Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mass at the Vatican, Ostia Antica

This morning we started our day with Mass at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Are you kidding me?

This is the ultimate Mass in the ultimate church. 

And I did it with my dad on Father's Day. 

To Chris, Buffy, and Lindsey: you can all suck it because I win today! And I didn't put your name on it... 

It was quite the experience.

So far we have traveled to and from our destinations on a big coach (picture DC bus) with a fearless driver, Samuellae (sam-well-eigh). What to an American looks to be a four lane road is actually a ten lane road. There are hardly any lights, signs, and no lane markings. Sam is a beast of a driver and got us where we needed to go. He chain smokes during any break and I love him!! 

Today we had to take Rome's subway. For the most part it's pretty clean however it's lined with beggars, bums, and illegal vendors. 

This kid stayed close to me the whole time. 

Max has a very love hate relationship with  Ms. Cathcart. He loves her and she hates a very loving way of course. He picks on her constantly. 

Once we get to the Vatican we go through security to get into St. Peter's. 

We waited in a very long line. I was shocked at how many people were there. I wonder if this is anyone's regular Sunday church?? 

Once we finally get in we found a pew and absolute awe. 

This chapel is located at the very back of the Basilica. From far away it looks small and it wasn't until we sat down that I realized that St. Patricks entire church could fit inside this "smaller" chapel. Just look at the art behind the alter. These pictures don't do it justice. 

I looked at Max and said, "Can you believe we are having Mass in St. Peter's? It's a dream come true." And I could tell he agreed completely. 

We all got one of these books for Mass. The Mass was spoken in Latin but there were four translations in this book. 

I'm guessing Italian, English, French, and Spanish. 

The music alone brought tears to my eyes, the organ was powerful and beautiful. Then the priests, Cardinals,  and alter boys start down the center aisle towards the alter. I didn't actually count but I'd say there were between 50-60 people in that processional. 

I'm sure it's inappropriate or bad form but I took this picture during Mass. It's not a good one but at least it will help me remember this day. 

There is no doubt that you could feel the Holy Spirit in this place. There were so many different people, from different countries, speaking different languages. We all worship a little different, wear different clothes, pray in different ways. Yet here we all were with one thing in common- The Lord. 


I took Communion from a Cardinal. 

Corpus Cristi


This is the first Mass I've celebrated in Latin. The majority was sung or chanted. I understood nothing but being that the Catholic Church celebrates Mass the same everywhere, I knew what was going on and when to kneel, to sit, and respond in prayer. I tried to respond in Latin but it was too hard so I switch to English. I'm not sure Jesus cares how we pray, just that we do pray. 

After Mass, we quickly headed out to St. Peter's Square where we stood among thousands of people, all waiting for Pope Francis to appear in his apartment window to speak to the congregation. 

The window with the red tapestry is where he appeared. 

Look closely in the background of this picture to see how many people there are. 

This is where Pope Francis gives his blessing. This is where he blessed the rosaries some of you will get when we return home. 

Max held them up. 

The one he is holding is a special one he picked out for Bella, his newest baby cousin. 

I can't wait to give/mail them to you. I hope they give you peace and comfort when you pray the rosary. And if you don't pray the rosary I hope the blessings upon these beads watch over you and your home. 

Good-bye St. Peter's. We will return again. 

Once we all cleared out, we had a quick lunch in the Vatican. Pizza was the fastest and most efficient for us. 

I treated my dad to a cappuccino for Father's Day!
Speaking of Father's Day I'd like to take a quick moment to talk about the greatest father, the best of the best- Dan. 

Daniel T,

The minute I met you I thought you were just like a big kid and I knew you would make a perfect father to our children. You have stepped up to the plate as much as I have. You were never secondary rather my partner in raising the boys. Every night that I was up, you were right there with me because you felt guilty for sleeping! I know our boys look up to you, as they should. You are an honorable man doing a respectable job. You are chivalrous towards me and have taught our boys to be kind towards girls- something that has always been important to me. You've taught them that there is a time to fight and that it's ok to cry. You've showed them that losing makes you stronger. You have shown them how to laugh at themselves. Above all you are showing them how to be a good man, one to be proud of. 

