08 January 2015

Avvento (Advent)

Among the newness of living the Advent and Christmas seasons on this distant shore, there has been the underlying comfort of experiencing the true essence of these holy days.

At home, the delights of the season, for me, are illuminated through various features: the Liturgy of the Word, which sparks reflection in anticipation for Christ's coming and invites me to consider more deeply the Incarnation; the spirit of festiveness that surrounds, as seen in the lights that line the streets, the trees that brighten the town, and the decorations in shop windows; the preparatory baking fests which fill the house with delicious aromas, such as cinnamon and citrus; and especially, the spirit of giving and joy that fills the time and space of the Advent and Christmas seasons.

I felt the true essence in a unique way at the Angelicum. Being in this setting that is centered around Our Lord, one's heart is drawn naturally to the joy of the infant Christ and the beloved story of the Holy Family. And there, in the university hallway, where all pass many a time throughout the day, there is stationed the great Christmas tree and village Presepe (Nativity Scene). Coming and going, it is that scene that we encounter, inclining our hearts to the reason for the season.

And beyond that, the season was felt in conversations, as most dialogues included discussion about where each would be for the holidays. Some were to travel back to their homeland, distant or local, and others were planning to stay in Rome. This talk highlighted a feature of the holidays, that I see now, I surely took for granted, and that is the company of family. The more conversations I shared regarding Christmas travels and being home, the more it became clear the authentic joy, unlike any other, that which comes from the comfort of home and the presence of those you love.

As we approached the final days before the holiday break, I could see the excitement in the eyes of my peers, in knowing that in just a few days they would be in the embrace of parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and all those they love. Perhaps this prompted a bit of sadness in my own heart. More lastingly, however, it has prompted a reflection on the love of family, one that I can say required this experience of living in a far-off land.

So, held tenderly in my heart remains this beautiful reflection. Meanwhile, in a less hidden fashion, is the love and embrace of my local family and friends, which has carried me into the celebration of the Great Nativity. While others were sharing their anxiousness to return to the familiarity of their hometowns, far from the quirks and annoyances of Italian life, I shared, with a competing level of joyful anticipation, my arrangements to share Christmas with my cousins.

Through the various things in which I am involved, I have been serenaded by the festive song of the holidays. In my teaching, I included in the lessons Christmas activities like: writing letters to Santa, making Christmas cards, singing Christmas carols, and watching Christmas films.

I embraced the seasonal shopping, in a less overwhelming manner this year, allowing me the excitement of picking out small gifts for my family here.

My baking item for this year was the simple, and very American cookie, "snickerdoodles". I selected these as they include ingredients that can be found quite easily at the Italian supermarket and the little effort in preparation produces many biscottini. And of course, baking these brought into my new home the familiarity of home in the States. It was fun to share these American holiday treats with my peers at school and friends and family here in town.

This hour of festival was further embodied in evening gatherings, such as taking an apperitivo with colleagues, gathering with friends in the casualness of someone's home, and enjoying dinner out.

One of the special Advent events that I attended was put on by the English seminarians, at the English College here in Rome. I, along with others from school, were given an invitation from peers at the Angelicum. The evening included a liturgical portion with readings and Latin songs from the choir. After the first part, we all went upstairs for some mulled wine and sweets. Then, we gathered in the common room for the comedic and quite witty Advent Show. The talented men put together a myriad of short skits which managed to highlight in an absolutely amusing fashion the nuances of Anglo culture, including the Scots vs. English conflict (demonstrated in particular for the Scottish seminarians in the audience) and the diversity of cross-cultural perspectives on the priesthood. One of the best skits portrayed seminarians from the USA, Italy, France and England. The scene was set as a class on practical learning for the priesthood. The question that each had to answer was how to respond to the scenario when a beautiful young female parishioner confesses her love for the priest and testifies to him being "the one". You can imagine the different ways each seminarian responded. The final response was from the American, who shared that they learned this well through a drill at the NAC (North American College). He proceeded to demonstrate the technique they acquired, and then cued the song, "Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer.
That skit was by far my favorite.

And as a topper to the festive occasions, I even managed to share an American Christmas film with an Italian friend. I shared, none other than the famous, Elf. My friend knows English quite well, but there was of course the necessary explanation of a few terms of the Christmas jargon. He had a good laugh at the universally hilarious movie.

