Sunday, October 24, 2010

Popes and Artists

Yet another surprise packed day. We set off to check out the transport for our trip to the airport tomorrow, bought tickets and are prepared to hop on the train tomorrow afternoon. Goodness, home again very soon. It has been a wonderful trip and it will be nice to get home to the family.

We went to the Spanish Steps and into the Church della Trinito dei Monti, with the fresco “the Demountation from the Cross”.  There were several other beautiful frescoes there also, particularly one to the Nativity – the light on the Christ Child and the face of the Madonna was magnificent.
As we arrived at the Spagna Station we found a tourist reference to the Café Greco, 1760. The foot note said it was the meeting place for intellectuals and artists. So as several of our acquaintances over the past few days had called us artists we decided to celebrate and affirm to ourselves that indeed that is what we are!
At the Cafe 1760 Greco near the Spanish Steps

for "intellectuals and artists"

Then we went on to the Scarvi. The Scarvi is an excavation site of the Necropolis beneath the crypt of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Excavation was commenced in 1940 but no part of it was opened to the public until the 1970’s. St Peter was buried near where he was slain and the tomb very early became a destination for pilgrims. When the Emperor Constantine built the first Basilica it featured the monument that marked the site of Peter’s burial. When St Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th Century the altar and the central dome were positioned over the tomb and memorial.  It is humbling to be allowed access to this sacred site.
The Chair of St Peter, where we attended Mass for the 9th International Festival of Sacred Music and Art
I am still trying to absorb the experience. Being able to pray at the tomb of Saint Peter brought to mind the role of the papacy in the life of the Church. This was emphasised then when we attended Mass in the Basilica which was celebrated at the Chair of St Peter – that is behind the main altar and under the Holy Spirit Window.

So much to see and do - so little time
The Mass was celebrated as part of the Ninth International Festival of Sacred Music and Art, dedicated to His Holiness Benedict XVI in the fifth year of His Pontificate.

So today has been all about the papacy and celebrating Sacred Art and those who make it and we felt part of that. It was not quite the day we had planned or expected but neither of us are complaining!!!!!!
It was quite late when we left the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Train to Rome

This morning we were blessed to find Mass being said in the Chapel where Padre Pio celebrated Mass and reconciliation on numerous occasions. I then went to the hill of the Stations of the Cross.

I gathered you up with me as I walked this road of Calvary.  The sky was a beautiful clear blue. Each station was sculptured in bronze and silver with figures, about a meter in height, set amongst green trees and ferns. Each station dramatically portrayed the tragedy of the murder of Jesus.
 The victory of Christ’s resurrection was the summit of the journey.

We also were shown the thurible (‘incensor’) that Nicola and Corrando had made in 2002 for the formal celebrations of the New Church. They used gold and silver, and incorporated a disc from an ancient farm plow to include the history of the area into this sacred item.

We then caught the bus from San Giovanni Rotonda to Foggia and then the train on to Rome. The train has proved to be a fascinating experience both times. We have met wonderful people who have helped us plan our journey and made sure we arrived at the right station.  We share this journey with three lovely travelers – Maria Grazia, Giovanni and Giuseppe. We had so much fun sharing stories about our pilgrimage, our family, our wonderful countries and our faith journey. It was so much fun the trip took no time at all. It was amazing to learn that Maria Grazia is passionate about Icons and has acquired several beautiful works. She is a primary school teacher and Giovanni was a medico.

Wendy and Maria Grazia

Giovanni and Giuseppe

It was a laugh to share the photos of the trip and some ones from home – so if you were on my phone camera you were introduced to our new friends – sorry kids I particularly showed them how special you are.

I was also able to show off our beautiful Australian beaches and Sydney Opera House.  
We had to have a photo shoot to keep the memory of the new friendship alive.

Saying goodbye to Donato who had looked after us at the Hotel.
He was off to have a day on his Kawasaki 750
This morning when we were saying goodbye to Nicola, he commented about the stars in the Australian sky. We take them for granted. I was surprised that when I looked up at the sky in Rome tonight the only lights that could be seen were Venus and the full moon. How strange – ‘I love a sun burnt country a land of sweeping plain, of rugged mountain range...’.

Love the Car
I had to show you this one - the bike is as big as the car! I love it!
I am going to bring one home in my suitcase, I am sure it will fit!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Saint Michael the Archangel Shrine and Pulsano Abbey

Who would have thought the amazing experiences of this trip would continue? We walked through the picturesque narrow streets of the old town of San Giovanni Rotondo and visited four of the churches including one the locals call the Mother Church, which is the oldest parish church of the city and is dedicated to the Mother of God; the people of the area have a special veneration to the Madonna. The steep streets are paved with white marble and the houses are usually white with an occasional yellow or orange and decorated with an occasional window box or Yucca pot plant.

Door of Catherine of Sienna sculpted  by Nicola our host

Today we went with our host Nicola to Monte San Angelo, to the Saint Michael Shrine on the Gargano. Several years ago when I visited North Sydney near Mary MacKillop Place I stayed at the guest house which is part of the Sisters of Mercy, Monte San Angelo complex. So when I saw there was such a place I was very keen to visit. Nicola and his artist friend took us to the shrine.

