Kim Padan: Pro-Life Speaker

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Breaking Blog Rules

I did something over the last few days that may be "against the rules" in the blogosphere.  But since I am new at this, and I really don't "know" the rules yet, I am doing it anyway!

I wrote several posts and back-dated them.  Yikes.  That way it looks like I have been writing all along.  To be fair, a few of these posts were started weeks ago, but not finished.  (I still have more to do!)

Why did I do such a crazy, time-consuming thing?  It's because of my "Year in Review" letter.  You know, the kind of letter that gets mailed out with Christmas cards.  I didn't finish Christmas cards this year, so I decided to just send a letter by itself.  In that letter is a tidbit about this blog, primarily because of vacation.  I wanted people to be able to come here and check things out.  It was fun to look back, any way.  Plus, Bruce & I talked with our pastor, Father Nelson about doing a presentation at church sometime in 2014.  We will probably do something during Lent.  We have lots of pictures and memories, but I want to be able to present more information, such as the significance of certain churches.

Oh, and I'll talk about that Hug from the Pope.  'Cuz I still can't believe it.  It still amazes me.  What a blessing, right?

I will post the content of my 2013 letter here tomorrow.  Stop by again!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Feast of the Holy Family!!

Merry 5th Day of Christmas!!

Today while at morning Mass, I saw several young families.  They caught my eye, because today is the Feast of the Holy Family (at least in the Catholic Church).  I love this feast day, because we are encouraged to renew our commitment to our own live with gentleness and patience...and especially with forgiveness.

As a kid, the 2nd reading on this day always made me giggle.  "Children, obey your fathers...Fathers, do not provoke your children..."  I think we all just looked around at each other, trying not to laugh out loud while in church.

But in reality, these words from Scripture are so important and true.  Our American culture is suffering from a serious lack of strong fathers. I see it all the time at Women's Care Clinic.  Women whose boyfriends leave when they find out a baby is coming, or young men who are convinced that the best way to support their girlfriend is to sit by passively as she chooses to abort their baby...HIS baby.

What happened in their lives that made these men so apathetic?  Do they know their own dads?  Do they have any sense of love or acceptance from the man who should have been around more?

It can be easy to get discouraged.  But then I see young couples with young kids at church, and  think "Thank you, Lord Jesus!"  I was singing in the choir, mostly with my eyes closed today because I was trying to pray more and be less distracted during Communion.  For some reason, I opened my eyes, just as a young father was receiving the Eucharist, while holding his toddler asleep in his arms.  Just behind him was his young wife, carrying their younger child...also asleep.  As if that wasn't precious enough, I saw yet another couple with their four little ones coming to the table of the Lord.

YES!  This is God's design for family!  Being together...husbands and wives supporting each other...raising their children to know and love God.  This is what we celebrate this day!

I hope you and your family have a blessed day.  Whether you live alone, with your spouse, or with a bunch of kids...take this day to truly treasure the family God has given you!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Good morning.  I started writing these thoughts on Facebook.  It was too long for that page, I think, so I decided to come here instead.  Turns out, I needed lots of room...

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, marking the brutal slaughter of babies, ordered by an enraged and jealous King Herod.  He couldn't handle the prophecy about a Child becoming King.  Actually, Satan could not handle he had Herod to do his dirty work.  This Child Jesus was posing a real threat to Herod's kingdom because Herod assumed Jesus would be a military-ruler-type of King.  Satan understood the threat was more spiritual...and in his pride, he thought he could kick Jesus off the Throne.  Pride, this kind of intense, ugly, self-serving pride, only leads to destruction.

While Herod ordered the slaughter of boys, undoubtedly little girls died too.  Think about it...babies and toddlers are often wrapped in blankets.  I doubt the soldiers were very particular in checking the gender of these children before they committed the crime.  They may have killed older children too...trying to get the ugly deed done as quickly as possible..."Just following orders."  Many cringe, thinking of killing so many innocent well we should.  But I have often reflected on the similarities in our modern culture.  Sure, we dress things up a bit under the terms of "reproductive rights" and "mercy killing"... but abortion and infanticide are evidence that the Enemy still can't handle seeing these babies.  Satan has worked for decades, convincing our nation that there are "too many" babies, and that sick babies would be better off dead.  I don't know anyone who favors legalized abortion who would see him/herself as doing Satan's work.  In fact, many believe they are doing God's work...if you can believe that.  That is because Satan is conniving and deceitful.  He is not going to put himself out there blatantly.  Just think about the arguments made for keeping abortion legal, they often sound so "compassionate."

  • "These babies would be growing up in poor homes, with little chance for a future."  We should never assume all women seeking abortion are poor.  Nor should we assume all poor people have miserable lives with no future.  Those are elitist notions.  But even if these things were true, the problem is POVERTY, not the baby.  Address the poverty.  People of good will can disagree on how best to do that...welfare, job training, material assistance, pregnancy resource centers.  But we must fight poverty, not babies.

