Rome's Basilicas and Shrines
Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a religion and ordered the construction of churches and basilicas throughout Rome beginning in the 4th century. In 330 he ordered St. Peter's Basilica to be built on Vatican Hill and with freedom to practice faith openly, Christian pilgrims from all social levels, traveled to Rome and began praying at the tombs of Peter and Paul. Today, there are more than 50 major basilicas and churches.
The following are a few of the major basilicas and churches: Basilica of St. John Lateran Basilica of St. Mary Major Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem Basilica of St. Sebastian Basilica of S. Maria in Aracoeli Basilica of St. Peter in Chains Basilica of St. Mary Sopra Minerva Church of Saint Alphonsus, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church of the Holy Name of Jesus Church of St. Praxedes Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs
For listing of convents and houses for pilgrim lodgings write to: Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi Via della Pigna, 13/a 00186 Rome Tel (06) 69.501 Fax (06) 699.407.17
The Pilgrim's Guide to Rome's Principal Churches by Joseph N. Tylenda is an excellent reference book.
Bari and Apulia
Bari was established in the 4th century with much history to follow - after the fall of the Roman Empire it went from Ostrogoths, to Lombards, then Moslems, then Byzantines, then Normans in 1071. Later, was under control by Aragon, Spain, the Hapsburgs and the Bourbons. The Basilica di San Nicola in Bari was Only * remaining building after wars. Places of pilgrimage include Monte Sant'Angeloo and San Giovanni Rotondo. St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia (now part of Turkey) Because of his zeal and holiness soon became bishop, but was imprisoned during the reign of Diocletian. He was originally entombed in his cathedral at Myra, but in 1087 Italian soldiers removed Saint Nicholas's body and transported it to Bari where was enshrined in the presence of Pope Urban II. His year of death varies from 345 to 352 He is patron of children, scholars, and sailors. Saint Nicholas has had many legends involving the giving of gifts, thus, the Santa Claus connection.
Bari is accessible by train. Apulia, is at the top of the heel of the "boot" of Italy, where Monte Sant' Angelo and San Giovanni Rotondo draws pilgrims. It also offers some of Italy's best beaches and its fine cuisine. Hotels & inns are many, yet inexpensive.
Basilica of St. John Lateran
This cathedral is the true seat of the bishop of Rome (the pope). From the 4 through 14 centuries it was the home and residence of all the popes, until they moved to Avignon, France. Returning to Rome in 1377, the popes made 'Vatican City' their new home. Between the 12 and 16th centuries five ecumenical councils were held in the cathedral. The artwork at St. John Lateran is breathtaking. In the baptistery are the remains of Sts. Cyprian, Giustina, Rufina and Secunda.
Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls
Dedicated to St. Lawrence, the deacon and martyr. Near the center of the basilica are the relics of St. Lawrence, St. Justin and St. Stephen in a large sarcophagus. St. Stephen is known as the first Christian martyr in history; he was stoned to death at Jerusalem. St. Justin lays claim to being the first Christian to have written on Christianity. He was scourged and beheaded along with 6 companions. St. Lawrence was ordered to turn over the riches of the Church to the empire. He gathered the poor of Rome and presented them as the riches of the Church. Incensed by this mockery, the prefect had Lawrence burned alive on a gridiron. He is the patron saint of cooks!
Basilica of St. Mary Major
This is one of the oldest and most important shrines in the world dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Positioned on the highest of Seven Hills in Rome, the basilica houses two of Christianity's greatest treasures: the relics of the Manger from Bethlehem in which the baby Jesus rested; and a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the 5th century, 'The Salvation of the Roman People'. For centuries the Roman population has gathered before the portrait to pray during times of war, disease, and persecution. The church that was originally on this site was built in response to a request from the Blessed Virgin Mary. During the night of August 4, 358 the Virgin appeared to Pope Liberius (352-366) and the Roman patrician Giovanni in their dreams, requesting a church to be built in her honor. She said that a miraculous snowfall would come down and outline the place where the church was to be constructed. The next day, in the middle of a summer heat wave, snow fell on the Esquiline Hill. In response, Pope Liberious immediately commissioned the church to be built, and although nothing remains today of the original basilica, the event gave the Blessed Virgin one of her most ancient titles, Our Lady of the Snows.
Basilica of St. Mary Sopra Minerva
Beneath the main altar lies the body of St. Catherine of Siena. Atop the sarcophagus is a statue of the reclining saint; and near the altar is an entrance to the room where St. Catherine lived. While her main relics are here, her incorrupt head is located in Siena at the Basilica of St. Domenico.
Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
This is the second largest church in Rome after St. Peter's, wherein it houses the tomb of St. Paul under the main altar. It also houses the chains that once bound the apostle while he was a prisoner in Rome.
Basilica of St. Peter in Chains
Eudocia, wife of Theodosius II (emperor 408-450), received the chains that once bound St. Peter as a gift; later she sent one of the chains to Rome so that a basilica would be built to house them. Eventually, the chains were given to Pope Sixtus III (432-440) and when the pope placed them next to the chain that once bound Peter in Mammertime Prison, both chains were miraculously fused into one inseparable link.
