Recently in Rome 2007 Category

Going Home

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So how long does it take to get to the airport? Oh, about an hour. So, we have to be at the airport about 5:00am for a 7:00am flight. Trains do not run that early. So I guess that means we find a taxi. The Hotel made sure we had a taxi for 4:00am. So in the quiet of that Roman morning we were all up early. The Tax arrived early, and of course there was no traffic. Ok, now we have added to our stories of Roman taxis. Traffic laws, stop signs, speed limits, they are all mere suggestions. We were on a bit of a race track through back roads and side streets. The old Appian Way gave way to modern two-lane highway. We were at the airport in 15 minutes, maybe less. The airport was empty. We sat there, first in line for nearly an hour before we were moved to another location. The security guards had arrived and informed us that the area was not yet open. So we waited a few minutes before British Airways opened and then we were back at the place to check in and deposit our luggage.


The trip to London was quick and we had a nice layover. We got a nice breakfast, though a bit salty and expensive, and, I also purchased two bottles of Paddy Irish Whiskey in a Duty free shop, and even found time to do a bit of blogging.

The trip from London to San Francisco seemed very long. I think I had time to watch about three movies and read two books. This trip was a bit quieter. On the plane, the British Airways people were bit more hospitable and helpful than they had been on the trip over. At Heathrow we wondered, though, what planet they had been born on. My traveling companions were playful even to the end.


At San Francisco I was in for a bit of further screening because my Passport had been stolen. But they soon determined that I was me, and we were on our way home. The sun had been up all day, for the entire flight home. It was now time for it to set, get some sleep, and be prepared for work on a new day, back in California.

It had been a great pilgrimage, rich in experiences, grace and friendship. Many meals since then have been reminiscent of the journey. Some of the art work photographed on the trip now adorns the walls of our homes and offices. The travel to the tomb of the apostles and the center of our faith, and to the sights and memories of St. Dominic and St. Gaspar have enriched our lives in many ways.


It would be impossible to share a glass of red wine, or a sip of grappa, or Eliser Gambrinus, without calling to mind several moments of grace on this journey.

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Day 16


Sigh. It was to be our last full day in Rome and Italy and we were already feeling a bit sad about it. Oh well, time to get back home and back to work. Morning Prayer was in private this morning as we had decided to attend Mass at the Tomb of St. Gaspar in the evening. It was also time to think about getting our boarding passes and so it was time to find a computer. There was a little Internet spot not too far from our Hotel so we took a small hike down there early to find it closed. We returned to the Hotel for Breakfast and then made another trip to the Internet Spot. It was still closed. The lady at the hotel tried to convince us that it should be open, but our experience told us differently. Reluctantly she allowed us to use the computer in her office in order to print out boarding passes for the next morning. Only later did we discover on our bill that she charged us for that privilege.


Today was to be another Day to explore St. Peter Basilica. We had been to the depths in the Scavi tour and now we were going to head for the heights. It was a good 300 plus steps up to the top after an elevator took us half way there. It was a beautiful day and the view from the cupola was tremendous.

We later made our way back into the Basilica to look around and see some of the things we had missed and then on to the little museum in the Basilica. There was a guide book that sparked the interested of one of our companions on this journey. It was a setting of diamonds as some stars in a crown, a gift from some modern monarch. Actually it was a bit of a disappointment. The rest of the museum, indeed the basilica itself, was much more interesting.

With all that climbing to the top, and walking through the basilica, some of us reported that our legs were turning to jello and that it was time to sit down. Actually it was time for Lunch, for pranzo. We had determined that we would have a last festive meal at one of the places we had visited earlier in our trip, Ristorante Orazio. We hailed a cab and gave him the card with the address of the restaurant. Even with the address he took a very interesting and long journey to a place we knew would be quicker to find. The Taxi’s that had once been so reasonable, now turned very expensive.

All of that was quickly forgotten because, as expected, it was a fabulous meal.

The food and wine were fabulous, as was the conversation. All of us had memories of our favorite stops on this pilgrimage.
After lunch we made our way over to Trevi Fountain. We sampled the gelato in a nearby shop. I have a wonderful picture of Donalyn going ecstatic over the sight of Gelato. I could post it here, but I also value my life. There was a nearby shop that had all sorts of culinary delights. Here I bought some spices that have made it into a variety of pastas and soups since our return. We also scoured a little theological bookstore near the Gregorian in search of a book recommended by Fr. Lopes. The book, “Mary and the Mystery of the New Covenant” by Fr. Ignace de la Potterie turns out to be a book that is out of print, but I have since been able to obtain it from Amazon. Actually, it arrived yesterday.

After a bit of shopping we made it over to Santa Maria in Trivo for the evening Mass. This is the small church near the Fontana Trevi where St. Gaspar is buried. It is also home for the seminarians in Theology. On entering the Church I see this large picture of Venerable John Merlini in front of the Altar. Then it dawns on me that it is January 12th, the anniversary of his death. Fr. Merlini is also buried here at Santa Maria in Trivio.


