Friday, July 31, 2009

The Pilgrimage Posts: Peaceful Pollone

On Friday, July 3rd, the eve of Pier Giorgio’s feast day, we set off for the Frassati family villa in Pollone. This is by far my favorite Pier Giorgio place. Our day would be blessed from start to finish but it began with an unexpected travel adventure involving our big bus and the narrow Italian streets!

Our excellent driver Rosario relied on his GPS throughout our trip. Unfortunately, the route it gave him on this leg of the journey led us onto very narrow and steep roads that were not at all suited for a large bus. Oncoming cars had to back up quite a way to let us pass and we were barely avoiding the walls of houses and the protruding balconies.

The situation was stressful and it looked like we might even get stuck. At that point, I asked the group to pray and our priest, Father Gary, began to lead the rosary. Almost miraculously, with each prayer the streets began to widen! Eventually, we arrived at a much better road and were able to continue safely on to Pollone. The streets there are also narrow and impassable by bus, so our driver let us out in front of the entrance gates.

Pier Giorgio’s niece Wanda was there to greet us and get everyone situated in their rooms. It was a special gift of the Frassati family to allow us to stay at the villa. What a privilege to be in the house where Pier Giorgio and his family spent so much time. We walked through his beloved flower gardens behind the house and then went for a little walk through Pollone.

Our first stop was the cemetery and the original tomb of Pier Giorgio. Pope John Paul II visited this spot in 1989, prior to the beatification of Pier Giorgio. He prayed in the crypt for 20 minutes, along with Pier Giorgio’s sister Luciana. In 1990, after the beatification, Pier Giorgio's body was moved to the cathedral in Turin. After Luciana's death in 2007, at the age of 105, her coffin was placed in the same spot once occupied by Pier Giorgio. Before leaving the crypt, we took time to pray the De Profundis for Luciana and all of the deceased members of the Frassati family.

After a good lunch at the local restaurant, we walked toward the Cangio Church. It’s official name is the church of Saints Fabian and Sebastian. It was in this church that the proceedings for Pier Giorgio’s baptism were completed. The local parish priest, Don Mario, kindly came to meet us and opened the church for us. We prayed the seventh day of our group novena inside this small, old church that Pier Giorgio often visited. Our walking tour of Pollone then took us to the plaza for the Parco Burcino – a beautiful park – and then past the Holy Spirit Church and the local parish church known as La Parrocchia. There is a small plaza there with a beautiful view and we stopped to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Back at the villa, Wanda showed us all the newspaper from the nearest town. It had a nice article about our arrival and our pilgrimage itinerary. Quite surreal! Shortly afterward, we had one of the most beautiful Masses of our trip – in the room where Pier Giorgio died. Another of Pier Giorgio’s nieces (Nella) was present and Father gave a nice reflection on the Beatitudes.

Following Mass, we had our first home-cooked meal in days! It was delicious and a lot of fun spending time with Nella at our table. After dinner, we sat outside under one of the huge trees on the grounds. It was really a special time for our group and, again, I could sense Pier Giorgio’s joy at that moment. Here we were, a group of strangers united only by our common love for him, enjoying a wonderful day of faith and fellowship with members of his own family. I don’t know how much more special a day could be. However, we will try to surpass it on our last day of the trip in the only way possible -- an ambitious climb to the top of Mount Mucrone! Until then…Verso l’alto!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Pilgrimage Posts: Travels in Turin

Our time in Turin got off to a very interesting start that only convinced me how much Pier Giorgio was with us on our journey. We arrived late in Turin and planned to meet at 9:15 in the hotel lobby to find a place for dinner. Several of the group decided to stay behind but the rest of us headed out and found a pizzeria. After we had been situated at a table, two more members of the group appeared. It was really unbelievable that they had wandered to the exact same place and found us there. We moved to another long section of tables that would accommodate all of us and ordered our drinks. Just minutes later, two more members of our group arrived! It was really incredulous. I have no doubt whatsoever that Pier Giorgio led everyone to that same little pizzeria on that dark and damp night. Ironically, his niece Wanda called while we were there to say that she had also arrived in Turin and was at a pizzeria just then. It was a classic Frassati moment for sure.

Mass was scheduled for first thing in the morning at the tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Wanda joined us for Mass and it was really a beautiful time together. After Mass, the priest in charge of the cathedral greeted us in Italian and wished us well on our pilgrimage. Our Turin guide was there and began our tour with the cathedral itself which happens to be the home of the famous Shroud of Turin.