Clare and the Second Order
St. Clare, also born to a well-to-do Assisi family, became a devoted follower of Francis in 1211 after hearing his Lenten message. They shared each other's desire to give fully to a life of contemplation. On March 18, 1212, the 18-year old Clare and a close friend secretly went to the Portiuncula, a small chapel, where Francis and his friars dressed her in the Franciscan robe, cut her hair to consecrate her to a life of penance and thus, formed what is known as Francis's Second Order. The first sister to join the order was Pacifica di Guelfuccio, Clare's friend. Soon after, Clare's sisters Agnes and Beatrice and their mother, Ortolana joined the order. The order was initially called the Poor Women of Saint Damian's. In 1215 Pope Innocent III granted Clare the privilege of taking the vow of poverty - forbidden to hold property of any kind and "...content to serve the Lord in poverty and humility". She died in 1253 and was canonized two years later. Her feast day is August 11 and intercession is sought in cases of eye disease and in childbirth.
Assisi's Shrines The Basilica of San Francesco, which enshrines Saint Francis's remains, is one of Italy's most famous monuments. Unfortunately, parts of the fresco cycle by Giotto fell in the earthquakes and were shattered but restorers are working diligently. The 13th century Basilica of Santa Chiara contains Saint Clare's remains, and the crucifix that spoke to Francis and led him to a religious life. The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli is a huge baroque structure enclosing the Portiuncula, the little chapel restored by Francis that became central to the formation of his order; years later the place of his death. The Hermitage of the Carceri is two miles from Assisi and is a monastery where Francis and his followers first lived.
Eucharistic Miracle of Cascia
Another precious relic in the Basilica of St. Rita is the Eucharistic Miracle of Cascia and has a story of its own. In 1330 a dying farmer called for a priest. In his eagerness to respond to the call, the priest quickly grabbed a consecrated host from the tabernacle and lodged it in his breviary rather than putting it into a pyx. When the priest opened his breviary he found a bleeding host and the pages were stained with blood. Closing the book quickly and feeling fear and remorse, he returned to Siena. Immediately he confessed the bloodstained pages and host to Blessed Simone Fidati. After absolving the priest of his sin, Blessed Simone retained the breviary for further investigation. As with all Eucharistic miracles, numerous tests were conducted on the relic. It was later discovered that when the bloodstained breviary page was viewed through a weak microscope or held up against the light, the image of a sad bearded man appeared. The image is also visible in photographs. Today the relic resides in a stone crystal tabernacle of the basilica.
Located: Cascia is 60 miles north of Rome. Can be reached by car and bus. No train.
Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano
From time to time God has provided visible miracles in this sacrament of love to help the Doubting Thomases of the world. The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano took place during the 8th century when a Basilian monk was saying Mass. Moments after the consecration, the priest, who had been doubting the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, found himself holding a host that had changed into flesh. The wine had changed into blood, clotted up and split into five pieces of different shapes and sizes. The humbled priest raised his head and revealed the event to his parishioners. When the news spread, the faithful came from everywhere to behold the miracle. Twelve centuries later, the sacred relics have remained incorrupt. The flesh has retained the dimensions of the original host and the blood has remained coagulated. The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano has been subjected to numerous scientific tests, and the latest conducted in 1970-71 has confirmed that "the flesh is real flesh and the blood is real blood". The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano is myocardium (muscular heart tissue), blood type AB. There are no preservatives of any kind, yet the species are incorrupt, despite 1200 years of exposure to the atmosphere and to various investigations. As Louis Pasteur once said, "A little bit of science averts people from God, a lot of it, takes us back to Him". The miracle defies all human explanation.
Located: Lanciano is 100 miles east of Rome. Can be reached by car (from Bologna A14 south, from Foggia A14 north, from Rome west to PesLiz); train; bus.
Eucharistic Miracle of Orvieto
In 1263 a Bohemian priest, who did not believe in the transubstantiation of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the host and wine, went on a pilgrimage to Rome to ask at St. Peter's tomb that his faith might be strengthened. On his return, the priest stopped in the city of Bolsena to celebrate Mass at the Church of Santa Christina. As he raised the bread at the moment of consecration, the host began to bleed profusely and drops of blood fell from the Eucharist on to the corporal. Startled, the priest immediately wrapped the Eucharist in the cloth. As he left the altar, a few drops of blood fell on the marble floor. After informing Pope Urban IV of the event, the priest and bishop of Bolsena were ordered to bring the host and bloodstained corporal to Orvieto, where the Holy Father was living. In honor of the Eucharistic miracle, the Pope asked St. Thomas Aquinas to write the proper of the Mass honoring the Blessed Sacrament; he also wrote the hymn "Tantum Ergo". After 'composing' the Mass of Corpus Christi, St. Thomas Aquinas was blessed with a miracle: the corpus on the crucifix before him came to life and said, "You have written well about me and my sacrament, Thomas. What do you ask of me now as a reward?" "Only * yourself," answered the saint. A year later, the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted throughout the Christian world. In the chapel of the Cathedral of Orvieto is a reliquary containing the holy corporal. Every year on the Feast of Corpus Christi, a magnificent procession of the holy corporal passes through the streets with over 400 participants. Other events include re-enactments of historical events, medieval suppers, a procession of medieval ladies with music and dances.