It turned out to be a festive Mass presided over by the Provincial of the Italian Province and concelebrated by many Italian CPPS confreres. They provided alb and stole and invited me to concelebrate. The music was provided by the seminarians who also led the Chaplet of the Precious Blood before the Mass began.

After Mass we made it back to our favorite Pizzeria near our Hotel for the Last supper. It was time for one final grappa before heading back to our rooms to complete packing for the trip home.

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Day 15

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Day 15 of our Pilgrimage was January 11, 2007. We did not have Mass this morning because a singular honor and blessing awaited me (and us) that afternoon. Morning Prayer was done in private and I was still rejoicing in the Breviary that now had the proper antiphons and readings now that we had reached Ordinary Time. After breakfast we headed over to San Clemente, a Dominican Church that delighted Sr. Mary Mark. The visit to the various crypts was a delight and added to the great number of Saints with whom we crossed paths on this journey.


There was a still lot of time before we had to be at Santa Croce for Mass so I decided that we should also visit the tomb of St. Maria De Mattias.

The Sister there in the Church was very hospitable in her limited English and was delighted when I identified myself as a Missionary of the Precious Blood. She asked if I would like to speak to a Sister in English and we gladly agreed. There was an American Sister there and this sister went to find her. When St. Therese came out it was a delightful meeting. I was standing there wondering where I had met her before and she was chatting with us wondering where she had seen us before. It turns out they had stayed at the same Brigittine guesthouse in Assisi where we had stayed. We had dinner only one night at the Brigittine house but two ASC sister had been there at the same time. It is too bad I did not catch sight of the Heart and Cross that is the distinctive pendant that the sisters wear.

After the very Generous hospitality of Sr. Therese, we caught a taxi over to Santa Croce.

Here we were welcomed by my good friend Don Marco Kirby who also has a blog. He ushered us into the Chapter room while he went in search of the Cistercian Graduals that we would use for Mass. As is often the case in large community’s someone else was using them as they were nowhere to be found. We were introduced to Br. Ryan who prepared some delightful copies of the chants for the Mass.

Then Don Marco led us into the huge refectory where the monks gathered for the midday meal. After the prayer, we slid into the seats and there I found myself right next to the Abbot. There was a brief reading, but then the Abbot rang the bell and the monks joined us in conversation. The Abbot’s English was ok. Sometimes I switched to Spanish which he found more understandable. After lunch we retired to the end of the refectory where the Abbot served us coffee. The hospitality was wonderful as they continue the ancient Benedictine custom a greeting each guest as Christ.

Don Marco gave us a wonderful tour of the Library, which included a look at some of the very old chant books and Sacramentaries that are kept there.


Then we went to the Chapel to prepare for Mass. Don Marco chose for us the Votive Mass of the Passion of the Lord, a Votive Mass found in the Cistercian Gradual. As this was a place where Gaspar had made retreat on many occasions, and a place where his uncle was once Abbot, and where he had preached retreats for the monks on ten separate Lents, it was an honor and a privilege to celebrate Mass, chanted entirely in Latin, in a place and in the same manner as St. Gaspar once prayed and celebrated Mass. I think, for me, this was the high point of the whole journey.

After Mass Don Marco gave us a guided tour of his Icon of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. He also gave each of us a small copy of the Icon.

Later we took another taxi. This time we traveled to the Generalate of the CPPS community. Fr. General was not at home, but Jerry Stack, General Secretary, gave a us a little tour and then fed us a marvelous dinner. The Archives had changed since I last saw them. Everything was now if Plastic boxes behind glass.

Fr. Jerry took down a volume of Gaspar’s letters and I very dutifully went about photographing a signature of St. Gaspar. It was another occasion of wonderful hospitality.

We had taken a variety of taxis to various places in the city. Everyone was so kind and helpful, and the taxis prompt and clean. Occasionally we took the Metro, but we had already had one experience of being robbed, we were not going to risk it often. The Taxi home of this night was incredibly expensive, about 22 Euro for trip that had only cost about 12 Euro before. It was time to get a good night’s sleep before our last day in Italy.

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Day 14


Day 14

Its was January 10, 2007. I think it was dawning on us that our time in Italy was short and there was much to see and do even as tired as we were. We had been having some pretty full days. This day was to be no different as this was the day to experience the excavations underneath St. Peter.

Anyway, chiefly to Stan’s influence we decided not to make the two day journey to San Giovanni Rotondo. So if that was the case, there some reservations to cancel. Necessary information was lacking because of the stolen bag so we decided to stop at an Internet Café after breakfast and look up the information for the Hotel. We had Mass in English at 7:30am, breakfast at the Villa, and then walked down Via Tuscolana and stopped into a nearby Internet Spot. We got the information and made the call, but no one there spoke English and so we could not cancel the reservation. We walked over to Via Narni where The CPPS Italian Province has their headquarters. There we got Don Gennaro to call the hotel and cancel the reservation in his perfect Italian.

