Mon Sep 1
Arrived in Rome about 7.15 pm, & it was good to go back to the familiar hotel I had stayed in at the top of the Spanish Steps. After unpacking I went & sat on the roof & enjoyed the view over Rome’s roof-tops as the sun set – St Peter’s was on the far right.
Tues Sep 2
I headed to the Anglican Center – the center which is the face of the Anglican Communion to the RC Church. The new Director is an Australian priest, Fr David Richardson. I have known him since before I was ordained. When he was appointed Dean of St Paul’s cathedral, Melbourne, he & his wife, Margie, lived in the same street as I did – George St, Fitzroy. It was good to see them, & to hear how they were settling into Rome (& speaking Italian!). I then visited a few churches on my list, returning to the Anglican Center for the weekly 12.45 pm Mass. There was a lunch afterwards, attended by a varied group of Anglicans. I then did some more walking around this marvellous city.
In the evening I took Fr David & Margie out for dinner, to the resturant I had discovered in my 1st week. We had lots to talk about. I realised that this was the 1st time I had not eaten alone in 5 weeks!
Wed Sep 3
Arrived at San Diego airport at 8.15 pm. It is good to be home
My last day in Taormina! Good attendance at Mass, incl 5 parishioners I had not seen before. In the a/noon I walked around the town & then sat on the terrace, enjoying the view. Lots to reflect on. This has been a good sabbatical, with the rare opportunity to do nothing. As I said in my sermon, who would believe that I have been happy doing nothing? It has been lovely to live in this Sicilian town – albeit full of tourists. l will probably not come back to Taormina until after retirement….perhaps I will be on the list of retired priests who come here for a month every year?
I also appreciate how blessed I am to be living in San Diego & Rector of All Saints’……what a wonderful parish I have! And as I have observed the tourists & locals, I also appreciate what a gr8 country I grew up in, & how amazing we Aussies are!
In the evening I walked around the town, noting that the crowds are less. Tomorrow all of Europe is back to work! I had supper in the wine bar I discovered in my 1st week. Delicious bruschetta & anti-pasto….& the supersize 1/2 caraf of red wine, of course!
My train leaves at 9.50 am tomorrow, arriving in Rome at 6.30 pm. Tuesday I will visit churches still on my outstanding list & will also visit the Anglican Centre. Then on Wed I fly back to San Diego. I am looking forward to returning home. And back into work
After Mass I was in the church from 10 am – 12 noon. Visitors included a young English couple who are getting married in St George’s next year & had come to pay me their deposit. This had been pre-arranged…..I just wish I had been told! I took their details & scribbled out a receipt on scrap paper – St George’s has no letterhead or envelopes. In the afternoon I wandered around the town, conscious that this is my last weekend. Spent some time on the terrace admiring the view. In my sermon tomorrow I quote Newman, who came to Taormina & said the view was the nearest thing to Eden he had seen!
Beheading of St John Baptist
Woke up at 3 am & watched Barak Obama’s acceptance speech. I was impressed. Went back to sleep….I will be tired today! After Mass I sat in the church until 12 noon. Wrote my sermon & chose some rousing hymns. I hope the congregation know them!
At 7 pm there was a ring on the door – it was the American Naval chaplain from the US base near Catania. He had a donation for St George’s from his congregation. It was nice to chat with him, & explain that altho I was an Aussie, I was from San Diego, & All Saints’ military connections.
St Augustine of Hippo
I had a leisurely breakfast overlooking the sea (I could get used to this!). I noted there was a church dedicated to St Augustine, so decided to head there, hoping there might be a Mass on. Indeed there was! On this hot summer morning the church was packed, the gold vestments were out, along with lovely flowers everywere & a candles ablazing. I assumed this was an Augustinian parish, & a number of the congregation wore scapulars, some with large silver medallions – lay associates I concluded. The congregation sang heartily & it was a lovely Mass. At the offertory the celebrant censed the shrine of St Augustine. Afterwards I explored the cloisters, which revealed that there was a community attached to the church.
I then visited St Dominic’s basilica – a huge church, altered over the centuries. The sanctuary is magnificent, & the High Altar had a beautiful old frontal. This church belongs to the Domincans, & has a lovely cloister. As I left I noticed a young Dominican go to the organ & start playing. I returned to the hotel, & caught the 2.30 pm train back to Messina, & then Taormina.
I got home about 8pm, & shortly after I had an call at the door. It was Birgith, one of the parishioners. I was delighted to have her visit….my 1st since I came to St George’s! Birgith is Norwegian &, like most of the women who attend St George’s, married a Sicilian & has lived here many years. It was good to chat with her – I have really missed socialising with the parishioners during the week.
I decided to return to Palermo, as there was one thing there I had to see before I left Sicily – Monreale. All the trains were late (of course) & I arrived in Palermo at 3.15 pm. Monreale is a mountain overlooking Palermo, on which is a magnificent 12th cent cathedral. I caught the 4.25 pm bus, & it was a lovely view of the city as we climbed up the hill. The cathedral is magnificent. A superb Norman structure – it was built by William II as a rival to the city cathedral. It contains both the episcopal & royal thrones. It’s crowning glory are the mosaics. The apse has Christ Panocrator reigning above the Virgin Mary & various saints, incl Thomas a’Becket.
All along the nave are mosaics of the Old Testament – incl a marvellous story of Noah’s Ark. I arrived just as a wedding was ending, & I got to hear the 7 manual organ belt out the well known “Trumper Tune”.
My investigation of the beautiful sanctuary revealed a 7th candlestick on the High Altar, for when the bishop celebrates – something rarely seen. The cathedral was built as part of a Benedictine Monastery, so I explored the cloisters. These had intricate columns, the capitals of which were carved with figures, all different. There was also a fountain. It was almost romantic!
