On Sunday, 1 March, somebody in Hungary became the 100,000th visitor to my humble little blog, which I started in October 2009 as I moved to Rome, to communicate with friends and family about travel and visits to the sites of the Eternal City, and to offer musings and commentary on Christian Unity and reform in the Catholic Church.
The more I try to write for my dissertation, though, the less frequently I write for the blog. When I started I averaged three posts a week. Now if I get three a month I am being productive. I noticed I have over 16,000 words of notes and half-written posts in my draft file. Like my dissertation, there is a lot of starter material that just needs time and focus to complete. Also like my dissertation, much of it will never see the light of day.
My first post spoke of the surprises in technology, liturgy, community life, and diet and exercise found upon arriving in Bella Italia.
By far the most read post was about Pope Francis lifting restrictions on married Eastern Catholic priests in the ‘diaspora’ – including the U.S., Australia, Canada, et al. That post alone was viewed 8,000 times. I would like to think the popularity is because of my brilliant prose and that it was an English-language scoop, but I know that the title “Married Catholic Priests coming to a Parish Near You” played a bit on hopes that this would include Latin, or Roman Catholic, priests as well as those serving our Eastern brothers and sisters.
Recent rumors try to suggest that Pope Francis might actually extend it in some way to the Latin Church, but i suspect there are so many people who do not understand the hierarchy of truths well enough that they would think this was an act worth breaking communion over, and as wrong as they are, there is no doubt that a good leader would tread carefully even to do the right thing before allowing the weak of faith to fall further into sin.
The most surprising moments included being introduced to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his ecumenical officer, who greeted me with “Oh, so you’re the one with the blog…!” (I got to see Bishop Jonathan again very briefly during the 50th anniversary celebrations of Unitatis Redintegratio, one of the great ecumenists I have been privileged to meet in these years).
Even after 5 1/2 years, there are still surprises to be found, new adventures in Rome. Just recently with a class walking over the Ponte Fabrico to Isola Tiberna, someone pointed out the marble faces adorning the bridge, which I have crossed dozens of times at least, and never noticed.
Or take the Station Churches, an ancient tradition like so many revived with the Second Vatican Council after being lost for some time before hand. While I have always managed to attend a few of the morning liturgies with the North American College, this is the first year I have been able to attend most of the official Italian liturgies in the afternoons. Photos here.
Now, some personal updating for friends and family:
Officially, the pontifical graduate degrees of License and Doctorate take two and three years respectively. My License took three, including almost a year’s worth of additional classes between the Berrie Fellowship and the extra requirements specific to the ecumenical section at the time (Most people doing an STL are required to take 24 classes in addition to comps and thesis; I took 36, and had credit for 9 more from previous graduate studies and experience). During the doctorate, I have worked two part time jobs and taught 2-3 classes a semester, so while I am still aiming for the three-year mark, I will accept if that just gets me to a good draft.
As I get ever closer to 40, the idea of settling into a permanent position gets more and more appealing. These five years in Rome mark the longest I have lived in one city since I was 16, and even then entails moving at least for every summer, and often not knowing where I will be more than a few months ahead. Recent job searches have revealed potential positions in Edinburgh, Basel, Geneva, Jerusalem, all over the US, and Antarctica. (Admittedly, the last one had nothing to do with theology, but who would not want to spend a few months dodging penguins in -15C weather after the Baroque excess and summer heat of Rome?)
Dear friends and colleagues, faithful readers and strangers who happened by while looking for images, thank you for your visit and your interest. I hope we will be seeing more of each other over the year to come! Happy Lent!