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Canonization of the Blessed Raphaela Mary

When it was announced that Blessed Raphaela Mary, foundress of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was to be canonised in Rome on January 23rd 1977, a trip to Rome naturally had to be organised.

On January 21st, at 7 a.m. two coaches set out from Bournemouth, heading for Rome, carrying eighty-one people. By 10.30 a.m. we had arrived at Gatwick and here we met with the other groups going to Rome from London, Rotherham, and Beckenham.

The plane journey itself took three hours which meant we landed in Rome at 2.10 p.m. local time. From the airport there was a short journey to the Hotel Fleming where we were staying. On arrival at the hotel, we met the group from Ireland who had arrived earlier that afternoon. The rest of the day seemed to be spent unpacking, meeting people and exploring the surrounding area.

Saturday morning was spent touring Rome in a convoy of coaches, seeing such famous sights as The Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, The Monument to Victor Emmanuel 11, The Colosseum, Castel Sant' Angelo' and, of course, St. Peter's in all its splendour, finishing off with a visit to the Catacombs of St. Sebastian.

Later in the afternoon we set off for the church of St. Ignatius where there was a general meeting, in preparation for the canonisation, for all the pilgrims. Thousands gathered in the church of every nationality, from the Japanese in their kimonos to the Africans in their tribal costumes.

The meeting lasted two hours during which a panel of experts talked on various subjects, including the life of Blessed Raphaela Mary and the research into the case for her canonisation. We returned to the hotel later that evening with plenty of food for thought and went to bed early after an exciting but exhausting first day in Rome.

On Sunday 23rd the coaches left the hotel at 8.15 a.m. for St. Peter's. By 9.30 St. Peter's was absolutely packed and the atmosphere was electric. Once the procession to the altar started and the Pope appeared, everybody leapt on to the benches and started waving and clapping. The whole of St. Peter's then became flooded with light. The Mass itself was in Latin, thus enabling everybody to join in. The scene at the altar was a mass of colour from the vestments of the many concelebrants of the Mass.

After the gospel the Pope gave a short talk and then proclaimed Blessed Raphaela Mary a saint; this provoked spontaneous applause from the huge congregation. When the Mass had finished, the Pope addressed the crowds in St. Peter's Square in Italian from his study window and gave them his blessing.

In the afternoon, the pupils from all the schools run by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, all over therworld, gathered in Villa Bellestra, one of the Italian schools run by the Handmaids. Here the pupils presented a concert made up of a series of entertainments from each country. This lasted well into the evening with everybody enjoying themselves immensely.

Most people spent Monday touring Rome in their own time, seeing such places as The Vatican Museum, with its extensive art gallery and library - not forgetting the Sistine Chapel - or re-visiting places such as the Roman Forum which was the very cradle of Roman civilisation, or the Pantheon in the historical centre of the city.

At five o'clock in the afternoon there was a Mass held in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles. This Mass was concelebrated by twelve priests, the principal celebrant being Cardinal Poletti, and was attended by hundreds of pilgrims of all nationalities.

On Tuesday all the English speaking groups attended Mass at St. Raphaela Mary's shrine in the church at Via XX Septembre. After the Mass we were all able to see the Saint's body, which was lying in a glass case, the rooms where she had lived and some of her personal possessions; this was a very moving experience for us all.

Wednesday was our last day in Rome and also a very important one, because in the morning we were due to have an audience with the Holy Father. The audience hall, seating seven thousand people, was filled to capacity. The Pope was carried in on his ceremonial chair amid loud cheering and applause. Once seated, the Holy Father spoke in many languages, naming each group present and giving them a short talk.

Only the journey home remained to set the seal on a wonderful experience.

Carol Anwyll, L.VI

My Experiences in Paris

I was absolutely delighted to find out that I was going to Paris with the school. For a week I began to imagine all the things I would see such as the Eiffel Tower, l'arc de Triomphe, the Obelisque, le Louvre and Notre Dame.

The first monument we actually visited was l'arc de Triomphe, a beautiful arch built by the Emperor Napoleon I in honour of the soldiers that died in the Napoleonic wars. You can either walk up or take a lift. My French girl and I chose to walk up and counted two hundred and eighty steps. Once up at the top the view was quite panoramic and one could see all down the Champs Elysees, the famous road that starts at the Obelisque and runs up to the Arc. From there I saw many famous places, some of which we intended to visit soon.

That afternoon we visited the Eiffel tower. This great metal monstrosity was so huge and imposing that it looked as if it was going to topple down on us. The tower is 320 metres high and there are three stages: the first is 57 metres high, the second 115 metres and the third is 280 metres.

There is also a staggering number of steps (only up to the second stage) - 1,719! The next place we visited was Notre Dame, a beautiful church like Westminster Abbey, only far more beautiful, and the atmosphere inside was peaceful and restful.

When we visited Paris at night it seemed that this great church stood out - every detail perfect - far more than it did in the day. We also visited the "Saint Chapelle", a chapel renowned for its beautiful windows, originally built to accommodate the "crown of thorns".

One morning we visited the Sacre Coeur, another beautiful church, where again we climbed up to the top, and it was well worth the panting and pushing just to see the exceptionally beautiful view. All the English girls had a boat ride on the Seine, seeing all the famous places along the right and left bank, including the conciergerie - that grim, forlorn prison of the beheaded queen, Marie Antoinette. We passed all the little isles and the Isle de St. Louis, one of the oldest parts of Paris where the oldest building, now a hotel, stands in all its glory.

On Sunday morning I visited the Louvre where the famous Mona Lisa is kept. I was quite excited until I actually saw the painting, which proved to be quite an anti-climax. To me it did not seem anything more special than any other painting. There are even doubts about its authenticity - who the Mona Lisa is, and whether Leonardo di Vinci really painted a Mona Lisa at all. I found other paintings, such as the history of the kings of France far more interesting.

When it was time to go I felt quite sad as I had come to love this city, with all its historic splendour. But I had the French girls visit to England to look forward to, and I vowed to try and make their visit as pleasant and enthralling as they had made mine.

Jatinder Benepal, IIIa

The British Museum

On Tuesday 28th, September a group of girls went to the British Museum with our classical studies teacher. The first room we saw was full of Greek vases, going from the black figures to the slightly later red figures. The vases were amazing, considering how old they were.

A guide took us round and explained how these vases were made and what the figures represented. Next we went into the Elgin Marbles where we hired cassettes which explained everything as we looked around.

The Elgin Marbles is a huge hall containing sculptures from the Parthenon, which showed many scenes including battles. There were also statues of some of the gods at either end of the hall. We were then allowed to look where we liked and we saw some very interesting remains of jewellery.

After having drinks in the cafe we left, collecting another group from the Tate gallery. All in all, we had a very enjoyable day out.

Jayne Miller, 1Va
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