Thanks for asking about Italy. I had written one-page article about my pilgrimage with John to Italy to celebrate the 20th Canonization Anniversary of San Lorenzo Ruiz which will be published in the newsletter of Philippine Cultural Society which operates under the United Nations Staff Recreation Council. Simultaneously this is being featured in attached newsletter (page 4) of the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz in New York. I wrote it as I strive to be active in social communication as a Pauline Cooperator. Please feel free to share it.
Pilgrimages are not required of Christians. However, many visit shrines and sacred places in the Holy Land, Rome and around the world. There are various reasons to go on pilgrimage: to ask or pray for special grace, blessing, intention, God’s mercy and to give thanks and praise to God. The main reason for our group to go on pilgrimage to the Eternal City was to celebrate the 20th canonization anniversary of San Lorenzo Ruiz, who is the first Filipino saint. He was martyred in Nagasaki on 29 September 1637. 350 years later, Pope John Paul II c anon iz ed San Lorenzo Ruiz on 18 October 1987. When asked to denounce his Christian faith, San Lorenzo Ruiz answered, "I will never do it. I am a Catholic and happy to die for God. If I have a thousand lives to offer, I will offer them to God." On Tuesday 16 Oct. 2007, our first day in the Eternal City, we celebrated mass at St. Mary Major and set out our intention in the prayers of the faithful. Also, we visited St. John Lateran and some of us climbed on our knees the Holy Stairs aka “Scala Sancta”, which were sanctified by the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ when He walked up on His way to trial during the Passion.
Wednesday, 17 Oct.: 10:45 a.m. Under blue skies at St. Peter's Square in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI faced a sea of over 10,000 pilgrims in Rome that day. Our small group of 29 pilgrims was joined by San Lorenzo Chapel Choir from New York. His Holiness led us in the “Pater Noster” and bestowed his blessings on the pilgrims and their loved ones, particularly those who were ill and suffering. Afternoon: Viewed Vatican museum, including Sistine Chapel and the Pope’s garden. We were privileged to participate in a concelebrated Holy Mass at "Altar of the Chair."
Thursday, 18 Oct.: 10:00 a.m.: St. Peter’s Basilica. The Holy Mass in honor of San Lorenzo Ruiz was celebrated by Fr. Erno Diaz in chapel just across St. Peter's statue with songs by San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel Choir. Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See, Ms. Leonida Vera arranged the commemorative Mass at the Vatican. In the evening, we were fortunate to attend the free concert offered by San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel Choir (NY) in Santa Prudenziana Church (Centro Filipino) in Rome.
Saturday, 20 Oct.: Prayed Divine Mercy chaplet with fellow pilgrims in Naples in a local church where Sr. Patricia’s relics are kept. A cause for her beatification is underway-- we were told. Then we visited the ancient excavations in
Pompeii with local guide. Afternoon: Bus ride to San Giovanni Rotondo. Evening mass at Centro Spirituale de Padre Pio followed by participation at 9PM candlelight procession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the new church.
Sunday, 21 Oct.: After the concelebrated Sunday Mass with Father Erno, we prayed at the tomb of St. Padre Pio-a Franciscan who received the stigmata, among his other gifts, e.g. bilocation. In the English Office of the church/ museum complex, as a lay Eucharistic Minister, I was asked to bless members of our group by: (1) reciting a prayer for intercession of our beloved Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina and (2) touching the pilgrim with Saint Padre Pio's relics of a brown woolen glove and a wooden cross. In Lanciano, we viewed the Eucharistic Miracle. The host was scientifically tested and found to be tissue from the heart. We are reminded that the Eucharistic Miracle happens everyday in each Holy Mass around the world.
Monday, 22 Oct.: In Assisi, we had Mass in the lower chapel of St. Francis Basilica, where we visited the tomb of St. Francis and admired the frescoes of his loves - poverty, chastity, obedience (humility and prudence). At St. Clare’s Basilica, we visited the San Damiano Cross from which Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to St. Francis of Assisi. Tuesday, 23 Oct.: In Padua, the Basilica of St. Anthony was towering both inside and outside. At the center panel of the reliquary chapel were the jaws, tongue and vocal cords of St. Anthony--known for his preaching, miracles, and love for the Child Jesus. Father Erno Diaz, our Pilgrimage Leader and only priest in our group, started each day with a morning prayer in the bus, celebrated mass in the great churches of Italy, serenaded us to the tune of O Sole Mio and kept our spirits up during the long bus rides by the Adriatic Coast. He was truly the driving force for our group in honoring San Lorenzo Ruiz. The pilgrimage changed me, but I remain with my trust in Our Lord of Divine Mercy. JEZU UFAM TOBIE!
Margie H. Skeels works at the Executive Office of the United Nations
Development Programme. She strives to be active in social
communication as a Pauline Cooperator, which is part of the
Pauline Family founded by Blessed James Alberione.