28 December 2014

On to the Next

The end of November marked the first week of Advent. The change in liturgical season welcomed the spirit of preparation, as the streets of Rome were lined with delicate lights, big festive trees were put up in the city center, and the evenings were met with the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers and seasonal tourists.

In accordance with the essence of the changing moment, I took residence in a new apartment. My three month lease at the petite apartment of Via di Santa Maria Maggiore was up the first week of December. The invitation arose, thanks to cousin Mario, to move in to an apartment owned by a cousin (on Mario's maternal side, not the Calabrese side) from Cersosimo, the mother land of my family. A few weeks back, I made a visit with my cousin Vincenzo to see the apartment and meet Mario's aunt, uncle, and cousins. Though I wasn't initially planning to move, this new invitation seemed to have all the right marks.

*Perhaps at this point I should illustrate a diagram of my family tree, or maybe one of the population of Cersosimo, which for the sake of ease I will claim as entirely family.

So here I am, now, in a lovely apartment in the zone of another great basilica, the Cathedral of Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano. This zone is a perfect balance of residential and commercial. Unlike the previous zone, which was very touristy, this area prefers locals. To my convenience, I am near to the San Giovanni metro stop (of Line A, the main one I use) and to a multitude of bus options for my route to school and other parts of town. Additionally, I am a short walk away from the tram that takes me to the residence of one of the private lessons I give.
My street is calm and well-secure since it is off one of the main streets. Our building is set back a bit, behind the front building of the complex. Since we are on the sixth floor, the window views are rather lovely. The surrounding buildings present an array of colors, which are complemented by the blue skyline that greets the straight lines of the edifice tops.

There are many benefits to the change, which include a significant drop in rent cost and the opportunity to acquaint myself with a new zone of localities to stumble upon in my new routes. And as the most significant feature of the move, I am now living with two other women, one a "cousin" (Mario's cousin on his mom's side) originally from Cersosimo, and the other a student from the same southern region, Basilicata. Speaking Italian at home is advantageous, of course, for my language acquisition. Though I enjoyed living alone, I consider this change to be multifold in its benefit. It feels like living with family, as we are very comfortable with one another. It is especially comforting to talk about Cersosimo and laugh about the dialectal words, which are familiar to me from home and are native to Mariana. She and her brother Saverio (another relative to add to the list) had a good laugh when we reviewed the various terms with which I was familiar. They were quite surprised to hear the old language of Cersosimo coming from Los Angeles.
Saverio and I have agreed to a language exchange, Italian for English. Saverio is in his thirties, and his study of English is limited to his high school years. I will leave it at that. On occasion, while gathered around the dinner table, we have a "lesson." It may be more fitting to call it a comedy session, as it usually results in laughter.
Anyway, it all makes for a healthy living space.

My room here is very spacious, about the same size as the entire apartment of SMM. I have a wide bed to myself, lots of natural light from the tall window, sufficient storage space, a bookshelf with plenty of availability, and open space for proper airflow, something that was lacking in my previous residence.

As for transportation, I am now two metro stops closer to where I teach. This allows me also the option of walking, necessary during the frequent occasion when the transportation company is on strike.
What was a ten minute walk to arrive at the Angelicum is now a twenty-five minute bus ride. Though the convenience of the prior path was nice, I am enjoying seeing the city a bit before beginning my day at school. And, as long as I manage to get up in time for an early arrival at the university, in time for morning Mass, I am able to beat the morning hour bus traffic. Otherwise, it can make for an anxious start to the day. One would think three doors on a bus would allow for smooth exiting from the vehicle. In reality, however, when people are packed like sardines within the narrow channel of the bus interior, getting off is quite the endeavor. Morning dialogue with the fellow bus-rider is typically limited and goes a bit like this:

"Scende?" ("Are you (formal) getting down?").
And the next person replies either, "Sì," which implies, "get out of the way."
Or one replies, "No, la prossima," which means, "No, the next one." In other words, "be prepared to move soon."

So it goes, September 8: the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, marked my departure for Rome. And December 8: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, designated my beginning anew in this home. Anointed occasions, as I see them.

The Chronicles Continue

More than a month has passed since my last posting. I feel as if a book would be more fitting in recounting the tales of life here.

I'll begin where I left off in the previous post, with a meditative spirit of gratitude and a heavy winter coat.

