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Monday, May 12, 2014


PARI, FRANCE – This being the last leg of the travel, it was time to recollect what we’d seen, how much we had valued, and remind ourselves of differences between needs and wants.

We travelled because we wanted to witness the canonization of two popes who served during my growing and adult years. We were just a corner away from the canonization
site, but our disappointment was short-lived.

Because we nevertheless stood witness to the fervor and adoration of people who came from all over the world for our very same purpose. Popes John XXIII and John Paul II were indeed loved by their people; they witnessed the good deeds and reforms during their papacy. It was such welcome news that they were also canonized during my lifetime.

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An additional balm to our disappointment was seeing up close and personal the incorruptible bodies of three other saints: Saint Pio, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Catherine Laboure in Paris.

Saint Pio and Saint Francis received the stigmata, with the latter being the first.

Saint Pio was also known for his power to bilocate and dance with angels, phenomena that were subjected to great investigations by the church authorities.

In 2008, forty years after his death, his body was exhumed and found fresh and uncorrupted. His body is presently exhibited at the Shrine of the Holy Mary of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo. As long as the church is open, the lines of people viewing his body and offering prayers remain endless.

St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan religious order and St. Chiara was one of his first followers. She founded a monastic religious order for women which became the Order of Poor Ladies. After her death, this became renamed as the Order of Saint Clare, or the Poor Clares.

St. Catherine Laboure died in 1876. The Virgin Mary appeared to her in a vision, causing the creation of the Miraculous Medal whose fame immediately spread all over France and Europe.

In the vision, she saw a capital M with a cross above it. Below it were two hearts, one crowned with thorns and the other pierced with a sword. The Virgin’s instructions were to have a medal made of that vision and thereafter, all who wore it would receive great graces.

On the cultural side of the travel, we wished we had spent at least three days in Florence, Italy, to better appreciate and take in the art, architecture and sculpture everywhere.

And oh, on the non-religious side, one can just get crazy over the many signature and branded things authentically Italian or French. Acting as a reliable safety and reality check is the high exchange rate between the peso and the euro.

Still, this is not always effective, especially when the group visited the factory outlets of such prestigious brands as Gucci, Mont Blanc, Armani and the rest. A quick exchange of one’s US dollars and voila! one went out of the outlet with new bag in tote.

Two fellow travelers bought a Gucci bag each worth close to 900 euros. I couldn’t help but exclaim, “What! P52,000 for one bag?” Their answer, “It’s worth P70,000 in the Philippines.”

Fortunately, my shopping spree days have long been over. I felt no angst whatsoever about going Hamlet-like.

Besides, the travel had begun to take its toll. A friend commented while we waited for our elevator, “We’re perhaps the only travelers who went on a vacation and are so tired.”

We were constantly on the go, waking up at 6 a.m., traveling by coach at 8 a.m., checking in at hotels, then do three-hour walking tours before dinner. There was just so much to see and so little time to do everything.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 13, 2014.

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