Friday, May 22, 2009

Skywatch Friday

One of our stops in France was in the mountaintop village of La Salette, near Grenoble. This was the location of the 1846 Marian apparition. (More on this Marian shrine in a future post.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ciao to Italy - Bonjour to France

Crossing the French Alps into Italy took us about two hours longer than the highway would have. But it sure was worth it!

Monday, May 18, 2009


Rapallo, a small town on the Ligurian Sea (Province of Genoa), was a quick stop as we were leaving Italy on our way to France. It is of no religious significance, but it sure is a picturesque town. I would have enjoyed lingering for a few days. But, alas, it was just a pit stop along the way.

View of the Tigullio Gulf from the balcony of my hotel room.

Castello sul Mare (Castle on the Sea) was built in 1551 to assist in defense of the frequent pirate attacks.

Friendly Italian Chef and cooks!

Passing an open window into the kitchen of a restaurant, I couldn't resist taking a picture. As I asked the chef if I could the other two readily jumped in and posed for the camera.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Florence 4

A great highlight of our pilgrimage, for me, was the visit to the shrine of St. Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart at the Discalced Carmelite Monastery of St. Teresa in Florence. I belong to this same Order so I look upon St. Teresa Margaret as a spiritual sister.

St. Teresa Margaret's incorrupt body is on display in the Monastery chapel for veneration by the Faithful.

Rather than try and summarize her spirituality I offer a link for those who are interested. Go to for more information.

Main altar of the monastery chapel.

St. Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart lived from 1747 until 1770. Although her community has moved from the location that St. Teresa Margaret lived in the 18th century, it is a thriving Discalced Carmelite community. As with most Carmelite Nuns in the world today, these women remain cloistered in their monastery (although some do go out for Doctor's appointments and other important errands). In maintaining their enclosure many monasteries still use the traditional "turn" which enables them to receive or impart things to people on the outside. It is a sort of a barrel, placed upright, with an opening that turns in complete circles so that the opening is on one side or the other. Here is the "turn" at the monastery where the Nuns gave us the key to the chapel.

A common question we get is: What does discalced mean? Literally, it means barefoot. However, when St. Teresa of Avila reformed the Order in the 16th century, the word was commonly used to distinguish the reform from the original branch of the Religious Order. So, when some people ask why I am wearing shoes or sandals, I politely tell them that to be discalced also refers to simplicity of heart and poverty of self-will.

Another common question: Why aren't you cloistered? When St. Teresa reformed the Friars, with the help of St. John of the Cross, she didn't want us cloistered so that we would be available to serve the Church and our Carmelite sisters.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Florence 3 - SkyWatch Friday

A glimpse of sky through the dome of the Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John).

The Baptistry of St. John is located adjacent to the of Basilica de Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) in the Piazza del Duomo. It was built between the years 1059 and 1128. It has the status of minor basilica and was the location of all baptisms in the city of Florence up until the end of the 19th century.

We were blessed to have a personal tour by the assistant rector of the Duomo who is an American priest from New York.

For more Skywatch Friday click here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Florence 2

A motorbike seems to be the best way to get around Florence. The drivers are fast and bold. In fact, one of these ran into our tour guide. Thanks be to God he didn't get hurt.

Monday, May 11, 2009


We were able to spend only one afternoon in Florence, and it just wasn't nearly enough. It is amazing city of beautiful art and architecture... and brimming with people. It is in the Tuscany region and attracts millions of visitors each year. I think that there were about 40 million in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella the day we were there.

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, commonly known as the "Duomo". Constuction began in 1296.

Interior of the Basilica.

I was blessed to celebrate Mass here on one of the side altars. It was an especially interesting experience because of the continuous loud hum of talking people which sounded lake waves of the ocean permeating the Basilica.

A side street leading to the Duomo.


The place for gelato (italian ice cream) is the gelateria. They are everywhere. And good thing, because it is delicious.


Just a little south of Norcia is the beautiful town of Cascia. Cascia's most famous resident was St. Rita (1381-1457). Although St. Rita wanted to enter a convent, she was married at the age of twelve and bore two sons. After the death of her husband and sons, St. Rita did enter the Augustinian Monastery in Cascia and lived there unitil her death.

