Finals = Over

After I got back from Christmas, I jumped right into the chaos of final exams.  Finals exams in Europe are weird.  They’re not your normal review of past assignments, tests, etc.  First of all, there are no past assignments.  It’s lecture after lecture for a semester, and then BAM…test time.  Here’s the process:

1.  Walk into classroom to meet one-on-one with teacher.

2.  10 minutes of getting asked anything the teacher wants…from class material or not.

3.  Experience feelings of uneasiness.

4.  Leave classroom and sulk in room while eating beef jerky.

All jokes aside, it’s actually not too bad.  The part that I find most frustrating is that you can get asked certain questions that you might not be very familiar with.  If it’s a question on a written test, odds are it’s a very small portion of your grade.  When it takes 2 minutes to talk about it, that’s 20% of your time in a European exam.  So, you may have learned many things and memorized have the books you’ve read, but if you get asked that one question that you’re not familiar with, you’re dropping percentage points faster than a president’s approval rating.  It’s also hard to understand how the teacher can properly analyze the effort you’ve put into countless hours in and out of class by asking you a few questions in a 10 minute time slot.  The good news is that I passed all my classes with decent grades.

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This picture of my friend Jordan sums up me seeing my grades.

Shortly after finals, chaos struck again.  We have parties here at the NAC throughout the year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) and the 1st year class was put in charge of this year’s Mardi Gras party.  People were put in charge of various things, so my responsibility became entertainment.  We put together some videos, a band, and ridiculous costumes to keep everyone entertained.  The brass band played great tunes like “Do What You Wanna,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “House of the Rising Sun.”  A friend of mine and I walked around dressed as Mardi Gras jesters and made sure everyone was having a good time.  My jester friend, Aaron Becker, and I are in the photo below.  (This was a wonderful opportunity for humility…)

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Before I share one of the things that kept me super-busy, it needs some context…

I mentioned to a guy on my floor that I miss good ol’ American breakfasts.  Bacon, eggs, biscuits & gravy…mmm.  He told me that he and some other guys met in the community kitchen every Thursday morning for breakfast…at 4:30.  Long story short, I discerned that my love of bacon and eggs far outstrips my desire to sleep.  I’ve been going every week now since October.  It’s great.  Last week, we had avocado scrambled eggs and cream cheese mashed potatoes with bacon.  Ignatius would call this a springboard into spiritual consolation…a huge springboard.  I’m going to stop right now before food talk derails this whole thing.  It’s called “Rooster Club.”

One morning, I told the guys about the cigar box guitars that I build.  Next thing I know, we’re scrambling to get 4 of them built in time for the Mardi Gras party.  One of the guys plays a mean harmonica and the rest of us have some basic guitar playing down.  We hit the woodshop and the building began.

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Standing in the student workshop.

We got them done the day before the party and got in a jam session or two before the show.  After the party, our equivalent of a Macy’s Day Parade (Aaron and I standing on food carts while pelting candy at people) travelled down the hallway to the lounge where the Rooster’s played their first gig.  It was great.  We were a little rough around the edges, but so are cigar box guitars.  We even sang a little Johnny Cash.  It was a great time of music, fun, and fraternity before the penitential season of Lent begins.

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Cigar Box Guitar

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The Roosters

Here is a short jam session that my friend Stephen Gadberry and I did to show our friends and families.  Just like the concert, it’s a little gritty, but it’s a lot of fun.  Stephen sure adds a lot to the group, he’s a heck of a harmonica player.

Last, but certainly not least, the first year men here at the NAC were instituted as lectors in January.  It’s a great opportunity to learn more about God’s Word and what it really means to proclaim it to His people.

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Goodbye, Facebook.

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent and I’ve decided to get rid of my Facebook for a while.  I’ll still be writing on here, but you’ll have to use other means if you want to keep in touch.  My primary email address is lbrown@pnac.org.  Feel free to shoot me an email whenever you want.  Also, it’s easy to find out when I post something new on this blog.  Down in the right hand corner of your screen, there’s a clickable “Follow.”  (Sometimes it’s in the top left corner.)  All you have to do is put your email address in and you will get an email whenever I put something on here.  In the words of Billy Mays, “It’s that simple.”

I’m sorry to write so little right now!  I’ll be writing more very soon.  I just wanted to get this post in before my Facebook disappears!

Soon to come: woodshop stories, school stories, Mardi Gras stories, cigar box guitars, etc…

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Christmas Vacation!