  • "A baby born with a disability will suffer so much."  As a person born with a disability, it irks me to no end when people suggest babies should be aborted if an anomaly is detected. And as the mother of a son who was stillborn due to severe anomalies, I was livid at the suggestion that I get rid of him.  It reeks of Hitler's method of exterminating the "unfit."  Yes, I compared aborting disabled babies to Hitler's reign of terror.  If you think I am way off base, well, I just don't know what to say.
  • "These teenagers are unable to be good parents now.  They should finish school and wait to have babies."  Again, we should never assume those seeking abortion are all teens (poor teens, of course, according to some).  Many women are in college, or they have established careers, or they are happily married with 3 kids in school, and thought they were "done."  But even in the case of teens...who says these girls cannot finish school?  Or go to college?  How about promoting ADOPTION as a loving, safe alternative?  How about supporting the programs at pregnancy resource centers to assist them in completing school?
  • "The woman was assaulted.  It's not her fault that she is pregnant.  She should not have to be reminded of her attacker every day."  This is one of the most difficult and sensitive issues. In fact, in the political realm, this one gets a lot of "pro-lifers" all tangled up in a web.  Let me first say this:  I have met women who have been victims of rape and incest, and who have gotten pregnant because of those violent attacks.  My heart goes out to them.  But as one who believes that life begins at conception, I cannot accept abortion as a solution to this trauma.  Why?  Because it doesn't get rid of the trauma, it only gets rid of the baby.  Do you really think that aborting a baby will let the woman forget she was raped?  And in the case of incest, do you not see that the abuse will likely continue because the evidence (aka BABY) was destroyed?  It is true that it is not the woman's fault...but it also isn't the baby's fault.  In these cases, it is the man's does abortion hold him to account for his crime?
  • "No one should tell a woman what to do with her body.  She needs the freedom to choose what is best for her life."  This is the most common argument that I hear in debates or read in social media.  "My body, my choice!"  Sounds so logical, doesn't it?  Especially if you don't like big government "intrusion."  But it falls short in a big way:  It is NOT just "your body."  There obviously is another body in there, or we would not be having this conversation.  Trying to define the unborn baby as not being fully human is just as wrong as it was to define African slaves as not fully human.  The attempts to de-humanize a group of people in order to justify some "right" of another group of people is always wrong.  Always.  I'll probably write more about this later, because my head is swimming with thoughts, and this post is longer than I anticipated it would be!
These are just a few of the arguments for keeping abortion legal (or even making it a global "human right.")  And my responses can be summed up with my personal mantra...The Baby is Never the Problem.  After all, each baby, each child is created in the image of God Himself.  He made every child intentionally, with a purpose!  We need to build a culture that helps all babies grow up to fulfill their purpose!   I pray for the day when the Innocents are no longer slaughtered by some order from a king (or judge or president.)  I pray for the day when our culture strips away pride and jealousy and fear and selfishness...recognizing that babies are not burdens at all, but BLESSINGS from the Lord.

Gabriel's Mom

Friday, December 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes...Actually on Time!

Hello!  It has been a while.  Too long, in fact.  I am considering writing several posts between now and the 31st so I can catch up.  End of the year reflections do that sort of thing.

I am participating in the fun blog activity of posting 7 things, generally unrelated, as seen on one of my favorite blogs, Conversion Diary


I have learned that blogging is harder than it looks.  Well, I knew that.  But really, I need to be more disciplined with this!


I am very grateful that my husband and I were not hosting Christmas for the family...either side.  We barely have things decorated, and the house is a mess.  But I am having a party for ministry volunteers on Sunday.  Oh boy.


My husband is a very good cook.  My waistline is evidence.  His latest culinary accomplishment is a rosemary/olive bread, baked from scratch.  We served it (at my brother's house) with the delicious olive oil we bought in Italy.  So sorry you cannot experience it...but trust me.  Delicioso!!


I did not complete my handcrafted Christmas cards this year.  Once I fall behind, it is hard to get my mojo back.  The good news is that once I freed myself of that "burden" I felt free to create again.  I made a couple of baby cards and 5 birthday cards this week!  I even updated my stamping blog:  Stamping for LIFE!


Every year, since I was a kid, my mom (and dad while he was still living) has given me a book for Christmas.  She also gives books to my siblings and their spouses and kids.  It is a great tradition.  Since I began studying Dominican spirituality, I asked for something about or by St. Catherine of Siena.  I got 2 books!  One biography, and St Catherine's "The Dialogue."  Looks like 2014 will begin with great reading!


Many people are thinking about New Year's resolutions.  Me too.  More reading, more writing, less Facebook, less television.  More exercise too.  Maybe.  I should...sigh


Then there is the need for more prayer.  Always.  I have quite a year coming up for raising, hopefully more speaking.  The only way to stay on track and stay healthy is to spend time in serious prayer.  I think I'll check with St. Catherine for some ideas!

Feel free to let me know about any great new foods you had, or resolutions for 2014.  I could also use some tips on being motivated for that exercise stuff!


Monday, November 11, 2013

A Tale of Two Great Moms

Have I ever told you about my mom?  Or my mother-in-law?  I don't think so...which is why I decided to brag just a bit today.  I am so crazy blessed by these two amazing women!  Sometimes, I wonder why God chose to give me not one, but two awesome women to call Mom.

Today is my mom's birthday.  She lives in SC, so I do not see her nearly as often as I would like.  But through the years, mom has always been encouraging to my faith, my work, even my crafty hobbies!  My artistic side comes from her (the musical side is from my dad.)  She is also a great cook...something I only partly inherited.  There are so many reasons I love her... Happy Birthday, Mom!!!

