Monday, April 27, 2009
Dearest faithful blog followers,
I will be returning to America in one week from today!!! I am very excited about seeing everyone and telling of my great adventures and wonderful new friends. I would like to tell you a little bit about the awesome time I had this past weekend in a little private village just outside of Florence.
We were given the amazing opportunity to have a retreat and just an all around good time this past weekend in a little town on top of a hill in Tuscany and it was a delight. The town was ancient, with a castle, a really old church, and the house of a Baron. I will have pictures up pretty soon and you can see the sweet ancient foot and a half long pipe that I posed with (no I didn't smoke it). It was a real blessing to have a retreat here at the end of the ILS semester and I could reflect on everything I've learned here in Italy. Before I reflect, I'll tell you about the weekend. We stayed in a brick house with real fireplaces, mills, and detailed painted walls. It is where the Baron brings his friends to go for a weekend of hunting on their horses with hunting dogs, top hats, and whatnot. On day one, I met a wonderful Italian man named Enzo who lives there with his friend Daniella in a beautiful apartment with a view of the hills of Tuscany. (If anyone has seen "Under the Tuscan Sun", take the scenery in that... times 10) I really enjoyed it. I was invited up to his apartment for a glass of water. After 5 hours, 4 bottles of vino, lots of delicious chocolate, some artichoke hearts, a binocular view from the window all the members of the program, including Fr. Alfonso and Br. Nathaniel, had visited the apartment for good fellowship and conversation, and I knew how to understand and translate Italian. Enzo showed us his three BEAUTIFUL horses (cavalle) that were butterscotch colored with creme manes. They were gorgeous. That night, we all sat around the table and enjoyed a paella, homemade vino, and homemade limoncello. We all shared our gratitude about the program and much to my surprise, I ended up translating the convo into Italian for Enzo. It was a wonderful day!
Sunday, we had a mini retreat in which we meditated on Mary of Magdala's trip to the tomb of Jesus and how wonderful it is to have a great devotion to Mary, the mother of God. I urge all of you to take up a daily rosary and to increase your devotion to our blessed mother. We spoke of the need to Love, Obey and Imitate her... after all, we're supposed to imitate Christ, and how did he act towards Mary... with love, obedience and imitation. Consider Mary's charity at the wedding feast at Cana. She was a guest but she put herself in charge of making sure there was enough wine for everyone. That same charity is found in our Lord. I can't wait to tell you all about everything I learned about Catholic apologetics. Treasure your Catholic faith!!!
I can't wait to see all of you when I get home! I'm having a party on May 23rd at 7PM @ my house. Let me know if you can make it by emailing me at email@example.com. I love you! May the peace of Christ be with you!!!! Ciao
Posted by Matt Merry at 4:48 AM
Thursday, April 23, 2009
God bless you! I am so happy right now here in Italy but I am pumped to come home and see you all!! I've learned so much this semester. I was just looking through pictures and I realized that I've been so many places and had so many blessings. I have so many great stories to tell you and I can't wait to see you. I'll be having a party on May 23rd at 7PM to tell everyone all about my journey. Everyone's invited. Please let me know if you can come by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You're awesome! I'm praying for you and I can't wait to see you!
