We're 26 strong--I think; I'm not sure, because we've had some...casualties. We all met in Rome on Monday night; but one of our number came down with the flu and didn't join us on the jump over to Turkey. Then, yesterday, one of our priests fell and broke his arm; by now, he's back in Calgary, Alberta, where he faces surgery and many weeks of therapy. Get well, Father Bob!
Our group includes three priests of Indian origin, three Mexicans, one Chilean and one Vietnamese, and one more Canadian--and, I think, an Australian; to be honest, I haven't talked with everyone yet. Most--including the Vietnamese, Mexican and Indians, are priests in the U.S. We're from all over the country, as you might expect, and we range in age from about 40 to the 70s.
Whenever priests get together, we tend to be jovial and tell a lot of jokes; we tell horror stories about weddings, baptisms and the like. So it is with our group.
Tonight, we stayed in a Hilton! The restaurant was just like home; we had a buffet with mainly Italian food. The red sauce was pretty weak, but overall it was good. The cheese and olives were outstanding, and (you may have to think about this to appreciate this): prosciutto! Great heaping mounds of it! That, plus good Parmesan cheese and crusty bread? Oh, heaven!
Here is a view from the balcony:
I meant to post this last night, but I couldn't post the picture, above, from my iPad, nor could I get Internet access for my iPad to send it to my laptop. Now, in Konya, I am having no difficulties with the Internet.
So what happened since last night?
This morning yours truly was the celebrant and homilist at Holy Mass, in the Capuchin church in Mersin, Turkey. Here are some pictures:
The gentleman in front of the church gates is the Polish Capuchin priest who met us to get us set up. It's illegal for him to wear his habit outside his church property.
Here are some photos from our visit to "Saint Paul's Well" in Tarsus -- which is called that because it dates to his time. (We actually visited this earlier on Saturday, but I only now got the photos where I wanted them.) The second photo is of ruins of a home near the well, dating to the same period. Could that be where Saint Paul grew up?
|Father Rudolfo, who is from the Diocese of Saint Augustine, samples the water.|
And since I'm on a photo-uploading kick (and the connection is pretty good), here are some more:
These are the ruins of a Byzantine monastery or pilgrim shrine from the sixth century that we visited. You can't tell from this just how steep, narrow and twisty the climb was. When we got up there, the local fellow told us ours was the biggest bus that'd ever gotten up there. And when we got out, and saw the narrow area where the bus was, we wondered just how he would turn around.
Here is the bus driver making the attempt:
You can't tell from this photo -- because I didn't snap it at the right moment -- that the bus's front end was extended over the precipice as it began to turn. That edge you see conceals a pretty steep embankment. I confess I had trouble watching him do this. But he made it! And, since I'm writing this, you know that he also made it down. I was praying to our angels as we descended.
If you look at a map of Turkey, find Mersin, down on the Mediterranean coast, then look for Konya north of it. You'll notice a range of mountains called the Taurus Mountains. We crossed those today, reaching a point where we had snow and no more trees. (I know, I know, folks back home are buried in snow; but this was the first we'd seen.) Before we reached the mountains, we passed through the Seleph, or Goksu, River Valley, where Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, as part of the Third Crusade, led a vast army on the way to the Holy Land. Alas, His Imperial Majesty drowned in this river on June 10, AD 1190. Here is that valley:
Well, after evading death by drowning and falling, we came to a restaurant in a small town where we were served the most delicious lamb and goat (lamb heart is delicious!). And guess what? They brought us wine and beer. It was simple, yet the best we've had yet. That was our last stop before arriving in Konya, once known as Iconium, a bit ago. Now that I've updated you, dear reader, it's almost time for dinner!