How to be dating in six months or your money back…

I’m a little behind on this saga but new advancements today were the catalyst I needed to write this blog series.

Ever since I can remember, since kindergarten at least when I had my first kiss (on the cheek counts, right?), I have wanted to find a wicked handsome guy to get married to. College was particularly a struggle because in high school when I didn’t find anyone worthy of taking me to prom, much less being my boyfriend, I was convinced I would meet my future husband on my first day of college and we’d fall madly in love and get married the day after graduation. Clearly I had it all worked out.

Well when they didn’t happen I was at a loss for what to do. And then when I was only pursued a couple times throughout my four years of college, both of which ended not terribly amicably, I again was at a loss for what to do. I pride myself on being incredibly independent, and a confident initiator, and yet long for a man to pursue me and show how much I’m worth it.  As you can imagine this can come off contradictory and has certainly gotten me in trouble in my dating life.

I was two years out of college and made no more progress toward my life goal of getting married until 6 months ago my dating life took an incredible jump in activity and it isn’t slowing down any time soon. This is largely in part due to a book my brother recommended I check out. How to find a date worth keeping is written by Christian psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud. Through his several years of research, speaking engagements and spending quality time with young singles and newlyweds, he has come up with a theory about finding a spouse and in turn a 6 month “dating program” for singles to partake in to grow as a person while seeking a future spouse.

I have committed to working through this dating program and will be recording my experiences here. I will change all of the suitors names so they can remain anonymous.

Welcome to the journey.

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Christians need to stop playing the victim: a response to the hullabaloo about Duck Dynasty

If you own a facebook account and are friends with anyone with an opinion, you have surely seen articles floating around about how A&E has “indefinitely suspended” Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty. My liberal* friends give the virtual thumbs-up to these posts because it’s about time someone acted on the bigotry and discrimination they find in Robertson’s statement and with anyone who agrees with him. My conservative* friends post about how hypocritical and how much of a double-standard there is in censorship in the media.

My response? Christians need to stop playing the victim. What Phil Robertson said and perhaps more importantly how he said it was completely ridiculous. I was embarrassed for him and I was embarrassed to think people may think because I identify myself as a Christian, I think the same way he does.  In fact, I think we should be grateful to A&E for putting the kibosh on Robertson making ridiculous, foundation-less and tactless claims in the name of being a Christian.

Robertson said in an interview “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” Congratulations, Phil. What we have discovered here is that you are in fact a heterosexual male, and have no idea what a homosexual male desires. It seems to me that if you think what this person is doing is wrong, so wrong in fact that they are going to hell, you could help and encourage them instead of making fun of them. Further, last time I checked no sin can enter heaven. Whether that is “adultery, idolatry, prostitution, homosexual acts, greed, drunkenness, slander, swindling” or the choice sins you and I struggle with daily, Mr. Robertson.

It’s also very interesting that I’ve found those standing up for Robertson like to highlight the suppression of his “Biblical beliefs” but ignore his statements about the Jim Crow south. Perhaps he is telling the truth when he says “I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!” But that is like expecting a Polish Jew in the early ‘40’s to tap a German soldier on the shoulder and say “Excuse me sir, we do not appreciate our living conditions and the laws that have been imposed on us. You doggone Nazis.” Just because you don’t see or experience something yourself, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

My point in all of this is that persecution has existed and will always exist. If you have chosen to follow Christ, He made it very clear that it would not be rainbows and butterflies but that you will have to pick up your cross and carry it. With that being said, not everything in the media relating to Christianity is a cross. I challenge you to really look at these situations of “persecution” (ie. a man making ignorant statements about sin, Obama moving the offices of the Vatican Embassy, etc.), analyze and assess the situation from both sides, and then you can come to an informed conclusion about how we as Christians should, if at all, act.

Let’s remember to be charitable and competent when speaking about our beliefs and convictions.

*I use these very general terms simply to make a distinction between two extreme viewpoints, not to place anyone in a box or divide the human race.

Arrivederci, Italia.

