I’m really feeling, as John Paul II once wrote, that I’m learning Rome.

I’ve been in Rome for about week. Let me tell you, it’s quite different from the countryside. I am loving it, though.  We are staying at a  place called “Fraterna Domus”,  run by a group of  religious sisters.

I share a small room with one other guy.  It’s working pretty well.  The one thing that is unusual is the shower situation.  Their showers are different from ours.  Many of them are not enclosed —  so when you shower in this small little bathroom, most everything save the sink gets soaked!   I laugh most of the time.

Since being here, we’ve hit the ground running.  Our leaders are all about the pilgrimage aspect of this program,  so we’re not bored.   In fact,  there isn’t time to think about being bored! A typical day is as follows:  wake up a bit before 6 and get ready for a half-hour of meditation from 6:30 till 7, with morning prayer (mostly praying the psalms) beginning at 7.  Then we have a quick breakfast of bread and jelly/honey. From there, we have 15-30 minutes to get to the bus outside our place.  We spend the morning praying, having Mass, and touring a church.

We’ve seen some incredible things in the last week:  St. Peter’s tomb and John Paul II’s tomb at St. Peter’s; St. Paul’s tomb at St. Paul’s outside the walls, the traditional spot where St. Paul was martyred; the Church of the Holy Cross where the two largest relics of Christ’s Cross are; St. John Lateran, and an ancient excavated city outside Rome. All the places have been a blessing — unique and formative.  I’m really feeling, as John Paul II once wrote, that I’m learning Rome.

After leaving the church around 1 PM, we are extremely hungry and ready for food. We have lunch, then the afternoons consist of either walking in Rome, taking a breather, doing errands, or classes. Classes started today and will run for the next three weeks. These weeks will be the most intense part of our program so I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write. Thanks to everybody who has written and I apologize for not responding to all.

Returning to our day-to-day (things in the schedule come up as well), we have an optional 30 minutes of prayer at 6:30, with evening prayer beginning around 7. Dinner starts at 7:30 with the rosary following. Night prayer is then on our own. The sisters shut down at 11, so we have to be in by then. Night is one of my favorite times in Rome.

The night brings a needed breeze and freshness.  I enjoy walking and processing my day, or hanging out with the other seminarians — when with the latter, gelato has surely been consumed as has a tasty beer to wind down.  The Tiber River is only a block away, and a major piazza is nearby, so those are options as well.   In conclusion, I’m excited about these next three weeks. I expect by July 4th I’ll be amazed I’m already coming home.

–Justin Reed Hall

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