What I Learned in Austria Is…

“Only hate the road
when you’re missing home.”

Let Her Go, Passenger

I just had one of the best semesters of my life. And I would say that I learned and experienced so much. Here is a list of things that I realized/experienced throughout the semester.

Countries I visited

1. Austria
2. England
3. Italy
4. Vatican City
5. France
6. Monaco
7. (Czech Republic)
8. Poland
9. France
10. Spain
11. Germany
12. (Belgium)

Cities in which I spent time

1. Gaming (Austria)
2. Melk (Austria)
3. Salzburg (Austria)
4. Vienna (Austria)
5. London (England)
6. Florence (Italy)
7. Rome (Italy)
8. Assisi (Italy)
9. Nice (France)
10. Monaco (Monaco)
11. Dolceacqua (Italy)
12. Częstochowa (Poland)
13. Krakow (Poland)
14. Wadowice (Poland)
15. Paris (France)
16. Mont-Saint Michel (France)
17. Lourdes (France)
18. Barcelona (Spain)
19. Munich (Germany)

Church Tally

74 Churches
Attended Mass in
__28 different churches
__6 different languages

 

What I realized I take advantage of in the States

1. Peanut Butter
2. Mac ‘n Cheese
3. Free water
4. Free bathrooms
5. Netflix/Pandora
6. Cable TV
7. Good Wi-fi

What I wish I did

1. Spent more time in Gaming
2. Went to Ireland
3. Appreciated more the places I visited
4. Visited Santa Croce and the Holy Stairs in Rome

What I learned

1. My immense desire to own and read books
2. The beauty of wandering
3. People can be more hospitable than we expect
4. A good way to enjoy a city is to just sit and enjoy it
5. Take life as it comes your way
6. You don’t have to do a lot in a city to enjoy it.
7. There are SO MANY churches in Rome.
8. One can find true beauty in churches, nature, and family.
9. Peacefulness.
10. God’s ways are not our ways.
11. It’s easy to get burnt out.
12. The Eucharist is what gives me strength.
13. I love Gothic architecture. (I knew that; it was just further solidified.)
14. Always make sure you have everything you need.
15. We don’t always know what God wants us to experience/learn.
16. Modern architecture CAN be beautiful (La Sagrada Familia).
17. Saints are SO important for the Church.
18. Priests don’t always know what they’re supposed to do.

What I know I’m going to miss

1. Italy
2. The town of Gaming
3. Italy
4. Wiener schnitzel
5. Real Italian food
6. Good European beer
7. Director of Student Life’s family
8. Milka
9. Spar

“One’s destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things.”

-Henry Miller

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Talk about YOLO

“Every man dies.
Not every man really lives.”

-Braveheart

The weekend before Finals, my plan was to do homework, finish a paper, and prepare myself for Finals. That wasn’t exactly what happened. I went to breakfast and Mass. Then, as I started to get ready to do homework, I saw a friend. I asked him his travel plans. He said he was going to Salzburg and Munich with the University (as they were getting footage for a new promo video), and he proceeded to invite me. Since it was our last weekend to travel, within 30 minutes, I was packed and in the van, ready to leave for Salzburg. Not exactly what I planned, but I wasn’t complaining. I was getting a weekend of travel on the University.

As we made our way to Salzburg, I had the opportunity to get to know better some classmates, 100_1991and our Director of Student Life and some of his kids. Most travel consisted of having to worry about what we were doing next and where we were going next. That weekend, they told us exactly what we were doing and where we were going. It was great to have stress-free and homework-free travel. Once we got to Salzburg, we walked around a little bit as they got some footage of us enjoying the sights of the city. Then we made our way to the Stieglkeller for our lunch. We enjoyed some beer, some food, and some fun with good friends. After lunch, we wandered around Salzburg for a while, enjoying some of the classic sights of the city, including the sights from the Sound of Music. We stopped for some coffee at a little café near the River and then made our way to the Augustiner-Keller for dinner. We were able to sit out in the beer garden, because the weather was fairly nice, and the trees guarded us from any rain. Once again, we enjoyed a meal, some beers, and some laughs with friends. After dinner, we made our way to our hostel.