As my time in Italy is down to 12 hours, you can imagine all the reflecting going on. I realized I haven’t thanked my fellow Bernardi siblings enough for all they have done for me these past four months. This one’s for you:

Mi fretelli e sorelle,

I have been incredibly touched hearing you share all of your graces, memories and affirmations of one another. I have truly grown to love each and everyone of you as family members, for better and for worse, and I am beyond grateful for having shared this experience with you. As I briefly mentioned before, last semester was a rough one for me–I doubted a lot of things, including what I believe as a Christian or just in general, and coming to Rome I only thought and cared about what I could get from the semester, all the Lord would do for me and my life and how I would grow. But it took 33 of my closest friends to draw me outside of myself and look at all the Lord was doing for me and through me thanks to all of you. I never understood the concept of love within a marriage. You mean you have to choose to love someone even when you don’t feel it? How is that even possible? You have all shown me and taught me what love truly is and what it means.

Every time you asked me about fashion. Every time you gave me chocolate. Every time you asked me to sew something. Every time I tried to pay for something or pay you back and you responded “Don’t worry about it.” Every time you invited me to a meal. Every time you touched my spiky hair. Every time you complimented me on my combination of neon pink jacket and red pants. Every time you left an affirmation in my mailbox. Every time you cleared my dishes or got me coffee. Every time you thanked me for the tickets. Every time you laughed at my less-than-perfect jokes. Every time you indulged me in late night cookie and milk breaks. The list could go on and on. But every time you loved me, you taught me how to love better, and proved that I am loved.

Thank you for being so patient, loving, caring and accepting of my blunt, unabashed, stubborn and very sarcastic self. The time you took to get to know me, hear my many thoughts and opinions, but more importantly share your own, meant more to me than you will ever know. Thank you for putting up with my 100 “Kid Snippets” quotes and references every day. Thank you for showing me Christ through your selfless, fun, caring and generous acts. Know I pray for you all each day, that you will continue to grow ever closer to Our Lord and Our Lady, and that one day we will be reunited in Heaven. You are now family and will be treated as such. Therefore, when I need money, am in jail, need you to vote for me or give me a job, be prepared to get a phone call 😉

Tonight I went to Mass and realized it would be my last in Italy. I prayed to God to come up with some reason I would have to stay in Italy, or to give me a job so I can come back and live here. I am positive a huge part of the reason I love it here is because I associate Italy with my Bernardi family. Grazie mille a tutti.

I love you all, and am eternally grateful and indebted to God for the second best gift a girl could ask for. (Clearly the first being His Son).

Ciao, but only for now.

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 5)

1. Last week I was MIA with all posts because it was our Spring Break. The Triduum and now Easter in Roma has been glorious. The weather is warming up (the sandals and capris are finally seeing the light of day) and everyone is cheerful and upbeat.

2. First on our itinerary for our Spring Break was Ireland. Before we left I kept joking with everyone “I’m afraid to go because I might not want to come back!” Boy, was I right. One of my brother’s best friends from college moved to Ireland to become a priest, and he is now in the diocese of “Tuam” which is just north of Galway. He played host for us for the 3 days we were there.

The first day he picked us up, showed us Galway and brought us to an amazing restaurant for lunch, then we went back to the place we stayed (a little nun’s house). This house was cozy and quiant and had a fireplace which the five of us girls snuggled up to with tea at least twice a day. That evening we went out for Irish Mexican food, go figure, and we finished the night off at a local pub with local musicians. Perfection.

The second day Fr. Shane organized a pilgrimage for our group, along with about 10 high school students from his parish’s youth group to the Aran Islands for the day. It was so wonderful to interact with the Irish Locals, particularly young people. Part of “Leap Year” was filmed on the Aran Islands, and it was the stereotypical Ireland we were yearning to see: rolling green hills with stone fences built by hand, huge cliffs and carribean blue waters. We had Mass on the Island and got to partake in some wonderful food.

Cathedral of Tuam, where Fr. Shane is.

The third day was the best: Father picked us up in Galway after shopping most of the day, drove us out by his family, and he took us to the town where “The Quiet Man” was filmed. After sun down on the drive home in rural country, we stopped in the middle of a field to see the most spectacular night sky of stars any of us had ever seen. Because we had an early flight the next morning, we stayed up and watched “The Quiet Man” with tea in front of the fireplace.
Not to mention it was sunny and didn’t rain all three days. What stuck out to me most was that everyone we met was amazing and so hospitable to us. The Irish welcomed us like we were their own family. All in all I’d say our visit to Ireland was not too shabby.

