Pilgrimage Part 7: Rome


Rome: Wed 8th July

Today was a hectic day. Yesterday we travelled from San Giovanni Rotundo via car and then 3 hours by train. Needless to say it was a hot day (about 38°C). The train was an hour late arriving so we waited in the heat. More for us to offer up. This time, however, there was food that we could buy on the station platform.

Our poor driver was waiting at Rome for us for an hour, all dressed up in a suit. He must have been so hot. However we had a great time talking with him on the way to the hotel. It was so pleasant to be able to converse and he gave us a wonderful introduction to Rome- like a mini tour – explaining all the landmarks as we went. So you see, Jesus is good to us – with every downside there is an upside.

The next morning we were picked up for our tour by our official driver and our guide. His name was Vincenzo.

The Colosseum:

The Colosseum
The Colosseum

First stop was the Colosseum. This really put us in touch with our Christian roots, with the guide explaining the pagan society and the entertainment with gladiators, lions and Christians. He told us how St. Ignatius of Loyola died this way.

He told us how each Good Friday, the popes throughout history would always say 4 Stations of the Cross there. Also, how there is a little altar in one of the arches in which a priest says Mass every day, for all those martyred. He also mentioned Pope Innocent VIII in the 15th Century who commemorated the passion of Christians in the Colosseum and Pope Clement X who dedicated the Colosseum to God. We said a little prayer for all those who had died.

St. John Lateran:

This churcP1010385h is actually the church (seat) of the Bishop of Rome. There is a depiction of the Last Supper and behind this picture are relics from the Last Supper table.The main altar is built within an apse which holds (at the top) the heads of Saints Peter and Paul. We prayed through these saints for the Church and its bishops, priests and cardinals and also the Church remnant. We presented our petitions so that they would pray for us. Reverently, we got our handkerchiefs out and touched the base of the apse which housed these precious relics.


St Mary Major:

This church haP1010397s relics of the manger in which Jesus was laid.  It is in a silver frame and surrounded by glass. You can see the wooden slats through the glass.

There was a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows. The chapel has a painting which shows the pope (Liberius) drawing the line in the snow to outline where the chapel should be built. Our guide told us how the pope had dreamed of snow falling and that he was to build a basilica there. Our Lady gave him the sign. Snow fell on August 5th, 352 AD – in the middle of Summer!

Around the walls were 3 rows of paintings which depicted the prophets, and people of Old Testament such as Moses, Jacob and Joshua and God’s promise of a Saviour.

St John Lateran Church with frescoe

St. Paul (outside the Walls)

Here we saw the actual chains that bound St Paul in prison, as well as his bones which are in Inside Churchthe sarcophagus. Inside we saw a huge Paschal Candle stand from the 12th century.

The guide tells us that when Paul was beheaded, his head bounced 3 times and that where it bounced, 3 springs of water sprung up. (I hadn’t heard this before).

Goodbye Vincenzo.

This was where our English speaking guide left us. We were very grateful. He taught us and showed us so much about our Faith. We promised to pray for him.

The Catacombs: 8th July
This afternoon we did a tour of St. Sebastien catacombs. There was a church where we could pray and light candles before Our Lady for our Prayer Group intentions.

Prayers and Petitions Virgin and Child
Prayers and Petitions Virgin and Child

We had to wait for an English tour guide. It was very touching to see these places where the early Christians lived and gathered and prayed and were buried. It was moving to touch the walls that these early persecuted Christians had touched and to say a prayer for them.

Catacomb walls
Catacomb walls

There were many young children and babies who died. We could see the names and Christian symbols on their graves. St Sebastian was buried there and his place was marked but his body was later moved to the Church (at the catacombs site). His relics are part of the altar.

St Sebastien relics and altar
St Sebastien relics and altar

9th July: Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel

This morning 4 of us went on a pre-booked tour of the Vatican Museum/ Sistine chapel. We were split up among a number of guides – each with a smaller group of about 20.

At first he seemed ok. He was very animated and enthusiastic in his descriptions of objects and history of various things. He seemed to waste a lot of time talking about trivial things.

Tapestry of the AscensionThe huge tapestries were amazing. He proceeded to take us to see various objects in the Museum. A lot were pagan gods such as Apollo, Atlas etc. He pointed out how some of these provided the basis for certain paintings and carvings of holy things. I began to be not impressed.