Now, if you look to fairy tales and movies, you might assume that all mothers-in-law are mean, over-bearing, or hyper critical.  Not so with my MIL, Dorothy.  She's fantastic!  She is so down to earth...I think I have seen her upset just a hand-full of times in the 20 years I have been married, and even then it doesn't last long.  I am grateful that she raised Bruce in the Faith, and that she continues to encourage us through the years.  Yesterday, we (the Padan clan) celebrated Dorothy's birthday, which is on Nov. 8th.  Usually, Bruce & I host the party, but since we just returned from Italy, my brother-in-law Chris and his partner Christina hosted (in their new house!)  It is always great to get together, celebrating our beloved Matriarch (Yes, we call her that, sometimes!)  I truly married into a joyful family!

I decided to share pics of the cards I made for these precious ladies, just for fun.  They can only express a little bit of my love for them.

Today, celebrate your Mom!  Whether she is your biological mom, step-mom, adoptive, mother-in-law, or such-a-good-friend-you-call-her-mom...whether she is still living or has gone on to her heavenly reward...  Motherhood is such an important part of God's plan, and we should all treasure these wonderful women!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Stamping Projects Went That-a-Way

Yes...for those of you who began following this blog when it was about stamps and ink and designer paper and blog challenges...I have started a new blog for those things.  I am gradually updating the layout of this blog to more ministry posts and personal reflections.

You can find my cards (there are a few posts now) here at the new address for Stamping for LIFE!


Friday, November 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Giving this a try...

Buono Sera!

Yes, I am home now, but that doesn't mean I no longer get to greet you in Italian, right?  I hope the urge to do so does not go away too quickly.

A blog I recently began following, Conversion Diary by Jennifer Fulwiler, has a fun feature she calls 7 Quick Takes.  I decided to join in on the fun...though I barely know what I am doing!  But, I have nothing to lose, right?


Arriving home just before midnight, after roughly 25 hours of travel with very little sleep, did not impact me as much as I expected.  Bruce and I got up at a decent hour (he earlier than I did, of course) and he made a delicious breakfast.  I spent the rest of the morning checking Facebook, a few blogs, and pictures of Pope Francis from the General Audience we attended.  I also talked with my mom about the trip...especially about The Hug.  I am still in a daze!


THEN the long travel hit me...afternoon and evening I was out cold.  I think of people who travel all the time for speaking and such...Father Frank Pavone, Teresa Tomeo, David do they do it?  I better get my endurance built up!


So yes...the truth is, I am NOT writing this on Friday.  But in my defense, I would have, had I not been wiped out from the best vacation of my life.  I will work harder to be on time in upcoming weeks.  Truly, I will.  


After weeks of different food, can I tell you how amazing buttermilk pancakes taste?  Bruce makes fabulous pancakes.  Another reason to love him.


And after weeks of travel, sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow was amazing.  And my own shower, with my own grab bars and shower seat measured for me.  Seriously helped me appreciate the blessings I have.  I had to adjust a lot on the trip, and would not have been able to do much without Bruce.  Have I told you I love him?


On the long trans-Atlantic flight from Frankfurt to Philly, a young mom had an infant who cried almost non-stop. Mom looked very young, reminding me of our clients at Women's Care Clinic.  Like any mom, she was trying desperately to calm her baby down.  I was powerless to do anything tangible, but I prayed for them.  Had to be an important reason to take a baby on a 9 hour flight.  I think it would be good if we all prayed for young parents with fussy kids.  Doesn't mean the parents are bad, or the kids are unhealthy.  Might just be an uncomfortable a huge plane with weird sounds and movements.  Yep...pray for young families.


I hope to continue writing...though it may not be as exciting as a trip to Italy, and a Hug from the Pope...but I hope you stick around.  (We have been looking at the Vatican website, and will be ordering some pictures.  Don't know if I can get a digital one to post here...but if I can, I will!) This could be fun!!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Arrivederci, Italia! We're on our way home!

Buon giorno!

What an amazing vacation we have had!  I hope you have had fun reading my thoughts.   It has been fun to share this with you.

Today, we catch a flight home.   But throughout the days here, I have jotted down some random thoughts.

  • I think a couple of our cabbies in Rome were stunt drivers for "The Italian Job." 
  • Just because you are in Italy, doesn't mean the lasagne is better than mom's. 
  • One of the best things about being Catholic is knowing the mass, and being able to participate no matter where you are. 
  • It must be universal. Small children chasing large flocks of pigeons in a city park is a delightful sight 
  • Which came first? People in wheelchairs not going out in the community because bus lifts don't work or bus lifts not getting fixed because no one was using them and demanding that they be fixed? 
  • But at least the Italians realize much of their country is unreachable or difficult for wheelchairs. Many sites were free of charge to me and a companion (Bruce!) 
  • The sound of bells ringing from a nearby church is beautiful. Even though people now have watches and cell phones with the time on them, I think we should revive bell towers. 
  • A long slow dinner looking out on a piazza, watching street vendors and musicians,  is something I would like to do every week. 
  • I will be happy to wear some of my favorite sweaters and other clothes I had left home, but it is good to know that I can live on a very limited wardrobe if the need arises. 
  • Museums are wonderful, but walking through so many churches is even better. 
  • While I love the look of cobblestone, my hips and back will always prefer concrete or asphalt. 
  • Window shopping at Gucci and Prada is a lot of fun in Italy, which is good, because real shopping would mean I'd have to sell my return home ticket.
  • Lots of people smoke in Italy. Kinda sad. 
  • Three weeks in Italy, lots of time in big cities, and I witnessed very little yelling, no fights, no police sirens. Busy, fast moving traffic and yet we witnessed no accidents. Wow. 
  • Sadly, the saggy pants trend is in Italy too. But it is combined with the skinny jean trend. That's just wrong on so many counts.
  • If you are blessed to travel to Italy, save money for eating out at a nice place at least once. Crazy expensive, but so worth it. 
  • I heard that churches in Italy were empty on Sundays, but they weren't. That made me happy. 
  • No matter how tired you are from walking, be careful before sitting on a beautiful brick wall along a river in a city full of pigeons. Even more so, be careful where you place your hands. 
  • Rick Steves recommended one full day in Florence if you have a three week trip to Italy. Not enough time. We had two days (plus one in Siena) and I wanted more. How did Rick mess this one up? 
  • It's official, I now like cappuccino. 
  • Some art, perhaps most, cannot be truly appreciated until seen in person. 
  • The weather was unseasonably warm and everything is still green. I am pretty sure that I would still like it here if it wasn't. 
  • So many of us in the United States dream of traveling overseas, but it is really nice to meet people who dream of traveling to the United States. We are a blessed nation! 
  • An extended trip with the love of your life should be on everyone's to do list. 
  • Great views, delicious food, beautiful churches... yet nothing tops a hug from the Pope. 
Catch you soon, or at least when the jet lag wears off!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Night at the Opera

