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Posted by on in Ramblings From Rome

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.




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Posted by on in Ramblings From Rome

- boy, do we need your prayers so that we elect the one God has already chosen!!

. . . was how I left you last time!!

Greetings again from your intrepid wanderer in Rome; hope you have all had a good week!! Busy, busy, busy is my thoughts - we've been busy, busy, busy!!!


Hopefully you recognise the new Rector Major, the 10th successor of Don Bosco (he's the one on the right hand side!!) - the process delivered the product as they say, but nothing is as straightforward as it might look. So, now that we have a boss and a Council, what actually happened I hear you ask . . .

Well on pain of death, I cannot reveal my sources - well I certainly cannot reveal anything about the votes, and how many the Provincial got for the new role of secretary to the secretary of the RM (50 quid anyone??)

But I can tell you that we did actually spent quite a bit of time in prayer and discernment (I thought we should just put everyone's name in a hat and draw it out, but I was over ruled sadly) - we reflected on how we were being called to walk in the light of faith, and to enter into a serious process of pastoral conversion (seriously that is what the document said - interpreted by me as 'this is an important time - get it right!!!!) - but we did want to know what challenges the Congregation is currently facing, and what qualities should the Rector Major have (I said a knowledge of English (!) - we promptly voted a man with almost none - lol)

But it became very apparent, very quickly, that Don Bosco's successor was Angel Fernandez, and we thank God for him!! The party was a little hip, was a little hop and also a little crazy - singing nuns, singing baby salesians (novices for those not in the know), dancing confrere from India - and an RM who wowed us all with his guitar playing and singing.

I should also have said something about ice cream, 'cause we got some - and I think that I never mentioned the ice cream and Bailey's provided by our Irish Confrere for the feast of St Patrick (I'm getting old and forgetful!!)

. . . and so the elections continued during the week - I won't bore you with the details, but I do think we sort of felt quite content with our work this week - and so I'm gonna leave that and move onto our travels.

Saturday we were bussed to the UPS (In English - the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome) - it was a hard afternoon, because none of us wanted a two hour lecture, but I did get to see Fr Josh (of Oxford fame) who made us a welcome cuppa, and the Social Communications department, where I made a list of all the new stuff I wanted (the answer was 'no'! ) - oh, oh, oh the library has a fancy thingy that gets the books for you (technological me!) - you put in the number and a metal thing gets a metal box with your book in it - very clever - sort of a robot!!!! (a very big one).

Sunday we hit the bus and headed into Rome - a bit of shopping, a bit of sight seeing, a bit of the Angelus in the Pope's round square (!) and then a bit of lunch in an amazing place. As we awaited our food, the heavens opened and it rained for a week - so we stayed in the restaurant and had a small grappa for digestion purposes, least that was what a Provincial told me - by then there was a couple with me!!

And so as the rain stopped, and the sun gradually set we were gently aware of a very satisfied feeling among us - of a job well done this week (either that or it was the very fine red wine we enjoyed!!) And we look forward to our up and coming travels to Assisi, Perugia and an audience with the Pope - YES YES YES - the big man is meeting us in his house - just how good is that on a scale of 1 to 10????

I might even have to wear a clerical shirt - if I can find one :)

Have a great week!!

Ciao for now


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Posted by on in Ramblings From Rome

And speaking of prayers, we're off to Florence this week - pray I can get up to be on the bus at 6.15am (yes in the morning, on a SUNDAY!!!!)

. . . was how I left you last time - hope you have all had a good week!!

I'm sitting at my desk writing these thoughts to you, and the rain is lashing against the window . . . the holiday I thought I was coming on is turning out to be something very different!! Trades description Act needs a rewrite.

Hope you are all well - my we have had an interesting week here in the 'happy house' (not the 'happy valley' you Bollington people!!) - and most of it has revolved around Michelangelo. First we headed off to Florence last Sunday - early start(!), coach (really just a posh bus) so life was difficult enough - but what a city. No volcanoes, or earthquakes, just magnificent things to look at, and a dinner out of this world in the Salesian House. One of the wonderful things we saw wasRFRPieta

a Pietá by Michelangelo in Florence - he had worked on this starting in 1547 and then smashed it in 1555, because one leg had broken off and because the block of marble was defective, and because he was having a bad hair day - we saw this in the Florence Cathedral Museum - after having broken the statue, he let his servant take the pieces. Later the servant sold them and the new owner had it reconstructed following Michelangelo's models, so that the work has been preserved.