On our way to Via Narni we stopped at the Church of SS. Corpo E Sangue di Cristo.


This is a relatively new parish run by the CPPS in Rome and they have some interesting art there. We took some pictures fairly quickly as it looked as if they were preparing for a funeral. Then we walked over to the Colegio to see the CPPS House at Via Narni.

Their chapel has an interesting beauty to it. I have been there several times for a variety of events and it kind of grows on you. Yet, I still describe it to my friends as pretty violent art.

Much more attractive is the large fresco in the dining room of the meal at Emmaus. We would be coming back here for dinner in the evening.

After this tour we headed over to Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. Sr. Mary Mark’s baptismal name and name on her passport is Cecilia.

Then we went over to Santa Maria in Trastevere where the Community of San Egidio is centered. On the way we stopped for a gelato. We found at the church a very interesting and beautiful and very large Ambry for the Holy Oils. My companions made sure I got pictures to show the workmen here at the parish who built our Ambry. This church also had some pretty impressive mosaics.

Then we headed over to the Vatican.

First we stopped for some light refreshment at a local tourist trap. The food and drinks there are about twice as expensive as some of the Restaurants we had been going to. Here we just had a pizza and some wine and juices.

We had some time to kill so we browsed through the Vatican bookstore and got some stamps and cards at the post office. Then we waited for the Swiss Guards to let us pass to get to the Ufficio Scavi. I have taken the Scavi tour at least four times before and it is always a memorable part of the trip. I recommend it everyone who comes over there. Of course, they do not allow photographs. It is a journey back through time to the very origins of the faith.

One of the more significant moments afterward was the visit to the Tomb of John Paul II. There was a steady stream of pilgrims and many people kneeling and praying there.


Later when strolling around upstairs in the Basilica we tried to get to the small Museo they have there. But that is also the entrance to the sacristy and the guards were not letting anyone near. Apparently there was a liturgy to begin soon and there were hundreds of priests and bishops getting ready to process to the altar. Soon the bell rang and this very long procession began first of priests and then of bishops and cardinals. The end of the procession then featured Cardinal Levada and his Master of Ceremonies, none other but my friend Fr. Steven!!! It took me a while to get camera powered up, but I got a few pictures to record the moment.

Afterward we headed out to the boulevards to see if we could find a taxi. On the way we stopped at the Pauline Bookstore and I spent another Euro 100 replacing my bible and getting a few other CDs and books. When I told the sisters my bible had been stolen they gave me a very nice discount.

The taxi took us back to Via Narni where we had dinner. There were many members of the Italian Province there including their provincial who did his best to communicate to us in English. There were also several members of our Indian Vicariate there, all of whom knew our Fr. Jerard who they spoke of as Fr. Irudaya Raj.

After dinner we walked back to our Villa to retire for the evening. Stan and Donalyn were a bit unnerved by Sr. Mary Mark and I arm in arm going down that hill chanting the Salve Regina by heart. We headed home but certainly had to stop at our favorite pizzeria for some Limoncello, wine and grappa.


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Day 13

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It was January 9th and this morning we delayed our celebration of Mass by a half hour so we could celebrate it in English. Then after breakfast we went to return the car to the rental agency and then caught a taxi from there to St. Paul Outside the Walls. We were to go to our last two Patriarchal Basilicas today. If anyone at St. Edward thinks our Easter Candle is too big they should take a look at the Easter Candle stand in the right side of this picture.


From there we went to Santa Sabina, a Dominican church, where Sr. Mary Mark had arranged for Sr. Margaret to give us a tour.

This fifth century Church was a delightful place to visit. Sr. Margaret gave us a thorough explanation of the fifth century doors which included one of the first artistic renditions of the crucifixion. Here is the detail of the door which shows the Resurrection.

The Church was given to the Dominicans in the 13th century and we had the grace and opportunity to spend some times in the rooms that were occupied by St. Dominic and the rooms of Pope Pius V. Sr. Mary Mark will have to remind me of the significance of the orange tree outside Dominic’s cell, because I did not put it in my journal

Here is a picture of the original 17th century painting by Lavinia Fontana of the Blessed Mother giving the rosary to St. Dominic.

I took this picture in St. Pius V’s cell where it is hidden from public view. A copy hangs in the main church in a side chapel. Apparently the original has been stolen before and Sr. Margaret told the story of a Dominican seeing the thief carry the painting down the street.

We did some browsing through the little bookstore at Santa Sabina. We met some Diocesan priests from England in the shop and I purchased a few gifts and a replacement for the Leather cover that was on my breviary.

Then we went over to the Angelicum where Fr. Luke Buckles OP treated us to a fine lunch and then gave us a tour.