After enjoying the view I returned to the city, & made my way to the hotel I had stayed in 2 weeks’ before. It was nice to relax in this beautiful hotel – & for my return they had nuts, cheese & wine waiting for me
Sat in the church from 9.30 am. One welcome visitor was Linda Swenson, from San Diego. She came with her brother & sister-in-law from Sacramento. They are on a cruise with her mother & it was gr8 to show them the church & view. The a/noon was quiet. On TV the Olympics has been replaced by the Democratic National Convention!
Today was my Mt Etna adventure. I caught the 8.45 am bus to Catania, where I had 90 mins to explore the town. Then at 12.07 pm I caught the Circumetnea train. This is a cute little 1 carriage narrow gauge train that goes for 110 KM around the base of Mt Etna.
Actually it is 3 trains. 1stly we went from Catania to Adrano, & had a 1 hour stop-over. I seemed to be the only tourist on the train – people got off & on along the route. I explored the town, which was interesting, but empty of people. It had an interesting castle & churches, none of which were open, being lunch time. I then caught the next train at 2.19 pm for another 1 hour train trip to Randazzo. Mt Etna was now looming large in the background & the scenery included previous lava flows, as well as groves of olives, grapes, citrus tress & the never-ending prickly pears.
Randazzo is a medieaval town with city walls, little lanes, villas, churches. Most incorporated lava rock in their buildings – all very interesting.
2 German tourists got off the train with me, & soon started up a conversation. This gave me a chance to practise my German. They were fascinated (like so many) that I am an Australian from San Diego living in Sicily, albeit for just 1 month. We explored the town together. At 4.50 pm I caught my train to Riposto, whilst they caught the train back to Catania. We passed little villages, wineries & ruins from lava flows, getting to Riposto a little after 6 pm. At 6.45 pm I caught the train from to Taormina, getting home at 7.45 pm.
On the last train journey it started to rain…..which was rather amazing, seeing that in my sermon about St Bartholomew’s day I mentioned the tradition that in some places it ushers in rain: “The heavens open on St Bartholomew’s heavenly birthday”! Have I received the gift of prophecy on my sabbatical?????????
Outside View of Saint George’s, Taormina
St Batholomew’s Day.
We celebrated St Bartholomew today, which gave me the chance to pick such wonderful hymns as For All the Saints & Ye Watchers & Ye Holy Ones. The organist turned up, so we had music. 12 present….& all the visitors were C of E, for a change! I do enjoy meeting them & finding out about their parishes.
In the a/noon I watched the Olympics closing ceremony. Beijing has done well – but I do hope London will be better! Tonight I have my weekly Italiano lesson, watching the AFL telecast
A quiet day. After Mass I went shopping, then sat in church writing my sermon. Watched the Olympics & movies on TV. Cooked dinner.
For my last day in Malta I had a leisurely breakfast on the balcony, enjoying the view. I then walked around the area, where there are some nice villas. I saw a rough track leading over rocks to the sea, so decided I should at least touch the Mediterranean. And I did! My flight left at 4.10 pm & I was back in Taormina by 7.10 pm.
Today I caught the bus to Mdina. The 45 min bus ride took me to the center of the island, to a wonderful walled city that was to be a pilgrimage for me. Here in AD 60, after St Paul was shipwrecked, he lived for 3 months (Acts 28). Mdina has historically been the important city of Malta, & many of the nobility lived here. Their homes still exist, & some are occupied by the same families today. It is a wonderful town, with little alleys & massive walls. My 1st stop was St Paul’s cathedral, & once again my All Saints’ Rector card got me in free!
This is the real cathedral of Malta – St John’s in Valletta is a co-cathedral. The current church is only 300 years old, but it stands on the site of the villa that belonged to Publius, the Roman governor who befriended St Paul. He subsequently became a christian & was ordained by St Paul to be the local bishop. The church is beautifuI, with a large icon of St Paul in the sanctuary. I prayed in the side chapel, giving thanks for St Paul’s, Port Adelaide & its important part in my life.
I continued exploring the city – there was a marvellous vista from the city walls to Valletta & beyond. I came across another Port Adelaide connection…..a Carmelite Church. The Carmelite Fathers have a long association with Malta, & this church was where they settled centuries ago. The Port Adelaide RC parish is a Carmelite parish also. I continued on my walk, leaving the city for its adjacent suburb of Rabat. Here is the cave where St Paul lived for 3 months, preaching & converting the poeple. The Maltese are very proud of their long christian history, & the guide proudly recounted the story for 3 of us, of how St Paul preached, converted, baptised, healed & celebrated the Eucharist. It was as if it happened recently! The final place I visited was the remains of a 1st cent BC Roman villa. There is not much – mainly a mosaic floor, but it was impressive. The best part was getting a discount for being over 60 – just like in England this time last year! I then caught the bus back to my hotel. It was now about 2 pm. I decided that as I was staying in a 5 star hotel with its own beach I should enjoy it – something I don’t usually do. A pleasant 2 hours saw me fall asleep!!! Now for my last night on this little vacation in Malta – perhaps dinner by the sea & drinks in a quiet bar
Arrived in Malta at 12 midnight. Got to my hotel at 12.30 pm. It is in the heart of the hotel/bar/club part of Valletta………..crowds of people were going from bar to bar as I arrived at the hotel! Very nice modern hotel, & I have a room with a balcony that overlooks the harbor.
Monday I caught the bus into Valletta. It took forever…..the worst bus ride I have ever had – almost as bad as the bus I caught in Romania in 1991!
Firstly I headed for St Paul’s Anglican cathedral. A very impressive church – but a very unfriendly verger/custodian. My enquiry for the church office got the rudest reply I have ever encountered at a church. Even after identifying myself as a priest I was not asked if I would like to see one of staff. Am I the only priest who thinks churches should be friendly & welcoming?
