St. Paul, The Catacombs and Our Life with God

CommunionToday, we began the morning with a bus trip to the Catacombs, where the early Christians buried their dead, occasionally found sanctuary from Roman persecution, and preserved the faith. There are several catacombs in close proximity to Rome. The one we visited has a total of 12 miles of caves, crypts and narrow passageways. We celebrated communion together and reflected on the strength and courage of the early Christians. I was surprised by two responses I had not anticipated. First, I was surprised at how deeply moved I was by the reality of being in a place of Christian witness and martyrdom. Second, I began to ponder again the important role legal status plays in a society. There is no denying the fact that the Edict of Milan in 313 gave the early Christians the status they needed to launch the cultural heritage that has played a vast part in world civilization. But there are unremitting complexities here and work to be done that can never be finished.


After the Catacombs, we headed to the Church of St. Paul Outside the Wall, the apostle’s final resting place. It is a glorious church and utterly evocative, both aesthetically and spiritually. We spent time thinking together about Paul’s letter to the Romans. As we discussed its contents, my mind began to wonder at its impact: Augustine’s conversion, Luther’s insight that gave rise to the Reformation, Barth’s complete change of outlook that led to the Barmen Declaration and the rise of the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany, and so many others. Clearly, the book of Romans is one of the most influential books of the Bible in the 2,000-year history of the church.

Church of St. PaulSt. Pauls - InteriorAltar















From St. Paul’s we headed to a late lunch. Our family had made prearrangements to meet history professor Alister Chapman and his wife, Margaret, and their four children at Trevi Fountain for gelato and a visit to a local museum. They are “camping” outside of Rome in ways reminiscent of how Alister camped while growing up in Britain. What a delightful family.

From the fountain area, we headed back across Angel Bridge to our hotel for our final dinner before heading home tomorrow. Tonight, as we enjoyed our last supper, we reflected on the trip and consolidated some of our memories and experiences. I have really enjoyed the balance of intellectual stimulation, cultural enhancement, aesthetic enjoyment and spiritual nourishment that has marked the trip. Teri Bradford Rouse, our senior director of alumni and parent relations, deserves a huge expression of thanks for putting together the perfect Westmont-type trip. I appreciate the companions who joined us—there are so many really wonderful people. Tonight we sat with Alex and Denise Goglanian and their son, Abram, a Brooks graduate. Their twin daughters, Adrina and Alexa, will be juniors at Westmont this year. Alex’s parents were both born in Jerusalem and immigrated to Chicago in 1948. Eventually, they migrated to California. They have so many rich experiences and stories. I was just fascinated to hear more and spend time with this wonderful family.

Across the room, we could see Steve and Linda Engdahl, parents of 2013 graduate Emily Engdahl and members of the Parents Council. I have loved working with Steve and Linda. They are the consummate Westmont parents who continue to live in Minneapolis, are great professionals and great people.

Then there is Don and Judy Nason. Don, trained as a physicist at UC Berkeley and Stanford, spent much of his career living and working in Australia. They now live in Goleta. Judy is a member of the class of 1960.

Then there is Phil and Helen Harvey. Quiet and soft-spoken, Phil spent his career as a chemical engineer and an economic analyst with Chevron. They lived for many years in the East Bay before moving to Redding. Helen spent a year at Westmont in the mid-1950s, and their daughter graduated in the class of 1984.

Chuck and Melani Beauchamp live in Salem, Ore., but met years ago when they were both in the military. Chuck is a native of Puerto Rico, and they added a lot of perspective to the trip. Their daughter will be a senior at Westmont this year.

Bob and Ann Marie King are Westmont parents who come from Carpinteria and also traveled with us in 2010. They are wonderful, caring people who take good care of each other. They have three daughters who graduated from Westmont: Diane King, class of 1988, Laura Vivanco, class of 1990, and Sharon Collier, class of 1992.

There are others, a few of whom I’ll mention here: Susan Merritt and Laura Diaz. Susan is a career military chaplain, an alumna and a veteran of our 2010 trip. Laura, a member of the 2010 class and now teaching at an International school in Panama, has been an absolute delight.

Jim Hall and his son and daughter-in-law, Jim Jr. and Sarah Hall, along with Sharon Soper and Lois and Michelle Hopkins were also a part of this great band of people. Jim Sr. is an alumnus from the class of 1962 and a great person, as are his son and daughter-in-law.

All in all, a great group and a great trip.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up this series of blogs with a final post, blog No. 12. Until then, blessings and good night.

Gayle D. Beebe

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