Brother Anthony Ariniello is one of the most recognizable and intriguing figures to hit the streets of Rome in recent years. But the monk with a high-speed habit is about to leave the Eternal City.
“When I pass by, people often exclaim, ‘Wow, now that’s a modern monk!’” laughs the 32-year-old, originally from Boulder, Colorado.
Br. Ariniello uses his rollerblades as a practical way of getting to school and to pray at St. Peter’s Basilica. “They're practical, economical and ecological,” he said of the skates that have earned him his Roman persona—“the rollerblading monk.”
His modern appearance aside, Br. Ariniello thinks there’s more to the surprised looks he gets when he tears through Rome’s streets.
“Perhaps they've never been face to face with a disciple of Christ before, let alone a religious. I myself once stereotyped the Church as outdated. Then I had my first personal encounter with a bishop and that was one-on-one for a game of racquetball! Then I began to really listen to the Church, and I found it full of life.”
That game of racquetball began a journey for Br. Ariniello that finds him on the verge of becoming a priest with one of the Church’s newest communities, The Community of the Beatitudes.
“It was in 1997 at World Youth Day in Paris that I first heard the Lord’s voice calling me to priesthood. That’s something I’d never considered before because of my desire to be married. But I then realized that the priesthood is another kind of marriage,” Br. Ariniello told CNA.
So a year later, Br. Ariniello left his philosophy studies at the University of Notre Dame to enter the new archdiocesan seminary in Denver, Colo. After four years of discernment, though, he said he felt God calling him in a slightly different direction.
“As a diocesan seminarian I was growing with the new intuitions of the Church. For example - the role of the family, the call of the poor, the rediscovery of the Jewish roots of our faith, as well as our relationship with eastern Orthodox churches.”
“So, for example, I learned that we can rediscover not only the Old Testament but the living Jewish people in their personal prayer. We can discover an icon not just as something beautiful but also how Orthodox people relate to an icon. These were the things I was discovering.”
And it was those insights which led him to join the Community of the Beatitudes in 2002.
Founded 29 years earlier in France, the community grew out of the Charismatic movement. It gathers together priests, nuns, married couples and single people into local groups that share a common prayer and community life.
“Even if members of the community have a job outside, the first thing in their life is the time of liturgical prayer, of personal silent prayer and a time of brotherly sharing or welcoming guests, or of going out on mission to proclaim the Gospel,” explained Br. Ariniello.
The community’s spirituality is Eucharistic and Marian, while also drawing inspiration from the Carmelite tradition.
Indeed, Br. Ariniello has a particular fondness for the 19th century French Carmelite nun, St. Therese of Lisieux, and is studying theological anthropology at the Carmelite’s institute in Rome, the Teresianum.
While in Rome he’s also witnessed the community’s attempt to find an appropriate place within the existing structure of the Church.
“New communities have borne much fruit for the Church, but they can also bear problems,” he observed.
“For example, where do some new communities fit into the canons of the new code of Canon Law?”
After requesting some adjustments to their structures, such as creating distinct branches for women and men, the Vatican now classifies the Community of the Beatitudes under the category of “new forms of consecrated life.”
As for Br. Ariniello, he has completed his Roman studies and will be ordained a deacon in France later this year. He’ll then return to Denver to the community’s parish and school, before his priestly ordination back in France next June.
Rest assured, he’ll be taking his rollerblades with him wherever he goes.
“The Spirit makes all things new! Witnessing to that new life can begin with simple signs. Church bells and facades are nice, but the post-modern plaza needs personal faces … a nun with a smile, a family with four kids or a monk on skates!”