Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"To the Bottom"

Since my arrival in Pollone, the days have been very full and quite memorable leaving me very little time to post updates. I will try to catch up a bit with this one.

On Sunday morning, we left in a caravan from the Frassati home to head to Val d’Aosta – an area of Italy along the Swiss and French borders. My priest friend from Nashville arrived in a terrible rainstorm the night before from Rome but was treated to wonderful weather for his first excursion to northern Italy. The group included two nieces and one nephew of Pier Giorgio, a great-nephew and his wife, a great-niece, a group of third order Dominicans from Slovakia, a couple of women from Poland, Father Baker and myself. The scenery became more and more breathtaking the closer we got to Val d’Aosta. Rushing waterfalls, beautiful snow-capped mountains, fresh air. Once we all parked, some of us set off on foot to take the shorter hike to the point up in the mountains where Mass would be offered at 11 a.m. What a hike! Major quadricep burn! Good thing I was only doing the short hike!

The Mass was simply stupendous (a word Pier Giorgio often used!) Two bishops and at least four or five other priests concelebrated at an altar set up in a little clearing. There were hundreds of people there, a few in mountain costume. I wish I had time to post pictures but those will have to come later. One of the high points of the Mass for me was listening to the “Gloria” being sung from atop a mountain, so close to heaven! The bishop who gave the homily spoke a lot about Pier Giorgio. It was so great to listen to them talking about his example for each of us on our path to holiness.

The reason for this event was to inaugurate a brand new “Sentiero Frassati” – a mountain trail named for Pier Giorgio. It is the 15th one in Italy. At a certain moment in the Mass, representatives from all 15 regions that have such trails poured water from their region into a common bowl. The water would later be used to bless the start of this trail. Two more trails will be inaugurated soon and so water from those regions also was included. Immediately after Mass, the clergy headed just a bit higher up into the mountain for the unveiling of the plaque dedicating the trail. It was all very exciting. Afterward, we headed back down to the nearest town to a huge tent where a terrific Italian feast had been prepared -- local meats and cheeses and the northern specialty, polenta concia. Wine, of course, wonderful people and conversation. We had a terrific time from start to finish.

Afterward, Father Baker, Wanda and I headed for Turin to visit all of the main Pier Giorgio places. We spent the rest of the afternoon going from his tomb to the church where he professed his third order vows to the house where he died, etc. We got back to Pollone exhausted but exhilarated!

The next morning, I took Father Baker for a walk around Pollone to all of the local Pier Giorgio places. Then, we drove to the Sanctuary of Oropa to pray near Pier Giorgio’s beloved Madonna of Oropa. It was another beautiful day at the base of the mountains. In the evening, Father Baker said Mass in English at the altar next to the bed where Pier Giorgio died. It was very special to have that opportunity, as you can imagine, surrounded by so many relatives of Pier Giorgio in the house where he once lived!

Tomorrow, I will head down to Rome and make final preparations for the group of pilgrims coming from the U.S. and Canada to travel with me in the footsteps of Pier Giorgio from Rome all the way back here to Pollone. I am very excited about their arrival!

A final note for my friends who know how much I love cappuccino in Italy -- I am savoring every drop of it. “To the top” is our motto on our path to holiness following Pier Giorgio’s example; but, when drinking cappuccino in Italy, my motto is definitely “to the bottom!”

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