Sunday, September 29, 2013

Parti, Parti, Parti

Ciao, amici. The area by studio has been out of internet for at least three days now and I guess they sort of fixed it. Our one and only washing machine has also been broken for a few days but it has now been fixed so at least we can finally wash clothes. Yaaay.

The past week was rough schedule-wise because while Michael Graves is here we don't have our normal class schedules. We have these random walks and talks about the city and strange studio hours (like studio on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday...not Friday) and some of our normal classes have been squished into one massive multi-tasking fest. We still have the structure of the 9:00 am - 6:00 pm full class day with a break for lunch. We have four classes but the shortest classes are 3 hours long mostly because we never, ever sit during them. We haven't had two consecutive weeks of the same schedule yet since we arrived in Rome because we had one normal week, a field trip week, and now this scheduling mess. The Michael Graves project is due on my birthday, however, so that's not far off and once the review is over we will say farewell to the Miami students and Professor Graves.

We all have been grumbling about the terrible disorganization of all of this but really we are still fortunate for this opportunity. We've already had two reviews in front of Michael Graves and the rest of the faculty, not to mention the times when some of us have asked him about our parti ideas one-on-one. The first time I did that one of my friends said "Even if you cry it will still be a great story." because he said very harsh things to other groups that day. I did not cry nor do I consider it a great story because our conversation didn't last very long. It's still exciting that he is actually our professor though. I saw one of his tea kettles being sold in Piazza Navona the other day...
The tea kettle designed by Michael Graves. This is his sketch for the design.
He gave us each a book of his sketches when he arrived.
Anyways, our project is in the Jewish Ghetto by the Portico D'Ottavia. It's an urbanism project so I enjoy it though we are designing in groups and mixed with University of Miami students. It's odd how I enjoy urbanism but am not at all a city person. I mean I wouldn't choose to live in a big, bustling city such as Rome or Chicago or Paris. I've realized in these past few weeks just how much I miss grass. We went to the American Academy in Rome on Friday and that was fantastic. Out in the back they had an actual lawn with grass! I just wanted to lie there and feel grass again instead of cobblestone, cement, and brick. (Fun fact: this lawn I speak of is where Galileo tested out the first telescope.)
GRASS!
They also have a garden and fruit trees which explains the delicious food.

The Academy overall was amazing and beautiful and we all talked about applying there one day. 30 fellows get accepted to the academy and their studies range widely in the realms of music, art, architecture, history, and classics. Professor Graves and our history professor Ingrid Rowland went to the American Academy. We were given a tour and an extremely delicious lunch and then we attended a lecture by M. Graves that was the same one he gave when he visited Notre Dame last year. We naturally also saw the rare book room that he designed. I got to look through very old editions of Plutarch and a book by Galileo from 1653 among others.
The rare books room.
At lunch I sat next to an ex-fellow who happened to be a friend of Professor Rowland. It was pretty awkward because as soon as he and the woman sitting across from him introduced themselves to me I promptly forgot their names. Typical. The majority of the graduates from the Academy are known for high achievements and can be quite famous so it became increasingly awkward when the thought occurred to me that these two people might be really famous and I looked very ignorant. I felt like they had expected me to ooh and ahh when they introduced themselves and because I did not I was inferior for not being familiar with their accomplishments. I wanted to ask them questions but was too afraid after I said "What did you do while you were here?" and they both sort of laughed at me and said "Painting." I was going to ask what kind but just shut up after that. I also couldn't figure out the relationship between the man and the woman because they seemed very much like a couple but the woman referred to her kids when talking to the man. Previous marriage? Are they wearing wedding rings? It was awkward. It didn't help that earlier the tour guide spit out a bunch of names of alumni who she assumed we all would recognize but none of us had any idea who these supposedly famous people were.
Where lunch was served.
Besides that the lunch was great and I tried my first actual fig. At least I don't remember eating a fresh fig before. Yum, yum, yum. I bought some figs and apples at Campo di Fiori on Sunday after mass.

We walked by the Acqua Paola after we visited the Academy.
Speaking of food, I'm already missing non-Italian food. Our cooking group has had quseadillas and breakfast for dinner during the past few nights thankfully! I love pasta but I can't explain how nice it is to eat banana pancakes and scrambled eggs for the first time after weeks on weeks of just pasta and pizza. I also bought some cereal the other day because I miss cereal and milk. They don't sell gallons of milk (at least I've never seen a gallon of milk here) and when I went at least two weeks without a glass of milk I realized how much I missed it.