Located: Orvieto is 75 miles north of Rome. Can be reached by car (from Rome A1); train; bus.
Eucharistic Miracle of Siena
Siena has another impressive distinction. In the small Church of St. Francis is a collection of incorrupt hosts dating back to 1730. On August 14, 1730, thieves broke into the Church of St. Francis and stole a ciborium containing consecrated hosts. When the theft was discovered the next day, all festivities taking place in honor of the Feast of the Assumption were halted. The bishop asked for prayers of reparation as civil authorities began their search. On August 17 in the Church of St. Mary, a parishioner noticed a bright light emanating from an offering box. The priest and bishop of Siena were contacted and amongst several priests the box was opened. Inside they found a large number of hosts covered with spider webs and dirt. Counted, examined and determined to be those stolen, they were returned to the Church of St. Francis in the greatest procession ever seen in Siena. Over the years various tests and examinations have been conducted; since 1730 the hosts have remained fresh and as pleasant smelling as newly baked bread. In 1789 unconsecrated hosts were placed next to the 'miraculous' hosts in a sealed box. Ten years later the unconsecrated hosts were found almost completely corrupted. The stolen hosts from 70 years earlier, however, remained perfect. In 1914 under the supervision of several scientists and professors, an acid and starch test was performed on the hosts. The hosts are still fresh, physically incorrupt and chemically pure and do not show any sign of corruption. The miraculous preservation of these consecrated hosts goes against all physical, chemical and biological laws. The Eucharistic Miracle of Siena offers everyone, both skeptics and believers alike, the possibility of seeing firsthand one of the many miracles that Christ has performed on earth.
Holy House of Loreto
The house of the Holy Family lies in the Shrine of Loreto in central Italy and is one the premier treasures of the Catholic Church. Scientific and archaeological studies continue to affirm what the faithful have believed for centuries: that Jesus, Mary and Joseph once lived in this home. So how did a home that was built in Nazareth wind up on a hill in central Italy? According to legend, in 1291 the Blessed Virgin Mary's house was transported by angels from Nazareth to Croatia and later, in 1294 to the hill of Loreto. Today's research methods confirm that the building materials used in the house correspond to those used in the basement of the home still in place at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Furthermore, various graffiti cuts of Jewish-Christian origin found in the stones also resemble those found at Nazareth. The Holy House of Loreto is highly significant in Christianity and tradition strongly asserts that, first, the Blessed Virgin was conceived and born in this home. Second, that it is the place where Mary grew up and received the angel's invitation to be the mother of Our Lord. Third, it is where Jesus returned every day after work. To realize the mystery of the Incarnation took place within these walls is truly humbling. More than 50 pops have made pilgrimages to Loreto.
Located: Loreto is south east of Florence. Can be reached by car (from PesLiz A14 north, from Bologna A14 south); train; bus.
Among the many people who have visited Loreto and its Holy House of the Blessed Virgin have been saints-to-be, princes and more than 50 popes. It is believed that the Holy House is the home of the Blessed Virgin that has been flown from the Holy Land to its present site by a band of angels. It is believed that 'the angels felt that the house, which had been turned into a church by the Apostles in the first century, needed to be moved because Nazareth had fallen into the hands of Muslim invaders in 1291'. Pietro di Giorgio Tolomei in 1470 recorded that 'the angels first took the house - containing a statue of the Virgin made by Saint Luke - to Tersatto in present-day Croatia in 1291. It was moved three years later, again by angels, to the Italian village of Recanti. Eight months later it was moved again, and then a fourth a short distance. Within a year the Virgin revealed the origin of the house to a holy man in a dream. The people of Recanti investigated and learned that the building that was once in Nazareth and had vanished had mysteriously appeared in their village. (Recent investigations have shown that the stone of which the house is made is not found in the area of Loreto, but common in Nazareth.) The Holy House quickly became a shrine. The basilica, started in 1468 and completed in 1587, includes the work of many of Italy's foremost architects: the facade is by Donato Bramante, the dome is by Giuliano da Sangallo and beneath the dome is the tabernacle by Andrea Sansovino plus more than two dozen artists. The shrine became a parish in 1482 and came under papal protection two years later. In 1920 Our Lady of Loreto became the patron of airmen and air travelers. Feast of the Holy House is December 10.
Loreto is north of Rome in the Marches region. The city of Urbino is also in the Marches. Urbino is home to universities and many fine-art academies. The Ducal Palace is in its center and was built by Duke Federico da Montefeltro. It is now the National Museum of the Marches. There is a large collection of sculpture, paintings and other works including, Paolo Uccello's "Profanation of the Host", "Resurrection", "Last Supper" and "The Flagellation of Christ". Also born here are Raphael and Donato Bramante.
The Marches can be reached by train or car, but travel is slow. In Umbria, hotels inns and restaurants are plentiful and of excellent quality.
