DARN JETLAG! It’s 3am over here and I’m wide awake! #NEEDSLEEP!!
— Andrew M. Boyd (@boydspace) March 5, 2017
Waking up at 3am is not fun. No matter what anyone tells me, this is not a fun way to spend one’s time traveling. Yet that is exactly what I experienced today. Have you ever had one of those moments where your body just says ‘get up!’ and you can’t figure out why? Under no circumstance should I have woken up at 3am here this morning, yet after five hours of sleep I was wide awake and ready for the day.
Our Sunday started with conventual mass at Sant’Anselmo with the Benedictine Community. Afterwards, we travelled down to the Vatican for the Pope’s Angelus. Although I could not understand a word that was being said, there was still the feeling of electricity in the air. It was truly an awesome experience. Right before the Holy Father appeared in the window, the streets were loud, the sun was hidden, and it was pouring down rain. The moment the Holy Father came out to speak, the crowds cheered, the clouds cleared, and the sun shone about the piazza. Once the cheering died down, everyone became focused on what the Holy Father had to say. I’ve included below what the Holy Father had to say in his Angelus remarks today:
Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square following his weekly Angelus blessing, the Pope urged those present to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones and asked: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?”
The Bible, he explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.
Clearly, Francis said, the comparison between the Bible and the cellphone is paradoxical, but it induces us to reflect.
“If we always carried God’s Word in our hearts, no temptation would distance us from the Father, and no obstacle would take us off the path towards good” he said.
He pointed out that in this first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of Matthew tells of Jesus’s forty days in the desert and of how he was tempted by the devil.
With his temptations, the Pope said, Satan wanted to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humbleness – because he knew that this was the way to conquer evil – and he wanted him to take the false shortcut towards glory and success.
“But the devil’s poisonous darts are all ‘blocked’ by Jesus with the shield provided by God’s Word” he said, pointing out that Jesus never uses his own words but only God’s Word, and thus, filled with the force of the Holy Spirit, he victoriously crosses the desert.
Pope Francis invited all Christians to follow in Jesus’ footsteps during the forty days of Lent and to confront the spiritual battle against evil with the strength of God’s Word.
“That’s why,” he said, “it is necessary to become familiar with the Bible: read it often, reflect upon it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God which is always topical and effective.”
Inviting the faithful to carry a pocket-sized Gospel all the time, the Pope concluded with the words: “don’t forget what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our cellphone, always with us, always close to us!”
How true are Pope Francis’ words for today. God wants our full attention, and this can be seen in how we treat our relationship with Him, with others, and with ourselves. Being that this is just the beginning of Lent, it would be very appropriated that if we finds ourselves overly attached to our cellphones that we take this lent to put down our phones and actually engage with God in reading His Word, engage with others by praying for them and with them, and as simple as just talking to the “other”, and taking time for ourselves in silence to refocus our goals and our plans so as to check if they follow His plans for our lives.
After the Angelus, we walked a short distance to lunch at Veneria. Once again, the food was delicious and filling. If only this were a foodie blog, I could go on and on about the food here in Italy, but I will spare you from feeling hungry and from harboring hatred for me for being here J.
With a free afternoon today, a small group of us took the opportunity to head to the top of Saint Peter’s Basilica to see the view from the top of the dome. The climb was daunting and exhausting. It started easy with an elevator ride, but from here it got worse. You next take a spiral staircase that feels like it is never going to end. Once it does end, you start walking on a slant, which made me very dizzy! When you think you have finally made it, there is yet again another spiral staircase that is not for the claustrophobic (nor is any part of this journey for the claustrophobic!). Once you are finally at the top, you get what you came for: a spectacular view over the Vatican Piazza. Totally worth the climb. That is, until you decide it is time to leave. Time to take another journey through the daunting hike down to the roof of Saint Peter Basilica. In the end, I am extremely glad I did take the opportunity to make it to the top of the dome, but I feel that maybe once in a lifetime is enough.
After our journey to the “top of the world,” we had about two hours to spend until our next plan. Some of us wandered the basilica, getting a great view of the entire place, yet that did not allow us to see everything. Luckily, we will have a better opportunity to view the rest of Saint Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday.
A classmate of mine from the Diocese of Greensburg studies here in Rome at the Gregorian University and resides at the Pontifical North American College (NAC). For dinner, it was decided that two seminarians, our rector Father Edward, and I would meet up with Dan Carr for dinner. With time to spend, we decided to join the men of the NAC for Sunday Night Vespers and then head out for dinner. We had another amazing meal, this time at Trattoria Da Luigi. I had Pasta Amatriciana. Thanks to the recommendation by not only Father Edward our rector, but also a good friend of mine, John Hepinger, I had some of the best pasta yet on my trip. After dinner, we made a quick jaunt to Frigidarium, a gelateria. For my first experience of gelato in Italy, I was extremely impressed and I look forward to the next opportunity!
After our visit, we bid farewell for the evening, knowing it would take us about an hour to return to Sant’Anselmo. We also knew that tomorrow will be another arly and long day, for tomorrow we head south to Monte Cassino.
So far, this trip is shaping up to be so much more than I expected, yet I didn’t even know what to expect for this trip. I was hesitant to travel outside the country, and now that I am here, I am glad I made the leap of faith.
Continue to pray for us as we pray for you!
Until tomorrow, pax!
Fr. Andy Boyd is a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Erie, PA. Currently, Father Andy is assigned to Saint George Parish in Erie, PA.
Father Andy entered seminary after high school, graduating from Gannon University and Saint Mark Seminary in 2014. In the fall of 2014, Father Andy began his Major Seminary Studies at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe PA. Father Andy graduated from Saint Vincent Seminary with his Masters of Divinity in May 2018, and was ordained a priest in June 2018.
An avowed “Catholic Geek,” Fr. Andy spends his free time dabbling in media creation and network and server management.
Listen to Father Andy in his podcast Encounter Mercy.