First off, I apologize for taking so long to write another post on here.  I coordinated my group’s Christmas plans before we left and with booking trains, planes, and hotels, it was very busy.  We had an excellent break, but it’s good to be back at our home away from home.

My travel buddies were both first year men: Jordan Dosch and Andrew Burns.  We left on the 20th of December as soon as classes were over and flew to Berlin.  We were only in Berlin for 1 night, so we didn’t see much when we were there.  We took a train from there to Dresden, Germany.  This is where we met up with some family friends of mine, Jerome & Werner.  My parents ran into them at the Lone Tree Bar of Faith, SD and gave them the full tour of my hometown and the surrounding area.  They really enjoy the old west and come over every other summer to tour through cowboy and indian history.  They have come to visit our family every other summer now for 10 years.  Our group spent 4 days in Dresden with Jerome and Werner.  We strolled through the Christmas markets, learned the history of the town, and had authentic German food and beer that really warmed the soul.  We even got a little taste of home when Werner showed us around his home and ranch!  Werner loves his westerns, so we had whiskey and cigars in cowboy shack behind his house that had many skulls and furs mounted on the wall.  He even had a cowboy “man cave” in the top floor of his house.  He showed us pictures of SD and we had some bourbon from the States.  After that, he took us out to a generator house that he turned into a cabin style house with a fireplace and everything.  Werner is quite the character.

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Werner, myself, and Jerome

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Andrew Burns, myself, Jerome Hotzel, & Jordan Dosch

Now Jerome is a few years older than us and is a police officer in Dresden.  He mainly showed us around town and filled us in on a lot of the history of the town.  Dresden was the home of the kings of old and is referred to as “Germany’s Jewel-Box.”  It was almost entirely destroyed during WWII, but was rebuilt from the ashes afterwards.  The churches, castles, and museums were incredible.  Jerome also took us through the Christmas markets a few times.  These markets had hot wine, homemade toys, brats, and many other items.

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Zwinger Palace in Dresden

On Christmas Eve, we said goodbye to Werner and headed for Jerome’s hometown of Bautzen, Germany.  After a brief drive on the Autobahn, we arrived in Bautzen.  You can probably imagine why the drive was short.  1. There’s no speed limit.  2.  Jerome is crazy.

We had a great Christmas with Jerome’s parents and grandma.  Even though we had a language barrier, we had a great time with them.  Jerome and his grandma took us to their Lutheran service on Christmas eve and then we went to the Christmas Mass at a convent the next day.  The churches were both beautiful.  We opened all of the gifts on Christmas Eve!  Jerome’s family was very generous to us.  They fed us great food, took us out for bowling and beer, and even gave us Christmas gifts.  We brought them some Italian wine and Swiss chocolate.  It seemed like a good idea until one of the bottles broke somewhere in flight and covered the rest of the bottles and chocolate with a nice red, vinegar-y smell.  (That’s a whole nother story.)  Jerome even dressed up as St. Nick and handed out gifts from a sack!  It was a great place to rejoice in our Savior’s coming!  After 3 days, we left Bautzen with high spirits.  We can’t thank our German friends enough for the incredible Christmas we had.  Bautzen is definitely a home away from home now.  Jerome is quite the guy.

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Jerome’s Family!

After Bautzen, we hopped a train to Krakow.  Firstly, Poland is very Catholic.  We were a 5 minute walk from St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow’s main square.  They had daily Mass there 15 times a day!  The Church was beautiful and there was all day Eucharistic Adoration and confession.  We went one a few city tours to see JPII’s seminary and university, the Jewish Quarters, the Wawel Castle & Cathedral, and Schindler’s factory. We took an audio tour of the Wawel Castle and catacombs in which we heard all about the old kings and queens.  Poland has such an awesome history of kings, castles, and battles!  There’s even a bronze dragon that spouts fire every hour because of a polish legend about a dragon that kidnapped the princess.