From there we walked over to St. Mary Major to complete our visits to the Patriarchal Basilicas. Across the street we stopped for Gelato and then walked to the Basilica of Santa Prassede where St. Gaspar’s parents were married. In this church there are some beautiful mosaics and the remnants of the pillar from the Scourging.


A few blocks from S. Prassede is the Carmelite Church of San Silvestre where St. Gaspar was baptized.


And from there we went to see the Altieri Palace where Gaspar grew up and across the street we visited the Jesuit Church of the Gesu where we found the relic of St. Francis Xavier that was so instrumental in Gaspar being cured of a serious disease when he was a boy. I think this completed our tour of those Gasparian sites we missed on that first day.

From there we walked over to the Pantheon thinking we might have dinner at Sagrestia. Italians eat dinner much later than we do so the Restaurant was not even open yet.

We did some browsing in nearby shops to kill some time, but we were pretty tired and hungry and several of us wanted to get off our feet so we found this little bar where we had a scotch and some snacks. Then when the restaurant opened we had another marvelous dinner. Looks like it made Stan pretty happy.

After dinner we went home for an early evening. It had been a very full day and we always ended each day pretty tired.

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Day Twelve

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Day Twelve is January 8, 2007. There were only two things on our agenda for this day, to go to Albano and then back to Rome to have dinner with Fr. Steven Lopes.

First we had to check out of our Hotel in Siena and find our way South. It was rush hour in ancient Siena, cars going everywhere in those tiny streets. We had to check out of the Hotel and then I had to walk a couple of blocks to get the car and then drive to the hotel, park as far to the left as I could, and get all the luggage to the car with all these cars and trucks and even buses going by. We eventually made it and were soon out on the Autostrada making our way South.

I suppose now would be a good time to talk about the weather while we were in Rome. We had remarkable weather. People were commenting on how warm it was and that there had been so little rain. It had rained on us a couple of times but the rain had the decency to fall only at night when we were asleep, If it rained during the day then it would only rain while were inside on a tour. On our drive south today it rained pretty steadily, sometimes very hard. We stayed warm and dry in our car, listening to chant and telling stories. Stan and Sr. Mary Mark discovered these little tables in the back seat and tried to compose a few postcards, but the road was not cooperating.

Whatever it was, rain, chant, or riveting conversation we ended up taking the wrong exit off the Autostrada. I think maybe it was the confusing signs on the highway. Sometimes they were more understandable, but the directions on the freeway were a bit more confusing for someone who does not read Italian. We found our way through the center of Rome and turned left on a Road I knew went south. It, in fact, went south all the way to Albano. Once there I began looking for signs that might direct us to the Sanctuary of St. Paul. The signs ended up having the words for St. Paul in tiny print. In larger print were the words S. Gaspare. We eventually found our way there and the rain stopped just long enough for us to walk into the Church.


St. Paul in Albano has been a center for us from the early days of St. Gaspar. It was here that he was first buried after he died. After his remains were transferred to Rome, they still kept a piece of him here.

I found a nun doing some needle work in the Sacristy and I told her in my best Italian that I was a Missionary of the Precious Blood and would like to meet the CPPS that were there. Ok, I had met formidable roadblocks before and this one was not going to deter me. Then out came a torrent of Italian in rapid fire that I could not understand. Ok, I will look elsewhere. I went out into the courtyard a found a front door. The voice that answered was a CPPS who had spent years in Tanzania and who knew English pretty well. Fr. Antonio was the picture of hospitality and showed us around with great delight. He disappeared for a few minutes and came back to tell us it was time for Lunch and he had prepared a table for us. The whole community of seminarians was there, as well as the staff of the house and the priests who are retired there and many of the sisters, including the one who had been the earlier roadblock. After Fr. Antonio had let us in he had led us back into the church through the sacristy and when we went through the sister just looked up at me and grunted.

I should have gotten pictures of the crèche scene in the dining room before we ate. It was beautiful. After lunch I looked back there and the seminarians were dismantling it and putting it away. I did get a shot of the crèche in the Church.

After lunch we were taken on a tour of the museum that is at Albano. The museum has many artifacts from St. Gaspar’s life. One of the most amazing items is to see the crucifix he carried with him on mission. It was designed to fold up for easier traveling.

There are many paintings and artifacts and holy cards from the time, his breviaries, cassock, and some vestments as well as sacred vessels. I have been there three or four times now and it is always a joy to visit this holy place.


After our little tour we got back to our car and drove back into Rome. It was time to find Villa Lituania again and check in. This time we had a car as we could not turn it in until the morning. So we parked in their gate area and went inside to get them to open it. When I got back outside it was beginning to close again. So this time I waited with the car while someone else went in. Once parked, we unloaded and checked in. We got some different rooms this time around in another building. Italian accommodations are pretty interesting sometimes. In Assisi I had such a small bathroom that the bathroom itself was the shower stall. I think we all agreed that this part of the trip we got better accommodations.

