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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mugnano del Cardinale, Italy - The Shrine of St. Philomena

One of my favorite places we visited in Italy was the International Shrine of St. Philomena in Mugnano del Cardinale, Italy.  Mugnano is a tiny town located about 30 minutes outside of Naples.  We had quite a difficult time finding it, but it was well worth it.

This little town boasts a population of 4900 people.  It is very quaint and charming.  I had the chance to speak with several locals during my visit.  They were quite friendly and welcoming.  Crime is extremely rare in this area.  People leave their doors unlocked and kids can play outside without fear of being harmed.  It's that kind of place.  When we first arrived, it was on a Sunday, so many places in town were closed.  Several men from the area played card games outside of the community center located near the Shrine.  I enjoyed listening to their lively (Italian) conversation and watching their animated gestures and facial expressions.  Although I don't understand much Italian, I had a good idea of what was happening during their game.  They were quite entertaining.  I had a chance to wander around town before Mass and dinner and enjoyed finding my way around the little winding roads that make up this little town.

The Shrine itself is quite beautiful.  St. Philomena's remains are housed here; they were discovered in the catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome in 1802, and moved here by in 1805 by an Italian priest.  Many miracles have been attributed to St. Philomena, who is known as the "saint of the impossible".  The shrine has on display numerous pictures and statues of the saint; they also have a wonderful little gift shop housed at the location.  Monsignor Giovanni Braschi presides over the shrine.  He is very kind and welcoming to visitors and he made us feel totally at home there.

We stayed the evening at the sanctuary and were served delicious homemade Italian meals made by church parishioners for dinner and breakfast.  As we were leaving the sanctuary, we witnessed the beginning of an Italian wedding ceremony.  It was such a beautiful occasion.  The church bells chimed loudly and could be heard blocks away. Ave Maria was also played from the loudspeaker of the church.   Local townspeople came out of their homes to view the arrival of the bride and her wedding party.  I was completely in awe of how the townspeople came together to acknowledge the wedding of the bride and groom.  This is truly the small town atmosphere one thinks of when they envision life in a small town.  I can't wait to go back.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Visiting the Vatican

As a life long Catholic, one of the places I absolutely had to visit while in Rome was the Vatican.  The Vatican itself is gorgeous.  It's huge, it's overwhelming, it's a "must see" kind of place.  My only regret during this portion of the trip is that I wore fashionable sandals instead of comfortable walking shoes at this time.  Never again.  The next time I go to Italy, tennis shoes will be the only shoes I take with me.
Not to worry - I ended up buying some New Balance tennis shoes while shopping in Naples.  What a relief to my poor aching feet!

Anyway, while at the Vatican, one of the highlights of this tour was being able to visit the tomb of Pope John Paul II.  I've adored this man for a long time and was very sad when he passed away.  This is an image of the area where his tomb lies at the Vatican.  A very large picture of St. Sebastian is displayed over the grave.

Other things I found interesting on display at the Vatican was the display of rings from past Popes and the sarcophagus' of Popes from days long past (located in the Vatican Grottoes).

And, of course, there is so much beautiful artwork and statuary to be seen everywhere in the Vatican.  Here are some of the statues that stood out to me:

And let's not forget the winding stairs:
When exiting the Vatican tours, we passed a wonderful little gift shop run by a group of nuns.  They sell all sorts of unique jewelry, tapestries, statues and other collectible and souvenir items.  We purchased several items during our visit.
Outside of the Vatican, there are tons (and I mean tons) of vendors hawking their goods and touristy-style items.  Many of the items are cheap, made-in-Asia items that you can find anywhere in most souvenir shops in Rome.  However, there was a nifty little magnet of David I just couldn't resist; it is now hanging proudly on my refrigerator door:
 Next up:  Our visit to the little town of Mugnano de Cardinale where we visited the Shrine of St. Philomena, and Naples.  Stay tuned...

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