November fortified the weather's chill and welcomed in the holiday season. This year's Thanksgiving made its way to new soil, sans Dutch pilgrims and Native Americans. Instead, the participants were Italian. The Sunday before the Thursday holiday, I prepared the historical meal for my family and friends of Rome. Mario and Anna special ordered a turkey, and with a trip to the Castroni international market, I managed to scrounge up the makings of the Thanksgiving meal.

Mario took on the task of preparing the turkey, with a few minor suggestions of mine. And, with a bunch of Italian helping hands, our feast was full: stuffing from scratch, cranberry sauce (5 euro jar of Ocean Spray's original), cornbread, sautéed green beans, mashed potatoes, soup, and of course the beloved pumpkin pie with homemade dough (frozen-ready doesn't exist in this land).

Oh what a delight it was to be in the kitchen and to share the authentic American tradition with my dear ones. It marked the "firsts" of a few occasions. My cousins witnessed the versatility of the key ingredient: butter, and they embraced the foreign concept of sweet and savory.

As we sat down at the festively-set table, eleven of us in total, I began with a few Italian words. I shared that Thanksgiving, most importantly, marks a celebration of life's blessings. After I gave thanks for the opportunity to be in Italy and share the tradition with all of them present and Anna shared her thoughts, the feast commenced. We filled the bowls with soup with pastina (a Calabrese Thanksgiving dish that reconciles Italian with American). From there, we continued to the main courses. It was quite entertaining to see the reluctance of the others to put portions from all of the dishes on one plate. They went along with it, nonetheless. I explained how the cranberry sauce complements the turkey quite well, and so the experimenting carried on.

Now for any of you who haven't yet enjoyed a meal Italian-style, I should explain to you the stark contrast between our two continents. First of all, the Italian dinner is in no way rushed. First are some appetizers. Then, once everyone is seated, comes pasta. After clearing the pasta bowls, then arrives the meat and vegetables, and perhaps salad. Each serving platter typically has enough for each person to have a generous portion and is therefore left empty, as the prepared amount is precise to the number of people eating. After the dinner plates are cleared away, the fruit is brought out. Following a pause, caffe is made and the dessert is welcomed to the table.

So, you can imagine the oddity it was to eat the turkey with everything else. And even more strange was the fact that there were tons of leftovers. This is where the American fashion peaks in, inviting you to keep picking and eating, without a designated end in sight. My cousin Anna remarked on this precisely, pointing out how one could potentially eat incessantly.

It was at that point that the consequence of Thanksgiving set in... food-coma. We cleared the dishes, with much to package away for the coming days. Next we moved on to the pumpkin pies. I was especially proud of these sweet treats, as it was the first time I made them from scratch (thanks to the help of cousin Francesco the night before and a great amount of metric conversion).

Instead of American football as background noise, we were entertained with the Derby della Madonnina (Italian title for the rivalry soccer match of Inter vs. Milan), a reminder that despite the transformative setting of our meal, we were still in Italy.

All and all, everyone enjoyed the meal and greatly appreciated experiencing the well-known American tradition first-hand.

A cheerful video chat to America closed the evening, allowing Mom and Nanna to share a greeting with the cousins and see the transported American tradition shared with the extended family here in Rome, a beautiful reality of the transcontinental connection we have.

17 November 2014


It certainly feels of autumn here in Rome, in the weather, the smells, the fallen leaves, the fashion, and the routine of life. About a month back (clearly it's been a while since I've posted) there was a significant shift in temperature. It dropped nearly 5 degrees C (10 degrees F) in a matter of a couple of days. It has been consistently in the high teens to low 20s C (60s F).

For the first time in my life, I find myself wearing a winter coat and scarf regularly. I never imagined I would run short of sweaters and long sleeves. The leg warmers that were once purchased for 80s costume purposes are now serving their practical purpose. Fall being my favorite season, I am quite content with the autumn chill.

Europe had their time change the last weekend of October, a week earlier than the USA, so the autumnal season has become even more recognizable. The cool, dark evenings prompt a sensation to be inside with a warm beverage (or perhaps a glass or two of wine), cozy socks, and a good book. The time change and the rainy weather doesn't stop anyone in this town. The routine continues, and the evening hours maintain their liveliness.

The beginning portion of this blog post was written a few weeks back when I intended to write at the onset of the chilly autumn weather. Now in revisiting my writing, I have weathered a bit more of life... pun intended.

