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Pelligrina Oct 12th, 2012 11:30 AM

The Road Less Travelled
Paper and pen were faithfully brought all the way from Oz, but alas, I have succombed to the digital world. I admit that unless I use the keyboard (even if it is only on my smartphone), this trip has little hope of being recorded.

All the places that I've visited so far have been packed with tourists, so why the title? It is because 'The Road Less Travelled' refers more to the journey within. I am a cloistered Benedictine nun on sick leave for a short time from the monastic enclosure. During my leave, my Dad was diagnosed with a very aggressive and advanced form of cancer. Although sad, it was actually providential that our illnesses coincided, because I was able to support him through his treatment. Normally I would have been in the enclosure.

It had been an 18 year journey on this little trodden path. I have been sent as the founding member of 3 monasteries and have lived in Australia, New Zealand, UK, the Andes in Ecuador and the desert of Peru. The greatest and toughest journey was the one leaving the monastery for the first time in 15 years. Three years ago I saw the internet for the first time and sent my first email. It took me three months to work out how to turn on the TV, so many buttons and no dials. It took ages to figure out the multiplicity of new verbs such ad 'Google it'. People thought I was odd because I look fairly young but was behaving like some of their grandparents.

It will soon be time to return to our beautiful peaceful way of life. So before the time comes I desired to make a few pilgrimages. The first intention was for my Dad and his health. The next for the renewal of my vows. The third was given to me by my superior general (the big boss after the Lord and the Pope).

When I told Mother General about this trip, she said, 'Why not get a group together and make a pilgrimage in honour of Mother Foundress.' Mother Foundress is the wonderful person who founded our Congregation, her name is Marie Adele Garnier.

I said to M.General,' Mother, I can't even get one person to travel with me, how will I get a group!' With typical matter of factness ' Well, just pray'. And do you know, the very next day 3 people said they would go. But, not this year, next year. So my third task is a kind of reconnaissance, to organize the big group tour for next year.

At the moment I'm in a hotel in Cassino, Italy, beneath Monte Cassino, the heartland of Benedictine monasticism. But I'm still jetlagged and I have to catch a train early in the morning, so my account of my first few days in Italy will have to wait until I get to Sorrento. Until then, goodnight and God Bless.

taconictraveler Oct 12th, 2012 11:40 AM

Well, dear Pellegrina, yours certainly is the road less traveled. I will eagerly read all your postings, which should be a respite from, and a reminder of, our (much too) our material world, as you travel it, on your inward and outward journey. God bless you and speed you on your way.

Sidny Oct 12th, 2012 11:49 AM

I'm definitely looking forward to your trip report, which I expect will be a from a slightly different perspective than many of the trip reports on this board, but from your writing style I have no doubt it will be just as interesting--if not more so. Safe travels.

TDudette Oct 12th, 2012 12:09 PM

Welcome, Pelligrina. Sorry about your father and I hope this finds you well/cured and ready for the next portion of your journey.

Is Italy the first part? Looking forward to reading more. It will be particularly interesting because of your unique frame of reference.

Dave_Ohio Oct 12th, 2012 12:26 PM

Dear Pelligina, we wish you safe and rewarding travels, and look forward to your sharing them with us.

Dave_Ohio Oct 12th, 2012 12:29 PM

(Please excuse my misspelling your name, Pelligrina.)

ChgoGal Oct 12th, 2012 01:03 PM

Thank you so much for posting. I will look forward to reading of your travels and I wish you all the best.

SandyBrit Oct 12th, 2012 03:09 PM


Looking forward to more.


Cindywho Oct 13th, 2012 04:44 AM

I will most definitely be following!

annhig Oct 13th, 2012 06:03 AM

yes, Pelligrina, welcome.

Clearly lucky is not the right word to describe the co-incidence that had you and your father suffer illness at the same time, but it must have been a comfort for him to have you there.

looking forward to learning more about your trip.

Pelligrina Oct 13th, 2012 12:46 PM

Thankyou Fodorites for your encouragement.
To continue...

ROME 2 nights
How's this for a contridiction, I'm an enclosed nun who loves to travel. Has anyone thought of why we love travelling? Several people have said to me I'm at the age when you become restless. That's fine, I can accept that explanation. But if I were to give a spiritual reason, I would say that none of us were actually made for this world, our true homeland is somewhere else, we Catholics call it Heaven. In my travels, in particular a pilgrimage, I think I'm searching for those things which remind me of my homeland and those things which will help me to get there. So on this journey, the apparently little coincidences actually take on a much bigger significance.