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Krakow City Square

Then we came to Poland’s more recent history: The Holocaust.  On our way to Auschwitz, we saw a brief documentary on the bus.  As soon as we walked into the gate of what’s called Auschwitz 1, the entire mood of the group changed.  Everyone’s eyes were averted and it was dead silent.  Auschwitz 1 was more of a work camp than a death camp, which I will explain shortly.  There were electrified fences and large brick buildings that housed the workers at the time.  This is where most of the museums are where they had all of the collected shoes, luggage, etc., of the people who came into the camps.  It also explains much of the history.  A great moment on this tour was when we saw the cell that St. Maximilian Kolbe was killed in.  In case you don’t know the story, he was a Catholic priest in the camp who volunteered his life in place of a another prisoner who was going to be executed.  He and 9 others were put into a cell to starve to death.  After praying and singing with all of them as they died one by one, he lived for another 2 weeks without food or water until they executed him by lethal injection.  The man he stepped in for made it out and was reunited with his family.  He died in 1995.  We were able to walk by the actual cell where there was an icon and a candle lit.  Please look up the full story; it’s incredible.

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Tracks coming into Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau)

After Auschwitz 1, we went to Auschwitz 2, or “Birkenau.”  This was the hardest part of the tour.  I’d seen movies about the concentration camps, but I’d never realized the “efficiency” of these camps.  This was the death camp.  Auschwitz 1 was made for housing workers. Many people died of hunger and execution, but this was different.  If you didn’t know what it was, you might guess that it was a feedlot or slaughterhouse at first glance.  In the middle were the tracks where the trains would come in and unload passengers.  When the passengers got off, they got in a line where they received a hand motion, right or left, that decided their fate.  If he pointed left, you were going to be a worker in one of the camps.  If you pointed right, you were immediately going to execution.  I don’t know how to explain it, but the layout of the buildings, trails, fences, etc., was the most disturbing.  This was no accident or coincidence, this was simply a place designed to kill as many people as possible and dispose of them as fast as possible.

I won’t go on about the tour in case you want to go someday.  Our tour guide was polish and his great-grandfather worked in Auschwitz 1.  He told us that every person in the world should visit this place at least once.  The feelings you have during and after the tour are summed up perfectly by the monument that is erected between the gas chambers:

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The day after this very sobering tour, we went to the John Paul II museum, his hometown of Wadowice, and a few different churches that he loved.  After hearing about such death and despair, it was great to learn about the great man that was Karol Wojtyla.  There were so many family, economic, and political problems that he endured in Poland that to explain them would take far too long.  In short, he lost his mother and brother when he was very young and went to seminary during the communist occupation.  He was a man so full of hope and joy!  I can’t wait to see his canonization in the coming spring.  He is held up as a hero by not only Poland, but by the whole Christian community.  The Polish people still refer to him as “Our Pope.”  His influence in the country is very strong and has been a big help in keeping the country as Catholic as it is.

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John Paul II’s home parish

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Young Bishop Karol Wojtyla

I was very blessed on this trip with R&R, good travel companions, and new friendships.  I can’t wait to visit these places again someday.  My first Christmas away from home was difficult, but I was able to spend the time with close friends.  I was even able to Skype with my family on my brother’s birthday on December 28th.  I was able to introduce them to my travel partners and show my friends that Uncle Newt guy that I always tell stories about.  To my family and friends back at home, I miss all of you and hope that you had a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!  Hopefully it will not be so long until I write again!  Happy Holidays!

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To Switzerland & Back

When I first came to Rome, I noticed that going to the great outdoors required more of a trip than I’d like.  The city is huge and any park or nature-esque part of Rome is full of pigeons and dogs.  I like pigeons and dogs…it’s what they leave behind that’s not so fun.

Luckily, a neighbor of mine here at the NAC knew about a beautiful place to stay in Switzerland: the Benedictine Monastery at Einsiedeln.  Myself and three others left on a Thursday as soon as classes were out and took a flight right into Zurich.  As soon as we stepped out of the plane, the fresh, crisp air of Switzerland greeted us.  Being a lover of the cold, I knew it was going to be a great trip.  We hopped on a train and travelled to the city of Einsiedeln, arriving at the monastery at about 8PM.  The building is gigantic and was built over 1,000 years ago.  The monks had a great meal set out for us full of bacon wrapped sausages, soup, and countless other delicacies (Admittedly, all I can think about is the bacon, so I will leave out the rest.)

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The front of the Benedictine monastery.

The next day, we left for the mountain Grosser Mythen, meaning Great Myths in German.  It took about an hour to hike to the top and it was definitely a workout.  The view from the top was breathtaking.  It’s not everyday (except for Mass!) that we see things that can immediately stop a conversation because of their beauty, but we had definitely found one of them.  We could see snow covered mountains off in the distance and an airplane even flew around the peak twice before taking off again.  There really are no words to describe the view.

