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Tom & Sue’s Excellent Adventure in Italy Day 8

Buona Serra!   What a day….from the corn fields to the clouds. We are so high up in the mountains now our ears popped, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We were in bed a 9 last night and slept for nine hours (Sue 10). We had breakfast and were off to Our Lady of the Cross in Crema, Italy, a 28 mile ride that took 1 1/2 hrs. Local traffic at rush hour is not pretty. Susan felt and sounded a lot better this morning and we were anxious to see this little known shrine. We found it in this small town amid the corn fields, an old Basilica which stood out majestically.

We entered and said our 3 Hail Marys, as we always do on these trips, for special intentions and proceeded to the icon of the Madonna and Son. We were alone for the most part, except for villagers who would stop and pray for a moment and proceed on. We knelt at the shrine and prayed for the plenary indulgences of the day. (I think I knelt exactly where Blessed John Paul did, albeit he had a kneeler and I was on the floor)

We didn’t stay too long since we were running behind, (Who planned this trip anyway?) and made our way to Caravaggio and the Virgin Mother of God. We had been here in 2010 and being only 12 miles away we decided to go back since we loved it so much. The last time we were here it was crowded with many afflicted people in wheel chairs and pilgrims, today it was empty. The last time we were here they had an 11 o’clock mass and they changed it to 10 so we were very late, we missed mass.

We were able to replenish our holy water here at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Cross in Crema
We were able to replenish our holy water here at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Cross in Crema

We went down to the grotto and replenished the miraculous water we are getting low on and went to the apparition site in the Basilica below the altar to pray. The last time we were here it was blocked off so you couldn’t get close and see the foot prints of Our Mother in the stone where she stood. We said our Rosary in front of the shrine, it was great and I think I was kneeling right where Blessed John Paul knelt, of course I was on the floor again. We did pray for your intentions and left them in the book at Crema and Caravaggio right before we got thrown out at noon. Don’t mess with an Italian’s lunch time!

We were now headed for Rho and Our Lady of consolation and knew that it would be closed and we would have to wait for almost 2 hours to get in so I made an executive descision to head to Sacro Monte Ossuccio, the Mount of Our Lady of Salvation. There a several Sacro Monte’s in northern Italy which came about during times of war and oppression. They became a place for people to go and practice their faith unafraid. Some are dedicated to Saints and many to the Passion of Christ, the Rosary and Our Blessed Mother. They are so high in the mountains no army would be crazy enough to go there. Originally we were going to Mount Varase first but changed our plans to be able to spend more time at the birth place of Blessed Pope John XXIII, since we are meeting with Fr. Giovanni Battista, Oops, Giovanni died, it’s Fr Gian Battista, PIMI, he was the Superior General for the Pontifical Instuite for Foreign Missions, but that’s tomorrows report. I had to change hotels for the night to be near the Sacro Mounte and we would be traveling along Lake Como to get there. I knew it was in the mountains and as well as a drive along the lake, which is breathtaking. The main roads are very windy and narrow but the trip up the side roads to the Sacro Monte were worse than 2 days ago. (Sue was not a Happy camper).

Like most of the shrines to Our Blessed Mother they are in the most obscure places and usually very hard if not impossible to get to. I think She does this as a test to your devotion to Her and Her Son. I laugh because I always say she doesn’t make it easy but it’s not impossible. I will always remember the sign at La Salette, in the French Alps after a harrowing dive up the mountain and say it always as I am shaking while going up the mountains to Her, come My children, do not be afraid, and I’m not.

We walked up the path of the Sacro Mount and marveled at the dedication and age of these tributes to our faith. Again it was another beautiful day and the views were breathtaking. I tried to take a picture of the car from the top but could hardly make it out we were so high. I better feed Sue a lot tonight before she waists away to nothing.

Our Agriturismo in Carvaggio offered a welcome respite to the harrowing drive.
Sue has gotten so used to hanging on during our adventurous drives that now she hangs on even if we are on solid ground!

The ride so far was nothing compared to the one to the hotel.. A working farm way up the mountain on a road so narrow there was hardly room for our car. Narrowly having 3 accidents with the crazy Italians that drive so fast we made it to our destination. This was the 3rd time Sue tried to get out of the car with her seat belt still on. We laughed but I knew she was petrified from the journey.

Our Agriturismo in Carvaggio offered a welcome respite to the harrowing drive.
Our Agriturismo in Carvaggio offered a welcome respite to the harrowing drive.

As we sit under the grape arbor, enjoying their home made wine, high on the mountain with all the animals around, ( I heard and saw their donkey and felt guilty that I may have eaten his cousin 2 days ago LOL) the fear is gone and the tranquility abounds(as well as a few flies and hornets). We are trying to catch with all our e-mails and reports and so far so good, AOL is working like a charm. Dinner is at 7:30 and my stomach is growling as the smells from the kitchen make us hungrier and hungrier. That’s it for tonight as we want to enjoy the moment before we have to head DOWN!!