PS I'll be back on May 5th
Peace be with you
Posted by Matt Merry at 8:37 AM
Friday, April 10, 2009
Greetings from Rome! I hope you are having a very special Holy Week and I pray that God blessed you and yours during the Easter season!!! I'm very thankful that I wasn't harmed by the earthquakes here in Italy. I'm also very thankful for all the blessings I have been given for this journey of my lifetime because it has been truly life changing. This past Monday, I went to Cinque Terre with my good friend Adam Trufant. We arrived at the station in Riomaggiore and as soon as you get off the train, all you see is ocean and cliffs. It was breathtaking. We hiked the "way of love" trail from each of the five towns and walked through each town experiencing the different characters of each. There were more Americans there than anywhere else I've been in Europe but it was still beautiful!! I don't know where to begin explaining this wonderful trip. The flowers along the trails we hiked were so beautiful and God blessed us with a sunny trip! Adam and I sampled the local foccacia, pesto, and pizza. The hike was along a trail made up of unending stairs of stone. By the end, my legs were like rubber. Most of the trail went along the coastline, sprinkled with surprise views of the towns from peaks above. I could never explain the glory of that place, you just have to go check it out yourself!! I have 3 facebook albums dedicated to the trip so make sure to check those out too. When we arrived in the fourth town, Vernazza, we got a hotel room with an ocean view terrace and just relaxed a bit before hitting the "town". All the towns were very small, Italian towns with wonderful shops. Vernazza is supposed to have the liveliest town so we decided to sleep there. Just after arriving, we took full advantage of the sunset and headed down to the shore where I read a little, had a delicious beer, and prayed a rosary among the rocky shoreline. It was a very peaceful experience. The next day, we explored Monterosso and had a little free lunch with a great tourist family that Adam met the night before. We bought some bread, cheese, salami, pesto (CT is where Pesto comes from) and Chianti, and had a picnic on a stone bench on top of one of the mountains. After a little nap and a visit to the Convent just above where we ate, we headed down to the beach. Of course we took advantage of the warm, sunny, Mediterranean day and immediately jumped in the ocean. The wet shorts made for a slightly uncomfortable 4 hour train ride to Turin, but it was worth it. When we started looking for a hostel in Turin, we got lost. It was divine providence though, since Don Bosco is Adam's patron saint. Don Bosco lead us to a Salesian school where we met a few Salesian priests. They took us in and fed us all sorts of delightful foods and showed us where the original grave of Don Bosco had been for 40 years, along with a beautiful church designed by Don Bosco. Keep in mind that they were Italian and were practicing their english, which made for fun conversation. Br. Pier loved to sing James Taylor and John Denver. They acted just like regular brothers do, trying to talk over each other and prove that they knew english. It was awesome!! They gave us a ride to the hostel where we got in trouble since it was already after check in time and the brothers were playing John Denver too loud :) What a night. On Wednesday, Adam and I explored the great town of Turin, which was clean, full of flowers, and home to Adam's favorite, Don Bosco. We spend around 2 hours in the "Mary, Help of Christians" church where Don Bosco is buried. It was a beautifully painted church! Very well kept by the Salesians. For lunch, we enjoyed some grilled swordfish and chilled white wine at a local restaurant and headed to a nearby square for some delightful pastries. Now I'm back in Rome, enjoying a wonderful Holy Week. Yesterday, I celebrated Holy Thursday with the Legionaries. It was a very moving service where Fr. Alvoro, the head of the Regnum Christi and Legionaries movement, celebrated the Mass. Tonight I'm heading back over to the Legionaries center to celebrate the Passion of Christ, followed by the Via Crucis with the Pope at the Coliseum. Tomorrow night, I'm going to the Easter Vigil with the Pope and hopefully we can get enough tickets for Sunday's celebration at the Vatican!!! God is awesome!! Happy Easter everybody!! I love you so much. God bless you and I'm praying for you. Peace be with you
Posted by Matt Merry at 6:46 AM
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Holy Week greetings to all!!!
I don't have enough time to write a complete blog of the amazing trip I had these past three days but after receiving some concerned emails and fb messages, I just wanted to let everybody know that I am totally fine!! I wasn't harmed by the earthquakes. I couldn't really feel them from my room in Cinque Terre with an ocean view terrace ;) God bless your Holy Week and especially your Easter!!! Much love
Posted by Matt Merry at 6:21 PM
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Happy Palm Sunday. I hope this blog finds you well and preparing for a most Holy Week. Today was another trick pulled out of the sleeves of the Legionaries. We were supposed to "carry" the cross for World Youth Day... and we did... kind of. What they really meant by carry was transport behind the scenes so the Australians can carry the cross, which makes sense because it was the hand off from Australia to Spain. It's all good though because we got great seats up on the top of the steps really close to the Pope. Not many people get these kinds of opportunities but for some reason God keeps blessing the ILS program. It's a real blast and it's also a very humbling experience. I'm growing so much here and I can't wait to come home and tell you all about it! I'm going to have a get together when I get home to show pictures and tell tales and of course eat BBQ, SWEET TEA, BANANA PUDDING and all good things American. Tomorrow, Adam and I are heading to Cinque Terre (hopefully, this is the third attempt to get there) and after to Turin to see St. John Bosco and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Wednesday we should be back for mass in the Vatican Gardens and the Holy Week events at the Vatican if we can get tickets. Maybe a little Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum with the Pope and hopefully Easter Mass at the Vatican. Keep me in your prayers and know that I will be praying for you from the center of the Church all this week!!! God bless you!! Happy Easter and Happy Holy Week.
Posted by Matt Merry at 10:41 AM