Saturday, December 22, 2012

The advent of Advent and the coming of Christmas

Well, I suppose I'd better finishing writing this post before Christmas, because surely it won't get out for another few weeks otherwise!

The NAC Advent experience has been quite fun and busy (per usual), and amidst all the dashing for the finish line I have been increasingly excited for the arrival of my brother and his wife who will be here TOMORROW!!! WOOHOOO!!  I feel like a dog itching to bolt out the door and run laps around the yard because he's can't contain his energy any longer.  I can't wait to see the faces of family after more than five months away from home!

Not that life is bad around here by any means.  Despite the stresses and spiritual battles -- and some days I really love to have pity parties about them -- I have felt the roots slowly growing down as I become more and more accustomed to life in Rome, at the NAC, and continue to complete that ever-famous "New Man" transition.  Pretty soon already (holy cow!) we will begin preparing for this coming summer's newest New Man class.  At which point I'll high five myself for no longer being the rookie.  Soon also I will have to decide what to do for my "summer abroad" (Pray for me about this, I'm having a tough time figuring it out.)  More about that in a later post.  Time has been flying by so quickly it seems.  I know I've said that before.  But it's true!

We have some NAC Advent traditions to help us prepare for the coming of our infant King.  My favorite is the veritable plastering of lights and paper and garland all over the walls.  Each year the individual residence halls have a competition to see who is King of Christmas decorations (of course, some halls are more Scrooge-like than others).  The first place prize is the much sought-after Befana.  Now you may be asking yourselves, what, dear Brian, is the Befana?  Well, La Befana is an Italian Christmas tradition, sort of the local version of St. Nicholas.  Oddly it seems, La Befana is depicted as an old woman with a broom.  American eyes would mistake her for a Halloween decoration.  But apparently anyone who's anyone should know the difference.  Behold the glorious witch of NAC Christmas Past:

At any rate, I like to think that I live on the best hall in the College, one which has a long and proud tradition.  As I have discovered in my short time here, many of our halls have nicknames, like 1st Ruckus or 3rd Carnivore or 2nd Graveyard.  But my hall's nickname is the oldest (and most venerable) of them all.  We are called 2nd Trailer Park.  Everyone is jealous of us because we are the best and most humble of all halls.  In particular, I've come to learn that we have a particular rivalry with 4th NASA, especially in recent Christmas hall decoration competitions.

Last year was a bit of a scandal, because for the first time in NAC memory La Befana was given, in a three-way tie, to all three halls on the 4th floor.  So this year, Trailer Park decided it would win back the glorious witch in solo park-y fashion (which it took in the 2010 competition).  Our Christmas theme for the decoration was  "Hallpark Greetings".  A classy parody of Hallmark Greetings.

You'll be excited to know that after MANY hours of decorating over a period of about two weeks, we got the official 1st place nod from our rector Msgr. Checchio and the voting committee at the NAC Christmas dinner.  And so for the next year, the traveling trophy takes up again its rightful public place in our hall lounge.

This is the hall directly above us.

This is Trailer Park.

And that is a mini-trailer being lifted up by four "Fathers" of the NAC.  It's a reference to Bernini's bronze cathedra in St. Peter's basilica, which is held aloft by four Father of the Church. We are funny.

Trailer Park from the other direction.  That is a Sponge Bob way back there. These pictures don't really do justice, but at least you get some idea of it anyway.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as well as the finished product.  And as the official pontifical trailer park, these decorations may need to stay up well into the summer.

Together with the fun, there is also a lot of reflection and a lot to be thankful for when the year comes to a close.  I like that about this time of the year.  It's a potent combination for sure, one of happy remembrance for graces and experiences of the past year and hope for graces and experiences of the upcoming year.  I pray everyday that God would make me into the man He is calling me to be, and I think in the spiritual life part of that 'making' is intentionally taking notice of it with wonderment.  It reminds me of a parable Jesus gave, he said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how" (Mark 4:26-7).  In the measure of one day to the next, nothing ever seems to change, I wake up the same Brian.  But in the measure of one year to the next, I always wonder at how the daily nothing became a grace-filled something, and it fills me with gratitude for God's continual providence.  He never seems to be outdone in His generosity.