Our Lady of Grace and Padre Pio's Friary
Francesco Forgione was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy into a pious Catholic family, and from a very young age had a great love for Jesus Christ and strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1903 he entered the monastery and in 1910 was ordained and transferred to several sites. Later known as Padre Pio, he arrived at San Giovanni Rotondo, where he remained for the last 50 years of his life. Padre Pio received many graces in his life and is considered one of the great mystics of this century. The list of extraordinary gifts is overwhelming: prophecy, bilocation, the reading of souls, the odor of sanctity, discernment of spirits, spiritual direction, and miraculous healings. He received visits from Jesus and Mary and had daily communication with his guardian angel. The greatest gift of his lifetime, the stigmata, was given to him in 1918, wherein he was pierced with the five sacred wounds while praying before a crucifix. He bled from these wounds until his death. The devil tormented this gentle priest throughout his lifetime. Oftentimes, he bore cuts, bruises and marks that the devil had inflicted during nightly punishments. Padre Pio was especially devoted to the salvation of souls in purgatory and stories tell of souls in purgatory appearing to him and thanking him for a Mass said in their honor. The saintly priest gave up his soul on September 23, 1968 and on September 23, 2001 he will be Canonized by Pope John Paul II. The shrine of Our Lady of Grace houses the tomb of Padre Pio. He was the first priest in history to receive the stigmata.
Located: San Giovanni Rotondo is 180 miles east of Rome. Can be reached by car (from Rome take the autostrada on the Adriatic A24 & A25; from Naples A16); train (to Foggia then bus); bus.
Padua was St. Anthony's last home and he is entombed in the Basilica of Sant Antonio. He was born to a noble family in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195 and educated at Lisbon Cathedral School. He joined the Augustinian Canons Regular as a teenager and studied at Coimbra. In 1220 Anthony was inspired to follow in the footsteps of the Franciscan Order. He arranged for a release from the Augustinians and became a Franciscan the following year and traveled to North Africa. Illness forced his return, but his ship was driven off course and he landed in Sicily. He made his way to Assisi where he lived in solitude and penance in the hermitage of Monte Paolo, but news traveled of his inspirational preaching. Francis requested Anthony to preach against heretics in northern Italy and southern France and assigned him to teach other friars in theology. He had superior knowledge of the scriptures and combined with powerful personality, his reputation grew. When Francis died in 1226, Anthony remained in Padua until his death in 1231 at the age of 36. Saint Anthony is prayed to for the return of lost objects. He was canonized in 1232 by Pope Gregory IX; Pope Pius XII in 1946 made him a Doctor of the Church.
Padua is 25 miles west of Venice, which was once its ruler. Venice offers many artistic and historical treasures. Marco Polo airport in Venice services domestic & international flights. Padua can be reached by train, bus & car. Restaurants & hotels are plentiful; in Venice prices are higher.
Saint Francis of Assisi
Assisi's fame stems largely from Saint Francis, founder of the Franciscans, the largest of all religious orders. St. Francis was born in 1181 or 1182, the son of Pietro di Bernardone, a wealthy textile merchant. Enthusiastic in his love of life and worldly pleasures, he was a popular individual and a leader of Assisi's youth. During intercity fighting between Assisi and Perugia, he was imprisoned at age 20. After becoming seriously ill and dissatisfied with his life, he went into a period of deep self-analysis and prayer. In 1205 in the Church of San Damiano, he heard a voice from the crucifix saying, "Go, Francis, and repair my house, which is in ruins." He immediately renounced his possessions, and embarked on a life of rebuilding churches and being of service to the poor. His mystical approach to poverty and simplicity and love of man and nature soon drew others to follow him. He called his followers "friars minor" (lesser brethren). In 1209 Pope Innocent III gave the friars permission to preach and made Francis a deacon. On September 14, 1224, during a prolonged time of prayer and fasting he received the stigmata - the imprint of the wounds suffered by Christ in the Crucifixion on his own body. It was the first documented occurrence of such. Francis became blind and seriously ill at the end of his life and died in Assisi on October 3, 1226 and was canonized on July 16, 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. He is the most beloved of saints due to his generosity, love of nature, humility and devotion to God and man. In 1939 he was named patron of Italy and more recently, Pope John Paul II proclaimed him patron saint of ecologists.
San Giovanni Rotondo
Home for 50 years, and tomb of Padre Pio. Born Francesco, he was a sickly child but deeply pious and at age 15 entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars in Morcone. In 1903 he became a Franciscan known as Brother Pio and in 1907 took his final vows. In 1916 after various prolonged illnesses he arrived at the monastery at San Giovanni Rotondo and remained there until his death in 1968. On Sept 20, 1918 he received the stigmata - the marks of Christ's wounds at the Crucifixion on his body - the first priest to bear these since St. Francis in the 13th century. Many miracles and intercessions occurred through him. Padre Pio developed a huge following including a young Polish priest, Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II. During the beatification of Padre Pio on May 2, 1999 Pope John Paul II said, "I had a chance to meet him personally, and I thank God for allowing me today to enter Padre Pio's name in the book of the blessed." That day Pope John Paul gave communion to a woman, Consiglia de Martino, who Padre Pio is credited with miraculously curing of a life-threatening chest ailment in 1995. He once said, "I want to be Only * a poor friar who prays." "In books we learn of God, in prayer we find Him. Prayer is the key that opens the heart of God."
Best way to travel is by car. Accommodations are limited; however, better along the coast.
Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs
The Holy Stairs that Jesus climbed during the night of his Passion were taken from Pilate's palace, and its believed to have been brought to Rome by St. Helena in the 4th century. They are located in the Santuario della Scala Sancta near the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Throughout the year pilgrims ascend the stairs on their knees, reverently kissing the 28 steps that touched the bleeding feet of Jesus.
St. Anthony of Padua
Born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195 to a rich, noble family. Studious and pious during his childhood, he felt a call from God to become a priest and at the age of fifteen he left to join the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. At the age of 25 he was finally ordained a priest. In February 1220, Anthony decided to join the Franciscans to preach the gospel to the Moors after seeing the relics of five missionary Franciscans martyred in Morocco. With hopes of shedding his blood for Christ, he set sail for Morocco. However, suffering horribly from malaria, he was forced to return home. Then on his way back a terrible storm forced him to land on the shores of Italy. In 1221 he had the opportunity to meet St. Francis. Throughout his life Anthony was known as a miracle worker and a holy man; thousands came to hear and confess to him. A Eucharistic miracle is also associated with the life of this great saint. When challenged that the Holy Eucharist was not the body and blood of Jesus Christ, Anthony decided that the person's mule should decide the case. After it had been starved for 3 days, it was placed before a sack of oats and the Blessed Sacrament. The starving animal bypassed the fodder and knelt instead before the Holy Eucharist. Thus, the power of the holy sacrament was confirmed and many of the townspeople were converted that day too. His ability to preach was his greatest attribute, and with a passion for proclaiming the truth, he combined gentleness with steadfastness when speaking. Toward the end of his life, he desired to purify his soul from the stains of sin through prayer and suffering. On June 13, 1231 he gave up his soul to God; in 1263 when St. Anthony's remains were transferred to the new basilica, his entire body was found to have disintegrated except for his tongue and vocal chords. Both remain incorrupt to this day and can be seen in their respective reliquaries. St Anthony of Padua is patron saint of "lost objects".
St. Bernardine of Siena
In this city the saint founded the Church of the Osservanza. St. Bernardine remains one of the Catholic Church's greatest preachers. Born in 1380, at the age of 17 he joined a confraternity of Our Lady and devoted himself to the relief of the sick. In 1400 when a terrible plague broke out in Siena, Bernardine took control of the local hospital and worked tirelessly for four months alleviating the pains and sufferings of the patients, sacrificing his life to help the victims of the plague. Joining the Franciscan Order, in 1403 he was professed and then pursued a solitary life for the next 12 years. In 1417 he began preaching in Milan and quickly grew a following, which led him to preach throughout Italy. In his sermons he preached penance, denounced the evil of the times, and urged the faithful to return to the gospel. After a lifetime of missionary work, he died in the monastery of the Conventuals. Many miracles were reported from those who visited his tomb in Aquila. Remembered always for popularizing the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Catherine lived solely on the Eucharist for the last 7 years of her life. Pope Nicholas V canonized Bernardine a saint in 1450.
Located: Siena is 40 miles south of Florence. Can be reached by car, train, bus. The Sanctuary of St. Catherine is located on Costa de Sant' Antonio, and is the house where the saint was born. The rooms were converted into small chapels in the 15th century.
St. Catherine of Bologna Feastday: March 9
Catherine was born into nobility and blessed with beauty, intelligence, strong virtues, holiness, liveliness and artistic talent. Many asked for her hand in marriage, but she refused all in favor of joining a group of Franciscan tertiaries. Throughout her religious life she experienced miracles, ecstasies and visitations from Jesus and Mary. While praying one Christmas Eve, Our Lady appeared to her. The Blessed Mother handed to Catherine the Christ Child wrapped in newborn linen. Trembling, Catherine accepted Jesus into her arms and cradled him. There were many reported healings Catherine performed. While working with a hoe in the convent garden, one of the nuns cut her foot badly. All rushed to the scene and when Catherine arrived she looked up to heaven, said a prayer and miraculously healed the wound. There were many other mystical events - God once permitted her to hear the angelic choirs after the Elevation of the Host. She wrote the treatise The Seven Spiritual Weapons. Many of her writings came as a result of Satanic visitations. Satan continuously tempted her into evil thoughts and acts, but Catherine soon had the ability to discern evil. She learned that a deep sense of humility preceded a vision from heaven. During these ecstasies, one would become aware of her or his faults, past, present and future. Once the soul was "cleansed," Jesus would enter bringing profound peace. Conversely, when Satan appeared, blasphemies and doubts crept into the soul, especially concerning the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Catherine gave up her soul to God on March 9, 1463. Miracles continued afterward with her body emitting a beautiful fragrance at the time of her burial. For days the sweet scent filled the cemetery, yet no flowers were in the vicinity. The sisters exhumed her body 18 days later but found no signs of decay. The body was placed in the convent for her sisters to view her sacred remains. Several years later Catherine appeared to one of the sisters where she expressed her wish to be placed in the small chapel, with her body in a seated position. On May 22, 1712, Catherine of Bologna was canonized. Since 1463 her body has remained incorrupt, although her skin has darkened. St. Catherine is patron saint of artists.
Located: Northern Italy - large metropolitan city .Can be reached by car, train, bus.
