Friday, June 24, 2016


Well, everyone has always told me how beautiful and magical Venice it.....turns out they were right!

From the moment you step out of the train station and onto a public transport boat, to the moment you step back on that boat to go to the airport, Venice is magical.

There is, indeed, water everywhere.  You are either walking beside it, walking over it, or boating through it. Venice by day is full of day-trippers---mostly from cruise ships.  By evening the crowds thin out a little, and it's easier to get around.  It's a beautiful city to walk around in, for sure.

We started with mass at San Marco---thanks Ginnie for the advice on where to go to get in for church services!  I was taken aback by how very GOLD it is----the mosaics are incredible---and very, very gold. Gold.  We eventually had the chance to climb the stairs to the loggia and got a closer look-----gold.  Fabulous.

San Marco has only been Venice's cathedral since the 1800's---prior to that it was the "chapel" for the Doge's Palace, which is connected to the church.  The residence next door to the cathedral was occupied by the Patriarch of Venice (the bishop)---and 3 of those Patiarchs ended up being Pope.  Pius X, John Paul I, and John XXIII.  Impressive.

The symbol of the Evangelist Mark is everywhere----lions, lions, and more lions.  In 828, two merchants from Venice stole Mark's body from Alexandria and brought it to Venice, where it lies under the main altar.  Or so they say.  There is a rumor that the merchants goofed and stole Alexander the Great instead.  Oops.  

I loved every minute of Venice and would go back in a heartbeat----what a beautiful city!

The photos:

1.  Gondolas tied up at sunset looking towards San Giorgio
2.  The "Bridge of Sighs" in the prison of the Doge's Palace
3.  The view that caused all the sighing....
4.  Gondolas waiting outside the.....wait for it....Hard Rock Cafe
5.  Ceiling mosaic, San Marco
6.  Tomb of St. Mark, under the high altar
7.  San Marco, from inside loggia
8.  View from the loggia of San Marco
9.  Gondolas on their way to a traffic jam...

Monday, June 20, 2016


Nothing really changes in Assisi---well, except for this year (more about that later).

My second visit to Assisi was as magical as the first. There isn't the anything about Assisi that one would say 'been there, done that'" about. Because if you've seen the upper or lower basilica of St Francis, you'd gladly go again. And again.

We stayed in the same hotel as before (Hotel Umbra) and walked everywhere. The spirit of St. Francis continues to live in this place, and you don't have to try very hard at all to sense it.  Just go with the flow.

Before leaving the States, my Franciscan friend, Sr Chris, had told me that the original San Damiano crucifix was going to be moved to its original location at San Damiano---the very place where Francis heard it speak.  San Damiano was the church that he rebuilt---and also where Clare had her community of sisters.  Francis later realized that Christ meant something beyond the literal when He told Francis to rebuild His church.  You've seen the cross--copies of the cross. It's everywhere---now you know where it came from.

The cross had been moved to the Basilica of Santa Chiara when the Poor Clares moved to Santa Chiara,  and had never been returned.  It was only moved to San Damiano from June 15-19 this year, so we were very lucky to have had the opportunity to see and pray with it while in Assisi.  The cross will return to Santa Chiara this week.

Assisi might possibly be my favorite place in the world---it is, for sure, my favorite place in Italy.

Once you visit Assisi, it gets into your bloodstream in a way that no other place can.  If you've never been, and always wondered if you should should go.  That is all.

And now the photos (and be sure to click on each photo to see it completely:

1.  First known image of Francis by Cimabue---lower basilica
2.  Francis preaching to the birds. (Giotto, upper basilica))
3.  Clare--fresco by Simone Martini--lower basilica
4.  Francis--fresco by Simone Martini--lower basilica
5.  Francis' tomb---crypt
6.  Bells at San Stefano---these are said to have rung spontaneously as Francis lay dying
7.  San Damiano--Clare's place on the floor where she slept, and died.
8.  San Damiano---original crucifix in its original place
9.  Assis at sunset, with the bell tower of the Basilica of St Francis.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rome 2016

So.....I begin where I left off.

I just read my last entry---it's interesting that I wrote it as I was leaving Rome in 2014, and I haven't written anything since.  So, here I am in Rome again.  There are a number of reasons that people refer to Rome as the "Eternal City"---one of them must be that when you visit here, you can't imagine never returning.

