Thursday, April 11, 2013

Recent travels...

Hey everyone!

I am back at St Meinrad, along with all the other Louisville guys, for the final stretch of this school year. Amazingly, in just 6 weeks, my time in seminary will come to an end! As always, time flies by. I have no doubt that the Easter season will go by just as quickly.

St. Meinrad has, of course, been a place of tremendous blessing for me. One of those blessings has been the opportunity to travel to London and Rome this past winter. For some years now, St. Meinrad has had a tradition of taking the Deacon class on a trip to Rome during the winter J-term period. I was tremendously excited about the trip, but also a little bit nervous since I had never traveled overseas before. Most of my life, I never left the KY/IN area. Needless to say, airports are still something of a mystery to me.

I was very, very taken with London. Many things there are similar such as language, but many things are different, such as having the image of the Queen pop up on all the money and to walk around in the city and suddenly see a castle. We visited many of the historic sites such as the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, the Museum of London, etc. My personal favorite pat of all of this was the Crown Jewels exhibit at the Tower of London. This showcased all the royal jewels, crowns, gold, etc. Seeing all of this was so beautiful it made me teary-eyed at times. Just as importantly, we visited Westminster Abbey, St. Paul Cathedral, and my personal favorite, Westminster Cathedral. Over the course of the days there (about 5 in all), it was brought to light again and again how much of what we saw revolved around the English Reformation. This is an area that I find particular interest in, so it was astonishing to see the physical remains of a 500-year-old period of time. In an era where we have to fight so hard to defend our faith, being in a place such as Westminster Cathedral, that was only allowed to be built less than 200 years ago, was astonishing.

In Rome, we were lucky enough to be staying at a hotel about 2 minutes walk from St. Peter’s Square. Walking into the square for the first time will be a memory that will stay with me forever. I’m not ashamed to admit it; I got teary-eyed again when I walked into the church for the first time. It is so large, so magnificent, and so full of beauty and history, it’s almost indescribable. Over the course of the 10 days we spent there, we saw all of the major churches and sites. St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls (which ended up being my favorite), St Mary Major, the Coliseum, etc. Of particular mention for me were the Catacombs of San Callisto, as well as seeing the tombs of St Monica, Blessed Pope John XXIII, and Pope Paul VI, three people who I am especially fond of.

It is certainly worth mentioning that during the trip, we were able to see Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on 4 different occasions. We attended the Papal Mass at St. Peter’s on Epiphany Sunday. I was lucky enough to be only 4 or 5 seats into the row I was in, so when he came processing down the aisle, I was maybe 10 feet from him. He was so larger than life, so grand and beautiful; it meant the world to me to be so close to such a great, great man. I remember wondering at that moment if someone like him can possibly fathom how much he means to people like me and the millions of Catholics that come to see him every day, much less the thousands of seminarians that look to him as a model and guide. Of course, none of us had any idea at that moment that he would announce merely days later that he was stepping down. I was as shocked as the next person, especially since I had just seen him so soon before. In hindsight, it makes the memory all the more special and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.

I think that it is especially fitting to make a trip like this during seminary, especially near ordination. Priesthood is, of course, a life changing event that puts you squarely at the service of the Church. That calling may start out local. For us it starts at home, and then spreads to our local parish, and then it spreads to seminary and the Archdiocese as a whole. But it continues to spread throughout the whole world. The entire society of mankind becomes, over time, the Body of Christ. For Catholics, the heartbeat resides in Rome. Seeing the roots of the faith, in all their glory, at the very center of it all, made me all the more eager to travel right back home to our little piece of central KY. I cannot wait to get started.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers during my last 7 weeks before Ordination. You are in mine as well.

God Bless

Deacon Nick

No comments: