Auschwitz + Divine Mercy

Spring Break 2016 consisted of Easter in Rome, and a week long trip to Krakow, Poland. While I was there, I made the trip out to the Nazi Concentration Camp, Auschwitz, as most people do when they visit Krakow. Here are some of my reflections from the day, and the Divine Mercy Shrine which I visited immediately afterwards. To begin, it was an eye-opening, educational experience to be, but it was very difficult to stomach.

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Before the start of World War II, there were 38,000 Jews in Kraków, Poland. By the end, there were 6,000. Most of these men, women and children were sent off to the infamous concentration camp: Auschwitz. We’ve all heard of Auschwitz in some capacity; whether from the movie Schindler’s List, The Diary of Anne Frank, or from various history lessons, museum exhibits, or word of mouth. It is the most infamous of all the camps, because it was the largest and the most deadly.

For me, well, I don’t remember when I first learned about this particular concentration camp. At least once every year in grade school, in some way, shape, or form, there would be a lesson on the Holocaust. Living in D.C., and from previous visits, I had been to the Holocaust Museum many times. I was no stranger to the history, the events and the suffering– so when I booked my trip to Kraków, I decided to go visit the place that I had learned about for years. It was fairly empty when I arrived in the morning, with the exception of a couple high school tour groups. Entrance to the camps/museum/memorial is free, so I picked up my entrance pass, went through security, and entered. When you come out of security, you walk into a large courtyard, clearly a meeting space for groups, the bathrooms located just around the corner. As you make your way to the end of the courtyard, signs point you to the one entrance, greeted by the infamous metal banner “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work will set you free”. You walk through that dirt path, right underneath the banner as so many people did not even 80 years ago, and you are officially inside of Auschwitz I.

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There are technically many Auschwitz camps; The only two the public have access to is I and II, I being the work camp, and II being the death camp. I is where most of museum is, and most of the “things to see” are. Camp II is largely a pile of rubble, since the Germans burnt many of the gas chambers as they fled, once the war was officially lost.

In the beginning, it felt like the other Holocaust Museums I had been to. It may be a sign of how good the museums in the States are, but it may also be a sign of how hard it is to wrap your head around what happened here. There are many signs, in Polish, English, and Hebrew, to describe what everything was. Some of the buildings are opened, with exhibits inside. All of the buildings look the same: Long, brick, all numbered, all in a row, exactly like in the movies. There had to be about 40 buildings or so. Around the entire complex was barbed wire, complete with watch towers and spotlights, to ensure no escape. Even now, there is still a feeling of being trapped.

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You weave in and out of the open buildings, looking at exhibits on how Hitler’s extermination plan came to be, how it was carried out, daily life within the camp, and then, how/how many people died. For example, one of the first buildings I went into was the “infirmary”, a fancy word for where they brought sick prisoners, either to leave them in the basement to suffocate, or to perform medical experiments on them. Sometimes, if they were feeling merciful, they were inject the prisoner with a type of poison, which would kill them immediately. The amount of artifacts they still have from the camps is astounding; they set up each room to look like it would have during operation.

You can see the beds, all bunked in a row, like we’ve all seen in pictures. You can see the doctors’ medical “tools”, their desks, their operating tables. All of it was left behind in panic, as the Germans attempted to flee. They’ve set up the wash rooms so that prisoner’s uniforms are lying in the sink, ready for a wash. It’s as if you just accidentally stumbled into the room, while everyone was away at lunch.

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In this particularly “infirmary” building, there are a series of cells in the basement. I ventured down there only for a moment or so, since I was alone and you can’t really spend much time in a dimly lit, musty smelling basement of a concentration camp by yourself for very long. I knew there was something I wanted to see here; one of these cells was Saint Maximillion Kolbe’s. For those of you who have never heard the name before, Father Kolbe was a Catholic priest, one of the many priests (and Catholics in general) taken away to concentration camps. He was a Polish man, a Franciscan who worked and studied in Rome for a while, (I’ve had the privilege of seeing his office in Rome), who took another man’s place in Auschwitz. He saved his life, but was condemned to that dark, basement cell. It is where he starved to death. Father Kolbe is now a Catholic saint, and there is a small memorial to him within that cell, including a couple of candles, a sign explaining who he was, and a wreath. It was a beautiful light in darkness of that horrible place. It was a beautiful testimony.