After that experience I walked around the city walls, finishing up in time to see the firing of the midday cannon near the city gate. I then went to the church of St Paul’s Shipwreck. This commemorates St Paul’s landing on Malta, recorded in the NT. It has a large statue of St Paul, which is carrried thru the streets of Valletta on the feast-day. There are also 2 relics – part of the pillar on which he was beheaded, & his wrist-bone. In the beauty of the church & surrounded by history I was transported back to the 1st cent & the beginnings of the christian faith. My next stop was St John’s Cathedral, built in 1577.
This was a marvellous experience, begining with free admission after I showed my All Saints’ Church Rector card! The cathedral is amazing. Originally built as the conventual church of the Order of the Knights of St John, it has the most beautiful interior I have ever seen. It breathes the history of the order & there are 7 side chapels dedicated to the different countries that the knights came from. The sanctuary was just magnificent – nothing but the best for this house of God. There is also a chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, reserved for prayer, & I was glad to spend some time there. The museum begins with an oratory, containing a haunting painting of the Beheading of St John Baptist by Caravaggio. I did not know he had been a member of the order.
After the cathedral I went to the Grand Master’s Palace – now the parliament & presidential building. I then decided to walk back to the hotel. This proved more difficult than expected, as pedestrians are not expected on Malta’s roads….there are in fact no footpaths! However I persevered, of course! As I got closer to St Julian’s footpaths appeared – accompanied by bars, hotels & restaurants! It had taken me 90 mins to walk back. Now for a relaxing night – perhaps at the hotel’s beach-side bar 🙂
Sat in church 10 am – 12 noon. Not so hot today. Relaxing a/noon. At 6.45 pm I catch the bus to Catania airport for the 10.30 pm flight to Malta. Originally I planned to catch the ferry, but that would have meant returning at 7 am Friday, which is not my idea of a relaxing holiday! I will spend 3 nights in Malta – a place I have longed to visit. Staying in the Intercontinental at St Julians….using points hard earned in the US!
Sat in church 10.30 am – 12.30 pm. Relaxing a/noon. Disappointed that Britain has passed Australia in the Olympic medals tally!!!!! At night watched one of my all time favourite movies, Remains of the Day. The wonderful acting and the emotions in the story still move me.
20 at Mass today. Mainly visitors, incl an Aussie! One was an organist, so we had music for the hymns. I had chosen some old faithfuls: All People that on Earth do Dwell, All Things Bright & Beautiful, Rock of Ages & Bright the Vision.
After 9 am Mass went shopping. It is gr8 to shop in the local market & bakery. So different to Vons….but then they don’t give you miles like Von’s! Sat in the church 10am – 12 noon. After lunch watched the Olympics, then walked down to the town cemetry. There is an Anglican part, with interesting graves of Brits, Americans & even Germans. Came home & on BBC TV there was a program about the Barossa Valley (fond memories) & also the Anglican Communion.
The feast of the Assumption – a major holiday, of course. It started the night before with fireworks on the hills at a nearby village. The Corso was mercifully deserted in the morning & at 9.30 am I opened the church & proceeded to prepare my sermon, hymns, etc. At 10 am I was interrupted by more fireworks at that same village! At 2 pm I caught the bus to the station, & then the train to Messina.
This is the place to be for the Assumption, with a huge parade in the evening. I got to Messina at 4.15 pm, & walked up to the hill overlooking the town, taking in the beautiful view. I then wandered around the town – all was quiet, as people set up stalls, etc.
At 6 pm I attended Mass in the cathedral. As I left crowds had started to gather, & I found a vantage point. At 7 pm there were fireworks a mile away, where the parade was starting, followed by canons from the harbor fort. But this was no typical American parade….there were no barriers & the crowds were not the least bit interested in patiently waiting on the sidewalk. They just wandered up the road, or stayed there chatting!
At 7.30 pm more fireworks went off somewhere close, & soon the parade appeared. The police pushed back the crowd & the parade came with banners & young men attired in medieaval dress, followed by a water truck. This was to cool down the road. At 8 pm more fireworks from around the corner, but the parade seemed to take forever, with gaps betwween groups. More banners & more groups……..then it came – the Vara. This is a huge pyramid structure on a cart, representing the Assumption of Mary. Quite over the top, it contains angels, sun, moon & other symbols. It was escorted by young men in white uniforms & blue sashes, all barefoot. Meanwhile the crowd shouted “Viva Maria”. Long live Mary….how very appropriate for the Assumption! It all seemed quite natural & joyful here in Sicily.
I caught the last train back to Taormina. But the night was not over! More fireworks followed when I got home – this time it was the various villages along the seafront below – one after the other. No doubt each trying to outdo the other! They were still going at 12 midnight.
After a very nice breakfast on the terrace I walked into town. 1st destination was the cathedral – & it is magnificent. Built in 1179, it has been added to over the years, so that you can see Norman, baroque & arabic architecture all in one. The interior is breathtaking, with wonderful byzantine mosaics in the apses and arches. Near the sanctuary is the shrine of St Rosalia (patron of Palermo) with silver altar, candles, etc. There are also traditional Sicilian shrines. I have never seen so many representations of the Assumption!
Then it was on to the Norman Palazzo, now the seat of the Sicilan assembly. This was built in the 11th cent & has wonderful rooms. The heart of it is the Palatine Chapel, with even more splendid mosaics than the cathedral. Unfortunately Metlife had decided to have their annual staff conference in Palermo & were visiting complete with guides – & successfully slowing down the lines. I expressed my opinion of this to one of their leaders & pointed out that I would not be buying anymore Metlife insurance. When he stated cooly that Metlife didn’t sell in Europe, I replied that I actually lived in San Diego!!
I continued on my merry way, pausing at one church where they had set up the most bizarre thing for tomorrow’s celebartion of the Assumption- It was a figure of Mary appearing to be asleep on a bed. I imagined that tomorrow at the end of Mass she would be magically raised up to the roof, amidst a chorus of Ave’s from the faithful! I found several more churches – sadly some seemed permanently closed. 2 were built as part of convents in the 12th cent, & were in basilica form. I also encountered a very busy market – everyone was buying up for the Feast tomorrow.
