Saturday, January 12, 2008

It's all about the food...

Today, almost everyone got on the train for the city. I’m glad I decided to sit this one out as it is yet another cold, rainy Saturday in Rome. I hope Sister Veronica stays warm and dry… In the city you can just run from one church to another to get out of a storm. And, men with umbrellas appear everywhere when it starts to pour. “Umbrellas – E5!” When you say, “No, thank you,” they say, “E3!”

I did decide to get out of my room and get some fresh air in between rain showers. The local market is about a 20 minute walk. I enjoyed the walk but I LOVED the market! The Panorama was bustling with shoppers – all speaking Italian. One half is like a department store and the other is a food market - the likes of which I haven’t seen since my visit to Harrods in London.

I spent over an hour looking at exotic vegetables, meats, cheeses and fish. My only lament is that I don’t have a kitchen to cook in. I bought some fresh ciabatta, some smoked pecorino and a bottle of Montefalco Sangratino – a grape that grows only in Italy, in the region of Umbria. I hope Sister Veronica has enough energy when she gets back have a taste with me… I thought I was in love with Paris. Rome is a gastronomic wonder! The market itself is like a still life painting of the glory of food. I had to keep the camera out of sight, but managed a few photos. Enjoy my visual feast! Love to you all… - Sister Vicki

Friday, January 11, 2008

January 11th - Feeling better...

Well, friends, I've had three doses of magic medicine and the pain in my throat is gone. I plan to skip the outing tomorrow - as much as it disappoints me - in the hope of a complete and lasting cure. I made it through our two hour lecture this morning and to all prayers and meals. Something about the basic bones of our life is so good for me... I've felt isolated and more than a bit homesick. The good women in this house have done all they can to encourage healing. I had a little envelope at my door from Sister Maria Sophia - one of the sisters who lives here at the Casa - containing an Italian chocolate bar (miracle cure for most things) and a note wishing that I would "get soon well." Sister is a native of Germany and she speaks English and Italian. Although I had some study of their way of life in graduate school, living with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters has been a revelation of God's work in their midst.

Founded in Germany in 1885, the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing claim Fr. Andreas Amrhein, OSB, a monk of Beuron, as their patriarch. What began as an exclusively German order, is now an international community of women from 26 nations. These sisters live the Rule of Benedict in community, are constitued and nourished by the Liturgy of the Hours, and consider the whole world their apostolate. I am in awe of their good works in so many places.

Today, I tried singing a German hymn at Eucharist. Not as hard as I thought in that the words sound much as they appear on paper. I have no idea what any of it meant, but it felt good to have a voice again and join it to their song of praise. Some days, the hymns and acclamations are in several languages: German, English, Latin, Tagalog, Portugese, Korean. The universal church...quite an experience. Have to go to 4 PM study group...I've missed twice this week. Love and blessings to you Bristow, in Richmond, in South Carolina, New Jersey, Chicago, Cincinnati and Minnesota. - Sister Vicki

Thursday, January 10, 2008

January 10th - "Your cell will teach you everything."

If this saying of the Desert Fathers holds true, then I must be learning alot today. I have not left my room since 3:30 PM yesterday afternoon. Sister Veronica continues to feed me and smile at me, no matter how pathetic I must appear. Someone told me once that the angels are so busy with the big stuff, that GOD often sends regular people to take care of us. Sister Veronica is anything but "regular" but when it comes to works of love, she could give the angels some friendly competition.

My friend, Sister Mary Catherine, from St. Benedict's Monastery in MN, asked me to say more about coloring the RB. Sister Aquinata taught us to use colored pencils to mark various words in each chapter: the abbot, the monk, God, negative terms, strong or intense language. In doing so, we are left with patterns of emphasis from which can we draw some conclusions - where is the heart of the chapter? On whom does Benedict place the greatest responsibility? Do the negative words reflect the situations that Abbot Benedict encountered among his own brothers? And then, we look at sources - What's taken from RM and what is discarded? Do we see Cassian's wisdom in Benedict's writing? All in all, we are learning a particular methodology for studying the Holy Rule which, Sister Aquinata says, "is learned with the hands."