So, Rome is fun but exhausting since we have an actual work load unlike most other study abroad programs. We have joked that our La Fun runs have turned into gelato runs when we are stressed. Before our most recent review one of our professors said that they would allow time for us to get gelato (because she knew we were all stressed and grumpy) so she pointed to a specific gelateria and then promptly ran off in the other direction. This is funny in a sad way because that gelateria was closed due to the power outage and by the time we got back to studio we didn't have time to try another place. The professors, of course, got gelato because they went elsewhere. But it turned out ok I guess because that night some of us went gelato hopping and went to two places because we were particularly unhappy with life. I still can't believe we actually did that though.

Speaking of de-stressing, I'm so happy there's a communal guitar in studio. Some people cook to de-stress but I need to play music. Now if only we had a piano...

By the way, I still haven't uploaded pictures from Siena and Florence to Facebook. I promise that is coming eventually. I haven't forgotten, it's just that the internet is incredibly slow.
We saw Bramante's Tempietto before we went to the Academy.
That's certainly of note though I didn't say anything about it. It's so tiny!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wild Boar, Duomo climbing, Hill Towns, and What Even Is Chef Fantasy?

We are back in Rome after the field trip to Tuscany. It was a ton of fun though we were very pressed for time in some cities. Consequently, most of us have decided to go back at least to Florence when and if possible. I may have taken too many pictures but who cares. Somehow I juggled photos, sketching, and note taking while walking everywhere.

Day One: Pienza, Montepulciano, Siena
Day one of the field trip we stopped in the town of Pienza. There I fell in love with a little medieval church and had a glorious but lengthy lunch with friends and one of the grad students. We pretty much followed our professors to a place they decided to eat at in a charming tiny Tuscan piazza. The food was very pricey but very good. We made the mistake of ordering three courses but sharing them amongst all six of us. The portions thus were tiny but the bigger problem was the service was super slow. Our professors (sitting back to back with the ex-marine grad student and myself) finished earlier than us. We ate goose, wild boar, amazingly tender beef, and guinea fowl. Sounds like a feast though, right? It wasn't since it was the portions for one person split among six but the experience and conversations made up for the slight hunger we still felt when we were done with the meal. In the end we rushed because everyone was waiting for us by the bus. The table became a chaotic scene as we scrapped lettuce out of bowls, chugged mineral water, and quickly poured the last of the wine down our throats. It was a bad time to start laughing but I did as I wolfed down the last of the salad and people joked "We'll be walking to Siena in a minute!". So we didn't really get to walk around Pienza nearly as much as we wanted but that lunch was maybe even more memorable and fun.
The main church in Pienza.


Lunch and then Tuscany from the bus.
All the bus rides on this trip consisted of driving past hilly fields full of grapes or sunflowers, mountains, scraggly houses, cyprus trees, and livestock. Most people fell asleep but no matter how tired I was I couldn't bring myself to miss the scenery. The conversations on the bus between myself and my friend sitting next to me consisted almost entirely of cars and Top Gear. That was fine with me.

The next stop was Montepulciano where we obviously got another tour and wound our way through hilly, old streets. Some things we found there included a tiny blue truck, a cat blind in one eye, a would-be-astoundingly-good sledding hill, cyprus tree lined drives, and medieval city walls. It's a fun town.
San Biagio in Montepulciano.
We pulled into Siena that night and my roommates and I lucked out and got a huge terrace with a stunning view of the whole city. One of our professors mentioned something about "committing acts of gluttony" upon arrival but that didn't happen until breakfast the next morning when we took as much food with us as we could possibly fit into our bags (this was mostly prepackaged toast, nutella, and bread wrapped in napkins). For dinner the first night, however, some friends and I went to a grocery store and got some slices of pizza. I decided to try a random slice with mystery toppings (at least I didn't know what they were) and it turns out it had potato. We ate on the steps in front of the statue in this piazza:
The next day our professor told us that someone centuries ago died by jumping from one of the balconies in that piazza. Gaah.

