Italy Travel Journal | Catherine of Siena | Adventure

Part of my homework for last week was to simply journal and reflect on my experience in Orvieto. It’s been hard for me to think about anything other my experience! My head has been cloudy at all hours of the day, discerning what is the next step for my life. The more I think and pray about it, the more I am positive that I will be moving this fall, and that bring a lot of things to do and risks to take to make it happen. But I am certain it is what I need to do – mostly because I know God is speaking to me when I get hyper emotional and the thought consumes my mind.

Our group outside San Domenico (thanks Lindsey for the photo!).

That being said, I am trying to separate the specific next step I heard from God to reflect on the rest of the experience – mostly the art we saw, since medieval art was the focus of the trip. It is not often that a piece of art grabs me in a way that evokes strong emotions. Usually I pass by, look at the piece, and think “oh, that’s nice – I like the colors and how detailed this is” or something of the sort. I had that same experience with most of the art I saw in Italy – not because it wasn’t magnificent (it was!) or full of rich historical background and fame, but because I’ve never connected with art on that personal of a level.  There were a few pieces in Italy that did evoke an emotional response from me, though (including Michaelangelo’s David, Signorelli’s Holy Family, various pieces of Etruscan pottery found in tombs from the 6th century BC, and various sculptures by Donatello), and although I haven’t quite figured out what it was about them that was so different from the rest, I know I thought they were beautiful. Today I will reflect on one piece in particular.

The Basilica of San Domenico (left) in Siena.

The first was a piece inside San Domenico, a basilica in Siena that houses the head and finger of Saint Catherine of Siena (yes, the literal head and finger of the saint). Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed, so I was not able to snap a photo and I cannot find a picture of it online. The piece was a stained glass window. It was a vibrant purple and had bridge shards of color piercing throughout. It showed three separate scenes of Catherine with Jesus. The only scene of the three that I remember was Jesus on the cross giving Catherine the host during communion. This piece made me stop and stare for a while, and it was one of few pieces I inquired about afterwards, hoping to find more information. I didn’t learn much, but I wish there was some way I was able to capture it (or even just remember the rest of the scenes!).

Why did this impact me?

I think because communion is typically something we do to experience Christ; a way for us to connect with Him and experience the Last Supper as the disciples did.

To be present in Christ’s final moments on earth. In this image, Christ is personally giving communion to Catherine, just as He did with His disciples. It is intimate, and it implies a close friendship and relationship. It implies Catherine was connecting with Christ on a truly deep level. It implies she was present with Him. And I wish that I was always present and intimate with Him on the same level that the image implied Catherine was. In fact, I wish that for all of us.

Most of our group overlooking Siena (thanks Chan for the photo!).

How do you pursue intimacy with Christ? How do you make (and keep) yourself present with Him?

Italy Travel Journal | Overview | Adventure

Overlooking the city of Orvieto from Torre del Moro, the tower where the pope fled during the sack of Rome.

I’m lucky to have recently spent 2 1/2 weeks living in the small town of Orvieto, a city on a hill in Italy. The experience was beautiful and emotional in many ways. I saw a lot of politically and spiritually important sights, traveled to Rome, Florence, Siena, and Assisi, got to know the cafe and shop owners in Orvieto, drank cappuccinos, ate gelato (daily, I might add), and build lasting friendships. I was particularly impacted by the professors and built some lasting relationships with them as well, which I will share more about later. For now, I want to give a general overview of my trip, and then I will share more specifics over the coming months.

I’m currently sitting at the airport in New York, awaiting my flight to Cincinnati which has been delayed for the millionth time. There is no better time to reflect on a trip than when your flight has been delayed for nearly 24 hours, right?

Roughly 32 of us (professors, spouses, friends, and students) spent time living at San Lodovico, a monastery in Orvieto, while we traveled to various cathedrals and museums learning about art and religion during medieval times. We began our morning with prayer in the chapel located inside the monastery.

The monastery of San Lodovico in Orvieto, Italy.

We spent time in studio classes learning to sculpt with Fuller Seminary’s artist in residence, Chris Slatoff. I particularly loved these classes and discovered a love for sculpting that I didn’t know existed. Hours flew by and I learned I actually had the patience to work on one small thing for a long time.

We also got quite a bit of free time, and we all spent this in different ways. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I felt God was clearly telling me (which I won’t I share at the moment, since I am still discerning what is the next step to take). I will say that I feel God has called me to big things that I am financially incapable of doing on my own – and I now feel it is okay to use school loans to do these things. I’m just trying to figure out where in the world I am being called (location-wise) and when (sometime this year).

I typically did this over a cappuccino and pastry at one of three coffee shops – Blue Bar, Montanucci, or Capitano del Popolo. I think Montanucci wins for having the best pastries and beautiful patio seating, but Capitano del Popolo had the best coffee and coolest decor.

Cappuccino at Capitano Del Popolo.

It seems to me that God calls us to the places we feel the least comfortable, at what we feel are the least opportune times.

Does anyone else feel this way?

I was significantly more impacted on this trip than I expected, and I think it will take me a while to process everything. Which is fine, because I still have seven more weeks of classes online with the people who went on the trip (the classes: Medieval Art & Religion, The Art of Worship & Prayer). I’m thankful I get to discern with other people who were significantly impacted as well.

At the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy.

We also spent a lot of time learning about the saints – particularly Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, and Francis of Assisi. Their lives were a blend of piousness (perhaps overly and dangerously pious) and servitude, creativity and visions. I was really impacted by a stained glass window in Siena in San Domenico, the cathedral where the head and finger of the saint is on display. Unfortunately, I can’t find a picture of it online and I wasn’t able to take one (pictures were not allowed), but I remember it was a vivid purple with three different scenes of Catherine with Jesus. The scene I remember was Jesus on the cross serving Catherine communion. I want to recreate something like it with plexiglass and paint for a final class project… hopefully my memory will serve me well 🙂

Outside the Duomo di Orvieto in Orvieto, Italy.

There is a quote from Catherine I believe to have learned firsthand from this trip:

“It is the nature of love to love as much as we feel we are loved, and to love whatever the one we love loves.”

I certainly learned I was loved and could be loved by people who barely know me. This made me feel comfortable sharing intimately and pouring love in return. I’m looking forward to reflecting more intimately on my time in this beautiful place over the months to come.

At the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

Ciao, friends.