We woke up early today after five or so hours of sleep for 7am mass at the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, where Cardinal Burke celebrated mass. He celebrated in Italian, unlike yesterday’s chapel mass, which made sense since this is the pilgrim church for those coming to visit the shrine of Padre Pio and simply a place for daily mass for residents.
Afterwards we had breakfast at the hotel, and then departed for a visit to Padre Pio’s crypt and tomb, and the friary where he lived here for so many years.
The Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, which I walked past coming to/from mass, is situated in such a way that it is to San Giovanni Rotondo what Mount Nittany is for Penn State and State College—its most obvious symbol and perhaps the heart of the place. There’s much more to the hospital than just the main building at this point. It’s worth looking up to understand how expansive this institution is.
After visiting and praying at the site of Padre Pio’s remains, we took a pilgrimage to nearby Monte St. Angelo about twenty minutes away. It sits along an ancient route to the Holy Land, and was visited by many throughout history. One tradition says that St. Francis of Assisi visited, but refused to enter the cave where Michael is said to have appeared in the late fifth century and again much more recently.
The Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and after visiting I understand why. I’m sharing some photos and scenes here. The outlines of human hands in stone? That was a a fashion as remote as a millennia ago for pilgrims there as a sign of their presence. I placed my hand within one of those outlines and stood for a few moments as tourists came and went, wondering about the life and destiny of the person who stood in my place centuries before me.
After Monte Sant’Angelo, we headed back into San Giovanni Rotondo where we had dinner at Opus, which was a beautiful way for me to conclude this trip. I’ll be catching a midnight bus soon in order to get back to Rome, in order to get back to Philadelphia in time for a seminar.