Hello again! I know it is very cliché to make an “I can’t believe how fast this semester went by” post at this point, but I am going to be that girl because it is so true. With all of the traveling, studies, and fun times here in Austria, it has definitely been a full semester. First though, I will bring you up-to-date on some of the latest adventures.
A couple weeks ago we had our second 10-day break, and Franciscan organized a trip to Rome and Assisi. Rome was a very big and busy city, but also fascinating because of its rich history and importance to our Catholic faith. My favorite sites were St. Peter’s Square (where we went at least five times) and the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, where St. Catherine of Siena’s body is reserved for veneration. The school took us on many tours to ensure that we saw as many of the important Catholic and historical sites and artifacts. It was extremely powerful to walk where so many saints and martyrs walked, preached, prayed, and sacrificed their lives for Christ. It was also surreal to be less than 25 feet away from Pope Francis during the Papal audience! The most beautiful part of Rome, in my humble opinion, was the area around the Coliseum. Not only are there important and beautiful monuments, statues, and ruins there, but my friends and I were shown an amazing Italian restaurant and chocolate shop along the narrow roads and enjoyed the close-knit, friendly atmosphere on that area. My classmates and I were on tours and site seeing from dawn until dusk each day. I am happy to say that I saw almost everything that I wanted to see for a first visit to Rome. I definitely would love to visit again!
After the craziness of Rome, Assisi was a refreshing change of pace. It was very relaxing to wander through the cute town, visit the shops, hike through the gorgeous hills, and pray in the churches. My favorite church was Our Lady of the Angels Church because I have a special devotion to Mary and the angels. Also, the original Porziuncola (chapel that St. Francis built) is inside of it. All of the churches in Assisi have a very rich history though, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to walk in the places where St. Francis and St. Clare (my confirmation saint) lived, died, and were buried. Also, in true Franciscan fashion, we had a Festival of Praise (affectionately called FOPs) during our time in Assisi. For those of you who are unfamiliar with FOPs, they are they are basically long, charismatic praise and worship sessions that usually involve a talk on a relevant spiritual topic in the middle. Of all the places in Italy that I visited, Assisi is definitely one that I will return to if I am blessed with the opportunity. Overall, Italy was an amazing trip, but my classmates and I were all ready to go back to the Kartause at the end.
As the semester comes to a close and finals approach, my classmates and I are beginning to study and get ready to return to the United States. This definitely does not mean that things here are all work and no fun though, and in fact there have been a number of fun events here at the Kartause lately. There is a ton to do near the Kartause, and it began snowing here so the favorite activities lately have involved playing in the snow. On the first day of snow, my friends and I decided to go jump in the creek after class! It was so cold, but also very fun and worthwhile. My roommate and I also celebrated our 21st birthdays this month, and our friends did a wonderful job surprising us with mini-celebrations. We felt very loved! My birthday happened to fall on Thanksgiving this year, so my friends and I celebrated the night before because the staff of the Kartause thoughtfully put together a delicious Thanksgiving Day dinner and dance for us students. It was a very kind and comforting act on their part because they knew it would be difficult for us to be away from home on such a traditional American holiday. The staff also used this opportunity to teach us a bit about the Austrian culture by having Austrian Slap Dancers come to perform for us as well as a dance instructor to teach us some traditional Austrian dances. It was a lot of fun, and I truly have a lot to be thankful for!
This semester has been a wonderful time of learning and growth, and I have definitely made memories that I will keep with me forever. It will be bitter sweet to leave Austria because I have enjoyed being able to travel so easily and we have become a big family here at the Kartause. I am definitely excited to see my family back home though, and I know that the friendships and lessons I have learned here in Austria will continue to grow and benefit me for my entire life. God will continue to show me how He wishes for me to apply what I have learned to different situations, and as this adventure comes to a close I am excited to see what other adventures God has in store for me.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog posts! It has been fun to share my adventures with you. I will definitely be praying for you and your own life adventure and humbly ask that you pray for me as well. God bless!