Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pilgrimage to Italy Wrap-up

During my recent pilgrimage to Italy, I had hoped to give more timely reports. However, I had two problems: first, I did not have internet access as often or consistently as I hoped; second, when I did, the photos uploaded very slowly.

We were on the go; generally up around 6:30 or 7 am each day, and the only good time to post was on the bus; but the Internet connection phased in and out. By the time dinner wrapped up, it was usually 9 pm or even later; I should have done my posts then, but I kept hoping for better prospects the following day.

Some of this will be repetitive, sorry! But if I don't get all this done today, I never will.

Our first pilgrimage visit was Monte Cassino, where St. Benedict founded his first monastery, and where he and his sister, St. Scholastica, are buried. Here is the high altar:

And here is a monument, beneath that altar, marking the remains -- which are in a crypt below; we had Mass there; but I didn't take pictures, sorry!

Some art from the monastery:

A statue of Charlemagne that caught my eye. The courtyard had statues of kings on one side, and popes on the other.

A view of a cemetery near the monastery, where are buried many brave Poles who helped win a terrible battle here in World War II. The Allies struggled hard to dislodge the Nazis from this mountain; in the process the monastery was bombed by the Allies.

These next three photos are a poor man's panorama of the Bay of Sorrento:

This is the Cathedral in Amalfi where St. Andrew's remains are venerated.

People who received healings prayed for would bring silver items as expressions of thanks. The votive offerings are in the shape of the body part that was healed. There were many more display cases of such offerings.

Here we are taking a boat across to the Isle of Capri.

Here is a view of the walking path up to where we were, followed by several other pics of Capri.

By the way, if you are wondering about other things we saw, what this shows is that I am not a very good picture-taker. 

This floor was in a church in Capri -- at least, I think that's where it was! It depicts Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. Curiously, it does not seem to take into account the Tree of Life, but perhaps I am missing something. No one is allowed to walk on the floor; note the boards around the perimeter. Obviously this church is not used very often.

Here is Padre Saint Pio's school in his home town:

A view from Pietrelcina, where young Pio grew up:

After Mass in the parish church -- where Saint Pio offered his first Mass -- I went out for lunch; I launched out on my own (but was joined by several fellow pilgrims later). I asked someone to point me toward something "authentic"; and in the restaurant, I asked for something typical of the region. That resulted in the following two dishes. This was a kind of potato pancake, with pork meat and mushrooms in a kind of stew, with tomatoes, as you can see. It was very tasty; but if you think all Italian food is highly spiced, you would be mistaken; this was very mild (but not bland).

This was pumpkin ravioli. It was good; but not my favorite thing.

After our visit to Pietrelcina, we drove over to the Adriatic Coast, to Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano. This church is built over a cave, where the Archangel appeared a really long time ago. (If it seems like this post is being written in haste, you are correct. I started it around 10:30 am; it is now 2:19 pm; lots of coming and going on my first day back in the office; I am not going to let this post remain unfinished today!)  There is a thing about the "Sword of St. Michael," that connects to this place; look it up and form your own opinion.

Here's the grotto. We had Mass in the sanctuary to the right.

Here's the altar where I wanted to offer Mass:

This again was Monte Sant'Angelo:

Here is one of the more memorable meals. The dish to the right was called Pancotto Montanaro. I went crazy for this. Just now I typed that name into the search engine, hoping I would find out more about it. No luck! If anyone has any information, I'd like to hear more. I'd like to recreate this dish, if possible.

This was a meal we had in Lanciano, where we had Mass in the presence of a famous Eucharistic miracle. Unawares, we arrived at this restaurant before it actually was open for business, but the staff graciously took care of us. This was a seafood pasta:

That restaurant:

There was a second Eucharistic miracle in Lanciano -- who knew? A local pointed us in the right direction. This is the church...

Here is a shrine to the miracle. We could only look in through a plexiglass window.

This, I believe, is the church where the second miracle occurred:

This is a memorial to the war dead in Lanciano:

OK, now we're in Rome. I took even fewer pictures, sorry! This is from the Church of the Gesu, which is the Jesuit "mother church" in Rome. They have something special they do at 5:30 pm every day, about which Father Stechschulte was rather cryptic. It was called the "Baroque Machine."

Well, here's what happens. All attention is given to the tomb of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (i.e., Jesuits); a narration is given -- in Italian -- during which different portions of the elaborate tomb are lit. I am guessing the narration included some brief information about St. Ignatius, but mostly it sounded like scripture passages or prayers.

The climax comes when the portrait of St. Ignatius is drawn down, to reveal a statue of the saint. Here is a before and after:

Here is the ceiling of the Gesu. No photo can do it justice.

One day we took a trip out of Rome to Civita di Bagnoregio. The town is atop a steep hill, reachable only by a narrow footpath which donkeys can navigate; but also really small police cars. The Wikipedia page linked above tells the story.

Here's the town square:

Here is the wild boar I ate. Delicious!

This was the papal audience. Everyone is looking to see where the popemobile was...

