Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Afternoon Adventure...

Yesterday, Sister Veronica accompanied me to my doctor appointment at Salvator Mundi hospital. We took the tram to the Vatican and then tried to walk the rest of the journey. LESSON #1: distances on the map look much closer than they are in reality. As the minutes passed and we were getting dangerously close to being late, I decided to abandon the MAPQUEST directions. LESSON #2: taxis in Rome are white or yellow - other colors mean an independent driver with independent rates. Dr. Zanninelli was very happy to meet Sister Veronica. We chatted about her aunt who lives in McLean, VA and teaches at Georgetown University. The doctor is still a fellow at Harvard. Smart must run in the family! She said my throat still looked red and did another culture. Fortunately, there was no office charge and a much smaller charge for the second lab test. I'll hear more next week. I do hope this germ has surrendered...

Dr. Zanninelli gave us walking directions from the Giancolensi neighborhood to the Piazza Navona. She said it was a beautiful walk down into the city and should take us about an hour. Along the way we would see the Garibaldi statue and magnificent mountain views of the city. was a beautiful walk...and we did see the city from a great height...BUT, an hour into our walk we were asking for directions and, once again, made aware that we were VERY far off from our destination. Not only that, the road that would take us to the Tiber crossing had no sidewalks - an ancient, curvy road. LESSON #3: never walk on streets w/o sidewalks unless you want to meet Jesus sooner than later.

We were exhausted and VERY hungry by the time the second taxi dropped us near the enoteca. (Remember...the wine library?) It was 2:45 and we were famished! It was the best meal for so many reasons. We tasted two new grapes - Aglianico and Nebbiolo D'Alba. Both delicious but very different. Aglianico is from the region called Basilicata. It is a soft red - rich in fruit aroma and taste. Nebbiolo is the great Italian grape from the Piedmont region. It is the grape from which the great Barolo and Brunello are made. The grape grown in Alba is a softer version. Tannic and capable of aging, it is a dry, distinctive red. In plain English - yum!

This outing was the very first time Sister Veronica and I had some time alone. I loved having her all to myself...giggling a bit...and talking about our wonderful community. I treasure time with her - all the more since she was missioned to Richmond. Now that we've traded places and she's once again at the monastery, time together is still at a premium. This wonderful meal - shared with my sister - was like a taste of heaven. OK...the food...homemade liver pate w/ Cognac, Greek Salad w/ fresh Feta, pasta w/ olives, dried tomatoes, Pecorino Romano, a lovely Orange tart and homemade ice cream from the must of grapes. Yup. I actually had wine-related ice cream! Who knew there was such a thing?

I can't close without thanking the community for sending us to this wonderful city. It is a privilege to study and to absorb the culture of Rome. And many thanks to so many friends who's generosity made yesterday's lunch a pure gift. We prayed for you all in our grace before the meal.

I am at the Casa today. Most everyone went on an adventure. Sister Veronica is at the catacombs with a large group of sisters. I had planned on going, but my body said "no" this morning. My legs hurt from walking in the wrong shoes yesterday and my throat felt a little sore again, so I decided to roll over and sleep. I walked to the market around 10 am and bought a birthday present for Sister Veronica. Sunday, January 20th, is her birthday. How wonderful to be in the country of her birth on her special day. I'm sure Sister Joan Ann has a special present for her at home, but I wanted her to have a little something to open on her day.

The sun is shining for the second day in a row - be still my heart! I plan to rest some and study some. The gang will be home later in the afternoon. I look forward to hearing of their travels at supper. Love to you all and every blessing... - Sister Vicki

Thursday, January 17, 2008

RB 8-20: The Liturgical Code

One of Saint Benedict's many gifts was the capacity to take the best of what was and combine it with the wisdom of lived experience. Like RB in general, the liturgical code contains elements from many sources: The Rule of the Master, Rule of Augustine, Bishop Caeserius of Arles, the Roman Office and the Rule of the Angel. (That last one was a new one for me.) Sister Aquinata always highlights what makes his additions and omissions significant. Benedict cared about posture, music and the integrity of the psalms themselves. Studying these chapters will remind us of what is essential in the LOH - what we need to do to remain faithful. (I'm feeling brave, now. I've actually abandoned the colored pencils for my beloved highlighters. I know...really walking on the wild side!)

Tonight, all the visiting Benedictines were invited to join the sisters on their monthy trek to Radio Vaticano. All the orders in Rome have one evening of praying the Rosary for the universal Church - in Latin. The broadcast begins here around 9 PM. You can pick it up on the Vatican website. I think I'll spare the world and stay home. Never took Latin in school. Who knew it would come in handy 25 years later?

Tomorrow, Sister Veronica and I will venture into the city for my doctor appointment (and some fun.) The next post will be up on Saturday. Love to you all...and every blessing. - Sister Vicki

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Random Thoughts...

I think we had rabbit for lunch today. It was about half-way through our midday meal that the possibility occurred to me. I thought to myself, "It's either rabbit or a chicken with a growth disorder." It was good, but after that thought surfaced, "seconds" meant pasta.

Today, I'm trying something new with the laundry. The european machine is so hard to understand. I never know if I'm pressing the right buttons. And, I have no sense of when the cycle is over, so my wash is almost always taken out by someone else and left in a basket. The thought of disrupting the flow of sisters' laundry is mortifying to me. So, today, I'm washing in my little "studio." That means, a bucket, laundry soap and lots of hands-on, old-fashioned elbow grease. It's kind of fun - first time, and all. We'll see how long that lasts. For now, the privacy and flexibility appeal to me greatly.

