A Roman Pilgrimage in Honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Thomas A. Droleskey
[Here is the final installment of the series that chronicles our recent trip to the Eternal City, the Seat of the Holy Faith, Rome. Once again, this series has been written principally to provide a written record for our daughter and her cousins. I do hope that those of you who have been reading this series have found it interesting. Writing it has provided me an opportunity to use the narrative style I employed thirty years ago when keeping up with my friends across the nation by means of writing "chapters" (up to seventy-two single-spaced typewritten pages, without margins) in the adventures that befell me in my early years of college/university teaching. There will be a few other articles on this site before we leave on our extensive speaking tour on July 5. Very few articles will be posted during that trip, which will require me to drive our motor home vast distances overnight about three or four nights so that we can assist at the Mass of the ages the following morning. We will have announcements concerning ordering information for Restoring Christ as the King of All Nations in a few days. Thank you for your interest in this series. While I am maintaining my policy of not posting any photographs of family members, my wife agrees that posting one or two photographs that do not clearly show the faces of Lucy or her cousins would be acceptable. Thus, one or two of those have been included with the other photographs.
[2008 Note: This travelogue was written about six months before I commenced in earnest the study that would lead me to the conclusion that those who hold office in the structures of the counterfeit church of conciliarism did so illegitimately. The references in this travelogue to the "titles" of the conciliar officials reflect the fact that I had not as yet come to the only Catholic conclusion possible: that those who defect from the Faith expel themselves from the Church. I want to make this clarification as it appears that this article is the singularly most read article on my site, month after month. Those of you who are new to this site are welcome to read my more recent articles on the Articles page.]
Sisters in Blood Who Grew Closer Than Ever Before as Sisters in Christ
Our long day of visiting three basilicas, three churches and the Coliseum on Thursday, May 19, 2005, was one of the highlights of our journey to Rome. We were very tired after returning to our rented apartment, although very grateful to Our Lord and His Most Blessed Mother and all of the Roman Martyrs for having been blessed to have shown Lucy these sights in the company of her beloved cousins. As Father John T. Murphy was leaving Rome for Ireland early the next day, Friday, May 20, 2005, we had only a few hours to rest after that long day. We had to arise early in the morning on May 20 to walk the mile or so to the Turpins' rented apartment for a 7:00 a.m. Mass offered by Father Murphy prior to his departure. It was my hope that Lucy Mary Norma would not suffer as a result of the lack of sleep. She really wanted to go back to bed when we tried to rouse her on the morning of May 20.
Father Murphy offered the Mass of the ages for us on Whit-Friday, May 20, 2005. He was packed and ready to take a taxi to the the Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino right by the Mediterranean Sea shortly after he said Mass for us. We said our goodbyes to Father Murphy as we gave Lucy a chance to play in the little sandlot across from the Turpins' rented apartment, hoping to see him on Long Island if it is God's holy will for us to survive our upcoming travels across the United States. Lucy played on the sandlot for a little while before we took her back to our own rented apartment to give her some breakfast, making our way down the Via Andrea Doria to the Via Leone IV for the walk once again to the Basilica of Saint Peter, permitting Lucy to run around the piazza, going from fountain to fountain, as she loved to do. The Turpins were to make their first visit to the Basilica of Saint Peter that day. They had stayed behind in their rented apartment after Father Murphy's departure to have some breakfast and to get the troops ready for their day of marching. It was our intention to visit the Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside of the Walls and the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme after our visit to Saint Peter's.
We got to the Basilica first, checking Penance the Stroller in the place where strollers are check on the ground level, taking the elevator up to the main level of the basilica for the first time, delighting Lucy no end. Having visited the Basilica twice before during our pilgrimage we made our way straight to the Adoration Chapel to spend some time with Our Lord in His Real Presence, emerging to find Benoit and Gabriel, who rode in his usual place: his legs draped around his father's neck as he assayed the world around him by peering over his father's head. Benoit took the opportunity to pray in the chapel for a time while we found the rest of the Turpin group, including their young visitor, gazing at the ceiling of the Basilica of Saint Peter. A tour of those parts of the Basilica that were accessible to the public was then given, including stops at the altars of Pope Saint Gregory the Great and of Pope Saint Pius X.
It was shortly after the entire group was reunited following Benoit's emergence from the Adoration Chapel that my wife, Sharon, and her only Catholic sister, Bridget, made their way to the Pieta once again to stand before the image of Our Lady holding the dead Body of her Divine Son for the first time as Catholics. Each of their began to cry in gratitude to Our Lady for bringing them into the true Faith, recalling how they had cried--without knowing why and without saying a word about the experience to each other until years later--copiously when they had first stood before the Pieta in 1989. The scene was very moving, and I captured it on film for the sisters to have. Our Lady is indeed the Co-Redemptix and the Mediatrix of all graces. Her graces brought my wife and her sister into the Church. I would not have met Sharon had it not been for Bridget's husband's involvement with the Traditional Latin Mass. And Benoit's involvement in the Mass was the direct outgrowth of Bridget's conversion, which had been prompted by Our Lord. Little did I realize in 1989 that my future wife and the mother of a daughter I never thought I would have was beginning the process of her ten-year long conversion to the true Faith. Our Lady is very merciful and loving to us erring, recidivist sinners.
The tour of the Basilica lasted for about ninety minutes or so, including a stop at the main altar to kneel above the tomb of Saint Peter. Efforts had been made to secure a reservation to go the Scalvi, the actual place below the Basilica where the bones of Saint Peter were found. Reservations, which are made in an office located at the southwest end of the Basilica, were booked solid until the beginning of June. All we could do on May 19 was to venerate the the tomb below the main altar.
The Turpins went to secure some food for their large contingent as we gave Lucy some nourishment at the Trattoria al Cupolone on the Borgo Pio after we had completed our visit to the Basilica of Saint Peter.
As I noted in an earlier installment of this series, the Borgo Pio is a street where Vaticanologists can have a veritable field day as prominent individuals walk down its cobblestones. The former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was a regular on the Borgo Pio. We saw numerous luminaries pass by as we gave Lucy some food that Friday afternoon, including Monsignor Arthur Calkins of Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Knowing that my writing in support of the stands taken by Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior-General of the Society of Saint Pius X, and of priests such as Father Patrick Perez and Lawrence Smith and Paul Sretenovic, amony many others, to offer the Mass of the ages without conceding anything to the unjust and illicit conditions laid down by the Holy See, I wanted to make myself invisible as Monsignor Calkins walked by. This is one of the times that my weight gain of recent years worked to my advantage. Those who had seen me in my thinner days have to do a double take, such as the monsignor with whom I was in seminary in 1981 who had seen us on Whit Sunday in Rome, to recognize me. Monsignor Calkins kept on walking. I just wanted to have a nice, peaceful, prayerful pilgrimage to Rome without having to get into a polemical discussion in front of my daughter. Deo gratias.
A Meeting With Bob Schindler on the Borgo Pio
We were to rendezvous with the Turpins around 2:00 p.m. to walk up the Via Ottaviano to the Metro Linea A for the trip to the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Standing by the main motor car entrance to the Vatican and the Porta di Angelica, I saw a black robed Franciscan walk in our general direction. "We see him everywhere," I said to Sharon, not recognizing immediately where I had seen him in the past. Then it dawned on me. "That's Brother Paul of the Franciscans for Peace. He's here with the Schindlers." I looked around to determine if I could see the parents of the late Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo anywhere in sight. Sure enough, there was Bob Schindler, Terri's father, walking down the Borgo Pio. I told Sharon to wait with Lucy as I ran across the street to say hello to him.
Actually, I had said hello to Mr. Schindler at the rally in Pinellas Park, Florida, where I had spoken in Terri's behalf on March 12, 2005. He was meeting a thousand people at the time, conscious that the process that would result in the court-ordered execution of his brain-damaged daughter was only six days days from commencing. I knew that he would not remember meeting me or know my name. Thus, I introduced myself to Mr. Schindler, who said that he and his wife and daughter and son were in Rome to thank Vatican officials for having spoken out in Terri's behalf and to encourage them to keep up their efforts against the starvation and dehydration of human beings. Mr. and Mrs. Schindler had been in the VIP section at the General Audience of the Holy Father two days before. I assured Mr. Schindler of our prayers for his family and for Terri's immortal soul, saying that Our Lady will use the fruit of those prayers for Terri's soul for some other soul if Terri has no need of them. We just keep praying for the souls of all of the faithful departed, placing our confidence completely in Our Lady to use our prayers as she directs them to the Blessed Trinity.
Each of the articles that I wrote about the murder of Theresa Schindler-Schiavo will be included in my forthcoming Restoring Christ as the King of All Nations. Nothing in the recently released autopsy report changes anything about the immutable truth of the Divine positive law and the natural law that it is never permissible to take any action that has as its only and immediate end the death of an innocent human being. And an ophthalmologist has noted within the past few days that it is impossible to determine blindness in an autopsy, demonstrating once again that those who have a vested interest in killing will make representations that strain credulity. After all, the average person is easy duped by "experts," right? As I have noted again and again: do not be deceived. Do not be confused. Terri Schiavo was murdered. There is no moral justification for depriving a brain-damaged human being of food and water, no matter how they are administered. We are to see the suffering face of Christ in such people, not objects to be "abandoned" because we have decided to play God and to disparage the simple truth that dependent human beings provide us with a source of grace to serve God in them and to thus sanctify and to save our immortal souls.
The Turpins arrived shortly after I had meet with Bob Schindler. We walked up, albeit a bit slowly (the troops were hurting from all of the walking of the day before, including my dear wife), to the Ottaviano station of the Metro. It was at that station late in the afternoon of October 10, 2004, that I saw a huge flock of birds gathered on telephone wires above the sidewalk. People were milling about, marveling at the site. Being prone to spontaneous, out-loud comments to no one in particular as part of my particular nature as a New Yorker, I looked up and said, "Alfredo Hitchcock." Everyone laughed, knowing that I was referring to Sir Alfred Hitchcock's"The Birds." It was also at that station in 1987 that I encountered what is a fairly typical Roman phenomenon: a period strike by the transit workers, as we had experienced on Whit Sunday when attempting to get to Mass at the chapel administered by the Society of Saint Pius X.
The Joys of Italian Socialism
Well, after taking Lucy Mary Norma out of Penance the Stroller and beginning the process of carrying the dreaded thing, which is still on the ladder on the outside of our motor home, by the way, down the stairs, the gates to the station were being closed and locked. You got it: another work stoppage. The subways, buses and trams were out of business for the next few hours. Oh, well, so much for our plans to visit the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Alternative plans had to be made.
The Turpins wanted to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel and, possibly, the Cupola of the Basilica of Saint Peter. I wanted to try to get down to the Trastevere district to visit the Church of Sancta Cecilia and the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Having been to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel in October of 1984 amidst huge throngs of people that pushed you along as though you were on the Number 7 Line of the IRT in Queens, I was not enthralled with that idea. Besides, I was more than a little hesitant about exposing Lucy to some of the Renaissance art and sculptures, a lot of which contained busts of pagan gods that became popular in the era of "humanism," in the Museum and in the corridors that led to the Sistine Chapel.