I was back to the hotel by 12.30 pm, with the train to catch at 2.30 pm
The train arrived at 2.30 pm & I went straight to the hotel. And very nice it is, too – an old villa, beautifully restored. Situated right on the sea-front, it has a terrace for meals & cocktails. But I did not come to eat & drink…I came to see Palermo. It was a 30 min walk into the town – past the jail where all the mafia finished up after the trials in recent times! The town was busy & noisy. I was most intrigued by the local cops, who wore red pointed caps, with a long tassle. These they wore on the back of their heads – I was wondering how they managed to keep them on……paper clips perhaps?
As I lesuirely walked around I passed the enormous post office built by the facists, complete with huge corinthian columns, & the recently restored opera house. My desitination was Piazza Marina, where there are some old buildings – incl the Palazzo Steri-Chiaramonte, (1307) & the La Gancia church (1485). There was a wedding going on, & I reflected on how nice it was to see an old church being used. I also wondered why they would hold a wedding in August, when everyone sweats in their suits & long frocks!
I continued my tour, encountering more old churches. By this time I was feeling both thirsty & hungry, so decided to head back to the hotel, checking trattoria, etc on the way. Most had menus in English – which meant they would not be cheap, so I declined their suggestion to make a reservation (7pm was far too early to eat!).
“Seek & you shall find”………eventually I came across a very local market, & figured that somewhere here there would be a little restaurant. Sure enough, I stumbled across an outdoor bar in front of a shop-front, which revealed tables & chairs in a room slightly smaller than my living room. My enquiry about food to a non-English speaking woman had me seated & ordering. I was able to convey “no fish or mushrooms, please”, & soon the now-traditional 1/2 carafe of red wine appeared. Grandma then came & suggested I have spaghetti. Grandson (15) then arrived from a nearby shop with bread. Then his pregnant sister appeared…..all fascinated that I was Australian. I figured it would be too hard to explain I lived in San Diego, USA! Grandma made a most delightful pasta sauce. Then they enquired as to what 2nd course I wanted. I pleaded for just a salad. In the end I was well fed & left feeling that this was a true Sicilian experience. Perhaps it is the highlight of my time, so far.
Quiet day today. Sat in the church writing postcards & reading from 10.15 am – 12.15 pm. 11 visitors, incl a couple at Mass last Sunday from an “Evangelical Church”. They said how much they enjoyed the service & the sermon…….commenting that they had been brought up CofE & appreciate the faith of the church, as expressed in the Creed (one theme of my sermon). It continues to be hot, so after lunch I stayed inside readIng. Dinner on the terrace will conclude my day.
Tomorrow I am up early to catch the bus & train to Messina, then the 10.30 am train to Palermo. It arrives there at 2 pm, so I have decided to stay overnight in order to see as much of the city as possible. Will get back late Thursday night.
Today I went to Syracuse. I didn’t actually plan to go there….I caught an early bus to catch a train to Palermo. When I got to the station the train to Syracuse was 50 mins late & about to arrive. As this is the only train in the morning from Taormina, I decided to change my plans & catch it. It was a 2.5 hour journey, & for 30 mins I had a gr8 view of both the sea & Mt Etna.
Syracuse was wonderful. The historical part is Ortigia – a little island connected to the town by bridges. It consists of little lanes, overhanging with villas & apartments, complete with typical balconies & lamps. Also some ruins of a Roman temple & lovely old churches, mostly closed.
The cathedral was just wonderful – a baroque church erected in 1728, with a beautiful altar & lovely chapels.
I then headed for the center of the town & the Greek & Roman theatres, as well as another Roman temple.
In the distance I spotted a huge modern church, so went looking. It was the sanctuary of the Madonna delle Lacrime. This is a plaque of Our Lady that wept real tears 60 years ago. It was verified as authentic & became the local shrine. The building is similar to Fatima & Guadalupe, both of which I visited in 2007.
I reflected on the fact that this time last year I was leading my pilgrimage to Walsingham!
The train back to Taormina didn’t leave until 5 pm, so I went back to Oritigia & just wandered around all the lanes, seeing if I could get lost! The journey back was nice – except Mt Etna was covered with cloud….at least I hope it was cloud – & not fresh lava!
More visitors than parishioners at Mass this morning – but we sang lustily! It is good to meet the visitors. I admire them for making an effort to find us & attend. After lunch (I made lasagna) I relaxed at home watching the Olympics & some movies. There are several English movie channnels. Walked along the Corso & was greeted rowdily by some young Aussies….they recognised my footy t-shirt! Tonight at 8.30 pm I will have my 2nd Italiano lesson – by watching the weekly AFL match
After 9 am Mass I sat in the church from 10 am – 12 noon, addressing postcards to parishioners. 22 visitors….some of whom actually prayed! Rest of the day will be Olympics on TV & dinner on the terrace.
Yesterday evening did not turn out as thought! After 7pm Mass in the cathedral (a civilized time) I decided to walk home along the Via Roma. This is a road which goes along the bottom of the town, with wonderful views of the sea – esp with the sun sinking behind the hills. As the road ascended back into the town I came across a wine bar I had noted before, & decided to have my supper there. I ordered Sicilian anti-pasto – mercifully free of fish – & a 1/2 carafe of red wine. When the waiter brought a large jug of wine I indicated that I wanted half of that. His reply seemed to suggest either that it was a half, or that I could drink as much as I liked & it would be a half…..how could I resist that challenge. I was charged just €6.50, & tipped him in the American way!
Needless to say, I went to bed early….only to be woken up at 2.15 am by the disco from last Saty. I could tell from the beat of the “music”.
This morning after 9 am Mass visited bakery for 1st time. From 10 am – 12 noon I was in the church, preparing my sermon, picking the hymns & checking the liturgy for Sunday. 12 visitors, incl a couple from Winchester who wanted to chat. In the afternoon I watched the whole of the Olympics opening ceremony – a wonderful way to spend a hot a/noon. What a magnificent spectacle it was!
