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!