Indeed, a woman who attended my "Living in the Shadow of the Cross" lecture program in 1981 in New Jersey said that it was her belief that most of the problems of the contemporary period in Church history began when those pagan gods were placed in and around the Sistine Chapel. I said, "Sure, sure, sure" at the time, perhaps more than a little condescendingly. I think, however, that she may have something of a point. After all, the First Commandment admits of no exceptions. Pagan gods are indeed graven images. The Holy Martyrs of Rome gave up their lives rather than offer sacrifice or any sort of worship to those pagan gods. How ironic that such images are now "hallowed" in the corridors leading up to the Sistine Chapel, an eerie echo of the embrace of Eastern "mysticism" and other pagan superstitions, such as those practiced by the American Indians, by many Catholic bishops and priests and theologians in the past fifty years.
Twenty-four Euros to Be Pushed and Shoved in front of Statues of Pagan Idols
We took a pass, therefore, on going with the Turpins to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. The lines leading to the Museum and Chapel were extraordinarily long almost every day of our pilgrimage, sometimes backed up along the Vatican Wall to the Piazza Risorgimento. We thus said our goodbyes for the moment (and for the day as it turned out) as we made our way back in the direction of Saint Peter's Square and the Via della Conciliazione for our intended walk to Trastevere. Sharon, though, was really hurting. She is under the care of a chiropractor in southern California, Dr. Roch Johnston, and needs adjustments every few weeks for her back and hips and neck. Everything was hurting her by the time we got to the Via della Conciliazione, including her foot. She lagged behind Lucy, ensconced in her stroller, and me when we were making the walk back up the Via Porta di Angelica to the Via Leone IV en route to our rented apartment. Lucy looked back and said, "Come on, Mustafa!" "Mustafa" is a name I made up to signify that Mohammedan women walk behind their husbands. Sharon's pain is such that she cannot keep up with us at parks and zoos, prompting me to say, "Come, on Mustafa! Join the family." Lucy, who is very sharp, has picked up on this and loves to use humor with her parents. In a perfect intonation of my impression of Ralph Kramden, she tells me frequently, "YOU are a blllllllllllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabermouth, Dada." Out of the mouths of babes. I know.
We were walking along the Vatican Wall on the Via Leone IV when we looked at the line leading to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. There was no line at all. Lucy was a little upset that she had not gotten to see more of her cousins that day, Friday, May 19. Thus, we trudged up the Via Cano to find that the doors to the Museum and Chapel were about to close (it was around 3:30 p.m.). Taking the chance that we could catch up to the Turpins (and against my own better judgment, if I have any such a thing, that is), I paid the twenty-four Euros admission price. We were then led to an elevator that took us up directly to the top floor on the museum, bypassing all of the artifacts (vestments, chalices, patens, ciboria, monstrances, gifts given to popes by various dignitaries and officials) in the Vatican Museum, which was a pity as they are truly fascinating. Oh, it's something you see once and say, "This is great." I would not have made a special trip to have gone through the Museum again, and avoided doing so after my first trip to Rome in 1984. We did so on May 19 for the sake of our daughter. Unfortunately, though, we were sent straight to the top of the Museum to have the privilege of catching up with mobs and mobs and mobs of people who had been through the entire Museum at that point. It was exactly as I remembered the scene from 1984. I wish I could say that I offered it all up to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. However, there was a bit of a sort of muttering under my breath for which New Yorkers are rather infamous. "Oh, I knew it would be like this." "Twenty-four euros for this?"
Well, I pushed the stroller through the corridors with the busts of all of the pagan gods as fast as I could, following the long, long, long line of people from one corridor to the next. I carried Lucy down and up flights of stairs, some of them quite narrow, as Sharon carried Penance the Stroller. The lines were endless. We exited the Museum building to walk through a courtyard that led us to the Sistine Chapel building. It was thus up more stairs and down more corridors, negotiating our way through people who wanted to gawk at the statues of the pagan gods and such things. The scene was almost Kafkaesque. I told Lucy Mary Norma that we were going to the chapel where the cardinals elect a new pope. "Like Papa Benedetto?" she asked. "Yes, Lucy, like Papa Benedetto," I answered.
It took about an hour or so to actually get into the Sistine Chapel, pointing things out to Lucy discreetly, keeping an eye out for the Turpins, who did not materialize this time around. The process of exiting the Chapel was a lot easier than entering it, although we had to go down flights of stairs and through various corridors before going outside to yet another set of stairs to find that our ultimate exit from the Sistine Chapel building took us right next to the Basilica of Saint Peter, a little detail that I had forgotten from my previous visit to the Chapel in 1984. "Oh, no," I said to Sharon. "We're back at Saint Peter's. We have to walk all the way back to the apartment from here again!" Making up for my earlier mutterings, I did say, "All to you, Blessed Mother. All to your Immaculate Heart." Indeed.
Thus, we had to trudge on along back through the Colonnade to the Via Porta di Angelica to the Via Leone IV to the Via Andrea Doria. I sought out a tax once again at the Piazza Risorgimento, striking out yet another time. We continued on, stopping at a trattoria near our rented apartment so that Lucy could feast on Sorbetto Argula (strawberry sorbet). We awaited the arrival of the Turpins, not knowing that part of the crew, led by Aunt Bridget, would go on to Trastevere (the buses began running again after a strike of several hours' duration), while Uncle Benoit returned home. I also made arrangements with the priest who had been kind enough to offer the Immemorial Mass of Tradition for us in his apartment on May 17 to do so the following morning. We heard his Mass for each of the next four days prior to our departure early in the morning of May 25. Lacking any means to communicate with the Turpins, I walked over to their rented apartment later that Friday night to inform them of the Mass plans, stressing the importance of being in front of our apartment no later than 7:30 a.m. to permit us the opportunity to get to a 9:00 a.m. Mass via Shank's Mare. Resting, Monsieur Turpin said that he would rouse the crew and meet us there the next morning.
How Irving the Bear became Irwin the Bear
A great tragedy occurred early the next morning, Saturday, May 21, 2005. A member of the family lost his head. Let me explain.
The last "mainstream" traditional Catholic event that I was invited to speak at took place in Rockford, Illinois, on May 15, 2004. While at the home of one of the organizers of the conference on the next day, Sunday, May 16, 2004, Lucy Mary Norma spotted a decorative bear sitting on top of a shelf in the living room. She fell in love with the homemade bear, who was named "Irving." Irving was not really a "stuffed bear." He was made of heavy granules of plastic that weighed him down considerably. He is, I found out later, part of the "Boyds Collection" of bears, a cult about which I have known nothing until going online to find out Irwin's lineage. However, Lucy, then just about twenty-six months ago, took to Irving immediately, crying and crying and crying when we told her that Irving belonged to the people in whose house we had been visiting. The hosts took pity on Lucy, deciding to give her Irving the Bear as a gift. Lucy was very happy. Mistakenly, though, she thought that Irving's name was "Irwin." Thus, Irving became Irwin the Bear from that point on. He became a very important member of the Droleskey family.
Irwin went with us everywhere. He stayed in the motor home. He rode in our 2000 Saturn Station Wagon before a young girl drive ran a red light and hit us on November 23, 2004, in Middletown, New York, totaling the car. As a matter of fact, Irwin was with us when the seventeen year-old girl hit us. Irwin went to parks. Lucy pushed him down slides and swung him back and forth on swings. Irwin began to share the spotlight with a few other truly stuffed animals that she had been given by others, especially Snowflake the Bunny and Eleanor the Elephant (Eddie the Horse, named after a "slow pony" at the Irvine Regional Park in Orange, California, and Molly the Doll, given to her by a parishioner at Our Lady Help of Christians in Garden Grove, California, are also part of the crew, about whom Lucy makes up the most imaginative stories, reminding one and all that children are far better off for a whole variety of reasons without any access to television). Irwin remained Lucy's favorite. To be honest, Irwin is a favorite of Lucy's father and mother!
Irwin came along with us to Rome. On the morning of May 21, 2005 (which would have been the late Raymond Burr's eighty-eighth birthday, for you Perry Mason and Ironside fans out there; yes, talk about too much television. I know), I discovered that Irwin's head was hanging on a slender thread to his torso How Irwin's head actually got separated from his torso is a matter of dispute between Sharon and me. The last time I saw Irwin before his head was separated from his body was when I noticed the exposed strands of thread that Saturday morning. It is my contention that Sharon, who intended to sew Irwin's head back onto his body, yanked off his head to make a clean break and thus prevent any further damage. Sharon will not answer this accusation directly, deflecting all mention of this by saying that I had showed Lucy Irwin's head after it had come off. Content to let this mystery be resolved on the Last Day at the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead, suffice it for now to note that Irwin's head and body were wrapped up in a safe place for mending once we got back to the United States.
Falling Down on the Job Again
We emerged on the sidewalk of the Via Andrea Doria at around 7:25 a.m. to await the arrival of the Turpins to walk with us to the priest's apartment for the offering of Holy Mass on Whit Saturday. The minutes ticked by. No Turpins were in sight. Sharon and I decided that we had to proceed on without them, not wanting to be late for the priest's offering of the Mass of all ages. Onward we then trudged, pushing Penance the Stroller down the Via Andrea Doria to the Via Leone IV to the Via Porta di Angelica to the Bernini Colonnade and Piazza San Pietro, where Lucy ran diagonally from one part to the next before we exited at the southwest corner of the Square to continue on the Via San Uffizio to the Via delle Fornaci, making our long detour around an impassable intersection for pedestrians as we did so (not discovering a pedestrian tunnel until our return trip that morning).
My unsteady right ankle, which was sprained severely in 1971 as I ran across Jamaica Avenue in Queens Village, New York, to get to my late father's veterinary hospital after he and my mother had been held up at gunpoint, gave out again as I pushed Lucy in Penance the Stroller up the hill known as the Via delle Fornaci. Down I went once again, although I was able to break my fall on the engine hood of a parked automobile before landing on the ground. An elderly man sweeping an open storage facility right at the point where I sprained my ankle continue to sweep, making a point of sweeping dust in my direction. "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, save souls!" I said as I jumped about a bit before continuing on to the priest's apartment. It was a good thing I had a relic of Saint Christopher that had been loaned to us by friends in California on my person throughout the pilgrimage! Things would have been much worse without his protection.
We were once again very privileged to have had Holy Mass with the kind priest, and very grateful to him for sparing us from yet a return to the back alleyway of the Via Leccosa.
We returned down the other side of the Via delle Fornaci after Mass, stopping at a cafe to feed Lucy and Sharon with some chocolate croissants for breakfast. There was no way to reach the Turpins. No nearby store sold phone cards and we were not near any internet shops. We just continued on, praying to their Guardian Angels that we would catch up with them.
Hello, Cardinal Stickler, Oh, Goodbye, Cardinal Stickler
The pedestrian tunnel that had escaped my notice on the Via San Uffizio the three previous times we had traversed up an down the Via delle Fornaci was pointed out to me by Lucy as we were about to take the long detour around the impassable intersection. "There's a tunnel, Dada," Lucy said excitedly. Lucy loves tunnels. Sure enough, there was a pedestrian tunnel on the north side of the Via San Uffizio that run under the intersection."Who knew?" I said to Sharon as I shrugged my shoulders and pushed the stroller down into the tunnel, whose northern terminus was just a stride to the south of the gates to the complex that houses the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and serves as the residence for Alfons Cardinal Stickler.
