Anticipated Program for Pilgrimage to Rome, Italy, April 6 to 18 2017
Day 1 - Thursday April 6th
Thursday afternoon – depart from local area airport for Rome Italy On Air Canada at 4.00 p.m. via Montreal
Before departure – anticipated Mass of thanksgiving at Blessed Trinity on Wednesday April 5 for all participants and families
Parents say good bye and boys and leaders clear airport security check point
Arrive at the gate to await aircraft boarding.
Pre-board flight as a youth group
Pushback from gate for departure to take off runway and flight to Rome Italy with an aircraft change in Montreal
Flying time 8 hours and 30 minutes to 11 hours and 50 minutes pending point of departure with a dinner after takeoff and a light breakfast before landing. We will encourage boys to sleep while on the aircraft! (we hope)
Day 2 - Friday, April 7h
Arrive at Rome at 8.50 a.m. local time at Rome (FCO) Airport
Clear local customs
Claim all baggage and clear baggage hall and meet greeting Italian Explorer Leaders
Board charter bus to the small city of Soriano north of Rome
Above photo of Italian Timber Wolves on a similar train ride to the camp in Soriano with their Akela.
Arrive at local train station and then bussing to National Italian Explorer Camp just north of Soriano Italy
Approx. 3.30 p.m. Arrive at Italian camp in Soriano known as the FSE Italian National Centre
3.45 p.m. Unpack and rest, prepare for dinner – local program activities till Italian boys arrive
5.30 p.m. Explorers meet arriving Italian Explorers and commence camp.
7.30 p.m. Timber wolves camp begins – St. Francis of Assisi meal
Day 3 - Saturday April 8th
7.00 a.m. Rise and shine, into uniforms, breakfast and arrival of Italian Timber Wolves (Italian Explorers are already at the camp).
Our Timber Wolves will play and work with the Italian Timber Wolves all throughout the camp!
FNE Timber Wolves will be housed in cabins on bunk beds. The Italian Timber Wolves (two different groups) will visit one on the Saturday of camp and the other on Sunday due to local Palm Sunday celebrations.
FNE Explorers will camp with and cook with Explorers in tents away from the Timber Wolves at a location at the same camp.
There will be patrol vs. patrol activities, cooking and building activities going on throughout camp.
The Italian troop(s) will camp out throughout the entire weekend with our FNE Explorers.
Day 4 - Sunday April 9th
Sunday joint outdoor Mass or Mass inside a cave at the camp that acts as a chapel for Palm Sunday.
Italian timber wolf showing off to his FNE brothers that they too can build a snowman!
Our timber wolves will be well challenged from a physical perspective as illustrated below.
Our Explorers will need to know basic morose code and semaphore signals to be able to send messages!
3.30 p.m. Camp ends and to Rome by train and then bus to the Legionaries of Christ Seminary in central Rome!
7.00 p.m. Arrive at Seminary, boys assigned to facilities (bunk beds with sheets for each), uniforms to be washed for use later on in the week. Orientation and rules re behavior while in the seminary.
8.30 p.m. Dinner, prepare lunch for the following day, prepare overnight bags for Assisi / Loreto trip (breakfast to be prepared by kitchen staff to tale on bus to eat on the way to Assisi). Catch up on sleep on the bus.
9.30 p.m. Evening prayers and then off to bed for a well needed night’s sleep. Code of silence in effect once in bed.
Day 5 - Monday April 10th
5.00 a.m. Rise and shine
5.30 a.m. Early morning departure to Assisi by coach liner, we will be staying overnight in Loreto. Eat breakfast on the bus.
8.30 a.m. Arrival in Assisi
9.00 a.m. Mass at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi at the Basilica of St. Francis
We will be holding a private Mass at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi pictured below!
10.30 a.m. Visit to the Basilica of St. Clair of Assisi and then visit the town,
Noon Picnic lunch and sightseeing in and throughout Assisi in teams
2.00 p.m. Depart for St. Mary of the Angels
5.30 p.m. Depart for Loreto
7.30 p.m. Arrive at Loreto and settle into hotel rooms
8.00 p.m. Supper (in a restaurant)
9.00 p.m. Night prayers, work on Diary
9.30 p.m. To bed, code of silence in effect!
Early morning departure to Assisi by coach liner, we will be staying overnight in Loreto.
Eat breakfast on the bus.
Day 6 - Tuesday, April 11th
6.00 a.m. Rise and shine
6.30 a.m. Breakfast
7.15 a.m. Departure for Mass
8.00 a.m. Mass at the Basilica of the Holy House
11.00 a.m. Depart for the Adriatic Sea (via Alvata) to swim and play sports
1.45 p.m. Lunch
2.45 p.m. Departure for the Seminary
6.30 p.m. Arrive at the Seminary
Showers then rest and work on diary
Pick up clean uniforms and prepare for wearing next day and make lunches for next day
8.30 p.m. Supper
9.30 p.m. Bed and Code of Silence
Day 7 - Wednesday April 12th
6.00 a.m. Rise and Shine and get into full and complete spotless uniform
6.30 a.m. Breakfast
7.10 a.m. Depart for St. Peter’s (by train)
8.30 a.m. Arrive at St. Peter’s
Historical facts, rosary in teams, Trivia in teams.
10.30 a.m. General Audience with the Holy Father at the Vatican!
12.00 Lunch – while in line for entrance into the Vatican Museum
12.45 p.m. Vatican Museum one of the best in the world by far, so much to see and take in for all ages!
Visit to the Sistine Chapel to contemplate the sheer beauty and the meaning of the Last Judgement.
(It is here that the new Pope’s are selected by the Cardinals after the death of a Pope).
5.00 p.m. Shopping for your family members and yourself to bring back treasures to share
with loved ones and to treasure for decades to come highlighting your once in a life time Pilgrimage
6.45 p.m. Mass in Church by St. Peter’s Train Station.
7.45 p.m. Train back to the Seminary
8.30 p.m. Dinner
9.15 p.m. Evening prayers
9.30 p.m. Showers
10.00 p.m. Bed and code of silence in effect!
Day 8 - Thursday April 13th – Holy Thursday
6.00 a.m. Rise, Morning Prayer, meditation
6.30 a.m. Breakfast
7.10 a.m. Departure to train station
9.00 a.m. Praying and reflecting at the Holy Stairs, going up on our knees
http://www.medjugorjeusa.org/holystairs.htm for prayers on each step
10.00 a.m. Depart to Holy Cross in Jerusalem Church
10.30 a.m. Visiting the relics: thorns of Christ’s crown, the sign on the cross – "Jesus, the King of the Jews"
Visit to the Church of the Holy Cross (where we will see pieces of the cross that
Jesus was crucified on plus a name and the sign on the cross plus 2 thorns
from the crown of thorns placed on his head.
11.30 a.m. Depart for St. John Lateran’s Basilica
12.30 p.m. Visit to St. John Lateran’s Basilica
Visit this website for a real taste of what we will see – AWESOME!
1.00 p.m. Depart for St. Mary Major Basilica
1.30 p.m. Visit to St. Mary Major Basilica
2.30 p.m. Rosary prayers
3.30 p.m. Termini train back to the Seminary
4.30 p.m. Showers, into full uniform and preparation for Mass
6.00 p.m. Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Seminary 8.30 p.m. Dinner
9.15 p.m. Eucharistic Adoration
10.00 p.m. Bed and code of silence
Day 9 - Good Friday – April 14th
8.00 a.m. Rise, morning prayer
8.30 a.m. Breakfast
9.15 a.m. Morning Meditation, Jesus Trial before Pilate
9.45 a.m. Movie: The Passion
11.45 a.m. Snack
12.15 p.m. Shroud of Turin Tour http://www.theholyshroud.net
1.15 p.m. Diary Time
1.30 p.m. Jesus – Seven last words talk
2.00 p.m. Lunch (hot)
3.00 p.m. Depart for Basilica of St. John Lateran
5.00 p.m. Passion of our Lord at St. John Lateran 7.00 p.m. Depart for Coliseum area
8.00 p.m. Packed supper at Coliseum
8.30 p.m. Rosary
9.15 p.m. Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9IkIu8v6DI&feature=related
11.15 p.m. Depart for the Seminary
11.40 p.m. Bed and lights out Holy
Day 10 - Saturday, April 15th
8.30 a.m. Rise and morning prayers
9.00 a.m. Breakfast
9.45 a.m. Talk in the Chapel (Jesus is NOT present)
10.30 a.m. Sports tournament
12.20 p.m. Sports tournament continued
1.15 p.m. Swim
2.15 p.m. Lunch
3.15 p.m. Chaplet of the Divine Mercy in Song
3.45 p.m. Mandatory nap / rest period on bunks
5.00 p.m. Showers and into full uniform
5.30 p.m. Board games
7.30 p.m. Spiritual talk
8.00 p.m. Dinner
9.30 p.m. Easter Vigil Mass with Legionaries After Mass ends immediately to bed, lights out and code of silence in effect
Day 11 - Easter Sunday, April 16th
6.30 a.m. Rise and shine and breakfast and in full and complete spotless uniform
7.15 a.m. Depart for Mass
10.30 a.m. Easter Sunday Mass with the Holy Father and 100,000 plus other people!