We came to a reconstruction in miniature of the pantheon with all the various gods in each archway. He said in his usual jovial voice (and I don’t know if it’s true) that there was Mass held there every Sunday at a certain time. I called out “What? Here? In the Pantheon?” He said “yes”. There was no sign of any kind of altar – only a huge sort of shallow bowl.

Window view
View of Vatican gardens and Pope Benedict’s residence

By this time I was really mad and sad and couldn’t wait to get out of there. Finally, at the end of the tour – after a whole hour- we came to the Sistine Chapel- which is why we came.  He (the tour guide) didn’t enter the chapel. The chapel was big and the paintings beautiful. We stayed a while to ponder.


When we returned to our hotel, we spoke to others in the group who had been 20 years previously. They said that the Vatican Museum had lots of beautiful, holy things but all we saw were the tapestries and a view of the Vatican gardens and Pope Benedict’s residence.
Our Hotel in Rome:

Once again, we felt so blessed. Our hotel rooms each had a holy picture on top of our beds and a Bible (but in Italian). And there was a chapel with an altar and the Blessed Sacrament present, where we could pray as a group, and attend Mass when there was a Mass being offered.

Picture in Rome hotel rooms
Picture in hotel room

Pilgrimage Part 6: Monte Sant Angelo

Altar in Cave where St Michael appeared Monte Sant Angelo
Altar in Cave where St Michael appeared
Monte Sant Angelo

This morning we were picked up by a driver to go to this famous place where St Michael the Archangel appeared.
Inside the cave, where he appeared, are beautiful altars and a chapel of Adoration.

Behind the altar is a smaller alcove covered with glass/perspex and an old statue of St Michael. People drop into the opening at the top petitions, donations and even rosary beads.

There is an order of monks that looks after the cave. Unfortunately, we just arrived at the end of Mass.

A nun at the door takes offerings for Masses. We left some Mass offerings for our families and one for our prayer group.

As before we touched our “relic handkerchiefs” to the walls of the cave. We prayed for our prayer group intentions before the Blessed Sacrament in the Adoration chapel.

It is a beautiful and humble place. There are no walls; it is still a cave.

Pilgrimage Part 5: San Giovanni Rotundo

Pilgrimage Part 5: San Giovanni Rotundo

The centre of Spirituality at San Giovanni Rotundo  and the new Church (5th July).

Our hotel:
This is a beautiful place to stay. It is called “Centro di Spiritualita Pade Pio”. There is a Crucifix in every bedroom above the beds.

Statue of Mary in foyer
Statue of Mary in foyer

A beautiful statue of Our Lady welcomes us in the foyer. A picture of St. Michael is over the breakfast table.
A statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus is in the dining room.St. Joseph and Baby Jesus The chapel is dedicated to Padre Pio.

We went exploring as soon as we arrived (after we checked in). There were lots of aids for prayer and meditation for sale at the Padre Pio Spiritual Centre and we all stocked up. There is a giant cross at the front of the new centre.

Stained glass from chapel in hotel (In San Giovanni Centre of Spirituality)
Stained glass from chapel in hotel (In San Giovanni Centre of Spirituality)

Two of us stayed longer and continued exploring.  We had to go up a lift to the new modern church at San Giovanni. On the way we passed a picture of Our Lady that seemed to be painted like an icon. We have never seen it before, but we all thought it was highly inappropriate for Our Lady.

When we got there, we stayed for Mass, even though we had already been at Lanciano in the morning.

The new church was very modern and not to our liking. I think the inside was meant to look like the vault of the heavens but there were no holy pictures, or statues, or Stations of the Cross on the walls. There was, however, a big cross at the side (in front) of the altar. But it was in the wrong place. You tended to look at the priest behind the altar, who was saying the Mass. It should have been behind  the altar so you could see it at all times.

Modern church altar at San GV
Modern church altar at San GV

Instead, behind the altar was a huge glass wall covered with weird drawings.
They were blinds which had been printed. I won’t comment. Picture is attached.

The good news was that a majority of people received Holy Communion on the tongue.

On the other side of the altar was a huge construction which I think was the baptismal font. And at the back, beside the altar, was a lifesize statue of Padre Pio.

The Mass was okay except, once again, there were no kneelers, and people stood right throughout – from after the “Holy, holy, holy” to Holy Communion. They did not kneel, or even genuflect at the Consecration, and (as in many places nowadays), they did not ring bells at the Consecration.

Also, at the Nicene Creed, they did not genuflect at the appropriate time.

By this time it was late, so we returned for dinner.