Today finds me more seasoned in my routine. Rome is experiencing an abundance of precipitation. Oh how I wish I could push a few of these rainy clouds to the skies of California so the drought-ridden land could inherit the showers of these plentiful forms. I must admit that a part of me feels a sense of guilt when I share the news of daily rain with those who are enduring the drought conditions back in California.

Funny enough, I went over a month since arriving without an umbrella. I managed to escape the rain each time it came. That was until one morning a couple weeks back, when I awoke to the comforting sound of showers. In anticipation of my walk to school, I began to consider my options for cover. Fairly certain that one of those Houdini-like umbrella men would be in close proximity to my building door, I wondered if this early morning hour was one in which he was vending. To my relief, as I stepped outside my palazzo, I was greeted by the sight of Mr. Umbrella Man, a mere 30 meters away. I think he could see the desperation in my glance. That little umbrella is earning its price and is being used now on a nearly daily occasion.

The weeks pass quickly. The sense of balance of which I wrote in an earlier post seems to be continuing. Each area of life brings a particular sense of challenge and fulfillment. My studies and university community continue to fuel my passion for the existential questions of life and the methodology for seeking the truth. The group of students who constitute the philosophy first-years are a lovely bunch with whom I have the great pleasure of learning.

I am understanding better the comparison between the American university system and that of Europe. At this point, I would say that the American system does an excellent job in developing students' writing abilities and their production of essays and projects. Additionally, because I come from the quarter-system (11 week terms), I am accustomed to moving rapidly through material. Here, in the EU system, students attend lectures and read the listed texts. And for those who are ambitious, there are supplemental texts. I am finding this way quite enriching and significantly less stressful.

In initially deciding to enter the philosophy faculty (department), during my period of application, I had a small glimmer of doubt in my love for philosophy and its priority over studying theology. And now, as the history of philosophical thought is further unveiled and my own inquiries are surfacing, I am affirmed in my decision to pursue philosophy.

Just the other day, a peer of mine, a seminarian from England, and I were conversing about our incessant desire to discover philosophical answers to the modern moment and to our own uncovering. He and I have found that we share many of the same questions, at a level of specification that isn't necessarily sought by all of our peers, especially those who have a preference for theology. I shared with my fellow novice that I possess a persistent search for answers that follow the reasoning of philosophy and the path of logic. In my mind, I can't address the questions of theology and revelation until the foundation in reason is solid. Pursuing this in the environment of proper methodology and in light of Aquinas's works, which expand upon the foundations of Aristotle and eastern thought, contrasts the philosophical environment of the public university. It is ever-apparent how my course of study in philosophy is essentially the "day" to the "night" that was my UCSB experience. Perhaps I have retained some remnants of my secular studies. After all, my professor of Ethics did label a response of mine as very Kantian... uh oh. He also described another response that I gave (to the effect of ethics possessing a component of pragmatism) as very American.

To say that I am happy in my studies is the year's biggest understatement. My soul is enlivened here. For a while I have gone about learning philosophy in an amateur and unorganized way. And here I am, now, being guided along the path of systematically acquiring the enlightenment of philosophic tradition. The many interrogative promptings of my past are reappearing in the hope of being addressed in the fullness that is fitting. I can see that the interests of my being possess a cohesiveness that seem to be syncing themselves to this area of study. These topics of questioning provide substance for reflection, reflection that I can take before the Lord in prayer and ponder even more deeply. St. Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, who gifted the world with the richness of faith and reason in his works, rooted all of what became his intellectual fruits in prayer. If he wasn't writing or teaching, he was in prayer, seeking always the counsel of the Spirit. We, the students of life, have much to learn from this practice, the model of Aquinas.

This post seems to be that of the miscellaneous nature, the consequence of delaying this long.

On the other side of the balance scale, there is the complementary world of teaching. It's life-giving to be in the classroom, encountering expansively the teacher-student relationship, the practices of pedagogy, and the features of language acquisition. Seeing how my journey in education has unfolded fortifies further that synchronization of which I spoke earlier. From a distance these realms of studying philosophy and teaching English seem disparate. For my many acquaintances who are in either education, philosophy, or both, the complementation of the two is certain. A couple years back, if I had been asked exactly how these realms would collide in my own life, I would have struggled in trying to make such a projection. Now that I am here, though there remains still the mystery of life to come, I can revel in the insights I glean from these two devotions of mine. What could easily be witnessed as the professional versus the academic or the practical versus the passion, is really the collision of the juxtapositions. It's as if I have looked back at the map of my life and discovered that those detours were actually necessary roundabouts. In great gratitude, I hold firm to the blessing that God has directed me in the freedom of my passions and the inspirations of my environments. Each interest that has manifested in my life has been sought with intention.

