Posts Tagged With: Rome

World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Lourdes – part 1

Sunday – August 14, 2011 – 5:30pm – Mercure Lourdes Imperial – Room #508 – Lourdes, France

Well, it has been 8 years but I finally came back. It’s good to be back in such a holy, awesome place. Yesterday was our travel day. Flew from Rome to Toulouse and took a bus to Lourdes. Got here mid-afternoon and had time to get settled in before going to Mass at a Poor Clare convent for 6pm Daily Mass. Supper was at 7:30 and we split up into our groups and had some time to share about our experiences in Rome and what blessed us during that portion of the trip. Went back to the room and got to bed at a semi-decent hour because we had an early wake-up this morning.

Had 6am Sunday Mass at the Grotto. To celebrate Mass at the place where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette was a truly unique experience. Went quickly back to the hotel afterwards to get some breakfast and then high-tailed it back to Lourdes to wait in line for the baths. Stopped on the way to buy a 5 liter (approx. 1 gallon) plastic jug to store some of the Lourdes spring water. I ended up waiting in line about 2 hours but it didn’t seem bad at all. Watching all the people waiting in line for a bath was very moving. Probably the most moving experience was seeing the handicap and elderly waiting for the baths. Just watching them and thinking about it almost caused me to tear up. Probably my favorite “scene” was watching a group of young boys about 9-ish years old. They were almost competing over who got to guide their friend (who was blind) through the line to the baths. Very moving experience. 🙂

As you’d expect, the bath was the coldest water I’d ever felt, but the bath was a very powerful experience, very much a healing experience. After that, I made my way to confession and then to the Grotto to pray a rosary. Went to the spring and filled up my big water jug. I’m gonna transfer some of it to 5 smaller bottles that I’m handing out to some family and friends. Washed my face and drank some of the water too. Bought a blessed candle that was placed in the big votive candle rack w/hundreds of other candles from other pilgrims. Then I went back to the hotel to drop off all my stuff. Relaxed for awhile, had a cup of coffee and enjoyed the view from my balcony. At 12:15, I went back to Lourdes to explore for awhile and also to find the adoration tent.

After getting to the edge of the Lourdes property and not finding it, I eventually made my way back to the indoor adoration chapel and had some good one-on-one time w/Jesus. At 2:00, a bunch of the people from the group I’m with me up with Fr. Francois Ste. Marie (was a student @ Wisdom in the 90’s and is now a priest with a religious order based in Lourdes). He gave us the “Footsteps of Bernadette” tour. We saw her 2 childhood homes as well as her church parish. When I got back to the hotel, I shaved, took a bath, and voila, here I am. As you can tell, today has been an awesome day. God is showering down his blessings and we still have tomorrow too! 🙂 Later tonight we’re supposed to do some kind of procession. Not sure if it’s rosary, eucharistic, or something else. Today I also had the chance to visit with one of the local homeless people. Had a good conversation with him that hopefully moved him closer to Jesus. I’ve also had the pleasure of practicing my French with Fr. Francois and many other people here. Dad would DEFINITELY be smilin’ about that. As far as the homeless guy is concerned, his name is Pierre. Please pray for him.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Rome Sweet Home!

Friday – August 12, 2011 – 9:30pm – Domus Pacis/Torre Rossa Park Hotel – San Giovanni Building – Room #270 – Rome, Italy

Rome Sweet Home! Ladies and Gentleman I have crossed an item off of my bucket list. I have been to The Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica!!! It still hasn’t hit me yet. Too much in a state of awe right now. Probably the next time I see the Pope on TV is when I’ll realize where I just visited. 🙂

So we started off our day at the Vatican Museum. Let me say that this was the first of many instances today where I had to deal with long lines and big crowds. Patience was something I had many chances to practice today. Most of what we saw in the Museum was neat stuff, but nothing that really gave me the wow factor. It’s probably because I’m not an art connoisseur. Anyhoo, I think we all know that the part I was most looking forward to was The Sistine Chapel. To see something so famous with my own two eyes was unbelievable. During our time in The Sistine Chapel I just closed my eyes and imagined Michelangelo and his army of artists creating that masterpiece. Or a roomful of bishops discussing things during Vatican II. Or a bunch of cardinals voting on the next Pope. After The Sistine Chapel we made our way into St. Peter’s Basilica. This was the real reason I’ve been so excited about this trip. The moment I first walked in was surreal.

