Dom John is currently studying in Italy and has sent an interesting update on his studies. 

Padua is located in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. It is a delightful city, home to one of the oldest universities in the world, founded in 1222. As a result, the place feels very young: going out for an aperitivo – Aperol Spritz is to be recommended – before cena in the arcaded streets, but it can be difficult to find anyone over the age of thirty. Nevertheless, the youthful spirit of this modest city (Padua has a population of around 214,000) is equally matched by the devotion to the thirteenth century Portuguese Franciscan, Saint Anthony of Padua, who died in the city in 1231.

The Pontifical Basilica of Saint Anthony has many architectural styles, including Gothic and Romanesque. Inside, the most impressive section is surely the baroque Treasury Chapel, which houses many relics of St Anthony, including his chin and tongue. My visit to the Scrovegni chapel was a particular highlight. The frescoes by Giotto are a vivid portrayal of the life of Christ and Our Lady and are considered an important masterpiece in Western art.

I stayed in the tenth century monastery of Santa Giustina located in front of the Prato della Valle. The Abbey Church is most impressive and boasts many treasures, including the relics of St Giustina and the Evangelist St Luke. The monastery was occupied by Napoleon’s army in the late eighteenth century with the monastic community eventually expelled and the building sold to the military. Today the Italian military still occupies part of the site, so that there is the strange of experience of hearing the Italian national anthem played over loudspeakers at a little after eight in the morning and evening.

Most of my time in Padua has been taken up with learning Italian. Classes were in the morning and included homework to be completed in the afternoon. It is a great opportunity to be taught Italian by native Italian speakers as well as to interact and learn about other cultures from fellow students – the other two in my class came from Japan and Korea.

As I finish the Italian course, I head down to Rome to begin the Orientation Week at Sant’Anselmo, the international Benedictine College. Here I will continue my studies in a Benedictine setting as well as experiencing life in the heart of the Catholic Church. The past month has been a timely reminder to me that one never really knows where a vocation will end up taking you.

To find out more about a monastic vocation, follow this link.