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There was an exhibit on all of the items stolen by the Naxis, as their prisoners entered the camps. There were piles, and piles, and piles of shoes, glasses, crutches, hairbrushes, bowls, etc. etc., all taken from each person and thrown into a closet, where they would remain until the Auschwitz memorial center collected them and put them behind glass, where you can see them today. Each building has lines and lines of picture frames hanging from the walls–prisoners’ mugshots after they were branded with a number and given that blue and white striped uniform.

Outside from the buildings, you can see a few gallows, where prisoners were hung in public, to be made examples of. You can see the “shooting wall”, where prisoners were lined up and shot, again to be made examples of, to be punished, or simply just because. After seeing all these things, there is really only one thing left in Auschwitz I, possibly the worst part: The crematorium and gas chamber. It’s a little cement bunker, slightly hidden as a grass mound. There are a pair of huge, iron doors, and then you entire into a plain, gray, cement room. The gas chamber. There is no way to even fathom what took place here–or that you are standing in the very room where thousands of people lost their lives. And even though you can’t wrap your head around what and why, you still can’t spend very long there. Something just feels wrong. So you follow the arrows and keep going. The next and final room is the crematorium itself, with the furnaces still intact, untouched, as if it was 1945. I looked at it all for a brief moment, then left the building, and walked out of the camp. You hit a certain point, and you cannot look anymore.

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After Auschwitz I, the typical thing to do is to hop on the shuttle, and go to Auschwitz II, which is about 15 minutes down the road. The bus drives you right the gates, stopping on the train track lines. This train line carried people into the camps from all over Europe, and to and from Auschwitz I and II. If you were brought here, to the second camp, you were going to die. Again, the camp is surrounded by barbed wire. It is a series of wooden buildings, all used as dormitories, waiting spaces before they brought you to a gas chamber. The chambers were located just behind the buildings, but the only thing that survives today is a pile of bricks, with all of the chimneys remained standing. There isn’t much to “see” in Auschwitz II; its up to you to reflect and mediate on everything you’ve seen. The Germans tried to cover up their war crimes on their way out, as they fled Poland in fear of the Allies, who were on their way in. While they succeeded in burning the gas chambers, they left the survivors behind, and piles of bodies not yet buried, along with various files, equipment, and items that now are used in museums today. The Soviet Union was marching its way across Eastern Europe, in what would become the beginnings of the Cold War, but according to many sources, even they did not know what they were about to walk into. We know that the Allies knew the Germans were rounding up Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, Catholics, and the physically and mentally handicapped. But, it was only in 1945, during the liberation, that they discovered the truth. In the end, Auschwitz was the cause of 1.1 million deaths. 

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All in all, I’m glad I went. I’m glad I got to learn more and see a piece of history with my own eyes. Don’t be mistaken, though; it was awful. It will stick with me, vividly, for a long time. It was so easy to leave there and feel powerless. It was easy to get stuck in the suffering and in the sorrow and ask the question: “Why?”

This is where the light comes in.

I had been told by many friends that I should visit the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Krakow right after visiting Auschwitz, since I would be feeling pretty unsettled. I took their advice.

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The Divine Mercy Sanctuary is Catholic pilgrimage site; It’s where Saint Faustina, a lived during her time as a sister, and where Christ appeared to her many times, particularly in the form of the Divine Mercy. It is where Christ told her to paint this image of him, the Divine Mercy of Christ and distribute it throughout the entire world. Saint Faustina did just that; It is an incredibly popular image of Christ for all Christians. Perhaps you have seen it before.

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He taught her how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a series of prayers that takes no more than 10 minutes, to pray for His mercy and forgiveness. Saint Faustina lived from 1905 to 1938, dying just before the war. Christ warned her that dark times were coming for the world, especially for Poland. He implored her to spread this image, these prayers, and to establish a Holy Day– A day of Divine Mercy– on the Sunday after Easter. In 2000, Pope John Paul II officially made the Sunday after Easter ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’. Pope John Paul II, being Polish and having been the Archbishop stationed in Kraków, had a very special devotion to Saint Faustina, her cause, and the Divine Mercy, encouraging all Catholics to do the same. He canonized her as a saint that same year. Saint Faustina wrote down all her experiences with Christ in her diary, which can be read today. (I’m in the process of reading it now–fascinating stuff.)

