Day One: Pilgrimage To Rome

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Witnessing the canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakawitha

Hello from Bergamo, Italy. We’re about an hour out of Milan somewhere near the boyhood home of Angelo Roncalli, better known as Pope John XXIII, who called the Catholic Bishops of the world together in 1962 for Vatican II.

Before I tell you about the trip so far, I want to describe to you the Duomo, the world’s third largest church which we saw today.  Awe inspiring is an understatement. Constructed entirely in marble it dominates Duomo square in central Milan, Italy.  Its white spires, all 135 of them along with some 3,400 statues, all carved in marble except for one, it took some 500 years to complete. The lone non-marble statue is a four meter tall gold leaf-on-steel rendering of Mary, the Mother of God to whom the cathedral is dedicated but everyone calls it the Duomo. It rises about 10 meters above anything else. Its magnificent stained glass windows are hundreds of years old; the tomb of St. Bartholomew is contained within as well as that of Cardinal Montini who died earlier this year and was much revered by the local populace. We were told that 90 masses a week are held in some of the alcoves of the cathedral. The interior is somewhat dark and gloomy - evidence of centuries of pollution - contrasting sharply with the gleaming exterior which was recently cleaned. The church can hold up to 40,000 people our guide said but the most important part of the church sits in a cross, high above the main altar illuminated by a small red light. It is believed to be one of the nails that held Christ to His Cross.

Around the corner from the church is the world famous opera house La Scala where any opera singer or musician of note must perform to be recognized. We also spent a few minutes outside the Milan Castle, built about 700 years ago and had a bus tour of the more central areas of this city which is known as the fashion capital of Italy. All of the big houses of fashion have outlets including some originals. Milan also has what our guide told us is the world’s first covered mall, a street constructed in the 1800s in the shape of a cross. The sights and sounds of ancient streets attracted some of our group who wandered a bit giving fits to our guide who tried to keep the herd together.

OK, now the trip. It is now almost 10 p.m. local time about 2 p.m. in Regina. We left Regina Monday October 15 at 6.a.m., flew to Toronto and met the rest of the group from Saskatoon and were briefed by tour director Father Ralph Kleiter. Combined we are 28 on this pilgrimage. Harry Lafond conducted a short water purification ceremony. The burning of sweet grass for smudging is not allowed in the airport. We also had a short prayer service which included a prayer to St. Tekakwitha. About six hours in Toronto then on to Frankfurt, Germany and another five hours hanging around the airport, which is a nightmare for the uninitiated, and, finally a 1:10 flight over the picturesque Alps and into Milan. We’ve been up a total of about 33 hours. Tired, yes, but the sights today were worth it. Tomorrow we visit Roncalli’s birthplace and a trip to Brescia where the foundress of the Ursulines was born. This will be a particularly significant day for Ursaline Sister Bernadette Feist, in our pilgrimage group.

Pilgrims: From Regina Archdiocese: Sister Bernadette Feist, Father Wojciech Wojtkowiak, Arlene Johnson, Sandra Flegel and me, Lloyd Desnomie, Theresa Desnomie, Sister Esberta Pugong, Joanna Rae Landry, Ruth Bellegarde, Diane Dreaver,Sandra Desnomie, Terrence Lavallee, Marjorie Lavallee, Samy-Jo Lavallee.

 

Pilgrims from Diocese of Saskatoon: Augustine Arcand, Delores Sand, Eve Shaw, Sandra Lachance, Harry and Marie Lafond, Carol Lafond, Father Ralph Kleiter, Laurie Shaw, Eileen Levasseur, Melody Lafond.

 

Now going to breakfast before heading out.

Hope fully more tomorrow.