Monday, July 23, 2012

Welcome to the blog!

Well, I finally got this up and running!  Considering that I am a veritable cornucopia of punctuality, I am actually a little surprised at how quickly I was able to actually start this thing.  I only spent about two hours staring at my computer trying to procure the all-important title.  It finally came to me in a vision of God (well, almost) at about 1 a.m., and I celebrated the moment by promptly making my way to bed.

At any rate, this is my blog that I will be writing as I begin my theology studies here in Rome.  Wow, what an opportunity and what a grace.  I have never written a blog before, so I don't have too many expectations as to how this will go.  I am sure that some entries will be more religious or thoughtful in nature and others full of personal anecdotes that begin with, "Well you won't believe what happened today".  But in my officially first post ever in my life, I'd like to share a few of the reasons that I've decided to do something so crazy as to spill my guts in a public domain.

Frankly, writing a blog about my experiences is a convenient way to keep in touch with the world back at home.

This will provide me an opportunity to be lazy, so that I don't have to retell the same story 15 times.  It's easier to be Schid tha Schloth (note the reference to Sid the Sloth from Ice Age) than it is to be Tony the Tiger.  It just won't be a prudent use of my time to get in touch with everyone individually (at least generally speaking) as opposed to making this experience available to all at once.  I love you guys.  But let's be honest, I need all the help I can get in the prudence and temperance departments.

And those pesky mass Email chains are always bound to forget someone, or to forget to add someone later on.  A blog invites those who are interested to stay in touch, and allows those who aren't to be saved the bane of everlasting unwanted Email.

Blogging will help me to remember everything that happens while it's still fresh in my mind.  And then I can come back to it later to reminisce about ye olden days.

I know, surprising as this is, my mind is not always a steel trap.  Blogging kind of serves two purposes, since I can both communicate to the world and have a running, shall we say, public journal for myself.  I never really journaled growing up, but started to do so on and off before I entered seminary.  This blog won't be full of my deepest, darkest secrets, but hopefully it will help me call to mind and relive my own inner experience of a certain time and place after it has long past.

Ultimately, writing a blog will hopefully continue to remind me that this whole shebang is not about me.

Believe me, I would love to be the center of the universe.  At least half the time I still think it's true.  And on a practical level, it is much simpler and takes much less energy for me to just hide away over here in Europe and keep this adventure all to myself.  But that's not what life is about.  It is meant to be shared, and beyond my selfish and lazy genes I really do want you to share in this journey with me.  One of my prayers in this time has been for the grace to grow closer with those I love and remain involved in their lives particularly while I am physically separated from them.

God has prepared for me some unique opportunities, graces, and lessons over the next four years, and I hope this blog will be one way that those opportunities, graces, and lessons can bear fruit not only in my life, but in the lives of everyone He has given to me.  That would be y'all.

What I hope for this blog most of all is that it serves as a story.  Not of how lucky or deserving I am of any of this (because I know that I am not), nor as a way to flaunt an opportunity to live and learn in Italy for four years.  But that it may be seen and read as a story of God's generous love for His people, precisely in the here and now.

I am convinced this is one reason why God gives us the Rockstars.  Or as Holy Mother Church calls them, the Saints.  That we would recognize His work not only in the times of the Bible, but always in the present moment, especially in the lives of those who allow Him to work.  When I read the stories of the Saints I often initially respond with, well, jealousy.  The thought usually goes like this: "Wow, look at how much God loved them, how close He brought them to Himself!  God I wish you loved me like that.  How come You don't?"

Eventually I remember (for the millionth time) it isn't that "God don't" but that "I don't".  The crazy nature of love is that it can only ever be free.  Not merited, not deserved, not paid for, not taken, only given for free and received for free.  My "I-wish-God-loved-me-more" desire is not a limitation or decision of His, but always a limitation and decision of mine.

So the power of their stories is ultimately in their reminder to me that folks like Peter, Augustine, Francis and Clare, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Calcutta were all flesh and bone just as I am flesh and bone.  Precisely in their "flesh-liness" and limitations, precisely in their personal moment in history, did they let God come close.  I am spurred, then, not to despair that I'll never be where they are, but to hope that my own flesh and limitations are not a hindrance to holiness if only I choose to ask for more grace and cooperate with it.  If my story of God's love for me spurs you to pursue more deeply God's love for you, then this blog will have served its purpose.

Final thoughts.

Since this is my first time across the Atlantic, a lot of the brand-new-and-exciting will be front loaded, especially since I have more free(ish) time.  I'll probably (hopefully) be posting more often now than in October-and-following after classes begin.  At that time, I'll most likely be freaking out about not understanding a lick of my Italian theology courses after two months of language learning.

My first week has been crazy filled with lots of stuff.  I started writing this post yesterday (7/22) and finished today, but now I've already arrived in Assisi, spent my first night here, and had my first day of Italian classes (a slice of humble pie, for those who wanted to know).  Ideally, I would try to play catch-up and write one post for each day of my first week (since there is plenty enough material for each day!).  Not sure yet if that will happen or not.  But on the off-chance a miracle occurs, this inaugural entry would have coincided with the day I arrived in Italy (7/16) or a few days prior.

Woohoo!  Thanks be to God for the blessing of a successful first post.  Do stay tuned for more action and heroic stories.  You won't believe how many tombs of awesome Saints I've visited in one week.  I'll leave you with a pic of the evening sunset from the roof of the North American College.  Also known as the best vista in Rome.


  1. Thank you, Brian, for the blog. I very much want to share in spirit your experience in Rome and your journey into "orders." I think your photos are wonderful. I am going to make your sunset photo my screen saver.
    Have you read Soul Brothers by Richard Rohr? It's a very short book on God's relationship with various men in the bible, both OT & NT. It speaks to concerns like: "God, I wish you loved me like that. How come You don't?" especially the chapter on Peter.
    Best of luck with the Italian language. I will keep you in my daily prayers. Love & Peace to you, S.Marie Pauline