The incorrupt body of St. Rita rests in the Monastery of the Augustinian Nuns.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Along the way we made several quick stops at important and sacred places. One of those was the small town of Norcia, in the Province of Perugia and southeastern Umbria near Monte Sibillini. Norcia is mostly known for its holy residents of the 5th century, St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica.

Basilica of San Benedetto, which was built in the 13th century.

The birthplace of Benedict and Scholastica - now the crypt of the Basilica. We were blessed to be given a tour by Fr. Cassian, the American Prior (Superior) of the recently founded Monastero di San Benedetto.

Gate out of Norcia.

Our tour bus with the foothills of Monte Sibillini, a subrange of the Apennines, in the background.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Assisi is not only the birthplace and home of St. Francis and St. Clare, it is a popular vacation spot for Europeans. Assisi has its origins as early as 1000 B.C.. However, it was the Romans who built the terraced city on Mount Subasio after they took control in 295 B.C..

St. Francis (1182-1226) was the founder of the Friars Minor (now known as the Franciscans). With St. Clare as the first member, he also founded the Poor Clare Nuns. Francis called his followers to a life of simplicity, poverty and humility before God. He also taught a strong respect and appreciation for nature since he knew this would lead to God.

The Basilica of St. Francis

The Basilica of St. Clare

Pilgrims seeking shelter from the rain.

Fountain at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

The dining room of our hotel.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Skywatch Friday #43

As we arrived in the Umbrian town of Assisi the skies told us that we should be expecting some rain over the course of our two day stay. Of course, that didn't stop us from walking all over the beautiful hillside village.

Assisi is best known as the birthplace and home of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare. I will write more about them, and their sacred places, later. Today is about Skywatch.

An afternoon view of Umbria from the lounge of our hotel.

An early morning view from my hotel room.

View of the cloister of the Basilica of St. Francis at midday.

For Skywatch the world over click here

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

San Giovanni Rotondo

Our next stop was the Shrine of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina which is located in the Gargano Mountains of Southern Italy in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo. This is the second most visited shrine in the world.

St. Padre Pio was a humble Capuchin (Franciscan) Friar whose reputation for holiness brought him great and unwanted attention during his lifetime (1887 - 1968). In the usual process of canonization for sainthood in the Catholic Church, the body of the candidate for canonization is exhumed and examined for various reasons. As occasionally happens, his body was found miraculously preserved and only slightly decomposed. In 2008, the holy relic was placed on display for veneration by the Faithful.

The incorrupt body of St. Padre Pio.

The original chapel at Our Lady of Grace Monastery where St. Padre Pio celebrated Mass and heard confessions.

The new Basilica built next to the monastery to accomodate the thousands of pilgrims who visit San Giovanni Rotondo.

The interior of the new Basilica.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Abbey of Monte Cassino

As we left Rome, our first stop was 80 miles south at the Abbey of Monte Cassino. This is the birthplace of the Benedictine Order and St. Benedict's first monastery, which he founded in 529 A.D. 

View from the entrance of the Abbey Church.

The high altar in the Abbey Church.

The view of Monte Cassino from the Abbey.

The Crypt
Beneath this altar lay the relics (earthly remains) of St. Benedict and his blood sister, St. Scholastica who was the first female Benedictine.

Monday, May 4, 2009

St. Paul Outside the Walls

The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls is one of the four great ancient basilicas of Rome (along with St. Peter, St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran). The basilica is built over the burial place of St. Paul. Built in the year 386, it was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1823 but reconstucted and reopened in 1840.

The Basilica is called St. Paul Outside the Walls because it sits outside the Aurelian Wall (built between 271 and 275) which enclosed the ancient city of Rome and its seven hills in defense of enemies.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pontifical Swiss Guard

The Corps of the Pontifical Swiss Guard are responsible for the safety of the Pope since the 16th Century. Their uniforms were designed by Michaelangelo, but have had minor changes throught the centuries. They also guard the Papal Palace and the entrances into Vatican City.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Successor to St. Peter

On Wednesday, April 15, during the Papal audience I was privileged be within a few feet from where the "Popemobile" passed. Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, is the 264th successor to St. Peter, the first Pope. Not only does Pope Benedict reign over the Universal Roman Catholic Church, but he is also Sovereign and Bishop of Vatican City State.