The origin of the shine dates back to the end of the 5th century. This is linked to the memory of three apparitions which are related with extraordinary and moving vivacity and testify to the miraculous events which followed. Within a span of fifteen centuries Christians from the whole world have come to the shrine of the Gargano, ‘the house of God, and the gate of heaven’.

We arrived just in time for Mass, and the penitential rite was particularly poignant as it is a place of healing and forgiveness. It was an open cave reminiscent of the cave/stable of Bethlehem. It is said that it was Saint Francis of Assisi’s favorite place to pray and he fasted and prayed there for forty days and forty nights.

We then visited the museum with memorabilia of life of the area, including a tatting roll, ink pot in the child’s desk, a horse collar and plough, axe sharpener and hundreds of other exhibits.

Nicola and Wendy at Monte San Angelo
We then went on to the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria di Pulsano. When we arrived we had to open an electronic gate which kept the cattle out, not in!! The landscape is so rocky that the cows roam free to find whatever food they can, they do not produce much milk but what the do is turned into a wonderfully scrumptious cheese.

The Abbey produces beautiful Icons, written by the monks and sisters. They have Iconography schools in summer and accommodation is available. It is built into the rock and faces out across the Port of Manfredonia and the open sea. You can also spot the hermit caves across the ravine. The church is arrayed with a number of beautiful Icons produced by the monks. Wendy and I were able to visit the workshop of the monks to see where they produce such beautiful works. We very extremely fortunate to be given such a privileged tour.

The views were breathtaking.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A day with Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo

The pilgrims have gone their separate ways. Some to England, some home and Wendy and I have travelled by train across to San Giovanni Rotondo. Yesterday we fought rain, wind and a twisted ankle to arrive at Hotel Delle Paine. Our shoes, clothes and luggage were sodden. But after a warm greeting, a hot shower and a beautiful dinner we were on track again.

This morning - Thursday - we visited the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Crypt. It also included Padre Pio's cell, chapel where he said Mass and a museum with many of his garments and things he used - gloves, shoes and many other relics. I had known of Padre Pio for many years so was keen to visit this shrine. He was born in 1887, died in 1968 and was canonised 2002. He received the stigmata of Christ in 1918. Among his charisms was bilocation. He was a man whom you knew was a saint. It was just a formality when the Church declared him "Saint". 
Padre Pio's Shoes
We then went to the New Church of Padre Pio. The mosaics in this church are by the same artist that did the ones at the Irish College we visited in Rome, Marko I. Rupnik. This is an example - the Nativity of Christ 
Nativity of Christ by Marko I. Rupnik
What an amazing shrine honoring two holy monks - St Pio of Pietrelcina and St Francis of Assisi. The photo below does not do the shrine justice but it gives you an idea of the magnificence of the artwork.

Venerating the Tomb of Padre Pio
 We were also blessed to be see a Icona, an exhibition of Russian Icons in the New Church.
Madre de Dio, XIX, Russia
We went back to the hotel and joined the custom of the town and had a siesta. What a wonderful tradition - I could get used to it! We then went for a stroll up to Piazza Europa where we found the Church of St Joseph. We joined in the 6pm Mass, which was a gentle parish Mass attended by about 120 people. It was really nice to be in a parish church with the locals. The Icons in this Church were installed in the 1990's. Yet again they were truly beautiful. It is a feast of beauty everywhere you look in Italy.

Mosaic of Matthew at the Church of St Joseph, San Giovanni Rotondo
Derrick, I just wanted to show you a mechanics workshop in Rome:-

Alas they do not have the "Smart Car" in San Giovanni Rotondo as they do in Rome. In Rome they are everywhere and they can be parked in the tiniest little parking spots. I would love to pop one in my suitcase and take it home.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reflections on an Awesome experience

Sr Kathy and Michael

"Spiritual adventure, pilgrimage and friendship." - Sr Kathy Hodge

"A once in a lifetime experience of faith, hope and love in celebration of an extraordinary woman."

"So much easier to pray with a group of like-minded pilgrims in such beautiful places." - Mark Oakley
Richard Caesar-Thwaytes, Herbie,
Fr Richard and Lynn after the Thanksgiving

"Here we were able to face some of the roots of our faith – renewing, spiritual and deeply touching. To be with Companions on the Journey was uplifting. Thank you to Bishop Mark for his relaxed sharing and leadership." - Lyn O’Flynn

Miranda and Kevin

 "What an unbelievable experience! And wonderful new friends. All unforgettable!" - Eileen Stack

"Singing Waltzing Matilda in an ancient Roman building with 8,000 rowdy Aussies. (And the 35 new friends I’ve made!)" - Charlotte King 

 "Fantastic experience that will never be forgotten. Wonderful people and great atmosphere. We from Trinity College have all had a wonderful and memorable time, full of adventure and pilgrimage."