I can't think of another person I'd rather raise a family with. 

I love you. Happy Father's Day. 

After the Vatican we went to Ostia Antica. This city was founded during the 7th century B.C. The ruins we see today are from the 3rd century B.C.

I can't believe we are walking on these streets! 

The ruins of this city are beautiful. 

This is the guide that walked us through the history of Ostia. She is an archaeologist and currently digs in this area. 

Ostia sits at the mouth of the Tiber River and was used as a port into Rome. 

The bath house 

Here are some pictures of our tour: 

A collapsed wall. 

A theater. 

These were apartments. Originally these were much higher where the wealthy lived on the first floor and the very poor lived on the top. It's funny how this has changed today. 

This was a bar. I wonder how many wild nights were spent here? 

So, what will you boys be drinking tonight? How about a shot of culture and history?!

Lara our EF tour guide. She's the best. I highly recommend her for your next trip to Italy. 

This was a temple and considered the town square. 

Boys will be boys... Anything can be a sword and like I've said before they've seen the movie Gladiator way to many times. Being around these surroundings only amplifies such behavior. 

This is the shit house. Seriously. Maybe the term "shooting the shit" came from such a place. 
Imagine sitting here with random people taking care of your business while discussing your business. There was no toilet paper back then, instead you could purchase a sponge on a stick to wipe your ass. Imagine the cheapass beside you that passes on the sponge as they enter the bathroom. I bet if there was candy crush back then then there would finally be a line to the men's bathroom. 

Max Lounging on a Bench by an anonymous sculptor 

Dinner tonight was at another "off the beaten path" restaurant. 

This place was very modern. 

Dinner tonight was bread, lasagna, and salad. 

We also had some type of potato ball (like hush puppies) and bruschetta, by the way it's pronounced bru-sket-a not bru-shet-a. That's legit people. 

And of course, wine. 

For dessert we had gelato. 

Vanilla and strawberry, mmmmm! 

We have come to an end of our tour in Rome. Tomorrow we will get up early and head to the airport. 

I'm so grateful to St. Patrick's and the opportunity they provided to Max and myself. Learning about our faith, how it all began, and how it's changed over time is something Max got to experience. Walking into Cathedrals, walking along ancient roads that Julius Caesar once walk on, seeing the remains of the aqua ducts- all of it has made such an impact on these kids, learning in a way no classroom can provide. 

I might post a final "travel day" blog. Or I might make it through customs without a body search and find sleep on the plane resulting in an uneventful and peaceful day. 

Who am I kidding, stay tuned for travel day events. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Last night, before bed, we sat in our hotel lobby for a while.

Here's Max showing Chris the proper technique in the game "quarters". 

If the outstanding Catholic education doesn't serve him well in college, you can bet your sweetass that his above average ability in "quarters" will. 

Nice try Chris. 

Today we had an early start because we were headed to Florence! 

This was about a three and a half hour bus ride through very scenic terrain. 

Italy is divided into twenty regions. Florence is in the Tuscan region. 

This is the only original gate left that goes into the city. 

Florence was founded in 59 B.C. Through the years it was occupied many different times. It wasn't until the year 1000 that the city changed for the better and began to prosper. It became a free commune in 1183. However as we all know freedom doesn't last for long without struggle. Despite the unstable social and political situations, Florence witnessed an upsurge in the arts and literature. In the 18th century a very wealthy family called the Medici ruled. This family helped transform Florence into a beacon during the period of Humanism and the Renaissance. Great artist such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo characterized this period. In 1860, Tuscany (the region of Florence), was annexed to the Realm of Italy and for a brief time it was the capital of Italy. 

What we saw today was the wonderful artwork and architecture that remains. 