It’s so stinkin’ huge and beautiful that words almost cannot describe it. We saw everything there was to see, but I’ll just list my highlights. 🙂 #1 – The Cupola (huge ornate dome) which is right above #2 – The Baldacchino (sculpture-esque canopy thing above the main altar). The baldacchino is the one single image my mind was always first drawn to when I would see St. Peter’s Basilica on TV or think about it. Of course getting to observe the massive length of the church was amazing. They even have markers on the floor to show where the next 4 biggest churches in the world stop at. (The Basilica is the largest church in the world). The Holy Spirit window on the back wall was extremely beautiful. A huge blessing was getting to see another incorruptible, Blessed Pope John XXIII. Incorruptibles so far have been an awesome way of making the saints and their lives more real to me. After that was the famous Pieta marble sculpture (Mary holding Jesus’ body) Then, I got to see my first and most beloved Pope, Blessed John Paul II. I love Benny 16, but JP2 is my first love! 🙂

After praying at his tomb, we celebrated Mass @ the San Giovanni side chapel inside The Basilica. Participating in The Mass @ The Basilica is something I’ll never forget. The our guided tour ended there. Me and one of the other pilgrims went to a souvenir shop down the main street (Via Conciliazione). Grabbed a drink after going to the restroom. Then we headed back to The Basilica to climb the steps to The Cupola. Got some great shots of it from the outside as well as alot of good scenery shots (including some of the big square/courtyard in front of The Basilica). Got to go inside the Cupola and THAT’S when I realized how big this church is. Yeah, it obviously looks huge from the ground up. BUT, to be inside the Cupola and see the people below look as small as ants, just blew my mind.

Then we made our way outside and took turns getting some good photos of each other with The Basilica in the background. Saw the big obelisk thing and got some good pics of that (it’s MASSIVE). Saw the Swiss Guard and their goofy outfits. The last noteworthy item of the day happened at supper @ the hotel earlier tonight. As we were eating, a group of WYD pilgrims form the states sat on the other side of the dining room. During a lull in the convo at my table, I look over to see them & who else do I see but Tony Melendez! He’s the Catholic musician with no arms that plays guitar with his feet and sings. I’ve seen him on TV and in books many times. I’ve also seen him perform at Abbey Fest in Covington when I was a seminarian. Ran to my room to grab my camera. Came back and talked with him and then got a pic with him. 🙂 As you can tell it was an absolutely amazing/awesome day. One I’ll never forget. I’d better go get some sleep because tomorrow we travel to LOURDES!!!!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Assisi/Rome – part 2

Thursday – August 11, 2011 – 9:45pm – Domus Pacis/Torre Rossa Park Hotel – San Giovanni Building – Room #270 – Rome, Italy

It’s only the beginning of our pilgrimage but the end is coming soon! I say this because with 8 locations in 14 days and fitting travel time in, we won’t have time draggin’ by! 🙂 Last night I decided to go back to the Temple of Minerva/St. Mary’s Church and check out the video tour that had been recommended by one of my fellow pilgrims. When I got there after supper (9:45pm-ish) there was already another group in there doing adoration. Nice coincidence for me to be able to do both! 🙂 After I finished there, I stayed out on the plaza listening to the live band. Apparently since last night was the vigil for the Feast of St. Clare, there was a cover band playing in the town square. Strange, yes. But oddly enchanting and admirable considering the reason they were there. As I started to walk back to our hotel, I met up with some other pilgrims from our group. They were headed up to Rocca Maggiore, an ancient fortress/castle on the highest hill in Assisi. Glad that I hooked up with them because I was curious enough to want to see it but would never have gone on my own. An added bonus was that on the way back down, I came across a very friendly calico cat that let me pet it. Reminded me of Patches, one of the ferals at my old apartment that “adopted” me.