3. Near Galway is the area called “Claddagh,” the home of the Claddagh ring, so clearly I had to get one! My intention for this ring was partly aesthetics,  it’s really sweet lookin’, and partly relationship-wise. I wear it facing out which signifies that my heart is open, but at the same time, the Lord is king of my heart. Check out my previous blog on “Purity Rings” here!

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Epic pictures taken by my roommate Emily Hoffmann.

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4. After Ireland we were off to Poland. We flew in to Katowice on Thursday and planned to make it up to Czestahowa to see the “Polish Madonna” but we missed the last train and later found out that some of our fellow classmates had lots of troubles up there so we decided to nix it from the itinerary. We traveled to Krakow instead and the next day we visited Auschwitz and the Salt Mines. Walking around the camps, it was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and it was really sobering to see the living conditions to say the least. We were able to see the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe was, and a couple guys really like him so they really appreciated that.

Next we went to the Salt Mine just outside of Krakow which was a lot of fun. Our tour guide was hilarious (actually, we have been so Blessed to have top notch tour guides everywhere this trip, the Auschwitz guide was especially knowledgeable and helpful, and she has only been on the job for a year, and she looked like she just graduated college)!
Again, it didn’t work out to go to Wadowice, the home of the late Pope John Paul II as the home and museum are under renovation, or Rapka where my great-grandfather was from. At least knowing where my great grandpa was from was a great bit of trivia to pull out with all the locals 😉
So you may be wondering, what did we do if we didn’t get to all those places? Eat. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the food! Pierogis, Zurek soup, kababs, alcohol, and the desert was to die for! Finally, we finished our trip off at the Shrine of Divine Mercy a little outside Krakow on Divine Mercy Sunday! It was so cold (there was a little less than a foot of snow on the ground) and packed with people, but it was a great experience. The Polish music was stunning!
There were a couple of times when I thought “Man, I am so excited to go home and tell Grandma about my experience, she will be so proud of me!” It very quickly escapes my mind that she died this past January. It was a real gift to get to Poland, I kind of feel like I went “for” her, and it was like being at home when I could recognize and say Polish phrases that she would always say.

5. Here are a couple fun bragging links: My sister and her family were chosen to be the face of Huggies! You can see them on YouTube here (She is the one with the green&white checkered shirt). Also, I sometimes write for a monthly newsletter that is distributed in Coffee Shops around the Twin Cities and here is an article I wrote on True Freedom.

6. Yesterday we had an awesome opportunity to go to a private screening here in Rome of a new film “Little Boy.” It is by the creators of “Bella”, and has some overlapping actors with “Bella” as well. It’s about an eight year old boy who’s dad goes off to WWII and what the boy goes through to try to get him back. There are some pretty great actors, Kevin James from King of Queens and Hitch, the brother-in-law from Hitch Michael Rapaport, David Henrie from Wizards of Waverly Place, Ted Levine, and Tom Wilkinson among others. Also, really fun fact: We sat right in front of Ali Landry, she was Miss USA 1996, in Bella and Little Boy and once married to Mario Lopez but now she is married to the writer of Bella and Little Boy. I feel special. The movie is definitely a tear jerker–so be on the look out for it when it comes to theaters in the US, and let me know what you think!

7. Finally, today we all threw a surprise baby shower for our professor’s wife! It was a perfect day to celebrate a new life on the rooftop terrace of our house, eat delicious food and play ridiculous yet ridiculously entertaining games. No tears were shed until Mrs. Rota opened the gift of a bib from Medjugorje with a picture of Mary on it. We are so Catholic.

**If you are visiting from the link-up with Conversion Diary and Camp Patton, welcome, and come back soon!**

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 4)

Happy A Solemn Good Friday to you! We’re in the home stretch, y’all, until we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, but until then we must remember His Passion, suffering and Death.

1) Today marks the first day the Novena of Divine Mercy should be recited leading up to Divine Mercy Sunday. Here is a super brief synopsis, but you should look elsewhere for a more in depth story/explanation: Our Lord appeared to Sr. Faustina and told her to have the image she saw painted. Jesus also said that we should venerate the image and recite the words “Jesus, I trust in you,” and celebrate His Divine Mercy on the second Sunday of Easter. A group of us will be going to Krakow, Poland to be there for the Feast of Divine Mercy! Woot woot!