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Last summer, at my grandma Syble’s funeral, I was able to play “Amazing Grace” on two flutes that I had made.  I promised my family that I would put a video up of the song, and it only took me a year and a half to get it done.  We took the video from the top of the mountain with the beautiful scenery in the background.  The video turned out well and it was a great way for me to honor my grandparents.  Grandpa Vernon and Grandma Syble were great people and they are dearly missed by the family.  They were a true blessing to us.

Before we hiked back down, we were able to take a few more photos.  We had to leave in a hurry to catch the bus back to the monastery.  It was hard for us to tear ourselves away from the view.

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Left to right: Andrew Burns, Luke Brown, Lemmuel Comacho, Jamie McCormick.

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Totally a pose, definitely not a natural snapshot.

After that, we had a few relaxing evenings in the monastery and made a trip out to Luzern, Switzerland with a new friend we made at the monastery.  The Friday we were there was All-Saints Day followed by All-Souls Day on Saturday.  The Benedictines were incredible singers and their liturgy was beautiful.  People aren’t allowed to take pictures of their chapel so I don’t have any to put up.  In Rome, it’s difficult to pray in the churches because, at most hours of the day, they are noisy with the bustle of tourists and cameras.  At the monastery, they make it clear that it’s a space for prayer and worship instead of a tourist attraction.  No matThe Benedictines themselves were very hospitable and we even had the chance to sit down and eat with their former Abbot.  We ate homemade cheese, drank homemade wine, and had some great fraternity in our time at Einsiedeln.

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The horses I found out back of the monastery; a great reminder of home.

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A Crucifix we found in the cemetery behind the monastery where we prayed for the departed souls on All-Souls Day.

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My friend Andrew Burns doing his best Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati impression.

“Verso l’alto!” -Frassati (To the heights!)

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Front of the monastery at night.

School has been going well.  The newness has passed and now I actually know who my teachers are and that even though espresso shots are only 60 cents at the school coffee bar, you can still spend a lot of money if you drink enough.  There’s a tradition that the second year men buy coffee and donuts for the first year men on their first day.  Although their repeated generosity throughout the morning was much appreciated, 6 shots of espresso can take their toll.  Long story short, I thought if I tried to speak italian faster to people that they would understand what I said.  Also, turns out that if an Italian doesn’t speak english, speaking english words with an italian accent won’t make them understand either.  Who knew?  The teachers at my school are great.  There’s one teacher, Father Lobo, who’s a very entertaining teacher.  When the bell rang, we all walked in and sat down.  He told us that he expected us to be seated and ready to go when the bell rang rather than walking in after.  He was mid-sentence when the bell rang to let us out so he didn’t hear it.  I raised my hand and told him that it rang and he dismissed us.  I told him outside that since he likes to START when the bell rings, we like to END when the bell rings.  We laughed a little and then he announced what I said to the class as the next hour was starting.  Now, he looks at me every time the bell rings and wants me to raise my hand to let him know, “Yep, that was the bell.”

Someone recently asked me, after telling them about South Dakota, if I ever wanted to go back after experiencing a big city and seeing all that the culture has to offer outside of South Dakota.  They laughed, but didn’t catch why I just smiled and shook my head.  I don’t think they could understand the community and the life that being from small-town USA has to offer.  I explained to them the help that all the ranchers were giving each other after the freak blizzard that happened, and they found it hard to believe that people would help each other so much.  I told them about our great teachers who work for very little money and the work ethic and passion that spurs people on in hardships.  Also, I told them about our crazy sport called rodeo that they found especially entertaining…  Big cities are great and there’s much to enjoy and cherish, but the small town community and scenery of South Dakota will always be home for me.

I’m glad to hear that the recovery is going well in South Dakota after Storm Atlas.  After talking to my parents, it sounds like things are good on the home front.  My nephew Everett is getting baptized soon and my brother has asked me to be his godfather.  What I delight it is to see the videos that my sister-in-law Mandi puts up on Facebook and hear stories about him.  It sounds like he’s growing fast!  I hope that things are well for all of you and that the preparations for winter are coming along.  Please know of my prayers for the folks of South Dakota, and please say a prayer for me!

From Home to Rome

Yes, I started a blog.  I have to admit, it’s a little strange to write a blog.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some great blogs out there.  There’s blogs with all sorts of useful information like news, church stuff, food recipes, bird bath ideas, ferret training tutorials, etc.  However, it has been requested that I write about a blog about my experiences of Italy, school, and seminary.  The reason it’s a little strange is because it feels like kind of cheap way of keeping in touch.  You hear all about me me me while I don’t get to hear about how your life is going.  It’s kind of a one-way street.  If you would like to get my mailing address or send me an email, my email address is lbrown@pnac.org (please just request my mailing address there.