The gates to the complex, which had been closed each of the three previous times we had passed by, were opened when we emerged from the tunnel. "Let's go in and say hello to Cardinal Stickler," I said to Sharon. As soon as I said, this, however, the gates began to close. "Somebody's trying to tell you something," Sharon said wryly. The gates just slammed shut as we walked by.
Looking for the Turpins
Lucy got to run around in Saint Peter's Square for a little bit as we walked to find a phone card to try to call the Turpins. None of the phones, though, on the Via della Conciliazione were cooperating with my efforts to complete calls. Hoping that their plans called for a trip down to Trastevere, we pushed Lucy in Penance the Stroller down to the Tiber River to catch a bus that would take us to the historic Trastevere district. Although I have avoided the Roman buses assiduously during most of my trips to Rome since 1984 (several rides on Bus 64 in Rome will cure you of any desire to ride the buses there), this particular trip was effortless, dropping us off not far from the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. It was at that point that I made contact with Aunt Bridget, who told us that they would indeed be leaving for the Trastevere district shortly. Lucy would get to see her cousins once again, although none of us knew at the time that it would be for a relatively short visit.
We walked the cobblestone streets to make our way to the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, making a nice visit to the Blessed Sacrament at the Church of Saint Agatha. Lucy prayed a particularly long time before an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Saint Agatha's, returning to the pew where we were sitting to place her large, floppy straw hat down on the pew in back of where Sharon and I were praying. That was the last time we saw Lucy's hat, which protected her fair skin from the rays of the sun. She forgot about the hat. We forgot about the hat until after Saint Agatha's was locked up for the afternoon siesta. Sharon explained to her that this was a sacrifice that she had given to Our Lady, that some other little girl probably needed the hat. Lucy looked and asked, "Now tell me again, who is wearing my hat?"
The Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere is simply beautiful. It features the statue of Saint Anthony, stuffed with thousands of slips of paper with prayer intentions written on them, that I posted on this site on his feast day, June 13. Lucy was very taken by the fact that there were so may slips of paper placed all over and under Saint Anthony's statue. We got to spend some more time before Our Lord in prayer before we returned to the piazza to find that the Turpins, lo and behold, had arrived. We went en masse after their own visit to Santa Maria in Trastevere down to the other side of Trastevere, locating the Church of Santa Cecilia. Unfortunately, the church was closed by the time we got there, not scheduled to reopen until 4:00 p.m. The Turpins thus had their lunch while reposing on the grass in the piazza by the church, drawing the ire of a woman who shouted to them from a window that such a thing was not permitted. We had intended to visit Santa Cecilia and proceed from there via a tram to the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura and the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
With time to spare before the Church of Sancta Cecilia reopened its doors, we decided to walk across the Tiber River to the Isola Tiberina upon which is located the Church of San Bartolomeo. Ominously, police officers armed with automatic weapons, which were drawn and pointed, stood guard over the doors leading to the church that houses the relics of the Apostle without guile, Saint Bartholomew. The wedding of some personages considered to important in this passing world was about to take place. Limousines were dropping off men dressed in tuxedos and women dressed in immodest gowns (Lucy knows enough to shield her eyes). We were able to enter the church without being stopped or shot, thankfully, spending some time in prayer to the Apostle who was skinned alive. Sadly, though, a portrait depicting the martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew that was on the wall behind the former High Altar was obscured by a screen (see photograph below). "What the revolutionaries won't stop at," I marveled to myself.
"My ear hurts. My ear hurts. My ear! My ear!"
We passed through the maze of automatic weapons once again to walk across the bridge connecting the Isola Tiberina to Trastevere for our expected return to the Church of Santa Cecilia. As we were midway across the bridge, though, Lucy Mary Norma begin to cry out in excruciating pain. "My ear! My ear! My ear!" she cried over and over again. "My ear hurts. My ear hurts." She has an intolerance for most dairy products, other than butter, and it was the case that some of the cheese from the pizza she had been eating had caused an infection in her ear, something that she had suffered from five months before as we drove in the motor home overnight from Richmond, Virginia, to Saint Louis, Missouri (December 12-13, 2004). We had to take her to a general practitioner in Saint Charles, Missouri, on December 14. Not speaking the language and having all of ten euros in cash on my person, I did not know what we were going to do on the afternoon of Saturday, May 21, 2005.
Sharon picked up Lucy and carried her as far as she could as we continued to cross the Tiber, consoling her with "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you, save souls!" over and over and over again. We walked with the Turpins for a little bit as we searched for a Farmacia as the Roman pharmacists are known to be fairly good at assisting tourists in medical need. We could not find any on the path we were taking back to Santa Cecilia's. Thus, we had to part ways with the Turpins for the day, focused entirely on getting Lucy better.
We hoped that the Farmacia near Saint Agatha's would be open by the time we got there, which was around 4:00 p.m. It was not, and it was at that time that I discovered that someone had made off with Lucy's hat, having returned to Saint Agatha's briefly while Sharon attended to Lucy. We continued on to an information booth not far from Saint Agatha's, where a woman told us that there was a hospital a few blocks from there. The walk seemed like an eternity. Lucy wailed and wailed and wailed in pain. Sharon and I took turns carrying Lucy. Both of us prayed and prayed and prayed to find relief for our daughter.
We arrived at the Ospedale, finding our way to the emergency room. A woman at the desk spoke a little English. However, she informed us that they could not treat Lucy there. We had to take her to the Bambino Gesu Pediatrico Ospedale on the Gianicolo. I did not know how we were going to get there. A very kind man was good enough to let me use his cellular phone to call Benoit to let him know that we would not be joining them again for the rest of the day. Our only focus at that point was on our dear Lucy's getting well.
Ten Euros to Spare
We walked out to the Viale Trastevere to try to hail a cab. "Please, dear Guardian Angel, speak to the Guardian Angel of a taxi driver and get us to the Bambino Gesu." It was within the Providence of God, Who knew from all eternity that this cross would come our way, for us to wait for what seemed to be forever. A cab driver did stop for us, waiting for us on the south side of the Viale Trastevere as we crossed hurriedly from the north side of the street, having to unload the stroller of the things in its undercarriage (water bottles, food, books). My next prayer was that the trip would not cost us more than the ten euros I had in cash on my person. Lucy was tired. She was in need of a nap. The pain kept her awake, though, as we rode in the taxicab. She was alert, noticing a carousel in a park on top of the Gianicolo as we rode to the hospital. We arrived at the Ospedale Bambi Gesu in about ten minutes. The cab ride cost nine euros and thirty-four cents, just under the ten euros I had available in cash on my person. Thank you, Blessed Mother.
Kindness and Competency
An attendant who spoke English took our information after we got into the emergency room area, telling us that it would be about twenty to twenty-five minutes before Lucy could be seen. It was a little over an hour before she was seen, shortly before 6:00 p.m. She was a good girl as we waited in the waiting room and prayed Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary. I, though, was a little distracted this perturbing though, "How am I going to pay for this?" I just gave everything to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, trusting that she would help us through this cross, which was perfectly tailored for us from all eternity by God Himself for His greater honor and glory and for our own sanctification. Nothing any of us ever suffers is the equal of what one of our least venial sins caused Our Lord to suffer in His Sacred Humanity on the wood of the Holy Cross. Our crosses are thus opportunities for us as consecrated slaves of Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart to give her the merits of whatever we endure to make reparation for our own sins and those of the whole world. We were comforted by the fact that Crucifixes were everywhere in the Ospedale Bambino Gesu. We understood how especially important it is for people to be reminded of the Cross of the Divine Redeemer, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in a hospital, where there is, as the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen noted, "so much wasted suffering."
A women pediatrician saw Lucy after our hour's wait. She spoke a little English, confirming the fact that Lucy had an ear infection. I had told her about the one five months earlier. After looking through her scope, she said, "Again." She wrote out a prescription for an antibiotic, Augmentin (amoxycillin), and nasal drops and for a pain-killer that was to be administered in a manner that I myself despised as a child. The doctor mentioned nothing about any payment. I did not ask. It was apparent that the services were going to be rendered free of charge. Deo gratias. We thanked her, offering a Hail Mary for her as we walked out of the hospital with nary a soul demanding a penny from us.
As Always, Walking Back to the Via Andrea Doria
We were then faced with the task of walking all the way back to the Via Andrea Doria from atop the Gianicolo. We had to push Lucy in Penance the Stroller down a very, very, very steep hill, seeing that a tunnel, one that led to the Via delle Fornaci and the San Uffizio, was straight ahead of us. I opted, though, to continue down another hill to the Tiber River in order to walk back up the Via della Conciliazione. We were looking for a Farmacia to fill the prescription that had been written for Lucy by the physician at Ospedale Bambino Gesu, not finding one until we had returned to the Via Andrea Doria not far from our rented apartment. Lucy's major ear infection was confirmation of the decision I had made five days before to cancel our trip to the Czech Republic. We could not put Lucy on an airplane two days after a major ear infection. Although Lucy continued in pain for several hours after the first administration of Augmentin, she got better through the night and awoke on Trinity Sunday, May 22, 2005, as a new girl. We were so grateful for all of the generosity and kindness that had been extended to us mendicants.
"See That White Speck Up There? That's the Holy Father"
Lucy was looking forward to seeing her cousins again on Trinity Sunday. Thus, we went after Mass offered by our priest-friend that day to the Piazza San Pietro for the Angelus blessing that was to be offered by Pope Benedict XVI. We got there just about five minutes before noon. Thousands upon thousands of people packed the Square, more than had been present for the General Audience four days before. There was little chance of finding the Turpins, it appeared. Thus, we stood at a vantage point near the Bernini Colonnade that made it very difficult to see the Papal Apartments in the Apostolic Palace. Sharon could only make out the zuchetto on top of the Holy Father's head. Lucy had another chance for a Papal Blessing, which I thought would be a very good thing in the midst of her ear infection. "See that white speck up there?" I asked Sharon. "That's the Holy Father." Sharon said that she saw something in white move but wasn't sure what it was.
Pope Benedict said the Angelus in Latin, spoke for a brief while and then dismissed the crowd after imparting his blessing. We walked around as the crowd was dispersing to see if we could find the Turpins. Alas, I did see them, spying Gabriel draped around his father's neck once again. "Gabriel!" I cried out. "Gabriel?" I said to myself. "Why am I calling out Gabriel's name?" I corrected myself, "Benoit!" I cried out, finally catching his attention. Lucy was reunited with her cousins once again.
The Turpins, who had gone to Mass in the back alleyway, were all dressed alike in clothing evocative of the troubadours of the Alps. Indeed, they had prayed the Rosary and sang songs in several languages to the delight of the people around them prior to the appearance of the Holy Father, receiving compliments from those who were standing near them. I have told them that they could market themselves as the the Singing Von Turps. Their singing has been refined as a result of formal lessons and from all of the practice they get by singing on the many pilgrimages they make during the course of a year. They went off to have a bite to eat and we replenished our water bottles with water from the Roman fountains before we rendezvoused after a meal of our own before our next attempt to get ourselves to the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
Let's Go, Mets (in Rome, of all places)
While walking on the Borgo Pio after the Angelus blessing a man came up to me. He was obviously a New Yorker who had seen my Mets' hat. Mind you, I walked out of Shea Stadium three years ago this July 16 after forty years of attending games because of the advertising of a certain product whose mere mention undermines the innocence and purity of the young (and vulgarizes a sacred gift that even married couples should not be discussing amongst themselves). I should have walked out the moment that the horrors of rock music were introduced at my beloved Shea Stadium in 1980, choosing to make that cultural compromise for far too long. The product in question put me over the edge. No more. I was the father of a young child at that point. Even though I was promoting my book about the early years of the Mets and my activities in the stands as an unofficial team mascot, I could not support with our own limited resources the further coarsening of cultural discourse and the ruination of a wonderful game, baseball. Nevertheless, my ties to baseball and to the Mets run deep. I do follow their exploits via printed reports now and then, knowing only the simple facts of their won-lost record and which team they are scheduled to play during a given week.