Good Night and God Bless, Susan and Tom

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, full of goodness, show your love towards us. Let the flame of your heart, O Mary, descend on all people. We love you immensely. Impress true love in our hearts so that we have a continuous desire for you. O Mary, gentle and humble of heart, remember us when we are in sin. You know that all men sin. Give us, by means of your Immaculate Heart, spiritual health. Let us always see the goodness of your motherly heart and may we be converted by means of the flame of your heart. Amen.

Our Lady Della Croce March 1 There is a sanctuary of the Madonna on the Bergamo Road, about a mile away from the city of Crema, Italy. The structure is a circular form, with four additions in the shape of a cross, which gave rise to the name: “Holy Mary of the Cross,” or Our Lady Della Croce. The sanctuary is located in a place where, in years gone by, there stood a dense little wood called “Il Novelletto.” In the late 15th century a young woman named Caterina Uberti lived with her brother in the city of Crema. When she arrived at marriageable age, her brother induced her to wed one Bartolomeo Petrobelli; it was an unfortunate arrangement – Caterina was good and pious; Bartolomeo was quite the opposite, tending toward the wicked and corrupt. The marriage was unhappy for Caterina and uncomfortable for Bartolomeo – his rather crude and brutal ways shamed her, while her refined and holy life was a silent reproach to his somewhat scandalous mode of living. So, after a year of turmoil, Bartolomeo decided to kill Caterina. Having made up his mind, he lost no time in carrying out his evil design. ————————- ————————- He suggested that they journey to Bergamo and visit his parents; she agreed, and in the late afternoon of April 3, 1490, they mounted their horses and set forth from the city. When they arrived at the wood about a mile from Crema, Bartolomeo left the highway and rode into the forest; Caterina was puzzled, but not knowing what else to do, followed him. When they reached the middle of the wood, Bartolomeo dismounted and made Caterina get down from her horse. Then, without warning, he drew his sword, raised it and fiercely brought it down, intending to split her head with one clean cut. Instinctively she drew up her arm to ward off the savage blow, saved her head, but lost her right hand – the poor severed hand hung from the stump of her arm by a strip of skin, and Bartolomeo brutally tore it off and flung it to one side. He then slashed at her like a maniac until she fell to the ground in a pool of blood; thinking her dead, he leaped on his horse and fled. Caterina was not dead, nor was she afraid to die, though she felt her time was short. With all her dying heart she wished for the Last Sacraments; so she prayed to the Mother of God, who heard her prayer. A glow of light pushed back the gathering darkness and a beautiful lady approached her. Reaching down, the Lady, Our Lady Della Croce, took her by the arm and helped her rise – the blood stopped flowing and new life coursed through her mutilated body. The Lady bade Caterina follow her, but Caterina asked if she might look for her lost hand. The Lady promised it would be returned to her in due time. Taking Caterina to a hut, she told her these people would help her and then vanished. The kind peasants did all they could for Caterina, and the next morning they placed her on a rude stretcher and tenderly carried her back to Crema. As they passed through the wood, one of the men found the severed hand and returned it to Caterina. They took her to the Church of St Benedetto, where the pastor, after hearing the story, anointed Caterina who died there. The story spread rapidly; some believed, others doubted that the Blessed Virgin worked such wonders. An eleven year old boy, living in Crema plagued with an unhealable abscess on a foot, begged to be taken to the wood to put his foot on the spot where the Lady appeared. His mother and a group of relatives carried him there, and he was instantly cured, all abscess traces gone. Many other sick and infirm came also and were cured. The people erected a small chapel on the spot and placed in it a plaster image of Our Lady. More favors followed; many offerings were made by the faithful and in a few years a fitting sanctuary to the Madonna was completed by 1500. Later a fine new statue of Mary was enshrined in the Sanctuary and in 1873 Our Lady Della Croce was crowned with a golden crown by order of the Vatican

