Tom & Sue’s Excellent Adventure in Italy Day 9

Buona Serra: Dinner last night was at 7:30 P.M. … we got downstairs at 7:35 and we were lucky to get a table at our Mountain Farm House B&B. We were so exhausted but we knew we had to eat something. We are now both sporting some heavy-duty colds and are quickly running out of our antibiotics. Susan ordered some homemade Lentil Soup for dinner and I selected a Pasta Dish with … I don’t know what it was! We shared a one main course (pork and polenta) and could hardly get through it. It’s not that the portions were big, it’s just that we were so tired and not feeling well at all. Plus, the Chef was trying to create “Nouvelle Cuisine” when she should have just stuck to maybe a “donkey stew” or the food of the region. We finished dinner and went up to our room, popped some NyQuil (the “just might need it” bag has really come into use this year.) It could be empty in a couple of days.

We know we have Vick’s VapoRub somewhere in our luggage … we just can’t find it for our tight chests. We put three heavy blankets on our bed, climbed in and neither of us remember anything after that until the alarm went off at 6:30 A.M. (I got up first, of course and did the usual packing and showering as I let my baby sleep a little longer.)

Breakfast at the B&B was very good. All “farm fresh”, frache, farm milk, fruit from their orchards, homemade cheese, tarts and lots of capuccino. Of course because we still didn’t feel good, we didn’t eat much. We changed our Itinerary again so that we could drive to meet Padre Gian Battista, PIME (I hope I spelled that correctly because we know he reads our Trip Reports every day and we are still with him. If I’m wrong, he can certainly yell at me tomorrow morning). From this point on, we will refer to Father as “GB” … as he is known here at Casa Natale di Papa Giovanni Pontifico Istituto Missioni Estere which the Padre PIME’s care for.

We met Father at the shrine, and from now on we will refer to him as GG
We met Father at the shrine, and from now on we will refer to him as GB since we cannot pronounce his name!

We met GB via email long before our arrival and have been communicating with him for some time now. He was looking forward to our arrival, we hope, as much as we were. We arrived a little later than anticipated, but when we pulled up to the gates, he was standing outside waiting for us. He had emailed a photo of himself the day before so that we would know what he looked like. It was like meeting up with an old friend after some time … instant bonded. He was so very gracious.

The small farmhouse that is the shrine of Pope John XXIII
The small farmhouse that is the shrine of Pope John XXIII

He brought us to our parking place on the Missionary grounds and he began an extensive tour of the Mission and where Blessed (soon to be Saint) Giovanni XXIII was born and raised (still open and preserved).

Artifacts from the life of Pope John Paul II
Artifacts from the life of Pope John Paul II
Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII

 

It was quite amazing to see the Pope’s entire life through photos, letters, memorabilia and personal items of Pope Giovanni XXIII. Among those items were photos and various personal items that he used during his Papacy.

Lunch is an amazing affair in Italy.  So much but of course we would not want to hurt our host's feelings!
Lunch is an amazing affair in Italy. So much but of course we would not want to hurt our host’s feelings!


After a while, Padre GB took us into a private room at the Mission for lunch. The chef then rolled in two full carts of food just for the three of us. We could have fed the 7:15 A.M. Mass at the Cathedral. The first course was served … small ravioli’s with a delicious tomato sauce, polenta with a melted garlic cheese sauce and the list goes on. Then the list goes on … there was fish (one was sardines stuffed with anchovies (they were great), another fish, salad, broccoli, cauliflower, fries, potatoes, salad, etc., etc., etc. We felt guilty not eating more as Padre GB kept asking if we would like another plateful. This was real food!

After lunch, Padre GB convinced us that we were welcome to spend the night in the old Seminary that is now only used for large pilgrimage groups. He suggested we try to cancel our hotel via email and he escorted us to our car to get our computer. I emailed the owner of the next hotel (BB) who had been communicating with me about our stay and I explained to him that we were both very sick and could not make it to the hotel for the evening. Have not heard back yet … but if they charge me, they charge me. I was not going to drive a distance and back into the mountains again … not as lousy as I was feeling. Not to mention wanting to spend more time with our new friend and to learn more about and see more history of Blessed Giovanni XXIII.

Next, Padre GB drove us up to a very small Church/Chapel which was built in the 1400’s and is dedicated to Our Blessed Mother. He explained that this is the Chapel that the Pope used to go to, as a child and with his Mother, to Pray to Our Blessed Mother.

Our next “experience” is when Padre GB took us to the Summer Residence of Pope Giovanni XXIII which is now partially a Museum filled with so many artifacts, memorabilia, gifts, etc. The other part is the residence of the Monsignor who was the Pope’s Personal Secretary and he is still “alive and kicking” at 98 years old.

I got scolded by one of the sisters...oh well.
I got scolded by one of the sisters…oh well.