St. Catherine of Siena
Destined for sainthood from an early age, as a child she would climb the stairs on her knees and recite the Hail Mary. She was the youngest of 25 children and at age six she had her first vision, in which Christ and several saints appeared to her. After the mystical event she possessed a spiritual wisdom beyond her years. At the age of 17 she received her Dominican tertiary habit. Her mystical gifts included levitation, performed exorcisms, healed, lived on Only * the Holy Eucharist for years, received the invisible stigmata, and had numerous visions of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, the saints and the devil. In 1366 St. Catherine had an extraordinary grace bestowed on her. Christ appeared with his Blessed Mother and the whole court of heaven and handed Catherine a mystical ring as a sign of the espousal union. This preciously adorned ring remained invisible to others. While serving the Church in Rome she suffered a paralytic stroke from the waist down; she gave her soul to God eight days later at age 33. Her greatest claim to fame was in 1417 when she convinced the papacy to move back to Rome where it belonged. The treatise of her conversations with Our Lord during her ecstasies, 'Dialogue of St. Catherine', remains a church classic. Canonized a saint in 1461.
St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi Feastdays: Oct 3 & 4
Francis was born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy. At 20 he went to war, was captured and imprisoned for a year. During this time he became extremely ill. It was then that God planted the first seed of conversion in him and he began to question life's priorities. However, once he recovered he thought again of becoming a successful knight. When another war broke out he, again, joined the fight. Traveling through the city of Spoleto on his way to the war he fell ill. While recuperating in a nearby village he heard a voice say, "Who can do most for you, servant or master?" Francis answered, "The master." "Why then do you follow the servant rather than the Master?" The second seed of conversion had been planted. Soon after, while wandering around the Assisi countryside, Francis came upon the ruins of an old church called St. Damian's. The church was in a terrible state of disrepair. While praying before the crucifix, Jesus spoke three times from the cross to him: "Go, Francis, repair my Church, which is in ruin." Interpreting the message literally, Francis decided to raise money to help rebuild St. Damian's Church. To raise money, he took material from his father's store and sold it in the marketplace; however, when the priest at St. Damien's heard how the money had been raised refused to accept his offer. His father found out about the incident and filed suit against Francis for theft. Francis appealed to the bishop who ruled that the money be returned to his father. In obedience to the Church, Francis returned the money and then went one step further. Stripping himself of his own clothes, Francis handed them over to his father and renounced the world's goods. Living in near poverty on his own, Francis began to rebuild the church of St. Damian's begging on the streets for his food. In time he attracted a number of followers. An informal rule for his brothers was written which included absolute poverty, good works, and preaching. In 1209 Francis, along with his brothers, journeyed to Rome, where Pope Innocent III approved their rule. In 1224 Francis received the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ. The first stigmatist in history, he bled and suffered from these sacred wounds until his death. This was all part of Francis's complete transformation into the living image of Christ. Late in the year 1226 he, again, fell seriously ill. Fulfilling his final request, the friars brought him to the Portiuncula and speaking his last words Francis said, "I have done my part, may Christ teach you to do yours." With that the saint gave up his soul to God and was canonized just 2 years later. His remains lie in a triple urn on an altar in the Basilica of St. Francis on the hill of Assisi. During the Christmas season of 1223, Francis built the world's first-known nativity scene. Francis attracted women as well as men to his way of life. The first to follow was St. Clare of Assisi. On March 18, 1212 Francis placed her in a Benedictine convent near Bastia. When St. Clare's family learned where she was living, they came with weapons to remove her from the convent, but were unsuccessful. In time, Clare founded the Order of Poor Clares, a group of women who followed the teachings of St. Francis. Living a life of humility, charity, mortification and obedience, she soon attracted many others to the order. Within a short time all three of Clare's sisters and her mother joined the Poor Clares - wearing no sandals, sleeping on hard ground, and abstaining from meat were just a few of the strict rules of the order. Meditating on the Passion of Christ and reciting the Office of the Passion often reduced her to tears. The center of her life was the Holy Eucharist; so much so that several sisters testified that when she received the Holy Eucharist, she trembled all over. A Eucharistic miracle is also associated with the saint. In 1240 Assisi was attacked by enemy troops climbing over the walls of the monastery. Although terrified by the invasion, Clare placed the Blessed Sacrament before the door where the soldiers were attempting to enter. After she prostrated herself and wept before the Holy Eucharist, silence was heard and the troops had mysteriously retreated. Clare bore sickness for many years and suffered in agony. Shortly before she died, Clare confided to one of her sisters that she desired to have the Pope approve the rule of the order before she died so that she could kiss the papal seal. On August 10, 1253 her wish was fulfilled, moments before she died. Within 2 years of her death she was canonized.
Located: Assisi is 110 miles north of Rome. Can be reached by car (A1 north to Orte, S75 from Perugia); train; bus.