Inside the modern church
Inside the modern church
The artwork on blinds in the modern church
The artwork on blinds in the modern church
Statues in corridor
Statues in corridor
Tile icon Padre Pio
Tile icon Padre Pio
Tiled icon of Padre Pio with Face of Jesus
Tiled icon of Padre Pio with Face of Jesus

Monday 6th July:
After a tour of Monte Sant Angelo in the morning, we headed off again to the new Padre Pio complex. This time we searched for the new place of his tomb.

The Incorrupt Body of Padre Pio
The incorrupt body of Padre Pio in coffin

To get to it, we had to go through the new church. We followed a long, winding corridor with (modern) paintings of his life and of St Francis. It led to a big room with a small altar. Behind the altar, St. Pio is laid out on a stone behind glass.

The room was ornate and extravagant and covered in gold (walls and ceilings).
We were told that it was meant to symbolize heaven. We left there after praying to Padre Pio and presenting our petitions.

The Old Church, and Friary.

We headed off looking for this. We didn’t really see a sign (or maybe we didn’t understand) that at the end of the huge complex there was a Pilgrim Information Centre. It was just around the corner.

Padre Pio Old Church
The oldest church of Padre Pio

First, we entered the old church where Padre Pio had spent most of his life saying Masses and hearing confessions.  We prayed and touched our handkerchiefs to the altar rails which he must have touched thousands of times.

Beautiful mural in old church
Padre’s newer church -for the last eight years of his life

Then we moved to the church next door where he had said Mass for the last 8 years of his life.  It was much bigger than the original church. The images behind the altar, I understand, had been done by Vatican artists.

We headed down the stairs to where his tomb had originally been; in the crypt of this church. This led on to a walk through the many rooms of the Friary which were a monument to Padre Pio and his life.

There were his vestments, chalices, ciboriums, altar book, hundreds of pictures of him. There were some cane chairs where he sat and talked to a fellow priest in his younger years (and a photo of this) and much, much more. The highlight was the cell where he lived and slept and where he died, and the Crucifix from which he received the stigmata.

We were reluctant to leave. This was a holy place. Thus was the REAL Padre Pio. It’s a shame they moved his body. This is where the spirit of Padre Pio lives on.

Padre Pios confessional
Padre Pios confessional
Padres room
Padre’s Room
Benedict 16th in 2010 when he prayed at the tomb of Padre Pio
Pope Benedict 16th in 2010 – when he prayed at the coffin of Padre Pio

Mass in the Hotel Chapel:

Yesterday, there also arrived at our hotel, about 40 priests and their bishop. We saw them at dinner.

Today we (some of us) were just going to sleep in and have a late breakfast as we are all exhausted. But the good Lord had other plans.

2 of our group (early risers) decided to go to breakfast at 7am. In the lift there was an itinerary for the visiting priests. It included Mass in the chapel at 7.30 am.

Well, these 2 good people came back to tell us. We had 5 mins to get ready but we only had missed a couple of minutes of Mass. There were 4 of us from our group and 3 other men at Mass.

The Mass was being said by the Bishop.  (We recognized him by his red skull cap).
What a privilege that our Divine Lord wanted us to attend this Mass!

Needless to say, we prayed especially for this bishop and his priests – that they would have courage to proclaim the Truth in the difficult times to come.

All the priests joined in with full voice the various hymns they sang during Mass. They were in Italian of course, so we couldn’t join in.

At the end of Mass, after the final blessing, they all turned to the image of our Blesssed Mother and sang “Salve Regina” – a traditional old Latin hymn that most Catholics know.

We all joined in with full voice.
Thank you Jesus!!!

We are now ready for our last journey on a train back to Rome later today.

Altar-view in hotel chapel
Altar-view in hotel chapel

*This is the chapel at centre of Spirituality at San Giovanni Rotundo. – our hotel at Padre Pio. Yes, it is new and modern, but it is nice. All windows are stained glass of Padre Pio.

View of chapel
View of chapel
9th Station of the Cross
9th Station of the Cross
Stained glass Padre hearing confession
Stained glass Padre hearing confession
Stained glass Padre blessing girl
Stained glass Padre blessing girl
Beautiful stained glass of Padre Pio in hotel chapel
Beautiful stained glass of Padre Pio in hotel chapel

Pilgrimage Part 4: Lanciano (Finding ‘Food’)

Further trials and difficulties:

Sat. night (July 4) after we arrived, we had difficulty finding something to eat besides pasta or pizza, and we hadn’t had a proper lunch. There was an awful trip on the train but the second part of our journey, with the private driver in an air conditioned taxi/car made up for it. A bonus was that we had a very pleasant conversation with him in English!

