“Roma, Roma, Roma”

NOTE: I had some another place that I blog and I decided to delete it, but I wanted to keep the memories. So I’m combining everything on to this blog.

October 22

So starting 22 October 2008 until 6 November 2008, I traveled from Rome to San Giovanni Rotondo to Lanciano to Ancona to Split to Medjurgorje to Ancona to Assisi to Rome. And now that you understand all that, here’s some of the highlightsç

  • I went to the Angelus at St. Peter’s Square and was blessed by Pope Benedict the 16th.
  • I saw the Sistine Chapel.
  • I saw the Eucharistic Miracle at Lanciano. That’s where the host turned into flesh and the wine became blood. Jesus and I have the same blood type, AB negative.
  • I slept aboard a ship twice and both times I didn’t fall out of my bed!
  • I went to Medjurgorje.
  • Gabby should be excited I haven’t forgotten all my Slovak and Croatians could understand me!
  • I met some amazing priests from around the world.
  • I saw the Miracle of the Sun as I was leaving Medjurgorje
  • I met two of the visionaries of Medjurgorje.
  • I stayed at the house of one of the visionaries of Medjurgorje.
  • I heard two awesome Francisan brothers, Fr. Jozo and Fr. Danko, talk about being Catholic.
  • I learned how to really meditate on the rosary.
  • I climbed the Holy Stairs on my knees.
  • I had the time and space to actually think about some very important things.
  • I saw the incorupt body of Saint Padre Pio.
  • I cried at the foot of Our Lady of Sorrows.
  • I climbed Appariation Hill.
  • I went inside two of the three churches that Saint Francis of Assisi restored by himself.
  • I bought 10 pounds of books (shock).
  • I ate way too much Lindts chocolate.
  • I listened to the stories of two former drug addicts and how they changed their lives.
  • I now have penpals in France, India, Las Vegas\Rwanda, Oklahoma.
  • I had to carry an OU bag.
  • I was the official photographer for the unofficial photographer of Vatican City.
  • I have almost all my Christmas shopping done.
  • I got adopted again.
  • French is nothing like Italian.
  • If I don’t get married, I have an invitation to join the Poor Clares.
  • I met the mothers\aunts of three eligible Filipino bachelors.
  • I improved at sleeping through ridiculous noises at night.
  • I met someone who takes WAY more pictures than me.
  • I ate my fair share of gelato, pasta, and pizza.
  • I really missed my computer and the Internet.

Day 2
October 23

We were able to sleep in until 7:30am (craziness right?!) We headed back to Rome and spent the day in Vatican City, officially the smallest country in the world. While there, I became the official photographer to the unofficial photographer of the Catholic Church, Father John. He’s an Indian priest that is serving the diocese in Scranton, Pennsylvania and he has a secretary named Pam (most of you should get the “joke”).

To be in St. Peter’s Square that the Pope gives blessings and canonizes Saints, is just an amazing feeling. And St. Peter’s Cathedral is unbelievable, it was literally built on the bones of St. Peter (the “rock” that Jesus said he would build his Church on and handed the keys to heaven to – which is why most of the statues and paintings of St. Peter has him holding keys). Then we split apart, some went shopping, so went to the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica, and some went to the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel. I went with the group to the Vatican Museum and it was unbelievable the treasures that were there and how well perserved they were. It was definitely not a place where you would want to break something. Which in the main room was a poor museum worker trying in vain to get everyone to stop talking and not to take pictures. I think that it was torture for poor Father John not to be able to take pictures.

We then took a tour of the Purgatory Museum and saw relics that came from people who visited relatives and friends asking for prayers, pilgrimmages, etc. so that they could leave purgatory. After Mass, when we left the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, there was this growing huge storm of birds. It looked like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s the Birds. I was a bit freaked out by the sight of that many birds.

Day 3
October 24, 2008

This day was all about beautiful Italian churches and cathedrals. We went to :

  • Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Health
  • Church of Mary Major
  • Church of Peter in Chains
  • Church of St. Gregory
  • Church of Saints John and Paul
  • Cathedral of John Latern
  • Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
  • Church of the Holy Stairs

In addition we saw the Colosseum, the Imperial Forum, the Victor Emanuel Monument, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine.

The Church of Peter in Chains has the chains that St. Paul was imprisoned with and executed with. The chains were cut and then were rejoined by themselves.

St. Gregory’s had a beautiful statue dedicated to Mother Teresa.

Who ever designed the churches and the cathedrals that we saw today was brillant. The paintings behind the altars weren’t even paintings, they were mosaics so that they wouldn’t fade. And I could take photos inside without worrying too much about ruining works of art as long as there wasn’t a wedding occurring.

I climbed the Holy Stairs (the stairs that Jesus was condemned on) on my knees. As you’re climbing up you can see drops of Jesus’s blood. The first five steps were fine, the next five were okay, the next several were doable, and the next thirteen steps were painful. And even now I still have bruises from climbing the stairs on my knees.

Because it was Saturday, it was the day of weddings, especially in the afternoon, it was hard to enter a church that wasn’t having a mass. Sorry. But I thought at first it was a funeral because everyone was in black but then when you entered the church, it was obviously a wedding.