Day Two: Siena
I must have always really liked Siena because I remembered a surprising amount of the town from when I had visited as a child. I still like it. Siena is so much quieter than Rome and Florence and is built on three hills so it's by no means a flat city. We saw several palazzi and the Duomo which is FANTASTIC. I was interiorly jumping up and down like a little kid the whole field trip because I was so excited but often much too exhausted to show it. My special connection to Siena is St. Catherine who is my namesake so it was even more exciting to get to see her hometown again. We had a drawing assignment that was highly frustrating for a number of reasons so at one point I threw in the proverbial towel and set off by myself to San Domenico where St. Catherine of Siena's head and finger are kept. San Domenico as a church is pretty...lame. For those who think displaying the head of a saint is creepy I say the stained glass windows in that church are far creepier. Yikes. They didn't allow photos though so you'll have to google the church.
Siena's Duomo
I stopped along the way at St. Catherine's house and walked inside. Last time I was in Siena I had gotten a rose shaped locket containing a picture of her and a third class relic inside the rose but some how I lost it in August 2012.  That has been a big cause of grief for me because it meant so much, however, they still sold them so I bought another medal. They have since changed it so it has a different picture of her inside but it still is shaped like a rose and thus still works as a reference to my two other patron saints: Rose of Lima and Therese of Lisieux.

That night in Siena a very large group of the studio played a game called psychiatrist on our chilly but beautiful terrace. It was so much fun and the best possible way we could have spent our last night in Siena. We laughed a lot and clapped at a few fabulous puns.
The view of Siena from the terrace at night. 
Day Three: San Gimignano, Florence
We had another delicious breakfast in Siena and then left for San Gimignano which has always sort of been a tourist point because of its location. Dante went there to persuade the town to support the Pope (Guelph support) because they were on the side of the Ghibelines (non-papal support) back in the day. The town is also protected by the state in the same way that Assisi is today. Anyways, three of us ate lunch (aka a piece of bread from the breakfast in Siena and an apple) in a loggia by the main piazza. I scoffed at a place that had a sign "The World's Best Gelato" but as it turns it the world's best gelato was in San Gimignano...but it was at the place with the sign "Gelato World Champion" across the way from the other store. Oops, I missed out on that one.
San Gimignano
After the lunch break we left for Florence which was as fun as it sounds. I honestly can't even remember what we did this night. Florence seemed like one really, really long day. I think we started our "classes" if you can call it that. Our one professor had to leave for his sister-in-law's wedding so he parted ways after talking about the Duomo. Later that night I walked around the Palazzo Vecchio with friends. I believe we bought gelato that night...I know I had grapefruit gelato at some point during the stay in Florence and that it was delicious. I also know that some of us ate dinner at a place where a dish of pasta had the description "chef fantasy". Some friends present said they ate at another place in Siena where the description for "chef calzones" was simply "Fantasy.". This became sort of a joke especially since that calzone apparently was so huge and fantastic that it appeared to be levitating (hey, I didn't actually see a floating pillow of a calzone so don't laugh at me for that description).

Day Four: Florence
This day was crazy. We trekked around the city all day, had to do our sketching assignment at night, climbed the Duomo, and went leather shopping. But before all of that we saw Palazzo Vecchio, San Lorenzo, Michelangelo's Laurentian Library, Cappelle Medici, the Medici chapel, the outside of Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Strozzi, Palazzo Rucellai, and a few other places where I was much too tired to even take notes any more. The annoying thing was that any where you went you would get yelled at for doing something whether that was sitting on the floor, eating outdoors (yes, you can't eat outside Palazzo Vecchio), taking pictures, or drawing. That's right, we were not allowed to draw in Michelangelo's chapel for the Medicis. Our fearless Portguese leader (who also read a poem in the space...he's such a cool guy) got seriously offended by this (as did all of us) because it makes no sense to prohibit students from drawing such a famous interior space. A lot of us including myself already had a few quick sketches down in our sketchbooks so yeah, I'm not erasing that.

