Buongiorno a tutti! That greeting can mean only one thing: I am heading back to Italy on a Holy Year of Mercy pilgrimage for another fantastic combination of great food, beautiful scenery, and spiritual inspiration, and this time our chaplain will be my good friend and vicar general for the Diocese of Albany, Father David Berberian. Bonus: Our beloved tour guide from last October, Isabella, has signed on for this pilgrimage, so we will be in the very best hands.
We’ll be hitting some of the highlights from my last pilgrimage, with the addition of some must-see cities we missed the first time around. Here’s the brief run-down of where our Holy Year of Mercy Food & Faith in Italy tour will take us between May 15-26, 2016: Rome, Castel Gandolfo, Orvieto, Assisi, Siena, Bologna, the Emilia Romagna region, Padua, and Venice. Read more
It’s amazing how different something can look when we are willing to see with new eyes, when we cast aside our preconceived ideas and our human need for “progress.”
When I was on retreat at St. Mary’s on the Lake earlier this month, my retreat leader, Paulist Father Tom Ryan, took a few of us on a hike across the beautiful property along stunning Lake George, including a long-abandoned outdoor Stations of the Cross path cut into the woods behind the chapel. I hadn’t even noticed it on my first two trips down to the lake, but there it was — overgrown, falling down, forgotten, sad. At least that’s how it seemed to me at first. And all I could see was potential. Read more
I know things have been relatively quiet here for the past week or so. That’s because I’m renegotiating my work/life schedule these days, and it’s taking some adjustment. Last week I started working half-time as the digital/social media consultant and coordinator for the Diocese of Albany. Hence the i.d. tag you see here. I am loving my new work so far, even as I continue to do all of my other freelance work. I really should be writing a spiritual reflection right now, so I’ll keep this brief. Read more
My latest Life Lines column:
I was at the tail end of a silent weekend retreat a few weeks ago when I began reaching my silent prayer saturation point. Although the Dominican Retreat Center in Niskayuna, N.Y., was the perfect place for a spiritual respite, I’m used to taking my doses of silence in the summer when long walks on quiet paths or the rhythmic paddling of a kayak across a perfectly still lake help ease the what-should-I-do-now syndrome that sometimes sets in for me. Silence is not my natural habitat, so I need all the outside help I can get. Read more
Yesterday we spent the day — two days, really — wandering around the city of Assisi. Today we’re going to venture outside the city walls. On our second day in Assisi, we visited the Hermitage of St. Francis, the Church of San Damiano, and a fantastic winery-agriturismo outside Assisi in the town of Montefalco.
Our trip to the Hermitage of St. Francis (Eremo delle Carceri) was well worth the early drive via taxis (because the road is too narrow and winding for a tour bus) to the retreat on the slope of Mount Subiaso. This is where St. Francis and his friars came to get away from the busyness of life and pray in silence and solitude. The views were stunning, but the fact that we were able to touch the walls of the cell where St. Francis once slept was pretty overwhelming. Here’s a quick visit to the hermitage in photos. Read more
My pilgrimage to Assisi began long before I walked the streets and knelt before St. Francis and St. Clare this October. Although I have always loved St. Francis, the pull to go to Assisi and stand where this great saint lived and prayed and worked became stronger and stronger with every passing year. I read books about it. I dreamed about it. I decided in my mind that there was no way I was going to miss getting to Assisi one of these days. The first time I went to Italy, I wanted to make a quick day-trip to Assisi from Rome, but my schedule at Santa Croce University was too packed, and I didn’t want to rush Assisi. I was right to wait. Assisi is not something you rush. It’s something you savor, slowly, over a couple of days, if at all possible. Read more
To tide you over until I can pull all the Assisi photos together for posts on Monday and Tuesday, here are some shots of the many wonderful beverages you’ll find as you travel across Italy.
This is, of course, just a sampling of what we had. Multiply what you see here by 13, the number of days were were traveling. Even on the plane (Alitalia), wine is free and free-flowing. It’s a beautiful thing. So many beverages, so little time. Read more
When I put Siena on our pilgrimage itinerary, it was mainly because I wanted to visit the church where St. Catherine of Siena’s head rests. (The rest of her body is at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, and I had already been there. I wanted to be able to say I had seen ALL of her.) Anyway, that was the motivation for making sure we had at least a half-day in the city of Siena, but, oh, once we got there, how I wished we had more time.
I loved Siena. It was so much more manageable than Florence — quieter, not as crowded, fewer panhandlers and potential pickpockets, more medieval. I could stay in Siena for a few days and just soak up Italian life from my seat at an outdoor cafe in Piazza del Campo. Read more
I had waited to go to Florence for a long time, since I took an art history class in college, since I read E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View and then fell totally in love with Florence after seeing the wonderful movie adaptation of that book (starring one of my favorite actresses, Helena Bonham Carter). So when we arrived in Florence on the first full day of our pilgrimage and came out of one of those fantastic little Italian alley-like streets to find ourselves in front of the Duomo, I just stopped in my tracks. Really. Read more