Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mark's Reflection

I asked fellow pilgrim Mark Oakly what his response to Sr Anne Derwent's question at the Thanksgiving Mass - how has this experience affected you?
"In relation to how I have become different from attending the Canonisation, it would be that, to use the concept from the Lectio Divina for this weekend, my 'God-shaped hole in my heart' has been enlarged by the experience so that I am aware it has happened (God has more room there) and I feel more confident in what I should be doing in my life and work.
The challenge is to keep it enlarging and not shrinking! 
I plan to keep the example of St Mary of the Cross before me, where it should be a great help."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pilgrimage reflection - In the New Year

My passion is writing icons. I have painted on and off over many years but have not found satisfaction in portraits, flowers or landscapes.
As I look back on the canonisation pilgrimage, I now see I have a purpose to write the story of my faith through the medium of icons.
In Rome I found what wonderful roots we have as Catholics, followers of Jesus Christ.
As pilgrims for the week we walked together the steps of Mary of the Cross. We made new friends. We were in awe of the architecture, art, culture and beauty of Rome.
We were in awe of the lives of the saints whom we encountered along the route – Ignatius, Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio, Peter, Paul, Cecilia, those of the catacombs, awesome people who paved the way of faith for me. They held tight to their faith, and loved the Lord with passion, as did our own Mary MacKillop.
I, too, now believe I can put a few stepping stones of faith on this path for future generations. With conviction and passion I can go for what I know I can do; I have confidence to paint/write. What I do, what we all do, is important.

In 1874, Mary MacKillop told Monsignor Kirby in Rome:
“To me, the will of God is a dear book which I am never tired of reading, which has always some new charm for me. Nothing is too little to be noticed there, but yet my littleness and nothingness has often dared to oppose it, and I am painfully conscious that in many ways I still in my tepidity offend against it without perceiving what I am doing. But such dear lessons as you gave me the other evening then come to my aid and encourage me, for the love of my sweet Jesus is too strong, too beautiful, and His merits too great, for me not to cling to Him.”
At the churches where she prayed I found the crucifix and prayed before the cross of Christ – and wondered if Mary also knelt right there and prayed and worshipped.
The final church of my pilgrimage to Rome was the “Church of the Cross of Jerusalem”. Visiting there was a great gift from the Lord and St Mary. To kneel before the fragments of the Cross, crown of thorns, nail and inscription of Christ’s passion was an experience to cherish.

Back home in Canberra I revert to the “normal’ ways of everyday life – the beauty of the family, the place of work, the supermarket, the traffic and friends. But I have questions.
·      How long does the buzz last – what is it that is changed in me?
·      How can I keep hold of that?
Pilgrimage was time out to see the face of God and find out how Mary of the Cross achieved that and how to apply it in my life.
How does someone make the best olive oil from Cootamundra with the trees they have?
How do they be the best doctor they can be in Tathra with the God-given gift they have?
How do they become the best teacher in Goulburn?
So, I seek to be what God has created me to be and to be the best I can.
To be His hands and feet in my small part of the world the three-feet square that I affect each moment of each day.
It is an ideal I know I fall short of constantly but through the memories and experience of the canonisation I can be refreshed and reminded of the goal. Looking into the eyes of Mary of the Cross I can keep walking the Way.
I remember the story of the young Polish priest who walked from Poland to Rome – then became ill and died. His most remarkable thing in life was to walk. What is my most remarkable thing?

Two Aboriginal seminarians many years ago were taken to Rome to further their studies but became ill and died. But, they had an extraordinary effect on people in the short time.
One of the personal outcomes of the pilgrimage was finding a new cousin and so discovering more about my family history.
Jan from Kincumber rang after reading my article in the Broken Bay diocesan magazine. She is also a great-granddaughter of Mary and John Woodward. Her great-grand father is my great-grand father’s brother.
Her family legend is that he rowed Mother Mary of the Cross from Woy Woy to the orphanage at Kincumber. She has another cousin (recently discovered) whose forebears gave Mother Mary bed and lodging on her trip from Eden to Bombala. She was originally going to stay only one night but a storm forced her to remain with them for two.
People remembered and treasured encounters they had with Mother Mary of the Cross. What was so special about her?

Over the past few months we as a nation and many of us personally have learnt our own answers to this question.

It is good to stop and take a drink of Living Water.