12.30 p.m. Return to the Seminary
1.15 p.m. Lunch with the Legionaries – a GREAT EASTER SUNDAY FEAST!
2.30 p.m. Change into beach clothes and depart for Santa Marinella
3.30 p.m. Swim in the Mediterranean Sea
6.00 p.m. Supper by the Sea at a resort managed by the brother of Father Thomas as we
overlook the sea!
7.45 p.m. Return to the Seminary
8.30 p.m. Prepare lunch for the next day and evening prayers
9.00 p.m. Bed and code of silence in effect
Day 12 - Easter Monday April 17th
5.45 a.m. Rise and Shine and pick up meals for the day
6.35 a.m. Departure by train to St. Peter’s Basicalla
8.00 a.m. Morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica
The location below is where we will have Mass on Monday morning!
8.45 a.m. Breakfast on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica (the largest church in the world!)
9.15 a.m. Tour of the Basilica http://saintpetersbasilica.org
Visit to the Tombs of the Popes http://saintpetersbasilica.org/Grottoes/JPII/Tomb%20of%20John%20Paul%20I...
11.30 a.m. Visit to the Cupola at St. Peter’s Basicalla (climb up to the top)
12.30 p.m. Lunch with bathroom break
1.00 p.m. Walk to Pantheon, Chiesa di Gesu, Gelato (ice cream), Piazza Navona etc.
After lunch visit to Chiesa di Gesu (to view relics of St. Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyla and the original Sacred Heart painting as illustrated below. http://www.chiesadelgesu.org/index_en.html
Visit to Piazza Navona (Church of St. Agnes)
6.45 p.m. Train to return to seminary
7.15 p.m. Evening awards
8.30 p.m. Dinner
9.30 p.m. Night prayers, bed and code of silence in effect
Day 13 - Easter Tuesday, April 18th
6.45 a.m. Rise and shine, into full uniform and final packing
7.30 a.m. Breakfast
8.15 a.m. Depart for airport
9.00 a.m. Arrive at airport and check in
Visit Chapel if time allows
Final buying of gifts to take home / snacks
11.30 a.m. To the gate
12.30 p.m. Board aircraft
1.15 p.m. Afternoon – depart for home back to Canada
They will feed us a hot lunch and a snack before landing (so be prepared as the boys will be hungry for dinner when they get home).
Afternoon - Arrive home at 4.55 p.m. and clear Customs and claim baggage Clear baggage hall and greet parents and other family members with great joy and go home! Parents – check with your airline to be sure that the flight will be on time before heading out to the airport!
A diary of our last FNE Pilgrimage (our 3rd as FNE) to Rome Italy:
Day 1 - Thursday April 14th
For weeks and months on end some of our Timber Wolves and Explorers diligently set up and followed “countdown” clocks to the big day – 3 pm, Thursday, April 14, 2011. At long last it was all but 5 boys who showed up at the airport right on time. One of our Timber Wolves, Harry Kim, was already on route from Seoul, Korea to Rome with flight duration of 16+ hours. Within 16 hours and four meals later, Harry before we did by 90 minutes
After checking in at the group check in counter, we kicked off the pilgrimage with a mass in the Terminal 1 chapel. Father Terry celebrated a private mass for the group. We had over 50 boys along their family members in attendance. This was one the largest group to attend mass at the chapel. We have a number of wonderfully taken pictures to share with you to give you a feel of the size of the group in attendance in the chapel.
At 5:30 pm, the boys bid goodbye to their parents and headed off to a smooth hassle-free flow through airport security to the assigned gate of 178. By 6:05 pm, the boys quickly broke up into small groups to play cards, tell jokes and look forward to our departure on Air Canada B76.
Boarding took 30 minutes longer than expected due to technical challenges with the aircraft. Once the maintenance crew addressed these challenges, we pre-boarded the flight and quickly settled into our assigned seats. Only one boy was not able to make the flight. However, we look forward to him joining us tomorrow.
The plane took off within 35 seconds on runway 06L (Left) and finally we were off on our adventure of a lifetime – our pilgrimage to Rome and joint camp with Italian Explorers and Timber Wolves. We are proud of how well our boys have continues to work together within their teams. We introduced this concept to them a few weeks back at the Normount school. Today we emphasized the importance of these teams and our boys rose to our expectations.
The flight went well and took us smoothly into day 2 of our pilgrimage.
Facebook stored photos:
Link to Day1 photos
Day 2 - Friday, April 15th
Our flight of 8 hours and 25 minutes went fairly fast with many boys so excited that they did not sleep much. And instead choose to watch multiple movies. We had a dinner choice of chicken or beef with drink. For breakfast, we had a cake muffin with a choice of drink – nothing special.
We arrived safely in Rome to a partly sunny day and a temperature of 10 degrees C and climbing. We disembarked from the plane and boarded a bus to go through customs and baggage claim. After 90 minutes we were ready to take our 2-hour train ride north to Oreto. Oreto is a small close to the home base for the Italian national camp near Soriano. During the train ride many of boys and leaders took the opportunity to catch up on their sleep.
The boys were transported to “Bornwsea camp” in two waves with the second wave waiting at the train station till the vehicles returned (especially given the volume of luggage). The boys waiting at the train station enjoyed a refreshing drink in between playing cards, tag, their version of slap hands game and making plans as to how perhaps they could win a game of soccer against their Italian bothers.
The Italian skies opened up with heavy rain upon the second wave of boys just like we experienced in 2007!
Many hands make light work as we removed the luggage into the hall while we awaited the arrival of the Italian explorer at 7 pm. At 7 pm sharp six patrols of explorers arrive on time (in the rain), and our boys marveled at their stamina, organizational discipline, true patrol unity and working as a team as they walked up the hill an into the hall without any real concern for the rain that fell.
By 7:30 pm, our Explorers (watched by their younger Timber wolf brothers) joined for the first time the larger FSE/FNE Explorer family and suddenly saw that what we have been teaching them in Canada really mattered as the patrols came together to shout out their gathering call, to respond to the gathering whistle, to pray together and to proudly represent their patrol troop and country. It was a real special feeling knowing that we are truly part of a larger family; a family that has gone of its way to make everyone of our Explorers feels welcome and a member of our FSE family.
In spite of the rain, the Explorers operating in three mixed troops of two Canadian patrols and on Canadian patrol was up and running..and we do mean running to set up their large tents. As leaders (and parents) it was a real joy to see every Explorer run and work hard whiling paying little heed to the pestering rain to “get the job done”.
The Timber wolves enjoyed a 45-minute nap while only one or two of them actually closed their eyes as they were having such a great time. After their nap, Akela Paul took all of the Timber Wolves for a little adventure to visit a man-made cave on the camp ground. In the past this cave was chiseled out of volcanic rock to house farm animals. Now this cave is used as a chapel for prayer and reflection.
At 9 pm, we gather altogether for a skit (a representation) of St Francis of Assisi and one of his brothers to share with the boys of giving, helping other and even to make a personal sacrifice from time to time. From there we shared a simple “Franciscan” home-made meal complete with Italian olives that “most” of our Timber wolves and Explorers ate as they were quite hungry.
Then by 9:45 pm we started to drag our tired selves off to bed for a well deserved night of sleep..with the Explorers heading off to their tents. By 10:05 pm, not a sound was heard except for a few boys who gradually increased the sound of their snoring.
Facebook stored photos:
Link to Day2 photos
Map of Route:
map of the route from the airport to the camp
Day 3 - Saturday, April 16th
The day dawned sunny and cool, all too soon. By 7:30 am. Akela was out and about to rise our Timber wolves out of bed. For a few like Jiseok and Roy it was a real challenge. The Explorers were in their uniforms ready to go at 8 am (while all but four of the boys .. including Roy) for opening ceremonies – quite an impressive sight.
The Explorers gathered their breakfast from the kitchen and ate it within their patrols. We could see teamwork in each patrol start to improve and take hold. While the Timber Wolves huddled together for breakfast ready right to the minute!
After breakfast, the Timber Wolves went for a job to the main entrance of the camp where the “old” Akela could still outrun and outlast the Timber Wolves..good for Akela. There is room for improvement on the part of our Timber Wolves. We really appreciate the landscape around the camp including the railways and pyramid-like mountains.
While at the main gain of the camp, the Italian Timber Wolves arrived so excited to see their Canadian brother. They got off the bus right then and there to meet their brothers. Not only were the boys excited, but more excited were the Italian leaders such as Baloo, Chil, Akela. Many of the leaders spoke great English. After taking group photos at the gate, and active program ran by the Italian leaders got underway while the Canadian leaders participated in leader training.
The Explorers quickly picked up skills on building projects led and taught by their brother Italian Explorers. The Explorers moved rapidly from program to another, some very challenging from problem, team building, design planning, cooking skills and physical endurance and hands on challenges. Explorer boys love rough and challenging activities.. they sure got their fill of this aspect of the program.