I've been to Florence twice now and sadly haven't been inside the Baptistery but I can now say that I have climbed the Duomo twice. I don't care if you are deathly afraid of heights or closed spaces, I was feeling extremely claustrophobic* as we wound our way through and up the tight, slanting, M.C. Escher-esque passageways and stairs that smelled like sweat and metal, however, the sheer excitement and the promise of the view got me to the outside and top smiling, laughing, and pretty breathless. There is a momentary realization when you get to the top that there is only a metal rail (that has been leaned on thousands of times) separating you from certain death but it's just too beautiful to be scary. On the way down when we passed through the inner dome we heard the final bits of "Immaculate Mary" being sung within the church.
Just one view from the Duomo.
After the Duomo climb we went leather shopping. I planned on getting something leather in Florence but didn't expect that to be a jacket. Anyways, my friend and I bought matching jackets (hers is black and mine is a dark chocolate brown) for less than half the original price. It was actually a really, really good deal for authentic Italian leather and for the rest of the night we joked "Hey, I like your jacket. Where'd you get it?" and are still surprised by its softness. Plus our classmates complimented us a lot on them and some of them bought jackets or bags as well. We have yet to take a picture together but we will take one.
A view of the Arno. 
Day Five: Monte San Savino
We left Florence in the morning and only made one stop on the way back to Rome: Monte San Savino. It's a cute, non-touristy town and the mayor herself opened up the city hall to us and showed us around...even into her office! It was great and the gardens outside were so peaceful and pretty and would have made a great place for a picnic. We broke for lunch and wandered around into some churches and down a few streets and a friend and I ate lunch with a large group of the grad students. That was fun, the gnocchi was very filling, and we were again pressed for time on the way back to the bus. As we neared the meeting point we passed a playground on our right where, to my delight, I saw all the rest of my classmates playing. I mean swinging on swings, spinning on playground merry-go-rounds, going down slides - the whole nine yards. I was pretty jealous I missed out on the fun because I was eating with the grads but that's fine.
Just part of the "backyard" of the city hall in Monte San Savino.
I will update more about the Michael Graves project tomorrow maybe. We started today but this post has been long enough.

*Italy in general is basically a nightmare for claustrophobic introverts but so far I am dealing.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Insert Unintelligible Noises Here

Ugh.

Ok, I have to say more than that. The past week has been everything from amazing and beautiful to horrible. Maybe a part of that has to do with eating all our meals in a very moldy smelling kitchen that looks like a crypt/cave/dungeon. Sorry, I know, I'm not supposed to complain (my desktop for the past month has been the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey with the subtitle "STOP WHINING") but the greatness of studying abroad comes with its downsides. I've been doing quite a bit of introverting this week. One of my roommates was just talking about the depressing sound of a baby orca cry and how that expresses so much on bad days. It really is a pathetic sound. Anyways, enough about depressed baby orcas, here's the week in brief.

Monday morning I when to Campo dei Fiori and bought some fruit for breakfast. It began to rain and the market sellers exclaimed "Eccolo!" as it began pouring buckets on the canvas umbrellas over the fruit and vegetable stands. It stopped shortly after that but continued to be horribly muggy.

The day was a bit rough. We were tied down with school related things from 10 AM to at least 6 PM. Studio was especially rough because we're working on this project with starchitect (yes, that's an arkie term) and 2012 Driehaus Prize winner Michael Graves. This Michael Graves:

Portlandia...like the crazy TV show.

Looks like he was looking at Cambridge, eh?



He is confined to a wheelchair now and currently is on some accessibility board in Washington D.C. so it will be interesting to see how he gets around Rome with us. He studied in Rome in the 60's and well, you have Wikipedia.

Anyways, we're working with some fourth and fifth years from the University of Miami and Mr. Graves will be arriving not this week but next. We are working in teams throughout this project so there are pros and many cons to that. It's slightly terrifying to think that we'll have to present what we're working on right now in front of him.

I was going to fill in the details on the week but they have seen blended together into a mush of exhaustion, happiness, and troppo frustration. If the past two days were a color they would not be a pretty color. I knew before I left that the beauty of Italy would come at the price of a lot of stress and that has kicked in early on in as many various forms as the causes. I really started craving some Avett, Mumford, and King Charles as stress reducers. Drafting in studio actually helps too but I don't have enough to do right now and drawing frustrates me easily because I'm not that great yet.

I forget what day some of my friends and I went to the Pantheon at night to draw. It began raining so we sat under the portico and it was very peaceful. Speaking of...there has been this cellist who plays Bach outside the Pantheon and I've seen him on two occasions. That always makes me happy. I've had a spontaneous obsession with cellos for the past few weeks so if you have any favourite cello pieces send them my way.

On Thursday I attempted to go to Mass at the Gesu at noon. I was unaware that Mass is celebrated in a side chapel off in the wing through the gift shop so I actually missed Mass and walked in just as everyone was getting out. That was frustrating but the chapel was beautiful and, of course, the Gesu is as crazy as you can imagine from pictures. I remembered being there before as a child.


The right arm of St. Francis Xavier
The ceiling of the side chapel where Mass was.
Later that day I went to Mass at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva...and ran into an old acquaintance from CUA of all people. I approached him after Mass and we talked for a bit and then planned to meet up on Sunday for Mass and then lunch. That was today and we went to S.S. Trinita dei Pelligrini, the FSSP church in Rome. It was a welcome bit of home for me to be at a church where I could understand the Mass because it was in Latin. Afterwards we got lunch at Bar Valle because that's the only place I could think of and the guy who works there knows me and will immediately ask "cappuccino?". We got absolutely drenched on the way over there though because it was down-pouring during Mass and I had forgotten my umbrella in studio.

