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Our Pilgrimage to Rome - 1950, Page One

To the eager group who were to have the privilege of spending Easter in Rome, it seemed that April 3rd would never come. In wondering expectancy we met at Pokesdown Station and to our great disappointment we learnt that illness prevented Reverend Mother from accompanying us. She sent a message of God Speed, and with this in mind, we set off on the great journey.

The night crossing to Le Havre was uneventful, and next morning we sighted Le Havre and were soon making our way through the Customs. A small bus brought us to the station and we were just in time to catch the train to Paris. As the three hour journey drew to a close, we all eagerly craned our necks to catch the first glimpse of the well-known buildings.

The afternoon was spent in Paris, but Rome was the centre of our thoughts and we longed to be there.

Boarding the Rome Express at the Gare de Lyon, we were happy to meet Reverend Mother General who travelled with us. The first stage of the journey was spent in rather fitful slumber, and very early in the morning we found ourselves at Modane, the frontier.

Customs officials came abroad the train and scrutinised us and our passports. Details of the enchanting mountain scenery merit a description apart. Later in the day as the train followed the sea-coast, exclamations of wonder broke from us all.

Never had we seen water so blue and clear. Unfortunately, at this stage of the journey, there were several long tunnels which interrupted our view. It was tantalising to catch a glimpse of some wonder and then to be whisked into darkness, and find it gone when we emerged. The leaning tower of Pisa was seen gleaming white in the sun and falling, falling - until we expected it to crash to the ground at any moment.

At long last we were nearing the Eternal City, Rome the centre of the Church, Rome the great Mistress of the Ancient World. As the train steamed into the station, the surroundings appeared strangely modern with its brilliant lights, white pillars and platforms.

First impressions of the city itself were of Piazzas where magnificent fountains were still playing at that midnight hour.

The Convent of the Assumption was to be our home for the next week. Rarely had any of us entered a more impressive building. Marble everywhere in all its dazzling whiteness, so different from the grey buildings of England.

Reverend Mother and the Community devoted themselves to our interests, and we can never show sufficient appreciation of the kind attentions of Mother Welstead's sister, Mother Marie-Madeleine who showed such pleasure in caring for our party and assisting in all arrangements.

St. Peter's was naturally our first objective. What pictures we had conjured in our minds! As we approached for the first of our jubilee visits, the great Basilica seemed small.

Once inside, however, each one was conscious of its immensity. This was the scene of all the great ceremonies of the Church, we wcre truly in the very centre of Christendom.

The jubilee prayers were recited at the tomb of St. Peter with all the wealth of memories it evoked. Our thoughts were running ahead - should we be able to assist at the Easter Mass? It was so difficult to believe that one's presence in this historic Church was no fancy but a wonderful reality.

Minor incidents and visits must of necessity yield to the more important. The visit to St. John. Lateran took place on Good Friday, and it was Reverend Mother General's special wish that we should assist at the Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum at 3 p.m., and that we should reach the Church of the Holy Cross in time for the procession of the relics.

All around were Italians singing with great fervour an anthem in honour of the Cross, and we in spirit joined them with our own `O Crux Ave'. However, all impressions are dimmed by those of the Saturday when a Public Audience was held in St. Peter's.

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