Our Timber Wolves experienced a program ran by an Italian Akela and his team for the day. Their program consisted of running, team building, craft and more. By the end of the day, we expect our boys to happily track off to bed! All in all… another wonderful day. Our Italian hosts have worked so hard to deliver to our boys and theirs a true FSE Explorer program, while our leaders spent 6 plus hour in training. We have lots of program enhancement to bring home to run FNE Explorers!
Facebook stored photos:
Day 4 - Departure from Camp to Seminary - Sunday, April 17th
Sunday morning was upon us before we knew it with a cool breeze blowing off the mountains, a blazing sun, and heavy dew covering the grass. As Akela/Grey Wolf is normally the first one up he surveyed he camp and found the timber Wolves fast asleep with a couple snoring away although with less volume than some of the leaders (Grey Wolf is not one of them! J)
At 7:30 am sharp, the morning gathering whistle went off for the Explorers who soon staggered out of their tents hurriedly putting on their uniforms to scramble for opening ceremonies. Some of our Explorers found this aspect of the day’s program more than a little challenging.
As per the previous assemblies, the nine patrols (six Italian and three Canadian) quickly assumed their positions in formation with each patrol chief proudly holding their patrol flag to receive instructions for the day and then pick up their allotment of food for the days breakfast. The Explorers breakfast was similar to the previous day and consisted of bread, jam, butter, boiled eggs and hot chocolate. It was simple, nutritious and filling.
By 7:40 am, Akela, wandered into the quarters of the Timber Wolves to rouse up our “sleeping beauties as they had their full of fun, running and games from the previous day. The Canadian Timber wolves remarked how physical the Italian boys could be and how we/they needed to rise to the challenge to keep up. By 7:45 am, we had the boys pack their bags as the day’s busy schedule would leave little time to pack later. By 8:10 am, we arrived for an Italian breakfast of crusty bread, four different types of jams, butter, hot chocolate or tea, and scramble eggs. There was little food left by the end of breakfast.
As with the previous day’s opening ceremonies, the Explorers joined their brother for the morning flag hoisting. They moved in a neat single-lined formation to the great field to hoist the flags of Canada, Italy and the movement. After the flags were raised, one Explorer from each country would recite the Explorer law in their own language and salute the Trap leaders of the day. Then, our Explorers proudly and without any degree of shyness, sang “O Canada” after the Italians completed sing the Italian national anthem.
This morning a new Italian Timber wolf den arrived at 9 am sharp. The Italian Timber wolves arrived anxious to greet their Canadian brothers before attending Palm Sunday Mass. It was quite a sight to see more than 100 Italian and Canadian Explorers gather for mass as we all held palms in our hands to remember the great celebration of the people who greeted Jesus as he enter Jerusalem for Palm Sunday many years ago. The Explorers along with the Timber wolves and leaders from both countries gathered together for the blessing of the palms before forming process to enter the mass area.
We celebrated mass in an open area in both languages with Tommy Lee doing the first reading, Rino Castagna doing the second reading and Tristan Lipton doing the responsorial Psalm. Father (we had two celebrating with us) gave two homilies in Italian and then English. Participating in Holy Communion with our brother on Palm Sunday was a special experience. Many of our boys were on their knees after receiving Jesus, giving thanks for this very special moment, time and place. Mass lasted for 90 minutes on the sun soaked lawns, with a dry breeze blowing over the space. It was a truly glorious morning. Our boys sand three songs during Mass, “Be Not Afraid”, “Magnificat”, and “Immaculate Mary”.
After Mass, the three groups (Timber wolves, Explorers and Leaders) spent the balance of the morning and early afternoon in separate programs. The Italian leaders led both groups of Timber wolves in a wide variety of challenging games. Our boys had a great time. The Explorers had their own games and then began winding up camp before preparing lunch. Our leaders benefited from another training session led by a couple of Italian leaders. The leader shared a number of great ideas that would greatly benefit our efforts in Canada.
Lunch was awesome. It consisted of a pasta appetizer, followed by mash potatoes and true Italian pizza without the crust and dessert of apples and oranges. Our Explorers cooked their own meals which varied from one patrol to another. Italian Explorers always cook over an open fire. There is no such thing as stoves (less to carry)
As the day wound down, it was time to clean up the camp and pack our bags for travelling to our next destination. Our Explorers exchanged email addresses and Facebook contact details with their new found brothers. I some cases they exchanged, parts of uniforms, such as uniform belts and t-shirts. They took group photos with new friends and exchanged gifts with much excitement. The Italian Timber wolves, Explorer and Leaders receiving gifts showed great appreciation for the items they received.
Before we knew it the day and camp came to an end. We held closing ceremonies and said our goodbyes until the movement-wide jamboree for Explorers in France, in the summer of 2014! This great adventure awaits us. We learned much, but realize that we have much more to experience as our FSE/FNE is so profound and deep!
At 4 pm sharp, we loaded a coach line for the ride to the Oreto train station. We really had to hustle as we had tight connections. Our boys lumbered into the station with their luggage down a flight of stairs, and up another to the pre-assigned platform. When we arrived at the so-called “assigned platform; the assignment had changed for 3 to 5. We had to rush to the correct platform. It was quite the struggle, but we made it with the Explorers assisting their younger brothers. We made it with just 5 minutes to spare.
One of the challenges we had to overcome was the fact that Italian trains do not have spare storage space for multiple large bags, but thanks to the efforts of all involved we loaded All of the luggage and boys onto the train all in the short span of 4 minutes!
We settled in for our trip of 85 minutes to Roma Termini, the central Rome train station. We are thankful to the understanding conductors who allowed some of our boys without seats to sit in the spare first class seat that was available. Otherwise, we would have to sit on our baggage while squeezing into all available seats.
Upon arrival at the central train station, we offloaded the train in 5 minute flat and were led by an Italian Explorer leader, who was there just for that purpose, to the next train for a 23-minute walk to our final stop. We had a scant 34 minute to make the connection that included a 15 minute from one end of the train station to another, but once again we made it. After approximately 30 minute ride, we got off at Roma Aurelia. The conductor was kind enough to allow us the time necessary to get off the train.
Father Thomas and Brother Nicholas were waiting for us at the train station. We went down a set of stairs and up another and finally up a steep hill to entrance to the seminary with the older boys helping the younger boys. The Seminary was breathtaking in both its beauty and size. This facility houses over 300 seminarians. Upon arrival, the first priority was a long drink of cold water.
We quickly settled into our sleeping quarters and then headed off for a badly need shower followed by a great swim in the huge indoor pool. After our swim we tracked upstairs for a great dinner of seasoned rice and chicken, salad and very tasty mini-pizzas. After the day’s hard work our boys consumed almost every available pizza. Everyone was satisfied after this great meal.
We went off to bed after turning in our uniforms for washing. This task took about 10 minutes after which everyone fell into a deep sleep. We saw the end of another exciting day as we planned to get up at 4:45 am for our 3-hour trip to Assisi.
Facebook stored photos:
Link to Day4 photos
Day 5 – Day one of Our Pilgrimage – Visit Assisi - 18 April 2011
The morning came too quickly, especially for the leaders who had to get up early to prepare themselves for getting our boys up. Akela/Grey Wolf was the lucky leader to go and get our Explorers and Timber wolves up. With a lot of encouragement, prodding and patience we got our boys up, dressed and out the door for 5:30 am and into the waiting coach line. We were on time and we pulled out of the seminary for our 3-hour drive to Assisi. After brief morning prayers our boys fell back asleep until 10 minutes prior to our arrival.
The day dawned bright and sunny without the hint of a cloud in the sky. The town of Assisi is quite a beautiful sight, especially in the bright sunlight of this bright spring day. The town was built on the side of a mountain to protect it from invaders.
Upon our arrival, we disembarked from our bus to enjoy a light breakfast before walking up 100 metres to the Basilica of St. Francis. We descended to the tomb of St Francis to celebrate our private Mass for our group. We are very grateful to Father Thomas, Brother Nicholas and Brother Dennis for making this possible. Our group quietly filled the chapel and our boys were in awe when they realised where they were.
The Mass was so moving and spiritually powerful that it generated tears of thanksgiving for some and a realisation of the mercy of God as illustrated through the life of St. Francis of Assisi. At the same Mass we witnessed Andy Hwang receive his First Communion with great joy and excitement. The event was made extra special for the fact that both his parents were available to witness this event with his brother Timber wolves, Explorers and FNE Leaders. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos in the church so we were unable to capture this event on film.
After mass, one of our Explorers remarked, “Grey Wolf, this mass was the most moving and special Mass that I ever experienced in my life. I really thought that the Lord was reaching out to each of us in a special way, I am so happy.” After a washroom break that cost 0.60 Euros per person…we returned to the Basilica for tour led by Father Thomas using headset units. These units facilitated us hearing very detailed descriptions of the different altars and paintings with special emphasis on the last judgement scene. Father described the images and highlighted the battle that we call face between good and eveil in our hearts.