Over the next few weeks of Christmas break I hope to do some of that reflecting.  In the meantime, I'll be enjoying it with some of my favorite people in the entire world, and I'm grateful beyond measure for that gift.  I certainly won't be posting again until after break, but by then I'll have so many new pics and stories to share!!  So have a very Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year, friends and fam.  I love you all!  Enjoy a good Christmas beer or cocktail, and be the guy at the ugly Christmas sweater party who proposes a toast of thanks that for the first year on record we've survived three Ends-of-the-World.  It's gonna be a good New Year!  God bless!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Well, a day late but it's still Thanksgiving weekend at least.  Time has been flying this month it seems, but even in Italy we Americans take a day to slow down and celebrate Thanksgiving together.  It's quite the annual tradition at the NAC, and it really helps us to enjoy our American heritage as a family while we're all away from home.  During my holy hour yesterday I thought about every way I could imagine that God has freely blessed me.  I didn't get very far because the first things that came to mind were themselves enough for a lifetime of gratitude.  I was struck by just how much I have been favored with grace.  God really does give in "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, [and] put into your lap" (Luke 6:37).  The best part of Thanksgiving for me was having the opportunity to Skype with my family (you won't believe this, but the beloved Internet here didn't even randomly disconnect me once the whole time!).  It was really great to see them and enjoy an hour together on such a special day.

And the day did start early.  On Thanksgiving the American students all take the day off from class, so you'd think we would enjoy it, first of all, by sleeping in.  Well not me, because I'm stupid.  Kind of.  I signed up for an annual 5k Turkey Trot that the NAC puts on.  We start at the gates of the college and basically run around the walls of the Vatican and back to the college.  So our claim to fame is that we have the only 5k in the world that circumscribes an entire country.  *fist pump*.  I may or may not have used that verb correctly.  But the bigger point is that we start the race at 6 a.m.  I know that there are people in the world who are early birds.  Well I'm the worm that gets eaten because it's sleeping.  So I rolled over at 5:30 and shook my head as I thought, "what was I thinking?  no, when I signed up for this I wasn't thinking, and that's the problem.."

There were about 70 other guys who were as injudicious as I was and woke up early to run the race.  Among them were those who were actually trying to go fast, and those who dressed up as a banana or a gorilla, or ran with a large American flag.  Thankfully, we were greeted at the finish line with snacks and drinks, and even a 6:30 a.m. beer if we wanted it.  I ate several chocolate chip cookies.

Afterwards we all prepared and ate a big Thanksgiving breakfast together in our individual halls.  In my hall, we cooked up bacon, sausage and scrambled eggs, plus sweet bread and juice and coffee etc.  It was exceptionally good.  And best of all it was American.  Following breakfast and some fun conversation with the guys on my hall, I went promptly back to bed and slept for another 2.5 hours, which was glorious.

I woke up from my morning nap thinking about Thanksgiving at my Grandma Lenz's house.  Growing up we used to celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad's parents in Florida about every other year.  It's funny how many small things you can remember so strikingly.  The distinctive, comfortable aroma of their house, the floor fan in the living room, eating ice cream in glass bowls and popcorn in wooden bowls.  Watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune every night.  Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV, going to the flea market, the sound of the wind chimes on the back patio, playing penny-ante poker every night after dinner.  My grandma's fudge!  And her pancakes.  Well, her cooking in general.  My grandpa sitting in his la-z-boy chair, or whistling as he putzed around in the tool shed... They were great memories to wake up with.

I didn't have too much time to dwell, because I had to get ready for the annual Thanksgiving football game between the new men class and the rest of the college.  It's called the Spaghetti Bowl.  Predictably, the new men lose almost every year.  Even for my class of 62 I think we have a lot of good athletes, and we prepared really well for the game.  I was hoping for at least a competitive score.  But they have a pool of 200 to pick from, and the experience of their own Spaghetti Bowls.  And they wiped the floor with us.  Bummer.  But the joke was on them, because little did they know that it was International Football-Plays-By-Golf-Rules Day, so the low score wins.

We had a great crowd for our Thanksgiving Mass, including many American bishops and cardinals in Rome for the holiday.  And the cenone (che-no-nay, meaning 'big dinner') that followed was delicious.  Green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and Turkey.  Plus the Italian additions of prosciutto, ravioli, and good red wine lol.  And we had homemade pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert, which tasted just like home.

