Besides the regular mornings of Italian class, this week has also been filled with good dinners and important errands. Wednesday night the Casa hosted 61 "New Men", as the first year seminarians are referred to, from the NAC. They, along with their formation staff, enjoyed a six plate dinner in our courtyard. It was good to welcome the young seminarians as they finish up their week of orientation to Rome and the seminary system. After dinner we enjoyed aperitivi in the garden.
During that time, I was glad to meet a Benedictine Sister from Ferdinand, IN who is a librarian at the NAC. I think that resource will be most important in the upcoming years. I also met the Vice-Rector of the seminary at Louvain who spoke highly of our Old College seminarians currently living there this semester.
Thursday, after morning classes and pronzo I and Fr. Jim from the Camden Diocese headed to Barbiconi's, only a short walk from the Casa. I needed a few cleric shirts and he did as well. Surprisingly, they were cheaper than what I usually buy in the States. I distinctly remember the first time I saw this store, in the Summer of '95 and being taken aback by the sight of a display window of clerical goods. Only in Rome.
Afterwards we walked across the piazza to Gammarelli's, the famous tailor shop that, among other things, makes vestments and cassocks for the Holy Father. We also visited two other nearby stores to just see what they had.
We then made a short visit to the Casa Habana store near Piazza Colonna. I may or may not have bought Cuban cigars. Forse si, forse no. Moving on...
Later in the afternoon I took a lengthy stroll to St. Peter's Basilica to meet up with three Notre Dame students, one of whom is a parishioner where I formerly served as Associate Pastor. She did inform me that the Spiritual Bouquet her family gave me is being fulfilled regularly. That means a lot to me.
I took them to one of my favorite restaurants in Rome. After a week and a half of being here this was my first real outing: the first time to see the facade of St. Peter's and to visit any restaurant. We weren't disappointed. The owner who seated us was nice enough to say that today is a "brutto giorno", an ugly day for Americans, in reference to the 9/11 events.
Later today I will go with a few other priests to officially apply for our Soggiorno, the document that lets us remain here past our 3 month visa deadline. And, hopefully, my UPS packages will arrive safe and sound today too.