We had made arrangements to meet Fr. Lopes at Chiesa Nuova at 6:30 or so, so we had several hours to kill and decided to see some things that had been missed from the first days itinerary. We freshened up a bit and then headed over to Santa Croce. We looked around a bit and then I inquired of the monk in the gift shop if Fr. Mark Kirby was around or available. Within about five minutes he was downstairs and giving us a tour of the place. He was quite animated in his devotion to this place and spoke of the many saints who had come to the shrine to pray. St. Gaspar had made his retreat here before ordination and afterwards preached to the monks ten Lenten seasons in a row.


Don Marco and I made plans to get together to celebrate Mass at the shrine in a few days, then we got ourselves a taxi and made it over to Chiesa Nuova. Chiesa Nuova is where St. Gaspar preached his last mission before he died. We were there in plenty of time to visit the church. Soon after we arrived a Mass began at the tomb of St. Philip Neri.

Fr. Lopes arrived soon after and shepherded us to one of his favorite restaurants. We were among the first to arrive at the restaurant but soon after it filled up. It must have been American’s night out because the only language we hear in our section was English. These two young women were having an animated conversation not realizing that their clear high and distinct voices pierced the atmosphere and were louder that the rest of the customers combined. The food and wine were terrific. There is a little pasta called caci e pepe that I had not had before but must learn how to make. Even more terrific was the conversation, Fr. Steve filling us in on the politics and economics of the parish back in the 80’s and 90’s when he was a parishioner and super sacristan. (Did I forget to mention that he was a student of mine back in the late ‘80s). Anyway, Steven confirmed in many ways the stories I have learned about this place that illustrates much of what we have yet to turn around and reform here. That I was able to return to the parish and finally informed them that we ended a year in the black is some indication that we are on solid ground again. It was a great dinner and we enjoyed it too much. We had been among the first to arrive at the restaurant. We were definitely the last ones to leave. A good indicator of the intense conversation was that I failed to take any pictures to record the event. It was a Feast.

We were not too distant from the Vatican so we accompanied Fr. Lopes back there by foot. It was an easier place to catch a cab that could take us back to our Guest house. This was a heavily Gasparian day and the morrow was going to be principally Dominican for Sr. Mary Mark again.

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Day Eleven

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Day 11 was Sunday January 7th, In Italy the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We made plans to go to Mass at 6:00pm at St. Catherine’s Church of San Domenico. Today was going to be a bit of a Dominican day for Sr. Mary Mark. This was also the day we had a booked a tour of Siena and San Gimignano with one of the areas’ famous guides.

We slept in and came to breakfast about 8:30am. There at breakfast in the hotel was another family and after a while we figured it was not Italian they were speaking. It sounded more like Spanish. Later when we spoke with them we discovered they also spoke perfect English. They were from Costa Rica and were in Italy to bring their daughter to a language school.

After Breakfast we were met by our guide in the Lobby and began a walking tour of Siena and all the sites associated with St. Catherine. She explained a bit about the ancient neighborhoods in Siena, the contradas, and also about the ancient horse race that is still held every years, the Palio. This explained all the colors in our neighborhood and the decorations on all the lamps. She took us by that ugly Duomo and explained a bit of its history. We elected not to go in this time. In the main square, the Campo, she showed us pictures of how the horse race was celebrated in the Square.
She also a little bit about St. Bernardine of Siena and the insignia that was seen all over Siena and even on City Hall. Especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, Bernardine devised a symbol—IHS, Iesus Hominem Salvator, in Gothic letters on a blazing sun. This was to displace the superstitious symbols of the day, as well as the insignia of factions or contradas. The devotion spread, and the symbol began to appear in churches, homes and public buildings. We visited the Church associated with the life of St. Catherine, and we also toured the site of her home that has been turned into a shrine. After walking back an forth across old Siena it was time for lunch and we stopped at one of the many bars in the city that serve sandwiches and refreshments.
After lunch we went to get our car and drove the 30km to Sam Gimignano. This was a bit like stepping back in time and walking through a medieval city. Here a light misty rain began to fall. We stopped in a variety of shops.
I think it was here we became pretty determined that next time we came to Italy we would have to find a place where we could do some cooking. I bought a bunch of spices for some Tuscan dishes, and even a small bottle of some of the new olive oil. After a tour of various sites and churches, we drove back to Siena and took a little break before Mass. Thanks Viviana, for such a marvelous day.

We walked over to San Domenico for the evening Mass. We felt right at home as the ladies prayed the Rosary before Mass. Mass in Italian is not too bad. The homilies are a bit rough when they last a long time and this one did. After Mass we made our way back to Duo Parte for dinner. I believe it was here that we converted Sr. Mary Mark to grappa. It was another fine feast. We then retired because tomorrow was going to be another long day.

