Monday, March 31, 2008

The trip home............

......5 am came early........too early. I loved it here in Italy but I am ready to go home. I miss my family and my kitties. I miss buying a coke for $'s 3.50 Euro's here...that's almost $5 and it's only a little bottle! It's so expensive there for everything it seems because the dollar is only worth 70 cents and I guess they have to import a lot of things. Our breakfasts and dinners were included but our lunches would cost $20 or more (converted into us dollars).

We had our last breakfast and then everyone got on the bus to the aeroporto...most looked like zombies since they went out and partied the night before only getting 2-3 hours of sleep. Jackie and I went to of us huh!

I wasn't impressed with Rome's airport. Not enough seats at the gate. The lines for security were HUGE...only 5 machines for thousands and thousands of people. Those 5 machines were for ALL the gates in the whole airport! Then there was the Italian soldier with the machine gun..............okayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.........

We touched American soil and everyone clapped.........God Bless America..............we were home. We had one person who lost their bag so it delayed us some. Then on to the bus to go to Baltimore. We prayed the Rosary along the way.....we prayed the rosary, angelis and other prayers on all us bus rides

It was raining and was weird it was kind of sad and happy at the same time..........I stood back as I waited for Melissa's father to pick us up and watched everyone saying goodbye, hugging, etc.....for some reason I just wanted to watch rather than participate....maybe in my heart I didn't want it to end.

Thank you all for reading this blog....God Bless you......................

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Last Day in Roma

Today we had options of where to go. We could go off on our own or go with the "God Squad" as I call them--Fathers Patrick, Michael & Brian. I chose to go with the padres. We went on a walking tour with them. We saw many things but one of the most notable were the Spanish steps...They are enormous! We walked every one of them - up! There was a community of artists selling their paintings, oh how I wanted to stop but I couldn't. In the evening we went on a tour of the North American College which is where all the priests from the USA study. We had mass there with a group of pilgrims from Philadelphia and to our surprise were joined by our new Archbishop O'Brien. Afterwards we went to a restuarant for our closing banquet.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Another Day in Assisi

Our room has outside shutters, a window and inside shutters. Before I went to bed, I opened the outside shutters, the window and inside shutters. We were awoken by the birds sitting on the terracotta roof across from us. I looked outside to see daybreak over the mountains with the tower of the Bascillica of Saint Francis visible. It was SOOOOOOOo incredibly quiet, peaceful. I just wanted to go outside for a walk but I remembered that we had to get ready for our breakfast with the group.

Now I love the group but sometimes I wish I could just go off and be alone especially in this beautiful town.

We had mass today in a little chapel of San Stefano (St. Steven). So tiny, plain, cold and damp but I could imagine St. Francis being there...his kind of place. Not big and ostentatious....just stone walls and floor, simple ornamentations. So it was nice to share that place with his memory.

Afterwards we were free to shop and explore town. Jackie and I went into the neighborhoods to get an idea of how the natives live. They have no idea how lucky they are to live there in that beautiful holy place.

We did do some shopping, met some wonderful artists. One woman who could not speak english but with Jackie's 2 semesters of Italian, my one conversational class and our spanish background well we were able to communicate. It was fun. We bought art from her and from another man who spoke some english a wonderful contemporary christian artist.

We saw some nuns who we didn't recognize the habit for so we stopped them an asked them. They were Franciscan sisters of the Eucharist. One was the cofoundress. They were founded in 1973 in Connecticut. Wonderful women.

Then the bus ride back to Roma......... :( When we arrived Fr. Patrick took us to the Roman Ruins and the church of St. Cosmos and Damian - early martyrs. I prayed for you again there and all your special intentions. Oh that we all might have the courage of these holy men.

We also had a tour of the place where the priests who are studying in Rome live and other places.....I could go on and write a book about all of this...we saw so much!

More trouble with finding computers...Now Assisi

There cannot be a more beautiful place in the world than Assisi. It is atop a beautiful hill. All the streets are narrow, paved with stone surrounded by houses from midievil times. Sidewalks are a part of the street just another color stone. Streets go up and and down hills (makes walking interesting). Religious (sisters, monks, brothers, priests) walk all about town. Stores are filled with religious articles and liturgical items...for all of you non-catholics, that means priests robes, chalices and other items used during mass.

There are thousands of people there but you still have a sense of quiet. Churches are like the other churches in Italy, large, cold and damp. Mainly because there were built before insulation and microphones so the only way for amplification was through large buildings engineered for that purpose.

