Pilgrimage Part 8 cont- Apparition Hill

Apparition Hill

Moses climbing the apparition hill

Yesterday in the late afternoon, (10th July) we decided to climb Apparition Hill. We donned our hats and took a bottle of water and off we set.   It was about a 20 min brisk walk to the bottom of the hill. The first 200 metres were paved cobblestones, but quite steep. Our dear 78 year old friend  “Moses” came along with us. I said I was worried about the steepness. He said to just take one step after the other, and before you know it, you’d be at the top. Wise advice.

The road was very rocky- not just gravel. The rocks were all shapes and sizes – smooth and jagged. You had to be very careful. To think that when Our Lady appeared to the then children, they ran up this hill trying to get to the beautiful lady and they were not harmed In any way. There is no way you could  run up this hill. Unlike now, when the path is well worn, there would have been thorny vegetation as well.

About every 200 ft (65 m) there was a brass depiction of each of the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary. We would stop at each Mystery and say a decade. This gave us a chance to rest. In this way we reached the top. Between the 2nd and 3rd Mystery there was a Cross.

The Cross placed at an apparition site
The Cross placed at an apparition site

This was the place of one of Our Lady’s apparitions. We took the opportunity to touch our special handkerchiefs to this sacred spot.

At the top, there was a statue of Our Lady surrounded by a star shaped base (Star of David) and also a star shaped fence. People had hung rosaries on the fence and had dropped little notes in the garden around the base. There was a priest at the top and I wanted to touch our handkerchiefs to the Statue of Our Lady but we couldn’t reach through the fence. This wonderful priest decided to climb over the fence! While he was there some pilgrims handed him their rosaries and medals around their neck. One Irish lady had a big bag of Rosaries. When he climbed out he gave the items a proper blessing with holy water.

A Fall!

While we were up top, there was a Crucifix (a Tyrolian Cross, such as are found in Germany and Ausria.) I wanted to go over to it. There were some bigger rocks, and I rushed to get there before we all started our descent. I was probably a little too keen and not being careful, and before I knew it , I was on my posterior, wedged between some rather large rocks. I had my camera in my hand, and accidentally took a photo of myself. My left arm  and left leg were grazed and bleeding. The strange thing is, is that I didn’t call out as I fell or even make any noise. I tried to get up but I was stuck. It seemed to take a minute or so, then the others turned and saw me and rushed over to help. Someone said I was bleeding. Big drops of blood were falling from my arm onto the rock beneath it. I couldn’t feel a thing. It was not sore at all. My brother had a clean handkerchief and I had some water to clean my arm. I think my guardian angel must have cushioned my fall .

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Left: The Cross before which I fell.

(Right) My skirt and the rock with my blood on it taken accidentally while I had my camera in  my hand.

Our good friend Moses had some herbal ointment to put on. The strange thing is that I didn’t really feel anything. I offered it all up, however.

We started back. After descending carefully back down the stony path, we decided to return a different way back to town through some fields. Along this dirt path, there was an old lady and her grandson selling beautiful, hand crocheted doilies and table runners.

One of our group wanted to buy one and the young boy said 10 Euros but the grandmother chipped in and said 15 Euros. The lady pointed out the beautiful handiwork. We decided that it was worth it and that they were probably very poor. Then she started to point out others. So our prayer group friend gave her 20 Euros for 2 items. Then she gave us each crocheted Rosary beads. We had never seen this. She was so grateful.

We walked off and Moses stayed behind at the lady’s stall. A bit later he caught up waving in his arms 3 crocheted Rosary beads in different colours of white, brown and red  saying joyfully  ” Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” He had bought 3 Rosary beads out of compassion for the lady.

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Part 8 Medjugorie cont. -Special Blessings

10th July:

A Special Mass:

We started off by going to a Mass at 7am in a small chapel in an orphanage which was built by Fr. Slavko who died in 2000.

Chapel at orphanage
Chapel at orphanage

Our Austrian friend from World Youth Day was there and another German friend. The hymn at the end of Mass was in 2 languages. I didn’t understand the first but I recognized the word “Gospa” which refers to Our Lady at Medjugorje. The next was in German which I understood. The words were simple and I was concentrating on what I was hearing. I heard “Mary, my Mother, you are my Mother too.”

