August 28, 2007

Pilgrimage: San Giovanni Rotondo

This place is a madhouse. At Pio’s tomb you can hardly pray because of the racket of people firing coins at the sarcophagus.

Just walking around I think I’ve blessed more stuff in this afternoon than in the rest of my whole previous clerical career. Rosaries, pictures, bracelets, and even an infant of Prague big enough to be a toddler—in French, as best I could—for a couple from Lille.

The new church is very “modern.” The lower level is like a circular maze in which everyone is lost looking for the confessionals or the Blessed Sacrament. I’m as lost as they are, so I’m more than useless when everyone asks me for directions. Just put on a Capuchin habit, and not only will everyone think you know your way around, but that you speak their own proper language, whether it be Italian, French, German, or Polish.

But, with all of the noise and confusion of this place, I remember how Jesus told us that a tree is known by its fruits. And what fruits can be seen here? Everywhere there are people praying and streaming to confession, all in shadow of the hospitals that carry on Pio’s works of mercy.

1 comment:

Pia said...

San Giovanni Rotondo has always had a sort of "bazar"...and bizarre... atmosphere, even when St. Pio was alive. In one of the biographical films, the one with Sergio Castellitto in the starring role, there's a scene that reminds one of Jesus' chasing out the merchants in the temple. Padre Pio couldn't stand what the merchants were doing, but he also realized that his fame was bringing crowds to one of the most depressed areas of Southern Italy, so there had to be some kind of development around the hospital he was building.

The problem was, and is, sustainable development. Neither he nor, later, the friars have been able to stop the tsunami that hit S. Giovanni Rotondo!

What a hectic place (visited in particular by many southern Italians...we are a noisy bunch!). Your pilgrimage just happened to stop there during the biggest vacation week in Italy, so the crowds were ten times more than normal!

I found the church disorienting,too, but there was no other design that could house so many people in so many waves. The acoustics close to the altar are horrible, but further out, they are surprisingly clear.

A visit to S. Giovanni Rotondo is rough going, even in the best of times, but I am always moved by the faith of these people, who go there even a few times each year, to pray.