Turin, being the birthplace of Pier Giorgio and the place where he spent most of his lifetime, is a special place to visit for that reason alone. Everywhere we went, we knew Pier Giorgio had been there before us. We visited the beautiful old church of San Domenico, most noteworthy to us because it was here that Pier Giorgio took his vows as a lay Dominican. Our next stop was the Basilica of La Consolata, one of the most beautiful churches in Turin and the unofficial headquarters of Pier Giorgio’s many works of charity. He would often arrange to meet people beneath the bell tower and then set out upon one of his many visits to the poor.

Doors opened for us, literally, in Turin. Most remarkable was our experience at the beautiful Salesian church Santa Maria Ausiliatrice where the relics of Don Bosco are located. When we arrived there at 11:55, we discovered the church closed daily at noon and we were initially turned away. We persisted a bit and were reluctantly given permission to enter for a very quick look. Afterward, the priest in charge used his keys to let us into the two other churches on the premises built by St. John Bosco. We knew Pier Giorgio was opening the doors for us!

We continued walking in Turin and passed by the Cottolengo – a huge medical facility that is now a city within a city. It was not as large in Pier Giorgio's day when he would come regularly to visit the sickest of the sick. Our tour ended at the Piazza Corpus Domini, the location of the church built after the amazing Eucharistic miracle in Turin around 1453. Pier Giorgio describes this miracle in one of his letters.

Lunch and a little gelati renewed us for the rest of our day of walking. We visited Piazza Solferino, the original location of La Stampa -- the newspaper founded by Pier Giorgio’s father. A bit further along, on Corso Siccardi, we were able to view the exterior of the former family home where Pier Giorgio and his grandmother died in July 1925. (The house is now a bank.) Across the street is the church where Pier Giorgio was originally baptized and where his funeral took place. It is locally known as La Crocetta. Inside of this church is a large mosaic featuring Don Bosco and Pier Giorgio standing next to each other. Pier Giorgio often served Mass in this church and it contains a few plaques in his honor, as well as a small youth chapel dedicated in his name.

Turin has never been one of my favorite Italian cities. And yet, whenever I visit, I feel a certain closeness to Pier Giorgio. I know that he walked up and down these streets ministering to the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. He was born here, was educated here, formed his friendships here, fell in love here, spent many nights in Eucharistic Adoration here, engaged in political and religious demonstrations here, died here. His incorrupt body remains here in the cathedral. It is no surprise, then, that his spirit was so alive during our time here. Despite all of that, Turin would pale in comparison to our next stop…Pollone! Verso l’alto!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Pilgrimage Posts: Beautiful Bologna

Another early start and we were on our way from Florence to Bologna. First order of business was finding a map as our bus was not able to take us directly to our main destination here – the Basilica of San Domenico where the relics of St. Dominic are located. Pier Giorgio was influenced by a Dominican Father and took vows as a third-order lay member of the community in May 1922. One year earlier, in August 1921, Pier Giorgio visited Bologna and wrote to his mother:

"This morning I visited nearly all the churches of beautiful Bologna. Maybe if I have a few minutes of time left before leaving I'll visit the art museum.
Many greetings and kisses.
Pier Giorgio"

We were privileged to celebrate Mass in the chapel of St. Dominic but Pier Giorgio’s sense of humor was at work. As Mass started and for quite a few minutes into it, the distracting sound of vacuuming from a nearby chapel was drowning out our priest. Fortunately, a sacristan came and corrected our microphone problem so we could hear better and, eventually, the vacuuming stopped. I did find it amusing that we would come so far to have a special Mass here and have to contend with a vacuum cleaner! After Mass, we were greatly rewarded for our perseverance when Brother Tarcisio gave us a wonderful tour of all things Dominic! He provided detailed info about the sarcophagus, bust, relics, xrays, chapel, church, cloister, etc. He brought us back into the cell of St. Dominic where we also saw items belonging to him and relevant to his canonization. Brother Tarcisio also walked us through the original library of the monastery which is currently undergoing restoration.

