Friday, February 15, 2008

First Update

Hi Everyone!!

I write this in the midst of the first cloudy day since I arrived. There is a thunderstorm that moved up from the Mediterranean, and it’s certainly a contrast from the succession of perfect and sunny days that have been the norm so far. Things have been going very well so far; it’s hard to believe that I’ve only been away for less
than two weeks! It feels like much longer, probably because they’ve kept us so busy.

This past weekend was spent on a class trip to Napoli (Naples), Stabiae, and Pompei. We left early Friday morning for Napoli, and arrived there about noon, only to find ourselves in the middle of a month long garbage strike. By reputation, Napoli is not the most beautiful of Italian cities; it is literally covered in graffiti, and you just can’t escape the ‘ghetto’-like feel, even in the more ‘upscale’ parts of the city. We had lunch and spent a few hours in the National Archeological Museum, where many remnants of Pompei are kept, and also tons of Roman copies of Greek statues. There were also a group of Italian art students there, who were making amazing sketches of the statues.

We left for Stabiae, which is a smaller city farther south in the bay of Naples, where we spent the night at the Restoring Ancient Stabiae Campus, an Italian-American project to restore some of the older parts of this little city. They kept telling us how south of Rome, Italy is basically a different country, and we definitely experienced a different (let’s say, less enthusiastic) reception.

By this time, we were in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, and early the next morning, we went to Pompei, where we spent half the day being guided through the excavated parts of the city; including the Coloseum, the Forum, an Amphitheater, and numerous houses, both wealthy and not. We also saw some of the preserved bodies, which were very striking in how they were captured in the last moments of their life.

There was a beautiful church in Pompei, Our Lady of the Rosary.

All of the churches that I have been to so far are so beautiful, built in the traditional basilica style, and so elaborate, even the smaller ones, like in Stabiae, that you would have to go back a hundred times to see everything.

So, we left Pompei to come back here mid-afternoon, and that night we celebrated Julia’s birthday in Albano, a town about 5 minutes by Cotral ride down the Via Appia. We had gelato (like ice cream, but better), and walked around a bit.

This morning, I left with some friends to go to 10:30 Mass a St. Peter’s, in Latin, and then the Angelus at Noon, where we saw the Pope!! There were a ton of people there, and it was amazing, even though you couldn’t really see him up in that window. It was just very powerful to think that here is the head of our Church. He spoke in 5 languages, Italian, Spanish, English, French, and German (and the Angelus in Latin). The Mass was amazing too. There were 65 priests, including a cardinal and some monsignors, and the Vatican choir. The organ was incredible, it filled the entire church, and literally shook you. When the priest or any of the cantors or choir sang, you heard it twice: once from the cantor and then again from the echo that came all the way from the end of the nave. This has probably been the most powerful experience of music and even of my faith in my life so far. If you came to Rome for one thing, it should be for this. At St Peter’s, I think that you could go back there every day of your life and still not see everything. So yeah, the center of the Catholic Church lives up to its name.

I miss you all!! I’ve been praying for you all.

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