On the way to the Basilica of St. Clair, Andy Hwang’s parents treated the group to gelatos (ice cream) to celebrate his First Communion. This by far one of the best ice creams you could every experience. We all enjoyed this treat very much. We returned to the bus and went to a rest stop for a picnic lunch consisting of ham and cheese sandwich, cookies and a drink.
At the Basilica of St. Clair we knelt in deep prayer in the front of the very cross that Jesus spoke through to St. Francis. Jesus said, “Francis, Francis re-build my church which as you see is in ruin.” Together we called out to the Lord to help us hear him as to what he wants us to do and then to find the courage to do what he is asking us. From there we moved to another part of the Basilica to pray the rosary for our loved ones, those who are sick and for our movement. We silently descended to the lower level to view the uncorrupted body of St Clair of Assisi who dies in 1253. What a miracle!
For our last stop of the day we visited St Mary of the Angels which was one of the original churches repaired by St Francis. This is where St. Clair of Assisi got her hair cut to symbolize her parting from social and family riches and accepting a life of poverty and great sacrifice. In this very church, Jesus spoke with St Francis through the cross and where he died on October 4, 1226.
The most moving and striking part of the day was when we when we discovered Eucharistic Adoration underway. The boys entered the side chapel and immediately and without prompting moved up to the altar rail, fell to their knees, and went into private prayer with Jesus. This site was so moving and sincere that a nun came out to ask Father Tomas as to who and where these boys came from as she had never seen as act of love for Jesus by youth similar to what our Timber wolves and Explorers demonstrated right then and there.
When Brother Dennis suggested that it was time to leave Adoration only but a few boys responded immediately. Brother Dennis also remarked that he has been working with youth for better than 3 years and had never seen or experienced what he did today. Jesus was so very happy with our Explorers and Timber wolves at that very moment that he poured many graces on them. This was for us as leaders a real joy and gift. Thank you Jesus!
Our sunset drive through the Valle del Bucello mountains, was truly a breathtaking sight with many beautiful valleys to see below as we climbed ever higher we reached our destination, Loreto. We stayed at the Scalabriniani Hotel a former seminary.
Upon our arrival at 7:30 pm we filed into the dining room for a wonderful feat consisting of bread, pasta, fried potato wedges, salad, breaded pork, apples, pineapple, coffee, tea, water and soft drinks. Our boys really ate well. After dinner we assigned our boys to rooms – either 2, 4 or 6 boys to a room and gave them 15 minutes to set up before returning to the lobby for 9 pm. All our Timber wolves and Explorers returned to the lobby within the prescribed time give or take 5 minutes. A great start to the evening.
From there we filed into the chapel for what we thought would be a 30 to 45 minute question and answer period after signing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. What awaited us exceeded our wildest expectations. We started off the evening discussion with a question and answer period which in turn drove an active and engaging discussion period. Father Thomas made himself available to hear confessions. When Akela/Grey Wolf asked who wanted to go first, at least 40 hands shot up with much clamouring as to who would go first. We finally settled on the order that the boys were seated.
Before starting on singing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on a whim Akela/Grey Wolf invited (hoping that 2 or 3 boys would volunteer) the boys to share with his brothers his feelings, observations. Hopes and dreams for our pilgrimage to date. As the first boy began sharing his feelings we were blown away by what followed. One after another each boy that went up opened up their hearts and shared with his brothers without fear of shame or ridicule. Their thoughts and comments were so profound and unique. We experienced such a wide range of emotions such as:
- And above all love
Some of our boys came up to offer their testimony with tears of thanksgiving flowing like a river; to deep expressions of love for their parents as to the sacrifice made to make this pilgrimage happen; to having the Lord touch them in very special ways; to reflecting back to experiences from summer camp and Eucharistic adoration; to not doubting God’s love for us; how much the program has done to rekindle faith; why they are now believers not just because of what their parents taught them but by what they have seen and experienced.
Our boys spoke in awe about St. Francis of Assisi, his love for the Lord and his detachment from worldly values and material things. They also spoke about the miracle of seeing the body of St Clair of Assisi uncorrupted hundreds of years after her death. The boys who shared testimonies that brought tears to the eyes of the adults present include: Tommy, John, Michael K., Christian, Jiseok, Anthony, San, Wilton, David, Rino, Antonio and Michael C. (Shared at request of the boys - Akela/Grey Wolf)
Brother Denis was also present. He had to retire for the night after four boys, but he remarked how moved and impressed he was based on what he saw and heard. Parents you should be so very proud of your sons as they are all really good, loving and responsible children! We ended the evening just before midnight by singing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on our knees in front of the Tabernacle. The singing was so loving, peaceful and in harmony that the Lord could not help but be very pleased!
Facebook stored photos:
Day 6 – Day Two of Our Pilgrimage – Visit Loreto - 19 April 2011
The day dawned bright and sunny. Our boys had been sent to bed with the code of no talking until 7:15 am until the next morning – not a single word. This was a promise that most of the boys adhered to. By 7:15 am, Akela/Grey Wolf got our boys up for a 7:45 pm Continental breakfast and by 7:45 am all our boys were in the lobby, dressed, packed and ready to go.
At 8:30 am we departed for the Little House of the Annunciation in Loreto and our private Mass at 9 am. Upon our arrival, we paid a brief visit to the little house where Angel Gabriel appeared to Mother Mary informing her that she was chosen as the mother of Jesus. We made our initial visit brief as we had to get downstairs in time for Mass.
Our Mass was a special one and had active engagement and participation from all present. Father Tomas’ homily was on the subject of faith. Faith is not just simply our prayer life and attending Mass, but living daily life as a good Christian. We need to love and serve our Lord, to do his will, and by truly doing his will we become happier, more content and more at peace.
After Mass, we returned to the little house and fell on our knees as we contemplated the events that took place so long ago. The place saw the very beginning of our Faith. We then toured the rest of the church, learned more about the meanings of the various artworks and entered a Chapel for Eucharistic Adoration. In this chapel, many of our boys gathered around the base of the altar on their knees in true joy, trust, and happiness. Our Lord must have been working as at one Explorer and one Leader had tears streaming down their face.
From there we exited the church and spent an additional 10 Euros to use the washroom..sigh (money literally down the drain). Afterward, we took a walk in a local area garden and walkway. At the bottom of the walkway, the group sang ‘O Canada’ before walking back up. As a spiritual exercise, Father Thomas challenged our boy to count all the steps and pray at each station of the Rosary on the way back up. Two of our team got the exact number of 333 steps.
The group had a hearty lunch at a local restaurant. Our boys are starting to realize that pasta with or without meat and served with bread is only the appetizer. The main course usually follows with meat, salad on of course more bread. The full lunch consisted of bread, pasta (with meat), sliced beef and turkey, salad and water. We had yet another great meal at a fair price and with great service. In Loreto, local businesses suffered from a lack of customers and Pilgrims. This restaurant was very happy for our business. We then set off to the beach on a sunny but cool day.
The water was cool, yet 12 brave boys went in for a quick swim in the beautiful blue, clean salt water. Our boys skipped many stones with Father Tomas however they were no match for the “best of the best”. We finished our day with some more gelato ice cream. They are truly delicious. We recommend them highly.
The drive back was scenic especially some beautiful snow capped mountains we saw in the distance. During the day Brother Nicolas challenged our boys to solve a couple of riddles. Can you solve them? Here they are:
- Throw away the outside, cook the inside, eat the outside, and throw away the inside
- If you name me I am no longer present
Feel free to comment with your thoughts on these riddles.
After our 3-hour drive we got back to the seminary to a dinner of eggs, bread, bean burrito, salad and chicken seasoned rice. We got our boys to bed early as we needed to be up early to gain a good spot for the general audience with the Pope.
Facebook stored photos:
Map of the trip back to the Seminary:
Map of travels on Tuesday
Day 7 – Day Three of Our Pilgrimage – Papal Audience and Vatican Museum – 20 April 2011
Today is a really big day as we get up early to be with Pope Benedict 16th. Our boys bound out of bed full of anticipation, hope, excitement, and love. In less than 60 minutes we got up, changed into our uniforms, had breakfast, cleaned up our tables, and headed out the door to catch the train to St Peter’s Square.
We are quickly learning that the riding on the Italian train system is at times challenging when it is filled with regular commuters. The regular passengers do not have a habit of moving to allow other passengers to get on board the train. We quickly learn how to split up one team and use multiple doors to get on the train. We have to politely push our way on at times. After a brief 14-minute ride we arrive at the St Peter’s Square station (Roma San Pietro) and promptly exit the train. We are at St. Peter’s Square in 10 minutes and eagerly await our audience with Pope Benedict 16th.
You could hear their excitement as cameras swing into action on our approach to St. Peter’s Square. It was a beautiful sunny day, and great Cathedral looks so majestic. Some of our Explorers had carried knives in their pockets without realizing that it would be a problem at the security checkpoints.