Well, the fellow, who had never met me, was a real New Yorker: a gregarious sort of man who is not bashful about striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.
"I can't take it!" he told me. "What are they doing? What's going on? I'm Rome and I've got no news. I'm calling home all of the time to find out what's going on. It's killing me "
The gentleman didn't have to explain. I knew that he was talking about the series taking place at William A. Shea Municipal Stadium in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York, between the former Baltimore Orioles (1901-1902) and New York Highlanders and New York Americans team that has been known for most of its life as the New York Yankees (boooooooooo!!!) and the New York Metropolitans (more commonly referred as the Mets, hurrah!). Yes, the Yankees were playing the Mets at Shea Stadium. I didn't know who had won the first two games of the series. I simply laughed at his boisterous enthusiasm, being reminded of the sort of fan I would encounter in the stands for so many years. The fellow later came back to ask me a more important question: the time of the afternoon Mass in the Basilica of Saint Peter. We put in a pitch for the Traditional Latin Mass as we chatted. How about that, sports fans? Another Mets' fan in Rome. It brought a smile to my exiled from Shea Stadium face.
Glories Beyond Description: San Lorenzo fuori le Mura
Walking along the Via Ottaviano to the Metro A line to take us to the Metro B line for a tram that would take us to the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, the Turpins informed us that they had visited the Church of Santa Cecilia, getting to visit the "domestic church" below the ground level that is open to visitors only several days in each month. They spent some time there before going on to the area of the Piazza Navonna and the Santa Maria di Pantheon to visit many of the churches in that area that were closed on our own several trips to that area. Included in their visits was the Church of Saint Agnes in Agony and the Church Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which features the incorrupt head of Saint Catherine of Siena under the High Altar. They had quite a tour of that district as Lucy was beginning her recuperation from the ear infection that had pained her so much.
The Metro system was working on Trinity Sunday. Our group effected the transfer to the Linea B from the Linea A at Stazione Termini, proceeding to the stop that left us off at the trolley/tram that would take us down the Via Regina Elena to the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura. I wanted to walk the distance from the subway stop to the Basilica. The Turpins, though, wanted to take the tram. So did Lucy Mary Norma. We thus waited for the tram. And waited and waited and waited and waited. Actually, it made no difference the Basilica was closed until 4:00 p.m., as we discovered once we got there. Lucy enjoyed the ride, although getting on and off the tram with Penance the Stroller was quite a challenge. We did have about an hour to wait for the Basilica to open once we arrived. The children ran around for a while until we prayed the Rosary. The children ran around a bit more after that.
The Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura has an unimposing edifice. One would not suspect that it contains glories are beyond description. One of the glories contained in the Basilica was the body of Saint Tarcisius, about whose martyrdom Sharon had been speaking with one her nieces, Elodie Turpin. Also displayed in the back of the Basilica was the sarcophagus of Blessed Pope Pius IX, at which we prayed for a length of time to ask his intercession for the good of Holy Mother Church. The body of Saint Chrysoganus was also in the Basilica. The remains of the great Saint Lawrence the Deacon and the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen, were under the High Altar at the Basilica built in his honor. It was all unfathomable. We simply prayed and tried to absorb the profundity of what we have been privileged to see with our own eyes. We were grateful to the Blessed Mother and to all of the saints whose mortal remains are in the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura for helping us to to persevere in our quest to get there. One can only kneel at the High Altar and imagine the scene that took place when the outstretched arm of Saint Lawrence welcomed his fellow deacon, Saint Stephen, when the latter's body was brought into the Basilica on April 20, 425. Also featured in the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, near the center of its nave, was a box containing the blood of Saint Padre Pio. Indeed, there were devotions to Saint Padre Pio that were taking place as we visited the Basilica. A kindly older woman gave each of the children blessed bread to take with them, indicating that it had been baked in honor of Saint Padre Pio. How can words describe such joys?
We just lingered in the area near the body of Blessed Pope Pius IX for a long time. We kneeled at the remains of Saints Lawrence and Stephen for a long time. Our souls were numbed by the treasures contained in the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura. We stood outside looking at an ancient series of mosaics that was made up of stones taken from the catacombs, learning the mosaics date back to the Sixth Century A.D. It has been five weeks and one day since we have been there as this is being written. Our visit to the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura was one of the highlights of the pilgrimage. We prayed in a particular way for our friend and future pastor, Father Lawrence C. Smith, who has the same courage and zeal for souls as his patron saint. Narratives about our travels I can write with no problem. Finding words adequate to express the incomprehensible feeling of being in the presence of such heroic witnesses to the true Faith is something that fails me utterly and completely.
Three Zelies on a Tram
We waited for the tram to take us from the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura to the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, where we hoped to venerate the relic of the True Cross. The tram ride took a bit longer than expected. Lucy's Aunt Bridget conversed with two ladies on the tram, telling them the names of her children in the best Italian that she could muster. The women understood her. They were particularly pleased that one of the Turpin girls is named Zelie, telling Bridget that both of them were named Zelie, after Zelie Martin, the mother of the Little Flower, Saint Therese of Lisieux. The wonderfulness of God! There are not many instances in which you will find three women named Zelie in the same community, no less the same tram in Rome on Trinity Sunday.
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
The Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme has been visited by the wreckovators. Its nave has been "modernized" considerably to comfort to the dictates of the new religion of egalitarianism and anthropocentricity. What the wreckovators can never touch, as Saint Helena would never permit it to be touched, are the relics contained in a room in the back of the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. A priest was kind enough to take us back to the room that contained the reliquary of what Saint Helena had brought back from Jerusalem when she found the True Cross. We just dropped to our knees as we saw what was in front of us: glass window through which we could see: 1) the gold-encased finger of Saint Thomas the Apostle that had probed the four nail prints in Lord's hands and feet and His wounded side; 2) two thorns from the Crown of Thorns; 3) a nail that had been used to crucify Our Lord; 4) the wooden plaque on which Pontius had written "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews;" 4) relics from the True Cross were placed horizontally and vertically in a cross in the reliquary; and 6) a large beam from the cross of Saint Dismas, the Good Thief, was off to the side of the reliquary. (See the photograph below.)
What can one say? Those thorns were driven into Our Lord's skull by my pride. That nail had been hammered into Our Lord's Flesh by my sins of word, thought and deed against all that is pure and holy. The wood in that reliquary was the instrument upon which my sins caused the God-Man to suffer unspeakable horror and pain. Oh, yes, the wood of the Holy Cross is the instrument of salvation upon which hung Love Incarnate to redeem us and to make it possible for us to have an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise. Still and all, one must grieve for one's sins. Coming face to face with the very instruments my sins employed to crucify the Word Who was made Flesh in Our Lady's virginal and immaculate womb reminded me very graphically of how my coldness and indifference and cupidity and sloth led Our Lord on the Via Dolorosa to His Crucifixion, of how I caused the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be pierced by the sword of sorrow that had been prophesied by Simeon at the moment of her Purification.
Sharon patiently explained what each item was to Lucy, who listened intently. Sharon asked her why Saint Thomas's finger would be included in the collection. Lucy responded, "Because his finger touched Jesus, His wounds. He said, 'My Lord and my God.'" I don't know about you. I'm about ready to cry. Thank you.
Journeying to the crypt level of the church we stood before a statue of Saint Helena that stood atop a mound of dirt encased by glass. That mound of dirt was not ordinary dirt, however. It was the dirt that stood beneath the Cross of the Divine Redeemer on top of Mount Calvary. The Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ had dropped into that dirt. Our Blessed Mother and Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Mary Magdalene had stood on that dirt. I pressed my face down to the glass to kiss it. So did Sharon and Lucy Mary Norma. Claire and Elodie Turpin did us one better: they slipped their hands through cracks between the top and side glass panels and touched their Brown Scapulars to the dirt from Calvary!
An image of the Holy Shroud of Turin was in a room near the reliquary containing the relics described above. Located next to it was a life-sized Crucifix with a depiction of Our Lord's Body on the basis of the Shroud, full of wounds and sores. The first time I saw this particular Crucifix was in July of 1980 at Corpus Christi Church in Port Chester, New York. I cried when I saw that twenty-five years ago, kneeling prostrate on the ground as I did so as a penitent. Lucy Mary Norma, not yet a penitent but aware that she does bad things on occasion, had the sensus Catholicus at her young age to kneel down and to pray before that bloody image in the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. She knows that our sins put Our Lord to death so that He could redeem us. Her devoted mother reads her the story of the Redemption practically every day, and we remind her that each Mass is the unbloody re-presentation of the same Sacrifice of the Cross.
Sharon whispered, "Pssst, psst," as we were about to walk out of that room. She had spied a whole treasure trove of first class relics of saints that were kept in a room closed off to the general public. You can see the photograph below. The relics were viewable behind a wrought iron grill. Sharon had to push back a velvet curtain that blocked one's view from the grill. Why in the world the authorities there would want to close off such a treasure to public view, no less not label the individual reliquaries, is a mystery to us. We simply prayed to all of the saints whose relics were to be found in that room, saying, "You know who you are. Pray for us!"
Venerable Antonietta Meo
Returning to the entrance to the nave of the church after having visited these treasures we stood at the tomb of the Venerable Antonietta Meo, a girl who lived from December 15, 1930, to July 3, 1937. She died eighteen months after complications had set in following the amputation of one of her legs. She told her mother two and one-half days before she died that she would all right after death, appearing to her in a glorified state shortly after she died to assure her that was indeed with God. Venerable Antonietta was noted for writing letters to Baby Jesus during her illness. The pamphlet describing the life of Venerable Antonietta says that the Baby Jesus read those love letters that she wrote to Him. Her letters were so remarkable that the parish priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme saw to it that one of them made their way to Pope Pius XI. His Holiness was so impressed with the letter that he went to visit Antonietta, a parishioner of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, at her home shortly before she died in 1937. The Turpins have started a Novena to Venerable Antonietta for the cure of a newborn baby, Anthony Cherry, who was born with a two chamber heart. (I am indebted to Bridget Turpin for refreshing my memory about Venerable Antonietta as I recount this part of our pilgrimage.
Here is a prayer to Venerable Anonietta Meo that I would like each of you, in your charity, to pray for Anthony Cherry and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cherry, who live in northwestern New Jersey (Bridget Turpin has translated the prayer and sent it on to me via e-mail):
Oh God, Father of the humble, we thank You because You have given us in
Antonietta Meo a living imageof Your Love and Your Wisdom revealed to (the)
You who have given her the grace to be united to the cross of Our Lord Jesus
Christ and to suffer with fortitude and with joy, render her now glorious
here on Earth so that she can be for us all a luminous example of fidelity
to the Gospel.