The next morning after breakfast, we headed toward Munich. The drive consisted of doing various things for the camera to show the different things travel consisted of: sleeping, reading, singing, etc. Once we arrived in Munich, we went to St. Michael’s Church for Mass. That was the most…interesting Mass to which I had ever been. It was a Sunday Mass, and they skipped the First and Second Readings. They had the kids stand around the ambo during the Gospel. They sang at random parts of the Mass. The priest added his own prayers during the Eucharistic Prayer. The kids stood around the altar during the Our Father. Just to name a few. While I had thought that there were illicit aspects of Masses I had been to, they were nothing compared to that Mass. We truly need to pray for the Church and her priests. Yes, we should be thankful for all the men that answer the call to the priesthood. But that does not mean they are perfect. They definitely need our prayers.

After Mass, we made our way to the Hofbräuhaus. Some more laughs, good food, and good beer. After lunch, we wandered around Munich for a while, getting some gelato and taking some video. We hopped into the vans and gradually made our way back to little old Gaming. I got basically no homework finished that weekend. Finals were starting later that week. I do not regret going on that weekend. My semester in Gaming went by quickly – too quickly. I had not been to Munich. And I definitely appreciated more time in Salzburg. It was a weekend to get to know better some of my classmates. If you ever have the opportunity to study abroad or travel, take advantage of the time you have. Don’t over-do it; it is possible to over-do yourself. While taking advantage of the time you have, revel in that time; see the sights, experience the experiences. Live the experiences that you have, or you will regret it.

“The Mass is very long and tiresome
unless one loves God.”

-G.K. Chesterton

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Kyrie Eleison

“Let Souls who are striving for perfection particularly adore My mercy,
because the abundance of graces which I grant them flows from My mercy.”

-Jesus, St. Faustina’s Diary

After the bulk of our 10-day (Mont Saint-Michel, Lourdes, and Barcelona), we made our way back to Gaming for a day before leaving for the Canonization. We were all so excited. The opportunity to attend a canonization is rare for most people. The opportunity to attend a dual-canonization is even rarer! The opportunity to attend a dual-pope canonization… Wow. We were really looking forward to the chance to be there. We took the extremely long bus ride from Gaming to Rome. Everyone had trouble sleeping; we watched some movies; we had times of prayer. It was a great time to talk to people, not to sleep, but to enjoy the beauty of Europe and the people around us.

After the long bus ride, we made it to Rome very early on that Sunday morning. We were dropped off a little ways from St. Peter’s Square. We made our way toward the Vatican. However, it was packed. So we got to the area around the Castel Sant’Angelo. We pushed our way through the crowds, attempting to get as good of spots as was possible. We made our way down into the moat (which was not filled with water). It was initially going to be a spot to hang out until we made our way to a different place, but we ended up just staying there for our time. We prayed; we talked; we looked around at all the varying people surrounding us. A friend and I attempted to find a bathroom but got stuck in a very stagnant crowd near the castle. We eventually made our way to a bakery. After making our way back to our group, we hung out until it was time for the Canonization.

Popes JPII and JXXIII

No one had really prepared us for what was going to happen and when. We found a spot on the hill, looking up toward a screen opposite of us. I managed to see half of the screen. The Canonization (and certain parts of the Mass) were in Italian; the Mass was in Latin (but I couldn’t hear that at the time). So I really had no idea what was going on. Apparently the actual Canonization declaration was before Mass, which I didn’t know. Once Mass started, I was able to follow along, though I did not have Mass responses. Although I had no idea what was going on throughout the Canonization, I was so blessed to have the opportunity to go there. Being able to attend the declaration of the sainthood of two of our great popes in the last century was such a blessing.

After the Canonization, we made our way to the NAC (North American College) so that we could go to Mass. [Most of us were unable to receive Communion at the Canonization, so we were able to attend Mass at which 1) we could understand everything that was going on, and 2) we could receive the Eucharist.] The chapel in the NAC was beautiful. I definitely appreciated that opportunity. After Mass, we wandered a little bit around Rome, during which I met Matt Maher and Fr. Robert Barron, so that was cool. I found some pizza with some friends. [It was the last time I would be in Italy for a very long time.] After pizza, we made our way to get some fairly inexpensive gelato that was rather good. Pizza and gelato were a good end to my time there.

