here's a good shot of me on the line- it didn't happen often and will probably never happen again, so I'm glad Francis got a picture of it. [:)

This is just overall an awesome shot- I especially like the back of the shirt caught in the picture. It is very apropos.


So that, as they say, is that. I rolled my ankle a couple weeks before the game, so I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to play, but one of the priests was also a paramedic in a past life and he taped me up well enough that I could get out there and smash into my brother seminarians. It was great fun and I'm glad I got to be a part of it.

Flashback 3: A Little Humor

Ok, so I took a couple pictures, one prior to the trip and a few on the trip, that I thought you would all appreciate. Random? Yes, very much so. Sometimes those are the best, though...

I saw this one on the train out of Vienna. The prefix 'not' signifies 'emergency' in German, but it's much funnier in English. Clearly, what we see here is NOT a hammer.

This was at the exit of the subway in Munich. I suppose they probably meant for this to be a 'fire exit' sign, but it seems much more appropriate for a 'in danger of being chased by men with scimitars, please exit here' or 'emergency skis/surfboards run amok exit'.

Finally, for our college hall, we decided to pose for ridiculous family pictures for a Christmas decoration. The one catch was we all had to wear the same ugly sweater and Christmas hat. This was one of my shots. [:)

May God bless you all with much joy and light-heartedness in these trying times.

Flashback 2b: My Christmas Break- Linz and Munich

We arrived in Linz and dragged our bags to the hotel. I wasn't feeling that great at the time- long, long story- having gotten sick at Klosterneuberg and was really sore, so we made it in and I just kinda chilled. A couple of the guys took off running, while Matt (pictured with the Snow White dwarf) and I just wandered a little, prayed a holy hour in their cathedral, and went back to the hotel. I took a nice, hot shower and popped a couple motrin and took a nap until the other guys got back. We went to dinner at this interest little joint. It was very American punk and rock inspired and there were a lot of young people there- the average age in the room was probably 19 or 20. We had some dinner and the waiter came over and practiced his English with us. It was quite good, since he had spent some time in Pittsburgh, if I recall correctly.

Just look at the detail in these stained glass windows- it's really quite spectacular. That being said, the ones in the front of the Church which follow... look like they were designed to be deciphered by cryptographers... the mathematician in me was more than a little intrigued, but they don't really quite fit with the rest of the Church...

The next day we packed our bags and headed to Munich.
I still wasn't feeling great but was a little better than before and was at least up for a little exploration. We got in early afternoon on New Year's Eve, dropped our stuff off, got settled in a little, and went off exploring the city. I made a point to find the cathedral, which was right next to the main square and the rathaus- the Town Hall. Before that, though, we appreciated the little wooden fort surrounding an ice rink which had both been set up in honor of Christmas and New Year's quite near to our hotel. I was a little surprised by the price of our hotel room until we got there- it was literally a 90 second walk from the ice rink and only about 10 minutes from the town center, which was awesome. At to that the fact that we were only two to a room instead of four to a room like we did in Linz, and it was well worth the extra expense. After converting from the Euro, which hurt a little during the trip, it came out to about 85 or 90 dollars per person per night for the hotel room, which, given the central location and the fact that it was New Year's Eve in downtown Munich, was quite reasonable. We found a nice place to eat for dinner then just hung out and wandered around, engaging in some good people watching and firework dodging.
That was the really interesting and memorable part of the evening. New Year's Eve is an excuse for everyone under the age of thirty in Munich to spend all their money on fireworks and shoot them off, at the sky, at the spire of the rathaus, at the roof of buildings and other people, whatever. We enjoyed watching this in the main square until one misfired near us and sent jets of red flame shooting toward us. Thankfully we were already mostly behind a large column and just inched back a bit and missed getting nice and singed. It provided an occasion to get talking with the couple standing next to us, though, who were a retired couple from the Southwest somewhere- New Mexico, maybe. They made a pact to visit someplace new and exciting with each other every New Year's as long as they could. They were excited to hear our story, since it turned out they were both Catholics. It was a very providential and enjoyable conversation.
After things got a little too hairy, we went and prayed and listened to an organ concert. After that, a couple of them stayed and prayed, one went back out into the chaos, and I ducked back to the room. I didn't feel like dying that evening and it was 11:30 already. The fireworks and firecrackers were being shot off and thrown in full force. It was to the point where people were actually hitting the outside of the Church during our holy hour and organ concert and I didn't feel like sticking around to get hit- I had seen it and enjoyed it, but it was time to call it a night.
We just relaxed the next day, really. There was a little sight-seeing, but nothing particularly of note. I don't think I even brought my camera with me. Our last day before the night train home we bought a subway pass and took off for the BMW headquarters and museum. It was a pretty cool tour- I learned a great deal about car manufacturing and cars in general. At the end they had a new exhibit on prototype cars, and I have a few good pictures from that. After that, we took a short walk over to the Olympic Village from the Olympic games in Munich. The pool there is still a functioning natatorium, which is kinda cool, though we didn't go swimming. They also had a plaque and monument to the Israelite athletes killed in the act of terrorism at the olympic games. Finally, we made our way to the train station, ate some dinner en route, and got on our train home.

Here's a picture of the cathedral, then one of the stained-glass inside, to give an idea of how tall this church really was. The window went most of the way up, and the whole things was decorated. It must have been immensely expensive and taken untold days to complete. Following that are the rathaus and a nice picture of both the cathedral and the rathaus.

Here we are enjoying dinner in a German pub.

It finally snowed for me! I was so excited. Living in Rome now, we never get a chance to see snow, except on the distant mountain tops. I was beginning to go through withdrawal, so it was nice to get to stomp around in it a little before heading back to Rome.

Here are the shots from the BMW Museum

I was impressed to see that they had an exhibit on this... lest we forget...

This was one of the more unusual concept cars. It kinda looked like it belonged in Star Wars. One of the guys mused about whether his bishop could be persuaded that such a car was a necessary business expense for a priest... I suspect not... [:)

Now this one was awesome. The 'skin' on the car molded and reshaped itself according to the current action of the car. The headlights actually blink open, the door pulls ajar with the skin reshaping around it, the seat readjusts from within, the dashboard just opens up- no latches. It had a very organic feel to it. I'm not sure if I'd want to own one like it, but it was pretty awesome to see, nonetheless.

Then we were off to the Olympic Village.

May they rest in peace...

Overall, it was a really great trip. It was nice getting to spend some quality time with some classmates and it was a very culturally and spiritually edifying trip. That was an interesting element of the trip- we hear all too often about how spiritually dead the Church is in Europe, but we didn't quite get that impression in our travels. Admittedly, Austria is supposed to be almost entirely Catholic so there should be a lot of people attending Mass, but I was very impressed by the numbers of people who showed for daily Mass, even. The cathedral in Vienna was completely packed for the daily Mass at noon, and not just with old people. There were a lot of younger people, as well. It was very impressive and spiritually heartening to see, truly. I'm quite certain things aren't great in Europe, but the Spirit is still moving strongly amongst His people. Praise God.