All in all, it was a memorable first Thanksgiving away from home, and I'm so glad the college makes a point to stop our busy schedules and celebrate this American holiday together.  I'm very much looking forward to the next month, not only because of the upcoming Advent and Christmas season, or because I can officially feel good about blasting Christmas music now (unlike my good buddy Mr.-Christmas-music-practically-year-round-man Tim Wezner. Although Tim I can't blame you, Christmas music really is that good), but because one month from today I'll get my first personal visit from home.  My brother and his wife will be spending their Christmas holiday with me here in Rome, and it will most certainly be the best Christmas gift I have ever received.

So again, a very Happy Thanksgiving to all!  I miss you guys, but God is good to us and He really does provide happiness and peace even when we're away from home.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The GPS named (soft G) Giles

Happy Halloween everyone! I wish I could say that they do Halloween here in Italy like we do at home, but then I would be lying.  In fact there are many things we do at home that they just don't seem to do the same anywhere else in the world, like, efficiency, free shipping in the continental United States, and fast Internet.   But that's another story.  So anyway, in the spirit of telling spooky stories on All Hallows' Eve, I'll go ahead and give you a spooky tale from non-USA.  But since in this location I don't have to tell it like we do at home, this spooky tale won't be spooky or fictional... hopefully it will at least be entertaining!

Last month I had the very fortunate opportunity to spend my first off campus weekend out of the country, visiting the grand post-Olympic city of London with three of my classmates.  After two months of nonstop action, I must say that the weekend away was everything I wanted it to be.  Traveling like this is quite a new experience for me, but we are encouraged to see things we otherwise wouldn't be able to see in the States.  Normally, this traveling occurs on off campus weekends, which come around about once a month here at the NAC.  Our first weekend turned out to be a three-day weekend, and in these cases the general advice is to get out a little further since you have the extra day.  I still have my American sentiments, and in America we like to go big or go home, so my buddies Dave, Kyle, Adam, and I decided, hey why not London?

As I discovered, there are two great things about traveling in Europe which make something like this possible.  The first is that a lot of really cool things are close by.  Shocking, I know, but as it turns out, a lot of historical and cultural things have happened in Europe over the centuries that are worth checking out.  When you discover that countries over here are the size of our states, getting from A to B is surprisingly achievable.  The second cool thing is that travel can be very affordable if you know where to look.  This is actually the biggest reason we were able to visit London... because reasonable budgets are A+ .

While in London we stayed with a family that Dave knows, they live in the 'burbs northwest of downtown.  Getting there the first night was quite the adventure, we had a delayed flight and nearly missed our car rental pick-up because it was closing (seriously we made a phone call to them as they were walking out, thankfully they picked up and stuck around late for us), but thanks be to God we made it out of the airport just before midnight without getting stranded after all.

This is us asking a random Englishmen to take a photo while we waited for the bus to arrive so we could get our rental car.

Renting a car was an awesome call, we decided we couldn't go to London without driving a right-hand-drive stick shift on the left side of the road.  Definitely weird at first, but I imagined a worse go of it and was relieved at how much easier it turned out to be than I thought.  The even-better call was the three of my brothers convincing me to rent a GPS with the car.  I wasn't really hot on it at first, but the GPS, as it turns out, is a life saver when you're traveling roads in a different country whose road signs you don't recognize.

We apologized profusely when we finally arrived at the Michael-Tan-and-family residence at half past midnight.  But they were gracious enough to even feed us when we got in and help us get settled.  Actually, the Tan family easily turned out to be the greatest blessing of the entire trip.  Wow did they over-provide for our needs and help make our stay feel just like home.

Alright so long story, but I just have to tell this one. Here is how you know you have a Mother in heaven who looks out for you.  We check in at Rome airport, and they give us seats together in the very last row.  Bummer, I was hoping for a little further up.  Oh well.  We get dinner at the BK in the airport before making our way to security, which as it turns out takes about 40 minutes longer than we anticipated.  Both Kyle and I got stopped for further inspection, so now time is running REALLY short.  We get free and start running to the terminal because the plane is taking off in three minutes.  When we arrive, we find that the flight is delayed by 50 minutes.  Phew, at least we didn't miss the plane.