(No, I did not have my camera with me when I went to either of those churches. Sorry.)

The night before last night I walked with some friends to the Coliseum. We passed the Roman forum ruins where a play was being performed. It was really neat, they had the ruins lit and you could clearly see and hear the actors and audience below. The Coliseum itself was stunning, of course, and a few stars were visible in the sky. I still have never been inside though I saw it for the first time many years ago. It's a mix of amazing and sobering.

Today since it was raining all day long I popped into the Pantheon and looked up at the oculus. One of the most simple, fascinating and beautiful things was to watch the rain come through that stone opening. It's a bit mesmerizing. I wonder what it's like when it snows.

Tomorrow my class leaves for a field trip to Tuscany. We'll be spending some days in Siena and some in Florence. I haven't decided whether or not I'm going to bring my laptop...we'll see. I probably won't be blogging in that span of time anyways. Blah. I hope all of you are doing well. If you could pray for a special intention I would be very grateful.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Adventured Out.

Once again, I am dead tired but I suppose I need to force myself to write before time goes by too quickly and everything blurs together. I can assure you that these posts will not be as frequent for the rest of the year because then I will have studio work and less time for adventuring. It feels like such a chore to even rack my brain for the events of yesterday and today. I will try to make this the abridged version as much as possible.

Saturday morning my two roommates and I ate breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. While we were sipping cappuccinos and eating croissants a man holding a newspaper came out of the building and called to someone across the street "Salvatore! Salvatore! Salvatore!". I found this to be amusing for some reason.
I also was amused by some of the situation of buying a cellphone. There was a young Italian man who spoke English quite well and an old Italian man who spoke very little. The computers were so slow that at one point the young man exclaimed "Mamma Mia!" and pretended to shoot it machine gun style. The old man said something to one of the customers behind me and the gist of what I caught was that he was joking the computers work every day of the week except Saturday. Also, he didn't know how to tell me there were earbuds included in the package so he gestured with his fingers to his ears and sort of made random sounds.

We went on a walking tour that day after meeting the faculty and we walked all over the place. We literally ran past Trevi Fountain because our teacher was walking at super human speeds. She led us to the Pontifical North American College at the end of the afternoon where we attended Mass and were given a tour.
A side altar at the NAC.
Five of us went out to dinner that night and ate pizza and split a bottle of red wine at a local place that was playing Elvis. The young woman there was extremely nice and it was fun talking to her. We said "buona notte!" as we left and she called us back in for free limoncello.

A bunch of us watched half of the Notre Dame v. Michigan game that night. Let's not talk about that.

Today I ate lunch with one of my roommates at a pizzeria by Sant'Eustachio and Sant'Ivo. We returned to the hotel and I set about to leave and do my own thing. Not everyone has phones yet and it's very hard to coordinate with people so I was unaware of what 98% of my classmates were doing. Since I didn't know of anyone interested in joining me (or couldn't at all contact those who may have been) I walked around by myself. Saying that will probably scare a number of people but I'm alive. I did this because I wanted to go to St. Peter's and the few people I could contact were not interested. You can't really get lost trying to find St. Peter's so that was easy enough. I did not go in today because I didn't want to stand in the line by myself; it was long. After that I walked around Castel Sant'Angelo because, you know, it's there.

All of that didn't take nearly as long as you might think but it was afterwards that was the tricky part. My intention was to church hop but most of the churches I passed were closed at the time. I pretty much wandered and got a little lost and stumbled upon things along the way. Like this:
What the how did this get here?
And this:
 And this:
That supposedly contains the grill that St. Lawrence was famously martyred on. I believe I have been here before.
And this:
Trajan's column anyone?
I am all adventured out and studio starts tomorrow. Ciao for now.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Arrival and Exhaustion in Roma

Whew. I am in Rome and I am exhausted. I'm attempting to get over a nasty cold and did not get any sleep on the airplane last night. That plus jet lag means multo exhaustion. Or something. I think I'm just delirious at this point.