It just so happened that my Superior General, who normally resides in London, had to go to Rome unexpectedly. She would be leaving the day after I arrived from Australia. This seems like a small coincidence but it meant so much to me to receive her blessing on the first morning of my journey. As I was travelling alone for the 1st time in Europe, it gave me that extra boost of confidence.

So armed with this blessing I sallied forth to find the metro station. Our convent in Rome is on a little side street off the Via Aurelia only 5 minutes to the metro, a real bonus for guests. At the spot where the VIA Aurelia forks into two, there's the cutest, quaintest Medieval Church called Madonna di Riposo. It is tiny but with beautiful frescoes. Apparently Pope St Pius V prayed there before the Battle of Lepanto. Pls don't ask me for dates. I find these little obscure Churches somehow much more attractive than the larger more ornate basilicas.

Having said that, my first stop on the metro was St Peter's, the Vatican. Again, it is quite symbolic for me to have started the journey by praying in this place. I have been to Rome 4 times before. The last time was about 10 years ago and I was in my full length black habit. As I am on leave this time I am in plain clothes but am wearing our Congregational medal around my neck.

This was the first time I've had to line up to get in to the Basilicas to pray. I've always walked straight in and except for Papal audiences have never seen queues to get in before. This may have been timing but I marvelled at the number of people there were this time round.

It was particularly moving to pray before the tomb of Pope John Paul II. The last time I was there when he was elderly and frail, I had the wonderful opportunity of receiving his blessing at an audience. Everyone else had been pulled away by the attendants but I forgot to give my present to Pope JP and I somehow managed to sneak back. I was alone and knelt before him, he was sitting. He put his hand on my head and drew the sign of the cross on my forehead several times and patted my cheek. It lasted about 3 minutes. It is a moment I won't ever forget. The thing I temembered most was how extaordinarily blue, incredibly blue Pope JP eyes were, deep, experienced, like an ocean. These were the memories which came flooding back as I prayed by his tomb.

My next mission that day was to get my Euro rail pass validated. If I wete to arrange things again I would book online with TrenItalia instead. I'm so glad I went to validate the ticket the day before my train journey, the queue is a nightmare, it took nearly an hour.

That done, I headed off for my first restaurant meal in Rome. They called it Veal tail. It was delicious. Then I went to St Mary Majors. Underneath the main altar is said to be a piece of Our Lord's crib. This Church is said to be the oldest Church dedicated to Our Lady, but some say that Santa Maria in Tratevere is the oldest. After that I think I committed the sin of gluttony.

In need of some energy, I stopped for some gelato. Did you know that if you don't say you want the little cone, they don't ask you what you would like, they just give you the big cone with the three enormous scoops of gelato. But I did sleep well the rest of the day.

janisj Oct 13th, 2012 01:24 PM

What a lovely report Pelligrina. I am not Catholic but have many Catholic friends including a couple of nuns who teach at a local school. I had never even imagined/considered members of cloistered orders traveling abroad. I am really interested in your 'journey' in all meanings of the word.

bilboburgler Oct 13th, 2012 01:38 PM

Crikey, what a story. One of my friends at University became a monk before he qualified and runs his mission's website, for you this is new. Still, I guess the trick for your preparation is to find monestries and churches to visit in the various cities you are visiting while fitting in the odd icecream etc.

Clearly you know most of these sort of things from within the church better than we ever could, but I'd like to suggest you might want to partake in one of the Caminos. These are the traditional pilgrimage paths normally going to Rome, Santiago or Jerusalem. They reach far back into the Northern hinterland so that you can, for instance, walk from Canterbury in the UK to Santiago in the North East of Spain. There are still the odd few brass seashells bolted into the streets and ex-camino lodging along the way.

You don't have to "do" the whole thing as the journey is in your soul as much as your legs but this might be of interest to your party.

Pelligrina Oct 13th, 2012 01:46 PM


Where??? You need to take a train to Foggia then catch the bus. Quite honestly, I think the only people who would make a journey here are those who have a devotion to St Pio, affectionately known ad Padre Pio. He may seem to some as rather bizarre, but he is actually one of the most human saints we have in the Church. His writings plainly reveal a warm, loving, somewhat humourous man He comes across like an old Italian grandpa.