This morning I could have kicked myself in the pants! It’s the feast day of St. Clare today and I wanted to go to Mass before we left Assisi. After all, when am I ever again going to have the chance to celebrate the feast of St. Clare at the Basilica of St. Clare? Probably never. Well, I missed Mass. Partially because of me still trying to get over jet-lag, and because of my own laziness. My consolation was that I knew I had plenty more amazing opportunities on this trip. Our first stop on the way out was the Porziuncola, the church that St. Francis built when he first heard God say to rebuild the Church. It’s a very small but beautiful fresco-covered church. And now there is a much larger church that was built to encapsulate this church as well as provide additional space for pilgrims and worshippers. I definitely felt God’s presence there. Only bad part was that we only got about 30-45 minutes since our bus was on a tight schedule.

The first thing we did once we arrived in Rome was to go to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. It’s one of the many catacombs built in the early centuries of the Church as a burial place for martyrs and a place where they could secretly celebrate the Mass during times of persecution. When we were done there, our tour guide Roberta continued giving us a brief tour of the sites that were on our way to St. Paul’s Outside The Walls (aka – The Basilica of St. Paul). It’s the place where St. Paul (the one whom God literally knocked off his ass on the way to Damascus) is buried. He was martyred by being beheaded. The church is nicknamed “St. Paul’s Outside The Walls” because it is outside the original ancient city walls of Rome. I think it also had something to do with his martyrdom or his citizenship status. Saw his grave. We also got to celebrate Mass on the main altar of the church. Took lots of good pics, and then we left. It was simply amazing to see all of these great places and feel God’s presence so powerfully.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Youth Day 2011 Pilgrimage – Assisi/Rome

Wednesday – August 10, 2011 – 11:55am – Hotel Il Castello – Assisi, Italy

That’s right, I’m in Italy! I’m so happy right now, words almost cannot describe.  Flew into Rome yesterday afternoon. After collecting our baggage and boarding the bus, we settled in for a three hour ride to Assisi. Even though it was almost midnight when we arrived, the town still looked beautiful. People were ambling about (Europeans stay up late at night), churches were beautifully lit. Even though I was tired from all the travelling, I was still very happy to be here finally. Because of the lack of sleep I got while travelling, I had no problem at all falling asleep last night and getting my body on Italy time, which is 7 hours ahead of Lafayette. Slept in this morning until 8:15 and went to the hotel next door to have breakfast with the rest of the pilgrims.

Came back to my room, watched a little TV and sipped on my coffee. Took a shower and freshened up, then I set about exploring Assisi on foot. No real logic to where I went. It just felt so good outside. The sun was shining, a nice breeze was blowing, and the scenery was beautiful. Fields and orchards almost everywhere, spread among the mountains. Narrow streets that pass between stone-built edifices. Little religious souvenir shops at every corner. Saw one of the churches too. It wasn’t the St. Francis church or St. Clare church, but it was still very beautiful. I really enjoyed being in a church, in front of the Tabernacle, in Jesus’ presence. Felt very peaceful and calm. My prayer while I’m here, and during the whole pilgrimage, is to rekindle the fire of the Spirit inside of me. To rediscover God’s peace. I think Assisi is a great place to start doing that. It’s so charming and beautiful here. It’s also very holy. Knowing that I’m literally walking in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare elevates the experience of pilgrimage to a whole new level.

5:45pm

So I just got back from an extensive walking tour of Assisi. Our tour guide Marco who is from Umbria, took us around and showed us the highlights. We saw the Basilica of St. Francis as well as the Basilica of St. Clare and The Roman Temple of Minerva. Both basilicas were absolutely beautiful. To be in these churches that are dedicated to 2 great saints and to walk in their footsteps was awesome. The Temple of Minerva was interesting because of it’s history. It was built in the year A.D. whatever, as a celebration for the residents of Assisi who had just become official citizens of the Roman empire. It has since been renovated and rededicated as a church, but I can’t remember the saint to whom it’s dedicated.