So, my sister and I are here. And we don't have to see and do EVERYTHING.  Because we don't.

The main stuff---the Scavi Tour--I didn't mind going again, because the tour is so, so interesting, and the chance to visit and pray at the tomb of St Peter is not to be missed.  Got a great photo of the Confessio----right above Peter's tomb, where they bless the palliums for the new bishops.

We picked up our tickets for the Papal Audience on Tues. afternoon.  And folks, if you request tickets, please be aware that the Vatican website is totally wrong about where to pick your tickets up.  It indicates that they are to be picked up at the Paul VI Audience Hall.  Nope.  It's still at the Bronze Door, on the other side of the Colonnade.  I had a hilarious conversation with one of the Swiss Guards about this----I had a funny feeling that the website was wrong (Could the Vatican ever be wrong?  Wait, don't answer that).  I asked one of the guards about it, as well as to clarify where we needed to be for the Scavi Tour. He kept a totally straight face and told me that "the website is mistaken. You pick them up at the Bronze door.  And you will come here for the Scavi Tour. You will learn the secret handshake, go through security and then proceed to the tour." I asked him who would teach me the 'secret handshake"---he nodded towards the police.  It was hysterical.

Let me explain why it was confusing.....

Paris. Brussels.  

The police, Carabinieri, and military presence has increased dramatically.  There are police and military (with assault rifles) everywhere now at all the public places, major churches, train stations, metro stops.....everywhere.  You have to go through an airport type screening to go into any of the major churches.  It's what it is.  But it's different than it was. 

You now have to go through security to pick up your papal audience tickets.  They now only allow one person in line. My sis told me a hilarious story about an American family that didn't like the 'only one person in line' policy, so they jumped the barricade.  Very bad idea.  The Italian police were not amused.  American family wised up quickly. 

She also told me about an American wife who had sent her husband to pick up their tickets for the papal audience.  "Are they reserved seats?" she wanted to know.  Her exasperated husband didn't know.  "Well, did you ask?" ---and he said that he had not.  They get the "Dumb American Tourist" prize, because even if you have tickets, you have to get in line a couple of hours early, and run like heck when you clear security.

As I got into line for my tickets, an Italian nun, in full habit, elbowed me and pushed me aside so that she could cut into line in front of me.  Unfortunately, that's not the first time that's ever happened (stories from 2014)---and then, the morning of the papal audience, I got elbowed again.  We were in line, waiting to go through security, and there was a tour group that kept elbowing and shoving so that they could cut into line.  The woman next to me, who was wearing the biggest crucifix I've ever seen on someone,  kept elbowing me and glaring at me for not moving out of her way (and trust me, there was no place that she could have moved to!).  Finally, as the crowd started to move forward, she looked at me sideways, made the sign of the cross, and then elbowed me really hard so that she could cut the line in front of me.  Dear Lord Jesus....I totally understand why some people think that your followers are irritating as heck! 

You can't make this stuff up.

But when all was said and done, we cleared security and had great seats.  

Here's the sad part.  Security. 

They seem to have clamped down on the Pope's ability to drive through the crowd.  There were easily 100,000 people in the Square---yet, he only toured the crowd for less than 15 mins. 

Pope Francis is amazing, and I feel so blessed to have been in his presence twice in my life.  How lucky are we to have this Pope in our lifetime?  His energy and love are tangible.  

Went to an interesting panel on the council being held by the Orthodox.  Or not.  Stay tuned to see if they all show up.

Holy Door X 3.  We went through 3 Holy Doors in 1 day for the Jubilee Year.  St. Peter, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major.  Prayed for all of you.

Love Rome.  I hate the humidity. But I love Rome more than I hate the humidity. There you are.

Headed to Assisi and a much slower pace tomorrow.

And now, the photos...

1.  St. Peter's Basilica at night
2.  Sistine Chapel. You aren't supposed to take photos. Sorry.
3.  The Confessio
4.  The Holy Door at St Peter's
5.  I'll bet you didn't know that there is a coffee shop on the roof of St Peter's.
6.  Close up view of Michelangelo's dome
7.  Himself!
8.  High altar at St Peter's w/ Holy Spirit window
9.  Castel Sant Angelo (Hadrian's tomb, and also where the Popes hid out when under attack) Our hotel is near this.