Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Birthplace of Democracy

I have never spent so much time sitting down. The flight to Athens is long and sleepless and I reveled in the opportunity to stretch my legs. The rest of the group is similarly unwinding. Gathering up our assorted luggage, we walk through a set of large glass doors and turned to find our tour guide Kate smiling down on us. She beckons us closer and begins to explain what awaits us in the Birthplace of Democracy.

The bus ride into the city is spectacular. Athens built a new airport when they hosted the 2004 Olympics, Kate explains to us. We listen intently, soaking in her words as we watch the sprawling suburbs flash by. The tightly packed houses go on for miles, seemingly thousands of buildings squeezed between the high mountains on our left and the sea on our right. As we drive downtown, all around I see ancient ruins and modern buildings. It is truly awe-inspiring the way the Greeks live around these ruins, Kate is saying. They just build up the new and live among them.

The bus is too big to pull up to the hotel. Our driver pulls up to the curb, about a block away. We hop out, and start piling up our bags along the side of the road. When everyone has their luggage, we trudge to the hotel. It is a wilting day and we are exhausted, so when our chaperones instruct us that we have only thirty minutes to put our things away, we are aghast, yet we mount the stairs with grim determination. A few brave souls wait for the elevator, but when it finally descends down they find it will only fit two people. As I reach my floor, six laughing faces tumble out to greet me. I can’t help wondering how they all fit, but I am too anxious to see my room to truly care. As Nick, Eli, and myself pull up in front of our door, we put down our heavy bags and turn the knob. As the door swings wide, we can’t help notice how small the room is. There are two beds, and one cot, and about three feet of walking space. While we quickly unpack, we mutually decide to spend as little time in the room as possible.

The walk up to the Acropolis is very short. We are staying at the bottom of the hill and Kate assembles us right at the base of a cobbled path leading up to the Pantheon. We all gather close together. I take the chance to look around the group, and what a diverse group we are. People of all ages, high school freshmen to thirty-somethings. Together we walk up to the highest point in Athens: It is the place where democracy was born, where Athenians time after time held their last stands. As we crest the hill, there are actually two Acropoli, one smaller and the true Acropolis. Lucky for us, we only climbed to the smaller one. Even with that, some people are sweating. There is a large outcropping of rock on that hill and we all scramble up it to get a view of this city that we have heard so much about. For me the view was of more than just a city.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

First Sunday of Lent

"Patience is the companion of wisdom." -Saint Augustine

So today is the First Sunday of Lent. That means its once again time to think about about what we are going to give up or what we will take on. This year I am going to try taking on something extra. One more thing in my busy life. Well hopefully the fifteen minutes I'm gonna try to spend meditating will help me deal with it. Most of the time, I find the people around me talking about what they are going to give up. But this year, I wanted to be different. Lent has two slightly different ideas behind it. One of them is the idea that we should try to live more like Christ did by giving things up and living with less. The other idea comes from the Jewish tradition, the idea of a mitzvah: prayer, fasting, and alms giving. So this year I'm trying prayer for just fifteen minutes a day. I hope it goes well.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jesus is a Freshman

"Jesus is a freshman!" my friend Kaitlin whispered to me in the middle of the play. Well, yeah, I guess he is. Last night a few friends and I went to see Godspell at Villinova. It was performed in the main church on campus, not in the theater. It was a very moving experience. The show begins with a choir singing in the front, right before the altar. Then from the back, above us in the choir loft, is John the Baptist. It was like that throughout, a great use of a great space. But what struck me above all else was the fact that there where five extra women among Jesus' disciples. At first I just wondered why, but soon I forgot about it, lost in power of the play. But at the talk-back afterwards, the director mention that exact thing. He said that he added those women to symbolize the women of Christianity. "They got it, a lot quicker then the guys." He went on to say that women have played a very important part in the history of the Church. The most obvious part of that was when those five extra women took Jesus down from the cross. As a woman bore him into this world, it was women who bore him to his tomb and women who discovered his resurrection. So power to the women!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Good Morning Class

Trapped inside my house by the snow again, so I started writing a story. This is what I have so far:

She walked into her class and looked around. She had always thought that the Middle Ages weren't really that important, but the university said she had to take one class about them to graduate. She had chosen Medieval Literature, an easy class. She would do her Italian homework during this period she decided. At that moment the professor walked in. He was a tall, dashing young man. His head was covered with a mess of brown hair. His eyes where a deep, stormy blue. He stepped up to his podium, instantly commanding the entire room's attention. "Good morning class," he addressed them. He caught her staring at him and smiled back. Maybe I will stay away awake in this class, she mussed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

If Only We Look

"We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us." -Thomas Merton

We have what we seek. Well that's good news. Oh, but I have to give it time. Darn! Well maybe writing this will count of some of that time. It is there all the time. Honestly, how many times have you spent days looking for something, only to realize you had it all along? And that is true with most things. I have spent a lot of time seeking things: happiness, affection, recognition. It is that seeking, that going out into the world, that can actually distract us from finding what we seek. It is in this way that Merton calls us to be more contemplative. To stop for a few moments in our busy lives and reflect on what we are seeking. And if we do this, then we will have a better chance of finding what we seek. Peace. Happiness. Compassion. All we need to do is stop and give it time, and we will find these things all around our. Shaping our daily lives and making themselves known to us, if only we look.

seek |sēk|
verb ( past sought |sôt|) [ trans. ]
1) attempt or desire to obtain or achieve (something)

Friday, February 5, 2010


Okay, so I find myself very bored at the moment. So of course, I sit down to write. But I can't think of anything to write about. So maybe I'll just put up a picture. Major point to anyone who can tell me what it is of.

bored 1 |bôrd|
1)feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one's current activity

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On the Hilltop in Athens

We walk into the piazza, savoring our gelato. Across the square is a church, its windows spilling light out into the piazza. Through the doors walks a steady stream of priests and nuns, it is Easter week after all. I decide to go in, and a few of my group follows in with me. I walk down the isle, bow, and kneel in a pew. A few seconds later my friend slips in next to me. It is totally silent, like only a place of worship can be. As I sit there, meditating in the silence, I am again struck by that same sense of awe I experienced on the hilltop in Athens. That night something happened to me. I am still not entirely sure what, but since my return from Rome, I have been more at peace with myself and the world. I’m not sure why or how, but it took the majesty of the Old World to help be survive in My World.

The photo is one of mine. It is of the church on the piazza.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Foundation...

"Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance."-Saint Augustine

I have been reflecting a lot on the nature of humility. I often struggle with the foundation of all other virtues. As with a lot of people, I have trouble balancing humility and functionality. I want to be humble about my works, but in the same tell people what I can do. And it is this that I think is the root of my troubles, as it were. I try to be humble. And sometimes I succeed. But I think the hardest part about humility is not the humility in itself, but rather its application in other aspects. How can I apply my oh so mild humility to other virtues. How does humility apply to courage? To love? To loyalty? What do you think?

humility |(h)yoōˈmilitē|
1) a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness.