I might even have to wear a clerical shirt - if I can find one :)
. . . was how I left you last time!!
Did it happen, did it happen, did it happen? I know you want to know - well, to be honest I think you all know it did judging from the crazy response on Facebook et al to a boootiful picture of yours truly with the big man in white! Normally our pictures on SalesianLink Facebook get 35-140 hits - why was it that the one with me in a clerical shirt got ALMOST 900!!!!! Shame on you all.
Anyway, i'm ahead of myself. . .
We had a brill trip to Assisi - now I've done relics of saints (DB's arm, Oliver Plunkett's head, a feather from the wing of Angel Gabriel (titter not, it was in Ushaw!!), but somehow praying in the chapel in front of the tomb of St Francis of Assisi put me in another place - knowing first that the magnificent frescoes (destroyed in the earthquake of a few years ago) had 80% been saved (8000 volunteers picked up every piece of everything to help restore them - amazing!!), and seeing the simplicity of the tunic of St Francis makes you want to stop and think about the bigger picture. It was an easy place to pray - and lets be honest we all need a few of those!!
The Salesian Community pulled out all the stops to feed and refresh us - and then led us on a whistlestop tour of the city of Perugia - beautiful place on the top of a hill (everything seems to be on the top of a hill recently - my feet haven't stopped aching for weeks!!) - but the pinnacle of the visit was another RELIC - yes, indeed - I saw it with my very own eyes - the WEDDING BAND of Mary and Joseph. I tried to take a photo, but a grumpy old man hit me on the back and said "no!"
One has to smile as they stole it in 1488 from the nearby town of Chiusi. The band, kept in a chapel is the size of a large bangle and is kept under lock -- 15 locks actually!!
During the week, life was hectic - what with all the work in the Chapter Commissions - we were discussing, voting, voting on voting, voting 'iuxda modem' (look it up!) - debating etc etc But to be honest, we're definitely getting there and whilst the final document isn't perfect there should be enough for all of us to work on for the next 6 years or so.
Then we all piled on to five coaches and headed into the Vatican - we had some time to pray in the Basilica, and then we were herded by the Swiss Guards into a very posh looking meeting room (frescoes to die for once again) - what can I say about the moment Pope Francis walked in through the door? Oh dear Lord, my heart swelled with so much affection for this Argentinian papa - I don't have the words - literally - as we queued up to meet him, I organised a little speech in my head - when he took my hand in his, I opened my mouth, and said nothing (yes my dear readers, struck dumb for once in my life!) - he just looked at me and smiled - and I managed to mutter, 'thank you, thank you'. At that moment, I truly realised what this man has done in one year for us all.
Ok emotional ramblings over - for the sport minded among you, North Europe made the Final of the Football by beating Asia 6-3. I have the scars on my knee and elbows to prove it!!
Saturday afternoon we all fled to the buses to get out of the Pisana - I headed into Rome and spent the afternoon at the Colliseum - a few weeks ago I told you about the Pantheon; oh my - did the Romans pull out all the stops for this building? It's even survived two serious earthquakes. If you haven't been, even if you are a cultural/historical ignoramus - please JUST GO!!
Well that evening was a right bundle of laughs - a good meal followed by a bus ride home, or at least near home; then a wait in the cold around midnight for a bus that might or might not come!!!! Fortunately the bus stop was outside a 'Holiday Inn', so when a certain Provincial said we could walk it home (20 minutes he said - it takes the bus 20 minutes!!!!), I said I would walk to the Holiday Inn (I'm good that way).
Then we saved a teenager!! Well he spoke in Italian to us - we smiled and said 'go away!" - he did, and then came back, and asked in faltering English whether he could use a phone to call his dad - naturally we negotiated the situation; and I kindly pointed out to the Prov that no one would want to steal his phone!! (neither of us felt like chasing a 16 year old up a darkened street) - anyway the boys dad arrived and everything was sorted (the bus came as well!!!)
On Sunday we felt like a change of scenery - so we headed into Rome to the train station and caught a train to Civitavecchia, which is the port of Rome and about an hours journey away. To be honest it felt a bit like Blackpool with Italian accents, but once we found a little taverna overlooking the sea we all cheered up. Four hours later, and a grappa or six, we were very much cheered up!!
Well my faithful readers this is going to be my last ramblings from Rome, as please God we will be back in blighty on monday evening. Thanks for being such good sports, and long may the Roman sunshine, shine.