We craved salads and meat. We ended up at a copycat McDonald’s and there was salad but we didn’t enjoy the food at all. More to offer up.

By Sunday (July 5), after Mass, we were hoping for a nice meal. The temperature was 37°C. Nothing much was open (being a Sunday), except for quite a few ice cream and coffee places. We should have been happy… because it was the Lord’s day and back home everything would have been open, just like any other day.

We walked around in the heat and one of us prayed to St Anthony and another to our Guardian angels. We finally asked someone in an ice-cream bar. Luckily, the lady could speak English. After checking with her husband, she gave us two choices of what might be open. We chose the destination that was just a bit past the church that we had attended in the morning. It was self-serve and there was lots of choice – salads, pasta, meat and vegies, dessert, fruit and cold drinks. After each difficulty we have, there is always a nice surprise.

The next surprise was the best of all…

Pilgrimage Part 4: Lanciano (the Journey)

Lanciano- the Journey

We commenced our journey from Assisi by car to the station. When we got there a nice man with his granddaughter tried to help us sort out the train timetable and the time and platform of the train.
We hadn’ t had lunch and couldn’t see any place nearby to get any food. We thought we would just grab a piece of pizza or a bread roll with prosciutto – these were the only choices.

Our nice man returned and tried to tell us something. None of us understood a word of Italian. Finally he took us to the entrance and showed us a restaurant across the road. We didn’t want to leave our luggage and we still had to lug it all down a flight of stairs, through a tunnel and back up another flight of stairs to the other platform.  It was hot and it was going to be a 2 hour trip, but we didn’t investigate his advice.

'Angel' helper at AssisiAbout 15 minutes later our “angel” reappeared carrying a bag of “goodies” – cold rockmelon sliced up, bananas, cold water … He wouldn’t take any payment. We took a photo with him “Sergio” and his granddaughter.

Our dear Lord is so kind and is definitely with us! He knew that some of us had to stand in a hot train with air conditioning that was dripping water all over the seats and the floor for 2 hours. We were very grateful and it made the trip much more bearable.

Pilgrimage Part 3: Loreto

Trials and difficulties:

We had to get 3 trains from Assisi. The trains in Italy are not at the same level of the station platform. Then when the train doors open, there are 3 steps up into the train, and there is only a very narrow doorway – nothing like we are used to . Sometimes we only have a couple of minutes for 8 of us to get up/down with our big heavy suitcases. On the train, water was dripping water all over the seats and floor from the air conditioner. On top of that, it was a very hot and humid day – it felt like the high 30’s (°C).

A half hour before our final stop at Loreto, I prayed that my angel would have a taxi waiting for us, to accommodate all of us and our luggage. Lo and behold, there was a lovely man with a taxi with large luggage space who was there, as if waiting for us! The price was very reasonable.

I think Our Lord was watching over us. One of our group had lost an umbrella and another person found it. I had lost my toiletries bag and the cleaners found it just before we left Assisi (-would you believe behind the curtain on the window shelf? ) I have also lost my medal twice, but found it again.

We are all wearing our Seal scapulars and have the Seal prayer* in all our luggage.Seal Of The Living God Image

Our Special Hotel:

It is called ” Hotel San Gabriele” I think it was an old convent. There is a beautiful chapel, but the tabernacle was empty. I imagine that if there was a priest staying, he could say Mass. We didn’ t choose it – our travel agent did. It is only 5 minutes walk from the church.

Painting of the Angel Loreto Hotel Chapel
Painting of the Angel Loreto Hotel Chapel
Painting of the blessed Virgin
Painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chapel
Chapel in the Hotel San Gabriele, Loreto
Chapel in the Hotel San Gabriele, Loreto

The Church at Loreto:

We went to Mass this morning . It is a beautiful church. But during Mass I felt sad because all the church pews had been taken away and replaced by seats. There were no kneelers and no carpet. During the Mass, people either stood or sat. I was sad that they could not kneel for Jesus.

After Mass, the priest led the people in a beautiful prayer. I could only recognize the words ” Jesus, Mary and Joseph” and ” Holy Family of Nazareth” which was repeated at the beginning of each verse.

We returned to our hotel for breakfast and to pack our bags then return later, for a closer look at the church.