2) This past week I had a true Roman experience: a haircut. The Italians, specifically men but lots of women as well, always have their hair in tip top shape, so I decided to give it a go. The guy didn’t speak English, which I somewhat expected so I made sure to bring in pictures. It was fun and I think it turned out great! (PS. This is an action shot, I didn’t end up with a mohawk)!

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3) On Wednesday, a group of us completed a traditional “7 Church Walk” throughout Rome. In the footsteps of St. Philip Neri, we started at St. Mary Major and continued to walk about 20 miles total to the 6 other “Pilgrim Churches” around Rome, finishing at St. Peter’s Basilica. We saw a lot of Rome we hadn’t seen before, and at times it didn’t even seem like we were still in Italy, much less Rome. The saying amongst the group was “You know you have it good when you walk up to St. Peter’s and feel like you’re home.”

4) My brother came and visited me this week. We didn’t do much site-seeing, mostly just ate meals together, as he also studied in Rome during his time in college. He asked what I would most miss about Rome when I move back to the States, and the answer was definitely seeing the bodies/bones/relics of so many saints. Learning about, following their examples and almost literally walking in their footsteps has been awe-inspiring. On our 7 Church walk on Wednesday alone, we saw the tombs of St. Paul, St. Sebastian, St. Lawrence, St. Stephen, Blessed Pope John Paul II along with many other popes, and relics of St. Jerome, the manger, the true cross, the crown of thorns, a nail from Christ’s passion. Yesterday we went on another Church walk to visit 8 altars of repose after the Last Supper Mass, and saw the tombs of St. Philip Neri and St. Catherine of Siena. I know, unbelievable. We are so blessed!

5) My good friend recently introduced me to “The Staves.” They are three sisters with incredible voices and music. Check them out here. Also, have you seen this article? It’s a great take on modesty from the secular/fashion perspective. Aww yeah.

6) I have recently really gotten interested in reading scripture for the stories, ever since I was exposed to Ignatian Spiritual Exercises that the Jesuits practice. (What up Papa Francesco!) I thought it would be really sweet to read the Gospels in order of the Passion. For example, yesterday I read about Jesus’ time in Gethsemane  and the Last Supper. Today I will read the Passion and watch Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, tomorrow I will read about the Guard at the Tomb, and Sunday about the Resurrection!

7) I just found out about this initiative called “Pure Beauty Project.” The fact that so many initiatives are being started, and are thriving, in response to the lack of care and respect toward women is very telling: that women are recognizing this injustice. Amen sistas. What’s beautiful about this project in particular is that it very much reaches women in industries that are very much apart of the culture and caught up in the lifestyle that pretty much by it’s nature disrespects the feminine genius. (Have I said much too many times yet)? Check it out fo yoself! Do you know of any others that you really like? (ex. Dove Campaign, Made in His Image, Verily Magazine, etc).

Have a Blessed Triduum! Do you and your family have any traditions for the Triduum/Easter?

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 3)

Yup, it’s Monday. Va bene.

1. Well everyone, we have a new Pope. Yeah buddy. Check out my posts about Papa Benedetto and Papa Francesco. It’s been a busy week and a half to say the least.

2. A couple weeks ago we went to Siena as a whole program. Initially I was really excited to see all the sites associated with St. Catherine, but once we got there I wasn’t that impressed. The Churches weren’t as beautiful as I was expecting, her incorruptible head was really weird, and I didn’t really feel a connection to her. HOWEVER, the best moment thus far happened when we were in Siena.  We were able to adore some “incorruptible” hosts that were a result of a Eucharistic miracle. It was so beautiful and definitely an influential point on my journey thus far.

3. Last Friday we went to see Mumford and Sons in Florence. It was definitely a stereotypical college groupie road trip in a foreign country. We hopped on a train. Didn’t know where we were going. Stood in line for half the day. Didn’t know who the opening bands were. Were surrounded by drunk juveniles. Screamed, danced and jumped our little hearts out. Crashed. And left the city within 24 hours. The mosh pit was a little too much for my taste, but seeing this band perform live was worth it. The guys are so genuine and sincere in performing the songs and lyrics, they are so talented, and they were very interactive with the crowd.

