Felix Roma Part 1 – Rome Sweet Home?

True enough, it has been a while since I have written.  I made a resolution that I would not write on the blog during the first semester of my studies in order to get my schedule in order.  Now, the semester is over and I hope to write during this week of break and also post once a week, on Wednesdays, during the coming semester.

Some of you know that I have moved from the little city of Madison, WI, USA to the great Eternal City of Rome.

Some people would call it Rome, Italy but that is a little farce put on in order to fit this city into the contemporary structure of modern Europe.  True enough, Rome is on the Italian Peninsula but it would be a grand mistake to place this city in the minimalist structures of mere geography.  The ancient Empire has drawn the nations into itself.  It speaks every language and holds every culture.  A number of titanic fools like Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel had the hubris to reduce this city to the capital of Italy – a farce of a nation and cruel joke to all who live here.

Rome is much older than Italy or Italians. . . or Americans or Germans or Indians or Nigerians or Argentinians or whatever.  She is a city that brooks no masters and will have no lords.  She is a monster, beautiful to behold but deadly to embrace.  She is born out of the blood of fratricide and the lust for power.  Rome will always have this history and nothing can change it.  (I will explain all this in future post

This is where I live – Rome.  Officially I reside at the Casa Santa Maria.  The Casa part of the Pontifical North American College – NAC for short.  Now, when most people hear ‘NAC’ they either think nothing or they think the seminary built near the Vatican.  Fair enough.  Technically speaking the NAC consists of the Casa Santa Maria, the Seminary and the Casa O’Toole.  The NAC is owned by the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops and governed by a Board of Directors.

The Casa Santa Maria is the house for American priests in graduate studies in Rome.  This is where I and 70 other priests live.  The Casa is found at Via dell’Umilta 30 in Rome, one block away from the Trevi Fountain, three blocks away from the Pantheon and right next door to the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles, where the relics of Sts. Simon and James the Less are buried.

I attend classes at the Pontifical Athaneum of Sant’Anselmo, which is the Benedictine university in Rome and is found on the Aventine Hill.  Sant’Anselmo is home to the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy (PIL) where I am enrolled in the Propedeutic Year (a fancy term for studying Latin and Greek all day, every day) with an eye towards one day obtaining a Doctorate in Sacred Liturgy (S.L.D.)

Every morning I wake up at 4:30 am, get cleaned up, say Mass in our beautiful chapel, make my holy hour, eat breakfast and then take the bus to school.

Chapel at the Casa Santa Maria

Chapel at the Casa Santa Maria

On the way to school I pass by the house where St. Paul lived when he was under house arrest in Rome, the Piazza Venezia, the Roman Forum, the Colesseum, the Palatine Hill and the Circus Maximus.  The bus stops at the base of the Aventine Hill and I walk up the old neighborhood of the Roman senators and patricians which is now a very beautiful and quiet place that is home to many embassies, fine hotels and fairly wealthy Roman residents.

Sant'Anselmo

Sant’Anselmo

After morning class I walk home down the Tiber river past many beautiful, though less historic, things.  Lunch is at 1:00 pm after which I make some devotions and then do homework for a bit.  I exercise for a hour in the mid-afternoon and resume study when I am cleaned up – this really helps falling asleep during language drills.

My books

My books

I do my evening prayers at 6:00 pm and have dinner at 7:00 pm.  After dinner is time to email, check news, write on the blog, Skype, read – try to act like a normal person.  On Thursday evenings I head up the the Seminary, on Friday evenings I have my Circle and the weekends are various depending.

Some of the men in my Circle for priests

Some of the men in my Circle for priests

This is my life.  This is how I live it and where I live it.  I live in Rome.

To be sure, Rome is NOT home and never will be.  I am squarely and American and clearly a son of Wisconsin and love no place on earth better than in front of my parents little house in my little hometown in the middle of nowhere that anyone cares about.  Nothing will ever change that.  I love home with all my heart and I miss my family and my friends more than I can say – I love you all and always will.

But I live in Rome.  I don’t live in Madison or Waunakee or Prairie du Sac, I live in Rome.  I don’t live in Italy (I will explain that later also) I live in Rome.

I did not choose this, I don’t really understand it but I love it.

I also hate it.  You can’t love Rome if you don’t hate it.  This is a city at war with its very self and has been ever since the Blood of the Savior came to and conquer the evil of the empire.  Rome’s masters and lords are long dead and the empire they ruled has been divided up among many lesser lords.  There are no Romans, no such person exists anymore.  O, there are people who live in Rome, people who were born and raised in Rome, but there are no more Romans.  Too many Goths and Visigoths and French and Austrians and Tuscans and Sardinians and Germans and Americans have come through and raped and pillaged and conquered.  There are many crumbly bits and dead monuments to Imperial Rome and the ancient Romans.  There is even a gaudy monument to a pretender Rome and fake Romans.  But not the real thing.

It is an insane city, governed by a corrupt and inept political class and inhabited by people who simply don’t care, so long as the tourists (be they the powerful or the ordinary) come and spend their money and stay out of certain restaurants.  This makes for an insane city where the amazing is simple but the ordinary is nearly impossible and so, if you don’t hate Rome it means you know nothing about Rome and only pay attention to the glitter and the sugar.

If you don’t love Rome it means you do not love Rome nor do you know anything about her for she is home to such wonders of the sanctity and theology and philosophy and art and architecture and music and history and wonder and awe.

This is where I live.  I am so immensely privileged and wouldn’t wish this on anyone.  I love it hear and never want to leave but I also hate it hear and cannot wait to get out.

I live in Rome.

More to come, if you care to read it.

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