Speaking of intention... I reflect upon a recent lecture topic: the four causes, according to Aristotle. I had a moment of great excitement in connecting a reality of life to an explanation presented in our Philosophy of Nature course. It was in discussing the final cause as the intentional cause. That is, the final cause or purpose of something prompts the intention. The intention, however, is not the efficient cause. That is to say, the act doesn't take place merely by the presence of the intention. My intent to clean my house doesn't cause the cleaning to take place. It is the will that causes the cleaning. The will is the approximate efficient cause. The cleaning occurs by choice of the will, and so it is not the intention that brings about the cleaning but the human will.

And so, this tiny molecule of the organism that is philosophical thought sparked a reflection for me on the reality of the human will becoming an impediment to the final cause. To what am I referring? Well, one example is the "lazy day", the day when I have ninety-seven different tasks I have the intention of completing of which zero actually get done. Because I am interested in psychology and the spirit, this minor designation presents a bridge for me. In the realm of the spirit, there is virtue (generally speaking) associated with obedience. I've often thought about what is "wrong" with the fact that sometimes I don't complete those things I intended to do. There isn't a moral judgement placed on failing to complete what I intended. And yet there seems to be some component of deficiency. What I mean is that I wouldn't include among my sins in Confession that I didn't do my laundry last weekend like I intended. There seems to be some link of following through with intention, a form of obedience, with virtue. In our rational form, we have free will. This freedom gives us the opportunity to choose either in accordance with our final cause or against it. I have yet to fully apprehend the complexity of the will, so for now I have these small pieces of wonderment to chew on.

Perhaps I should have designated each of these unrelated topics with a line or something.
On to the spectaculars of being a resident of Rome...

Ester and I have vowed to attend Mass at a different church each Sunday. In this adventure we have made our way to Santa Maria della Vittoria, where the Bernini statue of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa resides. Oddly enough, this world-renowned statue sits in a rather quaint church.
Among the other visits we've made are: San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome), San Pietro, and San Clemente delle Quattro Fontane.

My first visit to St. John Lateran was for the feast of the dedication, two Sundays ago. There was no way that I could miss Mass on the dedication feast day, at the basilica that stands a mere twenty minute walk from my apartment.

We went to Mass at St. Peter's yesterday. In the rainy weather, we made our way for evening Mass. As Ester and I were awaiting her Spanish friends, I stood in view of the giant pillars that surrounded us. I thought, "Here I am, standing here casually, outside this destination of pilgrims, the home of our Catholic family, awaiting evening Mass." Ester and I spoke of our recognition of such a blessing, and how there are many who go without ever encountering this grandiose monument.

So in case you are wondering if I have become just another body roaming these Roman streets in neglect of the story that surrounds me, I haven't. Though there is sometimes a delay in the reminder, it never escapes my consciousness. I do have to admit, though, that the other day I passed by the Trevi Fountain and nearly failed to notice its existence. To my defense, it is covered in construction materials as it is currently undergoing restoration. I passed quickly in route to the bank and in pursuit of escaping the loads of tourists that swarmed the area. That is the only time I haven't given a site its proper adoration.

These are a few captured encounters of the beauty and grandeur that is Rome:

  La Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano

La Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, Cattedrale di Roma

Piazza Venezia, evening stroll around town

view of Piazza del Popolo

evening gaze, passing through Piazza di Montecitorio

ceiling of San Clemente delle Quattro Fontane 

panoramic view from Villa Medici

14 October 2014

A day in this life...

As I sit here at my table, sipping away at a chilled glass of Orvieto white wine, there sits with me a meditation in gratitude on the beautiful path that The Lord places before me.

At this point, as I am living in the ordinary sense, in the routine of my various facets of life, my reflection on life accepts not this seemingly ordinary way. Though I walk these streets of Rome with comfort and familiarity, I continue to be struck with the extraordinary unfolding of life with which I have been blessed.

