Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The End and A Beginning

Friends, this is both a "goodbye" and an invitation to a "Hello!!" - This will be my last post here at Faint Hue of Grace.

Ah! Wait!  Don't panic! (Because I know you were... ;) )  I'll still be blogging.  I'm just moving over HERE.

Why the move?  Well, since August 19, 2011, when I began blogging at FHOG, I have written 154 posts and received over 19,000 views.  Some of you join me from Russia, the UK, Turkey, and Indonesia.  What began as a simple way to keep my family and friends updated about my life as I moved on to college has turned into something much more.  

I never thought that I would write as much as I have, and never in a zillion years did I think that anyone would read what I had to say.

My hope for my new website is threefold.  One, to write frequently.  Two, to write deeply.  Three, to write passionately.  Whether I'm writing about my classes, a conversation with a friend, or a recent thought, my desire is to share something real.  In short, I hope that this move to what I consider a more simplistic and professional blog layout will allow me to focus my writing and be more motivated to continue after college.

I've moved all my meaningful or personally important posts over to the new site, as well as all my posts about Crossroads.  This blog hosted on Blogger will still exist, but I will no longer be updating it.  You will notice new sections to my new blog, including a "Blogging for Books" page!

Thank You from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have popped in for a visit over the last 2 years.  It's been such a blessing to write and know that someone out there finds it a little interesting!  And please join me over on my NEW BLOG and let me know what you think!

In Him,

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Musings: Vol. 6

Time and Place: my room at home, 8:51 pm

What I can hear... the breeze through the open window... and that's about it

This past week... I've been concentrating on unpacking and getting my room organized.  It's nowhere near being done, but I'm closer than when I started!!

I've been reading… On Heaven and Earth by Cardinal Bergoglio (aka Pope Francis).  

Recent realization... that since my Austrian campus isn't reachable, main campus is the next best thing.. I miss it! I'll be there in 3 weeks, and it will be a delightful 'homecoming'.

I'm oh-so-grateful for... all my friends being done with school! Let the catching up begin!

Next week...  when I'm not talking to friends, I will be continuing the organization process!  (and I'm also getting a long-overdue haircut.  Call me crazy, but my hair's been driving me nuts for the last 2 months! Thursday it will be chopped off, and I can't wait!)

I'm looking forward to... just being in each and every moment this week, whether that's cleaning, talking with friends, reading, or whatever.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 10)

Oh, hello from the United States!  I returned back home this last Monday after a beautiful 3 days in Ireland.  I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that I'm not just on a long weekend to Virginia and won't be returning to my room at the Kartause tomorrow.  As much as I don't want to admit it, I really, really miss it.  I've grown so attached to a European way of life!

They say that jet lag is a lot easier "coming this way" (from Europe to the States).  I'm not so sure about that...  I mean, when my family and I went to Europe 3 years ago, I found it very easy to come back to the States.  2 days of being tired, and I was back on track.  This time, though, I get hungry at Austrian meal times, and I'm pretty ready for bed at 6.  Thankfully, I just grab a little snack and always get a second wind to stay awake 'til 11!

I love organization.  Maybe too much?  That's questionable.  While I was gone, my parents began construction in our upstairs, which meant that my bookshelf and closet were emptied, and all the 'surfaces' in my room were cleared.  (By "my parents began construction", I mean "the workmen began construction..."

What does this mean?  That I'm starting completely from scratch!  It's great!  I'm getting to go through all the little papers I've kept since forever, and look at each piece of clothing before I put it back.  I'm realizing I don't need to keep all these things, which leads me to say...

...I think I've come home much more 'detached'.  Because we didn't have internet in our dorm rooms, and my cell phone didn't work, and I only had 2 suitcases worth of clothing, I've found that I don't 'need' as much to be happy.  Yes, of course it's nice to have more than 3 skirts to choose from, and I was anxious to wear sandals again instead of black sneakers, I've realized that it's not necessary to  have these things to be happy.  Of course, I knew this in concept, but living like that for 4 months helped solidify it in my mind.

I have 3 weeks at home.  There's a lot to do in that time!  Today was my niece's first communion, I have friends to see, birthdays to celebrate, coffee to drink, organization to finish, and packing to do before I leave for Steubenville!!!!  I am really looking forward to working on campus this summer and getting to know the other student workers who I otherwise wouldn't be able to!

I am getting ready to move my blog to a different host.  Blogger was great for getting this started, but as I near the 2-year mark of blogging (yikes!), I'm realizing how different I want my blog to look/be, and the best way to do that is to move it altogether.  It's about 95% set up, and I hope to share the new link with you in the next week or so!  

whoops... I'm a day late in posting this... That's what happens when I try to do too many things in a day, and get carried away with all of them. :P

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

europe reflections

Whew.  So, there’s a lot going on!  Spring is finally here in Gaming, after a record-breaking sunless winter (least sun in 100 years. Vitamin D deficiency, anyone?)  The bikes are out, the birds are singing, and we as a student body are significantly happier! :)

It’s hard to believe that I have less than a week left in Europe.  In 5 short days, I’ll be back in Virginia.  Yikes!

I am both looking forward to and dreading it.  I am, of course, anxiously waiting to see my family, to spend time with them, to tell them about my adventures, to give them the little things that I may-or-may-not have picked up around Europe :)  I also haven’t seen my friends in a very long time (some in over a year!), so it will be nice to see them too.  I want to eat chicken, be able to read signs in the grocery store, and listen to the radio.  As many little issues that there are in American culture, I miss it as a while.

So, what will I miss from Europe?  I’ll miss the beautiful buildings, the historic churches.  the easy public transportation.  The nature here in Gaming.  The culture and the food (granola! wienerschnitzel! wine!)  Traveling virtually anywhere I want.  Experiencing these countries with wonderful friends.

I’m afraid that I’ll be overwhelmed at first, with the airport and the grocery stores and the traffic.  I’ve been to 3 international airports while I’ve been here- each of them has had a maximum of 50 gates, I believe.  Grocery stores? Ha.  The one we go to here in Gaming has maybe 8 aisles and 2 checkouts.  I’m used to stepping into the road and having all cars, trucks, and buses stop for me instantly.  (Last week, I rode in a car for the first time since January 13.  So strange!)

And what am I returning to?  Well, my first stop in the states will be the Chicago Airport, which essentially has 3 different buildings depending where in the world you desire to go.  Gone will be the days of 10 airline counters, all of which do check-ins for the other airlines.  Macy’s at home is the size of an entire mall in the town of St. Pölten here (which is about 40 minutes away from campus).  In Virginia, I wouldn’t dare cross the street except on the sidewalk, and I have to wait for a break in the traffic to do it.  Otherwise, I’d probably get run over.