Tommy hid his knife at a local gas station to be picked up later while the others felt nervous about the potential loss of treasured gifts from loved ones. In the end we gathered all the knives (8 in total) and asked one of the brothers to present them to the guards. The brother made a request of the guard that the boys be able to collect them when we left the audience. The guard agreed after he saw us in our uniforms. Thanks to Father Thomas and his team we were able to secure good tickets and we arrived early enough to obtain great seats. From there we awaited the arrival of Pope Benedict 16th.
The Swiss Guards do not allow themselves to be photographed by the public. However, they make an exception if they are photographed with our boys present in the picture. A plain-clothed dressed commanding officer of the Swiss Guards approached Akela/Grey Wolf and greeted him with the proper scout hand shake. The commanding officer introduced himself as a former member of our international movement the FSE! He was very happy to see us and welcomed us to the Vatican. We prayed the Rosary together for our Holy Father. We hung our FNE and Canadian flags from the crowd control stanchions when we heard that our group may be announced to the Holy Father.
As we waited for the Pope to spend time with our Brother, Nicholas shared some history about St. Peter’s Square. We were stuck by how many people died or were buried in the immediate area because of their faith.
At 10:35 am the organ sounded and we noticed 4 Swiss Guards march out of the main entrance into St Peter’s Square as the roar of the crowd increased. Our Explorers and Timber wolves become more excited as the moment arrived. Suddenly, there was our Pope traversing the square in his open Pope mobile. We all yelled as loud as we could – We love you Papa, Long live Pope Benedict 16th. He drove around once waving and blessing the crowd. Our boys were excited and joyful, especially for the fact that the Pope by our spot twice.
The Pope then when up to his chair and the general audience began. Pope Benedict spoke in such a calm and reassuring voice as he delivered his homily in many different languages. The Father Thomas translated the different prayers and reading for us so that we could follow along through our headsets. In between prayers the Holy Father listened to the announcements of the various groups present in many languages. During the announcement for the English speaking group, “..from Toronto, Canada, the FNE Explorers!”. It is amazing how many languages that were spoken during the general audience, they included: French, English, Italian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Polish, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.
We exploded with joy, waved our Canadian and FNE flags and rang out together, “We love you Papa!” The Pope formally acknowledged our presence by waving his hand in response to our outburst of joy and love. You could see the joy and love on the faces of our boys. At the end of the general audience, the Holy Father extended his Apostolic blessing to all present, to their families not present with us today, especially for are sick at home.
After the audience ended, we went to another section of the square to have lunch in the shade of some of the columns. As we ate we watch the thousands of people stream out of the square. After lunch we went over to the Vatican Museum. This museum is by far one of the leading if not “the’ leading museum in the world. Father Thomas and the brothers secured us group reservations so that we could avoid the 90-minute line up to enter the museum. We then split into teams of four with Father Thomas or a brother leading each team.
Father Thomas and the brother took us on a great tour of the museum. We studied many of the major pieces of art on subjects such as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Mother Mary with Baby Jesus; we say great carvings, statues and much more. For the most part our boys were attentive, listened carefully and asked many questions. We spent over 3-1/2 hour in the museum in the end we could not do much more. There was too much the take in.
By far the best part of our visit was seeing the Sistine Chapel. It is very beautiful. For most of us, this scenes were overwhelming in their message. The messages are so strong, inspiring and real. One could spend days in here review the messages shared by the images. Before we left, we prayed together in thanksgiving for our Pope, our families and movement. One of our boys remarked about the lack of respect for members of the public and the difference between a ‘tourist’ and a ‘pilgrim.'
At the end of a long but exciting day we moved our sore bodies for our train trip back to the seminary for Mass and dinner. Father Thomas celebrated Mass for us in the Legion’s beautiful huge chapel. We sang our hearts out as our voices bounced off the walls of the chapel and gave thanks for yet another incredible and special day. We had dinner before returning to the chapel for evening prayers and a good night’s sleep.
Link to the General Audience with the Pope:
Hear the Pope´s address
Map of our travels:
Link to map of our travels on Wednesday
Day 8 – Day Four of Our Pilgrimage – Holy Stair and St. Mary Major Basilica – 21 April 2011
Our Lord blessed us with another beautiful day. Today we elected to ‘delay’ the start our day by 90 minutes and therefore missed the opportunity to have Mass at St John Lateran. However, our boys and leaders needed the extra sleep. Our first stop of the day was at the Holy Stairs. These are the actual stairs that Jesus walked up to be judged by Pilate.
As we slowly made our way up the stairs on our knees (it was quite painful for some of us) we reflected on the Passion of Jesus. We recited a Hail Mary on each step. Many of our boys and leaders reported that this was a very special and spiritual moment. At the top of the stairs, many of us went the chapel to thank the Lord for what he has done for us. Upon leaving the Holy Stairs, we went to a downtown part for a relaxing picnic before heading to St Mary Major Basilica.
Rome is home to many religious relics. These relics help us as believers to better understand, appreciate and value the key facets and teachings of our faith. St Mary Major offered up yet another religious relic – the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ. Father Thomas led us through a tour of what is considered by many to me the most beautiful basilica outside of St. Peter’s and it lived up to the expectation.
As part of our visit, we stopped in front of a beautiful statue of Mother Mary where we knelt to pray one decade of the Rosary. As we entered into a deep sense of prayer, we noted that all activity around us seemed to stop. Other people around us joined a prayed the Rosary with us. Other people seemed to be in awe. (Sorry parents – most churches do not allow photos and us as good Explorers respect the rules even if other do not.)
We moved to a beautiful chapel that was truly stunning and prayed silently the next decade of the Rosary in front of the tabernacle. While we prayed, we reflected on the day’s event. Before departing from the church, we entered a small crypt to view the manger of Christ enclosed in a golden glass case for the last two decades of the Rosary. This time we reflected on what we have seen..it was awesome. From there we quickly moved back to the train station for our return to the seminary for the Mass of the Last Supper.
The Timber wolves and Explores where so excited as they got into their suits and ties for the first time. Grey Wolf/Akela enjoyed helping many of the boys put on the neck ties. Parents, your sons looked very sharp in their Sunday best!
We entered the chapel filled for the Mass of the Last Supper. The Seminarians sang so well that many of our Explorers and Timber wolves later remarked how beautiful and inspiring it was. Our boys received communion on this special night with an extra degree of reverence by kneeling. On this special occasion, they received both the body and blood of Jesus on their tongues. Our boys participated in long moments of prayer when they returned to their seats.
After Mass, we changed and enjoyed a great meal together before heading off to the classroom to review the team procedures and share more testimonies (see summary below) which were good but not quite as dynamic or deep as those heard on Monday night. From there we went to bed. Our boys were especially restless and it took longer than usual for them to fall asleep.
Testimonies Shared at Special Night Prayers
Our boys have truly been blessed by our Lord throughout this pilgrimage. They shared that they were very appreciative of all the support they received through, fundraising, prayers, etc. Some boys have been touched with a new sense of peace; others expressed their growth in the appreciation of the Mass and yet others have found a new and deeper faith in God. All in all the pilgrimage has brought our boys into a new sense of community. Love and respect for each other, especially through the caring for each other and as they look after their younger brothers. Here are a few comments made by our boys:
- Boy 1
- Felt a lot stronger in Catholic faith, after I joined FNE. I was a ‘jerk’ in grades 1 to 3 and up to no good. I was introduced to FNE by friend. I stay on and realise God is real. I feel I would be lost if I had no joined the FNE. I can see the respect that between the teams and the leaders.
- At the museum, each painting has a meaning to it. I realized that people who made these paintings are strong in the Catholic Faith. There are so many Catholics in the world. You do not need to be afraid about practicing your faith; You can be open and admit you are Catholic
- Boys 2
- So impressed by the painting in the museum, I want to be a saint someday.
- When I saw the Pope pass by I wondered if he is real. I never thought I would see the Pope so closely. Inside I felt like the Pope was blessing me.
- At the museum, I saw many pictures and sculptures of people kneeling down to pray. I felt that God was looking down on me from the ceiling.
- Boy 4
- At the church in Loreto, I cried during adoration. I felt that I needed to be nicer to people, to pray more, and to feel God. The pilgrimage has been very good for me.
- Boy 5
- I did not want to join the FNE because my impression was that they annoy people, sell bad apples, and did not obey others.
- Boy 6
- I would like to change and become a better person
- I like the Holy Stairs
- I appreciate all that Akela/Grey Wolf has done for us
- Boy 7
- I really appreciated the significance of walking the path that Jesus took before us
- Boy 8
- I really appreciated seeing the Jesus’ manger
- I felt really excited about seeing the Pope. I felt really good when he acknowledged me.