Grant to us her simple and ardent love for the Eucharist, and for the
church. Come to aid us in our poverty and by her intercession, according to
Your Will, grant us the grace that we ask with confidence of You. Amen. Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Gloria Patris et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
We exited the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in a state of complete silence. The children needed to run a bit. Thus, Uncle Benoit officiated at an impromptu race in the piazza outside of the church. Lucy had loads and loads of fun racing with her cousins. She was feeling much, much better than she had some twenty-four hours earlier when we were waiting for her to be examined at Ospedale Bambino Gesu. A tram took us to the Manzoni station of Metro Linea A. It was down the flight of stairs with Penance the Stroller as we boarded a train to take us back to the Cipro station. The Turpins were most generous to treat us all to dinner at a restaurant on the Via Andrea Doria. It was a wonderful end to a glorious day that I will remember for as long as Our Lord permits me to retain the faculties of my memory in this vale of tears.
Back to the Catacombs
Our next-to-last full day in Rome began on Monday, May 23, 2005, by awaiting the arrival of the Turpins for Mass with the kind priest who offered it for us in his apartment. Benoit did arrive this time, accompanied by daughters Claire and Elodie and their friend, Maureen. We walked down to Piazza San Pietro and to the Via San Uffizio, using the tunnel that took us to the Via delle Fornaci for the walk to the priest's apartment. We were treated with great cordiality and respect. We were once again in this priest's debt for offering us the privilege of assisting at his Holy Mass.
Aunt Bridget and the younger children were going to rendezvous with Uncle Benoit and the older children at the Spanish Steps. Thus, we walked through Saint Peter's Square once again to make our way up the Via Porta di Angelica to the Via Ottaviano for a ride on Metro Linea A to the Spagna stop. There was no sign of Aunt Bridget. Thus, Sharon and I took Lucy, who was in need of something to eat, to a nearby McDonald's. I was in need of nourishment, doing something that I have done only a handful of times in my life: eat a McDonald's hamburger. As as I was waiting for my order to be served at the counter an older American man was standing around with an empty soda cup, pleading with the workers behind the counter, "Please, all I want is some ice. Ice, please." I told him that I knew the plea quite well myself. He just stood around as no one behind the counter listened to his plea.
We returned to the Spanish Steps. Aunt Bridget had arrived. It was now time for the Turpins to get some nourishment before another long day. We decided to go up to pay a visit to the Church of Trinita dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps. Even though we had left Penance the Stroller in the care of the Turpins we did not want to walk up the steps. Finding our way to an elevator we ascended to the top of the steps, only to find that the elevator brought us back down to the bottom of the steps without opening its doors at the top. "Uh-huh," I said to Sharon, telling her that one of my recurring dreams is being in an elevator that is free-falling to the ground. (Another of my recurring dreams is breaking my self-imposed exile from baseball in general and Shea Stadium in particular.) Not wanting to walk up the Spanish Steps we took the chance to go up the elevator one more time. The elevator doors opened when it reached the top on our second try.
Another miniature adventure awaited us as at the top of the stairs. I led my family on the wrong staircase to the Church of Trinita dei Monti, finding our way quite successfully to a school, not to the church entrance. We had to walk all the way down the steep stairs and walk up an even longer set of stairs on the other side of the church to enter it. All to the Immaculate Heart of Mary! Believe me, as I mentioned in the last installment, a basically sedentary man forced himself to do these things. It was Our Lady who was leading him to do things that he would not otherwise consider doing.
The Church of Trinita dei Monti is truly beautiful. A very photographs are included below. We prayed there for a time before we took the elevator back down to the base of the Spanish Steps, rejoining the Turpins to accompany them as we journeyed to the Catacombs of San Callisto on the outskirts of the City of Rome.
The trip to the Catacombs, where the first Catholics gathered frequently to worship and where saints like Pope Saint Urban I hid (despite the protestations of the tour guides to the contrary), involved the Metro Linea A from Spagna to San Giovanni in Laterano, a walk from that station to a bus-stand to catch Bus 218, which would take us on the Via Appia Antica to the Via Adreatina to the Catacombs of San Callisto. We passed by the Church of Domine, Quo Vadis? while on Bus 218, which dropped us off across the street from the entrance to the Catacombs of San Callisto. After twelve solid days in the soot and the noise of central Rome it was nice to be in the country. One can only imagine how pristine the area was during the first few centuries of the Church.
We had ninety minutes to wait before the tours started up again at 2:30 p.m. It was worth the wait. The Turpins and Lucy played in and around a maze of hedges that was on the grounds. Lucy asked me to chase the around the maze. I obliged as the children enjoyed themselves in the fresh air of the country. It was a nice respite from all of the weaving and dodging through city traffic. We prayed a few Rosaries as we continued to wait and as the children continued to pray. It was a very hot and sunny day. Hats were certainly the order of the day for those of us with fair skin and thinning hair.
The tours were conducted according to language groups. Each tour guide had more or less committed to memory the information about the Catacombs of San Callisto that is on the official website of the Vatican office in charge of archeology. The canned prattle was mostly accurate, though it was noted for errors of omission and one egregious error of commission (that no one ever "hid" in the Catacombs). What I wand to provide you, our readers, is a sense of what we experienced as we descended from the ground-level down a stone staircase into the deepest levels of the Catacombs open to the public, a depth of seventy-five feet below the ground.
Over 500,000 Catholics were buried in the all of the approximately sixty catacombs in and around Rome. Several of the early popes were buried there: Saint Pontianus, Saint Antherus, Saint Fabian, Saint Lucius I, Saint Sixtus II, and Saint Eutichian. All of the remains of the bodies have been removed from the catacombs, including those of Saint Cecilia, although a statue of her body rests where her remains were buried originally. Seeing all of the cut-outs in the stone walls where the first Catholics were buried, I said to Sharon, "I cannot comprehend all of this. This is just beyond comprehension. Unfathomable."
We continued to descend to the lowest levels of the Catacombs of San Callisto, passing by graffiti from the first centuries of the Church, replete with symbols for Our Lord and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist in rooms that served as tombs for entire families.
This is from the website mentioned above, and is almost verbatim from the tour guide's narrative that we heard on Monday, May 23, 2005:
In this Gallery A, on the left side, there are five small rooms, truly family tombs. Their importance is due to the frescoes which date back from the beginning of the 3rd century. They frequently depict symbolically the sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist.
With these drawings the Christians of the first centuries wished to recall their catechumenate (i.e. their preparation to Baptism) and leave a message to their contemporaries. They had become Christians through Baptism and had persevered in their Christian life by frequent communion. They also wanted to remind their dear ones, and whoever visited their tombs, that one day they would be united again only if they shared the same means of salvation.
As the Fathers of the Church taught in their writings, these means of salvation were prefigured in the Old Testament. This appears in the miracle of Moses striking the rock, enabling the Jewish people to quench their thirst in the desert (Ex17,1-71). The Baptism of Christ is also a prefiguration of Christian Baptism.
On the back wall in Cubicle A2 is found the oldest representation of a true Christian Baptism: a priest dressed in tunica and pallium places his right hand on the head of the person being baptized, and standing in a stream.
Other representations of Baptism are the fisherman, the Samaritan woman at the well of Sichem, the paralytic in the pool of Bethesda.
As seen in these cubicles the preference of the Christians for the symbols of the Eucharist goes to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Jo 6,1-15). Through this miracle, Jesus promised a very particular and different bread: his body ( Jo 6,22-59). The scene of the multiplication of the loaves is always repeated in the same way: seven person sit round a table. The number seven is symbolic and indicates that all are called by God to be saved. Two or three dishes with loaves are placed on the table, and at the sides of the table are baskets of bread which may contain seven to twelve loaves.
The Biblical Jonah
The prophet Jonah, a biblical figure very dear to the early Christians, appears in all these cubicles. Jonah had preached repentance and conversion to the inhabitants of Nineveh, that is to the pagans. Jonah symbolizes the call to salvation of all men, whether Jews or pagans. Indeed, since the faithful buried in this crypt were originally all pagans, the prophet came to be the image of God's universal mercy.
Jonah is also a symbol of resurrection. Jesus himself quotes Jonah as a figure of this reality: "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, and then rise again (Mt 12,40).
The "Martyrs' Staircase"
At the end of the Cubicles of Sacraments there begins the "Martyrs' Staircase", excavated about the middle of the 2nd century, and which still preserves steps of that period. It was called the "Martyrs' Staircase" because the Popes buried in the nearby crypt passed that way.
It is also thought that young Tarcisius used it when he came to pray at the tombs of the martyr popes, or to get the Eucharist and carry it to the Christians in prison or in their homes during a period of persecution
There are chapels where Mass is still offered for pilgrim groups seeking to honor the martyrs of the early Church. And imagine this: the Catacombs of San Callisto have only been partly excavated! There are levels beneath the fourth level that have yet to be explored. "The mind cannot comprehend all of this," I repeated to Sharon in utter awe as the tour neared its end. "I am here. I know that. I do not comprehend all of this. What effort it took to build and maintain this elaborate system of catacombs." I did have to take the tour guide to task for stating that it was a myth that Christians ever hid in the catacombs. As Bridget Turpin said afterward, "The pagan soldiers were throwing stones down the air vents to try to crush Pope Urban I, who they thought was hiding below them." I remarked that that is reminiscent of how the revolutionaries within the Church today want to hunt down and crush those priests who are exercising their absolute rights under Quo Primum to offer Catholics the Immemorial Mass of Tradition. "We are forced to flee to the catacombs today, I noted."
Exiting from the lowest level of the Catacombs, we walked for a time along the grounds before following the sign to the Church of Domine, Quo Vadis? about 1,000 meters away (I have no idea what this is in terms of real length). We walked along a driveway that cut one of the fields of the Catacombs of San Callisto in two, looking at the air vents that rose from the ground to provide air to the living, breathing human beings who were worshiping God and/or taking refuge down below. Those fields were quite a sight as we prayed the Rosary from the Catacombs of San Callisto to the Church of Domine, Quo Vadis? Poor Zelie Turpin sprained her ankle as she was leading the decade of the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple. Her parents and siblings came to her aid and helped up to her feet. A few offerings to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate for even the little ones in the Turpin brood. Lucy was very concerned about her cousin. "What happened to Zelie? Why did she fall for?"
Domine, Quo Vadis?
We crossed a busy intersection of streets by the Church of Domine, Quo Vadis? This church is located on the exact spot, tradition tells us, that Saint Peter, fleeing Nero's persecution, met Our Lord on the Via Appia Antica. Domine, quo vadis? Lord, where art thou going? Our Lord told Saint Peter that He was going to Rome to be crucified again since he, Saint Peter, was abandoning the sheep He had been instructed to tend. Saint Peter turned around and returned to Rome to face his imprisonment in chains on the site of San Pietro in Vincoli and his martyrdom by crucifixion upside down atop Vatican Hill.