At 8.30 pm I was off to the Greek Theatre for Tosca. We were admitted in groups & raced up the stairs, then down to whatever seats we wanted…..just as it must have been to watch Greek theatre or Roman gladiators. I purchased a cushion & got a gr8 seat on an aisle in the center. Most of the crowd seemed Italiano. It was a magnificent setting as the sun set, with a golden half-moon, the lights on the coast below & Mt Etna in the distance. It was scheduled to start at 9.30 pm, but was late, of course – just like the trains & Mass! The performance was good, esp for the location….the sets could have been borrowed from local villas & churches! Opera will never be the same again.
Up early & off to Messina. At the station I ascertained that the train was late, thanks to a helpful Italian woman who spoke no English! Arrived 9.30 am & walked to the cathedral. Magnificent!
Messina was flattened by earthquakes over the centuries, last in 1908, when city was rebuilt. Then the allies bombed it in 1943! Cathedral was rebuilt & has a magnicent ceiling & 5 manual pipe organ with 170 stops. After looking around the square I ascended the hilltop to the sanctuary of Montalto – a shrine church erected in 16th cent after a vision of the Virgin. There is a connection with the battle of Lepanto – in 1535 the fleet set sail from Messina. So I have now been to the site of the battle (in Greece in 1995) & also the launching place!
Walked back to the cathedral for the 12 noon bells from the camponile. Various figures appear, starting with a roaring lion & incl the Montalto legend. Then walked along the marina, with lovely views of Calabria. Sadly, that is all there is to see – so I caught the train home. Mass in the cathedral & then dinner on the patio will complete my day.
Feast of the Transfiguration
I went to the weekly local market this morning, then to a travel agent to book a flight to Malta. I am having 3 days there in my 3rd week. Then back home & opened the church for 2 hours. Looked thru the English Hymnal for hymns at Mass. Lots of my favourites – but sometimes they need an organ to be sung, rather than the priest leading! Siesta after lunch – I really am a local now! Tonight I will go to the cathedral for Mass, followed by nice dinner of my pasta
Today was “visit the ruins” day! After Mass I went to the Greek/Roman ampitheatre. This is Taormina’s important ancient site & is used in the summer for the Taormina arts festival. I have booked tickets for Tosca on Friday night. It should be a gr8 experience.
I went from there down to some Byzantine tombs, then another road with lovely views up to the museum, which had very little in it & all in Italiano. Next it was the Palazza of the Spanish dukes – a lovely building now used as an art gallery. After that, another walk along the Corso & back home for lunch, on the patio of course.
That seems to be all the sites/ruins to see – from now on I will start exploring the various lanes & enjoy just living here. I am already greeting the neighbours. A sign went on the church notice boards to say that I am the chaplain in August & would be glad to meet with anyone. I now wait for any phone calls
Yes………….the AFL commentary was in Italiano last night!!!! It was like going to Mass here – I knew exactly what was happening, but did not understand what they were saying….except for “grande goal”!!
Forgot to mention that in my exploring yesterday a/noon I went to the delightful public garden left to the town by a Scots lady who had an affair with Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. Lovely gardens & beautiful view over the sea.
Today was usual Monday chores – 1st a load of washing. It was St John Vianney’s feastday today, the patron saint of parish priests. Went to 9 am Mass. As the priest was extolling the virtues of St John Vianey (well I presume that’s what he was saying! ) I reflected on what a joy & privelege it is to be a PP, & it is what I only ever wanted to do. I thought of my wonderful people back at All SS, & re-consecrated my priesthood.
As I walked back I realised that the guidebooks & pics had not prepared me for how beautiful this town is. No wonder Brits & Americans have moved here over the decades. Afterwards went shopping at the local fruit & veg market, then the not-so-super market. Then to the tourist office to enquire bus & train timetables. Did some reading on the patio, then started a big cook-up: chicken casserole & pasta sauce. After lunch I went for a walk down to the railway station- a steep narrow path, which suddenly died 3/4 way down! That did not deter me, of course. Then along the coast road for 3 miles – all very beautiful. I caught the cablecar back up, which stops just near the church.
When I got back I decided I didn’t want to have a hot dinner, so put all the stuff I cooked into containers, & into the freezer. At 4.15 pm I set off for the Castello – the ruins on top of the high mountain overlooking Taormina. I was delightfully surprised to find that the path was marked with modern Stations of the Cross. The advantage of this was that by the time I got to Station 12 I knew the end was in sight! At the top was the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rock, with a small monastery attached. I then proceeded up a very steep path to the Castello – only to find that the entrance gates were well & truly locked! Coming back the Curso was filled with a million tourists, all with orange dots on their clothes!
Back home for Evening Prayer & a beer on the patio, followed by a salad for supper. The local tomatoes were gr8. Might venture out tonight & see how lively the town is.
Was woken up at 5.15 am by a nearby disco still going strong! Salvatore was in the church at 9.30 am to set up for Mass. I was in there at 10.15 am, checking where everthing was, how I would celebrate, etc. It certainly won’t be High Mass at All Saints’! 3 UK visitors arrive about 10.50 am. I ascertained their churches & prayer requests, & added then to my intercessions. By 11 am we had a congregation of 10! I began by introducing myself & then led the 1st hymn (no organ) – “Once only once”. The others were: ”Alleluia, sing to Jesus”, “O Thou who at thy Eucharist” & “Lord enthroned” – all good anglican hymns with catholic theology! I began my sermon by mentioning my 3 days in Rome – the only city I have ever got lost in! Then onto the gospel – the feeding of the 5,000 as a symbol of the Eucharist. Hence the hymns!