So that’s where I was headed. At the shrine you can view the original Divine Mercy painting of Christ, which is displayed in the chapel, just above Saint Faustina’s resting place. The chapel was packed, mostly with Polish men and women, but I heard some English thrown in there. The shrine and the chapel were getting ready for Divine Mercy Sunday–which is THIS Sunday!- so it was probably busier than usual, and nicely decorated.

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The image was stunning. Not only was is very visually pleasing, but it brought such peace after such a difficult morning. The faithful were saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet all around, from children to the elderly. Masses were said, readings were read. I expected to spend about a half hour there. I spent hours.

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(Parts of the original convent)

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Because Divine Mercy Sunday is this Sunday, and after mediating on the horrors of the Holocaust for so long, the image of the Divine Mercy, of Christ in His resurrected glory was a stark reminder of how temporary the suffering on this Earth it. It is easy to fall into despair, focusing on the evil.  Even today, we live in a world that is consistently in fear. And why shouldn’t we be? The troubles in the Middle East that have now made their way to Europe, there is a terrorist group targeting Christians and Capitalists, and the amount of massacres and kidnappings in Africa is devastating. Even the American election is a cause of concern; What was once the leader of the free world has fallen into two deeply polarized sections, unable to think past their noses for the good of the country and the good of the world.

It is now more important than ever to recognize hope. And its not just any ol’ hope. It is the hope of Christ. It is the hope of His Divine Mercy. Time and time again, humans have been reminded that the hope of Christ is the only thing that we have. It is the only thing that matters. Poland, after surviving the Naxis and a communist regime, learned this first hand. I was astounded at how devote Poland was; Churches at every corner, with full congregations during daily mass, random statues of Mary in the middle of fields, little children who actually knew the responses to prayers, and big families who actually looked happy to be spending time together, heading to church. Poland gets it. You GO Poland.

At the end of the day, this world is temporary. This suffering is temporary. I read somewhere once that the phrase “Do Not Be Afraid” occurs 365 times in the Bible. 365 times, for every single day in a year. Whether or not that is true, I don’t know, but I believe it anyway–Because that phrase, “Do Not Be Afraid”, sums it all up.

Well, that was super deep. Thanks for hanging in their while I dump out all of my thoughts on the Internet. Food for thought!!

Have an awesome Divine Mercy Sunday. After all this, I know I will! 🙂

Best,

Clare

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FIONA E. HART CAME TO ROME

Once upon a time, I joking said to Fiona Hart, “Well, why don’t you just come visit me in Rome?” And she in turn said to her parents, in jest “Well, why don’t I just go visit Clare in Rome?”

And her parents said, not in jest, “Well, Christmas is coming.”

And suddenly it was no longer a joke, but Fiona Hart had made it to the Eternal City. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Union Vale Middle School anymore.

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In lieu of a long list of things we did, here’s a bunch of pictures instead. Mostly because I don’t feel like typing it all out.

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  • We stumbled upon a parade on Saint Patrick’s Day but it wasn’t for Saint Patrick (surprise surprise) but apparently Italian unification day??
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And then it was Palm Sunday and Fiona really wanted to see Frank:

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And then we had a photo shoot:

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So, in summary, it was a freaking awesome week, even if it felt like it didn’t even happen. Started from the bottom, now we’re here. (The bottom being Arlington, of course. Sorry not Sorry Arlington.)

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Who wants to come visit me next?! No? No?? Alright.

Until next time,

Clare

Holy Week– Roman Style

Buona Pasqua!

Holy Week in Rome– aka: Catholicism on steroids.

Before I start with Holy Week, we need to go back to the beginning. Like the beginning of Lent, good ol’ Ash Wednesday.

There is a tradition in Rome dating back to the 800s AD, in which for every day of Lent, a special mass would be said at a different church in Rome, usually a church of some certain significance. This tradition became so important, in fact, that the readings for every day in Lent were chosen to reflect the Station Church mass was being said at in Rome, all over the world! When I heard of the opportunity to see about 40 new Churches in Rome, all of historical and religious significance, and the opportunity to take part in an ancient Tradition, AND the opportunity to have the best Lent ever, I jumped on it. The only catch, you ask? Mass was at 7:00am. Every morning. Sharp.