And here's the pope:

OK, those are all the photos I have. It was a wonderful trip!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

'Ask, ask and keep asking!' (Sunday homily)

As you know, I just returned from being away almost two weeks.
Some people called it a vacation; but as I told someone the other day,
My idea of a vacation is that I sleep late and take it easy.

But on the pilgrimage I made to parts of Italy, Rome above all,
The group did not take it easy. 
We were up early; we had Holy Mass every day;
And we walked a lot, including on the Appian Way, 
the very same road Saint Peter and Paul used to enter Rome.

The first reading describes the return of God’s People
Back to their homeland, the land God promised them,
from the faraway places to which they had been driven 
by war and persecution.
It refers to blind and lame people making the journey;
Mothers with children in their arms.

They did not have planes and buses. 
They journeyed across hundreds of miles, mostly on foot.
In other words, they had to want it; really want it.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel, blind Bartimaeus hears Jesus coming.
He cries out, Son of David, help me! 
They try to silence him, but he only shouted all the more.
Bartimaeus really wanted it.

Every day you and I get out of bed. We go through our morning rituals. 
Then many of us to school, or work, or our chores at home.

Why do we do it? 
I don’t particularly enjoy brushing my teeth every day; 
but I do like actually having teeth – so I take care of them!

You may not enjoy school; so your parents supply the desire.
That is, they tell you, “you’re going; end of discussion.”

The point I am making is that with the things we do in life, 
sometimes the desire, the motivation, comes easy, 
other times not so much. But they don’t happen without it.

Our students who compete so well in sports; 
that doesn’t happen only on the strength of a little effort, 
a small helping of desire.

When all we have is just a little bit of want-to, 
the result is a list of things we wish we’d done, but we never do.

Changes we wish we’d made in our lives.
Places we wish we’d gone; 
people we wish we’d gotten to know, or stayed in touch with; 
ways we wish we’d made ourselves better – 
and we could have done it, you know?
But, well, we never got around to it.

I have lots of those regrets; and they are the worst things to have.

So my question is, are there things on that list for you?
Things you want to do, or to change, but oh! 
You just can’t find enough motivation 
and stick-to-it-tive-ness to see it through?
One of the things many, many people find discouraging 
is that they trip over the same sins over and over again.
You aren’t alone! Everyone struggles with this!

And St. Terese, the Little Flower, made a great point about this, 
because this bothered her, too.
She realized that if God took away these sins too quickly, 
then she would be tempted to spiritual pride; 
and that was a far greater danger!

However frustrating it is, facing those same sins again and again 
teaches us that you and I cannot save ourselves.
Even more important is the getting back up, again and again.
That teaches us perseverance.

So, let’s get back to those things we know we ought to tackle, 
Those changes, those habits, those resolves, 
that we never get around to.
How often people will say, “Oh, if only I had enough motivation.”

The answer is, that comes from Jesus Christ.
That’s what the second reading is about: He came to our rescue.

So I’m going to propose something very simple; ridiculously simple.
Are you ready?
If you have a vice you can’t break, or a project you can’t get going; 
or you want to begin a new habit, but you can’t get started…

Ask Jesus to give you the desire.
Ask for it!

Are you prepared to go to Jesus and confess that you are weak?
Absurdly weak, flat-on-your-back weak? You can’t do it! But he can.
It is very humbling, even humiliating, to do that; 
But it is the necessary starting point. 

Ask, ask, and keep asking!
Be like Bartimaeus and cry out all the louder.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Coming home tomorrow

It has been a wonderful trip. I am sorry not to update more often, but we have been on yhe go, so opportunities to write posts and upload photos have been too few. Up early everyday and out and about. Back late and a need for bed. For some reason, photos have loadec very slowly -- and those are the best thing.

Today we were at St. Peters Basilica. Very busy. I have seen it bevore, so I wasnt disappointed by the hustle and bustle. I did go to confession. A Chinese priest, all business. I like that.

Then we could go up to the the top, but that involves lots of stair-climbing, and I have done it, and I was weary from much walking on torturous Roman conblestones,so I only went as far as the elevator. That enabled me to have coffee on the roof of St Peters. After a while, I went down tothe street for a sandwich, then we met up to head for Santa Maria Sopra Minerva for Mass. After that, and some walking - always walking, walking, walking - Fr. Stechschulte and I were ready to head back to the hotel. But we did pause for one last gelato.

After some much needed quiet and rest at the hotel...

But wait, there was a delightful "interruption." There is an Italian military base next door to the hotel. So after I get into my room, and open the windows for fresh air, and change out of my clothes, preparing for a much desired shower, I hear drhms and marching music. It goes on and on. I look over, and the soldiers next door are in fancy uniform a d marching and singing, swords flashing and all! I really cant see that well, but I get a glimpse. I wanted to find a way to get closer, but my feet hurt and I really needed to rest. So I lay on the bed and heard all the pomp and circumstance in the background.