Yet, he is an extraordinary saint. He only died in 1968. That's not very long ago. I mention this because Padre Pio received the extraordinary phenomenona called the stigmata, this is the word used for when a person receives mysteriously the wounds of Christ on their body. Padre Pio was the first priest to receive the stigmata. I mention when he died because he lived during an age when scientific research was relatively well developed. The research into his wounds were carried out by medical doctors.

My father is a medical doctor and a convert. I remember when I was a little girl that my Dad was quite impressed with Padre Pio and he is not one to be swayed without valid evidence. Dad and Mum had visited Padre Pio's tomb which is at the Friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, so it was my turn.

When I got off the bus I was very distracted because there were no taxis around and I had no idea where the hotel was. I had my big bag with me. While I was walking around looking for a taxi or map, this big man with sunglasses on circuled round me like shark and then he bumped into me. If I hadn't been distracted I would have realized what happened. He took my $2.50 bus ticket and 10 euros from my top pocket. It was silly of me to use my top pocket. He didn't take anything else. I have a pacsafe handbag, it has a zip that is locked down so can't easily be opened and it has a wire mesh all round it and wire through the strap so it can't be slashed. It

It is beautiful up at the Friary but I can't say it is a tourist attraction. There were throngs of people there, some say its the most visited pilgrim site in the Church,it rivals Guadalupe in Mexico. Quite slimply it was an opportunity to withdraw from the World and to think upon the things that ate really important in life.

It was an opportunity to pray before the tomb of Padre Pio and to ask him to pray for Dad. Catholics believe that the faithful who leave this Earth are still alive in the next world. And as St Paul asks us to pray for one another, we ask the saints who are still alive and still apart of the Body of Christ to pray for us.

On one of the days I was there, I took a bus to Monte St Angelic where the cave of St Michael the Archangel is situated. This could very well be a tourist attraction but it is out of the way.

In the cave is a church. It's quite an unusual experience to be in a cave during Mass. The whole town is built on a hilltop and there is a large ruin that used to be a castle. The streets are medieval, reminded me of Assissi. There are rows and rows of pastry shops selling the yummiest biscuits. You have panoramic views if the valley on one side and the ocean on the other. White stonewashed houses ate dotted over the cliff face.

Goodnight and God Bless. More to come soon.

annhig Oct 13th, 2012 01:55 PM

still with you on your journey, Pelligrina.

you are certainly finding some places that have not featured often on this board, if at all - the road less travelled indeed.

BTW, is there a special punishment reserved for those who steal from nuns?

carolyn Oct 13th, 2012 05:11 PM

I am really enjoying your report. Keep going, please.

TDudette Oct 14th, 2012 08:21 AM

What annhig said! More, please.

denisea Oct 14th, 2012 10:46 AM

Welcome Pelligrina and I am enjoying your report. Thank you for sharing it. What perspective you have....I am sure it is incredible to have met John Paul Ii.

Sorry you were stolen from and thankful you did not lose too much. I hope all will be well with your father.

I look forward to more. Safe travels!

Mikenmass Oct 14th, 2012 11:09 AM

Enjoying your report sister.

Pelligrina Oct 14th, 2012 12:21 PM

Thankyou All! Yes Annhig, its quite amazing the number of people who want to steal from and want to con nuns. As my novice mistress often said, its better to be conned than the one who cons. We always take it with a sense of humour.

About 20 years ago the son of an old lady who prayed in the chapel ay the motherhouse broke into the convent and was in one of the cells when a sister walked in. He told her he was a workman but she ran out to get help. The thief followed her bec the convent was so big he was lost and couldn't find his way out. The sister ran to the community yelling out that there was a theif behind her.

One of the novices was a trained psychiatric nurse and knew how to stop aggressive patients. She knocked the thief to the ground and five nuns promptly sat on top of him. When the police came they keeled over laughing and said they wished they had a camera. The theif did some time behind bars and his mother said he deserved everything he got.

Sorry, I should continue...

ROME AGAIN (2 nights)

It was lovely coming back to our monastery in Rome. The sisters were keen to hear about Padre Pio's shrine. The next day my main purpose was to get to Trastevere. We have two founders in our Congregation. One is St Benedict, it is his Rule that we follow. The other is Marie Adele Garnier who began our little monastic family just over100 years ago.

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