The Church of Domine, Quo Vadis? is magnificent. There is a portrait of Saint Peter being crucified upside down on one side of the church and a portrait of Our Lord's Crucifixion on the other side. At the back of the church is a stone slab on which are two footprints, one belonging to Our Lord and one belonging to Saint Peter. A pamphlet about the church states that skeptics might dismiss a claim that one of those footprints belongs to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man except for the fact that the footprint matches exactly the dimensions of the corresponding foot on the Holy Shroud of Turin. Although some may try to dismiss the meeting of the first Pope and Our Lord outside of the walls of Rome as a legend, as did Pope John Paul II when he visited the church in 1982 (saying that "it is a legend that is true because we have taken it into our hearts"; in other words, it is true because we feel it is so), I had no doubt at all about the fact that I was venerating an actual footprint of the Divine Redeemer. I told Lucy Mary Norma Whose footprint I was kissing. She made sure to kiss it several times. I had always wanted to visit the Church of Domine, Quo Vadis? Our Lady and the Holy Martyrs of Rome saw to it that I did so with my wonderful wife and daughter and the Turpins.
The hour was getting late. However, the Turpins wanted to go to the Catacombs of Domatilla. They waited for a bus on one side of the street. We waited for the bus on the other side, wanting to get back so as to give Lucy Mary Norma some rest prior to our flight back to the United States less than two days later. She was recovering from the ear infection. I did not want to push her harder than we had pushed her that day. Indeed, she was asleep on Sharon's shoulder as we walked through the Catacombs of San Callisto.
Up the Scala Sancta for a Third Time in Nine Days
Bus 218 took us back to near the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano. Thus, we decided to stop in to visit the Pope's cathedral for yet a third time, spending some time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament to thank Him for all of the gifts of the pilgrimage up to that point. It was fully our intent to take the Metro from the nearby station when Lucy saw the Church of the Scala Sancta as we were leaving the Basilica. "Let's go up the Holy Stairs for a third time," she said excitedly. How could I possibly refuse such a request? We returned to the Scala Sancta for a third time, encountering loads and loads of people (see the photograph below, taken from the bottom of the Stairs so as not to compromise the privacy of any of the pilgrims), making our climb up to the top slower than it had been the first two times. It gave us more time to pray and to offer thanks for all that we had been given. Lucy Mary Norma was intent on carrying her Rosary as she climbed up the Holy Stairs. She is a child with all of the manifestations of fallen human nature. She does, however, dearly love the Faith and said to me sweetly on the evening of Sunday, June 26, 2005, just before she closed her eyes, "Dada, I want to help you to get to Heaven." Makes a grown man cry, let me tell you.
"I Always Wanted to Do That"
Well, we visited the chapel at the top of the Scala Sancta, returned to the bottom, retrieved Penance the Stroller and then set out for the subway stop and a rather jammed-pack ride to the Cipro station. We looked in vain for a place to feed Lucy (and ourselves), settling for a Ristorante Cinese. Asian food is not on my list of all-time favorites. This experience, though, restored my confidence in Chinese food after a studied and practiced fourteen year period of abstinence (seeing things moving in bowls of rice while visiting Tagbiliran City on the Island of Bohol in The Philippines in August of 1991 kind of set me back a decade and one-half). The coup-de-grace of the brief meal occurred when Lucy, the little girl who had just ascended the Sancta Scala on her knees for the third time in nine days, dumped a glass of water on the floor, turning it upside down and making sure that every single drop had spilled out. I severely reprimanded her, asking her why she would do such a thing. She replied quite calmly, "I always wanted to do that." It was hard, very hard, to keep from laughing out loud.
We returned to the apartment for our next-to-last night of sleep there, arising early the next morning, Tuesday, May 24, 2005, for the now familiar walk to the priest's residence for our last Mass in Rome of the pilgrimage. While en route we saw a number of beagle hounds being walked by their owners. As I point out in There is No Cure for This Condition (Chartres Communications, Post Office Box 188, Pine Island, New York 10969; $7.00 plus $3.00 for shipping and handling), I am very partial to beagles. My late father, who was a veterinarian, brought home an newborn beagle puppy on April 17, 1965, whose mother could not nurse her. We fed her by hand. And it was about a year later that my father brought home a four month old beagle puppy who was being abused by its owners. The two dogs produced a litter of puppies, two of which we kept, Blanky and Pokey, who made up a trio of beagles with Laddie, their father, after their mother died in 1967. I tell Lucy stories about those beagles, who were my first companions as I began my long-distance driving career on December 29, 1972, all of the time. She wants beagles when we move to Wisconsin. It was thus so delightful that God arranged it for us in Rome for Lucy to see lots and lots of beagles during our pilgrimage there. Sharon would say, "Ciao, bella beagle" and Lucy would repeat the phrase in her sweet little voice. Although it has been twenty-four years since our last beagle, Blanky, died just shy of his fifteenth birthday in 1981, I still dream now and then of the doggies who were such an important part of my adolescence and young adulthood over a period of fifteen years. "Ciao, bella beagle," indeed.
The Turpins, who did not meet us for the walk to the priest's residence, surprised us by arriving shortly before Mass began, having found their own way very nicely. Each of us thanked the priest for his kindness to us before we, the Droleskeys, set about our final day in Rome.
The Final Full Day in Rome Begins
It was my intention to spend a little bit of time in prayer at the Basilica of Saint Peter and then return to the apartment to pack up for the trip back home. We had to be at Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci by 5:20 a.m. for a 7:20 a.m. flight to Paris, then connecting to our flight to Los Angeles, California. I really thought it best if we kept ourselves from being too worn out on the last day. Sharon wanted Lucy to spend some more time with her cousins. Grumbling and muttering, I agreed to make our way down to the area of the Piazza Venezia to visit some of the churches there, including Santa Maria in Aracoeli. I was not a happy camper. I was not offering this up very well to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
The plan hatched at the moment was to await Benoit's return with some of the older girls from a trip to the Vatican Post Office so that we could all travel together on the nightmare ride known as Bus 64. With Benoit being delayed, I decided to forge on ahead without the Turpins, knowing that we would probably catch up with them at some point sooner rather than later.
Bus 64 was everything that I remember and detested. Noisy and crowded. This put me in an even better mood than I was in up to that point. I did a sort of Ralph Kramden slow-burn as I stood in the middle of the bus with Penance the Stroller. Seeing that Chiesa Nuova, the church of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, was finally open after so many tries to visit it, I told Sharon that we would get off of the bus at that point, catching another one later on to take us to the Piazza Venezia. I am glad we did so. We were able to visit this beautiful church and to venerate the altar of Saint Philip Neri, whose sarcophagus had a biretta on top of it!
Well Worth the 124 Steps
It was back on the bus after that point, arriving south of the Piazza Venezia, right near the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. I took one look at where that church was located and was resolute in my determination not to climb up all of those steps with the stroller. "Huh? We have to climb up those steps. Oh, come on. It's too hot here." Once again, though, I demurred, making my way slowly up the 124 steps that go to lead to the church itself. (You can see two photographs below. My photograph is in the public domain. I just don't want any of my family members floating around. You can see I am not exactly enjoying myself while carrying the stroller.) Sharon was very right to insist upon visiting the church which contained the remains of Saint Helena. She wanted to make sure to thank Saint Helena for all of the favors that had been bestowed upon us during our pilgrimage. She was right. I was simply a tired man who was not supernaturalizing the moment. I was very wrong.
A replica statute based on the miraculous image of the Maria Bambina was displayed on the right side after one entered the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Lucy knew who it was as we have a representation of Maria Bambina that was given us by dear friends from Florissant, Missouri. "That's Maria Bambina!" Lucy cried out. She was so happy, so excited. She loves Our Lady. We stayed for a time praying at the statue of Maria Bambina, resting in a cradle behind a grill. This is the story of the Maria Bambina as told on a Holy Card:
The Miraculous Image of Maria Bambina was made before 1730 by a Franciscan nun who afterwards Her to others during the ensuing years so that eventually She came into the care of the Sisters of Charity at Lovere, Italy.
In 1866, these Sisters of Charity were requested to take over the management of the hospital of Ciceri in Milan and in 1876 this waxen image was carried to their Mother House there at Via S. Sofia 13, where She has remained ever since. All this time the statue was exposed for veneration only on the 8th of September, the Feast of Mary's Nativity, but in 1884 Maria Bambina wanted to reward those who had devoted to her.
Due to paralysis in her arms and feet, Sr. Josephine Woinovich was bedridden and in unbearable pain. On the 8th of September she begged Mother General to get Maria Bambina and leave the Image near her overnight. The following morning the Mother General was inspired to take the image, so old, worn and grayish colored to the other sick Sisters in the Infirmary so they could kiss Her. Here there was a good Novice, Giulia Macario, who was unable to move because of her serious illness, but who, overcome by ardent faith, took the image into her arms and pleaded with Her in tender and loving words of the Grace for her recovery. She was immediately and miraculously cured, for such Faith moves mountains. And at the same time this image itself underwent an amazing transformation from the former dull gray color to the warm flesh hues it has today, as can be seen when She is enshrined in the Sanctuary of the Mother House in Milan.
Many graces and miracles have come from devotion to the Maria Bambina, among them the recovery of Sister Josephine Woinovich herself. And that is why now these Sisters are commonly known as the Sisters of Maria Bambina.
O Sweet Child Mary, make me humble, good and docile.
The Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, built over the sight where the Emperor Caesar Augustus had erected a temple to the unknown god, is chock full of other delights. There is the fresco of Our Lady, which is attributed to the hand of none other than Saint Luke the Evangelist. There are tombs everywhere one walks. The photographs below show a few of the tombs of children, as well as the images of child martyrs who are pointing to the crown of their victory of eternal life. The tomb of Saint Helena is, of course, prominently displayed. A statue of her holding the True Cross has been placed above her tomb, and we prayed there for some time before we venerated the miraculous statue of the Bambino Gesu, located in a room at the front end of the Church.
The Bambino Gesu was carved by a Franciscan friar from the wood an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane. Lacking the money to finish its painting, an angel painted the statue miraculously, giving it the colors it now has. The friar was bringing the miraculous statue with him to Italy when he had to offered it as a sacrifice to calm the waves during a violent storm on the Mediterranean Sea. The Bambino Gesu followed the wake of the ship to Italy. It was taken to Santa Maria in Aracoeli, where it was venerated every Christmas Eve in particular. One wealthy woman, desiring the statue for herself, stole it. She contracted a deadly disease and confessed that she had stolen the statue. Her confessor demanded that she return the statue. She had resolved to do so when the statue walked back to the Church of the Santa Mara in Aracoeli. (If you don't believe these things, folks, I think you are going to find out differently on the Last Day, if not before.) As miracles were attributed to the Bambino Gesu it began to be decorated with jewels. Pope Leo XIII himself added some special jewels to the statue. What a tremendous honor to end our pilgrimage by venerating a replica of the Maria Bambina and the actual statue of the Bambino Gesu.
Also in the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli was a statue of the Dormition of Our Lady, a painting of Saint Francis of Assisi receiving the Stigmata and a wonderful portrait of Saint Jerome standing next to the lion who cared for him and the other monks. The Turpins joined us as we were just going around and around the church again and again. We waited for them to see the wonderful treasures contained in this beautiful church that my fallen human nature was reluctant to make the effort to visit before saying our goodbyes as we descended the stairs, which was a little easier than climbing up them had proven to be. We wished the Turpins well as the Catholic sisters, Sharon and Bridget, hugged and as the Turpin cousins hugged Lucy Mary Norma. We hope to see them again at the end of July following our rather full schedule of speaking across the nation that begins on July 6. Benoit and Claire and Elodie and their friend Maureen were scheduled to return about seven hours after we left Rome on May 25. Bridget and the younger children were to come back the next day, May 26, the Feast of Corpus Christi.
