The day after Thanksgiving, one year ago, Bishop Pates asked me if I would consider applying to the North American College in Rome for at least four years of study in theology in preparation for the priesthood. I agreed, thinking it would be a difficult experience; and it has been difficult. Theology, difficult in any language, requires even more concentration when it is being taught in Italian, and the seminary is very far away from home. I miss all the families I met in parishes around the Diocese during my three years of work in the Totus Tuus program, and I of course have missed my own family – especially as holidays come and go. It has been difficult but I can say I’m happy here.
I’m happy for many reasons: one is because I am deepening my love for God by being immersed in the history of our Faith. There is a very large church called Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which is on one of the routes I take to get to the University; this church houses the remains of the great mystic St. Catherine of Siena. I will usually stop at this church to pray for those who are close to me, and I often think to pray for all the faithful of the Diocese of Des Moines (since I come from the Italian part of Des Moines, I guess I have a bias towards Italian saints). All of the churches here are virtual graveyards, with many people (sometimes hundreds) buried in them. This can be seen as morbid or, as our Faith would suggest, a beautiful sign that these brothers and sisters who have gone before us are still united with us through the Church which is the Body of Christ: “I am sure that neither death, nor life… nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
I am also happy to turn my full attention to theology, which I am studying so that on one level I may know God Himself better and to serve Him more completely and then, building on that foundation, that I may serve the people whom I believe I am called to serve more effectively. Our Faith is one that loves Truth and reason; St. Augustine once said “if faith does not think, it is nothing.” Learning the deep theology of the Church is something that I take very seriously, and something that I see as being bound up with the ministry of the priest. Our God is real, and we can always learn more about Him; and learning more about Him can stir our hearts to love Him more. I am looking forward to the time when I will return to Diocese; in the meantime, pray for me – everyday if you can. I am always in great need of your prayers. Thank you all the support you give to us!