I didn’t really have any clue of what was going on. I didn’t understand any of the Mass or Canonization. But I still cherish that opportunity to go. I stood there amongst millions of Catholics from around the world, waiting to hear (but often not understand) the declaration of two of our popes’ status (for lack of a better term) as saints in Heaven above. We look to Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II as two of our examples of great holiness. We see them as two great men who have listened to the universal call to holiness. And I was there for that declaration! I was there to appreciate the example of holiness that those men gave to the Church. No, I couldn’t understand. But I knew exactly what was happening: the declaration, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, examples of great holiness! I so greatly cherish that opportunity!

“Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things.
It consists in accepting, with a smile, what Jesus sends us.
It consists in accepting and following the will of God.”

-Mother Theresa

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I Guess I Don’t Know Spanish As Well As I Thought

“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos,
including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty.

-Deepak Chopra

After going to Mont Saint-Michel and Lourdes, we planned to go to Barcelona. We took a train from Lourdes to Toulouse and had a short layover before going to Barcelona. Since we had heard that Thomas Aquinas was buried in Toulouse, we wanted to try to find him in the time we had. We looked it up, figured out how to get to the church, and went. We got lost, but we eventually found it. When we got there, we found out that he was at a church a few blocks over, but, since we were running low on time, we weren’t able to go, which was upsetting, because we were looking forward to it. So we went back to the train station, got lunch, and then got on our train to Barcelona.

When we got to Barcelona that evening, we took the metro out to our hotel, which was basically like a flat, with balconies and access to a kitchen. It was a great change from the previous hotel with small rooms and mold. Three of us, after getting a little settled in, got some kebabs (my first kebab) for dinner, and then went to meet up with some friends to grab some drinks. After much searching, we found then, and then we found a place at which to get drinks. I got a Russian mojito and was able to sit back and not stress, catching up with friends about how our 10-days were going thus far. After a while, when we had finished our drinks, we headed back to the flat for the night.

The next morning, when we got up, two of our friends had already left, so we planned our day for the four of us. First, we went to La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family), a basilica designed by Gaudí that has been under construction for the last 50 or so years and is still not finished. The line to get into the church wrapped around at least half of the building. 100_1938We walked around the outside and then went back to the flat, so we could buy our tickets online: There was a separate, shorter line for those who had purchased their tickets online. Our plan was to go at 3:00. We went from the flat to the Cathedral of Barcelona for Mass. We didn’t get much time to look around the church, because they kicked people out before charging people to get in. After Mass, we decided to get tapas for lunch, so we went to a restaurant recommended by some friends. I had some chips and guacamole, which was rather good. I had asked for a Cuba Libre (rum, coke, and lime), but they left out the lime, so it was just a rum and coke, which was still pretty good. We all got to enjoy a lunch of tapas (small dishes, or appetizer-like dishes) and drinks. We enjoyed the food, the fellowship, and the conversation. It’s small moments like that that bring us to constantly appreciate all that we have.

After lunch, we made our way back to La Sagrada Familia. When I looked at the outside, it looked pretty interesting, but I didn’t feel the need to go in. When I went inside, 100_1969it was rather interesting, more so than the outside, but it was still kind of strange. There truly was some beauty in the church, but I personally would have preferred to go in a Gothic cathedral. When I went to a part of the church that had information on Gaudí’s perspective, I changed my mind. You could tell that he appreciated other architectural styles by his incorporation of them into the church. However, he didn’t just want to design a church that would fit into one of those categories; he wanted his own style. He was greatly inspired by nature and wanted his work to mirror nature. There is so much order in nature and in phenomena in mathematics. Both are beyond me, but it is amazing to see how beautifully and perfectly ordered they are. He designed the church to mirror the beauty of the order of nature. I wish I could discuss more thoroughly, but those topics are so beyond me. You just have to read about Gaudí and see his work, which we will hopefully be able to see completed some day soon.