We've had a number of votes this week - nothing particularly radical - how do we get a new Rector Major; how do we elect Regionals etc, but it did allow us to practice voting on our 'all singing, all dancing' computer systems. It was so good, we invited some Salesian Sisters to witness this technological wizardry - and yes you guessed it, it promptly failed to work when they arrived - you couldn't have made it up!!! But there was a lot of excitement over the make up of the European regions - meetings, straw votes, more straw votes, dramatic interventions, Presidential speeches ... I could barely sit still through it all!! Anyway, the three regions of Europe are now two (drum roll!!) - we welcome France to our merry club.

But, but, but - before we say adieu to Europe North - our gallant correspondent has been keeping goal for our football team - latest scores, we thumped the Italians (and Middle East) 6-3, and saw off the mighty South Americans 5-1!!! Rumours of limping north europeans are very true!!

And now for some serious stuff - how about two and a half hours in the Sistene Chapel!!!!!!!!!!! We were invited to come for a Concert given in our honour by the Vatican Choir (conducted by its Salesian maestro) - we were driven in through the back of the Vatican and strolled through the gardens and through hundreds and hundreds of years of history - omg - It was like Christmas and Easter all in one - I was as high as a kite, quite frankly - the poor provincial was distraught as I ran round like a five year old. "Don't touch things!!" he kept crying.

I have to make the picture large - it's the only way - again I was so gob smacked at the extraordinary talent of Michelangelo. And it was my first time EVER there - it was amazing (as you might have gathered now, the astute ones among you!!)RFRSistene

Phewww - I'm quite exhausted now after re-living that all over again - I believe if you are queuing to get in, you get about 10 minutes with thousands of people crushing you - 150 minutes with a soft chair listening to beautiful music; really what more can I say? makes the hours of sitting in Assembly almost worth it!!

Speaking of which, the documents are coming together - but, everything is on hold for the coming week as we are spending a couple of days in discernment, and then electing a new Rector Major - boy, do we need your prayers so that we elect the one God has already chosen!! - don't forget your intrepid wanderers here, and we both look forward to being back with you in three weeks time (or so!!)

Have a great week!!

Ciao for now


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Posted by on in Ramblings From Rome

ps/ there are rather a lot of churches in Rome - my two favourites so far visited - St Agnes in Agony (mainly because I kept thinking of the line - 'some saint in pieces'!!) - and the Pantheon - which is just amazing - you have got to hand it to the ancient Romans - clever, clever dudes.

. . . was how I left you last time - hope you have all had a good week!!

We all know the phrase 'blowing your top' I'm sure - and it's definitely one that comes to mine this week. To start with, we started to get stuck into the documents of the Chapter - both in our smaller commissions and in the Assembly - and we had speeches and interventions (now interventions could be of up to five minutes or three depending on when you clicked your computer!!), and there was passion and emotion and resolution and agony etc etc

But 'blowing your top' not only comes from the speeches, but from our visit to Naples on Sunday (yes we had a trip out - for good behaviour, I think!).

Let me introduce you to Vesuvius ('Vu' for short!). . .


and Naples underneath it!! - Vu lacks it's top - it literally 'blew it off' - the fact that there were a serious of earthquakes there a couple of weeks ago, left your correspondent feeling a wee bit easy as we strolled around the streets of Naples. But what a day!! Glorious sunshine, small streets packed tight, backsides pinched twice (yes, even mine!! :)) and a glorious if not madcap introduction to every church, chapel, cathedral in the city!! Finished off with a stupendous fish dinner in the Naples yachting club (yes, let's be honest - we've all wanted to do that, haven't we??)

And going back to our week in Assembly - we learned how to vote using our computers. I say learned 'cause it took a while - example:

Moderator - "please press only the yes button" - result - 185 yes, 17 no!!!!!