St. Gerard Majella
The most famous miracle-worker of the 18th century, St. Gerard is the patron saint of motherhood. Born on April 6, 1726 and dying at the young age of 29, he is the perfect role model for young adults and anyone striving for holiness. From a young age he offered his services to the Church and served the bishop of Lacedogna. Although severely ill-treated by the prelate, he served the bishop faithfully until his death. He then returned home giving a third of his earnings to his mother, a third in alms to the poor, and the balance in stipends for Masses for the souls in purgatory. At age 23 Gerard left home and joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer as a lay brother. In time everyone recognized Gerard's superior work ethic and St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the order, realized the young man's sanctity and shortened his novitiate. Because of his gift for reading souls, the Redemptorist fathers brought Gerard on their missions and retreats. He experienced the gifts of ecstatic flight, bilocation, prophecy, and infused knowledge. When the archpriest of Muro was murdered 50 miles away, Gerard knew of the incident immediately. Often he read the mental wishes of others at a distance and on one occasion he read the bad conscience of an archbishop with such accuracy that the prelate repented and completely reformed his life. His reputation for holiness became well known and several communities of nuns received him as their spiritual director, as well as being spiritual advisor to other priests. Brother Gerard possessed a deep love for the poor with a concern and compassion similar to that of a mother for her children. During the last weeks of his life his intimacy with God soared and reportedly, he was once carried through the air for a distance of half a mile.
Located: Materdomini is 40 miles southeast of Naples. Can be reached by car (from Naples A3 southeast to Salerno, Eboli, & Contursi Temi north S91; from Avellino S7 east to Teora and S165 south); bus (from Salerno); No train.
St. Maria Goretti
Obedience, meekness and cheerfulness marked her character. Vulgarity and ill-mannered behavior offended her deeply. A person of innocence and a lover of chastity, she was murdered that the age of 12 while defending her purity. She shed her blood in order not to betray the Lord and to protect her assailant from committing a terrible sin. Maria Goretti was born October 16, 1890 to a family that lived in poverty. After her father's death from malaria, her family moved in with the Serenelli family. As a pious girl, Maria prayed the rosary often, was especially close to the Virgin Mary, and greatly devoted to Jesus. Knowing the family was poor, a generous store owner once gave Maria an apple and a sugar cookie, which she immediately put in her bag after thanking him. When the store owner questioned if she was going to eat them, she replied that they were for her brothers and sisters. The Serenelli family abused alcohol, posted pornographic pictures on their walls, and had no faith. The son, Alessandro, developed a liking for Maria and one day attempted to rape her. Maria struggled and told Alessandro, "No! No! It is a sin! You will go to hell." He pulled her dress up and began stabbing her with a knife. Seeing blood everywhere and knowing he had wounded her mortally, Alessandro ran to his room. In her final hours she received Holy Communion, the last rites, and was made a Daughter of Mary. Witnesses said that she had a miraculous vision of the Virgin Mary. Her road to sanctity culminated in the forgiving of her murderer, Alessandro Serenelli. "Yes, for the love of Jesus, I pardon him, and I want him to come with me to paradise. May God forgive him because I already have". Alessandro, sentenced to 30 years in prison, remained unrepentant until one night he had a dream in which Maria Goretti approached him with lilies in her arms. As he received the lilies from her, he experienced a complete conversion of the heart. After serving 27 years in prison, he left to spend the rest of his life serving as a gardener at a monastery in penance. Maria Goretti was beatified on April 27, 1947 - she is the Only * saint ever to have had family members present at the canonization ceremony.
Located: Nettuno is 45 miles south of Rome. Can be reached by car; train; bus.
St. Michael the Archangel
The most celebrated of shrines is that of St. Michael the Archangel at Mont Sant'Angelo. Six popes, along with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Gerard majella, St. William of Vercelli have pilgrimaged to this site and have knelt before him to as for his protection in their endeavors. The first apparition occurred in 490 when Elvio Emmanuele lost his best bull. He finally found it kneeling in a cave. Since he was unable to approach it he shot an arrow at it. Mystically, the arrow turned around and struck the man instead. Elvio explained this to the bishop who ordered three days of prayer and fasting. On the third day, St. Michael the Archangel appeared to the bishop saying, "I am Michael the Archangel and am always in the presence of God. I chose cave that is sacred to me. There will be no more shedding of bull's blood. Where the rocks open widely, the sins of men may be pardoned. What is asked here in prayer will be granted. Therefore, go up to the mountain cave and dedicate it to the Christian God!" However, the bishop ignored the angelic order. Two years later when the Christian city of Siponto was at war with the pagans of Odoacre, the bishop begged for mercy and obtained a truce and asked for three days of prayer and penance. When St. Michael again appeared to him, St. Michael promised the bishop victory if the townspeople would attack the enemy. Soon a violent storm engulfed the village of Odoacre, thus saving the people of Siponto. The bishop lead a procession in thanksgiving to the top of the archangel's mountain, however, nobody dared to enter the grotto. Later in the year when the bishop consulted the Holy Father on the archangel's previous order, St. Michael appeared for a third time and ordered him to enter the grotto. Following his instructions, the bishop entered the grotto and found an altar covered with a red cloth and a crystal cross. At the entrance an imprint of a small foot was found, confirming the presence of St. Michael. After the third apparition, the bishop commissioned a chapel to be built. Upon completion the bishop dedicated it but did not consecrate the church since it had been consecrated by St. Michael. (it is the Only * building of worship in the Roman Catholic Church that has not been consecrated by humans). In 1656 the last apparition of St. Michael the Archangel took place. When a terrible plague engulfed Italy, the local bishop prayed to St. Michael for protection. The plague ceased. The name Michael in Hebrew means "Who is like unto God."