Sister Veronica has gone to the market this afternoon. I can't wait for her to get back to hear her reaction to the wonderous foods... Last time I went, I brought her Italian potato chips and a COKE. We're feeling the absence of "treat night" at Bristow. That once-a-week junk food fix doesn't seem to happen here - perhaps why we are both losing weight. We're eating like hungry girls at every meal, but somehow, we're always hungry. OK...I'M always hungry. Could be the clock on my stomach is off, too.

We covered the entire "Life and Miracles of Saint Benedict" today. Sister Pauline did a wonderful lecture highlighting the themes in Book II and their relationship to desert spirituality and ascetic tradition. It was alot...but good stuff to chew on. (I'm still talking in food language!)

Good news...I feel great and my body seems to be on Italian time now. (Only took me two weeks!) Bad news...the doctor wants to see me Friday for another culture to make sure the strep is defeated. Sister Veronica and I will go together. I'm pretty sure we can find our way to the hospital together - with the help of MAPQUEST. (Can you believe it works in Italy, too?) Then, we'll have lunch together someplace fun. I found an enoteca - "wine library," is the literal translation - near the Piazza Navona. It's a regular trattoria that serves numerous wines by the glass. This way, we can journey to a couple regions and never leave the city. Smart, huh?

Love to you all... - Sister Vicki

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Feast of Maurus and Placid...

One of the graces of this Roman experience is the convergence of text and liturgy. Today, monastics everywhere celebrate two disciples of Saint Benedict - Maurus and Placid. On Wednesdays here, Sister Pauline - superior in this house - instructs us on The Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great, from whom we learn of these two holy monks. Although the Benedictine ordo has nothing to do with our lesson plans, it is, I think, no accident.

Now, to be completely honest, I can never remember who's who in this most famous of miracles. Is Placid the older? The younger? Which one nearly drowns in the lake? Which one saves his brother, at the abbot's command, by running across the water and pulling him from its depths - just as Saint Peter walked on the water by Christ's word. Here's what I learned: it was Placid, the younger boy, who nearly drowned and Maurus, the elder boy, who saved him. In a commentary by Adalbert de Vogue, OSB, I learned that the lake is symbolic of the devil who wants to swallow up the monastic. And Maurus, by his immediate response to Saint Benedict, becomes an icon of obedience - listening for the voice of GOD everywhere, but especially in the abbot who takes the place of Christ. The Life of Saint Benedict is required reading in formation, so don't fret if you haven't read it. You will...

Today, we're celebrating Sister Maura, one of our classmates, on her feast day. And, Sister Veronica and I are missing our Sister Joan Ann - formally, Sister Placidus. Love to you, Joan Ann, and every good blessing this day can hold. Love to you all...
- Sister Vicki

Monday, January 14, 2008

"...they left their nets"

The sun is shining today - quite rare! Actually, is seems to rain every Saturday - our FREE day. Our study goes well. We are up to chapter 7 in the Holy Rule - humility. The study questions and texts to cross-check are plentiful. We each just seem to plug along and head where the Spirit takes us. (The Spirit led me to a nap after our midday meal. I think my body is still recharging.)

The gospel this morning makes me miss our WIF's and WID's. (Bristow-speak for "women in formation" and "women in dicernment.") This passage - Jesus calling the disciples - is often used to highlight vocation ministry. The American bishops even used the title: "FISHERS OF MEN" for a 17-minute video on the priestly vocation. (You can see 3 minutes worth for FREE on the USCCB website.) Today, hearing this Word at Eucharist, I thought about the women who have left their nets to follow Christ in the monastic life. Kathy and Karen, our postulants, are such a gift to our community. I miss them both... And, I'm missing Linda and Mary who are "Living-In" with us as part of their discernment. E-mail helps to keep us connected, but it's not the same. They are all moving forward in their relationship to the community - taking the "narrow road" Saint Benedict speaks of in the Prologue. And that's what Jesus is offering Peter and Andrew, James and John - a new way, a deepening of relationship with the Father through the Son. This gospel is not so much about the One who calls as it is about the willingness to answer. There are four women at home to whom I send my special love and prayers today...and gratitude for their "yes" to Christ. - Sister Vicki

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baptism of the Lord...

Happy feast! It is nearly half over here. There is no Sunday schedule in this house. Every day we have Morning Prayer at 6:15 followed by Eucharist. The liturgy was in English today, though the introits and acclamations were all in Latin – Gregorian chant. I find it’s kinder of me to listen rather than attempt to join in. It feels too much like a vocal rollercoaster ride! Several of the visiting sisters have had more experience with chant. I close my eyes and listen. It’s lovely – unfamiliar and undecipherable – but lovely.

That said… I miss our Sunday liturgy at Bristow. I miss the extended community of oblates and friends. I miss the music in our house and the gifted preaching of our brother, Raymond. As long as I’m being honest…there’s more. I miss EVERYTHING about Sunday. This morning on our way to Mass, Sister Veronica and I were whispering about breakfast. “I want oatmeal…something hot,” she confessed. And I said, “I want Henry’s pancakes, Doris’ spoon bread, sausage and poached eggs.” We both giggled and gave each other a consoling hug. There is, truly, “no place like home.” Love to you all... - Sister Vicki