4. The next day we met the rest of our group in Bologna for a field trip with our Art History professor Dr. Liz Lev. You might recognize her from her interview on the Vatican Home page or her work as the Rome correspondent for NBC during the Conclave. Yes I just shamelessly name dropped. She is originally from Boston but has been in Rome for a good 20 years now, and she did her undergrad at the U of Bologna, so she seemed like she was “home.”

5. Tuesday was both the Solemnity of St. Joseph and Pope Francis’ Installation Mass. It was in St. Peter’s Square and the most beautiful Mass I have ever attended. There were no chairs, so that was rough, but the liturgy itself was stunning. The prayers by the new Holy Father were just so heart-felt and SO Catholic! And, I don’t know how this keeps happening, but the weather was gorgeous and sunny yet again for a Papal Event outside. Awesome.

6. Sunday we were able to attend Mass for Palm Sunday with Pope Francis again in St. Peter’s Square. This time we had chairs, thank goodness. This Mass was a little harder to enter into, as we sat very far from the Altar, and there were people around us who were not the most reverent (talking, answering cell phones, smoking, yelling at us for placing our apples on the ground…etc.) But again, the Vatican hands out these like 75 page high gloss booklets with the translation of the Mass in multiple languages, and it’s so beautiful to read along and share in this experience with people from all over the world.

7. We are on Spring Break and I’m gearing up for a restful, preparatory week until the Triduum, and then a hectic awesome week in Ireland and Poland. Woohoo!

**If you are visiting from the link-up from Conversion Diary, welcome, and stop by again soon!**

Papa Francesco

Ever since the start of the Conclave (which literally means “with key”), we were all on our toes waiting for the white smoke to rise. All our plans (classes, meals, meetings, etc.) had to be tentative because we had to be ready to run to the square at a moment’s notice to meet our new Holy Father.

Since we are studying at a Pontifical University, everyone in the entire school, students and professors alike wanted to attend all the conclave events, so it was very easy to attend them all. The theme of the trip for our group has been “Perfect Timing.” Now, granted, everything happens in God’s perfect timing, but in some cases it is easier to see than others. This semester, it has been loud and clear.

1. We were able to get into the Scavi and Catacomb tours right away, when usually it takes weeks if not months to get tickets for the tour. This allowed us to learn about, get a feel for, and fall in love with the Papacy right away.

2. Pope Benedict’s resignation. We didn’t get too comfortable with Papal events or Pope Benedict. We were all caught off guard for sure, but we are all confident the fact that the resignation and Conclave happened while our specific group is studying here was planned by God from the beginning of time. Weird, eh?

3. Pope Benedict’s last public Mass fell on Ash Wednesday. This meant we were able to see him and it, and we already had tickets. His last audience fell on my birthday. Awesome.

4. Every semester, the Chaplin Fr. Corolla takes the students on a Silent Retreat on the same lake as Castel Gandolpho. This semester the retreat fell just after Pope Benedict emeritus moved there, so we were able to be there while he was there, and join our prayers to his, and pray especially for him.

5. We usually have Community Nights on Wednesdays, so changing our night so that we could all be in the square to see the smoke go up was not a problem. Little did we know, the Lord would bless us with the opportunity to see the white smoke go up, and meet our new Holy Father with all of our fellow classmates. It was unforgettable that’s for sure.

6. A group of us bought tickets to see Mumford and Sons in Florence on March 15 before we even got to Rome. We would have bought the tickets to see them in Rome on March 16, but they were sold out. Little did we know our Art History professor had planned a field trip to Bologna for March 16-17. Had we bought the Rome tickets for the 16th, we would not have been able to attend. Wabam.

Supes cray, right? Maybe you don’t think so, but we sure do. And there are plenty more examples of this, but I won’t bore you anymore in this post.

So, we were in the square when the white smoke finally went up. The cheers and excitement was unbelievable. Our professor this semester has two girls ages 9 and 6 and I spent the evening in the square with them. It was such a gift to witness these girls’ childlike faith and excitement at a new Holy Father. I got to carry Hannah, the younger one, on my shoulder the whole night so that she could see what was going on in the massive crowd. It was raining the whole evening so everyone had their umbrellas up, less than ideal, but the Lord pulled through yet again, and the rain stopped as they were announcing our dear Papa Francesco.

The City of Rome also put up posters to welcome Papa Francesco.

Wonder what it was like to be present for such momentousness news? See for yourself…