- My dream is to become an ordinary saint
- Boy 9
- All the holy placed has something that got me
- Boy 10
- My goal is to learn more about my faith and my Church
- I am getting a lot of valuable information
- Thank you all for making this possible
- Boy 11
- My goal for the pilgrimage is to fight off the sadness due to insulation
- I want to let people know that insulting people is insulting God. God takes the pain of those being insulted. If anyone insult others, they are insulting God and he feels the pain. The pilgrimage should help to heal
- Boy 12
- Before I became a Timber wolf, I thought going to church as torture. As a Timber wolf I am learning a lot more about church
- During the pilgrimage I feel blessed by the Pope
- Boy 13
- I lost my backpack. God is going me a chance to learn
- I used to blame on others. Now I am taking responsibility that I did not think enough
- Thank you Akela for opening up my eyes to the Catholic faith
- Jesus is so cool that he died and after three days he rose from the dead
- Boy 14
- Before coming to FNE, attending Mass meant nothing to me. Yesterday in Mass, I felt something changed. It meant something to me
- I hope and pray this feeling stays
- Boy 15
- I came on the pilgrimage because I wanted to become stronger
- Before I did not understand much about the church
- During this pilgrimage I am learning a lot
- I liked the adoration and I am amazed by St. Francis
- It is awesome
Map of trip Holy Stair and St. Mary Major Basilica:
Link to map of our travels on Thursday
Facebook stored photos:
Link to Day8 photos
Day 9 – Day Five of Our Pilgrimage – Holy Relics and Way of the Cross – 22 April 2011
The morning dawned bright and sunny as we rose for the most hold day of the year – Good Friday. We dressed into our uniforms and consumed a simple breakfast given the nature of the day. After breakfast we visited the Holy Shroud burial cloth exhibit located on the Seminar’s campus. Here we learned much about our Lord Jesus Christ and the suffered he endured. The exhibit included a life-sized model of Jesus. It was awesome to see and it gave us a better appreciation for Jesus the man. Many of our boys spent time looking at the replica of the body of Jesus. The spent time stroking his head and resting their heads on the chest of Jesus as St. John did at the last supper.
We then moved over to the seminary’s auditorium to watch the movie, ‘The Passion of Christ’. During the movie many adults and a few of our boys shed tears as they watched the suffering that Jesus endured for our sins. This movie gave us a better appreciation for the love Jesus had for all of us. After a simple lunch of pasta, bread, salad and water we go it the coach line to take us the church the Holy Cross of Jerusalem for Good Friday Service. It was a beautiful service with great music and Father Thomas’ translated the prayers and the homily to heighten the experience for us. We received Holy Communion and after Mass we met another one of our Italian Explorer brother.
After Good Friday service and with the image of our Lord’s suffering fresh in our minds we entered the sacred chambers of the church were we pieces of our Lord’s cross; two nails driven through his hand; pieces of his crown of thorns; and the sign that was on top of the cross naming Jesus the King of the Jews. Some of our boys quickly fell to their knees and into deep prayer out of respect and gratitude. A few of our boys remained motionless for an extended period as we reflected further on our Lord’s suffering.
Since our stomachs growled for food, we left the church and enter a park nearby to consume a meal of tuna, cheese, bread, and ice tea. Our boys then played in the park for a little while. We took this opportunity to have one on chats with a few of our boys to provide them with some guidance which would assist them to make wiser choices in the near future. At dusk, with went to the Coliseum for the Way of the Cross with our Holy Father. At the Coliseum there were crowd of people everywhere. We needed to squeeze through a narrow security checkpoint in order to gain access to the ground of the Coliseum. We had the ‘cling’ to each in order to keep the group together. Grey Wolf/Akela lost two dinner knives that he had with him..sigh.
We found a spot where we could settle in as a group and awaited the arrival of our Holy Father. He arrived by helicopter and circled the grounds twice before landing. The Way of the Cross was beautiful. We benefited from hearing it in Italian and translated into English by Father Thomas. The event ended at 11:10 pm and our boys were very patient and attentive throughout the entire experience.
As we left the grounds, we met with a few of our brothers and sisters from Italy, Germany, and France. We exchanged greeting with them before leaving to meet with our bus. During the walk to our bus, our boys assisted each other by carrying backpacks and offering piggyback rides for those who were very tired. Upon arrival at the Seminary, we had a very brief night prayer around one of the statues of Mother Mary and were asleep within 15 minutes.
Map of the trip to the Way of the Cross:
Facebook stored photos:
Link to Day9 photos
Day 10 – Day Six of Our Pilgrimage – Sports Day and Easter Vigil Mass – 23 April 2011
Today is ‘sports’ day and a morning to sleep in until 8:30 am! Awesome! We needed the extra sleep to help us prepare for the upcoming events of the day. Grey Wolf/Akela being the first one up has the joy of waking up our ‘sleeping beauties’.. who after some prodding slowly rose up to shower, brush their teeth and pull on their sports clothes. After a hearty breakfast, we made our way to a set of beautiful sports fields. There were four artificial turf soccer fields and four awesome basketball courts.
We quickly formed teams with the youngest boys selected first and began our soccer tournament. Our boys played fairly, with a sense of determination and in some cases heroism as they battled on to do their best, If our boys were tired..they did not show it for the solid 2-hour long tournament. After we close our soccer and basketball tournament we trekked our sweaty bodies off to the pool for a swim. The cool water of the indoor pool was very refreshing. Some boys walked on water (well for a few moments or so), others displaced large amounts of water with cannon balls, and the others played cards at the side of the pool. We all had so much fun.
After expending a considerable amount of energy in the morning, our boys ate very well at lunch time. After lunch we split the boys into their teams and rotated them through confession, board games and the Seminary’s gift shop. At the gift shop our boys used the opportunity to purchase items for their loved ones, friends, and teachers. The two brothers operating the gift shop demonstrated great patience with our boys as they asked many questions and handles many items before deciding on their purchases. At any one time we had two groups playing board games, Chess, Battleship, dominoes, and cards. They used the dominoes to build forts and the cards to make castles. There was much howls of laughter and squeals of delight.
Each group had time to happily and eagerly attend chapel for confession. Brother Nathan provide great instructions to our boys to help them prepare their conscience. He ensured that there three priest available for the process. Some comments from our boys included:
- “I felt very happy after confession as my sins were forgiven”
- “Before I went to confession, I felt really bad for having sinned against God, but after confession I felt really good that Jesus was with me once again.”
- “Before confession, I wanted to be forgiven by God so that I can receive many graces. After I felt happy with the fact my sins would be forgiven and I felt very joyful and relieved.”
- “Before confession, I felt guilty because of my sins and after confession I flet refreshed.”
As the afternoon drew to a close, we headed off to our beds for well-needed sleep to help us prepare for the Easter Vigil Mass. Much to the surprise of the leaders, all but a few boys too advantage and slept for an hour. At 7:50 pm we woke up our boys so that we could have their dinner of pasta, chicken, cheese, ham, salad, bread, and water.
After dinner, our boys cleaned up and cleared away their dishes in record time before heading back to their dorms to change into their suits and ties for Mass. We noted that our boys are becoming more proficient with clearing their tables. Parents, your sons look so grown up and handsome in their suits.
Before the Vigil Mass began, we arrange two talks with each group of boys. We had one talk for the Timber wolves and another for the Explorers. Brother Nicholas shared his exciting life story with the Timber wolves (our boys listened very carefully to his every word), while Father Thomas spoke with our Explorers on personal holiness and purity. In this difficult and challenging world filled with many temptations, trends, and peer pressure we still need to take a stand for the right things.
The Easter Vigil Mass started with the lighting of our Easter Candle. The ceremony took place in total darkness. As each of us lit our candles, you could see how much brighter it go in the foyer. Similarly, we should let our light shine a make the world a brighter place. The singing at the Mass was breathtaking. Baloo read the one of the seven reading s, and our own Dennis Less participated in the prayers of the faithful in Korean. Both of them did an awesome job.
During the Mass, we renewed our baptismal vows and listened to an awesome homily. The FNE Explorer were included in the homily as an example of waiting for victory. Father used the example of the Toronto Maple Leaf on their quest for another Stanley Cup. This example drew quite a response from all present. Mass lasted for more that 2-1/2 hours. We were proud of our boys and how well they listened attentively, prayed sincerely and received the body and blood of Jesus on their knees respectfully and with great joy and love. Only a few boys required prodding from our leaders in order to stay awake through the Mass. It was awesome!
We then dragged our tired bodies off to bed for 5 hours of sleep as we need to be up early for Easter Mass with our Pope.
Facebook stored photos:
Day 11 – Day Seven of Our Pilgrimage – Easter Sunday Mass with the Pope – 24 April 2011
The morning was overcast when we awoke. It had rained last night and threatened to continue into today. We got up early, dragged ourselves out of bed and into our uniforms. We ate a great breakfast of chocolate flavoured cereals (at least two kinds were available), soft boiled eggs, cake, Nutella and shared a large chocolate to a Kinder surprise toy in it. The sugar fixed provided our boy with the energy they need to wake up. Then we received a minor setback, our bus was late. This made us arrive in St Peter’s Square 45 minutes behind schedule.
Upon our arrival at St. Peter’s Square at 8:20 am we made our way through security and thanks to the advance work of Father Thomas and Brother Nicholas we obtained fantastic seats close to the m ain altar. Our Timber wolves and Explorers quickly settled in to awaiting the start of the Easter Sunday Mass. Some of them took a nap, some read, some prayed and others played with their Rubix cubes. Some of the maintenance staff members were so impressed with their skill with the Rubix cubes that they took photos and videos with the iPhones.