50 minutes blew by with no one at the terminal desk.  Then they change the terminal.  Then it was another half hour, no one at the terminal desk.  I started to see that it was going to be reallllly close for us to get our car reservation in London before they closed at 11:00pm.  I started praying to Mary about it, and I sensed her say, don't worry, I will take care of everything.  So we're waiting some more, then we finally get the go-head to board.  On the bus ride from the terminal out to the plane, I spied a sticker of the Madonna and Child posted on the inside of the bus door.  So I said, alright, you make it happen cuz we're about to get stranded at London airport.

Then we got on the plane, in the very last row, and it sat there.  Two hours delayed.  There's no way we'll get there in time, it's already 9:30pm.  I don't say anything but I have no idea how this will work out.  FINALLY we take off, and touch down in London just after 11:15pm.  Meanwhile, Dave looks again at our reservation and finds out they actually close at 11:30 instead.  At 11:21 when we make it into the terminal, the light bulb goes on, I guess that's what the last row was for.  They de-boarded us from the front and the back, so we were the first to get off.  We are running with our bags again because we have nine minutes to get through border patrol and customs and find Enterprise.  Ha!

Dave and Adam get stuck with a slow customs officer, so Kyle and I go for the power-play-golden-goal-overtime-touchdown and run ahead through the airport looking for "Enterprise" signs.  We find an empty Enterprise kiosk at the main exit, unstaffed.  It is now 11:32.  We grab the phone on the countertop and pick it up, which auto-dialed the out-service office in the airport's rental car lot, and the two gentlemen there miraculously pick up.  We told them about the delay, we know they are closing, we're really sorry and could they help us with our car reservation.  They said no problem just get on the 1A bus and get off the first stop (praise-be-to-God hands are silently fist pumping the air at this moment). As we make it there and thank them for staying late, they say, yeah, you are the last ones, we didn't think you were coming.  We were walking out the door when the phone rang, so we picked it up just in case.  I'm laughing inside in gratitude at this point.

When we finally got to the Tan's, the first thing I see in the front porch window is a small statue of Mary holding a rosary.  And at that point I took a breath of relief and said, well played.  Thank you thank you thank you for looking out for us, Mary.  Then I walked into the house and it was a veritable explosion of Jesus portraits and Mary portraits on all the walls, and little statues of Jesus and Mary and different saints and rosaries all over the house.  It was like she said, see?  You're safe.  I know what I'm doing.  And I responded, wow I think we just walked into a Catholic fortress. You got lots of friends.  Thank you for keeping us safe.

So the moral of the story is, love your Mother because she takes care of her children.  And have no fear to bust out a Hail Mary or two the next time your flight is delayed.

The rest of the weekend in London was grand.  We even had our own frustrating-turned-ridiculous-turned-comical experience driving on the London city roads at rush hour on rainy Friday evening after dark.  It took, no joke, 2 hours for us to drive 11 miles home.  We missed about 10 turns and went out the wrong exit on 3 or 4 roundabouts.  The GPS kept telling us to do things that were extremely difficult, like turn right into bumper to bumper traffic (our left-turn equivalent) or make the third left out of a roundabout which required you, after the fact, to have known that you should've entered it in the right-most lane.  It was a guessing game.  After the millionth time our Englishman-voiced GPS said, "Go 0.2 miles and enter roundabout" Kyle finally had the wit to respond, "No Giles, no more roundabouts!"  From then on, Giles was his name.

Alrighty, time for some photos.  We did downtown London on Friday and drove out to Oxford on Saturday.  Sooo many cool things, we didn't see nearly half of them.  Check out all the fun:

Our right-hand drive Vauxhall Astra hatchback diesel. This car was brand new when we got it, Enterprise just received it the day before. It had 7 miles on it when we drove it off the lot!

Bizarre at first. At least they didn't switch the pedals. Turned out to be so much fun. I forgot how much I've missed driving!

Brompton Oratory, an absolutely beautiful church.  We went to Mass here Friday morning.

The Brompton quarter of town, doubledecker buses included.
All the taxis looked like this!

Monument to, good question. World War II maybe?  I can't remember.

Walking along Hyde Park. They have a paved people track, and a dirt horse track.

We stumbled upon these cool gates...

Look what we found!

Buckingham Palace, the residence of the Queen.