One Final Trip to the Basilica of Saint Peter
The Basilica of San Marco was closing just as we were attempting to enter it at 12:30 p.m. Thus, it was to that stark Perpetual Adoration Chapel I mentioned in the second installment of this series for a brief visit to the Blessed Sacrament. As stark as it was, Our Lord is still there. We then left to walk down the Via Nazionale to retrace our steps once again down to the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, giving Lucy some Chicken McNuggetts at a McDonald's on the way. Once again, I had to pay two euros for "extra" ice, about a euro per cube, that is. We hopped on a bus thereafter to take us back to the Borgo Pio, making our way to where we had begun: the Basilica of Saint Peter for a farewell visit to the Adoration Chapel there and one last stop at the tomb of Pope Saint Pius X. Sharon noticed something very auspicious on the bronze door leading into the Basilica: the image of a woman receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. The revolutionaries still have some work to do to eradicate everything about our Catholic past.
The time came for our final walk out of the Basilica, down the stairs, into the place to retrieve Penance the Stroller and went out into the Piazza to "let the baby run around" one more time before we put her back into the stroller and walked up the Via Porta di Angelica to the Via Leone IV to the Via Andrea Doria, giving Lucy one last bite of Sorbetto Argula before returning to the rented apartment for the task at hand: packing up.
The rented apartment was truly a place of suffering. Lucy suffered most of all. We have one picture of her sweating profusely as she slept. Her rash did not clear up entirely until we returned back to the United States and we could then get serious about training her in certain things that she had been resisting (which, thankfully, has proved to be successful after much prayer and effort). We had to keep up her antibiotic and nose drops until after we got back to California. However, she did well given all that she was put through. We showed her a lot in fourteen days. She still talks about the trip. And she has photographs (and this narrative) to remind her of this trip for years to come.
A Few Reflections Upon Leaving
There was a great deal of reflection in prayer done during our time in Rome. God saw to it that I could not have ready access to the internet and that I could not post articles to this site during the entirety of our absence from the United States. This was a good thing. Nothing I write is more important than the prayers and sacrifices I can try to offer to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart as her consecrated slave. The principal focus in my life must be on the fulfillment of my duties as a husband and father in helping my family get home to Heaven. The work of Christ the King College, for example, is designed to help traditional Catholic parents and children know the truths of the true Faith without any compromise or taint of the novelties of the past four and one-half decades. Everything each of us does must be done in light of our Last End. And living in the times that God has known from all eternity that would be ours, we must be ever vigilant to maintain total confidence in Our Lady, seeing to it that we offer many prayers to her Immaculate Heart so that some pope actually does consecrate Russia to her with all of the world's bishops.
A step back from the busy pace of our lives helps us to realize that the Faith, so shaken in our days, has survived the tumults of the past. The true Church will survive the tumults of the present. She stands a better chance, humanly speaking, of withstanding those tumults if those of whose who are members of the Church Militant here on earth see the world clearly and at all times as Catholics who desire to live in a world where every person is Catholic and where every nation is confessionally Catholic. The glories of sanctity in individual souls are not the stories of the past. They are the foundation of getting to Heaven. In like manner, the glories of Christendom are not for the history books. Although a new Christendom will look somewhat differently than it did in the Middle Ages, the rise of a Christ-centered world founded upon the true Faith is no less possible now than it was when the martyrs gave up their lives throughout the Roman Empire, including in the City of Rome itself, from 67 A.D. to 313 A.D. (and a few periods thereafter). We must believe that the graces won for us by the shedding of Our Lord's Most Precious Blood are as powerful now as they were nearly two millennia ago. Fidelity to those graces brought forth the first Christendom. What's our excuse?
Thus, our trip to Rome, though truly penitential and physically exhausting, fortified us once again for the work at hand, reminding us that we must remain faithful no matter what names we are called and no matter how few people agree with us, keeping in mind to pray fervently for and to respect those with whom we disagree and/or those who castigate and scorn us for the stands we know in good conscience must be taken to protect the Faith in the catacombs of the Twenty-first Century. We are unlikely ever to return to Rome or even to leave the country again. Rome, though, is always in the heart of a Roman Catholic, ever more so after having experienced its traditional and eternal glories with one's own family.
It's Tiring Even to Think About the Return Trip
I knew that the trip back to the United States would be worse than the trip to Rome. Just thinking about the trip back is exhausting. Sharon, though, did most of the work to pack us up for the long flight back home. I had to make the arrangements for transportation to Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci and to contact friends in southern California to pick us up once we arrived on Wednesday, May 25, around 1:00 p.m. We got Lucy Mary Norma to bed around 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 25, knowing that we would have to rouse her up from sleep at around 3:15 a.m. so that she would be ready for the car service to pick us up at 4:00 a.m.
Both Sharon and I had gotten very little sleep by the time I got myself up at 2:00 a.m., Rome time (5:00 p.m., Tuesday afternoon in California!) on May 25. I let Sharon sleep as I did the necessary things I had to do to ready myself and to make the many, laborious trips down those steep flights of stairs from our rented apartment to the courtyard outside--and from there to the Via Andrea Doria to await the van to take us to the airport. We were assembled on the Via Andrea Doria at 4:00 a.m., finding that our driver was most punctual.
The driver took a somewhat circuitous route to get to the airport, going up the Gianicolo right past the Ospedale Bambino Gesu where Lucy had been treated three and one-half days before. We had a truly spectacular view of the entire city while on the Gianicolo, seeing the Basilica of Saint Peter all lit up below us. It was a marvelous way to say goodbye to Rome and to once again express our thanks to Our Lord and His Most Blessed Mother and the Holy Martyrs of Rome for bringing us there and permitting us to experience so many glorious treasures. The driver took this particular route, which was not the direct way to the airport, because he had another passenger to pick up before he headed on out to the airport, dropping us all off at around 4:45 a.m., at which point we had the better part of a half hour to wait near the head of a very long line to check in for our flight to Paris and thence on to Los Angeles.
We said goodbye to our bags (and to Penance the Stroller) as we checked in, making our way to the gate area for a long, long wait prior to boarding the Alitalia plane to Paris. I discovered during our wait, however, that Sharon and Lucy had been given seat assignments for the Paris to Los Angeles flight on Air France in a different row from the one where I was scheduled to sit. "This will not stand," I intoned as I did my best impression of George Herbert Walker Bush discussing Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. "We will get this fixed." I began praying to Saint Joseph for this intention as I was not going to spend eleven hours on a plane seated in a different row than my wife and daughter. I am not a sophisticate. Weak vessel of clay and terrible sinner that I am, I love my family. It is always a penance for me to be separated from them for even a short while as I run various errands during the course of a day. I was not going to sit anywhere else other than next to my wife and daughter.
The DeGaulle Airport Shuffle
The real adventure in our journey home began when the Alitalia plane from Rome landed in Paris at 9:20 a.m. Our flight to Los Angeles was scheduled to leave at 10:15 a.m. We did not exit the plane until 9:35 a.m.., having to get onto that infernal shuttle bus to take us from the deplaning area to Terminal 2-F for another shuttle bus to take us to Terminal 2-C. The minutes ticked away. Those passengers who were making tight connections (Air France scheduled these connections, by the way, not us!) were getting a little nervous. "Have you had your heart attack yet?" one man shouted to another man, evidently a friend. "I'm working on it." Sharon noted very calmly, "Try giving this all to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart." The minutes continued to tick.
We had to wait an interminable period of time at the door for the shuttle bus from Terminal 2-F to Terminal 2-C. The Air France employee who was minding the door was a tough-minded woman who brooked no opposition. One man had to plead with her to let his wife off of one shuttle bus when he was not permitted to follow her onto that particular bus. Oh, she was nasty. Another man had to force the Air France employee to admit that there was a way to walk to Terminal 2-C from Terminal 2-F, a bit of information she did not want to give out at all (as I explained in the first part of this series, the French take offense when individuals do not want to do what they are told to do as part of the collectivity). Benoit Turpin had told us how to do this while we were parting on the steps leading down from the Santa Maria in Aracoeli the day before. Not having a clear comprehension of the DeGaulle Airport's layout, though, I did not want to chance getting lost and missing our flight. We just waited with all of the other cattle.
Our shuttle bus arrived. Lucy was pulling her own little suitcase, which had a pop-up handle and wheels, taking great pride in being able to pull the bag behind her. She was able to sit down with Sharon as I, a veteran of the New York subways and the Long Island Rail Road, stood up as the shuttle bus moved slowly, slowly, slowly to Terminal 2-C. It was clear by the time we got to Terminal 2-C at 10:07 a.m., that our flight was either going to be delayed or we were not going to get to it on time.
Another line awaited us as we had to pass through security one more time. That line inched along. "All to you, dear Blessed Mother. All to you." While waiting on this line, though, we heard an announcement that some flights had been delayed because of a baggage handlers' strike. "Ah, yes, the joys of European socialism strike again." Those joys are just a little less hideous than those of American socialism, you understand. Anyhow, we hoped that our flight was one of those that had been delayed. It was, although passengers were being boarded onto the Air France plane as we arrived in the gate area. I had to fight my way through a large crowd of passengers to get to the desk at the gate to ask for a change in our seating assignments. "Non, monsieur, this must be done by the cabin attendants. We have a full flight." More prayers were said to Saint Joseph.
As we were traveling with a child under five years of age we were permitted to board immediately. Demonstrating a bit of the Americanism still left in me, I became a "squatter," placing myself in the aisle seat next to Lucy's middle seat in the middle row of seats in the back of the plane. Sharon sat on Lucy's left. I informed the cabin attendants of our situation. They told me that they would do what they could. .
A man came up to me to ask if I would be willing to exchange seats with him to permit him to sit with his wife. I told him that I was looking for someone to exchange the middle seat in the row ahead of us to permit me to sit with my family. Both of us were in a conundrum. As these negotiations were going on, I was told to take my assigned seat in the middle of the row in front of Sharon and Lucy. I just kept praying. The fellow seated to my right in that particular row said that he would be willing to switch if someone gave up another aisle seat for him. I informed the cabin attendants of that fact. And it was several minutes later when a male cabin attendant (what the ancients called a "steward") pointed with military precision to the man who was next to me, telling him to move. The cabin attendant then pointed to me and told me to sit next to Lucy Mary Norma. The newly married couple who were scheduled to sit in different seats got to sit in the aisle and middle seats in the row in front of us. Our prayers had been answered. It was good to be sitting next to daughter. I was very grateful to Saint Joseph.
"It's Getting Lighter in California, Honey"
Once again, Lucy was terrific on the long flight back to the United States, watching the monitor that displayed the altitude, the air temperature outside of the plan, the number of miles to go until our arrival, our estimated time of arrival. The monitor also displayed how the part of the earth to which we were flying was covered in darkness at first and ever so gradually became bathed in light over the course of the hours of the flight. Another feature of the monitor was the display of the image of an airplane over the particular place on the earth where our flight was at any given time, showing several different geographic perspectives each time that image was displayed. "It's getting lighter in California, honey," I told Sharon at one point.