I know people want updates but they shall be brief because such is my attention span. Here's a rough sketch of the day:
  • We arrived at the airport around 8:00 Rome time and stood in the super long and slow customs line before we lugged all our bags hither and yon and then piled into a bus. All I could think about was water because I was definitely dehydrated. I also was not enjoying trying to breathe with a stuffy nose and semi sore throat. Blah. 
  • The grad students got dropped off at John Cabot University's building for the time being and we lowly undergraduates went on to our hotel. Upon arrival in our delirium we were met with Italian ladies trying to feed us. I bolted for the water. Food, no matter how delicious and Italian, did not interest me or my state of near nausea (but don't worry, I ate). The grapes were of note...twice the size of my thumb...and the Melabanana juice pretty much just had a really fun name. MELABANANA.
  • Unloading the bags was not pleasant particularly because I think all the girls are on the third and fourth floors of the hotel. Luckily there's a tiny elevator that got put to use and at least one overly enthusiastic male friend wearing a black blazer and long sleeved shirt who ran (yes, ran) up the four flights of stairs with one of my suitcases.
  • Next we went off to our studio for a tour and orientation of sorts. Blah blah blah none of that matters to anyone else. We mostly tried to stay awake and act coherent. 
  • A small band of friends and myself set out for a tiny adventure just sort of wandering and taking in Rome. I've been to Rome before but that was nearly a decade ago so it was a little bit like coming for the first time. It's overwhelming to be here and know that you are going to spend a whole school year here. We walked to the Pantheon and through Piazza Navona and stopped to get a cappuccino near the latter location. It lived up to my expectations. I am going to be so spoiled. I tried ordering in Italian and the guy behind the counter just sassed me in return...they had a good sense of humour which made the whole experience even more enjoyable. When we first stepped in a woman gave us a free sample of dark chocolate gelato too. Mmmm.
So, in general my impression of Rome is the smell of leather bags and shoes, manure from horse carriages in the piazzas, tobacco, food, food, food, live accordion music, and incense from church shops. The buildings seem huge and almost set like for some reason except for the fact that they are very solid stone. We're all still in denial that we are here so some of us have compared it to Disney World (I've never been but I imagine it's a similarly surreal feeling but obviously not nearly as cool as Rome itself) or a stage set. But it's real and the many bells from the many churches assure us that we aren't dreaming. So do the European ambulances and the mopeds and the Fiats and...yeah, we'll have to accept sooner or later that we are actually in Rome...maybe when we've gotten some sleep.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Probably won't read this...

You don't have to read this either. I'm by no means a faithful blogger or blog reader and frankly I don't want to be. Spending even more time on the internet is not among my interests.

The people who might just actually read this already know I am headed to Rome for one school year. They also know that this great blessing comes with the pain of leaving one of the best places on earth and more importantly my good friends there. This won't turn into your cliche travel blog because I'm going to start off talking about this journey by discussing one we all have to experience: death.

I probably err on a morbid side of thought because I very often associate the act of leaving and saying goodbye with death. I'm not being dramatic nor do I experience this in a dramatic way. I mean quite bluntly that one day, like it or not, we are going to die and dying involves a kind of parting. Goodbyes are difficult even if they are relatively temporary. When I addressed some of these thoughts this past weekend I followed up with the statement that thankfully "death is a very hopeful thing". Hope needs a purpose, an end, something to hope for. Hope is as lonely and dead as anything without an objective. It needs to be tested or else there is no need for it. We ultimately hope for the heavenly reward for ourselves and our friends and those "who have gone before us with the sign of faith, and rest in the sleep of peace".

Death should be accompanied by hope because we cannot even achieve life without going through it. I mean everlasting life. We are urged to "die to ourselves and live in Christ" spiritually. Bodily we grow and mature and eventually die but spiritually we ought to experience a similar progression only the death involved is one to anything contrary to God. I would venture to say we should be reminded of this in the minor "deaths" we may experience from day to day like leaving friends and family. Catholics talk about offering things up and saints write about "suffering little deaths" and it all sounds so morbid and even masochistic, right? Yet while the world is cowering in confused disgust at ossuaries and gasping at the indecency of mentioning the word death, the Church is turned with an eager heart to the hope of resurrection and the paradox of the crucifixion: "by dying He destroyed our death; by rising He restored our life".

Capuchin ossuary in Rome.
St. Francis said it eloquently in the Canticle of the Sun:

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

One can talk about death for a very long time and there are of course a great many saints who say a great many good things about the subject. However, all of this is to say that throughout this life and in the small goodbyes we are, in the words of Jon Foreman, learning how to die.


But death is a hopeful thing! We hope to be reunited in Christ where there can be no true separation. So we shoulder our struggles and do our duties. After all, "Christians never say goodbye!"* (And Rome, c'mon. It's going to be fun.)

*C.S. Lewis -- A Severe Mercy