How has this Woman of God - St Mary MacKillop of the Cross - changed your life?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Popes and Artists

Yet another surprise packed day. We set off to check out the transport for our trip to the airport tomorrow, bought tickets and are prepared to hop on the train tomorrow afternoon. Goodness, home again very soon. It has been a wonderful trip and it will be nice to get home to the family.

We went to the Spanish Steps and into the Church della Trinito dei Monti, with the fresco “the Demountation from the Cross”.  There were several other beautiful frescoes there also, particularly one to the Nativity – the light on the Christ Child and the face of the Madonna was magnificent.
As we arrived at the Spagna Station we found a tourist reference to the Café Greco, 1760. The foot note said it was the meeting place for intellectuals and artists. So as several of our acquaintances over the past few days had called us artists we decided to celebrate and affirm to ourselves that indeed that is what we are!
At the Cafe 1760 Greco near the Spanish Steps

for "intellectuals and artists"

Then we went on to the Scarvi. The Scarvi is an excavation site of the Necropolis beneath the crypt of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Excavation was commenced in 1940 but no part of it was opened to the public until the 1970’s. St Peter was buried near where he was slain and the tomb very early became a destination for pilgrims. When the Emperor Constantine built the first Basilica it featured the monument that marked the site of Peter’s burial. When St Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th Century the altar and the central dome were positioned over the tomb and memorial.  It is humbling to be allowed access to this sacred site.
The Chair of St Peter, where we attended Mass for the 9th International Festival of Sacred Music and Art
I am still trying to absorb the experience. Being able to pray at the tomb of Saint Peter brought to mind the role of the papacy in the life of the Church. This was emphasised then when we attended Mass in the Basilica which was celebrated at the Chair of St Peter – that is behind the main altar and under the Holy Spirit Window.

So much to see and do - so little time
The Mass was celebrated as part of the Ninth International Festival of Sacred Music and Art, dedicated to His Holiness Benedict XVI in the fifth year of His Pontificate.

So today has been all about the papacy and celebrating Sacred Art and those who make it and we felt part of that. It was not quite the day we had planned or expected but neither of us are complaining!!!!!!
It was quite late when we left the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Train to Rome

This morning we were blessed to find Mass being said in the Chapel where Padre Pio celebrated Mass and reconciliation on numerous occasions. I then went to the hill of the Stations of the Cross.

I gathered you up with me as I walked this road of Calvary.  The sky was a beautiful clear blue. Each station was sculptured in bronze and silver with figures, about a meter in height, set amongst green trees and ferns. Each station dramatically portrayed the tragedy of the murder of Jesus.
 The victory of Christ’s resurrection was the summit of the journey.

We also were shown the thurible (‘incensor’) that Nicola and Corrando had made in 2002 for the formal celebrations of the New Church. They used gold and silver, and incorporated a disc from an ancient farm plow to include the history of the area into this sacred item.

We then caught the bus from San Giovanni Rotonda to Foggia and then the train on to Rome. The train has proved to be a fascinating experience both times. We have met wonderful people who have helped us plan our journey and made sure we arrived at the right station.  We share this journey with three lovely travelers – Maria Grazia, Giovanni and Giuseppe. We had so much fun sharing stories about our pilgrimage, our family, our wonderful countries and our faith journey. It was so much fun the trip took no time at all. It was amazing to learn that Maria Grazia is passionate about Icons and has acquired several beautiful works. She is a primary school teacher and Giovanni was a medico.

Wendy and Maria Grazia

Giovanni and Giuseppe

It was a laugh to share the photos of the trip and some ones from home – so if you were on my phone camera you were introduced to our new friends – sorry kids I particularly showed them how special you are.

I was also able to show off our beautiful Australian beaches and Sydney Opera House.  
We had to have a photo shoot to keep the memory of the new friendship alive.

Saying goodbye to Donato who had looked after us at the Hotel.
He was off to have a day on his Kawasaki 750
This morning when we were saying goodbye to Nicola, he commented about the stars in the Australian sky. We take them for granted. I was surprised that when I looked up at the sky in Rome tonight the only lights that could be seen were Venus and the full moon. How strange – ‘I love a sun burnt country a land of sweeping plain, of rugged mountain range...’.