While we were around the Palatine, there were some questionable men dressed as Roman Centaurions walking around trying to pose with (mostly female) tourists. But my favorite was the Roman Centaurion that was constantly talking on his cell phone.

There still wasn’t any internet.

Day 4 – Rome, Monte Cassino, San Giovanni Rotondo
25 October 2008

We woke up extremely early so we could have mass and then head to the Vatican so we could attend the Angelus with Pope Benedict the 16th. We had time to spare between the time we arrived in Vatican City and when the Angelus started, so I went to Italian Mass at the Church of Mary of the Rosary, which as of right now is the most beautiful church that I have ever been in. The ceiling was decorated with stars in constellation patterns, there were beautiful mosaics on all the side altars, and beautiful stain glass windows. The beauty of the Italian Mass (in my opinion) is that they’ve retained alot of Latin in it’s everyday Mass.

I have to admit that the tourists that went to the Angelus annoyed me. While the Pope was speaking, it was almost impossible to hear him because it seemed like everyone was speaking, not even attempting to whisper, St. Peter’s Square sounded more like a pub than an Angelus.

After we left Rome, we went to Monte Cassino – the monastery of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. It was an impressive shrine to the brother and sister Saints, but most of the statues were outside and it was raining.

San Giovanni Rotondo is where Saint Padre Pio’s shrine is at. We stayed at this extremely nice hotel. The food courses were delicious, so pretty much everyone was looking forward to the dessert course. When the dessert course arrived, if someone had taken a picture of our faces, it would be one of the funniest things that you saw. I think that all our jaws were on the floor. We had just had handmade tortellini, fresh garden grown vegetables, homemade bread and then we were served two slices of canned pineapples with chocolate or strawberry sauce on top. Our driver, Pepe, was just shaking his head, muttering that this was not an Italian dessert.

Day 5 – San Giovanni Rotondo, Lanciano, Ancona,the ferry to Split
26 October 2008

The weather while I was in Rome was amazing, about mid 70s to low 80s, sunny, with a little bit of a breeze.As we started to go eastward, the weather changed and it started to get chillier and not as nice.

COMPLAINT: (feel free to skip): Fall in even the Mediterranean is a bit chilly, so thin blouses, capris, and slide-on shoes are not ideal for a walking pilgrimage that takes place mostly outside. And if you’re a bit older and have problems walking, you shouldn’t be wearing slide-on shoes to begin with, much less in countries with cobblestone roads and dirt roads.

I’m sure that the designers of the new Saint Padre Pio Basilica put a lot of time and effort into the design and to make sure that it met all the criteria to be a proper place of worship, but it didn’t look like a Catholic Cathedral to me. If you told me that it was a protestant church, I wouldn’t have blinked. Very bright colors and odd (at least to me) shaped.

We sent into the old church that Saint Padre Pio used to have Mass in and to see all the pictures of people that he help when he was alive and since he’s been in Heaven is amazing. There are pictures upon pictures, young and old from all around the world and from different times. We were able to have Mass there. It was just an unforgetable experience. After Mass we went to the English bookstore and watched two movies of footage that Padre Pio didn’t want released in his lifetime. And to see him as he was and to hear what he had to say about his life and the things that he did, gives you even more proof that a saint is simply a humble servant who truly hears the Word and Will.

After touring through the museum on Saint Padre Pio’s life, we actually were able to see his body and it seriously looked like he had just died yesterday. But he’s been dead for a long time.

Then a long bus ride to Lanciano, where the Eucharistic Miracle is housed. Apparently in the 1800s a young priest who had doubts that the Eucharist was and is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus was celebrating Mass in Lanciano. As he was sharing the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he said something like, ‘This is the Body of Jesus, I think.’ And the host turned from the piece of bread into flesh in his hand and the wine on the alter turned into blood. During the 1970s with the help of technology, scientists did tests on the flesh and blood and determined that the flesh and blood came from a human being. In the 1980s more tests were done and the flesh is actually from the human heart; both the blood and flesh are from someone that is AB blood-type; and is a match to the blood that is onthe Shroud of Turin (the cloth that was used to bury Jesus after He was crucified).

We then made our way to Ancona, I was asleep, so I’m really not sure what Ancona looks like except for the port. After some confusion over passports, we made it to the ferry. We had to keep an eye on Father John to make sure that he won’t fall into the harbor, even though he assured us that he could swim, his father through him into a well back home in India when he was a small child to teach him how to swim. I love Fr. John but he is like one of the kindergarteners that I’ve taught, you always have to have an eye on him because if you don’t, in one second, he’s gone and you spend at least fifteen minutes looking for him.

After a delicious Croatian meal (the tomato cabbage soup, fresh fish and greens, and chocolate walnut cake) we (Fr. Jose, Fr. John, Beth and I) took a walk around the deck. Both Fathers were very disappointed that we couldn’t go up to the captain’s area. And there was a sign for the Lido bar, but way that the arrow was pointed, the bar was somewhere in the Adriatic sea.

I slept very well that night because I was rocked to sleep by the ferry. Which was good because wake-up was 5:30am

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