We ended the tour outside of the basilica and realized it was time for lunch. But where? Just then, a little old Italian lady carrying grocery bags passed by. She told us there was a place nearby and she was going in that direction. We walked down a side street and she pointed out two lanterns above a doorway. It was a place we would have never found on our own and it turned out to be a wonderful non-touristy restaurant and a great spot for a long Italian lunch. Our Canadian pilgrim turned out to be our Bologna expert and informed us that lasagna originated here. Our waiter confirmed the fact and claimed that the Italian pasta called tagliatelle also originated in Bologna. This was an interesting coincidence because Pier Giorgio shared the recipe for tagliatelle in a letter to one of his friends. Needless to say, the food was delicious.

After lunch, we attempted to visit the basilica of San Stefano but it was still closed. This can be a bit frustrating when traveling in Italy but it is the way it is. We all wanted to return to San Domenico anyway, so we headed back for more time with St. Dominic. It is very pleasant to walk around Bologna -- known for its porticoed sidewalks and the two large towers in the main square. The weather cooperated with us again, threatening rain and thundering a bit but never letting a drop fall on us. We met our bus and were on our way to Pier Giorgio’s hometown. Another great day in the company of Pier Giorgio. Until tomorrow in Turin….verso l’alto!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Pilgrimage Posts: Fun in Florence

Someday I will have to be sure and thank Pier Giorgio for choosing to admire holy men and women who happen to be from such great Italian cities! His interest in Girolamo Savonarola would take us to beautiful Florence for what would be a rather fun part of our journey.

On the way, we encountered a major hailstorm with spectacular lightning. The driving conditions were so bad that a car had gone off the road and traffic was backed up quite a bit. But one of our daily gifts on this trip was how the weather would be perfect by the time we arrived at our destination. Florence was no different. We reached our hotel in the early evening and a group of us headed out for a walk along the river to the famous Ponte Vecchio. It was a such a full and somewhat surreal day – starting out in Rome, spending the bulk of it in Siena, and ending the night with pizza in Florence.

We were off to an early start the next morning with our Florentine guide Cristina. The church of San Marco was closed for restorations (a common situation when traveling in Italy) but the museum/convent next door was open. This was really our main destination in Florence. Not only is it the home to the many great works of art done by Fra Angelico, but upstairs you can visit 44 cells of the Dominican community from the days of Savonarola. He was the head of the community and was quite a controversial figure at the time. We were able to see the cells he occupied, his mortification belt, his cape, his preaching standard, his rosary, a piece of the wood from where he was burned and so on. Our guide was very knowledgeable about Savonarola and did a wonderful job discussing the controversy, the role he played in Florence politics and the effect of his execution. After getting to know Savonarola a little better firsthand, it is all the more fascinating to think about Pier Giorgio having such a devotion to this somewhat radical friar that he even took his name upon becoming a lay Dominican.

Our tour of Florence took us also to the main cathedral in Florence (the basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore), the Gates of Paradise and the Piazza della Signoria where Savonarola was executed. We celebrated Mass in the Franciscan basilica of Santa Croce – the location of the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo and a beautiful sarcophagus dedicated to one of Pier Giorgio’s favorite Italian poets Dante Alghieri. We prayed day four of our group novena outside of Santa Croce and then had time to explore a little more of Florence without our guide. Some went to see the original statue of David by Michelangelo in the Galleria dell'Accademia. Some took time to shop. I tagged along with the youngest member of our group to climb to the top of the Duomo cupola and enjoy a spectactular view of Florence.

Pier Giorgio made his presence known that evening when we regrouped for dinner at a place not far from our hotel. At the end of our meal, the server brought us a complimentary bottle of limoncello – my favorite Italian drink after cappuccino! In true Tipi Loschi fashion, we each took a photo wearing a paper hat made from our placemats. It was a good round of spontaneous silliness and fun that Pier Giorgio would have approved of. One of the attractive qualities of Pier Giorgio’s spirituality is that he could appreciate the art of Michelangelo, the poetry of Dante, the charism of a fiery Renaissance preacher such as Savonarola, and the joy of friendship. We managed to do the same in our visit to Florence. Off to Bologna tomorrow. Verso l’alto!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Pilgrimage Posts: Saint Catherine's Siena

Rome is a spectacular city and it is always hard for me to leave there. I think Pier Giorgio must have liked Rome, too. He once had a friend from Vienna named Maria Fischer who visited the piazza of St. Peter’s but did not like it. He teased her about this and never let her forget it!