Buon Giorno!
First thing, I am confessing that this post is being composed well after the actual day of these events.  Just gradually catching up.

While planing our vacation, Bruce was the one who suggested we end our trip in Milan.  He even suggested that we go to La Scala!  Now to understand the significance of this, you have to know that my husband doesn't listen to all.  He attends some local symphony concerts with me, but definitely prefers the performances with lighter music.  I only listen to opera occasionally, but when I do, I really enjoy it.  I am in awe of the talent opera singers have...the power of there voices, the control over long phrases or hushed tones.  It is beautiful!

Once we decided which days we would be in Milan, I looked up the schedule at La Scala, and saw that Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida" would be on stage.  This is an amazing production!  I could not order tickets until August, and then it was tough because I needed wheelchair accessible seating.  Turns out that I sat behind the last row of seats, and Bruce had to sit on a tiny seat that folded down from the back wall.  Not comfortable at all.  Plus, his feet were on an air grate that made noise if he moved much.  (This is an OLD theater!) But he put it in perspective, "It kept me awake.  I had to make sure I didn't fall off!"  The opera was absolutely beautiful.  The voices, orchestra, set, costumes...Italians know how to do opera!

I will say that before the opera, earlier in the day, we went to the museum next door.  (Pictures not allowed in there.)  We saw beautiful oil portraits of opera stars from past centuries, fun memorabilia like opera scores, binoculars and conductors' batons.  Bruce likes history, so he did enjoy that part.  We also found a fun, modern coffee shop across the street, where we had a delicious afternoon snack:  Cappuccinos and cookies!  We were worried about steps, but they had a very nice chair lift.  Even a large accessible bathroom on the main restaurant level.  I point this out because, well, we didn't see many of those!

That evening, we had to take the subway from our hotel to the opera house.  Knowing that we would be traveling late at night, we didn't bring our camera or tablet for the performance.  I figured I could not take pics during the opera any way.  But shucks, we got there early...and it would have been fun to get a picture of us dressed up for the opera.  But trust me...we were there!

This opera is a tragedy.  The main characters die.  But not fast enough for Bruce.  The performance took about 3 hours, including intermission.  Bruce told me what he was thinking during the final act, when the hero and heroine are left in an underground tomb, dying in each others' arms... "How much air is down there?  They keep singing!  Why don't they die already?"

Precious, honey, and remarkably honest.  One of the reasons why I love you!!  


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Arrivederci Assisi! Buon giorno, Firenze!

Buono Sera!

I have so many posts to catch up on! But I guess I can start with a travel day, because it should not take too long to write.

This morning, we had our last breakfast in Bastia. Then we gathered all of our stuff, including a box of souvenirs which we considered mailing back home. However, we found out how extremely expensive it is to mail packages from Italy to the States. In fact, we found out how expensive it is to mail a postcard.  2 euros for one postcard stamp! Crazy! So we will just have to carry everything home. The one bag that we brought for extra things is not big enough. We might need to buy another bag!

Having an extra box of stuff was going to make boarding the train that much more difficult. The problem was going to be loading very quickly. The pickup spot was in Assisi, and the train only stops for one minute. But today, the train was running late. It did not stop very long at all. Bruce was loading our duffel bag when the warning sound for the doors to close began to beep. I told him to grab the bag. I said I would much rather get a later train then to lose our stuff. Fortunately, his efforts to grab the bag delayed the door from closing long enough that it caught the conductor's eye. He asked where we were going, and we told him Florence. He pulled out his key, unlocked the door that had just closed and he, along with 2 other people help is on the train. We were so blessed to have these folks help us out. We just grabbed the closest seats to the door and we were just happy to be on our way!

About two hours later, we arrived in Florence.   We quickly grabbed a taxi, which got us to the hotel in less than 10 minutes!  Great location!  As we entered, it was obvious that this is a fancier hotel!  I found it online, as one of the few places with a wheelchair accessible room.  I knew the room was nice, but even the lobby is plush! Should be a comfy stay.  Here are some fun pics from our window.