Also, please forgive the “Luke the Carpenter” name.  Having one of the most common names around, Luke & Brown, it’s difficult to find a title that doesn’t end with a 10 digit number, my favorite TV show, or other nonsense, i.e. lwbrown1938346574, lwbrownredgreenshow, LuKEbrOwNLuVsPorTerHousESteaKs…

That being said, here we go!

I had a great couple of weeks home with the family before I left for Italy.  Had my last taste of Mom’s great cooking and had a few beers with Dad.  Since I won’t be home for two years, I soaked it in as much as I could.  I spent as much time as I could with my new Nephew Everett.  My brother Jeff and his wife Mandi and their first child this summer and he’s been a lot of fun to spend time with.  We watched Walk the Line over the summer so that I could introduce him to my favorite singer.  Although he slept most of the time, when I sang along with the songs in the movie, he woke up and started crying.  As soon as I stopped, he went back to sleep…

On August 21st, Mom and Dad took me to the airport and said our goodbyes.  Everett was even there.  My flight left Rapid City and I landed in Chicago two hours later.  After a short layover, I flew out for Rome.  I had spent so much time going over packing and spending time with people, I hadn’t really slept too much.  I thought the plane would be a good chance to sleep.  I was wrong.  I didn’t move from my seat the whole time.  9 hours I sat in my seat without sleeping a wink.  With the time change, we got into Rome around 7AM.  The vice-rector and a few seminarians met us to take us to the college.  Now, there’s a tradition here at the North American College (NAC) where the older guys applaud all of us as we process into the chapel.  This is a great tradition, but I didn’t really know what I was in for.  I just want to sleep and get out of this heat.  I had my suit coat on because I didn’t want it to get wrinkled in the luggage.  I stepped out of the van with my International Harvester trucker hat on (my brother and nephew would have been proud), blue jeans, boots, suit-coat, and floral shirt into the heat and bright sun.  There was the college.  We went into the chapel, said morning prayer, and had the list of the days events given to us.  Long story short, we said evening prayer with the people on our hallways that night, and I fell asleep in the middle of singing and almost fell off the couch.

Despite the haze of the first few days, things got better very quickly.  The college here is great.  The priests in charge of our formation came around and made sure that we felt at home.  There was also an orientation team that made sure we had the things we needed and knew where everything is.  The college became a home very quickly.  As far as college events go, we had Italian classes for 4 weeks, diaconate ordinations, and we’ve been in school now for 3 weeks.  So the college is actually just the place where we all live, receive formation, attend functions etc.  Our actual classes are all at universities throughout the city.  There are three that we can attend: Sante Croce, Gregorian, and Angelicum.  I’m at the Angelicum.  All the classes are in english and the classes are taught by the Dominican Order.  This is actually where John Paul II studied theology!  It’s about a 40 minute walk to get to class every morning, so we get some good exercise.  It helps to work off all that pasta we’ve been eating.

Rome is amazing.  There are so many churches, saints, and holy places to visit here.  On the first week I was here, we went on the Scavi tour.  For those unfamiliar with the tour, it’s a tour below St. Peter’s Basilica where they found St. Peter’s bones that were buried almost 2000 years ago.  St. Peter’s Square is only half a mile from us here at the college.  From our rooftop, we’ve got about the best view in Rome of the dome of St. Peter’s.  If you were to tie a string to a weight and lower it from the cross on top of the dome, it would go straight down to St. Peter’s bones.  It was such a breathtaking tour.  Since Rome has been destroyed so many times, the Italians just leveled the ground and built on top of all the rubble.  The Rome we see now is much higher than the Rome we would have seen 2000 years ago.  There have been great structures built in the past under St. Peter’s that were the headquarters of the Church, but they were all buried and then excavated after St. Peter’s was built on top.  The hallways are small, the air is stuffy, and the tour groups are only 6 or 7 people.  It’s easy to get caught up in the architecture, engravings, and archaeology of the tour and forget what’s coming at the end.  I’m convinced that the tour guide wouldn’t need to tell you where St. Peter’s bones were.  We didn’t know where they were, but as we got closer, the group got very quiet and there was a certain reverence that everyone had.  We were led into a small room, and there he was.  St. Peter.  The first pope.  If you ever get to Rome, this should be on the top of your list for sights to see.  You have to book the tour at least 3 months in advance since the groups are so small and the demand so high.  It’s such a humbling experience to be able to look out our windows here at school, see that cross on top of the dome, and know that St. Peter is right here with us.