After Mass there was wine/juice & chips in the garden. Very nice. In a discussion about liturgy they said they would not mind if I shifted the altar back to the wall. Afterwards I did just that – my 1st liturgical change! I cooked myself lunch, & ate on the patio, enjoying the spectacular view. Then to the internet cafe & this blog. Alas – Port Adelaide defeated in the last 1/4ter!! This a/noon I shall do some exploring, then dinner. I see on Sky Sports 2 at 9 pm there is “Australian Football League” for 2 hours. Hopefully it’s not in Italiano!!!!
Was up at 8 am – am I over jetlag, I wonder? Did some washing & looked around the flat. The view is just wonderful! Went for a walk up the Corso. Taormina is just fantastic………an Italian town like you see in the travel brochures. All very old, with amazing architecture. Not many churches open, but chanced upon the end of 9 am Mass in one that was open. Shops were starting to open – lots of them to snare tourists’ cash. Returned home. At 10 am I opened the church – they have a “church open” sign. I sat in the church reading all the instructions regarding the church, flat & ministry. An important book contains the notes from the previous priest – alas, almost unintelligible! One instruction is that the chaplain is asked to put flowers in the sanctuary….so I went hunting in the church garden & made 2 nice little arrangements. Will anyone notice? The church has a lovely garden, where refreshments are served after Mass tomorrow. I also explored the church. One plaque is in memory of “Walter SG Kennedy & his wife Ellen Roger, of Guyllan Lodge, Santa Barbara, USA – liberal benefactors of the poor & suffering”. I would like to know more of them & Guyllan Lodge, Santa Barbara, CA. I stayed in the church until 12 noon & 13 people came in – incl 2 Aussies, who fled as soon as they saw a priest. My countrymen are such heathens!
After lunch I went hunting for a supermarket & internet cafe. Obviously I found one! The streets were now full of tourists – tho most seemed to be Italians. I counted 4 Americans & many more Brits. Don’t tell me about the US $! As in Rome, all the stores have sales – so everyone is shopping. After checking the football results & emails I then made my 1st entry on this blog since leaving. Then back home, making sure I remembered how to return to the internet cafe. At 3.30 pm I opened the church again, & sat there preparing my sermon. Finished up at 5 pm with Evening Prayer. Then it was another walk up the Corso – a funeral from the Cathedral blocked the way, but eventually I got to the supermarket & post office. 2 letters for me already. Walked back as tourists began looking for restaurants, shopping or gelato. I cooked myself dinner & enjoyed it on the patio. Watched TV (they have Sky) & in bed by 11 pm.
Up early to pack, then a last walk around the city as workers go back and forth. More interesting churches! Train left at 11.30 am – a 9 hour trip to Taormina. The ferry crossing to Sicily was interesting, but we arrived 45 mins later than scheduled. The verger, Salvatore, was waiting at the station with his wife. They hardly spoke English, & I was beginning to wish I had gone on a crash Italiano course! A steep drive up the mountain, & we were there. The chaplain’s flat is a nice little studio apartment attached to the church. Everything I need – esp a patio with a wonderful view of the ocean….the place for eating & drinking! The church is lovely – looks quite old, but only built in 1922. After unpacking & making the bed I looked around the flat & read a few notes left for me. A parishioner called Norma left food in the fridge, incl milk, which was very kind. I then enjoyed the view before hitting the sack.
Up early & off to St Mary Major, which is my favourite church in Rome. I made my confession & then attended Mass in the shrine where there are relics of the Bethlehem crib (so they say). I remembered I had done this also in 1991! Then chanced upon many churches with relics & shrines dating back as far as 2nd cent. It is an amazing experience to be standing where a christian house was used for worship during the 2nd cent! Continued on to St John Lateran. Returned to the hotel, then attended a grand Mass in the Gesu’ to celebrate St Ignatius Loyola Day. The Gesu’ is amazing & to see it packed, with about 50 priests concelebrating was almost like an SSC gathering in London (I take poetic licence!). What impressed me was the huge number of young nuns in the congregation. I then walked to a restaurant I had spotted on Wed & had another nice dinner. Finished up having drinks on the roof of the hotel & enjoiying the view of Rome by night.
Up at 9.30 am & off to various churches, incl the Pantheon & Gesu’. Finished up in Travestere. After Mass & dinner off for another walk.
Arrived in Rome on time at 9 am – only 4 hours sleep! Caught train & Metro to hotel. Unpacked, had a bath – & headed straight to the Vatican. Crowds of people, but I managed to walk around St Peter’s prayerfully, stopping for prayer at all the shrines, altars, etc. Returned to hotel, stopping at every church that was open! Hotel room very nice, with a roof-top garden that has a gr8 view of the city. Rome is heaven for an Anglocatholics – a church every 2nd street & twice as many outdoor restaurants! So much is connected with the early history of the church, its martyrs & saints. After Mass & dinner I walked in the cool evening to the Trevi fountain, then kept walking as far as the Colliseum. Very magical at night.
Up at 4 am to catch my flight at 6.30 am. I flew to Chicago, then Washington DC, then onto Rome, arriving there on Tuesday at 9 am.
Good attendances at Mass today, considering it’s summer. I can think of 10 who are away from 8 am & many more from 10 am. Communicants were exactly 50 & 80 respectively. It was sticky in the sanctuary at High Mass, & I was grateful for our new fiddle-back chasuble. After 8 am I did some alterations to the sermon.
Everyone wished me well & a refreshing time away. Hard to believe I will be away for 5 Sundays. This is the longest break I have had from the parish – & the longest trip since my last sabbatical in 2001, which was 8 weeks.
After Mass I had drinks with parishioners nearby. Then home to pack!
Up at 4 am again today – without the alarm! I finished my reflections on my 18 years at St Mark’s – 12 pages. It is a very good story. I am fairly candid, so am sending it to 3 people for their honest comments.
Today the Societies of Mary met. This is our combined Society of Mary & Society of Our Lady of Walsingham (for short) groups. We meet monthly for 11 am Rosary, 11.30 am Mass & potluck lunch – so no 9 am Mass. 18 present today. My homily was about the family of Jesus. A homily is a sermon without notes – usually thoughts from the readings.