This week, I have been very grateful that the rest of my family has lived in Europe before.  Because at least they will have some idea of what it’s like to return to the hub of civilization after living in the middle of the Austrian mountains for 4 months.  (My family didn’t live in the Austrian mountains, but they lived in very-small-town Belgium.  You know.  Same thing, right?)

So, next Monday, I will board a plane and fly across the ocean, leaving what has become “normal life” and return to what is really “normal life”.  And next thing I know, my “normal” will probably change once again.

Because life tends to happen spontaneously.  And know what?  That’s ok.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

and Then my eyes were[n't] opened

10-day is meant to be a time of adventure.  Of learning about European culture and about yourself.

I got that and more.

I also learned about the Church.  Of how it is different everywhere we go.

I think I mentioned in one of my Sunday Musings that I have come to a better understanding of how the Church is Divine, yet made up of human members.  And sometimes (read:a lot of time), those human members mess up.

Last summer, as I traversed all over the northern states, I saw some interesting things within the Mass.  Sometimes, I scratched my head and thought, "Uh, why was that necessary?"  But still, I could accept it.  I mean, I grew up in what is apparently one of the "top 2" conservative dioceses in the States.  Who am I to comment on the Liturgy in other places?  I don't know the background, therefore I can't judge.

But when I was in Lourdes earlier this month, I was shocked.  The numbers of "off" things happening at almost every single Mass were astounding.  Slide shows, music during the consecration, and summaries of the readings... where on earth was I?  Is this not a Marian apparition site?  Of all places on earth, shouldn't this be one of the most reverent?

I stood in the sanctuary, reading the Epistle for the International Easter Vigil Mass, and I was shaken.
What am I doing here?  What is going on in this place?

It is unnerving to be part of something so great and grand, but is at the same time, to be uncomfortable with it.

Again and again I questioned.
Again and again, I forgot what was really important.  

I had to get over the fact that I had expectations, and remember for a moment that the Mass is still the Mass, Jesus is still Jesus.  He is present, even through our human failings and mistakes, both great and small.

In Lourdes, I learned the power of prayer.  The beauty of raising voices in petition, with people I don't understand and who I have never met.
In Lourdes, I learned priority.  Would I rather receive the King of Kings (while hearing drums and saxophones), or would I rather sit by myself in a chapel?
In Lourdes, I learned acceptance.  Acceptance of God's will and of the difficulties He places in my life. Difficulties that are always for my own good.

In Lourdes, I learned love.

Sunday Musings: Vol. 5

Time and Place... 4:13 pm, the library

What I can hear...  Grace sketching of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and this: 
This past week... Whew.  So much this past week.  It’s been a week of ‘lasts’: last one of each of my classes, last Sunday brunch, last Liturgy Committee meeting… yeah. It’s bittersweet.

I've been reading... The Catechism and Canon Law (for finals, of course.  I wish I was cool enough to make those my choices for casual reading.)

Recent realization... 8 days.  8 freaking days left in Austria.  that is all.

I'm oh-so-grateful for... chocolate and coffee, and my awesome roommate Grace.  She’s been such a blessing this semester, and I don’t even want to think about not seeing her for 3 months this summer.  waahhhh… I’ll miss you, girl!  Prepare yourself for frequent visits in your room next semester.

yeah, we've had a lot of fun in Europe together :)

Next week... 3 days of finals, 1 full day of cleaning and packing, 1 (literally, purposely*) sleepless night, 3 days in IRELAND, 16 straight hours of travel, and home.  Yes.  It’ll be one heck of a week.
(* since most people are flying directly home, we have a midnight mass and then they keep us up and drive us right to the airport around 2:30 am.  It should help with jet-lag in the States.  Unless, of course, you’re making another stop before the States, as we are.  So basically, we’ll be 5 completely exhausted, brainless, wanderers meandering around Ireland.  Hey, I’ll take it.)

I'm looking forward to... Right now, I’m really, really looking forward to Ireland.  It’s been my dream since I was 7 to go there, and Irish Dancing for 11 years definitely helped that wish increase.  Homeland, here I come!!

And last but certainly not least, prayers for my sister, brother-in-law, and their 5 kiddos, as they've all caught a stomach bug.  Not fun!

Friday, April 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol 9)

7 Quick Takes Friday, hosted at Conversion Diary

It's finals week..... which means that we're all stuck in the library while the birds are chirping and the sun is shining!  Thank goodness for European windows which really allow the breeze (and bugs!) inside while we're working.  Finals start tomorrow (Saturday) and go through Wednesday; Thursday is 'packing and cleaning' day, and we're out of here on Friday (at like 3 am... meh).

We're doing ALL the Austrian things!  Last Friday was the Austrian Ball, which involves dirndls and leiderhosen, Austrian dancing, and yummy food.  AND I finally climbed a mountain!  Book mountain, to be exact.  Josh was here visiting, so Sunday after Mass and brunch, we set out to climb to the top.  We made it, and even though it was exhausting, it was totally worth it.  Gaming is beautiful from above!  And now I have a better picture in my mind of the whole town.
(Gaming from above)

As the finals-mindset really sinks in, I begin to realize how many other things I want to be doing.  Things like re-organizing my computer files, or setting up a different personal website, or going through all my photos from the semester... The good thing is, I will able to do it all when I get home!

I don't want to go home.  I will miss Gaming, the Kartause, these friends I've made, my amazing classes, the professors who live what they teach, the scenery... Heck, just Europe in general!!  Let me stay!!!!
(Vienna and the Kartause)

I can't wait to get home.  There are some things that just aren't the same here that I really miss... and my goodness, I've missed my family and friends!  

(suffice it to say- I WILL be back some day.)

I just found out about a program called "Blogging for Books".  Very simply, it involves the company sending me a book, which I review and blog about.  They get honest reviews about their books, and I get free books!  (Because I definitely need more books... *ahemahem*)  I've already ordered the first one, entitled "On Heaven and Earth", co-authored by Pope Francis (pre-papacy) and Abraham Skorka, a Jewish rabbi.  I'm really looking forward to both reading it and sharing my thoughts with you all!

And finally, a quote from my Scripture class for you to ponder:
"Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the Apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that he thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is 'feminine' and what is 'masculine'.  It is a relationship willed by God both in the mystery of creation and in the mystery of Redemption."
-JPII, Mulieris Dignitatem

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

that time of year

Yes, it is once again the week before finals week.  And as my dear friend Robyn pointed out, the week before finals week is always worse than finals week itself.

What does that mean?  That blog posts will be sporadic over the next 8 or so days.  I will most likely post when I need a study break, but who knows when those will happen?!

Please say a prayer for us all as we study, write and edit papers, and prepare to leave Europe for our homes in the States!  It's a stressful time of the year for any college student, but especially for students living abroad.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Musings: Vol. 4

Time and Place: 10:35, the hallway outside my room ('cause that's where the internet is!)

