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!