After we rested a bit, we decided to walk around the neighborhood.   A Catholic Church is next door, perfect for All Saints Day mass in the morning.   Just a 15 minute walk brought us to the center of the city, where the famous Duomo is.  This cathedral has a dome that symbolizes the start of the Renaissance,  and the influence of Florence during that period.   We walked down a busy street, seeing part of the baptistry to our right.   But when we got to the end of the street,  the cathedral was right there.   WOW!  It is so massive, so detailed,  so grand.   Words, even pictures cannot do it justice.   We took a few first-impression pics, knowing we will go inside on a later day.

We ended up eating at a small pizza place,  almost like a fast food restaurant.  Not bad, very quick and inexpensive.   Across the street was a tourism office where we got great info on sites and wheelchair accessibility.   Very helpful!  We then headed back to the hotel for cappuccinos and cookies. Already, I wish we had more time in this beautiful city!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Arrivederci, Roma! On to Bastia/Assisi

Buono Sera!

Today was a travel day.  We left the comfort of the beautiful Santa Maria hotel, but knew we would have continued blessings on our next leg.  We began the day with a big breakfast.   After Bruce turned in the key, the hotel manager came out to give us a lovely book of Rome.  I don't know if they do it for everyone or just people who stay a long time.   Either way, this book, our unexpected blessing of the day,  has pictures of sights we saw, and some we missed.   It will be fun to compare it with our own pictures. 

We then caught a taxi to the train station.   The driver was hysterical!  It was tricky to understand his Italian, but Bruce caught some.  He offered to drive us to Assisi, but when Bruce joked that he could for the price of the train tickets,  the driver said Bruce was cheap!  Then, as as we passed stores, and Bruce said no shopping,  the driver said he was molto cheap!  Ha!  I guess the driver has no idea what we have spent to get here!  :-)

The train ride was pretty uneventful.   We did meet 2 couples from California.   We had fun comparing vacation notes.  But we all agreed that the personal hug from Pope Francis takes the cake!
We arrived in Bastia, a small town outside Assisi.   No taxis!  And we had issues with the cell phone (long story, since resolved. )  Silver lining of the day:  2 kind older gentlemen helped us reach the cab company that services the small towns, getting people to Assisi.   Thank goodness!  The roads here are narrow with no sidewalks.  Different than Rome, since cars are not watching for pedestrians.   The taxi got us to our hotel in no time.  Here are the kind strangers who stuck around until the taxi came.  Molto gentile!

We enjoyed dinner in the hotel restaurant,  featuring local wine and local olive oil on the fresh baked bread.   Yum.  This was my 3rd glass of wine this week, and I had a cappuccino for dessert (4th one ever!)  Italy is corrupting me!  :-)

Looking forward to seeing the beauty of Assisi tomorrow!  I will share more pictures then.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Last Full Day in Rome

Buono Sera!

I am typing on this tablet, still trying to figure out how some of the details work. I have several partial posts in my drafts. I really need to catch up.  I can't believe this is our last night in Rome.   It has been spectacular!  I have tried to capture some of the beauty,  but there is no way to give it justice.   We still have 10 days left on this vacation, just different cities.   I am sure we will love them too.

Bruce used the real camera again to get good pictures.  When we get home, hopefully I will update this post.

We started the day with Mass.  No wandering around this week!  There was a Mass in English at Chiesa Santo Spiritu (Church of the Holy Spirit) in Sassia, a neighborhood near St. Peter's.   Sister Ann Marie from the Pontifical North American College invited us.  Turns out,  it is a pilgrimage church for the Year of Faith.   It is not wheelchair accessible,  but with help, I got in. Thank goodness!  It was GORGEOUS!  Another beautiful church with paintings and much to see!  On one side, near where we sat, was the tabernacle, set in the Divine Mercy shrine for Rome.  It also contained a relic of St. Faustina, whose visions of Jesus gave us the Divine Mercy chaplet and the beautiful image of Christ that so many of us love.  The opposite side had a shrine of Blessed John Paul II.  He really taught the world about the Divine Mercy devotions,  and established the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.   In fact, in April of 2014, John Paul will be canonized as a Saint in the Catholic Church on Divine Mercy Sunday.  Wish we could come back for that!  (There was another mass right after the one we attended, so we did not get pictures.  I am uploading some images I found online.)

Today's unexpected highlight was the fact that I had the opportunity to proclaim the first reading at Mass!  Sister asked Bruce, but he stumbles when reading out loud in front of people.   But he suggested me, and we figured out a way to get me to the pulpit.  It felt very special, and I was grateful to participate in that way.

After Mass, we walked all the way to the part of Rome with the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum.  Much of this area is not accessible to wheelchairs (HUGE cobblestone on the hill to get up Palatine Hill.)  Silver lining of the day:  much of the Forum was visible from public sidewalks, and because only part of the Colosseum was accessible,  there was no cost. Yay!

It was remarkable to see such ancient sites, especially the Colosseum, knowing that many early Christians were martyred there.  I have often said that if the government told us at Women's Care Clinic that we had to refer clients for abortion, that I would rather go to jail.  I truly mean that.   But it is difficult to imagine being faced with a certain and horrible death.  Could I hold on to my convictions?  I pray that I don't ever have to find out,  but if it ever comes to that, may God give me the strength to remain faithful.

