Let Us Be Saints!
Ash Wednesday!
Wow!  After five straight weekends of travel (two day trips, three overnight trips, one out of the country) I am finally back in Rome for a few weeks!   Yes, I can honestly say that after just two months, "I am not the same, having seen the sun shine on the other side of the world."  There is so much to see and experience here in Europe, but it is always good to be "home" in Rome.  Trips require much planning and preparation and also reflection and recuperation so it is nice to have some down-time to get caught up.  Plus, there is much of Rome that I have yet to see!  Some of you asked about Lent here in Rome, so I thought I would devote a blog entry to this topic!  Then I hope I can update you on Assisi and Switzerland within the next week - both demand lots of time and will include loads of pictures!  :-)

A beautiful Lenten tradition in Rome is to visit the Station Churches.  This was started by men from the NAC, the North American College, who are essentially in major seminary and are studying for various dioceses in the U.S.  (Different countries send men over here to study at the pontifical universities, such as the Angelicum where we go or the Gregorian University where Fr. Carola teaches and their places of residence are called "colleges" so there is an English College for men for Britain, etc.)  Each day of Lent there is a different church assigned to the day and a Mass is celebrated there at 7 am, in English by a priest from the NAC.  Though this is very early and often the church is very far from Bernardi and involves a long trek to get there, it is really phenomenal. 

Every day is like a mini pilgrimage and it is truly an incredible way to visit some of the countless churches in Rome, including those that are not often open for the public to see.  I have only been to a handful of Station Churches thus far but each has been truly unique and beautiful.  My favorite has been the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains, where the chains that held St. Peter down during his imprisonment in Rome are displayed for all to see!  I recall the homily given by the priest this day, about our enslavement to sin, and the freedom that comes from obedience to Christ and his Church. 

Also, as much as I have come to love Italian liturgies and enjoy saying the Italian responses (I have a little guidebook to help!) and trying to decipher what is being said in the homily, it is really good to have Mass in English where I understand every word and can thus get a lot out of it.  Finally, the community at the Station Churches is fabulous.  It has been a good way to meet seminarians and students from the other Catholic colleges that are studying here in Rome (such as Christendom College and St. Thomas More College).  Going out for a cornetto and capucinno afterwards is an added bonus!

Another Bernardi Lenten tradition is to have "Lenten Angels" - something similar to "Secret Santas."  We all drew the name of another member of our Bernardi family and are to spend the 40 days of Lent lifting up this person in prayer and when Easter comes, we will buy them a small gift.  It is a beautiful exercise in generosity and is prompting me to think of others more than myself, to offer up rosaries and holy hours for my person, to make sacrifices and suffer for this person, and ultimately to will that this sister in Christ becomes more holy.  Praise God for this opportunity! 

 As we discussed at our community night on Fat Tuesday, Lenten sacrifices are meant to bring us closer to Christ.  We must pray in order to come to know Christ better.  We must fast from that which hinders our relationship with Christ.  We must serve and give to our neighbor and in so doing, serve and give to Christ.  Thus I have personally decided to make this Lent a time to come to know Christ better through scriptures, for as St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ."  I am spending time each day praying with the daily Gospel reading, which has lately come from the Sermon on the Mount.  I am rediscovering the many riches of scripture and coming to love our Lord even more.  Praise God!  May he bless your Lenten journeys!

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