After spending some good time at La Sagrada Familia, we made our way to the beach. We wanted to be able to spend at least some time sitting and relaxing on the beach. It was great to just sit there, bury my feet in the sand, and make symbols in the sand with rocks. It was funny (and slightly annoying) to constantly see the same people asking if we wanted to buy beer, mojitos, blankets, or a massage. Most of them sounded fairly nice in theory, but we knew that they all would have been rip-offs. After spending time at the beach, we walked a little bit until we found some decently-priced paella. I had some chicken paella (I know; don’t hurt me; I don’t enjoy most shellfish). It was pretty good. For the price, I would say it was a pretty good deal. At the very least, that is what I wanted out of my trip to Barcelona: paella. Mission accomplished.

After dinner, we went by the apartment our friends were renting for the week to hang out for a while. It was good to see all of them and catch up with our breaks, sharing the good times and the bad times. It’s always great to be able to just do that with friends: catch up. After hanging at their apartment, while some people went out to get churros (apparently that’s a thing to do in Barcelona – I didn’t know that), some of us went to get drinks. We got some Sangría, which is apparently also a thing that people do when in Barcelona/Spain. It was pretty good, kind of tart. I mostly enjoyed being able to spend time with friends over drinks. I am appreciating more and more those small moments of spending simple time with people. We went back to the apartment to hang out for a little while before going back to our flat to call it a night.

The next morning, we packed our bags and headed to the train station. We had a 6 and a half hour train from Barcelona to Paris, a 3-hour layover, and then a 12-hour overnight train from Paris to Munich as we gradually made our way back to Gaming. Luckily, when we went to make reservations, all seats were full, and there were only beds left, so we had to reserve beds, which definitely made the trip more comfortable. After Munich, we made took a few trains and a bus to make it back to Munich. We had about a day to hang around and relax in the Kartause before leaving for the Canonization.

“It has long been an axiom of mine
that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Oh, My Lourd(es)

“Pray for sinners.”
“Penance. Penance. Penance.”

-Our Lady of Lourdes

After going to Mont Saint-Michel, we made our way to Lourdes. We got to Toulous and planned to stay the night at the station so we wouldn’t have had to pay for an additional night in a hostel, but after only half an hour or so, they closed the station. So we wandered around until we found a hotel. It was great to take a shower and to stay in a decently nice (that six college students could afford) hotel. That next morning (Easter Sunday), we got up and made our way to the train station, which was nearby. After two trains, we made it to Lourdes.

We left the train station and made our way to our hotel, getting misdirected a couple times. We dropped all of our stuff in our rooms and then rushed to Mass at 11 in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. We got there just a few minutes before Mass started, so it was already packed, so we just found a couple of seats with steps on which to sit. We were expecting Mass to be in French, so we had the French Mass responses ready. We got there to find out that Mass was in Italian. One of my friends knows a good bit of Italian, so he was fine, but the rest of us were fairly lost. We had the readings, and Mass was the same except for Mass being in Italian, so we were able to follow along. Traveling really brings one to understand an appreciation for Mass being in Latin: Mass would be the same everywhere, and I’ve been able to learn some Latin from going to Latin Masses, so I wouldn’t be completely lost.

After Mass, we got some lunch, where we somewhat treated ourselves because it was Easter Sunday. We then went back to the hotel, after getting ourselves a bottle of champagne, once again to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord on that Easter Sunday. When we got back to the hotel, we were all fairly exhausted, 100_1902so we wanted to take it easy for the afternoon: I took a nap. After my nap, one of my friends and I made our way to the Grotto. It was kind of rainy, but it was still rather nice outside. The weather was mild, so it was fairly manageable. There was an Italian rosary going on, but it was still rather amazing to see the place where Mama Mary appeared to St. Bernadette. Because we couldn’t get very close, we went on. It was announced that there was adoration in the Basilica of Saint Pius X. We got there to hear the Gospel and some intercessions. The bishop took the monstrance around, blessing different sections of the church. That church was quite the ironic one. It is an underground, modern basilica. The church dedicated to the Pope against modernism is modern… Boy, the irony… I wonder what the architects were thinking.

After adoration, we went to the hotel to figure out our plans for the night. We went out to get dinner and then went back to the hotel. After hanging out there for a while, we went to the procession at the Shrine. It was beautiful. Everyone had candles as we processed with a statue of Mary leading the procession. We prayed a rosary throughout the procession, with the prayers being said in many different languages. We ended at the foot of the basilicas as we finished our rosary. Afterwards, we found some friends and caught up with them. Then we went to the hotel to call it a day.