It has worked out that life has developed here just has it has in the past, in my various encounters in starting anew. And, just as before, I begin again, desiring involvement with what surrounds me and groups to which I can devote myself. It certainly has not taken long to fill the hours of the week. And, in knowing myself and my patterns, I see once again how earnestly I await the next invitation.

It's a beautiful balance at the moment, one in which I trust that through prayer and openness, I can maintain. My life is filled with beautiful things, and is sufficiently free for the spontaneous invitations that arise.

This is roughly what a week looks like, in the life of Juliana, a student of life:

I have class Tuesday through Friday. Hours spent at the Angelicum are hours of what I consider paradise. I am surrounded by people of good will, who span the globe and who choose to live with joy and love. It's a reality to each day that cannot be ignored. And quite frankly, it makes for a life-giving environment. Seminarians, priests, sisters, monks, and lay alike, we each walk the university grounds in excitement for the atmosphere of study and prayer. Imagine this, you arrive to campus, perhaps you pass Father during your journey up the driveway, or you see Sister on the trek over, with Rosary in hand. And you know that they, too, are journeying to the same place as you, awaiting the proposition of their next lecture.

This morning, for example, as I steadily made my way up the driveway, there was a priest also making his way. I passed him with a "Buongiorno." He jokingly mentioned how people often pass him going up the hill. We shared where each of us was headed, I to Psychology and he to teach a Canon Law course. And off each of us went, after wishing one another a good day.

And so the day goes, filled with encounters very much alike to this one. There is no such thing as ignoring the other student who is sitting in the lecture hall before class or perched nearby, under a tree in the garden for lunch. And, each new person you encounter, you have a friend, someone you see in passing, or perhaps you pray alongside in the chapel.

There is a group of us, first years, cycle one, in the faculty (department) of philosophy, who share nearly the same schedule. This means, we attend the same classes. Our core group includes some Indian religious sisters, brothers, and priests, a group of seminarians from the Colleges of England, Ireland and Scotland, a couple of lay gentlemen from English-speaking countries, and of course, the three of us lay females. Some will go on to study theology after two years of philosophy, and the rest of us will continue in philosophy. Perhaps at that point, my third year, I may be the only lay female in the group of philosophy students. We will see. And so, our group is like a family.

From lecture to taking a caffe at the bar and so on, we continue in this melodious fashion in the company of joyful souls.

On Tuesdays, I have classes until the evening. But the other days, I am finished by afternoon. And so, there is a bit of time for prayer, studying, lunch, etc. For me, I continue on to teaching in the evenings. Wednesday and Friday evenings, I teach at the English school, and Thursdays I do private teaching at people's residences. And amongst the hours of studying and lesson planning, there is of course availability for the occasional dinner invitation or break for a drink.

The work week is balanced out by the weekend. Saturdays I teach two classes, one three-hour morning course followed by a two-hour afternoon lesson. Then, I am free for the evening. Work is often rewarded with Saturday dinner parties with friends or family. And Sunday is a restful day to do some chores at home and relax. It is another free day to venture around town and perhaps visit a new parish for Mass. No Sunday thus far has mirrored the next. Then Monday arrives, giving me an occasion for grocery shopping, laundry, and miscellaneous to-dos.

My awe in gratitude persists as I recognize further how blessed my current place of perspective is. I am here, as a new resident, who hasn't yet been trampled by the monotony of Roman life. Further, I get to experience an academic environment filled with people in like-circumstance, and yet with such vastly contrastive perspectives and backgrounds.

There's an openness that surfaces in a place of newness, an openness that is precisely what broadens horizons and illuminates life. It's a necessary condition to be displaced in some sense, that is, repositioned in a setting that provokes wonderment and curiosity.

In accordance with some wise advice of a spiritual director, my hope is that I might be open to the invitations that present themselves, or more accurately speaking, God presents, those of which appear to be good for me.

It is with trust that I continue, as The Lord has offered only affirmation to continue with His security. It is in this fashion that the Spirit is alive and works through us.

The mystery of life is evident in many ways. My explanation, for example, for why I prompted conversation with my friend Ester after Mass some weeks ago, lacks sound logic. A mere sense of excitement for encountering a Spanish person gave thought to offering a greeting. And now, she and I are journeying in these Roman adventures as close friends. There would be no reason for our paths to cross, aside from our rare encounter after Mass at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Such invitations are not mere occurrences of luck or good fortune, they are living encounters along God's path.