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Day Ten


Day Ten was January 6th, The Solemnity of the Epiphany. In Italy this is not transferred to the Sunday and it certainly looked like it might be a Holy Day of Obligation. Because the Mass yesterday had been so beautiful we decided to try it again. This time we would go earlier so we could get all of Morning Prayer before Mass. Either because it was a Saturday or because it was a Solemnity there was no public celebration of Morning Prayer. So we just enjoyed the silence. But then the bells started to ring. The Bells were incredible. It was such a beautiful, marvelous sound. It was clear that it was a major feast. After a bit more silence we began to hear the swish, swish of many feet in the old stone church. It was a rather large youth group entering the church and filling all the spaces, and much to the humor of my companions two young men with guitars sat down on the steps only a few feet from where I was sitting and proceeded to discuss with two priests what they would do for the Mass. Ok, well, it was clear that we were not going to get the beauty of the previous morning, but we certainly got the fervent singing of these two. Mass began, but it was not the entire flock of Franciscans as the previous morning, just three or four concelebrants, and they all seem to be somehow attached to this group of young people. Mass proceeded well. It was celebrated in Italian. One song we recognized as Silent Night.

After Mass we headed back to the other side of Assisi for our third breakfast at Gran Café. The proprietor there was getting used to us and was generous in his hospitality. Afterward we headed back to the Guest house to check out, load the car and get on the road to Siena. That is the reason that there are no pictures from this day as it was another travel day.

The first adventure of the day was buying gas. We lost 20 Euro in a machine that took the money but did not dispense gas. On the highway we found a station that was staffed by people who pumped the gas and were a bit more successful there.

The drive to Siena was uneventful, but the arrival into Siena was an adventure. We did not really have a good map, and I was going by memory on the directions that were somewhere in that bag that we contributed to the Italian underworld. We did a complete circle of the old city at least once, asking for directions at least three times. Finally one police office said to look for the San Marco gate and that seemed to help. Once inside we saw signs for the Hotel Duomo. That did not stop the penchant for going around in circles because we came upon a point that clearly we had been to before, but the Hotel was not to be found. We retraced our steps a bit more slowly and discovered that the entrance to the Hotel was simply a doorway. The sign for the hotel was inside the doorway. There were no signs outside that indicated that we were at a Hotel. The other thing was parking. We were, after all, in a narrow medieval street with traffic and there was no place to go but to get to the left as far as possible so we could park and unload the car. We were to discover that our very modern hotel was in a building that had originally been erected in 1148.

After getting checked into the Hotel, and getting the car to the place where the hotel has parking, we proceed to find lunch. We happened on a place a few doors down from the Hotel called Duo Parte and we dined there for several hours. It was to become a favorite place and we would dine there twice more in our short stay in Siena.

After lunch we walked down to Il Campo, the central square of the City. On the way we stopped into the Cathedral, the Duomo, which for all practical matters is really a museum that occasionally has religious services. First of all the Cathedral is incredibly overdone. I think the word we used for it was “ugly.” The four of us would agree that it is probably the ugliest church we have ever seen. Also it was just a bit offensive to have to pay to enter a church. The Il Campo was more entertaining. The local fire department was having a festival in the square and it was crowded with people. The kids were led up the fire ladder so they could jump on to the giant cushion below. In another part of the square they could operate a fire hose to put out a “fire.” We did some shopping in the nearby shops and I purchased a bit more from the pottery collection. It was generally a carnival atmosphere. We walked over to St. Dominic’s to check out the Mass times for the next day, a Sunday, and then went back to Duo Parte for Dinner. This time the place was jammed by a crowd of noisy young people. Later we returned to the hotel to retire for the night.

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Day Nine


January 5th was supposed to be a quiet day, a time to relax and enjoy our surroundings. We got up early and in the darkness drove to the other side of Assisi so that we could attend the conventual Mass in the lower basilica. Before the mass we were treated to the chanting of the friars for Morning Prayer. In the quiet of that holy place, Mass was solemn and peaceful. After Mass we drove back to the guesthouse and then walked up the hill for our second morning at the Gran Café. After breakfast we split up for the morning with plans to meet at Il Monachi for Lunch at 1:00pm. Sr. Mary Mark was going to take a relaxing morning writing post cards, but first decided to join me for a visit to the Tomb of St. Clare. The Crypt was not yet open so we went to the side chapel to pray before the San Damiano Crucifix, the one that spoke to St. Francis. In the front of the chapel were three young men who looked like they were praying from the Liturgy of Hours. As I was sitting there praying some psalms by heart I was looking forward to the coming Monday when the calendar would return to Ordinary Time and I could use the Breviary again. As I was getting up to leave I noticed something familiar about one of the young men, and sure enough, they were the same seminarians from Louisiana that we had met on New Years day and had spent hours together standing in the darkness waiting for the Basilica doors to open. They had come to Assisi as well. So we made plans for them to meet the rest of us for lunch.

