"I have always known that at last I would take this road but
yesterday I did not know it would be today."
Akiro No Narihara
I have began so many of my stories with that quote, which truly describes my life's journey. Every now and then I have the urge to look at my list of the places I would like to travel to. I make adjustments, mark off the places I have visited, erase those I no longer desire to see for whatever reasons and add to the ever growing list, gems that I continue to discover through travel magazines and conversations with other travelers. I know for sure that a lifetime is not enough to see this vast world of ours. I want to share this amazing pilgrimage, my first, that took me from Venice, Florence, Assisi and to Rome and the Vatican City.
A group of women and men, forty-seven total, traveled together from the St. Boniface Parish for this unforgettable experience. A priest from the Church commanded this gathering in celebration of his 25th anniversary as a Priest. His Bishop from his country of birth the Philippines also came along. We landed in Zurich and headed out to Venice, a beautiful city surrounded by water. The gondola ride and the men singing their heart out kept us smiling even though the clouds opened up and the rain drops came sprinkling down. We lingered for a day and night doing the city tour, some shopping and giving thanks during the celebration of our first mass in Italy.
Then we were off to Florence, passing through Tuscany I remembered Lydia the TV Chef who is always cooking up a storm and singing praises for the fresh produce in the market, while she shop or pick from the family's farm; a rich agricultural region indeed.
In Assisi, the mountain air did us good and our breathtaking hotel served up deliciously grown food from the valley. I am reminded of the prayer I carry around year after year by St. Francis of Assisi, labeled "A Simple Prayer" that begins "Lord Make Me An instrument of your peace...." I certainly had a peaceful and humbling experience to be where he lived.
Rome, the highlight of my trip. Linda, the amazing and knowledgeable tour guide wanted us to get the best seat in the house to see Pope Francis. It was Wednesday, the day that Pap1 Francis as he is fondly called comes out to the square to greet the followers. Linda, kept repeating "we are not competitive but we want to be first." This became our mantra as we prepare to beat out the many thousands of people lined up to see this special man of the cloth. She had schooled us on how to position ourselves in the long lines and where to push to reach the ideal spot with us. We were in the fourth row and couldn't ask for a better place. We watched with excitement as Pope Francis traveled in his motorcade through the sea of people and got out to talk to the disabled,children, those in poor health, ordinary citizens who revered this humble and God-fearing man. The mass on the square was celebrated in different languages and then the name of the Parish that the individuals came from, all over the world was read. We clapped when when we heard our Parish, St. Boniface.
This walking tour took us to many places of interests, too many to describe them all here. The architecture of the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the tour of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, left my traveling companions and I in awe. The preservation of these historical buildings for the general public is a remarkable feat. As I pass through this vast metropolis of millions, I noticed the homeless, the beggars, merchants hustling to sell knickknacks, vying for our attention. We were warned about groups of robbers, using children as as a distraction to peddle from the public. This description fits our city also, so we knew to travel with care.
Daily masses served as a reminder that we are our brothers and sisters keepers. On the trip we had some of our companions who needed assistance and great kindness was shown to them and many of the downtrodden we met. The accomodations, no complaints. The food, delicious, so many culinary discoveries in the course of my travel. It was the Greek Philosopher, Socrates, who said "Some people eat to live and some live to eat" For sure, food feeds the stomach but it also feeds the heart. A shout out to Linda, so authentic, no frills. Thanks for the peaceful existence on our tour among the 47 travelers, respectful communication was the key.
"It always seem impossible until it is done"