Dear Friends,

 Well, it’s been 10 days since we arrived in Rome and it’s time for a little news. Because of the snow storms on the East Coast, our fight into New York, where we were to get our fight to Rome, was cancelled. We were able to get another flight going through Amsterdam but it was a few hours late taking off so we missed our connecting flight in Amsterdam. Eventually we got there and are happy with the place where we are staying, a one bedroom apartment near the Vatican.

 The weather here has been warmer than it usually is this time of year. Some days it is sunny all day and may hit 60 degrees Fahrenheit—a good change from Michigan!  Anne and I have been doing a lot of walking to find the best routes to the places we will need to go. One is the Angelicum, the university where I’ll be working on my doctoral dissertation and where Anne also will be taking a course on St. Thomas Aquinas and prayer. It’s about a 45 minute walk but if the weather is nice very doable. There is a bus that runs right by our apartment that gets to within about a half mile of the university, so that is an option also.

 It really helped to be welcomed to Rome by a newly ordained priest at the North American College (NAC) here where seminarians sent by their dioceses to study in Rome live. I had just met the priest this past fall when he came through Ann Arbor. We both have the same director for our academic work and he suggested we meet as we are both interested in similar topics. He invited us to join the priests and seminarians at the NAC for Sunday Mass and brunch—our first Sunday here, which was really nice. Next Sunday we’ve been invited to Mass and brunch at the “Casa” where American priests who are working on their doctorates live. There are three priests from the Archdiocese of Detroit studying here and we look forward to visiting with them. I did meet with my dissertation director (they call him “moderator” here) and he gave me feedback on a chapter I had sent to him for his review. He liked it—which was a happy discovery! There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks be to God!

 A few days after we got here, I had to fly to London to give some talks and tape a TV presentation on Catherine of Siena. An amazing discovery was Ryan Air—a discount air carrier that flies all over Europe. The round trip cost of the flight was $79 (US  dollars). It cost more to take a round trip taxi to and from the airport!!! Amazing!

 The time in London was wonderful. I gave talks to an annual meeting for leaders in the Catholic charismatic renewal, some of whom I’ve known for a long time and have been serving the Lord faithfully, and some quite new, but quite committed to the work of the Lord.

 While I was gone and Anne went exploring on her own and did some grocery shopping, she became convinced that she needed more Italian than we had managed to study before we arrived here. So she is now going to an Italian class for three hours a day for a month. I’m continuing to study on my own but can’t do the three hours with my main reason for being here taking more time.

 One of the amazing things about Rome is that on “almost every corner” there’s another saint buried in some church. We met an Irish missionary priest who took us on a little walking tour of one neighborhood where we visited the churches and graves where Saints Catherine of Siena, Robert Bellarmine, and Gaspar de Bufalo (an Italian preacher) were buried, as well as the church where St. Maximillian Kolbe said his first Mass and where Mary appeared to the Jewish intellectual Alphonse Ratisbonne who converted to Catholicism and formed a new order in the Church. We also passed by a Francisca monastery where the bodies of two of the apostles, brought back from the Holy Land during the Moslem invasions are buried. I think he said they are Simon and Jude, but am not sure. The communion of saints is very real here.

 Today we did some laundry and are hanging it outside to dry on a little balcony since there is no dryer available to this apartment. Tomorrow I’m going to an Italian dentist – part of a filling fell out of one of my teeth. I’m hoping nothing needs to be done here and it can wait until I get home.

 More later! Thanks for your prayers that our mission here is accomplished and we make it back to good old North America alive!  Our return date is June 16th.

 Your brother in Christ,

Ralph Martin