Dude you can't go to this place and not take a pic of those fluffy hat nutcracker soldiers.
We had lunch at this pub called the Silver Cross

When in a London pub, you must get the fish and chips. That beer is called London Pride.  It was decent.

After lunch, we walked around some more, and good ol' England started to do its thing and drizzle, then rain, then drizzle.  We didn't let that stop us, though, we moved on to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Cathedral.

Westminster Abbey is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.  It used to be Catholic, but King Henry VIII seized it when he became a schismatic with Rome and created the Anglican Church in the 1530s.  It usually costs about 15 Euro to get in (what a travesty!) but we got in for free because we went in during their Friday evensong prayers.

Westminster Cathedral, which was built much later because they took the Abbey.  Personally, I think we should just forcefully take back the Abbey like in the old days.  You know, get a bunch of swords and spears and charge in with a Eucharistic procession. Would be awesome.

Michael Tan and his mother Christina.  She made a feast for us on both Friday and Saturday night.  One of those dinners that your grandma makes that you'd clearly never be able to finish.  What a generous family.

After taking two frustrating hours to get back home on Friday night because of all the traffic and mishaps, we were really blessed to eat well.  The Tan's were so excited to take care of us and offer their hospitality, it was humbling to receive this kind of family love from people you just met.  I still can't get over it, they were such gracious hosts!

On Saturday it was BEAUTIFUL all day.  60 degrees and sunny, with a cool breeze, just like that perfect fall day.  We drove out to Oxford to see the sights and enjoy some of the history of this old college town.  After the nightmare driving experience on Friday night, Giles shaped up and treated us much better on Saturday.  We went to Mass at the Oxford Oratory, I didn't get pics of it but it was a nice little church.  We happened to be at a funeral Mass being celebrated for a longtime parishioner.  The celebrant wore beautifully embroidered black vestments, which I had only ever heard about but never seen in real life.  Black is a real liturgical color for Catholics, a priest can wear black vestments for funerals, requiem Masses, and on All Souls' Day.  Although this practice has fallen into entire disuse in the U.S. Church.

After Mass, we drove into the downtown area and parked the car for the day.  By the grace of God Oxford escaped major bombing during World War II, so all the beautiful architecture of its 39 colleges have remained to today.  We walked around to check it all out and do some people watching.  Actually for me it was mostly people listening, because the British accent is so much fun.

This is the local pub where we had lunch.  Oldest pub in town.

When in a place that does burgers like we do them at home, get it, because you won't find it in Italy!

And when I say oldest pub in town, I'm talking 770 years old.  Funny comment of the day, I told the bartender he had a nice, quaint little pub, to which he responded, yeah it used to extend all the way up to the main street, but most of it burned down in the 1600s.  I thought, definitely, those kind of fires will creep up on ya every 400 years if you're not careful.

This bundle of fun is called 'punting'.  We didn't actually do it tho, we just people-watched others do it.  You take your gondola down the Thames and push yourself along with a big long pole.  That's it.  Famous thing to do here in Oxford.

This is a library, if you can imagine that.  We couldn't get inside, blast, you needed your student ID card.

They had this sort-of indoor market which I thought way really cool.

And at this market you can buy fresh meat, including a pig's head if you want.

Rugby!  Interesting to watch, some day I'll learn more about the rules of this game.

Riverwalk along the Thames.  People were out in force along this walk, and who could blame 'em, it was a gorgeous day.

I love big trees.

The one American thing we did in Oxford was discover that they actually had a Krispy Kreme shop.  We just couldn't resist, so we bought a dozen original.  I couldn't believe I ate three of those things right in a row.  It was delicious though.

On Sunday before flying back to Rome we took the Vauxhall into downtown London one more time to go to Mass at St. Patrick's Parish on Soho Square.  This was a personal request of Dave, who is a big fan of the Venerable Fulton Sheen.  Bishop Sheen spent some time in this parish while he taught theology at St. Edmund's College in the 1920s.  After years of fundraising, the current pastor renovated this church last year and he did an absolutely fantastic job.  It looks brand new:

We left for the airport right after Mass and were able to turn the car back in no problems.  The whole weekend was a testament to me of God's goodness, not only in providing the opportunity to travel, but also for safety in travel, especially for homeliness and hospitality in our housing, and just the camaraderie with Adam, Kyle, and Dave.  I had so much fun seeing London with them.  We started class the next morning, which is a bummer because you always want that one day back to recoup.  And we started our 'normal schedule' Monday morning, meaning 6:15 morning prayer and Mass.  That's super early for folks like me who aren't early birds.  But London was definitely worth the trip even with the late flight back, and I'd love to go back sometime to see everything else I didn't see the first time!