The rest of the morning was quiet and peaceful. I visited a few of the churches in Assisi, or just sat and watched as the town and the tourists went by. I also purchased some ceramics for my Sister and for the Rectory and had them shipped home.

Day9a.jpgAt 1:00pm we all met at the Pizzeria Il Monachi and proceed to eat as if we were regulars to this Italian Feasting. We were the first customers to arrive at the place. The restaurant eventually was full. We were also the last customers to leave the place. It was great food and great conversation. There is great hope for the future of the church when men of this caliber respond to the call of God to serve him in the priesthood. It was also quite affirming for me when they began saying the same things as I have been repeating to our parish team. The seminarians were Bryan and Todd from the Diocese of Baton Rouge and Travis from the Diocese of Mobile. Three hours later we paid our bill and left. It was incredibly inexpensive for a feast of seven people.

After Lunch our small group drove down to San Damiano and the shrine at Rivotorto. After that we retired back to our guesthouse. We had diner there that evening because the major task now was to pack for the trip to Siena in the morning.

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Day Eight

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Day Eight was January 4th. That evening we stumbled upon an Internet Point and so I have already posted a preliminary report on that day. This would be the day to visit Giano del Umbria and the Abbey of San Felice. The picture below was taken in the summer of 2003.


This was supposed to be a day to sleep in a bit since Mass would be at the Abbey later in the morning. Still, it seems, I was on California time and was still waking up pretty early. I created my own Office of Readings and Morning Prayer out of the Ordinary Time Breviary I still had, and then joined my traveling companions for a walk up the hill for Breakfast at Gran Café. We had discovered this little place the night before and were to make it our place for breakfast for the next three mornings.


Then we drove over to Giano to visit the Abbey of San Felice. There are really no words to describe this sacred place. The chapel is built in the 4th century over the tomb of the 4th century Bishop/Martyr St. Felix. The 8th-9th century church still reflects the style of that time with the Altar in a sanctuary that is over the heads of the congregation down below.


The attached Abbey is from the 12th century and was used by the Benedictines and later by the Augustinians. It had been abandoned when we received in 1815. The Abbey was confiscated from the CPPS during World War II and only recently and slowly has the congregation received it back. There are still parts of the Abbey that have not been restored. Fr. Luciano showed us some of the newer sections recently restored and they are quite beautiful.

The Tour of the Abbey also included a visit to the modern painting of St. Gaspar that is a favorite of mine.


There is also a favorite portrayal of the Madonna in the upper floors. This painting is probably from the Benedictine period as it is dated 1494. Since I have posted a picture of this to my blog before, I have seen it make its way around the internet.


Everyone who visits San Felice gets their picture taken in front of the Statue of St. Gaspar.


After a little tour of the place we retired to the crypt chapel where we celebrated the Eucharist. It is always a special treat to return to the birthplace of the congregation and it was a special joy to celebrate Mass there that day.


After Mass we headed up the hill to Ristorante Rifugio San Gaspare.

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As expected it was a fabulous meal. We were seated near the open fire and as we arrived he took some of the dough he was preparing and placed it on a large round stone in the fire. After several minutes we had the hot bread on our table along with some of the local agua frizzante and a very rich red wine.


Then he was serving some olives with orange and garlic, followed by meats and cheeses, and then this little lentil mixture over bread and sausage. This last little dish had such a remarkable taste that Donalyn immediately set out to find out what was in it and how to make it; then came the pasta tartufo.


Then we had a little Gnocchi con fungi at which time the activity around the fire became somewhat intense as the mixed grill began sizzling behind us. We were served grilled lamb, chicken, beef and rabbit along with some delightful sausages that they had made themselves.


Afterwards we were served salad, gelato with espresso, and then some delightful after dinner drinks. I was still trying to introduce my friends to grappa and was slowly gaining a convert in Sr. Mary Mark. We are also served some limoncello which seemed to be standard fare in Italian restaurants, but here we were introduced to a remarkable liqueur that we had never tasted before. It was incredible and we made sure we got pictures of it and knew how to find it when we got home. So far we have not found any store who knows of this or knows how to get it. We have found it on the Internet, but there seems to be no way to order it. It is called Eliser Gambrinus. They served it right out of the freezer and it has a taste I would find difficulty describing.


After that remarkable meal we wound our way back down the hill and after a brief stop at the Abbey we got back on the road to Assisi. Back at the guesthouse some took naps and others of us took a walk which was when we found the Internet café. It was amazing to spend about a half an hour there for the equivalent of about 40 cents. Then we met for dinner at the Pizzeria Il Monachi which was becoming our favorite place in Assisi. We had said that after the marvelous Pranzo we would never need to eat again, but it is funny how that opinion changes around dinner time. Dinner time or Cena in Italy is late and restaurants don’ even open until about 7:30pm. After Cena we headed back to the quest house and retired for the night. It had been another long, rich and grace filled day.