The next morning, a few of us went to the Lourdes hospital to go to Mass with the Lourdes missionaries from Franciscan. A100_1896fter Mass, we got breakfast and then headed to wait in line to go to the baths. Waiting was interesting. They came over the intercom praying the rosary, but he constantly changed languages and randomly ended the decades and stopped the rosary. Also, I had no idea what to expect with the baths, because I hadn’t really been told anything other than that it was really cold and that I had to take all of my clothes off. They put a towel on me, and, before going into the water, we all prayed a Hail Mary. They gave me a minute to call to mind my intentions. I walked to the end of the bath, sat down, and then they dunked me in, except for my head. I was literally breathless. I stood before Mama naked, breathless, and abandoned of all. I lifted up myself up to hear and then went back to put on my clothes.

Meeting up with my friends, I went to the Adoration Chapel. I prayed Daytime Prayer, but, after that, I felt a little too restless to sit there in Adoration. So I left the chapel and sat by the river. It was interesting to watch the river and the people nearby. There was such a wide variety of people who had come to Lourdes. There were people with disabilities who came to wash in the baths. There were groups that reminded me of the Steubenville Youth Conferences, cheering those cheesy cheers. There were priests and religious. There were families. There were priests and religious. There were those seeking spiritual conversion. There were tourists. There were people of all sorts of countries and backgrounds, all coming to this place of pilgrimage, where Mary appeared to Bernadette. Why were all of them here? Because they’re supposed to be. Why was I there? Because I was supposed to be. There’s some sort of spiritual healing that we all need. whether we realize it or not. God gives what we need; we just have to accept it. He brought each of us to Lourdes to help us grow and heal in some way. Whether we grow and whether we are healed depends on whether or not we accept it. I’m still trying to figure it out for myself, but I know that God blessed us in our time.

The river also led me into some beautiful insights (with also the help of others). The river moved swiftly with tiny waves and swirling throughout. It might be cliché, but bear with me: the river is kind of like life. Life comes at us fast, throwing things at us that we don’t expect, turning us around every which way, leaving us disoriented in the end, but it still moves on. Throughout everything, life moves on. Throughout struggles, through our ‘calm’ periods, through ‘thick and thin,’ life moves on, and it moves quickly too. After something happens, we may want to go back and change it. I saw ducks trying to swim upstream; it was a struggle for them. When you try to swim upstream, so-to-speak, all you do is miss the present moment, hurting yourself even more as you try to change what can’t be changed. We can look back and see that things didn’t go the way we wanted them to go, but we can’t change them. And our struggles are meant to help us grow. Without the waterfalls, with the rapids, we could never appreciate the calm. And after the rapids, we make it out, in the end. We determine the state in which we make it out.

I enjoyed that time of just looking around and thinking. After that, I went to find my friends, but they had left the chapel. I wandered around, picked up some lunch, and then headed back to the room to hang out for a little while. That afternoon was sort of on-our-own time, which was good to have. I had the opportunity to look at and pray in the basilicas of the Crypt and Our Lady of the Rosary. It was a beautiful day for most of the day, but then it started to rain on and off. I got the chance to just walk around the town of Lourdes, which is a rather touristy town. It’s sad how touristy and commercial so many pilgrimage sites have become. They have become just another sight to see and another place at which to make money. I spent some more time just sitting and looking around. I figured that, since I was in France near wine country, I would get a bottle of wine, so I went and got a bottle of Bordeaux.

I went back to our room to figure out our plans for dinner. 100_1907We wandered around for a while, but we didn’t get anywhere. We eventually found Nutella crepes for €3.00, which sounded so good, and it was. We went back to our hotel to hang out for a while and to figure out our plans for the night. I was laying down, and I eventually fell asleep while everyone else else was still talking around me. It was only about 8:00pm. The next morning, we packed our bags, went to Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary, checked out of our hotel, and then left for our 11:45 train. We made our way to our final 10-day destination: Barcelona.

“God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

-The Serenity Prayer

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