Love the Car
I had to show you this one - the bike is as big as the car! I love it!
I am going to bring one home in my suitcase, I am sure it will fit!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Saint Michael the Archangel Shrine and Pulsano Abbey

Who would have thought the amazing experiences of this trip would continue? We walked through the picturesque narrow streets of the old town of San Giovanni Rotondo and visited four of the churches including one the locals call the Mother Church, which is the oldest parish church of the city and is dedicated to the Mother of God; the people of the area have a special veneration to the Madonna. The steep streets are paved with white marble and the houses are usually white with an occasional yellow or orange and decorated with an occasional window box or Yucca pot plant.

Door of Catherine of Sienna sculpted  by Nicola our host

Today we went with our host Nicola to Monte San Angelo, to the Saint Michael Shrine on the Gargano. Several years ago when I visited North Sydney near Mary MacKillop Place I stayed at the guest house which is part of the Sisters of Mercy, Monte San Angelo complex. So when I saw there was such a place I was very keen to visit. Nicola and his artist friend took us to the shrine.

The origin of the shine dates back to the end of the 5th century. This is linked to the memory of three apparitions which are related with extraordinary and moving vivacity and testify to the miraculous events which followed. Within a span of fifteen centuries Christians from the whole world have come to the shrine of the Gargano, ‘the house of God, and the gate of heaven’.

We arrived just in time for Mass, and the penitential rite was particularly poignant as it is a place of healing and forgiveness. It was an open cave reminiscent of the cave/stable of Bethlehem. It is said that it was Saint Francis of Assisi’s favorite place to pray and he fasted and prayed there for forty days and forty nights.

We then visited the museum with memorabilia of life of the area, including a tatting roll, ink pot in the child’s desk, a horse collar and plough, axe sharpener and hundreds of other exhibits.

Nicola and Wendy at Monte San Angelo
We then went on to the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria di Pulsano. When we arrived we had to open an electronic gate which kept the cattle out, not in!! The landscape is so rocky that the cows roam free to find whatever food they can, they do not produce much milk but what the do is turned into a wonderfully scrumptious cheese.

The Abbey produces beautiful Icons, written by the monks and sisters. They have Iconography schools in summer and accommodation is available. It is built into the rock and faces out across the Port of Manfredonia and the open sea. You can also spot the hermit caves across the ravine. The church is arrayed with a number of beautiful Icons produced by the monks. Wendy and I were able to visit the workshop of the monks to see where they produce such beautiful works. We very extremely fortunate to be given such a privileged tour.

The views were breathtaking.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A day with Padre Pio at San Giovanni Rotondo

The pilgrims have gone their separate ways. Some to England, some home and Wendy and I have travelled by train across to San Giovanni Rotondo. Yesterday we fought rain, wind and a twisted ankle to arrive at Hotel Delle Paine. Our shoes, clothes and luggage were sodden. But after a warm greeting, a hot shower and a beautiful dinner we were on track again.

This morning - Thursday - we visited the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Crypt. It also included Padre Pio's cell, chapel where he said Mass and a museum with many of his garments and things he used - gloves, shoes and many other relics. I had known of Padre Pio for many years so was keen to visit this shrine. He was born in 1887, died in 1968 and was canonised 2002. He received the stigmata of Christ in 1918. Among his charisms was bilocation. He was a man whom you knew was a saint. It was just a formality when the Church declared him "Saint". 
Padre Pio's Shoes
We then went to the New Church of Padre Pio. The mosaics in this church are by the same artist that did the ones at the Irish College we visited in Rome, Marko I. Rupnik. This is an example - the Nativity of Christ 
Nativity of Christ by Marko I. Rupnik
What an amazing shrine honoring two holy monks - St Pio of Pietrelcina and St Francis of Assisi. The photo below does not do the shrine justice but it gives you an idea of the magnificence of the artwork.

Venerating the Tomb of Padre Pio
 We were also blessed to be see a Icona, an exhibition of Russian Icons in the New Church.
Madre de Dio, XIX, Russia
We went back to the hotel and joined the custom of the town and had a siesta. What a wonderful tradition - I could get used to it! We then went for a stroll up to Piazza Europa where we found the Church of St Joseph. We joined in the 6pm Mass, which was a gentle parish Mass attended by about 120 people. It was really nice to be in a parish church with the locals. The Icons in this Church were installed in the 1990's. Yet again they were truly beautiful. It is a feast of beauty everywhere you look in Italy.