Then we gathered in the lobby for the bus ride to our farewell dinner. So much fun. I sat next to Emmanuele, our bus driver. He zpoke a few words of English, I know a few words of ItLian, plus I add in a few more words of Spanish, plus lots of guesses a d gesturing, and we got along fine. He told me the food we had was true Roman: prosciutto and salami to start, plus foccacia, then for the primo, caccia e pepe, and a kind of fettucini alfredo; then saltimbocca with fried potatoes; then insalata mista, then por la dolce, a nice cake. Then espresso! We had everything but the digestivo, which I could have gotten afterward in the hotel bar, but I knew I needed to get to bed.

The dinner also included a couple of singers presenting opera songs and otber Italian music, like O Sole Mio and Santa Lucia. A song from Carmen featured some mummery from the diva, stroking the heads of several of the men. That got raucous responses. After all this, Fr. Stechschulte presented some amusing awards. It was all a lot of fun.

We will arrive, God willing, in Columbus around 10:30 pm tomorrow night, which means I hope to be in my much-missed bed around 12:30. I enjoyed this immensely. I love Italy. This was a fun group. But I love home, too. I prayed every day for my family and my parish.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Next: Lanciano and Rome

It's about 9 am local time, and we are on the bus from San Giovanni to Lanciano. We will have Holy Mass there around ten am with yours truly as celebrant and homilist. We came down out of the mountains where Padre St. Pio's monastery was located, into a great, flat plain, bounded by mountains on many sides. It is all good farmland; many of the fields are freshly plowed. We have seen a few cows and goats; no chicken houses such as are common around our area, nor pig farms. The crops around here are often fruit trees and many, many olive groves. Also what may be wheat, and certainly hay. Of the other crops I can only offer an ignorant guess so I will refrain; Wikipedia is likely a better source. Just to our right is a quarry now in sight.

Lanciano is the site of a famous Eucharistic miracle. I will attempt to take, and then post, some pictures later. Now I must prepare something for Mass.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

With Padre St. Pio

I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon, after a wonderful day. I was a little tired and broke off from the group while they toured San Giovanni Rotundo; but mainly, I just wanted some time by myself and in quiet. It gave me a chance to catch up with my adventures here. 

Yesterday we went to Pietrelcina, the birthplace of Padre Saint Pio. Sorry I didn't take many pictures. Pietrelcina (am I spelling this right? no time to check, the battery is fading) is a small town, crowded on a hillside amongst many farms. Padre Pio's family lived in an odd arrangement; one part of their home was at one address, with other rooms a few doors down! The street is maybe 30 feet wide. Why so crowded? Remember, from the time of the disintegration of the Roman Empire until the end of the Second World War, Italy has known little peace. Dozens of kingdoms and empires picked at her; only in the 1870s did Italy become a united people once more. So for all those centuries, they looked out on the far horizon with constant uncertainty. In contrast, Americans have rarely, and then only briefly, had to hide behind walled settlements.

Anyway, here is the school in Pietrelcina. 

Here is a view of the farms surrounding.

After Mass -- sorry, no pictures, but I was the celebrant! -- we all went off for lunch. I have learned to be adventurous with food, particularly in Italy, where it is almost always so good. So in the street, I approached some gentlemen sitting on a bench, asking guidance on a 'ristorante autentico, non touristico!" After some dickering among themselves, one led me to a particular place. There, I asked the waiter to pick the dish for me. I explained, in broken Italian, I wanted something particular to the region. This was the first plate:

I don't know what it was called, sorry, but it was a kind of potato fritatta, or potato pancake, topped by mushrooms and pork and tomatoes. Mild in flavor, but delicious! Then came this:

It turned out to be pumpkin ravioli!

Sorry for not many details, but my battery is down to 20%. So from Pietrelcina we proceeded to San Giovanni Rotundo, where Padre Pio spent his priesthood. We visited the very modern, very large church here. Not so good, sorry. But we prayed at his tomb, wonderful! No pictures.

Today we went to Mont San Angelo on the coast. More pictures! This shrine is ancient, a site where St. Michael appeared long ago. Here is the church, outside, then inside.

We had Mass at the altar to the right. The whole thing is a cave, and filled with people coming and going. Here is the altar I wanted to use for Mass (with Father Barry Stechshulte of Holy Rosary in St. Mary, the leader of this pilgrimage):

Here is a lovely view of the coast, shrouded in mist:

After this, lunch again. Here are several dishes we ordered. Pizza, Insalata Caprese, and a local dish -- the name is written elsewhere, I can't take time to look it up -- but it was a local dish from Puglia, the region we were in. Again, I invited the waiter to choose; this is what he recommended. It was amazing! Fava beans, cabbage, fennel flowers, bay leaves, pork cheek and potatoes, stewed for three hours. So good!

Perhaps, now that I am caught up, I will have time to post more elevating reports. I have many thoughts I am not writing down, many wonderful experiences. But I am working with my tablet, on my lap in my room, with the battery fading, and I must pray evening prayer. Ciao for now!