Greetings from Rome!

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Greetings from Rome!

I am a first year seminarian at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome, located near the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls. It’s hard to believe that I have been in Rome for almost three months - the time has gone quickly, but already there has been much to do and see.

Mangiare adagio e masticare bene – “Eat slowly and chew well”.

These are the words that hang in the refectory of a retreat house just outside of Rome, used by English speaking seminarians, including those of us from the Beda. Good advice for a dining room, and especially with all the feasting that takes place leading up to and including Christmas. These were also the words used by our Rector, Fr Phillip Gillespie, as he welcomed the first year students during our induction in September.

While the food here is good, he was referring more to the formation that is in front of us - human, academic, spiritual and pastoral.

There is something exciting about the opportunity that I have been given to prepare for priesthood here in the eternal city, where the location itself offers so much to enrich the experience.

When Pope St John Paul II studied for his doctorate here as a newly ordained priest he was advised to “learn Rome itself, rather than simply study in Rome.” I have been fortunate to be able to spend some time doing just that, visiting numerous sites of pilgrimage with my classmates or on my own, such as; the major basilicas, Tre Fontane where St Paul was martyred, and the catacombs of St Callistus – all significant places for the early church which make me reflect on the total, selfless response of the early Christians to their invitation to faith.

These past few months have been an interesting time to be in Rome too with the Synod on the family and the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy creating a sense of excitement and hope, giving all in the church the opportunity to reflect on the response we are called to make today in building God’s kingdom in an inclusive and loving way.

While I’m looking forward to my first Christmas in the northern hemisphere, I will miss not being in Tassie with my family and many friends from across the Archdiocese – priests, religious, parishioners, staff of the diocesan centre and agencies - who have been so supportive of me in taking this step towards a priestly vocation. Be assured that you are in my heart and prayers at this time.

May the coming Christmas season be for you a time to “eat slowly and chew well,” not just your Christmas lunch, but time spent well with loved ones.

I wish you all the best for a happy and holy Christmas, and every blessing for a joy filled new year.

By Ben Brooks