Mosaic of Matthew at the Church of St Joseph, San Giovanni Rotondo
Derrick, I just wanted to show you a mechanics workshop in Rome:-

Alas they do not have the "Smart Car" in San Giovanni Rotondo as they do in Rome. In Rome they are everywhere and they can be parked in the tiniest little parking spots. I would love to pop one in my suitcase and take it home.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reflections on an Awesome experience

Sr Kathy and Michael

"Spiritual adventure, pilgrimage and friendship." - Sr Kathy Hodge

"A once in a lifetime experience of faith, hope and love in celebration of an extraordinary woman."

"So much easier to pray with a group of like-minded pilgrims in such beautiful places." - Mark Oakley
Richard Caesar-Thwaytes, Herbie,
Fr Richard and Lynn after the Thanksgiving

"Here we were able to face some of the roots of our faith – renewing, spiritual and deeply touching. To be with Companions on the Journey was uplifting. Thank you to Bishop Mark for his relaxed sharing and leadership." - Lyn O’Flynn

Miranda and Kevin

 "What an unbelievable experience! And wonderful new friends. All unforgettable!" - Eileen Stack

"Singing Waltzing Matilda in an ancient Roman building with 8,000 rowdy Aussies. (And the 35 new friends I’ve made!)" - Charlotte King 

 "Fantastic experience that will never be forgotten. Wonderful people and great atmosphere. We from Trinity College have all had a wonderful and memorable time, full of adventure and pilgrimage."

Anne Maria and Stephania

"Anne & Peter’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil receives an 8-1/2 from a fair dinkum italiano expert. Wobbler Downs Olive Oil Rules. Available at Gundagai – Bulley Bell and Temora, Jugiong!!!!!" - Anne Maria  Skeinke

Caitlin, Charlotte, Mark, Heidi and Miranda
waiting proudly for the declaration Australia's new Saint

 "Sharing in the celebration of the Eucharist each day with so many people. The Thanksgiving Mass, celebrated in a foreign land, surrounded by Australian pilgrims, was breathtaking." - Stephanie Leonard

On the way back after morning Mass at the local parish church

"Swanky. The emotion and experience of the pilgrimage was beyond belief." - Mark Burke

Stephanie and Marguerite

"Today! Standing on top of St Peter’s, in the dome, knowing Mary MacKillop’s banner was underneath proudly displayed for all to see; an Australian …… down over Rome in prime spot." - Marguerite 

Wendy, Archbishop Mark and Mark

"The sense of community among the pilgrims. Shared prayer and shared prayerful experiences forged a bond between us; it feels like I will never “lose” my companions." - Wendy Fisher-Hudson

Cathy and Karen

"The Thanksgiving Mass. A truly Australian celebration as we take part with the great universal Church." - Colin Groves

 "The concert on Saturday evening brought me to tears. Seeing familiar faces in an unfamiliar place. Realising how great an impact the Srs of St Joseph had in my life."

We have had a wonderful experience together. 35 people came together from the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese to celebrate the life of an extraordinary woman. That woman has changed each of our lives, has brought us to a place where we have had a deeply meaningful experience of Church.

I found each day of the pilgrimage built on the one before. We were privileged to have access to some extraordinary places. We made beautiful friendships. We laughed, cried, sang, sheltered in the rain, queued, worshiped and ate gelato together. We prayed for our loved ones, were blessed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and we carry this blessing back to Australia.

We witnessed and celebrated the Canonisation of our first Australian Saint Mary MacKillop of the Cross. We have done what we came to do and we are overjoyed. We thank the Good Lord for this marvellous opportunity and we thank you our family, loved ones and work colleagues for giving us this opportunity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Our canonisation reflection

Click here to follow a link to the Archdiocese website and you'll be able to hear exactly what we all thought and felt after the Canonisation Mass through a short audio-visual reflection. It includes lots of photos from our trip, so check it out and see who you can spot.

Many Familiar Faces among the crowd of proud pilgrims

I met  Louis and Kate Seselja from Canberra in the foyer of the Hotel,
I am sure Louis will have many superb photos to share through the Catholic Voice

Bishop Brian Finnigan, previous General Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Auxiliary of Brisbane
and Herbie O'Flynn after the Thanksgiving Mass
Maureen Clancy and Karen Nixon

I rejoiced when I saw my friend
Archbishop Guiseppe Lazzarotto, the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia

It was a proud and joy-filled day for Archbishop Mark Coleridge and the Australian Bishops.
We have been truly blessed to have Bishop Mark with us during this journey, he has been inspirational.
Thanks Bishop Mark