Today we went to Santa Maria del Angelis a church built over the small chapel of St. Francis and over the small infirmary where he died. The little chapel and infirmary are completely preserved under the larger church. The chapel was so small for such a larger than life Saint. Overall so beautiful (frescos), so quiet, so peaceful, so God filled.

Then to the Bascillica of San Charia (Saint Clare - follower of St. Francis). Her body is entombed in a glass coffin. She is incorruptible.

Next was down a very steep hill to the Bascillica of San Francesco (St. Francis). There werevarious relics of St. Clare-robes & hair cut when she took her vows and Francis---robes, shoes & stocking with the blood from his stigmata. Then down to the tomb of St. Francis. His body had been placed in a column so that it would not be stolen. They have since uncovered the tomb and put an altar in front of it. THOUSANDS of people processed quietly around the column. Some stopping to pray, some touching it, some kissing it. There were a few pews around for those who wanted to spend time with the saint and was very quiet there again another place with the strong presence of brought me to tears again. (should have brought tissues along!)

The upper church was beautiful full of frescos on the walls and ceiling. We had mass in the chapel on the lower level. Our priests did the mass in Latin many other people joined us since it was near the entrance.

Our room in Assisi was lovely. Alot of charm, beautiful view. I have been keeping a sketch diary. I find if I sketch what I see, I never forget it as it is forever stamped in my memory as I study what I am drawing.

Tomorrow is another day in Assisi and mostly a free day which is good because I need some time to digest all the spiritual food I have been fed this week.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day Three

Now we are caught's today. We went to the vatican today and had mass one of the chapels in the crypt. We were surrounded by the bodies of former popes and John Paul. Other people were having masses in other chapels down there in various languages. Parts of our mass and thiers was in latin. So at some points we were all in unison ...the body of christ and the universal catholic church. I was moved to tears.

But it got even more emotional. We went up to St Peter's where there were several smaller chapels all along the sides. There were masses going on everywhere in these little chapels. Some priests giving mass with no people, some with only a few. As large as that place is it was quiet except for the sounds of the priests some singing, some praying on altars where saints bodies are laid in glass coffins under the altars. There was a large statute of St Peter that we were able to touch...thousands maybe millions had also done so and the foot was worn down. There was such an overwhelming presence of God there that I couldnt hold back the tears. It was more than I could take, I had to walk away. I prayed for you there at each site, each relic, each tomb...I prayed for you and your special intentions.

Then off to the Sistine chapel so large so beautiful, 4 yrs it took to paint that ceiling, 5 years to paint the wall. Ill never complain again about taking a long time to paint something. Then through the Vatican museum but only the first floor, then off to the catacombs...the burial place of St. Cecelia and the martyrs....I prayed for you there.......I am on spiritual overload.....tomorrow we are off to Assisi home of St. Francis....where again I will pray for you.

Day Two

this is after the fact too with the crazy italian keyboard!

We went to the Vatican today and heard the Pope. We were announced by one of the American priests. There were over 100,000 people from all over the world speaking every language you can image. Like the tower of babble. A group of French priests were in front of me and Jackie. It was drizzling and I offered them an umbrella but they turned it down so when they weren't looking I held it partly over their heads to keep them dry! Corporal work of mercy.

The vatican is very large. The first part of the day was beautiful and sunny until late when it sprinkled. We bought lunch off a cart it was some kind of pizza sandwich. Man was it good! We didn't get to see much of the vatican that was for Thursday when we return. We went on another tour of churches. This time bascillica of Mary Major where there is a piece of the true cross, the body of pope pius, relics of St. Jerome a martyr, and a 5th century icon. Next was Holy Cross were we saw another piece of the true cross, nails and thorns of the crucifiction of Jesus. There was a copy of the shroud of christ and sand from golgitha. Oh and the finger of St. Thomas. The church had been the house of constantine's mother who collected these relics when he converted and declared christianity the state religion. Then off to St. John Lateran which is dedicated to the Baptist St. John. It houses the relics of St. John the baptist, St Paul, St Peter and a piece of the last supper table. Everyday we have mass at one of the churches today it was here. A group of nuns joined us. I prayed again for you and all your special intentions. I was very moved and humbled by this day.

Day one....

.....Couldnt figure out how to get internet access so I am posting this finally after the fact....please excuse the typing as its an italian keyboard and i am having trouble with it! don't laugh!

