Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Last Night in Cascia

The basilica dedicated to St. Rita

We were scheduled to meet outside the upper basilica at 6:30pm to allow time for the scheduled Mass to conclude and the faithful to depart.  With some time on my hands, I visited some of the shops that boasted of the finest lacrime de cinghiale, or tears of the wild boar.  I had no interest in the liqueur, but I did want to buy some salami and prosciutto to bring home. I had heard that if you got the butcher to vacuum pack it, you stood a better chance of getting it through customs.  Without speaking a single word of Italian, I got everything I wanted, precisely as I wanted it.  Now the trick would be getting it safely to my family or, having it confiscated at the airport.

You could get yourself in a lot of trouble on this little street.
At the appointed time, we met on the steps of the basilica and went inside, where we gathered near the main altar.  I have to say I was not so impressed with this basilica as some of the frescoes had a very modern, almost amateurish look about them.  If I were going to build a basilica to St. Rita, I would want it to be of more classic, traditional beauty than this one.  But people don't go to Cascia to see beauty.  They come to pay homage to the saint who always hears their prayers and uses her power to open His Heart to persuade God to grant favors thought impossible to human skill and effort.*

After giving us a brief overview of the basilica, we went over to the grille behind which lay the body of St. Rita.  We prayed the novena prayer to her and then sang the hymn that is sung after every novena every Wednesday at the church named for her in Philadelphia.  It was a very moving tribute and many of the group were sniffling.  I think I had cried myself out the night before but I still felt moved by the beauty and simplicity of these simple gestures of honor.  When we left the basilica, it seemed like bells were ringing from every direction.  It was an other-worldly sound that I had so looked forward to hearing in Italy.  I was not disappointed.

I thought about how unbelievable it was, that instead of spending her feast  at the Carmel, as I normally do, I was spending St. Therese's day in Cascia with another very special saint who has faithfully heard and obtained for me my pleas.

Meanwhile, back at our hotel, a few more busloads of pilgrims had arrived. so the joint was jumping.  To add to the excitement, the Italian soccer team beat their opponent 3-0.  I have never heard such frenzy in all my life.  I had to walk through a thick fog of cigarette smoke to escape the noise and take a final night-time walk in the little town.  The bats were doing their thing, flying like chickens without heads past the belfry, and the stars did their part to draw my attention to the night sky.

Tomorrow, we would leave Cascia and head for San Giovanni Rotondo, the highlight of the trip for many of the people in the group. I would have to wait one more day for the grotto I had come to Italy to see.

*From the novena prayers and hymns to St Rita


  1. Not sure if you commented on this somewhere else, but how did you find the mass in Italian? Or did you just have Latin masses?

  2. Manny, we had English-speaking priests traveling with us, so we never had Mass in Italian and these particular priests don't celebrate the TLM. I did catch the tail end of a few Masses that were in Italian, and I'll talk about them in the final posts coming up.


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