At about 10:20 am with the square filled with approximately 200,000 people a band of police officers march in followed by a troop of Swiss Guards. The Swiss Guard wore their traditional polished silver armour. Some of our boys thought this was “so cool”. Then from our right side, the mass procession began with the Pope in his open Pope mobile followed by a cross bearer, altar servers, a deacon and a priest. The procession went up to the main altar with the many thousands calling out, “We love you, Papa”.
As if on cue the overcast sky cleared, the Sun came out, and a warm breeze floated through the square. The Vatican choir sang like no other. The main altar looked beautiful and surrounded by gorgeous flowers imported from Holland. Father Thomas again performed a wonderful job of translating the non-English parts of the Mass for us so that we could fully participate. The Mass was especially moving as at least one of our leaders, and several of our boys were moved to tears of joy and bliss as they came to realize the grace bestowed by this special Easter Mass.
As the wine and bread were elevated and transformed into the living body and blood of Jesus Christ, we all sunk to our knees in respect and awe. Together we celebrated the great joy of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – Thank You, Lord! Grey Wolf/Akela had a feeling of extra ordinary peace, joy, thanksgiving, and love for our Lord and all those people that he placed in his life.
At Communion time hundreds of priest distributed themselves throughout the crowd with assistance holding a white and yellow umbrella over their heads. Our group has to join a few lines to converge on a priest to receive communion. Our group had to approach three separate priests before the whole group received communion. Almost each time we thought a priest would have enough host, they would run out before all our boys could get there. In desperation, Akela/Grey Wolf moved to the side railing we he worked hard to gain the attention of a passing priest. The first priest that passed responded to the desperate pleas for the Lord saying “Sorry, I have no more host.”
Members of the security team noticed our frantic efforts and gained the attention of a priest who came over to provide the Lord to us. Our guess is that our uniforms aided our request. In the end, the all of our boys received Jesus on their tongues with the last host to the last boys who was eligible to receive Holy Communion. What a gift to receive Holy Communion at the Easter Sunday Mass celebrated by our Pope – Pope Benedict 16th. On our 2007 pilgrimage, we were not as fortunate to be able to receive Holy Communion. We were more fortunate this time. As Mass ended our Holy Father entered St. Peter’s Basilica where he came to the large window to extend Easter greetings to the whole world.
Our Holy Father also extended a plenary indulgence for the remissions of all sins and all punished due to sin to all those who were eligible. To receive this indulgence, you would have to attend confession, detached yourself from sin and prayed for the Pope. What an awesome gift! The was truly a Special Easter Sunday!
After Mass we waited for the crowd to thin out before moving our group. After most of the people left (it takes very little time the square to empty, especially with the encouragement of the maintenance staff) we took the opportunity to take a few groups pictures. On our return to the seminary via our coach line our first order of business was for a few our boys to use the washroom. It seems as if at a certain point in time the washroom in St Peter’s Square are closed as a few members of our group found out. Baloo volunteered to take a few boys to the washroom and had to battle through the crown to get out of St. Peter’s Square to us the public washroom just outside the square. However, by far the biggest challenge was getting back in the St. Peter’s Square. Apparently to police are under orders not to let anyone back in for at least 20 minutes after mass ends. Let us just say where there is a will there is a way and nobody got hurt.
We immediately had lunch. This was the first time we say all 350 plus seminarians and priest in the same room apart from at Masses. The lunch was a great feast. We had a sliced meat and cheese platter for appetizer, tortellini pasta, chicken, and salad. The adults had red wine, and the boys were served Coke to toast Easter, our pilgrimage, and our Holy Father. To top it off we had a dessert which was a carrot cake with a lovely cream dressing on top. Indeed a lovely meal.
By 3 pm we were on the road to the resort on the Mediterranean Sea. Most of us took the opportunity to take a nap on the way to the resort. What a wonderful nap it was. The resort is owned and operated by Father Thomas’ brother Kevin Murphy and his wife. Our boys had an awesome time on the beach. This time around many more boys went into the water; some made great sandcastles and enjoyed themselves in other ways. After a fun few hours on the beach we returned to the resort to enjoy great meal of pasta, chicken and salad, and deserts. Again, we had to remind our boys that they were in Italy and pasta is served as the appetiser. We had an awesome time.
On the way back to the seminar, we encourage Brother Nicholas to share his talk with the Timber wolves with everyone else. Akela/Grey Wolf had heard from the Timber wolves how much the appreciated his talk. We were really impressed by what we heard. We got back to the seminary for a shower,
and changed into their PJs for another dynamic evening. We gathered into a large classroom for a group discussion, and question and answer period led by Brother Nicholas. During this session, Brother Nicholas discussed various facet of our Catholic faith. Brother Nicholas fielded a very wide range of deep and well thought out questions that enlightened, entertained and informed all involved. These questions included:
- What should you do if you don not know your vocation?
- What motivates Father Thomas to pray and be charitable?
- If someone does not believe can they be saved?
- Why should someone who does not become a priest not get married? Why just be single?
- Is it a sin to abandon one's vocation?
- Why are Saints called saints?
- If you are called to become a priest and you decide to get married is this a sin?
- What do we do if we do not know what God’s will if for us?
- Why would God call someone to remain single?
- If Jesus was drowning and your father was drowning, who would you save?
- I know that God created me, and he wants us to be generous, but I love my family more than anything is that bad?
- Brother Nicholas, how old were you when you decided to become a priest?
We had a set time for a future a follow-up session as many of our Explorers and Timber wolves did not have their questions answered. Our boys then moved to the main theatre for Brother Nathan’s magic show! Prior to becoming a seminarian, Brother Nathan was a professional magician and he entertained our boys to a number of card, money and rope tricks. His performance awed both youth and adults alike. We finished the evening by examining our conscience to see where we fell down and how we could do better in the future. We sent the boys to bed shortly afterwards as we need to be at St. Peter Basilica early for Mass in toms of the Popes.
Map of trip Easter Sunday Mass with the Pope:
Map of trip to Hotel Le Najadi, Santa Marinella, Italy
Facebook stored photos:
Day 12 – Day Eight of Our Pilgrimage – St. Peter’s Basicalla – 25 April 2011
Monday morning arrived far too soon as we collectively struggled out of our beds to face yet another exciting day despite the light drizzle. What is a pilgrimage without some amount of sacrifice? We departed on time to catch our train to the Vatican for our private Mass by the tombs of the Popes. The theme of Father Thomas’ homily was the fidelity of Christ through his resurrection.
We arrived right on time and quickly made our way to the private entrance to the tombs of the Popes. Out of respect for this holy place, we struggled to limit the number of photographs taken, especially our budding team of photographers. We were all in great awe by what we saw. This was truly a fantastic location.
As we traversed downward through the narrow passageways, we could feel the slight change in air temperatures as we passed many chambers on either side of us. Some chambers were will with similar groups like ours celebrating Mass, singing hymns or deep in Eucharistic Adoration. Our Timber wolves and Explorers took it all in, and you could feel a deeper reverence overcome the group.
Mass was truly beautiful in the most holy place containing mortal remains of great Pope and saints such as St. Peter being meters away. During Mass we sang from the depth of our hearts as our voices echoed from the low ceiling of the chamber, its unique artwork and the statue of a great Hungarian saint. The theme of Father Thomas’ homily centered around’ “The Fidelity of Christ through his resurrection”. When Jesus makes a promise he always delivers. If Jesus had not risen from the dead then our faith would be in vain. Jesus calls out to our boys and to all of us to do our best hear and then to follow his will. We each have a role to play in this world which is preordained by God. By doing God, we will be truly be happy.
This morning for the first time we noticed “fatigue in our boys. The pace of the pilgrimage had finally caught up with them. They had done well. Some barely slept on the plane coming over from Canada. They had caught naps on the train rides to and from camp. They slept in tents and bed at camp that was not their own, etc. Now we were observing them nodding off during Mass, and we needed to encourage them to stay awake.
As Mass came to an end, we made our way t o pray by the tomb of Poe John Paul II. Unfortunately, our timing was a bit off as the tombs had opened to the general public and hundreds of people where present. The guards had started hustling people along to prevent congestion in the passageways. We did not get the opportunity to stop and pray..sigh. However, we did see the lower level of St. Peter’s tomb.
We ascended the stairs to the main level of St. Peter’s Basilica. The vastness and grandeur of the largest and greatest church in the world was truly a sight to behold. Using the headset system, Father Thomas explained the massive statues, paintings, columns, altars and much more. Father explained that the artwork, especially the lettering the ceilings were designed to ensure that it is easier to read by pilgrims like ourselves. Most of pour boys were interested and attentive to the tour while other were becoming restless and wanted to sit or lean against any available structure to rest. Unfortunately, there are not may places that you can sit or rest in St. Peter as they try to accommodate as many pilgrims as possible within the space. Therefore, the security guards approached us a few times requesting that we demonstrate greater respect for our surroundings.