The day we left Rome was Monday, June 29th, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. These great saints, in addition to being important to Pier Giorgio, are also the patron saints of the city of Rome. In honor of their feast day, nearly everything in Rome is closed on June 29th. However, it was also the day for the new cardinals to receive the pallium from the Holy Father, so there was a lot of religious activity. The pope gave a special Angelus address that day.

In the morning, we had another short visit from Wanda Gawronska who surprised us by showing up at our hotel during breakfast. Our driver for the rest of our journey met us with our bus. His name was Rosario. It was comforting to have a busdriver whose name means rosary! We headed off to Siena – home of St. Catherine.

It was fitting that we would begin our journey to Pier Giorgio’s home in northern Italy on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. During the last week of his life, it was this same day that he began his journey to his eternal homeland and began showing the early signs of the polio that would ravage his strong body. According to his sister’s beautiful book, My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days, he was still in good spirits on that day and joked with the family maid to bring him two cigars: “One for St. Peter and one for St. Paul; it’s a double feast today!”

We arrived in Siena a little behind schedule but were still able to say Mass in the chapel in the basilica of San Domenico. This chapel is a special place because it is located directly behind the head of St. Catherine. I know it is hard to believe that there was a time when it seemed appropriate to separate the relics of saints but, nonetheless, it is a part of our church history. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the body of St. Catherine is in Rome at the basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Her incorrupt head, however, is on display in Siena at the church of San Domenico. The sacristan who helped us prepare for Mass in the chapel there explained that three separate keys are required to open up the reliquary and remove her head.

(As an aside, bathrooms in Italy are always an adventure and Siena was no exception. We had to pay 50 centesimi to use the “WC.” You enter the ladies room through a turnstile after depositing your coin!)

After Mass, we went to visit the home of St. Catherine and were able to see the place where she slept, the family’s former kitchen and other places of interest. We were also able to visit the chapel where the Crucifix is the very one that St. Catherine was praying in front of when she first received the stigmata. This did not take place in Siena but the Crucifix is there now.

Siena is a lovely town to visit. We came here because of Pier Giorgio’s great devotion to St. Catherine. He was reading her book, The Dialogues, during the last week of his life and found great consolation in it. In fact, on June 30th, 1925, four days before his death, he visited a friend and read a page from St. Catherine’s account of a meeting she had with Christ. Pier Giorgio exclaimed how fortunate St. Catherine was to see Jesus while she was alive and said that he envied her. As it turned out, it wouldn’t be very long after making that comment that he would be seeing Jesus.

An unexpected bonus for our trip to Siena was that we happened to arrive just days before the running of the famous horserace – “Il Palio.” In Siena, each person is born into one of 17 regions and has a lifetime affiliation with that region. Flags from each region fly all over the town and depict the mascot for the region. Near St. Catherine’s home, the banners of her region, Oca, proudly bear the symbol of a goose. Prior to the Palio, each region’s horse is brought into church to be blessed. As our luck would have it, when we came out of the gift shop next to St. Catherine’s house, a large crowd was in the courtyard. They were wearing the bandana of the Oca clan. The horse they would enter in the race was being led in a circle and cheered for. How fun to see St. Catherine’s team horse!

One of the most famous piazzas in all of Italy is located in Sienathe Piazza del Campo. Among other things, it is noted for its unique shape. On the day we spent in Sienna, the Piazza was prepared for the horse race and the atmosphere was extra festive. We had a nice Italian lunch while watching more of the preparations being made. It was strange to be walking on top of horseprints in the Piazza!

The only time we had a bit of bad weather was toward the end of our visit in Siena. It started to rain as we were walking back toward the church of San Domenico. Several of us were caught under the eaves of a building and had to make a dash through the rain to get back to the bus. It was fun getting slightly soaked in Siena! Pier Giorgio would have loved it! We left after a great day and headed to Florence where we would continue our wonderful journey in Pier Giorgio’s footsteps. Until tomorrow…Verso l’alto!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Pilgrimage Posts: Rome Sweet Rome

Anyone who has ever visited Rome knows that it is impossible to see the sights in just two days – especially when one of the days is the major jetlag day! But I am proud to say that the brave band of pilgrims on the first ever FrassatiUSA Pilgrimage made the most of every minute! I have tried to include as many links as possible so that you can take a virtual trip with us.

