June 17, 2013
This morning our group had free time to explore Rome before embarking on our cruise. Some members of our group went in different small groups for a walk, or to a final destination that they wanted to see.
My group decided to take a trip to the Capuchin Crypt in downtown Rome. (The Capuchins are an offshoot of the Franciscan order.) We explored the museum, learning about the life of the Capuchin Friars. We saw several key artifacts, including the legendary “bleeding Christ,” thought to be given as a gift to one friar by the devil, which led him to conversion. We also saw the cords used by the brothers in self-flagellation for holy penance.
We were able to see the five crypts of bones from the holy friars. These crypts were made up of one bone selected from each corpse, such as a skull, a pelvis, a thigh, etc. Many bones are nailed to the walls in intricate patterns, piled high among countless others, while others hang from the ceiling as light fixtures. Originally conceived as a way to save space in the monastery, today they serve as a preservation of monastic life, a beautiful art form, and a call to embrace our own mortality: “As these are, so you shall become.”
We were told that the Capuchins regard the body as a holy instrument that would have the soul only for a short period of time. They were not afraid of death, but instead embraced it as the road leading to a greater heavenly reality. Therefore, life is but a phase of transition.
After our various excursions we boarded the Reflection, the name of our Celebrity cruise ship. It is the third-newest cruise ship in the world and can house more than 1,500 staff and 3,200 cruise guests. Guests on our ship speak at least ten different languages, while the staff speak closer to 70. Everyone on ship participated in a required muster drill (emergency drill). After apparently passing muster, we relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the evening.
The extroverts in our group are able to go to events and seminars every minute of the trip, if they so desire, while the introverts can relax, read, journal, or spend time at the pool, the sauna, the spa, or the solarium. This evening many of us enjoyed various shows, socials, and music . . . after a hearty and delicious four-course meal. More importantly, we are learning that we are able to get to know people from around the world and can also spend more time with our own AMBS community on board the ship.
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Welcome to this window on the 2013 Mediterranean Cruisetour. As Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president, and Loren Johns, AMBS professor of New Testament, and 43 other travelers explore the places where the Apostle Paul traveled, they will share photos and reports here. Come back to this space for what we hope will be daily snapshots in words and photos of what the group is experiencing.
Visit Menno Travel to learn more about the Cruisetour.