We did a bus tour of rome since we had to wait for our hotel check in time. We saw the circus maximus, the emperor's home, the colosseum and so many churches on a walking tour. Saints Giovanni e Paulo (John and Paul), San paulo della croce, san susanna, bascillica of mary of the angels, mary of the immaculate conception, and the bone church. So impressive and so humbling to know that i was in the precense of the remains of the saints. I have been praying for all of you at each stop along the way. I am sorry that I cannot post photos but I am not on my laptop :(

My observations from the street....they have oranges and lemons blooming on the street. You can pull up on the curb and gas up....gas is about $8 us dollars. There are recycling bins on the streets. Trash is everywhere....very dirty. The cool thing is that they have palm trees, a zillion scooters, tiny cars, no speed limits, god help us and banco mats everywhere. Our room is small...beds to the knees. There are no wash cloths. Locks don't work and on tv Erkle is in Italian!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Today is the BIG DAY!

I leave in 2 hours to go to our meeting place in Baltimore. We will board a chartered bus to take us to Philadelphia for our flight to Rome. It all seems so unreal at this point even though I'm packed, etc. Pray for our safe journey. Ciao!

The postcard is of the town in Italy, Fiuggi where my grandmother and grandfather were born.

This picture is of family who never left Italy. From reading the names behind other photos I believe it to be the sister (Benedetta Pannoni) of my grandmother, Beatrice. Her husband Vincenzo and Pietro D'Amico...not sure of the girls name.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pasqua Felice

....or Happy Easter Italian Style! This is a picture of my Mom and Dad at their wedding...Theresa (nee Schmidt) and Joseph Yori (nuns at St. Leo's changed the spelling from Iori to Yori and it stuck). I wish Dad could go...long story but I will also be taking him with me in spirit. He will live his dream of going to Italy out through my pictures and experiences.

I cannot BELIEVE tomorrow evening I will be on a plane to Rome. It's like a dream. I woke up this morning at the crack of dawn just thinking about it. Then I realized it is Easter and how thankful I am that God sent his only Son to save me from my sins. And a flood of emotions came over me as I thought about the significance of this trip during this holy time of year. This morning at Mass I will have much to be thankful for. I am also thankful for all my friends and family who are going with me virtually on this journey. God Bless you.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

3 Days & Counting

Here is another photo. This is of my Grandfather, Giovanni Iori. He was in the Italian Army during WWI. Handsome guy wasn't he? He was short too. I take after Grandpop.
All I can think about this the trip.....looking at the weather looks like it might be rainy and between watch. I will have packed for this type of weather and we'll get a heat wave and I'll have to buy all new clothes....well I guess that's not such a bad thing!

I just checked the itinerary. We will get there at 8 am in the morning.....I hope I get lots of sleep on the plane. I understand we have to lug around our luggage until we check into the hotel.....glad mine has wheels!

Last night I went to the Good Friday Live Stations of the Cross. Jackie was there wearing an Italy shirt! How funny was that? Well I'm counting down...............

Friday, March 21, 2008

So the countdown is.......

......4 days until I leave for Italy. I started this blog as a travel blog of sorts maybe I'll use it for all my trips. I'm going on a church pilgrimmage to Rome & Assisi. My priest Fr. Brian brought the trip to our attention (our meaning my darling daughter Jackie and me). Fr. Brian and Fr. Michael put this trip together along with lots of hard work for Michael of St. Ursula. So here we are 40 of us, 3 priests, 1 deacon and parishoners from the Archdiocese of Baltimore (St. Ursula's, St. Jane Frances and St. John's of Westminster).

Pretty exciting. We leave the day after Easter and return on the 31st. We are going to Rome and Assissi. I am just about ready. Luggage just about packed and getting together all the things one needs for a trip, money, camera, snacks for the plane (can't forget the snacks-it's an 8 hour flight!)

We are very prepared. I took a conversational italian class...of course I don't remember much and Jackie took 2 levels of Italian at the local community college.

I'm looking forward to this trip. I have always dreamed about going. I need the spiritual growth that I will find as a result of visiting these holy places and the tombs of the saints....a week of prayer and reflection in a place rich with 2000 years of Christian History. A place also that means so much to me not just spiritually but personally as it is a place of my roots (well at least 1/2 of my roots).

My paternal grandparents were from Fiuggi Italy (Iori and Pannoni). My Dad talks about how every time Grandpop heard the song Arriverderci Roma he would cry because he missed his home and beloved Rome. I'm taking him back in spirit. I have this picture of my grandpop, grandmom and grandmom's brother (we called him Zi-short for Zio uncle in Italian). I hope they are looking down from heaven knowing that I'm taking them home even if for just a short time and in spirit.
I would like to thank my daugher Jackie who has given this trip to me as a special gift. She is a special Sunshine! :)

So stay tuned folks and come along with me on my journey back home. I plan to have Jackie and others perhaps post their experiences as well.