We took quite the stroll throughout the narrow streets of Florence. The buildings are beautiful, so full of charm. 

Note: Lara is our amazing tour guide with EF Tours. She's so knowledgeable and I'm learning so much. I love when she announces when we are getting ready to pass a gypsy or a pickpocketer. Then she stares them down, walking backwards the entire time to let the gypsies know that she's got her eye on them. Lara is a badass and I love her. 

There are so many streets, we got lost a few times during our free time....even with a map.

We are approaching the town square.

Selfie in Florence. Does it get any better than this??!!

This is an outdoor market place. Anything and everything is sold here. 

The River Arno. 

Max, Katie, and Joey

We visited this Duomo, another one of the four ancient basilicas. This one is called Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Florence). This is the result of the dedicated work of the many artists who collaborated in its building for various centuries. It began in 1296 and finished in 1461. 

Walking up to the grandiose doors. 

This is the baptistery. Don't be alarmed by the bright colors, these are coverings or tarps that are hiding the building while under reconstruction or cleaning.  

Inside the Duomo is very empty. I was told that there are no seats or pews because they could get more people inside if they stand. This alter was designed by Baccio Bandinelli.

The dome is the largest in the world. We were amazed at how big this dome actually is. These frescos were painted between 1572- 1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari. It is modeled after Michelangelo's  The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.  

Even the floors are so beautiful. Just to show scale, can you see the people in the background? 

This clock was designed by Paolo Uccello, and is a twenty four hour model. This is an operational clock which accurately tells time according to the hora italica as they had done in the Roman Empire. It ends at sunset and begins when darkness sets in. The hands run backwards instead of in a clockwise direction. 

This is an exact replica of Michelangelo's David. The original is in a museum. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to go into the museum. 

Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna

Sorry Sabines... that's just awful. 

Hercules and the Centar by Giambologna

Loggia Dei Lanzi is building originally designed for public assemblies of the Signoria. Today it houses many famous sculptures like that horrible rape scene above. 

Neptune Fountain by Bartolomeo Ammannati

Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini made from bronze.

This is the coat of arms for the Medici family. It's located in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, or home of the family.

Next we had a leather demonstration at Leonardo's, a leather shop. 
This guy showed us how leather boxes are made. He also told us that people who say that real leather doesn't burn are punks just trying to rip you off. 

Ok, he didn't use the word "punks" but that's my American translation. 

Leather burns people. Make sure the punk holds the flame in the same place for a while so you can prove to him/her that you're not buying what they're selling. 

Then we were free to find our own place for lunch. 

Finally some greens!! 

Max is not giving up, more pasta for this kid. 

The Melton's and Max and I in front of Neptune's Fountain. 

Toward the end of our tour of Florence we stopped for a gelato. Yum!  

We bought some snacks for the ride back to Rome. 

I'm just saying, but I notice a lot of penises in Italy. I know it's art and I know the artist is depicting our pure self in front of God, how we would have been had Eve not screwed it up and given into temptation. Maybe I've seen so much penis that my brain is reading into things but what do you think these sour gummy candies look like? 

Yep. Penis. 

So to honor the penis I picked a little something up for Dan's desk at work. 

I hope you don't mind if I share this sweetie. 

It's your new desk calendar for work! You're welcome. 

Let's take a look shall we?

Dang January!

Look! It's March your birthday month! 

November needs a cart to carry his junk around. 

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Finally we had dinner at what I'm pretty sure is home to the Mafia. 

It's not marked but that brown door is the entrance.

This is what we walk into...kinda like the back door entrance. 
Mafia, right?

Dinner is served by a guy in a tux.

These guys played music in the room next to us. There was some serious clapping and singing going on. Very Italian.

Dinner tonight was: 





I wish I could spell these dishes or I'd tell you what they are called. It's all good. 

Today was another good day. I'm loving the culture, the food, everything! 

It's going too fast. I want more time in Italy! 

Tomorrow is Mass at St. Peter's. 

I. Can't. Wait.