And we walked. Everyday.

I know, I know, my life is SO hard right?

Lent began strong at Santa Sabina on Ash Wednesday, with a FULL house of dedicated Catholics ready to fight the good fight for 40 days. Naturally, the group did not stay as large as it did the very first day BUT I was at that mass every single day I was in Rome, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The Seminarians at the NAC are so freaking good to us, they even would pick us up and walk with us in the morning. By ‘us’ I mean the two or three brave souls who trekked with me in the morning. A very good friend of mine, Maria, also did every day with me, and I cannot express how beautiful it was to see her dedicated throughout a three-week long cold, midterms, and a severe lack of sleep. You ROCK!

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So that was the beginning and the entirety of Lent, leading up to the Wednesday of Holy Week. For some reason we still had classes that day and Holy Thursday (@CUA, get yourself together) so it wasn’t as relaxing as one may have hoped.

Holy Thursday. (PSA: Holy Thursday is my favorite liturgy of the entire year so I am gonna get HELLA PUMPED in these next few paragraphs, so just bear with me and my overwhelming nerdiness)

The gang and I headed to Santa Maria in Trastevere for mass in the evening, which was super awesome because it’s a parish and there were little Italian children every where and families and it was just nice to be part a community for such a holy day. The little old Italian grandmas are always so amazed to see young people in church so they pat our heads and smile at us and then give us big hugs during the sign of peace. No complaints. Actually, far from complaints. It’s awesome.

Surprisingly, the mass was a standard Holy Thursday mass. (Why Surprisingly?? I am glad you asked!) ITalian liturgies tend to get a little funky, sometimes including elements that aren’t exactly appropriate or new types of music or art that’s…..interesting. I was just thankful there was no experimental rock music…..they do that sometimes.

My favorite part of all of Holy Thursday starts after mass. Because the host cannot be consecrated on Good Friday, the priest consecrates enough hosts on Thursday to be reserved and used on Friday instead. He collects all the left over hosts on Thursday, and leaves them on the altar for adoration all night long. This is called an “Altar of Repose” and usually every church decorates and adorns their altar with flowers, candles and maybe pieces of art. Long story short, it is a truly beautiful display, even in a physical, secular sense. As we are all reading our hearts for the Passion of Good Friday, there is a particularly type of reverence that comes with these altars on Holy Thursday.

Holy Thursday is also Catholic Halloween. Hear me out! Because every single church has the Holy Sacrament on the altar, and because it would be such a shame to miss the beauty that is each, individual altar, you are supposed to wander in and out of multiple churches, spending a couple minutes at each place. Thus, you are literally trick or treating. But for Jesus. sorta. (Is this too much of a stretch?? Is this blasphemy?? To be determined). Here’s a few:

After deciding to head home (and taking a quick stop at Frigidarium, naturally), Holy Thursday was over and Good Friday began. A couple of my girlfriends and I headed over to the English College (the seminary with the Brits and Irish) for Good Friday service, because it was about time we heard some native English speakers again. Also– who isn’t obsessed with British accents?! The service last 2.5 hours, which was long even to us, but it was our fault for forgetting that they were going to chant the entire Passion reading. Like the entire thing. Like it last 40 minutes. It was awesome, but it was also 40 minutes. See where I’m going with this?

Friday evening the same gang and I headed to Stations of the Cross.

At the Colosseum.

With Pope Francis.

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It was a very intimate affair, just a couple hundred of our closest friends, the Pope, dozens of journalists and a 2,000 year old stone monument, built because Nero had just slaughtered tons and tons of Christians, including Peter and Paul, built with all the money Rome acquired after they sacked Jerusalem. Ha. I’ll just end this here.

Holy Saturday was very low-key in comparison. I had a couple of friends who headed to the Easter Vigil at Saint Peter’s, but after having a lovely dinner with some friends from home, I got some work done and got ready for Easter.

