Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Earlier this month, I was part of a trio of Mobile seminarians that travelled to Normandy, France.  We saw a whole bunch of very interesting things.

Pat, Travis, and I in Normandy
Having recently visited Sicily, and being intrigued by Norman culture in general, I was looking forward to seeing more classically "Norman" sites, so we saw some old Norman ruins, as well as the Bayeux Tapestry (which chronicles the Norman conquest of England).

Arab-Norman style from Monreale, Sicily
Ruins of Abbaye de Jumièges (back)

Arab-Norman style
from Cefalù, Sicily
Ruins of Abbaye de Jumièges

I don't know how apparent it is from my pictures, but there are a lot of similarities between the Norman architecture of France and the Arab-Norman architecture of Sicily.  The most striking difference is the colors of the stone.  In Sicily, pietrarosa (pink stone) is everywhere, while in Normandy, white limestone is in abundance.  Anyway, this stuff is very interesting to me, but we saw other stuff too, which might be more interesting to less "Norman-conscious" people:

We naturally spent a lot of time touring the D-Day beaches, particularly Omaha Beach.

Overlooking Omaha Beach
Visiting the American Cemetery at age 26, I realized in a very profound way that the majority of the graves around me were the graves of men younger than I.

I always was awed by the sacrifice that they made, but only in visiting the place did I realize how young they were.  They gave not only their lives, but their years of youth, for people who lived thousands of miles away.

Another thing I couldn't help but notice is the incredible gratitude felt by the people of the region for the sacrifices of the Allied Forces.  You see it in the people themselves (who are very kind and welcoming--so much for French stereotypes), but even in the scenery.  Most of the damage has been repaired, the wreckage and "hedgehogs" cleared, the churches rebuilt, but certain sites are still maintained with great care.

Craters/ruined batteries at Point du Hoc
In addition, remnants of the Mulberry harbor off Arromanches, bomb craters at Point du Hoc, and scattered ruined German batteries all remain as silent but ominous reminders of the battle fought there.  The D-Day sites were a very powerful element of our trip.

Sunset over a German battery
On our last day we visited Lisieux, home of St. Therese.  She is a beautiful saint from the 19th century, who has so much to teach us about the nature of love: "I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifices to all ecstasies.  To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul."

Pat, Travis, and I at the Basilica of St. Therese of Lisieux
Love is something done in the ordinary, small, and even repetitive things we do throughout the day.  As another Theresa, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would later say, "do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

Related photo, but subject matter no less random:
Pat and I race around the inside of a crater at Point du Hoc

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I've got a couple longer posts in the works right now, but until they're finished, here are some Halloween pictures to entertain you:

Another seminarian and I decided to dress up as Mario and Luigi.  We came up with the idea back in April or May:  it was the perfect plan.  First of all, his name actually is Mario.  Second, we're both the right size to portray the sibling plumbers.  Finally, he normally wears a beard, and I already had the moustache.  So, he was just going to cut his beard into a moustache, and voila: Super Mario Bros.

But, there was a big complication - I shaved my moustache a month before Halloween, and I had [have] no intention of growing it back.  Luckily, the costumes we got came each with a fake moustache.  This just made the act even funnier when we presented our costumes for the NAC costume contest.

Mario proceeded as planned and cut his beard, but to solve my predicament, I just came on stage without facial hair - Mario was aghast, and asked, "how can we save the Princess if you don't have a moustache?" [in the appropriate Italian accent].  I slowly came to the realization that I was lacking the necessary hirsute appendage and also began to panic.  In the hysteria, I reached off stage and found the moustache, which I put on with much ceremony.

We won!

The crowd (seminarians and priests) loved it, especially since everyone around here seems to miss the moustache a great deal.  It was sort of like the farewell party they never got to have.