After the SoM lunch I worked on my reflections of my 3 years at St Catherine’s, Elizabeth Downs. Once I started I couldn’t stop, & it was completed in an hour. It is now part of my website, under My Parishes.
At 4 pm we had a young adults dinner at Clare Gates’ home. This included children, so was fun & noisy! I took 2 bottles of Aussie red!
Up at 4 am! A busy day today. 16 at Mass. The bible study went until 11 am. First they wanted to know the how, what & where about Sicily. Then we tackled Sunday’s readings. The Epistle (Romans 8:26-34) prompted me to say that this had been responsible for 2 errors amongst some christians: justification for speaking in tongues & for predestination. I explained how having a boss who was Plymouth Brethren made me a convinced Anglocatholic when I was 20!
An hour in the office organising the next 5 weeks, including memos to my Parish Administrator & Business Administrator & some outstanding things. After Midday Office I went home. Wrote my sermon – which turned out different to what I had been contemplating. It could almost be called “Oxford Movement part 2?. I will entitle it: “God’s Jewels”. At 2 pm I was off to June & Norm with the Sacrament. June was in good form, & wished me a wonderful time in Sicily. It will be 6 weeks before I see them again.
Back to the office, then home. At 5 pm I had our HOA board meeting. I foolishly agreed to be president this year – which means keeping peace between my neighbours (usually without success!). The secretary resigned, so the meeting didn’t last long! Another early night beckons – & another busy day tomorrow.
I seem to have all my work up to date for my leave! This morning I worked on a history of St Mark’s, Fitzroy. 10 years ago I taped a reflection on my time there as Vicar, with the hope of having a history of the parish written. It was typed up by my sermon-typer, Jessie, & I put it in my files for the future. I plan to have a page on this website for St Mark’s, Fitzroy – so there is a need to complete it (before I forget!).
In the afternoon I had several Communion visits, which I do monthly. Dorothy is in a retirement center & gathers a group of 5 ladies for the Service. It is always a joy. Then it was Renee & Steve – a wonderful couple. I also took the opportunity to visit Marcie & Earl, parishioners who are moving to Arizona.
6 pm Mass. It is the birthday of Clare (Jr Warden) & she usually serves. Clare has the distinction of being the youngest person on our pilgrimage last year!
I realise our sick list at Sunday Mass is rather long – as long as the Bible, I told my parish administrator! So it will be edited before I leave. We have 3 lists – Sundays, Daily Mass (parishioners only) & a weekly intercession list, to which people submit intentions on prayer cards.
After Mass I met with Admiral Richardson. David is retired US Navy & he & Jeanne are marvellous & faithful parishioners. They were stationed in Italy 30 years ago. He wanted to tell me about his visit to the Pope in 1974, & being taken to view the cemetry beneath the Vatican. Fascinating story – he urged me to do it next week, when I am there.
In the afternoon I did a whole lot of outstanding letters that needed to be done before I leave. Then phoned my friends Val & Jim Fraser in Melbourne. They saw a surgeon yesterday & Jim has surgery next Tuesday. Prayers please.
In my reading today I came across this statement to a newly ordained priest: “Well Father, today is the first day of your crucifixion”! That is the 2nd time this week I have read those words………is it a timely reminder to me? I have certainly experienced it over the years – but having a sabbatical in Taormina is hardly a sacrifice!!
At 5.30 pm I met with Anne, who was baptised last Sunday. Then home for an early night.
10 at Mass today. I am thinking of St Mary Magdalene’s church. Adelaide. In the 60’s & 70’s it was a gr8 parish, & I attended there on major feast days, etc. 1st (& probably only) Aussie church to use the modern Roman Rite. I made my 1st confession there in 1968.
This morning after editing Sunday’s sermon I finished my contributions for the August magazine. Afer Mass met with a parishioner who wanted to talk about Centering Prayer. Then it was off to visit June with the Sacrament.
Today was also a day for more jobs connected with my sabbatical. Firstly, a haircut. I must also start emptying the fridge of perishables. And tonight I must go to bed early so that I wake up early – to get used to European time. It’s a practice I started when I was doing those long flights from Australia to Britain.
In exactly a week I will be flying to Rome. A few things to organise! Simple things to start with, like organising bills that will arrive in August & advising the credit cards (very necessary from past experience!). Today I finished an excellent book of sermons by Fr James Murray, a Sydney priest. Some moved me, others made me think – he has a wonderful style.
Woke up this morning to find out that Port Adelaide had defeated arch-rival Adelaide by 2 goals……yeah!
Good attendances this morning. At High Mass I laughed when the the cantor changed the psalm from “congregations of naughty men” to “…mighty men”!
The baptism at 10 am was lovely. Afterwards lots of happy, laughing people at coffee hour….as a church should be! A lot of comment about my sermon at both Masses. It was a serious one, & in the silence afterwards I could feel them thinking & reflecting.
9 am Mass (of Our Lady) – 9 present. At 10.30 am I met with Anne & her parents to prepare for her baptism tomorrow. We are all eagerly anticipating it. Australia being a day ahead, today was the Papal Mass in Sydney for World Youth Day. I had not been able to find anything on TV from WYD during the week – but after lunch an email from a priest in Florida told me what channel I could get it on (EWTN). So I turned the TV on & caught a replay of the Vigil last night. It was marvellous, with a huge monstrance on the altar! Then at 4pm the telecast of the Mass started.
To be watching it there in Australia was a wonderful experience, & I was proud to be an Aussie. The Mass was inspiring: to see over 500,000 people & all those youth at Mass was overwhelming; excellent music, with orchestra & choir; A wonderful gospel procession with Polynesian dancers & choir; 24 people confirmed; The Holy Father presiding over it all with such humility & love – it was quite emotional for me at times. The nearest I have ever come to experiencing this was the “Christ our Future” Mass in London in 2000, when I concelebrated with 500 other priests & a congregation of 8,000, & the SSC 150th anniversary Mass in 2005 in the Royal Albert Hall, with similar numbers. But when it comes to large numbers, particularly of youth, the Catholic Church leaves Anglicans for dead! It is, of course, the attractiveness & truth of the Catholic Faith, which some of us Anglicans hold, & which has always been my driving force.