We walked all the way back to the hotel, stopping in the piazza to get some gelato.  The miles of cobblestone wore us both out!  I took a nap, and then we sat in the hotel courtyard eating and enjoying the perfect weather and scenery.  A cute young girl was taking candles from several tables so she could see better while coloring.   It was fun to watch her,  and witness such innocent joy.  Kids are precious everywhere!

It will be hard to leave Rome, but there are other things to see!    I will post from Assisi!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nothing tops a Hug from the Pope!

Buono Sera!

October 23rd was a day like no other!!  Frankly, this post sat in my drafts for weeks!  I am just posting it in the right sequence, for those who are just now following our vacation.  I could have started earlier, but was at a loss for words.  Strange, I know.  That is because I wanted to get just the right words to tell the story.  But instead, I will just jump right in.  And for my non-Catholic friends, please read to the end...I have some thoughts just for you.  But here's the short version..

Yes, dear friends:  I got a HUG from Pope Francis!!!  And my beloved husband shook his hands!! 

My Facebook friends have gotten a glimpse of some proof of this incredible event.  We were able to post a link to the Vatican website's page of photos from the General Audience on October 23rd.  We're near the end of over 1700 pics so it takes patience to find us.  The pics are copyrighted of course, and I have tried to order some, but something about the website isn't working.  Shucks.  The good news is that I was able to get digital files from one photo company, and Bruce got some pictures as well.  Not of The Hug, mind you.  Bruce wanted to experience the moment, be my sister advised, "Don't live your vacation through a lens."

Here's a bit of background, in case you are curious.  We spent 18 months dreaming, planning, saving for this anniversary trip...and put a General Audience with the Pope on the must-do list.  Early on, I thought that perhaps I should write Bishop Jenky (Peoria Diocese!) to see if he could get us tickets.  Frankly, I thought it was a long shot...I had NO idea that tens of thousands of people attend.  I never did contact our Bishop, but I did have our local pastor, Father Greg Nelson, write a letter to the Pontifical North American College mentioning our anniversary and active parish life.  Found out those details were not needed, but hey, they didn't hurt!  I sent his letter with an email...and had a response within 48 hours!  SO EASY!  I think every Catholic who travels to Rome should do this!!

What was different for us is that I am in a wheelchair.  Sometimes, that is a real drag.  Unlike many of the great Saints, I do not always accept my physical struggles so graciously because, well, there are days when I am in pain or when I just want to move better on my own (I can walk with a cane for very short distances.)  I do accept that this is how God created me, and I know I am made in His likeness and image.  That doesn't mean God has arthritis or means I have dignity by the simple fact that He chose to create me.  Simple as that.

But having a wheelchair at the Vatican proved to be a blessing.  I would have been knocked down by the crowd...or simply would have fallen trying to walk to a seat.  St Peter's Square is quite big!  The set up allowed for wheelchairs to be lined up in front and in aisles where the "Pope-mobile" travels.  Oh.My.Gosh! Please forgive me as I sound like a teenager, but we had AMAZING seats!  We were in the center aisle!  He went passed us TWICE.

Of course, we didn't know if we would have another chance, so the first time he went by, Bruce handed a Walk for Life t-shirt to one of the security guys!  Yep!  I joked about bringing one to the Pope.  So we packed one in the suitcase (plus Bruce wore his) and as we were waiting for things to start that morning, I actually wrote a note to the Pope.  Nothing to lose, right?  I told him that Women's Care Clinic just got a bigger building...that we want to reach more families and save more babies.  I asked for his prayers.  I have no idea if he saw it personally, or if someone on his staff did.  But there is a Women's Care Clinic Walk for Life t-shirt somewhere in the Vatican!  As if that was not enough, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the crowd was joyful and friendly...and we could see the Pope give his message.  That was remarkable...he has such a gentle spirit about him.  I can't wait to see what God will do through this man!

Bruce looked at news briefs after our busy day, and there were estimates ranging from 80,000 to 100,000 people in attendance!  Wowza!  One thing I found remarkable was that everyone was so well behaved...seriously.  Not shoving or screaming (well, there was a bit of chaos as we tried to enter St. Peter's Square.)  Even as the Pope spoke, everyone was quiet and respectful.  I truly believe people wanted to hear what he had to say.  There was a group of firefighters from Florence, and an Italian army troop that was getting ready to be deployed to Beirut...all seeking the Pope's blessings.  We also saw many tour groups from all over the world.  Truly a Catholic (i.e. universal) experience!  Amazing!

Just before his message, a passage from the Gospel according to Luke was read...the story of the Visitation!  Pope Francis used this as the inspiration for his message.   I was so moved, literally to tears.  The story of the Visitation is one of my favorite pro-life passages: 2 pregnant women with two unborn babies!  The remarkable faith and love that Mary expressed through her willingness to say YES to God's plan, which included a BABY!  How perfect is that?  It just seemed remarkable that we were there that day.

After  the audience, we decided to wait around, in case the Pope-mobile came out again.  But what we saw instead was that he was greeting everyone sitting in a wheelchair up front!  We knew we needed to get up there!  The front of the center aisle was blocked by lots of photographers, but eventually a space opened up.  As we started moving forward, a man told us No.  I could not take No for an answer!  We were only about 15 feet away from the end of the wheelchair line... "Permesso, per favore!"  I pointed to the wheelchairs...I pointed to my wheelchair.  Another man heard the commotion, and took pity.  So, we got in place, and I was suddenly struck with awe.  The Vicar of Christ was just a few feet away...and coming towards us! (Bruce took this picture.)  This man, whom I believe was chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the Catholic Church for such a time as this, was taking time to greet us.  I was tearful before he even got next to me.  He didn't say a word, but his eyes were so gentle, and it was clear to me that he was praying and offering a blessing.  I can't really describe it.  Bruce shook his hands, and barely uttered the words, "My wife of 20 years."  Neither of us will ever forget that moment!