We have a good deal of homework today. Sister Veronica brought me up to speed as she delivered a lunch which I devoured. My appetite is returning...surely, a good sign. I think, though, I'm not quite ready to return to the larger group. Part of my hesitation comes from wanting the antibiotic to stake its ground and make me less of a danger to my classmates. (I considered a leper bell, but figured self-excommunication was the better path.) I'm also feeling weak yet. The trip from the bed to the desk is about right. I will study in bed and let sleep come whenever it wishes. Tomorrow, I will rise at 5 with my companions and get back to the normal structure of our life at the Casa. Hopefully, I will journey beyond my cell and have some interesting experiences to share with my sisters and friends. Love to you all... - Sister Vicki

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

January 9th - Sister Goes to the Hospital

I'm still sick. In fact, I think it's bigger than a sinus infection so I decided to ask to see a doctor. The sisters were very kind in setting up an appointment at Salvator Mundi - an international hospital in Rome that has several English speaking doctors on staff. The doctor was very gentle and kind. She gave me a throat culture suspecting infection and sent me off with 3 prescriptions. (The medical adventure cost a total of E180, so I'm feeling like Sister Mary Money-Pit right now!) The test won't be done until Monday, but she started me on an antibiotic & anti-inflammatory thinking we should get the jump on it. I couldn't agree more. This morning in class, I wanted to put my head down on the desk and cry. I've learned that whenever I want my Mommy, I'm really sick. I just took two 2 BIG pills and made myself drink this powdered version of ibuprofen (600 mg.) It wasn't the "ALKA SELTZER" from hell that I anticipated. Kind of lemony... I am signing off and going to bed. Love to you all... - Sister Vicki

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

January 8th

January 8, 2008

ROME – 2:46 PM

The sun is shining…birds are singing (as if it were spring) and I feel a whole lot better! Still not getting to sleep easily, but I caught up a bit this morning. It’s been a week since we arrived and finally I feel as if I’ve turned the corner on this infection. I was worried that I had strep, but because I feel so much better today, I think it just has to run its course.
Today I felt truly engaged in the classroom. The last few days have been so challenging physically, that my brain has had to struggle just to keep up. Sister Aquinata’s German accent is difficult for me. But what I miss, Sister Veronica seems to hear. It really is wonderful to be here together. There is just one other community that sent two sisters – the cloistered Benedictines from Jamberoo, Australia. This morning Sister Veronica brought me a hot cup of coffee (as I slept through breakfast). Her well prepared medicine cabinet has been a life-saver. More than anything, though, it’s her tender care that makes all the difference – lots of sympathy and thoughtful love.
Feeling a bit better and sensing the warmth of the sun, I went outside to walk the grounds for the first time. The Casa is the Generalate for the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, Germany. It’s home to the Mother General and a small community of sisters – much like Sant’ Anselmo. The grounds are expansive and beautiful. The trees here are unlike any I’ve ever seen. There are skinny Tuscan trees…and trees that are all poofy on top (pines of some kind?) and there are tropical palms. There are fruit trees, too – lemon and orange. For a kid from the suburbs of New Jersey, that’s just plain exciting!
Security is an issue here. In spite of the beauty around us, there are high walls around the compound with an electric gate. The fence that surrounds the property is topped with barbed wire. When it gets dark, you can hear a multitude of steel gates being lowered over the windows in the common spaces and the bedrooms. I can’t bring myself to lower mine. It’s like sealing yourself in a tin can. But, as it is a safety factor for the whole house, (our Monastery Coordinator pointed out to me,J) I better just suck it up and raise the drawbridge like everybody else. We’ve also been cautioned not to go out alone or at night. Apparently there have been break-ins here at the Casa. Robbery seems to be a common occurrence. I was given so many pointers on Saturday about how and where to carry money…and cautioned to hold my bag at all times. One of the sisters in our group had so much under her clothes she looked like Our Lady of Guadalupe!
I’m blessing GOD today…for the sun, for a body that feels a little bit closer to healthy…for my sisters who, though far away, are close to my heart…for a lovely phone call I had with my Dad on Sunday…for the gift of so much love in my life that transcends the miles and miles of ocean. Tomorrow, more about “school”…
Special love to the faculty, staff and students at SGHS…I find myself missing you all and looking forward to “Monastic Monday” on March 3rd. I’ll have some KILLER photos for that class! – Sister Vicki