What I can hear... the guys upstairs talking, and a door squeaking very loudly

This past week... I had class and more class, wrote some papers, read some catechism, and went to Vienna to meet up with Josh*!!  It was also the Austria Ball, where we all wear dirndls and leiderhosen.  It was a lot of fun!!

I've been reading... articles about the role of women in the Church and purity, for two different papers

Recent realization... 3 hours of sleep + 2 1/2 hour trip to Vienna + walking around all day + playing Settlers of Catan = very tired Allison ;)  (I'm caught up now!)

I'm oh-so-grateful for... the hike I took today- it was amazing to see Gaming from 'above', and all of the beauty in the mountains!!

Next week... exams start in 6 days.  6 days.  That is terrifying beyond belief!!!!

I'm looking forward to... Saturday afternoon.  It means more time to study, and no exams the next day!

*Josh is one of my friends I did Crossroads with- he's in the seminary, studying in London this semester!  I visited him and another friend there a couple weeks ago.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Musings: Vol. 3

Time and Place: 10:17 pm, one of the smaller classrooms at the Kartause

What I can hear...  Grace skyping her parents and “Feels Like Today” by Rascal Flatts

This past week... I was back in Gaming after 10-day, for which I am very grateful.  10-day was good, but Lourdes was unfortunately not what I was expecting.  I also got to talk to and catch up with my friends Robyn and Stephanie this last week.  Today I took a break from schoolwork and went on a bike ride with Grace and Elyse!

I've been reading… articles for one of my papers :P

Recent realization... The Church may be of Divine origin, but She is made up of human members.  Which means they mess up.  It’s such a comfort to know that no matter how far “off” the members of the Church go, Christ is still there guiding her!

I'm oh-so-grateful for... the opportunity to get to know some people better over break.  Friendship is a beautiful gift!

Next week... we have 5 days of classes, instead of the usual 4.  Friday is always the hardest…. but we will make it!

I'm looking forward to... being done with these papers!

Friday, April 12, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol 8)

I have just gotten back from 10 days in France.  My goodness, my brain is cooked!  Who knew that speaking in French for that long would lead to thinking in French by the end of the time there!

Lourdes was beautiful, but… not exactly what I was hoping for.  I was surprised that the liturgies weren’t more ‘traditional’, and that at times, it seemed too much of a ‘Disney World’ atmosphere.  Still, Mary is guiding all the pilgrims towards her Son, and He will lead their hearts to Himself!

I miss reading.  Like, a lot.  I miss being able to grab a book off my bookshelf and sitting for an hour (or two).

I have a job for the summer!!  I will be the sacristan for the Steubenville conferences on main campus!  I am really excited to 1) serve in this way 2) get to know the rest of committee 3) maybe hear a couple of the talks!  The great thing is, I'll have about 6 weeks at home over the course of the summer to see people and do "home-y" things.

Someone recently asked me if I was ready to go home.  That’s both a yes and no answer.  There are a couple more places that I wish I had been able to see (Belgium especially!), but I am also ready to dive back into American everything.  And see my family and friends :)

Speaking of home, I will be home in 24 days!  Yikes!  It’s so hard to believe that in less than 3 weeks, exams start.  And that before that, I have 3 papers due.  *sigh* It’ll all get done, somehow!

And lastly but not leastly, Congratulations to my niece who made her First Holy Communion last weekend!  And Happy Birthday to my godson and my mom who both celebrated birthdays last week.  :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

It’s not just a saying anymore.  It’s oh-so-true.  Every single one of us communicates with others every day.


They are beautiful.
They are powerful.
They can build up or they can hurt.

I have been what could be considered hyper-aware of words recently.  I think there are words that we use in our daily language that are used almost equivocally.*  This understanding has been heightened very recently because of my trip to Lourdes, and my contact with the sick there.

Take, for example, the word “retarded”.  It makes me shudder to hear this used casually.  I think in the past couple years, more awareness has come concerning using the “retarded”, vs. actual mental retardation, which is certainly not something to joke about.

Well, what about other similar colloquialisms?  In the cafeteria on a typical day, you can hear “That’s so depressing” or “I’m starving”, among any number of other such phrases.  Are you really experiencing depression?  Are you actually dying of hunger?  I doubt it.  

Using these terms in such a common and thoughtless manner is decreasing the significance and knowledge of these problems.  As we incorporate “starving” into daily language, it ceases to take on the shock value when I say that “These children are starving in China”.  When the professor says that an idea is depressing, it decreases the impact of someone saying that they legitimately have depression.  We are de-valuing these problems and saying that they are less serious than they should be.

Why do we joke about such things?  There are such huge problems in the world today like eating disorders, cutting, depression, psychological issues, etc., and these should not be discounted or minimized.

I can’t say I’m great at this right now.  But I am actively working on it, and I encourage you to do the same.

Pay attention to your words.  They can build up, or tear down to the ground.

*please take note: despite my apparent lack of understanding, I am incorporating philosophy into daily life.

Monday, March 25, 2013

#OhHey Blessings

Woke up in London yesterday, found myself in the city, near Piccadilly; don't really know how I got here.  I've got some pictures on my phone...Day turns to night, night turns to whatever we want.   
We're young enough to say 'Oh, this has gotta be the good life.'  
I say, 'Oh, got this feeling that you can't fight', like the city is on fire tonight.  This could really be a good life. 
To my friends in Cali, I say hello.  My friends in VA, they don't know where I've been for the past few months or so: Paris to Poland, to Colorado

This weekend reminded me that there is always beauty within the drizzle.
I journeyed to London Victoria by bus, it was windy and a little bit snowy and a little bit rainy.  But honestly, I was too excited to care.  I jumped off the bus and found my way across the street to Josh and Renée.

#OhHey awesome friends in another country.

We walked through the streets, trying unsuccessfully to find Josh's favorite pub and Mozart's Terrace.  But we found an Indian restaurant instead and laughed while assuring the owner that no, we didn't want meat on this Friday in Lent.

#OhHey Catholicism.

We traipsed through the streets, snow swirling around us, and laughed over the most minuscule things.
As I sat in a pub drinking beer (#ohhey I'm legal here), there was peace within the chaos of the talking, friendship at the table in the back, and deep conversation amidst the frivolity of pub life.

The next day, we set out to see everything and anything London-y.  Of course, that meant going to the World's End neighborhood.  And drinking English Breakfast tea in the Victoria Station while eating tuna sandwiches, oranges, and caramel-filled Cadbury eggs, at 10 in the morning.  And seeing the Colossal Foot and Sir Robert Smirke's bust at the British Museum.  And poring over an old French book for 15 minutes instead of looking at the description.  And holding ancient stone knives.  And of course, that also meant going to Ben's Cookies and seeing where My Fair Lady took place, and yes, I did eat fish and chips.
Ben's Cookies are the greatest food since sliced bread.*
*photo is lovingly stolen from Renée.
#OhHey we-saw-everything-except-the-tower-which-doesn't-bother-me-in-the-least.

