Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Italy Day 15 {San Giovanni Rotondo}

The 5th Station of the Way of the Cross in San Giovanni Rotondo: St. Pio, who received the gift of the stigmata (visible wounds of Christ) is shown bearing the cross for Christ, in the place of Simon of Cyrene.

The image of our Resurrected Lord and Savior; at the final Station, looming large behind the altar upon which Holy Mass is offered atop the hill in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.

A steep uphill climb from Villa San Pietro to church helped us walk off the double cappuccinos and croissants served at breakfast. "Stair guessing" has become a favorite pastime (competition) for the boys, it's amazing how closely they can estimate the exact number of steps in a flight of stairs (from 24 to 200+). A fine substitute for all the missed homeschool math lessons.  There were 241 steps to the image of Christ's Resurrection behind the outdoor altar atop the hill overlooking San Giovanni Rotondo and St. Pio's hospitals. Peter guessed 200 steps.  Realizing we had reached the glorious finale, the Resurrection, without first entering into the Passion, we retraced our steps (241 back down).  We followed the stations of the cross (Via del Crucis), back uphill praying at each stop as we recalled with gratitude the suffering our Lord endured for our salvation.
View from the 241st step at San Giovanni Rotondo's outdoor Stations of the Cross.

A mandatory reposa for Pietro (Peter) who showed signs of extreme fatigue, likely a result of sleeping on a brick (his pull-out bed) meant a few hours of down-time at the hotel for all of us. Realizing that the banking would have to wait until the bank re-opened at 15:00 (3PM), Tim joined the reposa. Joseph accessed his email account and changed his password from a 40 character mega-password (that he had been unable to remember) to a simple password and learned that his friend Collin got a cell phone for his 13th birthday. He memorized the new phone number, in anticipation of calling or texting him frequently once we're home.

Hanging out in our make-shift living room at the Villa San Pietro hotel lobby, we passed the afternoon in the midst of the Italian family reunion that each day's reposa brings. Children break from school, parents come home from work, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends come together. Wine is poured, olives, cheeses and breads are put out; the daily afternoon break in Italy. Businesses close, churches are locked, tourist sights are (mostly) off limits; taking rest is mandatory.
Photo of a photo of Father Michael Pio's ordination (circa 1985) by Blessed Pope John Paul II, St. Peter's Basilica, Italy.

Touched by divine providence once again on this pilgrimage, during reposa we made the acquaintance of a wonderful priest who had stopped at the hotel to greet friends.  Our family benefited greatly from our time with Father Michael Pio: a linguist, fluent in six languages; a former Capuchin-now diocesan priest; raised Protestant by Asian parents who travelled to San Giovanni Rotondo after the death of his older brother, and only sibling; his family converted to Catholicism after encountering (personally, physically) the touch of St. Pio and witnessing their first Catholic Mass celebrated by St. Pio; Father Michael Pio was an answered prayer to really enter into St. Pio's San Giovanni Rotondo.  Not only did he give us a powerful, personal witness to the real effects of St. Pio's apostolate, but he also shared many fascinating stories of his family life, his beloved mother (may she rest in peace!) and his journey to and within the priesthood. 

  • Banking in small Italian towns is best done with an "in." Tim had both an "in" and an interpreter in Fr. Michael Pio, and still felt like he was being booked into jail rather than exchanging dollars for Euros.
  • Although the main streets of Italy have been fairly clean (save scores of cigarette butts), the "just out of sight" areas are filled with trash. It's shocking.
  • A good nap (or reposa) can turn your whole life around.

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