Our journey in the footsteps of Pier Giorgio began appropriately at the basilica dedicated to his favorite saint – St. Paul. We arrived at St. Paul Outside the Walls on June 27th – just before the closing of the Jubilee Year in honor of the birth of St. Paul. Before getting off the bus, we began our group novena in honor of Blessed Pier Giorgio to seek his intercession and protection for our trip. Inside the basilica, we had our first Mass together as a group in the chapel of St. Lawrence. The basilica was already being prepared for a special visit by Pope Benedict and so we were unable to get near the area of the most recent excavation of the tomb of St. Paul. However, we were able to visit the chapel of the Crucifix. The crucifix is considered miraculous because St. Bridget reported that the face of Christ turned and spoke to her while she was praying at the feet of this Crucifix in 1370. (One of our pilgrims was named Bridget and she shares a birth date with Pier Giorgio, so it was extra meaningful to visit that chapel.)

(A little interesting aside about St. Bridget: When the miraculous Crucifix spoke to her, she was given words of encouragement about founding a religious community. Later, she would found the Order of the Holy Saviour – known as the Brigittines. One community of Brigittine monks is located in Oregon and recently elected a new prior, the Reverend Brother Bernard Ner Suguitan, O.Ss.S. He will be installed on July 23rd, the feast of St. Bridget. He is a native of the Philippines and a big fan of Pier Giorgio! Before entering religious life, he founded the Friends of Frassati Philippines.)

But back to Rome… after visiting St. Paul’s, we took a quick trip through Rome to our hotel near the Vatican, settled in and then met for lunch. The rest of the day was a marathon walk to many of the famous places in Rome that would not be a part of our guided tour but are often considered “must sees” when you visit. These included one of my favorite churches in Rome – the Holy Spirit Church along Borgo Santo Spirito. (By the way, the priest/postulator in charge of Pier Giorgio’s canonization cause resides across the street from this church.) The Holy Spirit Church is dedicated to the Divine Mercy and is maintained by nuns from the order of St. Faustina. We entered just as the daily recitation of the chaplet and rosary was coming to an end.

From there, we headed to Santa Lucia in Gonfalone and the Chiesa Nuova. Unfortunately, we timed it just wrong and both were closed. We spent a little bit of time at the Piazza Navona and made it to the Pantheon just minutes before it was closing. In Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, we were able to pray at the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena. (St. Catherine and one of our pilgrims -- Debbie -- share a birth date.) Most of her body is contained in a stone sarcophagus near the altar. We would not see the rest of her until reaching Siena. The tomb of Blessed Fra Angelico (with whom, by the way, I share a birth date) is also in this basilica. We would be able to admire his works later in Florence.

Despite the heat and fatigue, we walked on and reached the jam-packed Trevi Fountain and then the Spanish steps. Trivia: the first McDonald’s in Italy is located on the street just to the right of the bottom of the Spanish steps. Thankfully, we were able to use the bathrooms there! Our streak of hitting places that were closed continued when we finally made it to the Casa del Rosario – a place I recommend for souvenir shopping. Saturday is the only day it closes super early. Make a note of it! It is right across from Santa Maria Maggiore. By this point, everyone was ready to call it a day. We were not far from Rome’s major train/bus station Termini, so we took advantage of the public transportation and headed back to our hotel.

Rome is overwhelming. There are so many breathtaking sights and beautiful churches. There is also the historical aspect represented by ancient Rome. This would be the focus for our second and last day there on Sunday, July 28th. We started the day with Mass in St. Peter’s at the Clementine Chapel. It was a privilege to have Mass in this place because it is the closest location to the remains of St. Peter (who, of course, is one of Pier Giorgio’s namesakes.) We also were able to visit the tomb of the great Pope John Paul II while we were down in the grotto area.

Our guide for the day met us after Mass and we set off for the Basilica of St. John Lateran with a quick stop afterward at the church of the Holy Stairs . We enjoyed the cool of the catacombs of Domitilla and then returned to the Piazza of St. Peter’s to see our friend Pope Benedict recite the Sunday Angelus. He was glad to see us, wished us a pleasant stay in Rome and a Blessed Sunday!

After lunch on the Borgo Pio, we headed off to Santa Maria Maggiore to complete our visits to the four major basilicas. Finally, our guide brought us to the Flavian Amphitheatre, a.k.a.The Coliseum and we spent a good bit of time inside contemplating the complexity and greatness of ancient Rome. Well, okay, I guess we were mainly taking pictures and video -- but trust me, no matter what you do in there, you cannot help contemplating the complexity and greatness of ancient Rome!