Cooking with friends is one of my favorite experiences ever.  Because you're working together towards the same simple goal, and somehow, that puts you in a frame of mind to have very neat conversations.  Don't ask me how it works, but it does.

#OhHey I've missed this.

Good food and drink also bring people together like no other.  The hours flew past from 8 to 9 to 11, and we sat, covering everything from adventure stories to classes to Lent to the meaning of life.

#OhHey we're so deep.

Saying goodbyes is never fun.  But hidden within a goodbye is always the promise of see-you-later.  Saturday night and Sunday morning were full of see-you-laters.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Musings: Vol. 2

Time and Place: 11:55 pm, The Nook 

What I can hear...  "It's Gotta Be You", on Grace's computer ;)

This past week... Yes. Just yes. Loved it.  (#soblessed)

I've been reading... Nothing, sadly.  

Recent realization... Sometimes, it's good to get outside yourself and meet new people in a new city.  Or to talk to the person next to you on the plane.  

I'm oh-so-grateful for... Renée and Josh, who welcomed me to London with open arms and are just the best! We had some beautiful long conversations over pints and/or dinner, and I was reminded once again why friends are wonderful!

Next week... I'm headed to France!  Let's hear it for les francophonies!  I'll be going to Lisieux and Paris for the Easter triduum, and then to serve at Lourdes for a week.

I'm looking forward to... Being in one place, away from Gaming, for a whole week.  Lourdes will be crazy and hectic, but I'm also expecting at least a little bit of peace.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Musings: Vol. 1

(In an effort to keep you all updated about my life, and so that I don't start only posting semi-deep thoughts, I've decided to start what will hopefully be a weekly Sunday series.  And I am planning on bringing back the 7 Quick Takes.)

Time and Place: 9:28 pm, The Nook (aka, our dorm room)

What I can hear... One Tribe by the Black Eyed Peas (this song is really, really dumb.  Last summer, we spent lots of time making fun of it :P )

This past week... was crazy! We just got back from Rome and Assisi, and hey, it's time for classes again.

I've been reading... Selections of The Forge by St. Josemaria Escriva.  Such wisdom!

Recent realization... I need to finish journaling from our pilgrimage!  I think journal-wise I'm still on the first day of Rome.  Whoops!

I'm oh-so-grateful for... Friends to laugh with over dinner.

Next week... I have 4 days of classes, will get back a Philosophy midterm, and will turn in a paper!

I'm looking forward to... London!! Friday! 5 days and counting!

Friday, March 15, 2013

where you decide it's Home

I have been known to call our Austria campus Home.  Some are surprised at this, others shocked, but I honestly think nothing of it.

As I walked into the vastness of St. Peter's Square, I was at home.  Somehow, being amongst 249,999 other Catholics didn't phase me in the least.  The intimacy and communion between all the faithful was comforting, and I could have sat in the hubbub for hours more.

Kneeling at Blessed John Paul II's tomb in St. Peter's Basilica, I simultaneously felt like an ant and an elephant.  The blessing of being a Catholic in a Catholic Church is that it is familiar.  Despite the tour groups passing through behind me, I might as well have stayed there forever.  Again, I felt at home.

This is Home.  I am finally where I belong.
Yeah, this is Home.  I've been searching for a place of my own.

Now I've found it.

With a hushed heart I approached the door to the Opus Dei chapel.  Silently, I pushed open the door, and entered the room.  I knelt, I reached out, and for several moments, I touched the glass surrounding St. Josemaria's tomb.  His holiness was tangibly present to me.  Now.  Now, at last, I had found my home.

It's not exactly simple for me to understand how I can walk through the streets of Rome, wander through alleyways in Assisi, and feel like I've been there my whole life.  Like I belong there.  This is why I am hesitant to call my home in Virginia my sole home.  I miss people in the States, but I am not homesick in the least.  Because somehow, I find home wherever I am.

I have decided that Home is ultimately where you decide it's Home.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Lowly, and Yet Chosen"


Oh my goodness, I wish you all could have witnessed our campus here in Austria tonight!  We have a new Papa... I can't express the joy in my heart right now.

I was in the TOR sister's house at 7:10 pm, ready for Women's Scripture Group, and Meredith came bursting in the doors: "Habemus Papum!".  We all screamed rather loudly, and then Sister Maria Teresa ran to get the sisters' TV from the other room.  About 3 minutes later, we had EWTN all hooked up and playing in their living room.  There were only about 30 of us, and it was really neat to experience this history with the sisters.

We all waited with bated breath to hear who it was, and we jumped every time that silly curtain on the balcony twitched.  Finally, the cardinal emerged and told us who it was- Bergoglio.  But none of us could seem to remember who exactly he was.  

Pope Francis.
A Jesuit.
An American.

Being from Franciscan University, we kinda went nuts: St. Francis of Assisi! (We were just in Assisi praying for him!)
Being Franciscan, we are excited to see the spirituality of a Jesuit Pope.
And being American (honestly, who cares if it's North or South!)..... we have an American Papa!!!!

As I read about him, I am struck by his humility.  Even as cardinal, he took public transportation in Argentina, and cooked his own meals.  He preferred to live in a flat heated by a simple stove.  And as we watched him tonight, this humility shone through.  Before giving us all his blessing, he first asked for our prayers and blessings.

After the papal address, we gathered in the Church to sing in Thanksgiving and then to pray a rosary together, as a campus, for our new Pope.  It was beautiful to be with my classmates, offering our prayers for this man who we already love.

I cannot wait to get to know Pope Francis better.  To read his writings and to listen to his teachings.
St. Francis of Assisi: Pray for us!
St. Peter: Pray for us!

Yes, this is my life

Some people live for Mumford and Sons concerts, or seeing One Direction, or the possibility of going to the Grammys.  Some people would give their right arm to meet Josh Groban, or to visit the White House and see the President.

But when you're a Catholic young adult, you get excited over something else.

Your ears prick up when you hear the church bell right, but then you realize that it's only ringing the hour.
You hear "live stream of St. Peter's Square" and strain to hear the rest of the conversation.
And the word 'cardinal' no longer simply means a bird not yet seen in the Austrian winter.

We are, my friends, awaiting the election of a new Pope.

Any day now, we will have a new leader of our Church.  As much as we may miss Blessed John Paul II and His Holiness Benedict XVI, we are simultaneously enthralled by the idea of getting to know a new papa.

He will lead our generation to holiness.
We will listen to his every word and follow his example.

Right now, we live for that moment that we hear our Kartause bells ringing, that we hear someone running through the halls of our dorms screaming "Habemus Papam!", and that we see the new leader of our Church emerge on a balcony that we gazed on only one short week ago.