Half the pleasure of the tour (besides seeing the churches) was simply walking around town. It has a beautiful old world charm. Life here is slow and simple. There’s almost a romantic rhythm to the way of life here in Assisi. I commented to one of my fellow pilgrims that I wanna move here. 🙂 Everywhere you go in Assisi there’s an amazing view, whether it’s the narrow cobblestone streets and old style architecture, or the scenic countryside and mountain vistas. At the end of the tour right next to the Temple of Minerva, I went to a gelateria. Got two scoops of gelatto, Straciatella (no idea what that is) and Tiramisu. Tasted great, and I knew I had to get it because there’s just something fitting about having gelatto in Italy. Even better was the fact that the server and her mother both spoke French. I think one of them is from France. I also had the pleasure of speaking French with a charming 20-something Italiana at a random souvenir shop on my way back to the hotel. Her name is Roberta, she’s 27, and she works there part time while also doing a pharmacy internship. Thought about going back there to give her my email address but I realized that probably ALL Italian women are charming, and I don’t want to give my email to all of them. 🙂 Oh well, if it’s meant to be, I’m sure God will have our paths cross again. Now I must do some horizontal meditation so I can regain some energy for supper and the other activities we have tonight. Ciao!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gregory Peck knows karate & I’m goin’ see the Pope this summer!

Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011 – 4:15pm – School room in Marian Home Mission House – Castries, St. Lucia

Yes yes yes, the title of this post is definitely meant to raise eyebrows and cause you to come and read my blog. Indeed I have stooped to the level of chintzy news writers. But, all for the sake of my blog and God’s kingdom, right? 🙂 The Gregory Peck reference has to do with a homily, yes, a homily given by our pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Marchand. Msgr. Bonifacio was talking about turning the other cheek, and mentioned something about Gregory Peck knowing karate and would get back at the bad guys, and that it wasn’t the best example. He really is a joy to have as a pastor. While he is not of the same culture as us missionaries, we have in common the fact that we’re not from St. Lucia. This helps us to gain insight from him on how the people are and the way they interact and operate. Slowly but surely we’re  using this information to more solidly establish relationships and get more active in our ministries.

It’s ironic that I’m talking about this right now, because I feel like this journal entry mirrors what our ministry has been like in our time here. I’ve known for awhile that I needed to do it and get active. But that’s all I’ve had, the desire to do it. A few times I’ve tried to do it, or got close, or thought really hard, but nothin’ goin’, u know? Had some thoughts cross my mind as to what I wanted to say/do, and gathered some really good ideas. It seems though that I needed to get to a point where I let go and it would just happen. I wasn’t planning to do my journal right now, but it just kinda came together as a culmination of the previous events of the day. A big motivation for me doing it is that I had this really strong feeling that it was time. Even if I didn’t know yet what I was going to say, I knew I needed to say SOMETHING. Anyhoo………….

The other part of my journal title is somewhat self-explanatory. Indeed, I am going to see the Pope this summer. World Youth Day 2011 is being held in Madrid. I had the most amazing experience of my journey with Jesus when I attended World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia. It was the most tangible glimpse I’ve ever had of the Catholic Church as Universal. As soon as I got home from Australia, I knew that I’d love to go to Madrid in 2011 but I just never realized that I’d get the chance. So, once I officially joined FMC as a missionary, I knew that I might get my chance. John-Paul Summers, the youth minister for FMC decided to organize a group to go. I kinda thought about it, but never seriously. To be blunt, I didn’t know what my summer plans were, and what my mission post would be or what the work would entail. However, in the past few weeks, I firmed up plans to come back to Louisiana in July. From the 11th to the 15th of July, I will be volunteering at Faith Camp. It’s a huge part of FMC’s family and their ministry, and I really wanted to experience it especially now that I’m a full-time missionary. After that was confirmed, I began thinking about Camp Hardtner, a Christian summer camp that I attended as a camper, counselor, and adult volunteer. It had been three years since I’ve been able to go (summer 2008). You know, that thing called life kinda happens. So, I contacted a few people after I realized the last camp session of the summer was right after Faith Camp, and voila, I’m back! I’m really excited to be going back, even if only for a week. The chance to be at a place that I really love is priceless. Life has shown me that I need to enjoy the blessings God gives me because you never know where life will take you or if you’ll ever have another chance to see that person or visit that place.

