Scenes from the day Pope Francis married 20 couples

Read about this historic event:

I didn’t see the whole ceremony, but I did witness some of the vows from the square outside. I also got a few pictures from the behind-the-scenes, as we were standing behind the church after the Mass.

Have a beautiful Thursday! I’m so excited for the long weekend.


An intricate gateway: St. Peter’s Basilica is on the left.


The brides and grooms boarded these buses after the ceremony, in the shadow of the Virgin Mary.


The back entrance of the basilica before the Mass ended.


The pope’s crest rendered in flowers. I loved seeing this because it reminded me of seeing Pope Benedict’s crest being weeded out before the conclave!


Members of the choir skip on their way out of St. Peter’s Basilica after Mass.


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Between the Vatican and the Gardens

I was excited to tour the Vatican Gardens on my recent trip to Rome, as tickets are expensive and I didn’t have a chance to go when I studied there. However, due to the pope’s schedule that day, we were unable to do the full tour and instead got a guided tour of Vatican City in general.

Enjoy these photos from behind the scenes!

IMG_2570Instead of the actual gardens, we saw these gardens, where vegetables are grown.

IMG_2566A view across Rome from the top of a hill.

IMG_2563Also up there was this really cool pirate ship fountain.

IMG_2565 IMG_2560


This tower is one of the oldest buildings in Vatican City. IMG_2569It contains this staircase that was built for horses to be able to carry riders to the top, like a primitive stairlift chair.

IMG_2575This beautiful courtyard ramp connects to the back of the Vatican Library/Archives and a parking lot. I was lucky to get a photograph without being run over by a Fiat.

“Love generates faith, and faith sustains love.” –Archbishop Rino Fischichella, of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization

I have a few more photos on this theme to share tomorrow.

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Nature and Mission

One of the lectures that we had on-the-record at the conference I recently attended was on the nature and mission of the Catholic Church. With the Synod on the Family starting tomorrow (read an AP story here), what could be more timely than sharing a few takeaways from this talk by Rev. Paul O’Callaghan?

On Conversion

The first stage of becoming Christian is about the individual and God, the second about the individual and the Church. Ideally the Church is both a product and a producer of Christians, and a family rather than a sect.

A bishop takes a souvenir photo of a friend posing with a Swiss Guard

A bishop takes a souvenir photo of a friend posing with a Swiss Guard

On the Church

The reality of the church is greater than the concept that we have of it, and for this reason we (especially journalists) must dig beyond the surface to discover the real story. The church, to believers, has both visible and invisible aspects, just as the body has the soul.

The church should not be fearful of change, because that is what sustains it. The church is a pilgrim; it adapts to situations and realities and is enriched by reality. It relates in different ways at different times. This struck me, as I read just this morning the Rolling Stone article from February titled “Pope Francis: the times they are a-changin’.” I think many people hope to see the Church change how she relates, especially on family issues. We’ll see if this hope is unfounded.

An aspect of change that I found especially interesting  is the capacity of the Catholic Church to contain within it great figures and great movements, absorbing and nurturing them without a significant disruption. This is something in my opinion woefully lacking in Protestant movements. I’ve been reading recently about Opus Dei as well as intrachurch movements such as Focalare and Schoenstatt, many of which I didn’t know even existed. On the other hand, the Church doesn’t quite have this down, as evidenced by the fact that Protestantism exists.

The lifeblood of the church is mission.

On salvation

What does it mean to be saved? To live in communion with God forever.

On Pope Frankie

O’Callaghan kept it short and sweet: “He’s really keeping us on our toes.”

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GoMio and the Freedom Traveller

This is the second post in my Rome Recap series (yes, I just invented that title now) (because deadlines), but I promise there are some about the conference coming up. If you just can’t wait and want the inside scoop (Mom) send me an email!


Note: I received a discount from GoMio in exchange for agreeing to post about my experience with the hostel! All opinions are my own and so on and so forth. 

