Sunday, April 14, 2013


It all started on Tuesday of Holy Week.  Three of us, a Deacon, and two seminarians, flew from Rome to Marsielle France were we rented a car.  We drove from Marseille up to Avignon were there is a Palace in which the Popes lived for some time in the 14th century.  After a night there we drove north east to the Benedictine Monastery of Le Barroux.  To the left is a picture of their chapel on Holy Saturday.  As you can see, the Cross is exposed but the statue or our Lady on the left is still veiled.  We arrived on Wednesday of Holy Week and were able to pray and take meals with the monks.  It was a great way to enter into Easter as they chant and pray so beautifully, but also to fast and prepare for the Feast of Easter.  Click here to get to a short video of the life of the monks there at Le Barroux.  It was an amazing experience.


After Le Barroux we drove up to Ars on pilgrimage to St. Jean Vianney's tomb.  We met Father Joseph Bergida from the Diocese of Arlington, a fifth year priest studying here in Rome.  Since Father Bergida is in his first year of priesthood we were able to set up Mass at the tomb of St. Jean Vianney with his chalice.  I was able to serve the Mass.  In fact, one of the greatest blessings of the trip was the fraternity and unity of the four of us in the prayer of the Church; the Mass and the Divine Office.  I served or sang every day for Father Bergida's Mass at a different shrine or pilgrimage spot.  It was a great blessing.  To the right is a picture of me standing next to St. Jean Vianney's first Mass alb and stole in his old house.
After Ars we made a stop at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere.  A link to the wiki page on this shrine is here.  It was beautiful with many awe inspiring mosaics.  To the right is a picture of a huge statue of our Lady looking over the city of Lyon France which the Basilica stands above.  They purposely made her hands extra large as they are outstretched in intercession for the people.   One interesting side note, the architect and designer of the Basilica, Pierre Bossan, converted to Catholicism because of his interaction with St. Jean Vianney.

ANNECY FRANCE: Our next stop was Annecy were St. Francis de Sales is buried.  It is an absolutely beautiful area in the foothills of the French Alps.  These pictures were taken on the hillside during a picnic stop we made after Mass in the crypt of the Church where St. Francis de Sales is buried.  There are shrines to our Lady all over the place.  

Mount Blanc:
Mont Blanc means "white mountain".  It is a very popular skiing spot and the highest peak in the European Alps at 4,800 meters... over 15,000 ft.

This is a chapel which as you can see is inaccessible due snow covering the road.  

Another Marian shrine in the Mountains in Norther Italy,  Our lady of Oropa.  This was up in the mountains and has been there for hundreds of years.  There are references to it by Pope Innocent III in 1207.  JPII made a stop here during his pontificate.  It was also one of Pier Giorgio Frassati's favorite Marian Shrines to visit.   Here is a link to more information.  


This is a picture of the sanctuary of the shrine in a small mountain village called Santo Stefano d'Aveto.  We stayed in an agritourismo right behind the shrine in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  You are probably asking the same question I did, why is there a shrine to our Lady of Guadalupe in the mountains of norther Italy.  Well, the leading family from the 12th century onward in the northern part of Italy, especially the huge port city of Genoa, was the Doria family.  They had a summer residence (a castle) in this small town (there are still parts of it standing).  In the 16th Century one of the Doria family served in the military and took part in the battle of Lapanto.  Here is an excerpt from Encyclopedia Britanica: "In the 16th century the emergence of the greatest member of the family, Andrea Doria, opened a new period in the history of Genoa and of the Dorias, bringing them once more to the political fore. Giovanni Andrea (1539–1606), Andrea’s grandnephew, was his lieutenant and heir, serving as Genoese admiral against the Turks in the War of Cyprus (1570–71). He took part victoriously in the Battle of Lepanto (1571), which ended the threat of Turkish supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean."  This victory was attributed to our Lady of Guadalupe because an image of her was in the state room of the ship of Giovanni Andrea Doria.  It was given to him by King Phillip II of Spain.  Thus, after the victory, he brought the Image back to his family and people and in this small town of Santo Stefano d'Aveto built a shrine to her and a devotion began.  It has remained ever since.  There is a huge statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the highest peak near the village.  It was a great blessing to be in this small village and experience the kindness of the local people.  It was off season in this ski town, so there was not much open, but, one of the restaurant owners opened just for us.  He and his wife served us.  Wonderful people.
This is me standing in front of Christopher Columbus's house in Genoa.
I was the driver for the entire trip.  I forgot how much I missed getting behind the wheel as you can see in my eyes.

Here is the sweet Kia that we rented.  6 speed manual transmission.  And yes, it was a diesel. 
Here is a picture of the fellowship as we stand on the Italian side of Mount Blanc.  From left to right Deacon Spencer Howe from St. Paul Minnesota, me, Father Joseph Bergida from Arlington Virginia and Michael Hendershott from Knoxville Tennessee.
As always.  I want to thank everyone back home for your support and prayers.  I cannot come close to being able to express how grateful I am for the opportunity to experience the Church and her history in this way and with so many different people and cultures.  I am humbled by the blessings which you all make possible.  Thank you so much for your prayers and know of mine as well.  Happy Easter!!  

1 comment:

  1. Happy Easter, are looking more and more like one of His shepherds. May the will of God continue to absorb you in His Love. Margaret and Joe Siemiantkowski