A Personal Invitation from Dr. Robert Moynihan
During the past 10 years, we have put a lot of planning and thought into making our Inside the Vatican pilgrimages different from other pilgrimages. We have made it our goal to have these pilgrimages be more intimate, more meaningful, than most similar journeys.
Our pilgrims have told us we have succeeded — that our pilgrimages are truly “unique, once-in-a-lifetime” experiences. We hope this is true, and we keep trying to improve on what we have done, adding in new elements to make sure that it is true. So, I would like to invite you to join us on our upcoming Easter 2017 pilgrimage to Assisi, Lanciano, Chieti, Manoppello and Vatican City to see for yourself what it means to experience Italy and the Vatican in the way only our pilgrims can experience these very special places at a special time, during Holy Week.
Our aim is to have your journey with us be a peaceful, enjoyable, unforgettable experience, one that enriches your life and deepens your faith. Although we will visit many very famous places of cultural and artistic significance, our journey is primarily a pilgrimage, not a tour. The spiritual dimension – the search for a deeper understanding of God and a better appreciation of the history and life of the Church – is central. This is why the pace of our pilgrimage will be slow and peaceful, not hurried. There will be time to reflect and to pray.
Our Easter 2017 pilgrimage will begin a few days before Easter in Assisi — the city of St. Francis (1181-1226) — in the Umbrian hills near the very center of Italy. Assisi is one of the loveliest, most peaceful cities in the world. The very light and air of the city seems filled with the presence of the spirits of St. Francis and St. Clare. We will spend three nights in this special city. The Franciscan friars who live in Assisi will hear confessions. We will attend Mass next to the tomb of St. Francis.
In past years, after visiting Assisi, we would travel on Holy Thursday to Norcia, a rocky hill town in the center of Italy, to visit with our friends, the Benedictine monks of Norcia; however, a terrible earthquake on October 30, 2016 devastated Norcia, destroying all six churches in the town, including the Basilica of St. Benedict, built over the birthplace of Saints Benedict and Scholastica, where the monks chanted their daily prayers. Fortunately, no one was killed in that earthquake, though if the monks had been in the basilica when the earthquake occurred, they would have all been killed under the stones of the collapsing roof. So, in a sense, there is much to be thankful for in the way that earthquake occurred, costing no lives. The city of Norcia is now closed to visitors.
So, we have made an itinerary change this year. Fortunately, there are other extraordinary towns and places commemorating marvelous spiritual events in this region of central Italy. The region is rich with the stories of many saints and many miracles.
Therefore, we have decided to travel to Lanciano, the site of the famous Eucharistic miracle more than a thousand years ago, not far from the Adriatic coast, and also the birthplace of St. Longinus, the Roman soldier who thrust his spear into Christ’s side on the first Good Friday, letting blood and water flow out of his side. The town of Lanciano has one of the most famous Holy Thursday processions in all of Italy, and we will be present for that solemn Via Crucis (“Way of the Cross”). This will be a very poignant occasion, taking place after dark.
The next day we will go to the quite splendid but less well-known city of Chieti, where there will be a Good Friday procession which dates back more than a millennium. Scholars date the first procession to the year 842 A.D., just after the time of the Emperor Charlemagne, almost 1,200 years ago. Some argue that it is the oldest continuous public Good Friday procession in Italy.
The next morning, during the “silence” of Holy Saturday, we will visit the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello and then drive on to Rome for the joyous celebration of the Easter Vigil at the Vatican.
The Easter Vigil Mass will be celebrated by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Basilica. We will also attend Easter Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Easter Sunday morning. These liturgies, celebrating the triumph of Jesus Christ over sin and death, are among the most splendid and joyous in the Church’s calendar.
Monday, the day after Easter, is la Pasquetta (“little Easter”) in Italy. It is an Italian national holiday in order to continue the joyous Easter celebration. We will use the occasion — since Rome’s streets will be blessedly without much traffic during the day — to visit several important churches: Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, where Alphonse Ratisbonne had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1842 and converted from Judaism to Christianity on the spot; and the three other patriarchal basilicas in addition to St. Peter’s St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major.
During our final two days in Rome I plan to introduce you to a number of friends who live and work there. We will share many special stories about important Vatican events that have occurred in the last few years.
Please consider joining me on this journey to the heart of our faith.
Founder and Editor of Inside the Vatican magazine