When I went abroad for a semester, the in-flight movie was Taken II. It was a pretty bad choice.

As a young person who loves to travel but makes minimum wage, I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the hostel scene, and fortunately I’ve never had a terrifying experience. (Although here’s a post about meeting strangers in hostels!)

So when I started looking for a place to stay on my recent trip, I found GoMio hostel booking and decided to go through them. Their website says that they’ve been around for 10 years, but I’ve never used them before.

The booking process went very smoothly, and I chose the Freedom Traveller hostel, which looked great online (and in person!). Since I was traveling alone, I didn’t want to go with anything that seemed sketchy or in a bad location. I have only one gigantic complaint about the GoMio process, however, and that is that my card was charged twice: once when I first booked, and again, randomly, a few weeks later. This ordinarily wouldn’t be a huge problem but I was traveling and needed to buy a train ticket and I got home with $3 in my checking account. The charge was withdrawn the next business day without any action on my part.

The door of the Freedom Traveller

The door of the Freedom Traveller

The actual hostel was great. It’s located a couple of minutes from Termini, which is the main train station in Rome, so it was very convenient for me to get a bus to Piazza Navona or a train to Vatican City.

I selected a four-person room and was given a room on the first floor, very close to the reception, which was a little noisy at night sometimes but the convenience and security outweighed the late-night chatting. The room had a private bathroom that was spare but adequate and cleaned each day.

The Freedom Traveller was a lovely hostel with a whole bunch of amenities, including a free Italian breakfast (a coffee and a croissant) and free wine and chips every night. Neither of these were super-fancy, but I think little things like that make traveling so much easier. There was also a kitchen and luggage lockers that you could use your own lock on that were provided for free. There was a small back garden and a common area with some chairs and tables.

Best of all? Free wi-fi allowed me to stay pretty much connected to everyone back home while I was gone.

Except for the glitch while booking, my experience with GoMio was very positive. I will definitely be checking them out for affordable and safe accommodations for my next trip. 

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Church Up Close (part 1)

It’s a gray, rainy day here in New York, so what better way to spend my afternoon than sharing some pictures of bright sunny Roma with the world?

IMG_2350Just two weeks ago I was here, admiring Bernini’s handiwork and learning a whole lot about religion writing and the Catholic Church, along with my best friend Pope Francis.

IMG_2459This is the Popemobile. (Fun fact: the little cobblestones are called petrini, like Peter, to whom Jesus gave the fabulous nickname The Rock.)

I was in Rome for the Church Up Close conference, which was for journalists covering religion “in the age of Francis,” and deciding to skip the beginning of my senior year to attend was one of the best decisions of my life. I was the only student who’s ever gone, and I learned so much from the other attendees, let alone the program itself.


The Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Our time was split between seminars at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross with guest speakers both from the media and from the Vatican, on-site visits with more lectures, and tours of various locations and offices.

IMG_2400Above is the Vatican press office briefing room, which is where I’m going to be during the next conclave. I hope.

IMG_2412One of our speakers was Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who was giving a talk on his work on interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, but is more of a public figure for being the guy who comes out on the balcony and goes “HABEMUS PAPAM!”

 IMG_2468It was pretty intense compared to other conferences that I’ve attended, with all-day sessions Monday through Saturday and then a tour and farewell lunch on Sunday, after which I was able to spend a little time in my old neighborhood, Prati. 

This is the very short version. I hope to be able to post about a few of the sessions, not all of which were on the record, as well as some of my travel experiences, including my hostel, which was my first-ever blog collaboration. Stay tuned!

(And thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made this possible.) 

IMG_2406In the meantime, I’ll be over here trying to reach this crazy dream job:

  • Following religious media and journalists on news alerts and social media
  • Having the realization that maybe I should have taken Italian more seriously and, you know, actually eventually learn how to speak it
  • Reading the USCBB’s documents on covering the Holy See (so interesting)
  • Getting ready for the career fair next week
  • Reading everything John Allen Jr. ever wrote. 



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