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On pilgrimage to Italy.

A pilgrimage with the Choirs of St. John Cantius of Chicago and St. Joseph College Choir of Rensselaer, Indiana, meant three busloads of us: choristers, a few parents and interested bodies, led by our priest in charge, Reverend Father Scott Haynes SJC, an exhilarating, exhausting and extremely interesting experience. We met in Munich for a flight to Rome, then onto our buses and off to Abate, a modern suburb of Rome, for High Mass, Latin Extraordinary Form, in the little church of San Benedetto. This was sung by both choirs, led by Father Scott.

The best laid plans can go astray with very little warning in Italy--to wit--all art gallery security staff on strike for one day, no advance warning! So our poor guides improvised by taking us on a lovely morning walk through alleys, across old bridges that don't show up in the usual guide books, to the strains of bands playing R&B, classical, rock. Security staff and ticket sellers were out on a spree. One bridge, with a bust of Benvenuto Cellini, had a sign: no padlocks, please. With local insouciance for such bylaws, the wrought iron base was festooned with at least 200 padlocks. It all proved you can have a delightful time in Florence without spending a euro--no charge for a detailed study of Ghiberti's bronze doors, the "Gates of Paradise" as Michelangelo put it, nor the della Robbias of the Pazzi Chapel.

A splurge for lunch was in order: boar followed by a gelato eaten on the street. Late afternoon the choirs sang Latin High Mass (Extraordinary Form) in the Church of the Holy Trinity, underneath the paintings of the life of St. Francis by Ghirlandaio, Michelangelo's teacher.

The following day we travelled to the hills of Chianti and then to Siena to visit the Basilica of St. Dominic, where a relic of St. Catherine, Italy's patron saint, is enshrined.

Finally, in Rome for us first timers in the city, we took the subway to the Colosseum, but ended up at St. John Lateran instead! What a splendid place to spend a few hours, full of marvels. An early Christian bas relief in the museum; a memorial to Palestrina, his likeness and a manuscript from his hand. After our subway experience, we took a taxi ride in the rain to ride around the Colosseum we had missed in the morning with a driver who took impish pleasure in parking in no park zones so that we could take pictures. He brought us at to a rehearsal at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. The Pontifical Latin High Mass (Ordinary Form) was conducted by Cardinal Burke and our choirs sang O Lord Our Governor by Healey Willan for the processional.

A 5:30 wakeup to get us all to St. Peters Basilica for 8 am Latin High Mass (Extraordinary Form) conducted by Father Scott at the altar of San Giuseppe, Palestrinas burial place, followed by a tour of the Tomb of St. Peter and the crypt, the tomb of Blessed John Paul II, Michelangelos Pieta and so many marvels.

The high point of the pilgrimage came on day seven, when we went to sing at St. Peters Basilica for the Chapter Mass (Latin High Mass in Ordinary Form) in celebration of the Anniversary of Cappella Guilia. Our choirs sang the antiphonally with the choir of St. Peters. The processional for over 180 cardinals was O Lord Our Governor and the Recessional, a Te Deum, both by Healey Willan. At the end of the Mass, we all surged out of the packed basilica and into the square to see and hear His Holiness, Pope Francis. Lunch at a charming small Art Deco restaurant, then back to St. Peters for rehearsal for Vespers at 4:45 at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peters Basilica, sung by our choirs, a mite weary by now. But we rallied and sang with distinction.

A 5:00 am wakeup this morning for the excursion to Pompeii and a 4 pm Latin High Mass (Extraordinary Form) at the Sanctuary of Our Lady, which was changed to an 11 am Mass in Naples. A small portion of both choirs played hookey and slept in with a little shopping in Rome in mind.

Twelve engagements for our choir in nine days, nine Masses, two concerts, one vespers, a packed schedule, some sightseeing and a great opportunity for me to hear my father s works (Healey Willan) sung with great distinction in such awesome surroundings. A rewarding choral pilgrimage.

Mary Willan Mason, a graduate of University of Toronto, is the daughter of Healey Willan. She has writtedfor the Hamilton Spectator. D.
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Author:Mason, Mary Willan
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Travel narrative
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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