While we’re on that subject, I should mention to that right after my week at Camp Hardtner, I’ll be doing another three day silent retreat at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA. It’s a retreat house run by Jesuits, and they model their 3-day silent retreats off of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Me and Dad have done several of these, but it’s been 2 or 3 years since we’ve been able to make one together. I’m pretty sure I could make one by myself or with some friends, but it’s something that I’ve only done with my dad. And guys being guys, you take whatever chance like this that you can get, if it means you’ll get some good male-bonding time.  So, my timeframe for the months of July and August look something like this: July 11th-15th – Faith Camp @ Camp Woodmen in Abbeville, LA. July 18th-26th – Camp Staff for Middle High @ Camp Hardtner in Pollock, LA. July 28th-31st – Silent Retreat @ Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA. August 8th – 22nd – World Youth Day Pilgrimage, visiting London, Paris, Cordoba, Rome, Assissi, and Madrid. I would assume that I’ll be flying back into Lafayette 3 or 4 days before Faith Camp, and just spending time with my family and friends. Same with the time in between each trip/event I’ll be involved with. Hopefully I’ll get some chances to pass on some stories and knowledge and wisdom that I’ve gained from being in foreign missions.

The other big thing on my mind is Ash Wednesday. Lent is one of my favorite times of the year. The whole penitential aspect of it really excites me. Something about freshly committing myself, and by God’s grace becoming holier and more loving, captivates me. My Lenten strategy has varied from year to year. What do I give up? What extra thing do I do? This year, I felt like as a foreign missionary I had a decent handle on having already given up lots of stuff. Was there something extra I could do? I hadn’t really thought about my Lent this year, and what I was going to do. Now, Ash Wednesday rolls around and I still didn’t know. During my morning prayer and my morning routine, I committed myself not to worry too much or to force myself into something. Eventually, I’d figure out what God wanted me to focus on for Lent. Little did I know how soon my answer would come. During morning prayer, as I was tempted to daydream and lose focus, it dawned on me. I need to focus. It comes as a way to address the larger problem of not being present. So easily I get caught up in the past or future, that I forget to live in and be dedicated to the present, which is the only moment we have. Ergo, I have decided that I will ask God to give me the grace to notice every single time during prayer, meals, fellowship, ANYTHING, that I’m tempted to lose focus. Then, I can re-focus and re-dedicate myself to the task at hand. PTL.

As I finish my journal entry, I think of a few things that need some prayer:

-For Patricia, Dylan, & Marlin Monero. Patricia is a nurse at the Marian Home. Her relationship with the father of her children is bad. These boys need guidance. By God’s grace, we’re able to help fill some of that need. She also needs to relocate to a different house/piece of property. Long story, but big headache. Please pray pray pray.

-For Sabina. She’s a local resident who attends daily Mass at our chapel. In her home she is helping care for unwed mothers and is also fostering children. Every month she also does a lot of work to supply food and other needs of the local poor. We’ve been blessed with her bringing us into this ministry, but there is so much need.

-For all of the FMC missionaries. This is a season of getting established at various mission posts and finalizing plans. Pray that God’s will be done.

-For me and those on my mission team that will be travelling back to the States this summer. You already know my travel plans. Some of the Eckstine kids (along with Mark) are also going to be attending Faith Camp, and they may have other travel plans as well. Pray that our time away from our mission would renew us, and that we would have lots of opportunities to share about missions and to evangelize. Please also pray for safe travel and for the funds we need to do all of this.

God Bless!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.