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Just about to begin the Scavi Tour

That same week, we were able to tour the barracks of the Swiss Guard.  They’re the ones guarding the gates at St. Peter’s that wear the purple, gold, and red uniforms.  They actually don’t give tours or allow guests into the barracks, but the NAC has a special deal with them.  They come over to use our soccer field and give us tours of the barracks in return.  It was a great tour.  We got to see the weapons that they’ve used over the last few centuries.  They had everything from maces and spears to hand cannons and automatic weapons.  They showed us there chapel and the sisters that helped take care of their meals and housing.  It was very cool to see the Pope’s guards and the routine they have every day.

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Swiss Guard suits of armor

Another highlight was our class trip to Assisi.  The tombs of St. Clare and St. Francis are at opposite ends of the small town.  It was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been.  Praying at these tombs was incredible humbling.  We don’t have as many opportunities in America to see the actual bodies of saints and to see where they ministered.  Since I’ve been in Italy, I’ve seen where Francis made the first nativity scene, where he slept, where he prayed, the house he grew up in, and where he died.  The most humbling thing is seeing that concrete example of a person following Christ and knowing that it’s what every single one of us is called to.  The radical lifestyle and poverty of Francis and Clare may not be one that we are called to live, but their abandonment to God and life of prayer is the same that we are called to.  This life is so counter-cultural nowadays, it’s no wonder Pope Francis chose his name to help us remember what we’re called to.

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Basilica of St. Francis

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The Body of St. Clare

The diaconate ordinations were also a great grace.  Since it’s the first one I had ever been to, I didn’t know what to expect.  The whole event is beautiful, but there’s a certain part that really grabs the heart of the seminarian.  They go through all the expectations and vows of the men to be ordained before they can proceed.  It’s so easy, in the seminary, to get wrapped up in studies, formation, and the grind of daily life that it’s easy to forget WHY we are doing this.  The reality of the priesthood is coming up quickly for all of us here, and the diaconate ordinations were a good reminder of that.  It gave us a renewed dedication to our vocation and a greater motivation for following Christ every step of the way.  Also, Adam Hofer is the first friend I’ve had both before and after ordination.  To see someone that I know well ordained stirred a feeling of pride and joy that made me so thankful for the fraternity and example he has given to us.  I’m excited to see all that the new deacons do in their vocation and to serve someday with Adam back in the Diocese of Rapid City.

It was also a great time to see all of our pilgrims from the diocese.  We had two groups here; one with Father Brian Christensen and one with Father Michael Mulloy.  It was great to meet all the new people and to catch up with the old (not an age joke Father Mulloy.)  I was very happy to see all the folks from Timber Lake that I met when our team did Duc in Altum there two years ago!  Also, Father Brian was a great tour guide since he went to school here at the NAC.  Bishop Gruss was also here to visit just last week.  We had Mass over at the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Peter’s.  The Gospel reading was very fitting.  There are three of us Rapid City seminarians here: Adam, Mark, and myself.  It was the Bishop, Father Jim Steffes from Winona, and Adam behind the altar, and just Mark and myself in the congregation.  Adam read the Gospel and, no joke, it said, “Luke is the only one with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry.”  I couldn’t believe it.  It was also the feast day of St. Luke, so that was fun.  Since it’s hard to read Paul’s tone in the bible, I couldn’t tell if it meant, “Luke has been the only one to stand beside me on this mission.  Please send Mark so that we have more help,” or if it meant, “Luke just bums around and eats Wheat Thins, PLEASE send someone else.”

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Also had a good chance to catch up with Michael Hofer, a good friend of mine.  This is the view from our rooftop.  That’s St. Peter’s over Michael’s right shoulder.

I hope that all of you are doing well now that school and sports are up and running.  School starts so late here that I forget you all have been back at school for a couple months now.  I hope the Red Cloud folks are keeping Jen Sierra and the kids in line and that my IPF friends are doing well back at the seminary.  Please be assured of my prayers for all the families affected by the storm that hit a few weeks ago.  I hope that the tragedy can be an opportunity for people to come together and help one another get by.  Please keep me in your prayers and I’ll keep you in mine.