Let Us Be Saints!
The Cathedral (Duomo) of Siena
On Saturday Fr. Carola took us on an incredibly jam-packed day trip to the beautiful village of Siena!  It was about a three hour bus ride to get there but the scenery was unbelievable since it was the Tuscan countryside, and we prayed our Divine Office and rosary on the bus ride so time passed fairly quickly.  We had been warned by Father that in only one semester had NO ONE gotten sick on the ride (it was very windy at times) so he had opaque plastic bags "strategically placed" around the bus in case of need.  I did get pretty dizzy but I slept it off.  We did have one young man get sick on the way home, though we think it was some kind of food poisoning, not motion sickness.  All are well by now though!

I must first tell you a little about the great saint, Catherine of Siena, who was the center of this pilgrimage.  Born the 24th of 25 children in 1347 to a wool dyer, Catherine was an outgoing and imaginative youngster who was stubborn and imaginative.  She pledged her virginity to Christ at the young age of seven.  Catherine was greatly influenced by the Dominicans because they had a church and cloister very near to her house so it came as no surprise  that she took the Dominican habit by age 18.  She spent several years in solitude, teaching herself to read and write, from which came the great spiritual classic of  the "Dialogue," which I am currently reading for a class!  Yet she also committed her life to "social work" in the town of Siena, by serving the sick in hospitals, aiding the poor, and burying her father.  She worked tirelessly to bring about peace and unity in the Church as well, giving counsel and spending time in fervent prayer whenever truth was being compromised.  She died at 33 years old. 

Just like last weekend, it was so good to GET AWAY from the hustle and bustle of Rome. 
And Siena is a town of unbelievable beauty.  Our first stop was the Basilica of San Domenico  where we got to view the finger and head of St. Catherine of Siena herself!  This was quite unbelievable and I prayed for you all there in the presence of this great mystic and saint.  We also saw the harsh rope that she used to beat herself in order to mirror the sufferings of Christ.  Yes, some saints lived very extreme and austere lives!  Sometimes my small sacrifices (ie: giving up sweets for Lent) really pale in comparison! 

Next stop was the Basilica of St. Francis where we got to witness a Eucharistic Miracle that took place in the 13th century  A detailed account of this miracle can be found at: http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/siena.html.  Essentially, a thief stole some consecrated hosts out of the tabernacle at St. Francis and they were later found in the offering plate at another church in town.  The hosts, dirtied by dust and debris, were processed back to St. Francis to be reposed in the tabernacle and to deteriorate naturally.  However, the hosts did not deteriorate but remained pleasant and to this day, in the 21st century, they are still in tact.  We had some beautiful time of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and got to personally venerate Christ present in the hosts.  How beautiful is the body of Christ!

After a picnic lunch in the Piazza del Campo, where a famous horse race takes place each year we got some delicious gelato (I tried blueberry muffin flavor and pistacchio!).  The town was so quiet and lovely to walk around during our free time, however we ran into a few street sweepers (quite random!).  Then it was time to visit the Duomo, the cathedral of the town.  This looked like something out of Candy Land, in all honesty, because of the colorful stripes and geometric patterns.  The ambo (where the lector proclaims the Word of God) was huge and had animal statues beneath, resembling a small merry-go-round.  Yet there was a unique beauty in all this architecture in such a way that one was truly lifted up to our God.  I cannot help but think whenever I stand in a grand cathedral that God is so big and I am so small...he is eternal and I am his finite creature.  What a humbling thought!

Our last stop in Siena was the home of Catherine herself, where a chapel has been erected.  We celebrated Mass there, gazing on the crucifix that St. Catherine herself looked at when she received the stigmata.  And we got to view the cell where she spent many years of her life.  Finally, we ended the day at a monastery, praying chanted Latin Vespers with the monks there.  It was bitter cold by then and so, bundled up to the gill, we mustered up the strength to eat our dinners outside under a large floodlight.  We had quite a smorgasbord because people kept passing various foods around the group (olives, cheese and crackers, chocolate).  Then we warmed up a bit by playing an intense game of Ninja!  I must say that seeing the stars again truly made my day...una bella notte in Toscana!  The gorgeous Tuscan sky!

Emily Bot
2/28/2011 05:29:53 am

Hi Paula!! What an amazing trip! I love hearing about all that you are doing. I hope you are doing well but I am most certain you are! Have a blessed week.

In Christ,

2/28/2011 12:10:13 pm

Wow Paula! Sounds like this weekend was lovely. What I want to know about Catherine of Siena is exactly how she was able to convince the Pope that he ought to return to Rome....? Is there any mention of this issue in her "Dialogues" or is that mostly about other topics?

Awesome about the Eucharistic miracle, we finally have Perpetual adoration started back again on campus after a snowstorm prevented its start early last week. It is so good to be able to sneak away with Christ for awhile.

Missing you around campus and praying for you always!


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