Caravaggio Caravaggio is famous because it was the birthplace of Michelangelo Merisi, known as “Caravaggio”, one of the greatest masters of painting of all times. Its fame is also linked to the grandiose sanctuary built on the spot where the Virgin Mary, on 26th May 1432, appeared to a local woman, Giovanetta Varoli. A spring immediately gushed and today millions of pilgrims today draw water at the spring, the sign of that far-off event. The original path in the middle of the fields of Caravaggio that led to the place of the miracle was replaced by the splendid tree-lined avenue which, almost 30 metres wide, leads to the sanctuary from the Padana Superiore main road. At the centre of attention is the Holy Spring, placed directly under the great altar. The statues of the Virgin Mary and of Giovanetta recall the extraordinary conversation between the Lady of the Fountain and the country woman. The spring gushes from under the feet of Mary, and provides water to the Holy Spring and to the two outdoor pools. The rock where She stood also has the imprint of Her feet. A million and a half pilgrims come to the sanctuary of Caravaggio every year, with the greatest number (50-60,000 people) on 26th May, the anniversary of the Apparition. The Church and Convent of St. Bernardino were built in the 15th century in Caravaggio to recall the Franciscan friar who brought peace to the local populations. The church is decorated with many 16th century frescoes. In the sanctuary of Our Lady of Tears of Treviglio, there is the image of the Virgin Mary from which, on 28th February 1522, tears flowed as French troops were about to destroy everything. The General commanding them stopped the soldiers and Treviglio was saved. One year before his death, St. Charles Borromeo [d. 1584] heard a strange story that began in the town of Rho, just outside of Milan, Italy. The Saint was the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan and he was responsible for investigating reported miracles, one of which, this one mentioned, turned out to be true: The miracle involved a portrait of the Sorrowful Mother depicted in a seated position, with the Crucified Body of Our Lord reclining on her lap [like many “Pieta” images]. This particular portrait was already thought of as miraculous when St. Charles visited and prayed before it in the year 1570, some years earlier. Now, he assigned a group to investigate, and this is what they ascertained as fact: Two farmers had stopped in the church at Rho on April 24, 1583 to pray before the ancient image known as Our Lady of Sorrows. They had often stopped in and were very familiar with the image. On this day they were stunned to see that the eyes of the Madonna were swollen as though the image had been crying. Thinking that they had made a mistake, they went closer to the portrait. At that moment tears of blood began pouring from her eyes. They were overwhelmed and much anguished that our Lady was so sorrowful, but they went to tell others to come and see the miracle. Someone suspected that the blood might be peeling paint, so a handkerchief was used to catch the tears of blood. Later it was obvious that the stain was made by blood and not paint. It is not known how long the tears of blood lasted, but soon the little church was crowded with excited parishioners who were witnesses to the event and the news spread to Milan and surrounding villages, and to the Archbishop, St. Charles. He placed Carlo Bascape in charge of the episcopal investigation. A notary took depositions from 40 witnesses; the results were sent to the Holy See. The miracle of Our Lady of Sorrows was declared authentic and St. Charles promised his parishioners that he would build a basilica to honor Our Lady as Our Lady of Sorrows or the Griever as the local people called her. He died after the cornerstone had been laid. Today the basilica is decorated with splendid carvings and priceless paintings. There are several large chapels, one of which is dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo. The custodians of this magnificent church are the Oblate Missionaries of Rho, known as the Missionaries of the Griever. Their founder was the Rev. Giorgio Martinelli [1655-1727], who was declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI. In the sacristy of the basilica is a tabernacle-like safe in which is kept a large silver reliquary in which is visible behind a crystal oval, the linen handkerchief stained with the bloody tears of the Madonna. The miraculous portrait —- we do not have a good photo, which we someday hope to have —- has the place of honor in the basilica. The yearly anniversary on April 24 is celebrated with impressive ceremonies, while the Feast Day of the Sorrowful Mother, which is September 15, is commemorated more solemnly. Her Feast of September 15 is one day after the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The first known outpouring of honoring Mary as a Sorrowful Mother go back at least as early two or more centuries before St. Charles Borromeo and the devotion has its roots in Scripture. Both the Dominican and Franciscan Orders were instrumentally in spreading this devotion, along with the Servites. ABOUT THE IMAGE OF OUR LADY OF SORROWS As we said, she is portrayed mostly as a Pieta with the dead Christ in her lap, to resemble the original painting in the basilica at Rho. However, she is also popularly depicted with a crown of thorns in her hands, or with her Immaculate Heart pierced with thorns, or beneath the Cross in grief and most often of all, like the image on this page, which is a popular rendition of the famous one by Carlo Dolci. All are accepted by God and her as appropriate to Christ’s wish for devotion to His Sorrowful Mother to be known and practiced. Various mystics and Saints have indicated as much. We are devoted to all the images of our Lady of Sorrows and have chosen what we think is a fair representation of the range of images possible for display. We tried not to have too much duplication from last year and chose less color and more sepia in some of the sections. The devotion to Our Sorrowful Lady is growing in modern times, almost unprecedented, but of course it is very precedented because it is in accord with the Will of God. Our Mother is very much grieving, as Our Lady of Fatima. as Our Lady of LaSalette, as Our Lady of Akita, and so forth. Could it be any different in this time of worldwide apostasy and open rebellion against the rights of God and the respect and honor due His holy Mother?