Easter: The main event, right? Getting to go to a mass in Saint Peter’s Square with the Pope is incredibly awesome, because hey! It’s the Pope! And the Capitol of Catholicism! And Saint Peter! Waho! What is not awesome is the 3-4 hour wait, the pushing and shoving (ESPECIALLY THE NUNS WHAT THE HECK) and the multiple security checks (Which really, I am very thankful for, because safety is everything). Of course, in the end, this is all worth it when you get a seat right at the barricade wall, which means you can basically touch the Pope if you wanted to, while he drives around on his lil’pope Mobile. Pro-tip: Do NOT touch the Pope. Even if you want to. You’ll probably get arrested.

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The steps of Saint Peter’s was all decorated in flowers and such and there were Cardinals everywhere and little babies in their Easter bonnets and girls in their Easter dresses (I.e. Me. On both accounts) and the sun was shining and life was all around 10/10. Papa Frank gave his special Easter blessing from the window of Saint Peter’s and he reminded us to have a good Easter lunch before he left. I think that sums up Italy in a nutshell. You’ve been in Italy too long, Frankie.

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It was a good week to be Catholic. Then again, it’s a good life to be Catholic!

I hope and pray you all had a spectacular Easter and remember: It is STILL Easter! So Buona Pasqua! don’t feel bad about eating all that chocolate! Just do it! (I sure will!)

Until next time, (In Poland!)

Clare

2 Months worth of events. Opps .

I’ve officially given up on the whole “I’ll blog every other week!” thing. Sorry, past me, but this semester has been quite turbulent and some things just have to be placed on the back burner.

So we’re gonna do this last month and half in flashback style: Aka: I’m gonna stop ranting about nonsense and start putting some pictures in.

1.) We went to Bologna on a class trip to “learn” about Music and Cinema history of Italy (yes yes this is a real class, yes the humanities are useful, not I’m not wasting my time, thank you thank you).

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Much bologna and bolognese pasta was eaten, as to be expected.

2.) We went to Florence on a field trip, to see some art and climb up a dome and life the stereotypical Italian dream. So, yes, there were a lot of tiny houses with red brick roofs. This is Tuscany after all!

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It was quite a windy day.

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Big fan of Il Duomo: Florence’s famous cathedral.

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And The David. Not a fan of the lewd and inappro-pro pictures every person was taking in his presence, though. Gosh David, at least put a towel on.

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And the food. Ohhhh so much food.

Not a fan of the downpour that broke our umbrellas and soaked us to the bone, just before we got on a 1.5 hour train ride. I had the cold to prove it.

3.) Beware the Ides of March. Yes, Rome is still bitter about Julius Caesar’s assassination. Can you blame them?? Gosh, it was only 2,060 years ago!!

Yes, there were many Mean Girls references and yes there was a reenactment.

Fun fact: The only excavated part of where Caesar was assassination is now a cat sanctuary. The more you know, amiright?

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There may or may not have been an assassination attempt during that night’s dorm meeting.

4.) Erin Reckner and the Oxford team came to Roma! After the amazing hospitality they gave me in Oxford, it was only natural to return the favor and show them as much of Rome as we could in two days. And WOW, did we see Rome. 14 miles of walking every day, but we sure as heck got it all done.

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5.) Saint Patrick’s Day….in….Italy?? So this one was a little ( a lot ) strange because on the one hand, I’ve got my Italian heritage screaming at me to ignore this day and go get a cannoli, but then I’ve got my Irish heritage screaming at me to go put on my favorite green sweater and embrace my Hermione Granger hair, at least for the day. My Irish side won, as it usually does (sorry, Mom).

HEY: In my defense, even the COLOSSEUM was celebrating St. Paddy’s. Who can argue with the Colosseum??

6.) Saint Joseph’s Day– NOW we can celebrated Italia. St. Joseph’s Day also doubles as Italian Father’s Day here, so there were all of people out and about that Saturday. Also– the San Guiseppe Bigne (pastry) ONLY appears on Saint Joseph’s day and it was #worthit. There was even a special gelato flavor, one day only! Had to take advantage of that. I can’t find my pictures for this, so use that imagination of yours. 

(If you haven’t figured it out already, Catholics really like feast days. Even if they aren’t our own feast days. Feasts are feasts.)

Phew. That’s all I got for you this round.