God is good beyond measure.  I'm happy that you all can share this memory with me.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rome Sweet Home Part 4

Swiss Guard Barracks: An Inside Look at the Pad of the Pope's Bodyguards

Ok folks, time has been flying and the schedule around here has been brimming.  Since my last post, I've been on retreat for a week, celebrated diaconate ordinations at St. Peter's, been out of the country for a weekend, and (FINALLY) started theology classes at the Pontifical Gregorian University.  But that name is far too long and discommodius, inexpedient, unwieldy as it were.  So around here we just use the word 'Greg'.

Anyway, before any more time gets away from me, I want to finish off this last bit of fun from my return to Rome and my official welcome to the College.  I have so much else to write about in future posts already!  I gotta get crackin', in prudential manner of course.  I'd like to plan on not having a convo with the bishop about why I flunked out of grad school.

Well at this point, oh boy, my memory on some of these things is starting to get fuzzy.  I'm going to TRY keep this one shortER on words (I know, the Master of All Brevity is going to keep it short on words. Don't hold me to it.) and instead just throw some photos at you so that you can see what I did and I can feel better about communicating with the world *thumbs up!*.

So, briefly, the members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard are legitimately the pope's official bodyguards.  We all know them, or would recognize them if we saw them, because like the British Royal Guard they wear Halloween costumes as their uniform.  If we were all in a Joann Fabric store, their in-cognito-ness in such a situation might be on par with the Navy Seals.  But do not be fooled, these dudes are actually guards, and they have strict entrance requirements and training regiments.

You don't qualify to be a member of the Swiss Guard unless you are Swiss, Catholic, between the ages of 19 and 30, graduated high school, completed basic training in the Swiss military, unmarried, and at least 1.74 meters tall (about 5'9"ish).

So why does the pope have a small army at his command?  Because way way back in the day (beginning of the 1500s), these guys were the most skilled mercenaries in Europe.  And due to the nature of warring empires at the time, the popes also needed help protecting papal property from the hands of invaders who wanted all the Church's cool stuff on five-finger-discount.

These men became so loyal to the pope that on the 6th of May, 1527, most of Pope Clement VII's guard was killed defending him from the invasion of then-current Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.  He escaped through the Borgo Passage from St. Peter's to the fortified Castel San Angelo with a small Swiss remnant.  The pope's life was spared, and this day has since become known as the Stand of the Swiss Guard.

Alright, enough history my good people, without further ado, Ecco (that is, Behold!), the Swiss Guard barracks. Lots of guns and armor and cool manly stuff.

I don't remember what this is. It is an old flag.

Various uniforms of the Guard.

Custom fitted armor. Sweet.
The 'nice' armor. You know, for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Various helmets used throughout the years. The one on the left is from World War II. A Swiss soldier converted and gave up his helmet to become a member of the papal Guard.

Various swords, clubs, and hatchets. Personal protection at one time.

Weapons historically used by the Guard, including what appear to be small shoulder cannons.

More pointy objects.

These swords are almost as tall as I am.

Weapons on the very right are their current carry arms.

One of those windows is the pope's bedroom. I think the left window on the top.

The original Vatican vault.

The original spot of the St. Peter's Piazza obelisk, this spot is on the side of the current basilica. It was here where the Apostle Peter was martyred.

Walking up to Peter's place of martyrdom.

Part of the Borgo Passage. Clement VII ran right across the top of that wall toward Castel San Angelo.

I'm sorry I don't have better explanations for some of these pics. But hopefully you get an idea of the cool stuff they get to wear and can appreciate how much one might feel like a little boy again walking into this small armory.  I definitely enjoyed this small excursion.  One of the neatest things about it is that people don't get tours of the barracks, so almost no one besides Swiss Guard members themselves ever get a chance to see this stuff.  A few years back, the NAC made a pact with these beneficent defenders: they give the new men a tour once a year, and we give them free year-round access to our sports fields and equipment.  I'd say it is a good tradeoff.