These are the moments we live for.
And this is why being a Catholic young adult is the best kind of young adult to be.

Come, Holy Spirit!  Blessed JPII, Intercede for our Church!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Blessed Beyond Measure

About 250,000 people were in St. Peter's square for the last audience of His Holiness Benedict XVI.
I was one of those people.
Some people got to watch the helicopter take off from the Vatican on TV.
And I was less than a mile away.
Lots of people read about saints in books and online.
We saw incorrupt saints and had Mass at their tombs.
Only the Pope and appointed Cardinals can say Mass at the high altar in St. John Lateran.
But when there's no Pope, our own Franciscan friars can say Mass there for us.
The area around St. Francis' tomb is somewhat small.
But our awesome travel agent got all 200 of us permission to have Mass there anyway.
(Can you tell that Mass was kinda one of the highlights of the trip?!)

And then there are "everyday" blessings- Old Bridge gelato, 'Habemus Pizza', praise and worship at the seminary in Rome, having a dear friend for dinner with the school, and walking through the streets of Assisi with a wise Friar.

I can't comprehend how many times we all looked at each other after one experience or another and thought "That shouldn't have just happened.  We shouldn't have been able to experience that".  And yet it did, and we were.

As I think through these last 2 weeks, I will be posting my thoughts about Rome, Siena, and Assisi.  
Sts. Francis and Clare, Pray for us! 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Roma: Take Two

Why take two, you might ask?  Because I've already been blessed to have been here this semester!  I was delinquent and didn't post about my first trip (although it's completely drafted and everything!) but I figure this one can take its place.

We left our school campus yesterday afternoon at 3:30, drove 14 hours over the Alps and down into Italy, and arrived just after 6 this morning!  It was a long and tedious drive with very little sleep, but as soon as we pulled into that parking lot, we were out of the buses and running toward the Vatican!  We weren't the first ones in line, but we were far enough up that we knew we'd get decent seats.  We found ourselves next to some seminarians from St. Paul/ Minneapolis, and after praying morning prayer with them, we talked to them for about a half an hour.  Soon, there were tons of people pushing into us from behind, and at one point, we were literally being carried forward by the crowd; I couldn't have stayed still if I had wanted to!

Once through security, a group of about 20 of us discovered that we'd been separated from the main group: they were all up in the very front section, and we were in the back.  Still, after much debating over whether it was worth it to sneak up front, we figured that since we were right next to the barricade, we had a chance of seeing Pope Benedict.

Vatican events are great ways to meet people.  We got to 'talking' (or rather, communicating) with an Italian group standing near us, and even though we spoke very little of each other's language, we were all able to understand rather well.  We ended up praying an Italian/English/Latin rosary with them.  And then, as we hung the Franciscan University Austria Program banner over the side of the barricade, we found out that a woman standing across from us has a brother at Franciscan, and her husband works at a Catholic news company.  She was there with her daughter and two infant sons.

Finally, 10 o'clock arrived and cardinals began making announcments and welcoming hte various groups who were there.  Franciscan got mentioned, as well as my diocese!  At 10:30, we all started craning our necks toward the archway next to St. Peter's, and as the organ music began, Pope Benedict came around the corner in his Pope mobile!
He began weaving his way through the crowds, going up one aisle and down another, and just when we had given up hope that he was coming near us.....
Right next to us!  He stopped to bless two children across the barricade from us, and was literally RIGHT in front of us!  He looked straight at me; needless to say, taking pictures wasn't the very first thing on my mind.  It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life, right up there with receiving first Sacraments and becoming a godmother.  I don't think there was a single person in our group, guys included, whose eyes were dry. (admission: half of us were crying like small children. embarrassment level: zero.  It's the Papa! We're allowed to cry!) (oh, and there's no zoom on the pictures!)

Let's be honest here: after that, not a whole lot mattered.  There was a reading from scripture and the Pope gave an address in Italian, followed by short addresses in 6 or 8 different languages.  And then we were given a Papal blessing that extends to all our family members and loved ones back home.  I didn't know that was possible!  He also blessed any religious articles that we had with us.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up by pizza, gelato, walking, more pizza, and more walking, but we kept going back to that moment, when the Pope was 4 feet away from us, and time seemed to stand still.

Tomorrow, we will be touring part of the city and then watching Papa leave Vatican City before the abdication.  Of course, it will be bittersweet, but to be here, as history unfolds, is incredible in and of itself.

You're all in my prayers!  
(ps: please pray for a friend of mine who is entering a cloistered monastery on March 3rd! thanks!)

Friday, February 22, 2013

you world traveler, you

The amazing thing about living in Austria is that the world is at your fingertips.  Quite literally.  I type in a few names on the train website, click go, and I’m off.

This past weekend, the school organized a trip to Poland for us.  I love it when they do this, because all I need to do is give them money and they plan everything!  What a blessing for us busy students!

After a 10-hour bus ride, we arrived in Poland at 5 am.  We made our way up an extremely icy hill to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (pronounced chesta-hova).  Because we were there quite early, we were able to be very close for the unveiling of the image.  (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Our Lady of Czestochowa, it is said to have been painted by St. Luke on a table built by Christ!)  Fr. Luke said Mass for us at the altar of the image, and most of us did the traditional walk around the Madonna on our knees.

Then, it was time for the difficult part of the trip- Auschwitz and Birkenau.  We all knew about the concentration camps from school, but visiting is totally different.  To walk the streets that Jews, Christians, and Nazis walked, to enter their barracks, walk their corridors, see their shoes, hair, brushes, suitcases, and dishes- it’s heartbreaking.  I couldn’t help but ask myself, How? Why?  How could this happen, and Why not me?  Being able to pray at St. Maximillian Kolbe’s call was a very small, flickering light in the midst of a tremendous darkness.  At Birkenau, the 150 of us waked the length of the train tracks in complete silence.  All we could hear was out trudging footsteps in the snow.  When we reached the end, we prayed a Divine Mercy chaplet together- once more, a little light in the darkness.

Back on the bus, we gradually started talking again, and eventually arrived in Krakow.  The hotel was lovely, and I enjoyed spending time with Stasia and Elyse, as we were rooming together.  The next morning, we were given a professional tour of the city.  Our tour guide was Catholic, so she gave us a lot of little Catholic “fun facts” :).  She was confirmed by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla!  We had some free time, so we went through the outdoor market and bought some gifts for people ;).  Perogies for lunch with the sisters who came with us, then on to the Divine Mercy Shrine, where St. Faustina received her visions and locutions.  We said the chaplet with the sisters, then heard a presentation by one of the sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, went to the gift shop (see a trend here?!?), and had Mass.  Dinner was on our own, so Stasia and I had hamburgers… don’t judge.  Not quite Polish, but very delicious!  That evening, we went to this fantastic shop for hot chocolate… I literally think they melted a chocolate bar into the cup.  It was super thick and creamy… yum!

