Sainthood is REAL.

my dad and I :)

After Cinque Terre, we met up with the rest of our Austrian program in Rome. This was especially exciting for me, because my parents were able to come out to visit for the week! It was such a blessing to see them! It was a bit of a hectic time in Rome, with packed schedules, so many people, and tons of walking, but there was beauty amidst this Roman chaos. And the most beautiful thing I discovered during the adventure was…. Sainthood is REAL.
early Christian martyrs 
We joked about how it would be difficult to visit Rome if you weren’t a Christian, because there is literally a church on every corner and not only that, but almost every church has a saint buried inside of it. Some I’ve heard of and some I haven’t, but it was so powerful to walk among these witnesses. To name a few, we visited the tombs of St. Cecelia, Blessed John Paul II, St. Maria Goretti, early Christian martyrs, and St. Peter! Visiting these saints, asking for their intercession, walking where they walked, sainthood suddenly became REAL. They were no longer just stories that I heard in my childhood. They were real people who lived real lives, who dealt with real struggles, who died real deaths, but who allowed themselves to be transformed by Christ in a real way to the point of giving their entire lives to Him.
the church of St. Maria Goretti
If so many ordinary people have been able to become saints, then so can I.
the tomb of St. Ceceila
Sainthood doesn’t necessarily mean doing something extraordinary. It just means doing the little things with the love of Christ, which will undoubtedly lead to the extraordinary. We don’t have to change absolutely everything about our lives, but rather allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ. We have so many models to look at! Ask for their intercession, they will help you!
my mom and I in St. Peter’s Square :)
As you grow in friendship with the saints, as you learn their stories, as you dive into their lives, it is SO easy to just want to be them. I mean who wouldn’t want to be the next Mother Teresa or St. Therese or St. Francis of Assisi?! But this isn’t what we’re being called to do. During our Rome pilgrimage, my friend and I discovered a song by Danielle Rose that is called, “The Saint That is Just Me.” If you haven’t heard this song yet, click the link below and listen! This is not a suggestion, you must listen! This song really impacted us, particularly as we were visiting so many saints in Rome. Christ did not die so that we can strive to be a saint who has already lived. Each and every one of us are called to be saints, and we have a story that is uniquely ours! We need our saint companions on the journey, but find your story! The world already has a St. Faustina, St. Bernadette, and St. Maximilian Kolbe… it needs a saint YOU! 

Cinque Terre = Beauty

Every semester, as part of the Austrian program, Franciscan takes the students on a 10-day pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. However, this semester, with the resignation of Pope Benedict, we were given three days off of class before the pilgrimage to attend the final papal audience. I personally did not end up going to the audience, but instead spent those days in Cinque Terre, Italy. 
It was quite the adventure. I traveled there with two friends I really didn’t know too well at the beginning of the trip. I also didn’t know much about Cinque Terre. It was my first experience on an overnight train. But before I knew it, we were off. 
Vernazza, Cinque Terre
There is a lot I could tell you about this trip, but what I would really like to share are the ways I encountered beauty in this place. 
If you are unfamiliar, Cinque Terre is a cluster of five villages on the Italian Riviera. They are extremely picturesque, and you are even able to hike from town to town if you so desire. You not only see the beautiful coastline, but you are also surrounded by gorgeous mountains. I’m convinced that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. But this beauty came in two main ways.
1. Nature. As I said above, I am convinced this is one of the most beautiful places on earth. With mountains all around, the shimmering blue/green water of the sea as far as the eye can see, red/orange/yellow buildings in the little rugged and friendly villages, the smell of salt water in the air, much warmer temperatures than the tundra that has been Austria this semester, the beauty was overwhelming. Beauty of this magnitude points so clearly and directly to God, the Creator and Master Artist of it all. It amazes me that He would create such natural beauty just for our enjoyment. One of the afternoons we were there, we were able to do a two hour hike between the villages, and my breath was taken away. It was impossible to not praise the Lord in such beauty!
my wonderful travel companions :) 
2. People. As incredible as the natural beauty was, the beauty of those I encountered and came into contact with was so much deeper. I am learning that you can visit anywhere in the world, but what really makes the difference is the connection you make with people. With or without words, my little encounters with people are going to be what I remember most about the trips I have been on. Our last night in Cinque Terre, we ended up having dinner with a family from Missouri that we randomly met on the street. We had been talking with them and so we just decided to eat with them. It was amazing to be able to share stories with and get to know a family I didn’t know before coming and very well may never see again in my life. We met a girl who has lived in Italy her entire life on the train who is studying to be a translator. We helped her practice her English while hearing about her life and she was really an inspiration to us. She knew something like four languages and still wanted to learn more. We went to daily Mass in one of the villages and after Mass one of the women who knew just a little English showed us around the town and talked to us the best she could. Sometimes it is the little encounters that make all the difference.
They do not even come close to doing it justice, but I hope some of the pictures I included help you experience on a small scale the beauty that I was overwhelmed with in this place. I would also like to encourage you to notice the little encounters. In those small moments – the checkout line at the grocery store or the quick hello to those you pass – you can experience true beauty. See the beauty. See Christ. 

our first view of the sea from the train 
a view from our hike

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

The Common Journey

Happy Easter!! Or as they say in Italy, Buona Pasqua!
In the past month and a half, I have had the opportunity to travel around Italy, including Cinque Terre twice, Siena, Rome twice, Assisi, Florence, Montichiari, Padua, and Venice. I am so grateful for the chance to experience these places!

I have encountered beauty beyond what I could have ever imagined.
The next series of blog posts are going to be a sort of recounting of the ways in which I have encountered beauty in each of these places. I have truly been impacted by what I have experienced and I do wish to share that with you.
What I am coming to understand is that if you do not allow yourself to be changed and impacted by what you experience, if you do not allow your horizon to be expanded, if you do not allow your heart to be opened to encounter the Heart of Christ in even the smallest ways, there is no point to traveling around and seeing new places.
Without this openness to change, what would be the point?
To be able to say that you have so many stamps in your passport book? To be able to post pictures of yourself on facebook at famous landmarks? To be able to say that you’ve been to dozens of countries?
If that’s how I viewed this opportunity to spend a semester studying and traveling around Europe, I would say I have missed the point.

This world is filled with so much beauty. In creation. In people. In the little things. But why is that?
To draw us back to our Creator. God has given us His creation, has created a truly beautiful world with irreplaceable people, to remind us of why we’re here on this earth in the first place.
We’re all on a journey; a journey towards His Heart and a journey towards Heaven.
We must allow the people and places we encounter to change us. We must allow them to draw our hearts back to God. And we must share our experiences with each other. We are not meant to keep encounters with beauty, truth, and goodness to ourselves.
And this, my dear sisters and brothers, is why I wish to share with you my experiences of the past month.