Well, the tears just started to roll down my face. It makes me teary just remembering it. I wasn’t expecting this. I often pray to Our Lady as “Mother of all mothers” when I have a motherly problem and ask for her intercession.

It was a special grace from Our Lady to start my time at Medjugorje.

More amazing impressions:

There are always large numbers of priests who want to say Mass. Sometimes there are 20 or more concelebrating. There is the main church which has a 10am English Mass each day and lots of other Masses during the day. There is also an Adoration Chapel which has adoration from 2pm to 6pm each day. The whole complex is run by Franciscans.

Two of our group went to Adoration in the afternoon because they were not able to do the climb on the Apparition Hill. Towards late evening they stayed for Mass even though they had been in the evening. One thing they noticed is that 90% of people receive Holy Communion kneeling, and on the tongue!

We arrived home from our 3 hour eventful climb (more later), came home for a quick clean-up and headed off to the church for the evening’s activities.

Being Friday, after the Rosary, it was Adoration of the Cross. There is an altar which is exposed to the

Outdoor Altar as part of St James Church
Outdoor Altar as part of St James Church

outside as the church inside is not big enough. There were about 2 thousand people there today. There are also about 50 confessionals built on the outside, with bench seats for people to line up. As well as these, there are priests simply sitting on chairs hearing confessions.

BUT the most amazing thing wasn’t any of the above. We joined the people on the outside facing the platform with a huge Cross and a statue of Our Lady near the altar.  There was beautiful music that helped you meditate and various meditations were read – each one in about 4 or 5 different languages. They were simple ones like “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” and a short application of each to our personal lives. There were short breaks in between each one. It went for about an hour.

The amazing thing was that not one person whispered, or spoke or moved around. Not even children could be heard. Not even in a church does this happen! It was really unbelievable.  And afterwards they left just as silently and there were thousands of people.

The presence of Our Lady is evident:

There were people from all different countries – Italian, Mexican, Irish, the locals, German and of course, us Aussies. These were ones we spoke to. There was a holy and reverent atmosphere that was unmistakable. This place has blessings flowing from heaven– from Our Lady “the Queen of Peace”. (She first appeared in 1981 – 10 years before the Bosnian war. Her message was “Peace, peace, peace”)

Pilgrimage Part 8: Medjugorie

Arrival at Medjugorie: Thursday, 9th July.

Our plane from Rome arrived after 6pm. We were picked up by our driver at 6.30pm. It was a 2.5 hour drive from Split to Medjugorje. As we got closer, we saw a huge Cross all lit up on the mountain lighting up the darkness.
One of our group noticed on the way that the clouds were in the formation of God the Father- (just for a minute or two) and then they dissipated.

A surprise was waiting for us.

When we got there, we found a friend waiting for us. He was an elderly, Austrian pilgrim that had come to World Youth Day in Australia in 2008.

At the time, one of our local churches had asked that we pick up 3 or 4 pilgrims each day from the Church Hall in which they slept, take them home for breakfast and a shower and return them by 9am so that they could catch the buses which would take them to the day’s activities.

I had noticed one all alone and asked the church staff about him. They said that, unlike the young ones, he could not speak English. I thought that I could use my very basic child-like German to say “hello”. I then rang my brother who could speak better than I – and that’s where the friendship started! We nicknamed him ‘Moses’ because of his long white hair and beard. There he was, in Medjugorie, waiting for us! He had been waiting for us for 2 or 3 hours.
Another surprise was dinner waiting to be served at 9.15pm! There were also 25 other priests (out of 500) staying at our hotel for a priests’ retreat. One of them had just been ordained a few days before, so we received his special blessing.

Hotel chapel Medjugorie
Altar in hotel chapel with view

The hotel also had a chapel with an altar. The circular window above the altar looked to the skies and to Apparition Hill.

We felt like the blessings had only just begun.

Holy Family Holy Water font at hotel reception
Holy Water font reception
Our Lady of  the Seven Sorrows
Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows
Statues Reception Foyer incl St Anthony and Our Lady
Statues Reception Foyer incl St Anthony and Our Lady

Pilgrimage Part 7: Rome

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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.

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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.

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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…