Moderator - "I said, please PRESS only the yes button!!" - result 192 yes, 10 no!!!!!!

Rector Major - "I think I have to ORDER you all to press only the yes button" - only two said 'no' that time!!

So we've been examining and reflecting and studying the chapter document - the Salesian, mystic, prophet and servant of the young - lots of differing opinions on this one; and straw votes - plenty of them - looking at the composition of the General Council, and how we get to a new one, and especially a new Rector Major - can't tell you the results, else I will have to disappear forever. (note, it's looking stronger and stronger that the GBR Province will be keeping their Provincial and Delegate - phewwww.)

And then wonderful Saturday arrived (we have a half day off!!) - and we headed back into Rome and all the wonderful ruins etc.

Dinner, wine - more food, all concentrated the mind as we sat out in the streets watching Roman life go by - you should try it some time!!

Here's a picture of a lovely dinner that I noticed as I watched life go by!!


Well, we're getting close to half way - and starting to talk more and more about what the Holy Spirit is telling us about our Congregation and the next successor of Don Bosco. It's just under the surface as we work, as we pray, as we chat. . . keep us in your prayers.

And speaking of prayers, we're off to Florence this week - pray I can get up to be on the bus at 6.15am (yes in the morning, on a SUNDAY!!!!)

Ciao for now


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Posted by on in Ramblings From Rome

pps/ tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) we have an afternoon off - we've just purchased our 'bus' tickets to hit Rome - Yes!!

. . . was how I left you last time - hope you have all had a good week!!

I don't really know Rome, but to be honest, our bus trip could have been to anywhere - just a need to 'get out' for a while. So, two Provincials and myself headed to Rome - couple of bus journeys later we're strolling, quite casually like, across the Pope's patio. There really was a buzz about the place, as if we'd missed something (which we probably had!!). Still that really didn't stop us heading off to the nearest coffee shop to sit and watch life go by. Do you drink hot chocolate? O dear Lord, it is to die for here - its like someone takes a bar of Galaxy and melts it in your cup. Diary note - try it if you're out here - it's delic.

And then on the Monday, the General Chapter started - big Mass, and then speeches from everybody important - Cardinals, Bishops etc etc - Cardinal Bertone (ex- Secretary of State - now has a new job!) was around with his bodyguards (security or something) - it's the first time I've been stopped going into the toilet by a big burly man.

The Rector Major gave his state of address - it was very interesting - how is the Congregation after 12 years of him being i/c? - stats, pictures, italian language (lots of it!) gave us a solid picture of the Salesians, and although our numbers have dropped a little, we are now in more Countries than ever before!! (132 I think - I can't read my own writing!!)

The next few days saw us heading off to our Commissions - I was in the English speaking one(!) - there are about 50 of us from all over the world - and we talked and debated and chatted and laughed (a lot actually) - and we gave proposals about proposals on top of suggestions about proposals - it was good - we thought that our Community Life worldwide was really, really important.

Towards the end of the week the RM started answering the questions people had proposed to him (about 60!) - okay, it was a bit of a slog sitting for long periods in assembly listening, but one cannot fail to notice that the Congregation has been, for the past 12 years, in the very capable hands of a holy man, and thank God for it.

And talking of which - prayers, tons of them - in all sorts of languages - chinese, french, spanish, polish, korean etc etc - and a lovely little statue of Our Lady of Vietnam presented to us by the Vietnamese Provinces.

You know, we joke a lot about Salesians and the Salesian world - but meeting these guys from all over the world is a very humbling experience - the pastoral work that is being done for the young; the prayers bombarding heaven daily - you very quickly realise what a privilege it is to be here!!

That's probably enough for the moment - we're heading off to Naples for the day tomorrow. It's a wee break for us being so good during the week!!

Pray for us!!


ps/ there are rather a lot of churches in Rome - my two favourites so far visited - St Agnes in Agony (mainly because I kept thinking of the line - 'some saint in pieces'!!) - and the Pantheon - which is just amazing - you have got to hand it to the ancient Romans - clever, clever dudes.



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