A Roman Thanksgiving

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How many of you had pumpkin ravioli as your primi piatto on Thanksgiving Day, or did a Turkey Trot around the walls of Vatican City?

As seminarians studying in Rome we are not able to make it home for the holiday, but we do have our own unique celebration at the North American College. We unite in spirit with our fellow Americans by setting aside the busyness of everyday work to gather with our seminary family and offer thanks to God for his many blessings in our lives.

The day begins with an early-morning 5K around the nearby walls of Vatican City, affectionately known as the “Turkey Trot.” Following the race, we gather in the lounges in our respective halls for a home-cooked breakfast and American coffee.

Later that morning, the entire seminary community gathers together to celebrate the Eucharist. This is not an accident of scheduling, as it is in the Mass that we are united together as one family in Christ. Providing additional meaning to the holiday is the awareness that the Greek word eucharistia is translated as thankfulness, or to give thanks, and so it is truly fitting that we gather together to offer the perfect prayer of thanksgiving to God for all of the blessings he has given us.

Following Mass, everyone — including the seminary staff and guests — listen to the current president’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, and enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal complete with homemade pumpkin pie. Following the meal, we relax, watch holiday movies and call home to speak with our families. We end the day as a community with vespers in the chapel.

This year, the holiday had particular significance for the Arlington men in Rome as we were joined by two of our fellow seminarians who are studying in Madrid — Elder Maldonado and Mauricio Portillo — along with visiting Vocations Director Father Michael Isenberg and Arlington priest Father Daniel Hanley, who serves as admissions director for the seminary here. We sat together as a diocesan family for Thanksgiving dinner, which added to the festive environment.

Despite the non-traditional location for celebrating this American holiday, Thanksgiving in Rome is always an atmosphere of joy and gratitude for God’s many blessings, particularly those of family and friends.

Townsend, who is from St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg, is in his third year of theology studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018