Until next time,

Clare

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(^About sums it all up^)

Harry Potter Weekend

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Probably the best thing about studying abroad is the fact that some of your best friends are studying abroad at the SAME time and therefore: you get to go on vacation, without planning a single thing.

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Thats exactly what happened this past weekend, when Caroline and I booked a last minute flight to England to see two of our best friends, Frances and Erin, both of who are studying at Oxford University. Like THE Oxford University.

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Like where they filmed these really insignificant movies, I doubt you’ve ever even heard of them.

“Draco Malfoy’s butt was in this tree once.” -Caroline

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Caroline and I pulled into Oxford Train Station in the afternoon Friday, but first started our Harry Potter Weekend at Kings Cross:

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(We may or may not have waited 45minutes in line just to get this picture. Also, fun fact: Theres a guy who stands there ALL DAY and holds the scarf up just to throw it up in the air so you can get a good picture. Like thats his job. It was incredibly weird.)

If you didn’t think Oxford was posh and pretentious before, listen to this nonsense:

Friday night was Trinity College’s “Guest Night”— aka, Caroline and I got to eat in one of Oxford’s flippin’ fancy dinning hall, with a bunch of British students in their robes, casually being waited on waiters in Tuxes. When the heck is this gonna happen to me again?? Never. Never is the answer.

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Dinner was in a large hall, with three mahogany tables up the room. It’s customary to cross your knife and fork on your plate to signify the seat is taken, and then go downstairs to the cellar where everyone gathers for drinks first. Then we popped back upstairs, took our seats and then suddenly one of the waiters BANGS a gavel on the table. The students stand up immediately, and a bunch of professors processed in wearing these thick, long black robes. Professor Snape was not among them One of them quickly says a prayer in Latin, they sit, and then we sat. (Rich people man)

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We had four courses, mostly of fish and cheese, and it was all around a freakin’ spectacular time. We chose to come on the right night!

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Saturday: Warwick Castle and Stratford Upon Avon.

If any of you have been to Medieval Times, that was essentially what Warwick castle was, except it wasn’t fake. It was all real. Putting this all in perspective, Erin said: “This doorknob is older than our country!”. That about sums it up.

Featuring:

Clare needs to stop using her selfie stick:

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7th grade mirror selfies:

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And: Clare HATES Wax figures and this insanely creepy version of King Henry VIII and his six wives wasn’t helping anything:

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You’ve probably heard of Stratford Upon Avon for one reason: William Shakespeare. Here’s his birth house:

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Here’s the church where Shakespeare is buried but as conveniently CLOSED WHEN WE GOT THERE. I don’t even want to talk about it.

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Here’s some corny gift shops:

Guess what? It was another cute English town in the country side. Never gets old, amiright? Also, New Yorkers: I GOT A BAGEL WITH EGGS AND BACON GOD BLESS 

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Saturday night we ran over to mass, one of the few Catholic services in town (us crazy Catholics, what a bunch of papists!), with the Dominican Friars.

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After dinner: 2nd coolest thing of the weekend: The Eagle and Child. At first glance, its just another english pub, serving burgers, fish and chips. But NO! This pub was a favorite of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkein. Like they ate here, and talked here and probably wrote here and shared manuscripts with each other because why not?? There were tons of Narnia and LOTR references everywhere and there was tiny sign telling us where CS Lewis specifically sat once a week with his brother to talk about life. Like what even?? Also we found Narnia. Don’t you just hate it when you walk through a wardrobe and suddenly you’re in the midst of a deadly conflict in a mystical land? I do. 10 Year old me was freaking out.

Sunday: Let them eat cake. Specifically, for breakfast.

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What even is England anyway?? Where you just have tea and chocolate cake for breakfast??? America get it together, man.

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Anyway to sum it all up: THANK YOU so much to Frances and Erin for taking care of us for a whole weekend. And to you, Oxford, keep on being pretentious. You deserve it.

Happy SAINT Valentine’s Day, guys. Don’t forget to thank the priest who was beaten and beheaded for his faith for all your chocolates and flowers today 🙂 ❤ 🙂

Best,

Clare

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Update: Rome is still here, and I am still loving it

Goooooood morning family and friends! This morning I realized I hadn’t updated the blog in a while, although I’m sure you all know by now that I am back in the Eternal city, and once again loving every second of it. I apologize for the Instagram spam (alright not really. Sorry not sorry).