Now, why is this so special to us, being greeted by Pope Francis?  Well, just in a human sense, it's pretty cool.  I mean, there were over 80,000 people there, and he is the leader of the world's largest Church.  Statistically, it's amazing.  But there is so much more than the mere odds involved.  As Catholics, we do NOT worship the Pope.  He is not God, he is not equal to Jesus Christ.  But we do see him as the Vicar of Christ here on earth.  He is our head pastor.  That is a very big deal.  We can trace the papacy all the way back to St. Peter himself.  I had planned on trying to articulate this, but others far more knowledgeable than I have already done so.   If you are curious, I encourage you to read a bit by clicking here...good stuff!  

This experience was one that made this vacation become a pilgrimage.  Some things cannot be fully explained or expressed...they must be experienced first hand.  If you are Catholic, I pray you can make a trip to the Vatican and sit in on a General Audience.  If not, maybe you can go anyway...but look out!  You might be inspired to join the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church!!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So Many Surprises

Buono Sera!

It's Tuesday! Well, not really. I am just catching up on blog posts, and I am dating them as if they were done in order. Otherwise, I will get confused!

The sights we began with today were planned by Bruce. He really enjoyed looking things up online and in the Rick Steves books my mom gave us for Christmas. We knew we needed to be in a certain area of the city, because we needed to pick up tickets for the General Audience with Pope Francis to be held tomorrow. So we started the day with breakfast. I actually went down the few steps to the dining room of the hotel. I really needed the exercise, and it was nice to see the cozy space Bruce had been telling me about. I don't think I have mentioned the yummy food yet; a nice breakfast buffet each morning to get us going, prepared by very friendly staff.  We then took a taxi to the famous Trevi Fountain. Now I must admit, I had no idea how big this fountain is! Rome has lots of fountains. I had seen one picture of 3 women tossing coins over their shoulders into this particular fountain (a big tradition, apparently). But the picture was a close up at the main level; and so there was no perspective for me. This thing is HUGE!

The crowds were also huge, so we had to wait to get close. This fountain is made of incredibly detailed sculptures, combining ancient Roman culture with Catholic symbols. I guess it is a way to respect the history of the region, and acknowledge the significance of art through the ages.

After the Trevi Fountain, we went looking for the Spanish Steps. But on the way, we came across a piazza with a tremendous sculpture. The sides of the base had scripture verses about our Lord Jesus and Blessed Mother Mary. It was a bit of catechesis in 3-D!

I think it is wonderful that Rome keeps these beautiful pieces of art throughout the city. It displays history and faith. With so many people in the USA trying to have all vestiges of Faith removed from the public square, these sights are inspiring and refreshing.

So, we finally made it to the Spanish Steps. Lots of steps! People were eating lunch, reading books, talking on cell phones...and even to each other! LOL  At first, I figured Bruce would walk up the steps, but he didn't want to leave me.  Then we looked in the Rick Steves book, where he mentioned an elevator in the nearby metro station.   I was so excited to be able to get up to the top!

Around this time we were getting hungry, so we went searching for a place to eat.  Of course, there were many!  We went down a busy street with lots of boutiques.   The expensive kind!  Like Prada, Gucci...good grief the prices were insane!  It was fun to peek in the windows and see what people consider to be high fashion or unique, but no purse is worth the money these designers ask for!  Bruce was definitely glad that I am not a shopper!

While still searching for just the right place to eat, we came across another beautiful church; this one with signs advertising an exhibit about Saint Padre Pio!  Initially, my brain told me that this was his parish (no idea why) but researching later told me no.  It was just the church (San Lorenzo) blessed to host the exhibit.   I cannot explain the impact this had on me!  There were pictures, letters from a doctor who examined Padre Pio, and relics.  The exhibit featured a glove he wore.  For those who don't know,  Padre Pio was a priest known for incredible piety and spiritual gifts.   Among other things, he received the stigmata,  or wounds of Christ.  Doctors examined him, and could not find any reason for his perpetual wounds.  Very miraculous!  Gazing upon the glove, I was overwhelmed.  Padre Pio had such a deep relationship with Christ, and faithful Catholics believe he is even closer now...being in heaven eternally.

Having these items on display is not about worship.  Saints are not gods.  But they are models of tremendous faith.   By looking at these things,  even venerating, we are seeking the help of Saints.  After all, they are not dead.  They are alive in Christ and with him forever!  That is why we ask saints to pray for us, just as I ask my Christian brothers and sisters on earth to pray for me.

Well, we finally ate, though we didn't take pictures.  We split a salad and huge plate of spaghetti carbonara.  I had heard of it, but never tried it before.   YUM!  The pasta is mixed with bacon, eggs (tiny bits) and black pepper.   We will be making this at home!