On Sunday, we had a Latin Mass at the Cathedral in Krakow, then headed to Wadowice (pronounced va-do-VEE-chey).  Wadowice is Blessed John Paul II’s hometown, only about an hour from Krakow.  It is very small, so there was not tons to do, but we saw his parish where he was Baptized, received First Communion, and Confirmed, and ate “pope cake”!  JPII had a favorite pastry that he always ate when he returned to his home- it’s a thick layer of pudding-creme in between two flaky pastries.  So good!  (After eating it, I was very thirsty (and in need of spending my last zloty (Polish money)) so I went to find some water.  I saw some in a bakery, so I went in and asked for water.  There was only one kind, and she handed it to me and I paid.  When I took a sip outside, I was taken aback- I had forgotten to ask for still water!!  It was sparkling!  I’d actually never had plain sparkling water before; it was quite good and refreshing :P ).

We had another long bus ride back, and arrived home to Gaming about 1:30 am.  Thank goodness Monday was a “recovery day” with no classes.  Just 3 meetings.  Haha.

All in all, it was a really great weekend.  I was able to spend time with some different people and get to know them, see some things that helped me grow both as a person and in my faith, and prepare spiritually for my next trip! (But that’s another blog post in and of itself…)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Well.  I had a post on my trip to Rome just about finished, but then I heard some news this morning.  I figured this was a bit more important…

This morning, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is stepping down from his place as Supreme Pontiff; he is resigning.  Needless to say, the Church (and the world) were shocked.  And rightly so: this hasn’t happened in 600 years.  I believe in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope has resigned a total of 5 or 6 times.  So it’s a bit of an “unknown”- no one exactly knows how this is all going to work out.

Now, because I’m at a Catholic University, studying in Europe for the semester, this event hits a little closer to home.  After the initial “freak-out-oh-my-gosh-Is-This-Happening?-THIS-IS-HAPPENING!”, we all realized how incredible it is that we are on this side of the ocean, right now.
14 days ago, Grace and I were standing in St. Peter’s Square, listening to a performance at some sort of a youth cultural event, counting down the minutes until we got to see Pope Benedict.  We cheered as loud as anyone when he emerged from the window, and even though we couldn’t understand a word of what he said in the address (except for “Carpe Diem!”), it was thrilling to be there, in front of the Vatican, along with thousands of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We prayed the Angelus in Latin with him, and he gave us a blessing.  I felt ridiculous for crying, but it really couldn’t be helped: he’s our father, Christ’s representative here on earth, and I was meeting him for the first time.  The added bonus was returning to Austria and finding out that we were shown for over 10 seconds of a video on not only Rome Reports, but EWTN.  
Every semester, Franciscan University provides the students an opportunity to go to Rome and Assisi for 10 days.  We will be getting on a bus the same day that Pope Benedict steps down.  We will arrive in Rome on March 2, potentially in the middle of or at the beginning of a conclave.  We could be present for the election of a new Pope.

OK, so here’s the neat part.  The University may not be able to get us into the Vatican Museums; Grace and I went on a private tour of the Museums and saw the Sistine Chapel with less than 100 people inside.  It may be difficult to really see the Basilica while there are so many people there; Grace and I saw that already.  We even saw part of the crypt and had Mass at St. Peter’s tomb… Really, though!  This has to be God’s doing!

In a mere 19 days, I will once again be standing in St. Peter’s Square.  This time, though, I will literally be part of history.  I really can’t wait.

If you are Catholic, please, please pray for our Pope as he finishes his last days as Pontiff.  I can’t imagine the amount of humility he has in order to accept that his health isn’t good enough to adequately lead the Church.  Pray for the Cardinals who are preparing to elect a new leader for us.  (If you are not Catholic, please still pray for our Church!)

May God bless Pope Benedict XVI as he begins this next stage in his life and as he enters a life of prayer for the Church!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

running 'round Rome

St. Peter's brother...lasagna...Colosseum...Forum...random Church...tiny restaurant...gelato...Vatican Museum...Mass...Churches...panini...ANGELUS WITH PAPA!...

(posts about our weekend are forthcoming!)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Journey Forth to the Eternal City

All the preparations have been made, down to buying the bread and cheese.

Tomorrow, I will be on my way to the Eternal City, the city at the center of my faith.  And I can't begin to express how excited I am.

A couple months ago, I received a message from my brother, telling me that he had a meeting in Rome the weekend of January 25; would I like to meet him there?  After thinking about it for approximately 5.8 seconds, I (excitedly) agreed.  The hotel reservations were made over Christmas break, but it wasn't until Monday that I realized how close this trip actually was... we finally booked plane tickets, and figured out the bus schedule.  Now, it's happening.

It is my first time to the Vatican, although I've seen a multitude of pictures from various friends who have been there.  But I have a feeling that mere photos can't do it justice.  The glory of St. Peter's Basilica, the ancient Church artifacts, and the fullness of history that has taken place in that tiny little country is mind-blowing.

And tomorrow I will be there.

I will not be there as a mere tourist; I'll be there to participate in the history, to partake in the beauty that is Catholicism.  And, if I'm lucky, I'll get to see the earthly representative of Christ Himself, Pope Benedict.

You all remain in my prayers as I travel this weekend.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Beautiful Whirlwind

When I first arrived here in Austria, I was honestly a little worried that I would have sooo much extra time, and that I'd be sitting around doing nothing for hours.  In the last 4 days, I have realized that I couldn't have been more wrong, and that is a wonderful thing.

Saturday morning, we woke up early, ate a hurried breakfast, and jumped on board a bus to Vienna!  After the 2-hour drive, we arrived and walked to Mass (which was at a Cistercian Monastery).  Following Mass, we had an hour long walking tour of the city which led to our lunching location- the Twelve Apostles Keller.  3 flights of stairs into the basement, and we were in what seemed like a safe place to be if a bomb went off.  It was a cute bomb shelter, though :D

My friends ordered wine, I got a lovely cup of coffee, and we all had traditional Wienerschnitzel, German potato salad, and apple streusel!

Following lunch, we were on our own for 5 hours.  My friends and I decided to venture to the National Treasury, where we saw Imperial robes, baptismal sets (be warned: my expectations for the Baptisms of my future nieces and nephews have been raised! :P hehe), and lots of relics: a piece of the true Cross, a piece of St. John's robes, relics of all 12 apostles, St. Veronica's veil, and many more!
And then we did what every awesome Catholic tour group does: Church hopping!  We visited 4 or 5 different churches; oh, goodness, were they beautiful!  Our faith is just full of beauty upon beauty, and I absolutely love it!