Anne Maria and Stephania

"Anne & Peter’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil receives an 8-1/2 from a fair dinkum italiano expert. Wobbler Downs Olive Oil Rules. Available at Gundagai – Bulley Bell and Temora, Jugiong!!!!!" - Anne Maria  Skeinke

Caitlin, Charlotte, Mark, Heidi and Miranda
waiting proudly for the declaration Australia's new Saint

 "Sharing in the celebration of the Eucharist each day with so many people. The Thanksgiving Mass, celebrated in a foreign land, surrounded by Australian pilgrims, was breathtaking." - Stephanie Leonard

On the way back after morning Mass at the local parish church

"Swanky. The emotion and experience of the pilgrimage was beyond belief." - Mark Burke

Stephanie and Marguerite

"Today! Standing on top of St Peter’s, in the dome, knowing Mary MacKillop’s banner was underneath proudly displayed for all to see; an Australian …… down over Rome in prime spot." - Marguerite 

Wendy, Archbishop Mark and Mark

"The sense of community among the pilgrims. Shared prayer and shared prayerful experiences forged a bond between us; it feels like I will never “lose” my companions." - Wendy Fisher-Hudson

Cathy and Karen

"The Thanksgiving Mass. A truly Australian celebration as we take part with the great universal Church." - Colin Groves

 "The concert on Saturday evening brought me to tears. Seeing familiar faces in an unfamiliar place. Realising how great an impact the Srs of St Joseph had in my life."

We have had a wonderful experience together. 35 people came together from the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese to celebrate the life of an extraordinary woman. That woman has changed each of our lives, has brought us to a place where we have had a deeply meaningful experience of Church.

I found each day of the pilgrimage built on the one before. We were privileged to have access to some extraordinary places. We made beautiful friendships. We laughed, cried, sang, sheltered in the rain, queued, worshiped and ate gelato together. We prayed for our loved ones, were blessed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and we carry this blessing back to Australia.

We witnessed and celebrated the Canonisation of our first Australian Saint Mary MacKillop of the Cross. We have done what we came to do and we are overjoyed. We thank the Good Lord for this marvellous opportunity and we thank you our family, loved ones and work colleagues for giving us this opportunity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Our canonisation reflection

Click here to follow a link to the Archdiocese website and you'll be able to hear exactly what we all thought and felt after the Canonisation Mass through a short audio-visual reflection. It includes lots of photos from our trip, so check it out and see who you can spot.

Many Familiar Faces among the crowd of proud pilgrims

I met  Louis and Kate Seselja from Canberra in the foyer of the Hotel,
I am sure Louis will have many superb photos to share through the Catholic Voice

Bishop Brian Finnigan, previous General Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Auxiliary of Brisbane
and Herbie O'Flynn after the Thanksgiving Mass
Maureen Clancy and Karen Nixon

I rejoiced when I saw my friend
Archbishop Guiseppe Lazzarotto, the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia

It was a proud and joy-filled day for Archbishop Mark Coleridge and the Australian Bishops.
We have been truly blessed to have Bishop Mark with us during this journey, he has been inspirational.
Thanks Bishop Mark

A Saint for the Universal Church

The liturgy focused on the praise and thanksgiving for our Saint Mary of the Cross.
The first reading was from Colossians 3:12-17 encouraging us in all ways to be thankful and emphasizing Mary’s charism of teaching each other.
The Responsorial Psalm was sung lead by a magnificent female voice that filled  the Basilica.
Cardinal Pell said that St Mary was the first Aussie saint in 2000 years and we are delighted and grateful. St Mary encouraged the poor Catholics to exploit their opportunities  and encouraged reading, writing and arithmetic and God’s love and forgiveness.
He reminded us of her words – ‘little crosses of everyday life are harder than the thumping big one. Expect crosses and realize that we also give them’.  She made forgiveness her most remarkable attribute. ‘I have enemies but loved enemies.’
Pius 9th recognized the hand of the Lord upon her and gave her support and encouragement.
The Cardinal also emphasized she is not just an Australian Saint but a Saint for the Universal Church.

Our Saint Mary's Celebration Dinner

Michael MacKillop wearing a MacKillop tartan scarf
presented to him by Archbishop Mark
Last evening we joined 650 Australians at the hotel dining room for a Celebration Dinner. We gathered with joy and pride as we shared the moments of the Canonisation Ceremony that touched us. We were entertained by Gary Pinto of Australian Idol fame, singing his song Saint Mary MacKillop.

We met with pilgrims from around Australia - from Perth, Deniliquin, Cairns and Bishop Michael Putney from Townsville with many companion travelers. Bishop Joe Grech was with pilgrims from his diocese, the Bishop from Dunedin had several fellow companions. Mons Tom Stack – Ellen’s cousin from Dublin – joined us to share the day. The Stack family has made the pilgrimage to honor their aunt, Sister Columbkille, who was recruited into the congregation by Saint Mary herself. Mother Mary of the Cross threw her mantle over her as a sign of acceptance and protection.

Two couples chose to celebrate their significant wedding anniversaries (50th and 51st) by attending the Canonisation. What a wonderful way to mark such a special occasion. Our Peter Stephens, from Grenfell, celebrated his birthday along with several others.
It was an assolutamente terrifico end to a magnificent day, bravo!

Herbie and Lynn O'Flynn