WHERE to begin?? I landed back in Rome and was immediately thrown back into the swing of things. RA training, welcoming the new students, door decorations, planning events, coordinating with the seminarians and those random things called…classes. All good things, all good things! I was also reunited with the love of my life, as pictured below:

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I had the pleasure of going back to my favorite place on earth: Assisi. Specifically, I was able to spend time at San Damiano, the monastery where Saint Clare lived, prayed and worked for the main portion of her life. It was where Christ told Saint Francis to “rebuild His church”, so Francis literally took a hammer and nails to the run-down chapel he was in. Little did he know God had other plans for him–something we can all relate to!

It was a truly wonderful week, getting to know almost 70 new people, desperately trying to remember everyone’s name (still not there yet. opps). What a welcome to Italy it was for them! Blog 36To be “stuck” in a small town in the Umbrian hillside, going to a wine tasting, enjoying the best meats Italy has to offered and wandering through the very same streets one of the most popular saints of all time walked on. We are just so. spoiled.

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I even got this^ group of crazy kids to hike an hour up a flippin’ mountain with me to spend some time at St. Francis’ Sanctuary!

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I got a selfie stick for Christmas and I HATE myself for using it but look how nice it is to have longer arms!!!!

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From there, its been one big whirlwind. We returned to Rome and for the first weekend, some of the Loyola students and I had to stay in a hotel until they were all placed with host families. We spent the weekend getting everyone accustomed to Roman public transportation….or rather, getting used to the unreliability of said transportation. Waiting for a bus for 30 minutes just to see it come around the corner after you’ve decided to take the metro instead, never gets old. Never.

We’ve had a private mass in Saint Peter’s, in a chapel very close to the tomb of Saint Peter’s himself.

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We’ve had dinner at the North American College with the four seminarians who will be taking care of ministry with us this semester:

I had a cousin in town for a couple days for work, but when in Rome!

Rome had a very special visit from Padre Pio–well, his incorruptible body, that is. To start of Lent this year, Pope Francis specifically asked that the body of Padre Pio be brought to Rome, specifically for this year of mercy. Fun Fact: Even the most secular Italians ADORE Padre Pio, as we all found out when we went to mass Thursday night at 10pm, and the church had been packed since 6pm. Sweet deal. In true Italian style, his incorruptible body was two hours late. The car hadn’t been able to drive through the streets, because so many pilgrims had been following the car around. Padre Pio, man. What a guy!

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OH OH OH CARNEVALE! You know that holiday called Mardi Gras that basically only New Orleans celebrates?? Well Rome celebrates it to–almost for a whole month! The celebrations came to a head this weekend, with parades and festivals and young children in halloween costumes throwing confetti at you. It was fine, they were cute.

Even Caesar and Cleopatra showed up–it was good seeing them!

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I even had my first experience at an Italian supermarket in which I found out I had no idea what I was doing:

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Annnnnnnd finally I turned 20 and I feel the same because nothing exciting happens at twenty. Except I’m no longer a crazy, angsty teenager. Thank God I’m out of that phase!!!! Right Mom?????

(PS: Shout out to the best residents ever for making my day very, very special and to Deacon Mike and Grace for making sure I actually went out for my birthday and didn’t just eat junk food and watch movies all night.)

When your birthday lands on Mardi Gras, its just THAT much more of an excuse to find the largest gelato possible. Which… I did. (I know I know the face is weird just ignore it ok???)

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Whew. I think that’s it for now. This weekend I’m peacing out of Italy for a while–time to visit the friends studying at Oxford!

Peace, love, and God Bless. Happy Ash Wednesday! Happy start of Lent! May it be a season of repentance and mediation and prayer and love and preparation! Make it your best Lent yet!

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Best,

Clare

 

PS: I miss the original fam like crazy. Come back plz and tx.

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All Roads Lead To Rome 

HELLO AGAIN! Yes, it is finally time for Rome Round Two. Christmas break was a joy, but simply never long enough. As I currently type from my layover in Dublin (I have been to this airport more times than I ever imagined I would), I decided to dedicate this post to all of those I know studying abroad, but specifically those who will be joining me in Rome in just a few days! AH!

Continue reading All Roads Lead To Rome