The church is beautiful with many chapels and side chapels and beautiful high altars. It was built in 1587. The walks, domes and ceilings are covered in paintings (as they were at Assisi).

The Holy House of Loreto is inside the church completely enclosed by the solid concrete structure. We could walk through and we touched our handkerchiefs through the bars to the holy house itself -a beautiful relic.

We presented our petitions for the prayer group, lit candles and prayed before Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar of one of the side chapels. It was enclosed by a curtain to shield it from the comings and goings of people in the church. We also wrote our names in a book and gave an offering for Masses to be said for our families.

The Church at Loreto
The Church at Loreto

* The Seal Prayer can be found in “Prayers”


Huge Altar Loreto Church
Huge Altar in Loreto Church

Pilgrimage Part 2: Assisi

Beautiful statues and sculptures in glass cabinetWe arrived mid morning at this old, but very quaint village, with lots of little places to stock up on Rosary beads, statues, etc

First we went to the very old Church of St Peter and offered up our prayer group intentions to our Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart of Jesus and lit candles.

Later we visited the Church of St Francis and prayed before his tomb and presented our petitions and also prayed for our church, bishops and priests. We had special handkerchiefs that had been touched to various relics by another prayer group member, so we took them with us on this trip and also touched them to the tomb of St Francis.

We also prayed in another chapel for our prayer group intentions and attended Mass there in the evening. Tomorrow morning we will attend Mass again, before we leave .

Statue of Sacred Heart JesusPhoto of Altar with Statue of Virgin Mary and Child Jesus

Pilgrimage Part 1: Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg St Sebastian

We went to a Traditional Latin High Mass at St. SEBASTIEN’s kirche. We presented our petitions for the prayer group and lighted some candles before the statue of St Padre Pio and the beautiful picture of Jesus’ Holy Face. We met the priest afterwards and some lovely parishioners. The latter commented that we stood out because the ladies wore mantilas .

Statue of Padre PioPicture of the Holy Face of Jesus

As we walked along a main road through town, we passed a laneway, at the end of which I spied a holy picture. I had to go down and investigate. I was astounded at what I saw – that this could be in a public place and not be destroyed or defaced. The laneway turned in a sharp left and led upwards on a rather steep incline. I saw more up the road, so I had to go and see. My brother soon came looking for me, as I had disappeared from sight and it was too steep for the others to follow. We kept going and discovered that they were stations of the Cross, At the top was the twelfth Station (at the top of the hill). behind it we saw a Church. We mounted the steps and prayed there. We noticed a building behind the twelfth Station , which looked like a church. It was the Capuchin chapel (Kappuziner Kirche).


We went inside and prayed and presented our prayer group intentions.

The Basilica of St Michael, Mondsee.

Later, while on the Sound of Music tour, we stopped off at Mondsee with the beautiful Basilica of St Michael where the

Sound of Music wedding was filmed. We presented our prayer group intentions to Our Lady inside a beautiful
grotto inside the Basilica of St Michael and lit candles.


A Dramatic Start via an Unco-operative Plane

The pilgrims, seven in number at present, first encountered trouble at the airport with a delay of a couple of hours. Never mind; plenty of time to pray and practice offering up “trials and tribulations”! One of the group is terrified of flying. What happened mid-flight would be enough to scare anyone (at least a little bit!)

Here’s the report from V:

“We just spent our first night in Salzburg It took us 3 days to get here. It was great to get a good night’s sleep. We were exhausted after our “adventure” with the plane… It took off 90 mins late because of technical difficulties. Then we were 4 hours out of Dubai and they were just about to serve breakfast when all our TVs went black. The plane had to divert to Colombo in Sri Lanka 20 mins away to make an emergency landing! There were fire brigades waiting for us at Colombo. (*Editor’s note: I  think old Hairy Legs may just want to break that plane. Hopefully, a sign that this mission will bear fruit.)

P1010014P1010013 P1010011

Above left: Some of the buildings in Colombo and the Sumptuous feast that was waiting for us when we fin ally arrived at the hotel.(we hadn’t had a meal for about 18 hours

Right: We waited outside the airport (standing for a couple hours) until they sorted out buses for us. Watching was a security guard/policeman/ soldier???


They took us to a hotel an hour out of town to stay overnight. They had to organize 500 people onto buses. Later they had to organize people onto different flights back to Dubai and they put us up in a poshy hotel again.

Anyway, we finally arrived at the first stop of the journey; Salzburg ( a day late). We are going to a Latin Mass and a Sound of Music tour, later this afternoon.