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Day Seven


day7.jpgMy memory sometimes fails me. Also I was being extra careful since the first day mishap. So after Morning Prayer I was a bit frantic because I could not find my passport. I searched everywhere. Finally it dawned on me that the nuns had collected all our passports when we registered.

So, somewhat relieved I made my way downstairs to the chapel where the sisters were chanting Morning Prayer in Italian. I found a nice quiet bench in the back that had a heater under it. The time for Mass cam and went and no priest had arrived. After about 10 minutes I offered, but I am sure that sister did not understand a word of my English. Finally the priest arrived and Mass was celebrated in Italian. After breakfast we enjoyed the brilliant morning sun in front of the guesthouse and spent some time taking pictures. Then we took off for the Basilica of St. Francis. We started with the lower basilica and visited The tomb of St. Francis.

These Italian churches are a bit overwhelming for people who are used to our little church in Newark. We took our time and saw just about every square inch of the place. Next we went upstairs and took in the upper basilica. About half way through that experience we had a bit of a scare when Sr. Mary Mark could not remember where she had put her purse. I got a bit of exercise walking down the hill to our car where I discovered her purse in the back seat. We went back to the Upper basilica and then proceed to walk through the town of Assisi. Some of the shops were quite captivating. We had pranzo (lunch) at "Il Monaci." The name of the restaurant means "the monks." It did not seem anything like a monastery, but the food was excellent. We had it on good authority that this was the best pizzeria in the world.

After lunch we did some more walking through Assisi. There were any number of shops selling Ecclesiastical and liturgical vesture and appointments, but in my opinion, things looked a bit cheaply made.

Later we took the car down the hill to Santa Maria degli Angeli and to the Portiuncula. It is always a joy to visit this place of grace.

Later we returned to our guesthouse for dinner and then retired. We had done a lot of walking that day and were pretty tired.

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Day Six

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Day Six was January 2nd. New Year's Day was beautiful except for that horrid dinner we could not stop talking about. Today was the day to travel North, and oddly enough, looking through our pictures we discover that only one picture was taken that day. The Day was to begin with some comedic frustration. Before starting this trip I had secured an International Driving Permit because the Car Rental agency told me I needed one. The Embassy told me that if I went to the Auto Club near Termini they would provide me one. So after Mass and breakfast we got on the Metro and headed for Termini. Quickly we found the Auto Club, but they would not provide that Permit because there was no stamp in my passport that indicated I was in the country legally. I tried to explain that it was a new passport, but the fact was that none of us had our passports stamped at the airport when we arrived. It was extremely frustrating, They tried explaining but their English was limited. So we caught a taxi to the Embassy. Surprise, surprise, the Embassy is closed. That little first day robbery was going to upset our plans after all. We decided just to try the Rental agency, and we were relieved to find out they only asked for my passport and my California Drivers License. With all that done, we drove to our Villa, gathered our luggage and got on the road.

Diving in Rome is an adventure. Driving out of Rome is a puzzle, but we made it on to the Autostrada and headed north. When we got on the highway, my friends dug out of my knapsack some of the CDs I had purchased in Rome and proceeded to provide some music for the journey. One of the CDs was the music in Latin of the Roman Rite and caused a great deal of discussion and reflection on the trip. So much so, that we missed our turn. We turned around and headed in the right direction but soon enough we missed our turn again and found that we were taking the long way to Assisi via Perugia.

We kept going but soon I saw a road sign that indicated an exit for the little town Bastardo. This was a place familiar to me from previous trips and my reaction to the sign would provide my traveling companions a great deal of comic relief over the next few days. We took the exit and soon found our way over the hills and valleys of Umbria. We came up the back side of Castagnola and the little shrine of Madonna del Fosco and came to the Abbey of San Felice. From there we traveled up the hill through very narrow roads to Rifugio San Gaspare at the top of the Mountain. We discovered the Ristorante there was closed, so we made our way back down the hill to a little hotel that was open in Giano. It was a late lunch for us, but no less satisfying as we experienced a traditional Umbrian pranzo. After lunch we went back to San Felice and roused Fr. Luciano. He was surprised to see us as he was not expecting us for another two days. We assured him we would be back, but I got permission to show my friends around this birthplace of the Congregation.

After San Felice we were back on the Road following Fr. Luciano’s directions through Bastardo, Foligno and on to Assisi. We took another wrong turn here that had us heading into the narrow streets of Assisi from the back instead of the front. After a few stops to ask directions we found ourselves at the guest house run by the Sisters of St. Brigit. My notes tell me we got registered, took a nap, had dinner at the Guesthouse, took a walk, and then on to bed. I do not remember much about that night except the fact that I was very tired.

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  one of Fr. Keyes' photos

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