We knew that the Pantheon was nearby...and it was closer than we realized.  After lunch we walked down one road, and there it was!  This was built as a pagan temples, honoring all of their gods.  In the 7th century, the emperor gave it to the Roman Catholic Church, and it was dedicated to Mary and the Martyrs.  It has been used ever since then for Catholic Mass.  In Christ, all things are made new!  The dome is HUGE, and inside the sculptures and paintings are breathtaking.  It is hard to believe the size of these structures, built long before any of our modern builder conveniences (using lots of slave labor.)

Our last task of the day was picking up the tickets for the General Audience with Pope Francis for tomorrow.   We got them at the Pontifical North American College.   Very friendly staff, featuring Sister Ann Marie. She told us what to expect, and gave us great advice which turned out to be more valuable than we could have imagined!   More on that in Wednesday's post.

What an amazing day!  Filled with so many highlights,  it was hard to pick just a couple. That is why I kept going!  Hope you are enjoying this journal...and I hope you get a chance to make your own pilgrimage some day!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Climb every mountain

Buono Sera!

Today was quite an adventure! We went, by train to Castel Gandalfo, a small southern Italian city where Pope Emeritus Benedict now lives. For many years, this has been the vacation or retreat spot for popes. A few months before our vacation, I told Bruce about a dream I had. We were coming up to a hill, and I said, "Let's go up and see what's there." In my dream, we actually saw Benedict! Well, that part of the dream didn't come true...but the hill part did! I had no idea how what a climb it would be from the train station to the main piazza in town. Even Bruce said, "It didn't look this steep on Google Earth!" I nearly forgot to mention that on the way to Castel Gandalfo, our train broke down! We had purchased food for a picnic lunch. Instead, we ate while temporarily stranded in a different station. Not exactly the romantic stop Bruce had planned! Silver lining of the day: we were stranded for an hour, but we were still in ITALY!

Okay, back to Castel Gandalfo. When we arrived, we saw lots of stairs just to get up to street level. Fortunately, several kind people helped carry me in my chair. Then Bruce got a workout! Steep hill; narrow sidewalks; cars zooming on the long and winding road. A few scary moments, but at least the scenery was spectacular.

Once we arrived at the top, we saw so much...again! This definitely qualified as an unexpected blessing! The village was so quaint and charming, and there were many people visiting. (Perhaps other people wanted to get a glimpse of Benedict as well!) I could never get tired of the beauty here! There was a small church for the locals, several cute shops, and the residence for Benedict. We did not see him, but I waved up toward the window!

 After visiting for a while, we headed back down the hill, praying for safety the whole way! We nearly had a major incident on the stairs at the station, but once again, a kind stranger assisted us. I don't know how many miles Bruce has already walked during this trip, but it has been a lot! It has also been so worth the churches and scenery have been breathtaking. I am immensely blessed to be here with him! Already, I want to come back. Any takers?


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Unexpected Sights

Buono Sera!

Today was such a great day, with very few things actually planned.   We intended to get up at 8 so we could go to mass at 10.  Well, the alarm was not set properly and we were exhausted from our first day.  We did not get up until nearly 9:30.  So we figured we would go to a late morning morning mass, but we had the wrong time noted.  We are in Rome, surely we can find a church with a later mass time.  Well, we ended up attending one in the evening.   More on that later...

In our pursuit for a church to attend,  we came across many beautiful sites.  We have some pics to share,  but mostly I can only say "Rome is amazing! "

We came across a neighborhood church: Santa Maria dell Orto.   We saw many cars parked, and figured it might be time for Mass.   Well, we arrived just in time for the final blessing...oops!  We were moved by the absolute beauty, literally from floor to ceiling!  This was the first "small" church we went into,  so I expected something more plain and simple.   Far from it!  Rome loves her churches!

By this time, we realized that we would not make it to a morning Mass, so we decided to continue wandering around.   Bruce knew he wanted to see the area known as the Jewish Ghetto.   It is just over the Tiber River.   Actually, the area we are staying in was once known as the Jewish Ghetto,  because many of the early Christians were Jewish by heritage.   They converted to Christianity, and remained here until they were pushed to the other side of the river.   Sad, isn't it?  The poor have been shoved aside for millennia, even by people in the Church.   In the area over the river, we walked passed the synagogue.  We were unable to go inside,  but it was a beautiful.  We then continued around the neighborhood,  and saw shops and restaurants.

Then we saw unexpected wonders:

Wow!  What we saw were ruins of pagan temples in an area that became filled with Christians.  And I think it is fascinating to see the layers of building upon building.  I was in awe, being in the midst of such ancient ruins, with a large, modern street just a few feet away.  In the US, we tend to get rid of anything old and crumbling.  Thank goodness for the efforts of historical societies!  Any way, after we walked through the outdoor area, we turned down the other side of the street to see the "modern" area.  

It was there that we saw yet another amazing church!   Known as Sant' Angelo de Pescheria, it took my breath away. De Pescheria refers to the fish market that was held in the area.   One thing I want to point out is the beautiful flowers inside the dome.  Those are almond flowers, and they were used to symbolize the resurrection.   I only know this because our pastor recently had a parishioner add sculpted flowers in our sanctuary.   He told us of the symbolism, but I had no idea how prevalent this flower was used in sacred art!  We have seen them everywhere!  I love that we have a touch of early sacred art in our own parish now.   Way to go,  Father Greg!

There's more to this day, but this post is getting long. I am going to end here, but come back with 2 more church stories, and a bit about getting lost in Rome.  Yep, seriously.   I am still here and Bruce is still alive, so it wasn't too bad!  More later!