I`m a great believer in pilgrimages as a way of building up the parish. The last one I had was in 2004 when I took a group along the road to Santiago de Compostela which was a great success. However since the somewhat difficult times since moving parish in 2005 I`ve not got round to organising anything. however as I settle in I thought this would be a good year to try to go somewhere so I arranged with Anthony Coles to take a group to Rome and the English College villa in the Alban hills at Palazzola.
Sixteen pilgrims set out on Monday afternoon on June 9th. It was such a relief not to have to get the 7.30am flight to Rome from Newcastle but to go at the more civilized time of 4.30pm. Some of the group had never been to Rome before. From Tuesday to Saturday lunchtime we visited the main places of pilgrimage led by Anthony Coles our excellent guide. We also visited many places which were more off the beaten track. Although I`ve been to Rome many times I`d never seen the church of Santa Maria della Navicella or the basilica of SS John and Paul. Each day we had Mass in an interesting place. On the first day it was the church of San Gregorio on the Caelian hill, on the second in the church of St Alphonso with the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, on Thursday in the basilica of St Paul`s outside the Walls,
on Friday in the Irish chapel in the crypt of St Peter`s and on Saturday at the catacombs of St Callixtus. We arrived at Palazzola (seen here from Castel Gandolfo) for lunch on Saturday and spent the next two nights there visiting Castel Gandolfo on the Sunday afternoon as well as going to Genzano for the Corpus Christi festival when a street is covered with floral designs over which the Blessed Sacrament procession moves. While many of the designs were religious I was a little surprised to see that the design at the top of the hill was a tribute to Gustav Klimt! On Monday we left for Subiaco (erstwhile home of St Benedict and Gina Lollabrigida!) and Tivoli before flying back to Newcastle in the evening. While we did not have a Mass in the Extraordinary Form we had on one day the Kyrie and Agnus Dei and the next the Sanctus to Missa de Angelis or Orbis Factor led by a member of the schola. We also had a plainchant antiphon relevant to the feast we or place each day at the offertory. It must be said that in may of the churches in which we had Mass the Benedictine revolution has not caught on. In one we had the two candles at one end of the altar and a bunch of flowers at the other but that was topped by an altar that had the two candles at one end and a collection basket at the other!
On Wednesday we got to St Peter`s square at 8.30am for the papal audience at 10.30 to ensure we got to a good position.
Everyone seems to have enjoyed it very much and I hope we will go on pilgrimage again next year. I`d like to go back to Santiago, following the route through Burgos and Leon but I`ve never been to the Holy Land so we may go there.
As one member of the group had his video camera with him we hope to have a social night in the parish soon to watch the film.