Tomorrow morning we head out bright and early with one sweet but angrily-teething baby (who will be assuring our otherwise glamorous trip remains firmly categorized as “pilgrimage”) and 2 suitcases. We’re connecting through NYC and then straight on till Rome. Once we’re on the ground in Italy, we’re headed directly out of town to Napoli (and Pompeii, which my 7th grade ancient-history loving heart is positively atwitter over), and then the rest of the trip is very much oriented toward visiting shrines, churches, and other pilgrimage sites.
We’ll be visiting the Church of Gesu Nuovo on our first day, where lies the body of St. Joseph Moscati (a medical doctor canonized by St. John Paul II.) I’ll be praying there especially for my doctor friends and for a decisive defeat of the physician-assisted suicide bill on the Colorado ballot this fall.
Still in Naples, we head to the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary and learn about Blessed Bartolo Longo, mentioned by name in JPII’s apostolic letter on the rosary as an “apostle of the rosary.” So far the count of “saints I’ve never heard of” stands at 2.
The next morning we head out for Padre Pio’s stomping grounds, Pietrelcina. We’ll be visiting the house where he was born (!), the church where he was baptized, and the church where he celebrated his first mass. Then we head to Piana Romano, the site where he received his stigmata. Finally, we head to San Giovanni Rotondo, where he served as a Franciscan friar for 52 years.
Day 4 is the day I think I’m most excited about, and I’m not even totally sure why. We’re headed to the Grotto of St Michael, which is the oldest shrine in western Europe, a site that St. Francis of Assisi made a pilgrimage to but felt himself unworthy to enter, so he stayed and prayed outside the door. He carved the “tau” cross into the doorpost, which I’m hoping is still visible? But I don’t know. I’d never heard of this place before seeing the itinerary for the trip, but I’ve been crazy excited to visit, even without knowing much about it. Next we head to Lanciano, which my computer wants to correct to “Lansing, Michigan” desperately. Every time. Lanciano is the home to one of the most famous Eucharistic miracles, dating from the 8th century, when a priest doubting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist said the words of consecration and was astonished to find the bread and wine physically transformed into human flesh and blood. Type O negative, universal donor, to be precise. The flesh is preserved in a reliquary and has been vetted by countless doctors and scientists over the years as the real deal. It’s incredible.
Next we’ll head to Loreto, reportedly the dwelling place of Mary when she was visited by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, (I know, geography…bear with me for a minute) and then where the Hoy Family may have spent their early years. Pious tradition has it that the house was physically transported to Italy from the Holy Land in the 14th century by “angels,” which is sometimes how the Crusaders are referred to in historical writing. I’ll let you know what I think.
Finally, we head “home” to Rome for 4 days. We’ll hit all the usual spots and I’ll be stopping in to St. Peter’s to walk through the Holy Door for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and of course to visit my main man, JPII, where I’ll be leaving all the intentions we’ve carried with us there with him, like we did last time.
If anyone wants to leave specific intentions, please feel free to do so in the comments, or if you want to remain more anonymous you can message them to the Facebook page. (I’ll be updating IG with shots from our trip in the evenings, but staying off social media during the days in the spirit of actually being on pilgrimage.)
Prayers for a sleepy flying baby and healthy, happy kiddos at home with grandma and grandpa much appreciated!