As GB gave us a tour, I got “scolded” by one of the Sisters for taking a photo. From then on, as we entered another room in the Pope’s Summer Residence, BG was like a “little kid”, standing at the door of the room and saying “take it quickly” as he stood look-out for the scolding Sisters.

The private chapel of Pope John XXIII
The private chapel of Pope John XXIII

Part of the highlight of the tour was getting to see and touch the actual mattress that the Pope suffered and died on as well as a beautiful Cross that he held during his last days and when he passed away. The room next to the bedroom was everything from Pope John XXIII’s Chapel from the Vatican that Pope Pius XII had used prior. It is complete with the actual Stations of the Cross, the Altar, the Cross, the Madonna, etc.

Along the way, one of the Sisters began talking to GB as she explained the history of the items and he would translate. She liked us, we “think” because she told Padre to follow her and she took us into a roped off room, turned on the lights and allowed us to enter. GB told us that Sister wanted to make an “exception” for us.

The room had a Papal Chair that was the actual chair for Blessed Pope John XXIII. She allowed each of us to sit in the chair quietly and Pray … HOW GOOD IS THAT? Hard to explain the feeling when sitting in a Pope’s Chair, not to mention a Blessed Pope and a soon to be Saint! She was so sweet as we began to leave her.

Padre explained to her that we were on a personal pilgrimage. She asked that we Pray for her nephew who is a Seminarian and, hopefully, will be Ordained in 2016. We told her that we would also Pray for her and the Sisters who care for the Summer Residence. Little did she know that today was the day Susan and I had decided to dedicate to all Religious … the Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons & Religious Sisters.

As we were about to depart with GB, another Sister came running and screaming in a cute Italian voice to us. She started talking excitedly to the three of us and Padre would answer her in Italian. She kept talking and talking and we had no clue what she was saying. GB told us later that she came running when she heard that North Americans were there. She loaded us up with brochures, magazines from their foundation and information. It is wonderful to have this information to share with you when we return. But it was NOTHING TO COMPARE to the 15 Third-Class Relics of Blessed John XXIII that Padre GB had presented to us in English to share with those we select … stand in line, folks! LOL.

Burial mask and stole of Pope John XXIII on display
Burial mask and stole of Pope John XXIII on display

We then went to the parish church and GB gave us a grand tour of the new church. It’s only 101 years old. There is the white garment worn by Blessed John Paul II that we recognized immediately as well as a memorial to Blessed John XXIII. It was his actual burial glass tomb with a plaster molding of his face and hand they took after his death the stole he was buried in and the cross from his room that witnesses say he was staring at when he died peacefully. 

After finishing, we walked to a local Café and had a short beer. By then, it was almost 5:00 P.M. Upon returning to the Mission, GB took us to our room which, when you enter the room, you are actually in the Sacristy for the Small Chapel next to our room. Then we went into our “seminarian room” with two small beds and he showed us where our bathroom was that consists of 6 toilets and 12 showers that we have our pick to use since no one else stays or lives in this section. Padre told us to get some rest (because he knew we didn’t feel well) and that he would come to get us at 5:45 P.M. and he would Celebrate a Mass for us at 6:00 P.M. because he knew we had not had the opportunity to attend Mass today. We laid down for a “power nap” and GB showed up ready to Celebrate Mass.

My chance to be lector and altar server at Mass with Father GB.
My chance to be lector and altar server at Mass with Father GB, as well as the Sacristan.

As he vested, he told us that he would like us to place all of your Special Intentions we carry with us on the Altar and that the Mass would be offered for all of the Intentions we Pray for on your behalf. Father said the Mass in English.I was the Lector and the Sacristan after. At the Prayers of the Faithful, he said to Sue … you can take a picture … and she did.

We cleaned up after Mass and headed out for dinner to a local favorite of his. It was quite a restaurant with a very nice menu. Susan and I were not very hungry, so we ordered a pizza and an order of calamari. We were going to split each until we saw someone else get their pizza and it was huge. So we quickly asked GB to cancel the calamari, knowing we could never eat it all. GB ordered his favorite Pepper Steak. The pizza was the best since we arrived … we couldn’t even finish it so GB helped us “consume”. We drove back to the Mission and Padre Gian bid us good night with a promise to pick us up at 6:45 A.M. and take us with him to Celebrate his 7:00 A.M. Mass he does for the Religious Sisters in a Convent not too far away. This time, we are absolutely assured that we will not be late for Mass.

Finishing up this report, then it's off to sleep.  What a wonderful day!
Finishing up this report, then it’s off to sleep. What a wonderful day!

Tomorrow morning we will look at our Itinerary and make some changes, if necessary, depending on how we feel. We may have to eliminate some stops so that we can get to our next hotel and “get some rest and get better” … we have a long way to go. We have now popped our NyQuil, taken our cough medicine (which GB helped us get at the Pharmacia today) … and, with that, I will say “Night-Night”. Susan and Tom 

For more information about the Pope John XXIII Institute in Italy click here.

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