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.