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Ms A 60v

[60v°] our voyage, there where I believed I would encounter consolation but where I found the cross! It was night when we arrived and as we were all asleep we were awakened by the shouts of the porters crying: “Rome! Rome!” It was not a dream, I was in Rome!

[5] The first day was spent outside the walls and was perhaps the most enjoyable, for the monuments have preserved their stamp of antiquity. In the center of Rome itself one could easily believe one was in Paris, judging by the magnificence of the hotels and stores. This trip through the Roman countryside left an indelible impression upon me. I will not [10] speak of the places we visited, as there are enough guide books describing these fully, but I will speak only of the principal impressions I experienced.

One of my sweetest memories was the one that filled me with delight when I saw the Colosseum. I was finally gazing upon that arena where so many martyrs had shed their blood for Jesus. I was already preparing to kneel down and [15] kiss the soil they had made holy, but what a disappointment! The place was nothing but a heap of ruins, and the pilgrims were expected to be satisfied with simply looking at these. A barrier prevented them from entering the ruins. No one would be tempted to do so. But was it possible to come all the way to Rome and not go down into the Colosseum? For me it was impossible! I no longer heard [20] the guide’s explanations. One thought raced through my mind: get down into the arena! Seeing a workman pass by carrying a stepladder, I was on the verge of asking his advice, and it was good I didn’t as he would have considered me a fool. In the Gospel, we read that Mary Magdalene stayed close to the tomb, and every once in a while she stooped down to peer inside. She finally saw two angels. Like her, while recognizing the impossibility of seeing my desires fulfilled, I

 


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Ms A 60r

[60r°] Our greatest consolation was to receive Jesus Himself in His house and to be His living temple in the very place He had honored with His presence. As is the custom in Italy, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved on only one altar in the churches, and here alone can one receive [5] Holy Communion. This altar was in the Basilica itself where the Holy House is to be found, enclosed like a precious diamond in a white marble casket. This didn’t satisfy Céline and me! It was in the diamond not in the casket that we wanted to receive Holy Communion. Papa with his customary gentleness did like all the rest, but Céline and I [10] went in search of a priest who had accompanied us everywhere and who was just then preparing to say Mass in the Santa Casa by special privilege. He asked for two small hosts which he laid alongside the large one on the paten and you can well understand, dear Mother, the joy we both experienced at receiving Communion in that blessed house! [15] It was a totally heavenly happiness which words cannot express. And what shall our happiness be when we receive Communion in the eternal abode of the King of heaven? Then we shall see our joy never coming to an end; there will no longer be the sadness of departings, and it will be no longer necessary to have some souvenir, to dig furtively into the walls sanctified by His divine presence, [20] for His home will be ours for all eternity. He doesn’t want to give us His earthly home, but is content to show it to us so as to make us love poverty and the hidden life. What He does reserve for us is His Palace of glory where we shall see Him no longer hidden under the appearance of a child or a white host, but such as He really is, in the brightness of His infinite splendor!

It is about Rome I still have to speak, Rome the goal of

 

 

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Ms A 59v

[59v°] dungeons have also ceased to suffer. When we were visiting these frightful prisons, I imagined myself living back in the days of the martyrs and would willingly have remained there in order to imitate them! However, we had to pass quickly from there and cross over the “Bridge of Sighs”; it was given this name because of the sighs of consolation heaved by the condemned when they saw themselves [5] freed from the horrors of the underground caverns; they preferred death to these horrors!

After Venice, we went on to Padua where we venerated the tongue of St. Anthony, and then on to Bologna where we saw St. Catherine who retains the imprint of the kiss of the Infant Jesus. I could go into many interesting details about each city and the particular incidents that took place on the [10] trip, but I would never end; I will write only about the principal events.

It was a great joy to leave Bologna since this city had become unbearable to me because of the students who filled it and formed long lines on the streets through which we had the misfortune to go on foot. I disliked it also because of the little incident which happened to me with one of the students. I was indeed happy [15] to be on my way to Loreto.

