Pilgrimage Part 5: San Giovanni Rotundo
The centre of Spirituality at San Giovanni Rotundo and the new Church (5th July).
This is a beautiful place to stay. It is called “Centro di Spiritualita Pade Pio”. There is a Crucifix in every bedroom above the beds.
A beautiful statue of Our Lady welcomes us in the foyer. A picture of St. Michael is over the breakfast table.
A statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus is in the dining room. The chapel is dedicated to Padre Pio.
We went exploring as soon as we arrived (after we checked in). There were lots of aids for prayer and meditation for sale at the Padre Pio Spiritual Centre and we all stocked up. There is a giant cross at the front of the new centre.
Two of us stayed longer and continued exploring. We had to go up a lift to the new modern church at San Giovanni. On the way we passed a picture of Our Lady that seemed to be painted like an icon. We have never seen it before, but we all thought it was highly inappropriate for Our Lady.
When we got there, we stayed for Mass, even though we had already been at Lanciano in the morning.
The new church was very modern and not to our liking. I think the inside was meant to look like the vault of the heavens but there were no holy pictures, or statues, or Stations of the Cross on the walls. There was, however, a big cross at the side (in front) of the altar. But it was in the wrong place. You tended to look at the priest behind the altar, who was saying the Mass. It should have been behind the altar so you could see it at all times.
Instead, behind the altar was a huge glass wall covered with weird drawings.
They were blinds which had been printed. I won’t comment. Picture is attached.
The good news was that a majority of people received Holy Communion on the tongue.
On the other side of the altar was a huge construction which I think was the baptismal font. And at the back, beside the altar, was a lifesize statue of Padre Pio.
The Mass was okay except, once again, there were no kneelers, and people stood right throughout – from after the “Holy, holy, holy” to Holy Communion. They did not kneel, or even genuflect at the Consecration, and (as in many places nowadays), they did not ring bells at the Consecration.
Also, at the Nicene Creed, they did not genuflect at the appropriate time.
By this time it was late, so we returned for dinner.
Monday 6th July:
After a tour of Monte Sant Angelo in the morning, we headed off again to the new Padre Pio complex. This time we searched for the new place of his tomb.
To get to it, we had to go through the new church. We followed a long, winding corridor with (modern) paintings of his life and of St Francis. It led to a big room with a small altar. Behind the altar, St. Pio is laid out on a stone behind glass.
The room was ornate and extravagant and covered in gold (walls and ceilings).
We were told that it was meant to symbolize heaven. We left there after praying to Padre Pio and presenting our petitions.
The Old Church, and Friary.
We headed off looking for this. We didn’t really see a sign (or maybe we didn’t understand) that at the end of the huge complex there was a Pilgrim Information Centre. It was just around the corner.
First, we entered the old church where Padre Pio had spent most of his life saying Masses and hearing confessions. We prayed and touched our handkerchiefs to the altar rails which he must have touched thousands of times.
Then we moved to the church next door where he had said Mass for the last 8 years of his life. It was much bigger than the original church. The images behind the altar, I understand, had been done by Vatican artists.
We headed down the stairs to where his tomb had originally been; in the crypt of this church. This led on to a walk through the many rooms of the Friary which were a monument to Padre Pio and his life.
There were his vestments, chalices, ciboriums, altar book, hundreds of pictures of him. There were some cane chairs where he sat and talked to a fellow priest in his younger years (and a photo of this) and much, much more. The highlight was the cell where he lived and slept and where he died, and the Crucifix from which he received the stigmata.
We were reluctant to leave. This was a holy place. Thus was the REAL Padre Pio. It’s a shame they moved his body. This is where the spirit of Padre Pio lives on.
Mass in the Hotel Chapel:
Yesterday, there also arrived at our hotel, about 40 priests and their bishop. We saw them at dinner.
Today we (some of us) were just going to sleep in and have a late breakfast as we are all exhausted. But the good Lord had other plans.
2 of our group (early risers) decided to go to breakfast at 7am. In the lift there was an itinerary for the visiting priests. It included Mass in the chapel at 7.30 am.
Well, these 2 good people came back to tell us. We had 5 mins to get ready but we only had missed a couple of minutes of Mass. There were 4 of us from our group and 3 other men at Mass.
The Mass was being said by the Bishop. (We recognized him by his red skull cap).
What a privilege that our Divine Lord wanted us to attend this Mass!
Needless to say, we prayed especially for this bishop and his priests – that they would have courage to proclaim the Truth in the difficult times to come.
All the priests joined in with full voice the various hymns they sang during Mass. They were in Italian of course, so we couldn’t join in.
At the end of Mass, after the final blessing, they all turned to the image of our Blesssed Mother and sang “Salve Regina” – a traditional old Latin hymn that most Catholics know.
We all joined in with full voice.
Thank you Jesus!!!
We are now ready for our last journey on a train back to Rome later today.
*This is the chapel at centre of Spirituality at San Giovanni Rotundo. – our hotel at Padre Pio. Yes, it is new and modern, but it is nice. All windows are stained glass of Padre Pio.