After running around chasing a good place to eat dinner, the group split up: half ate dessert in a small cafe, and the other half (including myself) ate "real dinner" in .... an Italian restaurant.  Except we didn't know it was Italian until we were seated.  I have to say- it was delicious!  I had gnocchi with a garlic sauce, spinach, and tomatos.  We had our first experience of ordering (and paying for) water, and of giving a much smaller tip than we're used to.  European culture is so interesting!

The drive back to the Kartause was rather uninteresting... pretty much everyone slept :D

Sunday was also uneventful, except for Mass (where all the Liturgical minsters were commissioned!) and a wonderful brunch (waffles and Nutella, anyone?).

This semester, I have once again volunteered to be the student head of the Extraordinary Ministers, so I'll be working with one of the sisters here for that.  I will also be her "assistant" of sorts, with other things she may need.  I started today, and I'm excited to be serving in this way again!

And THEN, I said a couple posts ago that I hoped to help one of the families here with their children..... I will actually be helping TWO families!  One will be on Wednesday mornings, and the other on Thursday mornings.  I start on Wednesday, and I am extremely excited...

That's one thing I am loving about Gaming- the professors and their families are so much more present and accessible to us students!  I don't fault the professors on main campus for doing otherwise, but when we're all far away from our families here in Europe, it's nice to have families who are willing to let us into their lives for at least a short time.  Most, if not all, of the Kartause families attend daily Mass with us, and we see the children playing in the snow in the courtyard on a regular basis.  Such a blessing!

Oh yeah, and we've got some homework too :P  Meaning, I have lots of reading to do for almost every class.... at least it interesting!  Yes, even Philosophy, although my encouraging brother has assured me that I will very quickly dislike it.  We shall see, we shall see....

All that being said, there is no possible way that I'm going to be bored while I'm here.
So long for now, I must go clean my room for our room check tomorrow!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol 7)

Due to the fact that I have to be awake in another mere 6 1/2 hours, this will be a very quick Quick Takes :P

Places I want to visit while in Europe:

Vatican City (NOT the same as Rome :P )
Paris (hopefully I can make it back...)
London (yay friends in other cities!)
Poland (school trip in a couple weeks)

And I'm off to bed!  Vienna in the (early) morning =)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Being Culture-ified

Europe is a fascinating place to live.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve been here for 5 days.  Whatever.  I can still claim that its fascinating.

During our orientation, we heard a talk from Eduard Habsburg (yes, of the Habsburg family… he’s incredibly far down the “royal line”, he told us).  It was a very good talk about the faith in Europe, how it’s increased and decreased over the years.  To have so much history packed into a continent is beyond the understanding of many Americans- for example, the Nativity set in the Gaming Church is older than the country of America.  Woah!!  That’s crazy!  

I’m not a huge fan of history (don’t kill me…) but I do find it interesting to learn about culture, and therefore I’m a fan of Cultural European History.  (I really have no idea why I capitalized that… maybe somewhere it’s a course of study or something.  I’m sure it is, somewhere.)  So Melk was really cool for me, because we saw really old wood floors and architecture and a Baroque Church.

Being here in Gaming is also a lesson in culture- today, I had professors with British, Columbian, and Scottish accents, the priest at Mass was German, and today I emailed a woman from Hungary (she’s the wife of my Columbian professor) as well as an American religious sister.  The children of my professors are tri-, quattro- and cinquelingual.  Oh, and the cinquelingual one?  He’s 5, almost 6.  I’m barely-not-even bilingual and I’ve got 13+ years on him!

There’s an awesome opportunity here called Ministry to Moms.  We’ve got it on main campus too, but its definitely different in Gaming.  Basically, we (the students) volunteer to help the professors wives, some of whom are professors themselves, with homeschooling, babysitting, and just playing with their kids.  It gives them a chance to have role models and people to hang out with in the students and gives us an opportunity to be with families while we’re away from home.

I will be meeting with a family next week to see if I can help them out!  I would be watching their 2-year old daughter while the Mom helps in the office.  I really hope it works out…. no one can replace my nieces and nephews, but it would be nice to have kids to play with between now and May!!
Today was the first day of classes; They’re all so good!  I’m taking Sacraments, Theology of the Church, Christian Moral Principles, Philosophy of the Human Person, and Christian Marriage, as well as auditing Aesthetics.  (Today I had Sacraments, Church, and Aesthetics.  Deep. Beautiful. Amazing. aahhhh.)
On another mostly unrelated note, I was told today by a guy here that he was accepted to the Northern Crossroads walk for this summer!!!!  Yay!  I’m so happy for him!
Please, start praying for the 2013 walks now!  They will need all the help you can give =)
And speaking of Crossroads, I’m off to chat with my team!  The beauty of technology….

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Home is behind you, the World is ahead"

Greetings from Austria!

It’s been a whirlwind couple days since I left the states.  I’ll give you a short little recap of the first couple days! (fair warning: that “short little recap” could get longer once I get into the Austria stuff :P )

So I left my house on Saturday morning at 10:10, got to the airport around 11, I checked in, went through security, found my gate, got on, and flew away to Chicago!  That airport is huge!  I took a train to the international terminal… that was an adventure.  See, I brought 2 suitcases, and one was extremely heavy while the other kept tipping over :P  I had to finagle them on and off of 3 elevators because I first had to go upstairs, then I saw a sign telling me to go “that way” which led me to another elevator which ended up taking me down instead of up, so I went up the escalator, but then was told to go up again so I took the elevator again.  Goodness.  Thankfully, a kind pilot held the elevator door for me so I didn’t do a “Paris repeat” (that’s a story for another day)…

I finally made it to the Aer Lingus counter at 1:15 only to find that it didn’t open until 3:45.  I hadn’t eaten, but I couldn’t bring my bags with me to find food so I just sat and read a guidebook. :D  Another woman waiting for the Poland counter tried to speak to me, but she just spoke Polish.  It was literally a real-life version of a verse of the Veggie Tales song (“But when he tried to speak to me he just spoke Polish and I only know like 3 words in Polish but now I know 4 ‘cause Oscar taught me the word for lip: Ousta!” I couldn’t very well just say “Ousta” to this poor distressed woman.)

Anywho, I met up with Stasia and Grace and another Allison, and then we also met a girl who is studying with us for the semester, but she’s not from Franciscan.  She is super nice!!  The Aer Lingus people were also really helpful and gave Stasia, Grace, Allison and I seats together.  

The flight itself was uneventful… yeah.

We arrived in Dublin, found our gate, and met up with about 50 other Franciscan students.  That flight was also fairly uneventful, thank goodness!  After waiting for our bags and then waiting about a half hour for the bus, we were on the way to Gaming!

