“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in Him.”
(Ps. 118: 24)
Through this chronicle we wish to make you participants in the pilgrimage that we as a Community, the Mothers and Sisters of the General House, were able to make to celebrate Easter.
Basilica of the Addolorata, Castelpetroso
We started our pilgrimage in the Basilica of the Addolorata of Castelpetroso, which is cared for by the Servidoras. The gothic style basilica has a central nave with 7 chapels which commemorate the 7 sorrows of the Blessed Virgin. It was constructed in honor of the apparitions of the Virgin of Sorrows to two shepherdesses in 1888. She appeared to them kneeling, eyes raised to heaven, and hands extended in offering to God the Father her very Son, lying dead at her side.
In September of that same year, the Bishop of Bojano went to this place to inquire more about the apparitions, and had the grace to see the Virgin of Sorrows just as she had appeared to the shepherdesses. Located in the same property, we also visited the miraculous water source that appeared where the apparitions took place and to which is attributed numerous healings.
In the evening, we enjoyed a joyful eutrapelia with the sisters of the community of Castelpetroso, and the following day, after the Holy Mass celebrated by Franciscan Fathers, we departed for San Giovanni Rotondo to venerate the relics of St. Padre Pio. We also took this advantage to visit our sisters who do apostolate in Conversano, and who received us with great charity for two days.
Shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo
“Quant'è dolce il nome della croce…” (“How sweet is the name of the cross…”)
Padre Pio said this to his spiritual children, who were from all over the world and to whom he wrote hundreds of letters, many of which are exhibited in the museum of the convent. In the convent, where this great saint lived and died, we visited the choir where one finds the crucifix before which Padre Pio was praying and received the stigmata on his hands, feet, and side. Many relics of the saint are conserved, as well as a great number of testimonies from his spiritual children, who after knowing Padre Pio, completely changed their lives, following the way of the Cross.
The life of the saint was filled with several extraordinary works: prodigies made by him and miracles verified in him. God had granted him various spiritual gifts such as the gift of prophecy, healing, reading hearts, and the gift of bilocation (there is a mosaic that shows Padre Pio administering communion to Cardinal Mindszenty, who was imprisoned in Poland, in 1956). Furthermore, there are miracles known to have been performed on him such as his being miraculously cured in 1959, a gift attributed to the Virgin of Fatima, when her image flew over the Church of San Giovanni Rotondo.
While you are visiting the convent, you can see the room in which St. Pio stayed while he was at San Giovanni Rotondo, which is where he died on September 23, 1968, three days after the disappearance of the stigmatas he carried for fifty years, and which had caused him so much suffering on the part of many, including various members of the Church. His incorrupt body is in the Church built in honor of St. Pio of Pietrecina, and the remains of his parents are buried in the cemetary of the city. From the Shrine one can see the magnificent hospital built during the lifetime of Padre Pio, which he himself called “Sollievo della Sofferenza” (“Relief of the Suffering”) .
Abbey of St. Maria of Pulsano, Mount St. Angelo
We also had the grace to visit the Abbey of St. Maria of Pulsano, which was built in the year 591, abandoned, but then taken up again by St. John of Matera and his monks from Pulsano. When in the 14th century this Pulsanese order died out, the Benedictines took charge of this monastery. In 1966, the icon of the Mother of God of Pulsano was robbed and its whereabouts remain unknown to this day. Around the abbey are about 20 hermitages, most of which are in places difficult to access, thus the hermits had to use ropes in order to get to them.
Currently living in the abbey are monks which maintain both the Byzantine and Latin rites.
Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel, Mount St. Angelo
Eight kilometers from the abbey one finds the Shrine dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. It was built in the year 493 above the grotto where three apparitions of the Archangel took place. The story tells that St. Michael appeared in the dreams of the Bishop of Siponto saying, “I am the Archangel Michael, and I am always in the presence of God. The cave is holy to me, I chose it and I myself guard it. There where the rock opens, the sins of men can be forgiven…what is asked in prayer will be fulfilled. Therefore, dedicate the Grotto to Christian worship”. Since the bishop did not immediately fulfill what the Archangel had asked, pagan worship on the mountain continued. It was only after the third apparition that a Church was constructed and consecrated for Christian worship.
In 1656 there were other apparitions in which St. Michael promised to cure all those infected with the plague if they marked on the stones of the blessed cave the sign of the Cross, and the letters “M.A.” (Michael the Archangel), fulfilling his promises.
Basilica of St. Nicholas, Bari
We also visited the Basilica of St. Nicholas of Bari. This basilica was built between 1087-1100 to guard the relics of the saint, which were transferred from Myra (today Turkey), from the threatening arrival of the Saracens.
The body of St. Nicholas is found under the central alter in the crypt. It is venerated not only by Catholics but also by faithful Orthodox Christians who come to Italy.
Grottos of Castellana
Near Conversano are the Grottos of Castellana, which are caves in which stalactites and stalagmites formed over the course of millions of years. They are 70 meters deep and the 3km journey takes about 3 hours. The first cave is the biggest and called “The Grave”; the second is called the “Black Grotto”; the names come from the shapes the stalactites and stalagmites made. For example, there is a corridor “of the serpent,” a corridor “of the desert,” and one called the “Grand Canyon” because is it rich in iron and gives off a special color, etc…until you reach the last cave which is called the “White Grotto.”
We also visited a village famous for a type of construction known as "trulli"; it is a type of house that began to be built in the first years of the 16th century. They are white houses, circular in shape, but distinguished in that they are built dry, that is, without any type of material that serves to join the stones. We were able to visit several original trulli, including the Church of St. Anthony.
Abbey of Montecasino, Casino
To end our trip, we went up to Montecasino, the Benedictine abbey, which houses the relics of St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica. St. Benedict, with a group of monks, arrived to Montecasino after fleeing Mt. Subiaco, where their very religious brothers did not want them. Upon arriving this mountain, where they had received a donation of land, they encountered a tower dedicated to Apollo and widespread paganism. In this way, St. Benedict began the work of Christianization.
The abbey was reconstructed several times but always followed the original plans. Near the abbey is the cemetery where the soldiers from the Battle of Casino (World War II), are found.
In this way our happy pilgrimage ended, and we rejoice for the many blessings God granted us.
We give thanks to the sisters of the communities of Castelpetroso and Conversano who welcomed us into their homes.
In Christ Risen and Mary Most Holy,
Sr. Maria Avrora Spasienja, SSVM and the sisters of the General House