I am not at all surprised the Blessed Virgin chose this spot to transport her blessed house, for here peace, poverty, and joy reign supreme; everything is primitive and simple. The women have preserved their graceful Italian dress and have not, as in other cities, adopted the Paris fashions. Loreto really charmed me!

[20] And what shall I say about the Holy House? Ah! how deep was my emotion when I found myself under the same roof as the Holy Family, contemplating the walls upon which Jesus cast His sacred glance, treading the ground bedewed with the sweat of St. Joseph, under this roof where Mary had carried Jesus in her arms, having carried Him in her virginal womb. I beheld the little room in which the angel had appeared to the Blessed Virgin. I placed my rosary in the little bowl of the Child Jesus. What ravishing memories!

 


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Ms A 59r

[59r°] That same breeze appeared to move the light veils of widows and ribbons adorning the hair of young girls. Papa was as thrilled as we were. He had been fatigued somewhat in Switzerland, but now, his customary gaiety returning, he enjoyed the beautiful sight we were contemplating; his artistic soul was revealed in the expressions of faith and admiration clearly evident [5] on his handsome face. An old gentleman (French), who no doubt did not possess as poetic a soul, looked at us critically and said in bad humor, pretending he was sorry he could not share our admiration: “Ah! what enthusiasts these French people really are!” I believe this poor man would have been better off to remain at home, for he did not [10] appear to me to be happy with his trip. He was frequently close to us and complaints were coming from his mouth constantly: he was unhappy with the carriages, the hotels, the people, the cities, everything. Papa, with his habitual kindness, tried to console him by offering him his place, etc.; he himself felt at home everywhere, being of a temperament directly [15] opposite that of his disobliging neighbor. Ah! what different personages we saw, and what an interesting study the world is when one is ready to leave it!

At Venice, the scene changed completely; instead of the noise of the great cities one heard in the solitude nothing but the cries of the gondoliers and the murmur of the [20] waves agitated by their oars. Venice was not without its charms, but I found this city sad. The palace of the Doges is splendid, however it too is sad where gold, wood, the most precious statues and paintings of the masters are on display. For a long time now its arches have ceased to resound with the voices of Governors pronouncing the sentence of life or death in the rooms through which we passed. The unfortunate prisoners who were once locked up in these underground cells and

 

 

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Ms A 58v

[58v°] ...Céline and I were very brave; we were always the first and were following the Bishop closely in order to see everything pertaining to the relics of the saints and hear the explanations given by the guides. So while the Bishop was offering Mass on the tomb of [5] St. Charles, we were behind the altar with Papa, resting our heads on the tomb enshrining his body which was clothed in its pontifical robes. And it was like this everywhere, except in those places reserved to dignitaries and then we did not follow his Excellency. We climbed up to the lower pinnacles adorning the roof of the cathedral, and leaving some timid ladies to hide their faces [10] in their hands we followed the braver pilgrims and reached the top of the marble belltower. From this vantage point, we had the pleasure of seeing the city of Milan at our feet, its numerous inhabitants milling around like so many tiny ants. Descending from our high perch, we [15] commenced a series of driven tours which lasted a whole month. I certainly satisfied my desire forever to ride around in comfort!Campo Santo attracted us even more than the cathedral. All its marble statues, seemingly brought to life by the chisel of some great genius, are placed around the huge cemetery in a sort of haphazard manner [20] which to me added greatly to their charm. One would almost be tempted to console these imaginary personages who were all around us. The expression on the faces is so real, the sorrow so calm and resigned, one can hardly fail to recognize the thoughts of immortality which must necessarily have filled the hearts of the artists creating these masterpieces. One saw a small child scattering flowers on the grave of its parents; the marble seemed to lose its heaviness as the delicate petals slipped through the child’s fingers and the breeze scattered them.

 


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