Located: Monte Sant'Angelo is 180 miles east of Rome. Can be reached by car (A24); train (Foggia then bus); bus.
St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican
First built in 337 and then rebuilt in 1626, the basilica lies over the tomb of St. Peter. Contained within is a vast array of the most beautiful artwork ever assembled, reflecting the immensity, beauty, vastness, majesty, glory and awesomeness of God. This is the spiritual capital for one billion Roman Catholics around the world. Around 64-67 the apostle Peter was martyred on Vatican Hill, and crucified upside down (he felt unworthy to be crucified the same way that Jesus Christ had been). Several years later Pope Anacletus built an oratory over his tomb. In the year 337 Constantine built the original basilica. Walking into the enormous basilica, the pilgrim encounters thousands of magnificent pieces of art and sculptures decorating the walls, floors and halls of the vast church. Michelangelo's Pieta (a marble sculpture of Mary grieving over the body of Jesus after the crucifixion) is just within the entrance. In the central nave is a statue of the seated apostle Peter (one foot worn thin from pilgrims touching it). The most important relic is that of St. Peter, located under the papal altar, containing his bones. A large piece of the true cross is enclosed in one of the four huge pillars facing the high altar. The lance that pierced the side of Christ is located in one of the pillars nearest the statue of St. Longinus. Michelangelo's painting, 'The Last Judgment' is magnificent!. This is the largest religious temple in the world; it has been the site of 21 ecumenical councils, numerous canonization ceremonies and hundreds of major papal events. There have been 264 popes.
Shrine information: Vatican City Pilgrim and Tourist Information Office P. San Pietro 00120 Vatican City Tel (06) 698.84466 Fax (06) 698.85100
St. Rita of Cascia
St. Rita of Cascia is one of the Church's most dynamic saints. Known for her powerful intercession before the throne of God; she is referred to as "saint of the impossible". She was a married woman, a mother, a widow, a nun, a mystic, a stigmatist and later a saint with an incorruptible body. Born in 1381 and married at 16 in obedience to her parents, she suffered for almost 18 years in a violent and abusive marriage. Yet, she maintained her faith, patience and love and through years of constant prayers, her husband finally experienced a complete change of heart a few years prior to his murder. Rita's two sons vowed to avenge their father's death. Rita prayed to God that they would not carry out their plans and her prayers were answered. Before her sons died, they forgave their father's murderers and never pursued their revenge. After the death of her children, Rita applied to the Augustinian monastery in Cascia; she was refused admittance as a widow. Miraculously, her patron saints, John the Baptist, Augustine, and Nicholas of Tolentino appeared and brought her through the bolted gates. Upon seeing Rita inside the monastery, the nuns finally accepted her into the order. Gifted with the stigmata in her forehead during the last 15 years of her life, she participated physically in her sufferings of Christ. However, the wound gave off such an offensive odor that she spent much of her time in seclusion. In charity, she offered her sufferings to the world for negligent Christians and the sick. Rita of Cascia went on a pilgrimage to Rome, during the Jubilee Year of 1450. On May 22, 1457 she gave up her soul to God. A fragrance of flowers emanated from her body and filled the room for days and through the years her incorrupt body has continued to emanate a beautiful fragrance, change positions, rise to the top of the glass casket, and her eyes have been known to open. All this has been documented. May 24, 1900 she was declared a saint.
The Holy Shroud, believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, is a rectangular length of woven linen cloth. On the Shroud is the image of a man whose wounds correspond with whip marks, head wounds from the crown of thorns, nail wounds, and a wound in the side as in the Crucifixion. It is normally kept inside a sealed silver reliquary in the cathedral; back to early 1350's it was displayed in Lirey, France. However, it came into the possession of the House of Savoy at Chambery, France in 1453 and in 1578 was taken to Turin. In 1171 William Tyre noted that the burial shroud of Christ was preserved in the imperial palace in Constantinople; in 1203 Crusaders noted that the Shroud was displayed in Constantinople and the image of the Lord was clearly visible. The Shroud has barely escaped destruction by fire three times and most recently in 1997 when a fire did extensive damage to Turin's 15th century cathedral. The Shroud has been subjected to many scientific tests and many disputes. Turin is 320 miles northwest of Rome in the regional capital of Piedmont, offering some of Europe's most spectacular Alpine scenery. The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, the Chapel of the Holy Shroud and Royal Palace are in the heart of the city of Turin. Nearby is the Church of San Lorenzo, designed by Guarino Guarini, the priest who designed the chapel. He also created Turin's Palace of the Academy of Sciences, and Palazzo Carignano, the birthplace of two kings and meeting place of Italy's first parliament. North of Turin is the Matterhorn (Monte Cervine) which borders Italy and Switzerland and Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco), Europe's highest mountain peak.
Turin is 6-9 hour ride by rail from Rome and is the main rail line to Paris. Aeroport Caselle handles domestic & international flights. Turin has many hotels, inns and restaurants of varied classes.