Monday, January 7, 2008

January 7th

January 7, 2008

Rome – 12:46 PM

Good morning, America… It’s afternoon here. Damp and dark outside, not the best day for laundry, but it’s the first chance I’ve had since we arrived. There are two tiny washers and very long clothesline on the deck of the third floor. I couldn’t bear to hang my private garments in the wind, so the heater in my room now doubles as a dryer.
No siesta for me today. I couldn’t sleep last night. I saw 21:00…22:00…23:00. Then, when I finally nodded off, the coughing started and continued to disrupt me (and my neighbors) for the better part of the night, so, no nap. I want to be completely exhausted the next time I get horizontal.
At 3:00 PM today, a technician will arrive to hook our individual rooms to the internet. I am very glad for this service. We’ve been sharing two computers between 30 people. I’ve had only enough time to download the blog. Those of you who have sent a personal e-mail should here from me soon…
This morning Sister Aquinata taught us to color The Rule. At first, I found it very frustrating. As the whole class began to call out words to highlight, I started underlining only to have Sister Aquinata dismiss several answers. Then, frantic searching for an eraser…and a Technicolor© mess! I eventually caught up. You’d think a woman who loves highlighters would be a genius at this. Guess again!
I need to hit the books. Love to you all… - Sister Vicki

Sunday, January 6, 2008

January 5th & 6th

January 6, 2008
+ Epiphany of the LORD

ROME – 8:50 AM

Happy feast! It’s another cold, rainy day here, but there is warmth and light in this house. Our breakfast (taken in silence) was enhanced by classical music. Small plates of Italian cookies were left for each of us at table. A great tower of sweet bread dusted in sugar appeared on the buffet table in addition to the regular morning items. We have yet to speak a word to one another, yet the “happy feast” message is all around us.
I feel a bit worse today and suspect my voice sounds a bit like Garbo. I still think it’s the sinus dance my body does a couple times a year when I’m run down inside. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to venture into the city yesterday. We arrived home weary and soaked to the bone. Still, it was a wonderful day of pilgrimage – our first experience of the Vatican.
Sister Veronica and I traveled with Sisters Anita, Ruth and Mary. Catching the 7 AM train, we were among the first in St. Peter’s square. In the early morning darkness, we caught a glimpse of the Christmas lights, watched the police pick up the coins thrown in front of the life-size crèche, and enjoyed the silence before the throng.
We wandered through St. Peter’s…climbed over 500 steps to the cupola (top of the dome), and visited crypt where Peter’s successors are laid to rest. Many people were crowded around the tomb of Pope John Paul II, many at Saint Peter’s, too, even though his resting place lies far below the basilica. The most meaningful spot for me was the tomb of John XXIII – dear Angelo Roncalli – whose body lies incorrupt in an altar on the main floor of the basilica. At one point we got separated – 3 and 2 – as we descended from the dome. I even bothered Saint Anthony after about 30 minutes of searching for our sisters. You can’t imagine the dis-ease of being lost in another country or the deep joy of finding each other in a sea of human beings. JESUS lost in the temple comes to mind…
Our journey continued over the Tiber at the Castel Sant Angelo, to a lovely little pizzeria on Piazza de Pasquino where the vino della casa (house wine) was light and fruity, and the spaghetti carbonara (w/ egg & bacon) was beyond my powers of description. I feel as if I have never really understood the meaning of al dente until now.
Then, the Piazza Navono – alive with a street feast in honor of Epiphany. It began to pour so we decided to keep moving. Next, the Pantheon, St. Maria sopra Minerva – where we stumbled upon a rehearsal of Handel’s Messiah – and the fountain at Trevi. We got lost again, but together. Sister Veronica seemed to enjoy being lost. We found ourselves amid the shopping crowd on Via del Corso. She’s excited at the prospect of a shopping day somewhere in the weeks ahead. I’d like that, too. I’d really like to pick a neighborhood and just wander. Maybe next Saturday…
Eventually, we found our way back to Vatican City (my map drenched in the rain) and stopped for a Gelato before boarding the train. I know – we were cold and wet and tired, but the Gelato things just seemed necessary for our first day in Rome. Tired, wet and happy, we climbed the hill from the station to the Tutzing compound - hot showers all around and early to bed for most of us. We have seven more “free” days ahead…and so much to see and do. Thank you, to the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia for sending us to this wondrous city. We are truly seeing what Benedict saw and walking in his footsteps. What a gift! Love to you all…sisters, friends, family, students and WID’s. I miss you all…and pray for your good. – Sister Vicki