In Spring 2014, I spent the second half of my sophomore year at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center. I knew from the day I committed to Loyola that I wanted to study abroad in Rome. The history, the food, the people, and the beauty of the country will move many hearts who visit Italy, and what better city to give you an up-close-and-personal with the Catholic Intellectual Heritage?
You can’t help but notice all the churches in Rome. Some hug the streets and the pedestrians, others are tucked away in courtyards behind piazze with secrets to share. But each of them has its own character, despite all the marble motifs their façades share. My FNAR 342: Art in Rome course at the John Felice Rome Center with Dr. John Nicholson taught me to see how a history preserved and communicated itself.
Those monuments and houses of worship share a message in their very stonework that comes to us from the artistic and theological tastes of the people who built them, people who share the same faith in Christ hundreds of years before us, and over a thousand years after the first disciples. The class taught me how to observe, study, and understand the Catholic Intellectual Tradition in present with us. What I learned from those churches is that that tradition and the faith that gives life to it are embodied in the people, the frescoes, the stones, the liturgy, and the artistic form that gave rise to them and their history. As it turns out, Christ was embodied, too, so it made sense in those surroundings to study the intellectual tradition in an up-close-and-personal way. We integrated classroom exams (necessary for any college course) with excursions into the city to see the great works of art that are a physical part of that tradition.
Of course, Catholic Studies are interdisciplinary. I was fortunate enough to take PHIL 277: Aesthetic Experience in Rome while I was there as well. I had ample material to write and reflect on in my philosophy class. While we studied the human experience and thought on beauty, Rome’s art and architecture provided us with paradigmatic examples of beautiful artifice put to something I imagine Ignatius appreciated: drawing people close to God through telling the world of God’s glory.