As lunch hour approached, we noted that some boys demonstrated signs of exhaustion. The crowd in the basilica had grown quite large, and it became increasingly difficult for us to gather together and appreciate the beautiful works of art around us. Coincidentally, Father Thomas had completed his review of the left side of the church. We decide to remove ourselves from the massive crowd and save our boys by being bumped into be the other visitors. We exited St. Peter and found a spot near to Basilica to have lunch.
Lunch was simple but delicious. We made sandwiches with bread, sliced meat and cheese, ice tea and had cookies and chocolate for dessert. We noted with interest that our group gained curious glances from a few passersby. After lunch we elected to leave St. Peters to return to the seminary so that we could give our exhausted group some well needed rest. Then we came across a small challenge. We soon realised that since it was Easter Monday, the train system operated at reduced capacity and our train was availably every other hour instead of hourly. This stretched our 45 minute wait into a 2 hours and 15 minute wait.
Instead of continuing to stand on the platform for the long wait, we decided to more our 46 boys to a nearby church to pray. Unfortunately, the church was closed. Not to be deterred, we sat on the steps under a large crucifix and recited the Rosary. Before we prayed we had a 20-minute discussion on our prayer intentions. We then went back to the train station just before our train arrived. This train ride was fairly easy as we did not have to deal with the regular rush hour crowd. Upon arrival at the seminary we immediately sent the boys off for a valuable 3-hour nap. Most boys took advantage of this opportunity, but a few did not.
At 6 pm, we entered the main chapel for a private one hour Eucharistic adoration, including the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and moments of silence for individual prayer. Before the end of Adoration we encouraged our boys to call out to Jesus in their own personal way to thank him. Many of them voiced their thanks with the following comments:
- Dying on the cross for me
- Rising from the dead
- For my parents
- For creating me and giving me life
- Your love
- My family
- The Mass
- Eucharistic Adoration
- Our leaders
- Friends and enemies
- Our pilgrimage
- Protecting us and our families
- Holy Mass
- Our Pope
- The great weather
- Father Thomas and Brother Nicholas
- Our Catholic faith
- Happiness and even when we are sad
- Our FNE Explorer movement
As we concluded Eucharistic Adoration we could see a sense of renewal, joy, laughter, peace, and excitement fall over our boys. We then moved to the next aspect of the evening’s program – individual testimonies. Adoration appeared to put our boys at ease, and we moved them into a large classroom on the campus. The classrooms were on the University side of the seminary’s campus. The individual testimonies were provided by pilgrims (Timber wolves, Explorers, and Leaders), Brothers and Father Thomas.
Testimonies Shared at Special Night Prayers (contd)
The testimonies provided were sincere, forthright, and in some cases eye opening. It was great to see our boys encourage each other by providing a round of applause to thank and encourage each person who spoke. Surprisingly, this last round of testimonies where the deepest and most moving.
- Boy 1
- I was excited to see all the beautiful churches
- It made my faith more meaningful and I will focus more on my spiritually and how to become a better person at home
- Boy 2
- Before attending church did not mean anything for me
- Now I want to understand more about Mass and church
- I was struck by the movie Passion of Christ and how much Jesus suffered for us
- Mass means more to me now
- Boy 3
- St Francis of Assisi provide a good example of poverty and hard work
- In future I will complain less
- Boy 4
- With all the artefacts and relics for saint like St Clair, I can feel that my religion is real
- I will go to Mass more
- Boy 5
- I will go to Mass more
- Boy 6
- Before I came on the pilgrimage, material things were so important to me
- I have now gain more knowledge
- I was most struck by the cradle of Jesus an how simple it was. Simplicity means a lot
- I will go to mass more
- Before I did not appreciate that God provides us with lessons
- Now I find that there is a lot to learn
- One of the things a realised was how much pain Jesus went through to save us
- I will attend Mass more often and appreciate it more
- Boy 8
- Now Mass is more meaningful to me
- I will appreciate Mass and attend more often
- Boy 9
- I understand more about Jesus
- I will pray more often
- Boy 10
- I will learn to appreciate things more
- Boy 11
- I recognise that photos are not that important
- Prayer is more important
- Boy 12
- I asked Jesus if my soul was worth so much to be saved
- I will pray more often
- Boy 13
- I am more a believer in Jesus, especially when blessed by our Holy Father
- I will pray more, Go to confession more often and try to learn more
- Boy 14
- I feel stronger in my faith after seeing the blood stains or Jesus
- Every day of my life I should be thankful to God
- Boy 15
- Jesus suffered a lot for us
- I better understand how he spread the word of God
- When I go home, I will do the same
- Boy 16
- Before I thought Christianity was just going to Mass on Sundays
- Now, I understand the major point is that Jesus suffered and rose from the dead
- I cried at the tomb of St. Francis
- I will pray more often
- Boy 17
- Watching Passion of Christ made me realise that Jesus really suffered a lot for us
- I will try and stop sinning and behave a lot better
- Boy 18
- I swore a lot before
- After seeing the movie, I see how much Jesus suffered for us. I was really touched by the injuries to his body
- I will be try not to swear that much when I go home
- Boy 19
- St. Francis’ life was very significant to me
- At the Holy Stair struck me, I was upset that others were not that serious in their praying
- I will appreciate Jesus’ Passion much more than before. I will pray more whole heartedly and examine my conscience more
- I will look for ways to develop my spiritual life
- Boy 20
- This pilgrimage taught me to pray more whole heartedly
- I will pay more attention when I pray
- Boy 21
- Before I was excited on seeing all the cool stuff
- I was struck at St. Francis of Assisi that it is more than and attractive spot
- I will do more praying when I get home
- Boy 22
- Before Mass was not so meaningful
- Now I realise that this religion is the right one for me
- I will pray more and attend Mass more seriously
- Boy 23
- I have a better understanding of Jesus’ suffering
- I will pray more often
- Boy 24
- I know that Jesus suffered a lot in general, but after watching the movie I know better understood the extent of his suffering
- Each time we sin I understand that it is a burden to him
- The image of the blood stained stairs reminded me that Jesus loved us so much
- Each time I pray, I will pray the Rosary with the intension to take sin away
- Boy 25
- I realised how Jesus suffered
- When I am in Mass, I will be more serious and pray harder to change my heart
- Boy 26
- I cried for Jesus at the movie
- I will try and help my father and mother more
- Boy 27
- Every time I pray the Rosary in future my intensions will be more serious
- I will pray more at home
- Boy 28
- I saw how the Holy Spirit worked in St. Francis
- All the Popes toms confirmed that my faith is true
- Seeing Jesus’ pain in the movie touched me a lot
- My faith and courage has grow stronger
- I will say daily prayers
- Boy 29
- I cannot image how people cannot believe in God
- I will listen to the readings and gospel with more attentiveness
- `Boy 30
- Before the pilgrimage, confession had little meaning to me
- Now I have a better understanding of confession
- My family is important to my life, I will do more things at home and do more confession
- Boy 31,
- I was more like a tourist before, now I feel more touched spiritually
- Now I understand why my Mom reads the bible
- I will clean up after myself more often
- Boy 32
- Now adoration and Mass is more meaningful to me
- I liked all the places where we saw evidence of the saints
- I will pay more attention in Mass
- Boy 33
- I may want to be a priest but I have not got the calling
- The Holy Stairs struck me the most
- I will pray more seriously
- Boy 34
- I came looking for proof that God is real and I got it on this pilgrimage
- I will pray more and play video games less
- Boy 35
- I gained a better appreciation for the spiritual side of the Vatican
- I will try my best to be nicer to my sister and not fight with her
- Boy 36
- I will pray more often, attend mass more often and be nicer to my friends
- Boy 37
- Before I was curious about God
- Now I have a better appreciation for who God is and that he will always help us
- I understood a lot better after watching the movie
- I will pray every day and will tell others about the story of St. Francis and the Pope to others
- Boy 38
- I am trying to find my vocation, but I have not yet
- I will spend time in prayer and listen more to God
- I am sure God exists after seeing the evidence of all the miracles
- Boy 39
- I feel deeper in my faith
- I made more friends
- God gave me obstacles to help me grow
- I will try to be good and better to my parents
- Boy 40
- The love that God has is better that any other love
- At the holy Stairs, I dedicated the pain to God
- I have much greater love for God and will continue to love him more at home
- Boy 41
- I now understand how much Jesus suffered for us
- I will try not to swear as much
- Boy 42
- I did not care about Mass as much
- Now I realised how important Mass is and appreciate the need to be more holy
- I will pray more meaningfully and be more attentive at Mass
- Boy 43
- I realised that I always ask God for things but never say thank you in return
- I will ask my friends for forgiveness for what I have done to them
- Boy 44
- Before faith was only going to Mass on Sundays and it did not exist on the other days
- I am impressed by the history of the church
- I will pray more when I get home
We concluded our evening by visiting the beautiful chapel for evening prayers and then sent everyone off to bed.
Map of trip St. Peter Square: