Opinions Expressed in "Rants," while informed by Catholic doctrine, are merely the opinions of the author.
When In Rome
So I've been to Italy, finally, homeplace of one quarter of my lineage (grandpa, Enrico "Harry" Cicconi) , and HQ of the Catholic Church. Went with the Christ the King High School Students, as one of their supervisors. Just a few brief reflections and pictures.
HOW TO TRAVEL
As a priest, it can be difficult to figure out how to go on holidays - I either go somewhere exotic, but ALONE, or I stay home, and close to friends and family. This was a more-or-less good compromise between the two. While the pace was certainly not one I would take on my own initiative - we were up very earlier, saw as many sites as we could squeeze into a day, walked between 5 and 20 kilometers every day, ate supper after 8 pm every night - yikes I was tired. But the kids were awesome - loved being with them the whole time - well, most of the time.
Venice was founded by refugees, with the following mentality: Here's an idea. Let's build a city on top of a swamp right next to the Ocean, make it as difficult to find our way around as possible, and constantly in fear of being drowned in the next high tide!! That way no one will want to invade us!!
Yea. They don't want to invade because no one in their right mind would want to live there.
Not sure what Indiana Jones sees in the place, especially when its raining, as it did for most of our time there. Needless to say, I don't plan on going back - although we did have the nicest hotel there.
Florence was pretty cool, especially if you know anything about the Renaissance, which I do - Florence was the birthplace to the Italian Renaissance, which changed the face of history as we know it. James Burke has the most interesting documentary on the subject, called "The Day the Universe Changed." Florence is also a great place to go if you like shopping, which I don't - but the kids do, so that's what we spent a lot of our time doing.
Nonetheless, it was awe inspiring to sneak into the Cathedral of Santa Croce (I got in free for being a priest, nice fringe benefit), and see the burial places of Michelangelo, Rossini, Galileo - cool.
Yea, it leans. Nice church inside though - nicest one we saw next to the Vatican (again, nice to be a priest).
You know why all the hotel rooms in Italy are equiped with a bidet (pronounced b-day)? The Italian diet consists of pasta, pasta and more pasta. What about vegetables, you might ask? Yea - its in the sauce. We had about as much ruffage as a person can fit into a thimble, turning me personally into a human yogurt machine. If you're ever going, bring some multi-vitamins along, and some metamucil.
Yea, it was destroyed. Interesting from an historical point of view, as the entire city was so well preserved. But it just got me thinking more about my dog.
If you've never heard of the place, check out a documentary on WWII. One of the most important and most BRUTAL battles was fought here between Allied and German forces. Many Canadians between 18 and 22 years old gave their lives there. Pretty intense.
Now Rome was cool. Visiting the Holy See - that is, the central Headquarters of the Catholic Church at the Vatican, was pretty awesome. And that's the point of those huge churches throughout Europe - to inspire awe, and connect us with the source of ALL awe - God.
When they were built, these vast sacred places were the best show in town. And they are still awesome - but not in the same way, not anymore. Now they have to compete with football, rock stars, movies, shopping, a lot of things that promise prosperity and happiness - all things which of course, Jesus made very clear were temporary - but that doesn't matter - the churches aren't used any more, not as sacred places anyway. They're museums. Masses that take place there each Sunday bring in only a sprinkling of followers, most of whom are older - the Church in Europe is dying. Believe it or not, compared to them, the Canadian church is in GREAT shape. Maybe instead of trying to impose its world-view on the rest of the world in terms of worship, it should look outward and seeing how things are going out here in the outskirts of civilization - Tanzenia, Brazil, LEDUC!!
In any case, I'm glad I went, and I will go again, now that I know where everything is. I even wore DRESS PANTS in the Vatican - ME, Father Catfish. Took me forever to find them. I missed my dog more than I would ever have guessed, but absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. So, what else is there to say - Veni, Vedi, Vici - and God is Love!!