Mass is at 9.30 am today. It’s the best attended during the week – 15 today. Afterwards we have coffee & bible study, attended by as many as 8. We look at the readings for Sunday & I find that as we read & discuss I get a new idea or angle for my sermon. We also laugh a lot – today it was the verse in the psalm: “the congregations of naughty men”! Oh to preach on that text!! After saying midday office I walked home & then proceeded to do my sermon. The gospel continues Jesus’ parables about seeds & fields, & I want to tie this in with the adult baptism. I got a gr8 idea on Wednesday from major garden renovations in a nearby house, & it fitted in well. After doing the sermon I made a pastoral visit. At 5.30 pm I am going to bless Joe & Tamela’s house, then have supper. I married Joe & Tamela last year, baptised their daughter, Bryn & prepared Tamela for baptism & confirmation.
Thursday is my “late morning”. I go to the gym about 9 am, & then to the church about 10.30 am. This morning Michael (our excellent office volunteer) was in to put my parish letter into the envelopes & stamped, ready for me to post. Meanwhile I was working on various things for August – bulletins, memos to staff & an August magazine. Initially I wasn’t planning an August magazine, but Sep sees everything commencing again, so we need to get one out whilst I am away. I particularly want people to know about Confirmation classes.
Sheila was also in to do her weekly altar guild tasks. We have a team of 26 men & women who set up for Mass, clean up afterwards, etc. Norma is the Director, & we often joke that she is at church so much that we should set up a bed! Sheila is a gr8 welcomer of visitors at the church door. She came on the pilgrimage to Walsingham last year & treated us all to High Tea at Harrods – a wonderful experience!
At 1 pm I visited Daphne with the Sacrament – another faithful worshipper unable to attend church. Daphne is a real character. Originally from Barbados, like most Carribean women she wears marvellous hats to church! At 6 pm I celebrated Mass – a good way to conclude the day. Then home, with 3 parishioners coming for dinner at 7.30 pm (again!)
I noticed on a blog a question: Did Our Lady visit Mt Carmel? Just imagine if she did now!
Mass on Wed is at 9.30 am & is celebrated by my loyal assistant, Fr Krulak. It is good to be in the congregation, praying the Mass & usually doing the 1st reading. At St Catherine’s & St Mark’s I said Mass every day, incl my day off. It was the basis of my priestly life & truly wonderful. Here at All Saints’ I get to pray & worship at Mass on Wednesdays in a different way. As usual, there is faithful group who are usually present – 13 today.
The main task this morning was to write a letter to the parishioners about my absence in August. They need to know about the arrangements with Services & how to contact a priest. I also included a timely reminder about pledges, which are down this year.
At 5.15 pm I met with Anne, who is being baptised on Sunday at High Mass. Anne is a lovely young woman who phoned me about 2 months ago, inquiring about baptism. Altho she had been to an Episcopal school (Bishop’s) she had never been baptised. We have met regularly & it is wonderful to see her grow in the faith. Adult baptisms are special & another privilege I love. She will also receive her 1st Communion on Sunday, so we had to go through the mechnanics of that, including genuflecting & making the sign of the cross. What a joy to teach someone these basic christian actions!
Then it was home to get ready for dinner. I have invited our music director, Robert MacLeod, along with our lead soprano & her husband. I really appreciate Bob’s work, & we get on very well – but I have never had him here for dinner.
Because Monday is my day-off, there is always a lot of work waiting for me in the office on Tuesdays. I usually walk to church (about 15 mins) & get there some time before 9 am. First thing I do is go into church & say prayers (”Help me to be a good priest & a good christian”!)
Then there is the mail, messages & emails to catch up on. Next job is the sermon. I only preach from notes, & the sermon is taped at 10 am Mass. On Mondays my parish administrator types it out & emails it to me at the office. I then edit it for reading, give it back & email it to George, who looks after our website. The tape gets to George later in the week, & both are on the website by the weekend, if George is not too busy. It is then printed off & put it in the church for people to take, and also sent with the Sunday bulletin to our “shut-ins”.
There are other things to do after that – this morning I met with an architect who may be working with us on improvements to the parish hall. He suggested a master-plan of our property, which I fully agree with. My experience with the restoration & other building works at St Mark’s, Fitzroy taught me a lot about this!
Tuesday Mass is at 12 noon. This is a good Mass to offer after the morning’s administration & practical tasks, as well as bringing to the altar all the concerns from Sunday. After that I ensured there was nothing else needing my attention & walked home. At 2 pm I took Holy Communion to June & Norm Tuttle, who are very faithful parishioners. June has been through some serious surgery & I try to visit her every Tuesday & Friday.
It is a real joy & privilege to take the Blessed Sacrament to parishioners. When I was in seminary I spent a week with Fr Michael King. One day we took the Sacrament to someone & I asked how often he did that. He replied weekly. When I responded that my Rector only did it monthly, he replied: “We expect the healthy to be at Mass every week – how much more do the sick need it”! I am grateful to the priests I met in my youth who gave me such examples.
The day finished with a meeting of the finance c/tee
Today is the 175th anniversary of the Oxford movement – & my day off! Always try to do some reading. Today I was fascinated to read that when Newman went to Sicily to recuperate from stress he not only went to Taormina, but when he left he composed “Lead Kindly Light” on the boat.
Good attendances for summer. Church seemed full for High Mass – but of course, we don’t have the choir (usually 18 in the choir stalls). I preached about the 175th anniversary of the Oxford Movement, which is tomorrow. It was much appreciated, esp in view of the Lambeth Conf this week.