Friday, October 14, 2011

Updates from Rome

(About the image: this is a photo of my school, shamelessly “borrowed” from their website.)

Well, I did make it to Rome safely! I’ve been here exactly one month today—a month which has been amazing, but also totally and utterly overwhelming.

For one thing, this was my first time leaving North America ever (and practically my first time being outside of the United States; I was in Canada for thirty minutes about ten years ago). And in travelling here, I left the United States so quickly that sometimes I feel like I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything.

I knew at the end of June that I would be sent to study Canon Law, but I didn’t know for sure until the very end of July that I would be going to Rome (that is, if the logistics would not have worked out, I would have been sent to Washington, D.C.). Also, I wasn’t quite sure how long it would take for me to get a visa, so I didn’t even book my flight until about three days before I left.  It was not until my plane was over the north Atlantic that I let myself believe that Rome was really going to happen.

Providentially, I landed here in Rome early on the morning of September 14—the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The first thing I did once I arrived at the place where I am living was attend a morning Mass for the feast. And after the Mass, I was even able to venerate a relic of the true cross! (Appropriately enough for someone attending Pontifica Universit√† della Santa Croce.)

In this past month, I’ve seen things I never thought I would see in person: St. Peter’s, the Sistine Chapel, and the catacombs of St. Callixtus (an image of which I have had on my sidebar since this blog first started) where St. Cecilia was first buried.

One of my favorite things about my life in Rome right now is that I can walk through the Piazza Navona on my way to and from school—not because I particularly care for all the tourist attractions there, but because it was the place where St. Agnes was martyred. One of the most beautiful antiphons from the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, which the newly-consecrated sings right after she receives her ring—“I am espoused to Him whom angels serve; sun and moon stand in wonder at His glory”—is attributed to St. Agnes. It amazing for me to be able to stand in the place where these words were spoken for the first time!

On a similar note, you always hear about how the Church is universal…but to actually see it for yourself really is as marvelous as everyone says. I keep getting a feeling that I can’t quite put into words—something like: I never knew! I never really understood before just how vast and deep our Church, the Church of which I am a member, truly is. All this history, all these people—all the Apostles, martyrs, Popes, saints, and billions and billions of Christian souls. And yet, even someone as little as me is not unknown or insignificant.

Still, my coming to Rome is most certainly NOT the Archdiocese sending me on a three-year vacation. (Or even a three-year retreat!) Getting used to a foreign culture is challenging. I am finding that I need to re-learn how to do almost everything: how to use the washing machine, how to cross the street, how to buy things in stores, converting everything into metric (I’m still not used to hearing people say things like: “it’s going to get up to 33˚ tomorrow, so you’re lucky you have air conditioning”), etc. Even trying to plug things into walls is an adventure!

And of course, the reason I’m here is to study Canon Law (a subject I’ve never formally studied before), with all my classes entirely in Italian (a language which I had also never studied). After just having completed my first week of classes, I can say that yes, this really is about as daunting as it sounds…yet at the same time, I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited and happy to be going to school. Knowing that I was send her with the express purpose of serving the Church in New York spurs me on to keep trying my best even in the times when the task ahead of me seems almost beyond my capacities.

Still, I think out of necessity, my personal motto this year is going to have to be: “With God, all things are possible.” (cf. Matthew 19:26) So I could still use prayers!