Once again, I slept not a wink. Well, I take that back. Maybe half a wink. Lucy slept for about five solid hours at one point.
The flight was penitential from beginning to end. Oh, I can still drive, albeit with greater effort and much more exhaustion than was the case thirty years ago, up to twenty-four hours in one stretch. Sitting in an airplane seat for eleven hours, though, is deadly. The irony is inescapable: an eleven hour flight took us a distance of nearly 6,000 miles. An eleven hour drive in our motor home might, assuming optimal travel and weather conditions, take us a distance of 700 miles. The former seems deadly to me. The latter contains the illusion of freedom and mobility. Go figure.
Well, we arrived in Los Angeles about thirty minutes later than scheduled, which was not bad when one considers that our flight left over an hour later than scheduled. More adventures waited us, though, as we walked with a long line of people down the corridors of the Delta Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport to clear customs. Lucy Mary Norma was pulling her suitcase, running into a wall as I hurried her along at one point. She kept going, saying, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, save souls." Our final adventure in the sixteen day pilgrimage was yet to come.
"Oh, oh, Irwin is in that Bag"
Three of our four bags arrived on the baggage carousel. Penance the Stroller, which had been carried in a different compartment, was on the floor of the baggage claim area. The fourth bag, however, did not arrive. We were the very last ones waiting in the baggage claim area as the luggage stopped coming out of the chute onto the carousel. Conscious that good friends of ours were waiting to give us a ride to Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Garden Grove for a Mass that Father Lawrence C. Smith was good enough to agree to offer for us upon our return, I knew that we were being asked to accept yet another cross as our journey had reached its conclusion.
We had to file a claim with Air France for the lost bag, which Sharon informed me contained none other than Irwin the Bear (both head and torso). "Oh, oh, Irwin is in that bag." I was truly heartbroken to learn that Irwin might be lost. Lucy overheard us, saying, "What happened to Irwin? Where is he?" We explained that we had to pray to Saint Anthony for Irwin to be found. God knew from all eternity that that bag would get lost and that we would have to pray to Saint Anthony for it to be found and to make our way back to us. Material things mean nothing, of course. We must be detached from them. However, I was praying that Lucy's friend could be found, affording Sharon the chance to sew him back together again.
Our friends waited patiently for us, getting a little concerned that we had missed our flight or that they had missed us as we left the baggage claim area. They had to wait a bit longer as I walked the long distance to the Air France baggage office to file a claim for the lost bag, being informed that a special courier would deliver the bag to our motor home park if and when it was found. I was told that there would be two later flights that day. I had done all that I could do.
Returning to the Liturgical Catacombs
It was thus in our friends' SUV to Our Lady Help of Christians in Garden Grove. Oh, we were tired. However, it was so wonderful to be back at Our Lady Help of Christians Church. I used to say that Our Lady Help of Christians Church, which features the fullness of the Mass of Tradition, was the best place in the whole country to assist at Holy Mass. Although Rome is not the whole world, it is the center of the Catholic world. Thus, I can say now that Our Lady Help of Christians is the best place in the whole world at which to assist at Holy Mass. Father Smith has learned how to offer the Mass of all ages from Father Patrick Perez, who offers it with exquisite perfection. Father Paul Sretenovic, who offered the Traditional Mass once in Orange County, New York, on his birthday in January of 2004, prior to leaving the Archdiocese of Newark six months ago, has learned so much from Father Perez. The little oasis in the catacombs of our contemporary ecclesiastical circumstances known as Our Lady Help of Christians Church has provided us with much consolation and strength. It has been our liturgical home in the midst of our nomadic life. Although we will be settling in Wisconsin soon, the great gift given to Holy Mother Church in Garden Grove, California, of a refuge from the designs of the revolutionaries will always be uppermost in our prayers.
Other friends of ours, the Croisettes of San Juan Capistrano, California, met us for Mass at the chapel to drive us to our motor home after Mass and after a bite to eat with Father Smith. Lucy fell asleep during the brief dinner. We fell asleep very soon after returning to our motor home at around 7:30 p.m., Pacific time, May 25, 2005 (which was 4:30 a.m., Rome time, the next morning, May 26, meaning that it was over twenty-four and one-half hours after the driver had picked us up at the Via Andrea Doria 79 to take us to Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci). Be it ever so humble, it was good to be back in our home on wheels for the final five weeks and six days of our stay in California. We were privileged the next day, May 26, the Feast of Corpus Christi, to hear Holy Mass offered by Father Smith and to participate in a Corpus Christi Procession.
The Turpins got back home as well, affording Sharon and Bridget the opportunity to speak again on the phone. Bridget had been out of the country with all of the children since April 12. Benoit took a position with a vitamin manufacturer, Nature Most, owned by believing Catholics who are serious about running a business in line with the dictates of the Holy Faith, freeing him from a position with a company run by Calvinists concerned only about the bottom line as an ultimate end justifying any means employed to achieve it. And one of the two bags that the Turpins left on the train from Paris to Chartres on Whit Monday, May 16, 2005, turned up four weeks later. Bridget received notification of that fact, get this, on June 13, 2005, the Feast of Saint Anthony! Each of us was grateful to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother for the many graces given to us during our respective pilgrimages.
Oh, speaking of Saint Anthony, I got a phone call at 8:30 a.m. on May 26 from the courier for Air France. The bag containing Irwin the Bear (well, Irwin's head and torso, more accurately) was to be delivered to us no later than 1:00 p.m. There were smiles aplenty from Lucy Mary Norma Droleskey when she learned this news. Sharon and I were pretty happy about it, too. All I had to do at that point was to fulfill orders for GIRM Warfare, get Restoring Christ as the King of All Nations into shape for printing, deal with business relating to Christ or Chaos, Inc., and Christ the King College, resume writing for this site, and plan my forthcoming speaking schedule. As much as we profited from the pilgrimage and as much we regretted not being able to go to Prague, it was good to be back home.
On the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
I had intended to write a reflection on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul to be posted on their feast day today, June 29. That will have to wait for a little while as we do last minute things prior to resuming our life on the road. However, I did want to complete this travelogue before we embarked upon our drive across the nation next Tuesday, July 5.
Suffice it to say for the moment that we must pray always for the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI, while we maintain our steadfast fealty to the entire of the Deposit of Faith without compromise with the novelties of the recent past. Remember, Saint Peter was running away from Nero's persecution when he encountered Our Lord on the Via Appia Antica. We must pray that our current Holy Father will not continue to run away from the bastions of the Faith that he wrote in 1982 had to razed, that he will instead embrace the totality of the Faith, including the Social Reign of Christ the King, and simply do what Our Lady said Fatima had to be done quite simply for the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart: the proper and specific consecration of Russia to her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. And we must pray that horrific displays of the Sillonist strand of Modernism, a heresy condemned by Pope Saint Pius X, at World Youth Day will cease to be foisted upon our children and that all Catholics will encourage their children to avoid these events, expressing their love for the Vicar of Christ in the quiet of the rooms of their hearts before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer and to the Mother of God. (For more information about the irrefutable harm of World Youth Day, please see the compelling and devastating new book by Cornelia Ferreira and John Vennari, World Youth Day: From Catholicism to Counterchurch, $15.00 postpaid from Oltyn Library Service, 2316 Delaware Ave, PMB 325, Buffalo, New York 14216.)
As We Continue Our Earthly Pilgrimages
We hope to see some of you along out way across the nation soon. Please keep us and our travels in your prayers. We do have adventures aplenty on the road as well as in Europe. The left front tire of our motor home blew out on Interstate 10 in the 107 degree heat of the Mojave Desert last September 26, the Feast of the North American Martyrs. The left front tire of our Trail Blazer, which replaced the Saturn station wagon that was totaled when that teenaged driver ran a red light last November 23, blew out as it was being towed behind the motor home on Interstate 5 in southern Oregon April 12, 2005. Our furnace gave up its ghost in the midst of freezing cold weather in Saint Charles, Kansas, on December 15, 2004. Our rear-view monitor in the motor home now inverts the images it displays, forcing me to mentally switch the image to make sure that I am changing into the proper lane while driving on highways. Thus, we are in need of your continued prayers as we try, despite our own sins and shortcomings, to plant seeds for the restoration of the Traditional Latin Mass as normative in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church and for the restoration of the Social Reign of Christ the King and of Mary our Immaculate Queen.
Whether or not we ever leave our hometowns, each of us is on the same pilgrimage of walking the rocky road that leads to the narrow gate of Life Himself as baptized and confirmed members of the Church that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man founded upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope. May Our Lady intercede for us at all times as we, her consecrated slaves, offer her whatever merit we are able to earn, cooperating with the graces won for us on the wood of the Holy Cross by the shedding of Our Lord's Most Precious Blood to scale the heights of sanctity and thus to be received into her loving arms at the moment of our deaths.Our earthly pilgrimage will then be over and we can know the joy of eternal rest in the glory of the Beatific Vision of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Vivat Christus Rex!
Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint Irenaeus, pray for us.
All of the Holy Martyrs of Rome, pray for us.
The Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, May 21, 2005
Our Lady of Sorrows, Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, May 21, 2005
The Ceiling of Santa Maria in Trastevere, May 21, 2005
The Church of Santa Cecilia, May 21, 2005
A Statue of Saint Lawrence the Deacon in the Piazza of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, May 22, 2005
The Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, May 22, 2005
A Statue of Saint Tarcisius Atop His Tomb, Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, May 22, 2005
The Sarcophagus of Blessed Pope Pius IX, Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, May 22, 2005
A Very Ancient Tomb in the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, May 22, 2005
The Mosaics made from stones from the Catacombs outside of the Basilica of San Loreno fuori le Mura, May 22, 2005
What More Needs to be Said? Behold a Relic of the True Cross (and the other items described in the narrative above), May 22, 2005
The Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Relics in the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, May 22, 2005
The Crucifix that is based on the Holy Shroud of Turin, Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, May 22, 2005 (a small pilgrim is venerating the Crucifix on her own volition without any prompting)
A Statue of Saint Helena, located on top of the dirt she brought back from Calvary, Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, May 22, 2005
The Church of Trinita dei Monti, May 23, 2005
A Painting of Saint Benedict, Church of Trinita di Monti, May 23, 2005
Chasing on the Grounds of the Catacombs (A game of tig-tag), Catacombs of San Callisto, May 23, 2005 (pay no attention to that man in the Mets' hat)
The grounds of the Catacombs of San Callisto, May 23, 2005
The road that cuts through the fields of the Catacombs of San Callisto to the Church of Domine, Quo Vadis? May 23, 2005
The Church of Domine, Quo Vadis? May 23, 2005
Pilgrims Ascending the Scala Sancta, May 23, 2005
The Sarcophagus of Saint Philip Neri, Chiesa Nuova, May 24, 2005
A Man Carrying Penance the Stroller up the 124 Steps to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, May 24, 2005
The Statue of Saint Helen Atop Her Tomb, Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, May 24, 2005
The Bambino Gesu, Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, May 24, 2005
A Replica of the Miraculous Statue of Maria Bambina, Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, May 24, 2005
An Etching of the Distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue, Bronze Door, Basilica of Saint Peter, May 24, 2005
Carrying Penance the Stroller up the Stairs of Via Andrea Doria 79 for the last time, May 24, 2005