I’m guessing that about 85% of the people on the bus slept on the 2-hour trip, and I was definitely one of them!  I’d been awake for 28 hours at that point (not counting the ~2 hours of sleep on the planes; if you can hear what’s going on, you’re not really asleep!)  Sunday night consisted of dinner, starting to put things away, Mass at the Kartause chapel, and sleep!!

Monday morning we were up at 7:15 in order to eat breakfast and get to the bus by 8:30, and we were on the way to the Melk Monastery!  It is one of the oldest Monasteries in Europe, and it was incredibly beautiful! (this post is already getting kinda long, so I’ll post pictures in another blog.)  We also had Mass there, then lunch at a local little hotel, and we took the buses back to school.  That evening we had a little talk and got our “emergency phones”.

Tuesday was essentially a day of orientation.  We had talks on different aspects of life here- ministries, mission trips, travels with the university throughout the semester, and alcohol.  Yes, we’re all legal here… so we’ve gotten a significant number of warnings about excessive consumption of alcohol.  Makes total sense, in my opinion, but it does get tedious.  We received a tour of the Kartause in the afternoon- this is such a cool place!!!!  I’ll have to give more details about it later.

Wednesday (today) we had yet another orientation meeting, received textbooks, and then had a tour of the town on the way to Mass in the afternoon!

It’s so surreal to be here, and Grace and I keep saying to ourselves, “Are we really here?  We live here!”  It’s an amazing area!  To wake up and see an old Carthusian monastery and the mountains right outside my window is beautiful.  

So even though I’ve left my home in the states behind, I think I will easily be able to call this place my new home for the semester.  I have the entire world ahead of me (or the whole of Europe, at the very least).

Let’s get this started.

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol 6)

Today I bring you a 'themed version' of my 7 Quick Takes: What I'm Bringing With Me To Europe (in no particular order).

Books.  For a read-a-holic like me, its impossible to think about a trip without books.  I'm limiting myself to 2- The Hobbit and Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning of The Hobbit.  I haven't read either (although I have seen the movie), so I'm excited to get into them.  I have to admit, though, that I may give in and bring Waking Rose with me as well... its just too good. :)
Clothing.  Obviously.  It's been difficult to pack for a colder climate while it's just so unseasonably nice here!  I have boots, a down coat, 2 sweatshirts, countless sweaters, tights, long sleeve shirts.  And a bathing suit.  Who knows what I'll come across (apparently there are 2 pools nearby that we can use?).
Guide books.  So this technically comes under the "books" heading above, but I'm really excited about these two books.  They're both by Rick Steves: one is Europe Through the Back Door and the other is Best of Europe 2013.  So far, they're looking really good and I think they should be helpful for all my travels!
Electronics.  Sorry, but I can't journey through another continent without documenting it!  I'm bringing my computer, phone, and camera, and I'm looking forward to sharing with everyone back home!
Room decorations.  Don't laugh.  You are not allowed to laugh.  Grace and I are both bringing pictures and such for our room, provided that we're allowed to use sticky tack on the walls.  Hopefully- it'll seem so much more homey!
Good walking shoes.  Everyone who goes to Europe (or on any trip, for that matter) knows that good, supportive walking shoes are important!  I found some Dr. Scholl's sneakers that aren't too sneaker-y and are actually kinda cute, and my boots are really supportive, and are actually the same brand of shoe that I wore to Europe last time. (J-41, for all you who are curious.  DSW has them!)  
Snacks for the plane, and a water bottle.  Considering that we'll be on an all-night flight, and that I have to eat protein or I turn into a 7-headed monster (aka, I pass out), I have brought some protein granola bars for the morning we land.  Something tells me they will come in very handy.  I was also advised to bring a Brita filter water bottle, so that I can just fill it up from the tap and not spend money on bottled water!  Yay saving money!

Well, there you have it.  My last post before I'm on the road!
**Due to long layovers, you may expect frequent communications via Track My Tour.  Airports are fascinating places :P

Thursday, January 10, 2013

not down to the wire. yet.

It's yet another week of temporary "lasts".  Last time seeing Evelyn until at least May. Last time seeing all my really good friends, last time going to my parish, playing games with nieces and nephews, going to the library.  And again, it's bittersweet.

I can't wait for the adventures that await me in Europe.
Flying on my own for the first time.
Traveling with friends.
Seeing the Pope.
Going to so many new countries.
Meeting new friends overseas.
Learning so much about my faith in all my classes.
Eating different foods.
Doing things I never dreamed of doing.

It's an experience that not many people have the chance to take advantage of, and I'm so blessed that I can.

My sister-in-law sums it up perfectly here on her blog.
So, to all you whom I'm "leaving behind", I'm only a text, skype call, email, facebook message, youtube video, and Google hangout away!!

This is where it all begins.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sing All Night

Well, well, well.

I'm just gonna be stereotypical and say "Another year has come and gone..."  I guess the reason I'm ok saying it is because it's true.  2012 whizzed past me so fast, and yet it was jam-packed with so much growth on my own part.  I think the best part of growing up is learning more about yourself and why you are the way you are, and 2012 gave me a huge dose of reality in that area.  Of "let me spell out very plainly why you are Allison, how you got to where you are today."  So. many. freaking. times.  Honestly, sometimes I just wanted to sit down and have a chat with my computer, "Ok, stop reading my mind.  Stop putting these articles in front of my nose that are so blatantly obviously for me".  But I knew that ultimately, those articles, blog posts, and songs came from God.  They were his gift to me.

This year, I learned how beneficial friendships are.  Friendships with men and women of God, with people who build me up and who I can build up.  With sisters, brothers, mentors, bloggers, fellow ministers, new acquaintances, priests, seminarians, saints, and most importantly, God.

Each month in 2012 brought its own growth in my life.  I was brought to realizations of my need for other people.  To a conviction to go on a life-changing journey.  I was shown what I could handle physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  I learned that friendships can most certainly be maintained across state and country borders, and that family ties aren’t always forged with a blood relationship.  I discovered that a friend-turned-sister can be one of the greatest blessings in the world, and my reverence for the Eucharist was strengthened.

Through all of this I was forced to push my boundaries, exceed my limits.  Do things that I didn’t think I was going to be able to accomplish.  I was brought to difficulty after difficulty and was asked to conquer.  I just kept pushing, praying, and waiting for answers.  God never fails to provide, and I say with certainty that He provided all I needed this year.

I have some regrets from this past year.  I think everyone does, looking back.  But I can’t continue looking behind me.  I must push on and hope and pray that I succeed in the months to come where I have come up short in the months that have passed.

The beginning of a new year is a time to look forward.  The future is always unknown, and 2013 brings with it a new round of new experiences.  I will be going places, both physically and internally, that I’ve never gone before.  I’ll be placed in situations that will once again force me to trust.

It seems to be a recurring theme.

May 2013 be a year of renewal, of finding myself, of new experiences with new and old friends, and of answered prayer.