With only one evening left in Rome, we were not about to call it quits. We had dinner scheduled that evening at a great little pizza place in Trastevere. Our special guest was Wanda Gawronska – a niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio. On the way there, we stopped in at the basilica of St. Cecilia. Time was on our side and, thanks to a wedding there, we were able to get inside and admire the beautiful (and one of my all-time favorites!) sculpture of St. Cecilia. We were just enough ahead of schedule to have time to visit yet another spectacular basilica– Santa Maria in Trastevere. This is the seat of the Community of Sant' Egidio. Every night, they have beautiful vesper services. On Sunday evenings, they celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. (I happen to be an eastern rite Byzantine Catholic, so this is always a special experience for me.) Just as we walked inside the basilica, the procession with the gospel book and the incense passed right by us to the sound of the beautiful chanting.

At the pizzeria, we found an air-conditioned room and were joined shortly afterward by Wanda. After dinner, she generously invited us to her home for ice cream and a brief visit on her terrace. What more can I say? The sky was awesome; the view was spectacular; we were having gelati in Rome at the home of a relative of Pier Giorgio. To make it even more special, we prayed day two of our group novena together up there on the terrace. All good things must come to an end and so we made our way back to the hotel via the tram and a city bus. While heading for the bus, we got an up-close look at the giant cats of Rome that live in the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. Creeeeeeepy!

I think we can all agree that we made the most of our time in Rome. It was a wonderful mix of fun, fellowship, faith, food and Frassati. I feel tired and excited just writing about it! The days to follow would be just as full and even more meaningful. Verso l'alto!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Almost Heaven

It has been almost two weeks now since I have returned to the U.S. after spending some incredibly blessed time on the FrassatiUSA pilgrimage. And still it is difficult to capture that experience in words. The only two that seem adequate for now are the title for this post.

Having never led a pilgrimage group before, I really did not know what to expect from the experience. We were strangers coming from different places: Texas, Indiana, Illinois, New York, Tennessee, Kentucky, Canada, Philadelphia and New Jersey. We met for the first time in Rome's Fiumicino airport. The only thing we had in common was that Pier Giorgio had somehow called us to make this journey together. And what a journey! Every single day there was a sign that seemed to say Pier Giorgio was with us. He prepared wonderful surprises all along the way and I never ceased being amazed at God's goodness.

When I finally made it back to Nashville, after some long airport delays, I found myself physically and mentally exhausted and spiritually full. It has taken awhile to balance out a bit and begin to process the graces from the pilgrimage. I hope to share some of those with you in the coming days and hope you will check back for future posts and pictures. Verso l'alto!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Celebrating Pier Giorgio's Feast Day in Pollone!

It is 5 a.m. here at the Frassati family villa in Pollone on the fourth of July. Our group of pilgrims will be waking up soon and we will start the day with an early morning Mass before heading up to Oropa. There, we will climb to the top of Mount Mucrone and celebrate in true Pier Giorgio style his fourth of July feast day!

We have had an amazing journey and have felt his presence with us the entire way. So many wonderful experiences! We have put the miles on our bus and our legs. On Sunday, we were in Rome; on Monday, we were in Siena; on Tuesday, we were in Florence; on Wednesday, we were in Bologna; on Thursday, we were in Torino; on Friday, we were in Pollone. Today, we are off to Oropa! Seven towns in seven days!

We have celebrated Mass at St. Paul Outside the Wall's, St. Peter's Basilica, San Domenico in Siena, Santa Croce in Florence, San Domenico in Bologna, at the tomb of Pier Giorgio in Turin, and in Pier Giorgio's bedroom in Pollone. We have had some wonderful guided tours and some delicious Italian food. We have gotten to know each other through our travels and our prayer. Each day, we have prayed the novena to Pier Giorgio in a special place as well.

Upon our arrival in Pollone yesterday, we were shown an article in a local Italian paper talking about our trip. The article also mentions the arrival of a group of young French people who will be here this evening for the special Mass in Pier Giorgio's parish church. How exciting to be at this international celebration of Pier Giorgio's feast day!

With no rain in the morning forecast, we should be able to climb Mount Mucrone today and cap off a stupendous journey in the footsteps of Pier Giorgio. All along the way, I have been carrying your prayers with me. God-willing, today I will be able to take them literally to the top!

Blessed Pier Giorgio...pray for us! Happy Feast Day!