June writes:

Assisi & Loreto Pilgrimage with Fr Tom, Portishead and Nailsea Parishes – February 2017 – a truly enriching and wonderful experience!

Hello my name is June and I am proud to say that I am a Catholic and am part of St Francis (of Assisi ) Parish in Nailsea.  If any of you are thinking of going to Assisi and you have a few minutes to spare perhaps you can read this and you will gain an insight to our Parish Pilgrimage.

I would like to invite you to join us on our journey….

(for you it will be an imaginary journey).  13 of us had the most wonderful experiences on our pilgrimage to Assis and Loreto – 5 from St Joseph’s Parish in Portishead and 8 including Fr Tom from Nailsea.


We left the Church car park in the middle of the night in February.  It was cold but spirits were high as all of us were looking forward to our pilgrimage to Assisi and Loreto.  Fr Tom was our driver, taking us to Stanstead airport.


When we arrived in Italy we left our bags in the hotel which was perfectly situated on the mountain.  When you looked out the front bedroom windows it was just stunning. I’m sure most of you have been on a plane and a few minutes before you land you have a treat, a wonderful aerial view.  In my opinion the view was similar to that.  As we were on the side of a mountain we were looking down on the beautiful scenery that surrounded our hotel. 

The Pilgrimage, for me was spiritually enriching.  I can hear you asking why?

Fr Tom took us to places where the general public don’t get the opportunity nor the privilege to visit.  To give you an example, Private chapels in the Basilicas, where Fr Tom celebrated mass with us, just for us. Private tours with Friars.  Please read on to discover more…

As it was February, the tourists were very few, but enough to create a lovely atmosphere, as a result the places had that extra attraction.  We could enjoy the stillness, peace and tranquillity.  We could pray more deeply and feel ‘in the spirit and company of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary’.  Personally I felt close to God and Our Lady in a very relaxed and special way.

We didn’t have to queue. There was a feeling of holiness which I found incredibly touching and enriching.  To be with Fr Tom saying mass just for us, his face lit up and I could feel his happiness and experience of joy as he celebrated the mass in these special places.

We had mass every evening, in Assisi our hotel had its own chapel and the convent in Loreto had its own chapel as well.  Afterwards we dined and had a glass or 2 of vin.  The restaurants that we went to in Assisi served very tasty food.  The Nuns in the Convent in Loroto served very good food in the evening.

God’s presence was welcoming and touching. I felt privileged to be on this pilgrimage with such a friendly, caring group.  We had a laugh or two along the way.

St Valentines night, Fr Tom had booked a lovely restaurant for us to have dinner.  We arrived about 7.30 and the tables were decorated with a ‘romantic’ touch, roses and decorations to celebrate St. Valentine’s night.  This lovely couple arrived and they were escorted to a small table for 2 in the corner of the restaurant beside our table!  As we were a large group we said that it wasn’t’ very romantic, sitting near all of us on St. Valentine’s Night.  They seemed quite happy and oblivious to us!  They say love is blind - The power of LOVE.

Fr Tom put a lot of effort into organising the whole pilgrimage.  He had pre-arranged so many interesting things, private tours with Friars and celebrating mass in the private chapels.  In fact I said to Fr Tom, that if he ever decided to change from the Priesthood

(it was in jest of course) that he would do very well as a Tour Guide!!  Fr Tom saw the funny side!


Places of interest – (we visited such wonderful places)

Assisi – the beautiful Basilica, private tour with one of the Friars,

(Brother Dan) including the tomb where St Francis is buried.  At the end of the tour, Brother Dan disappeared and returned with a load of jumpers and sweatshirts.  Some of the group had short sleeves as it was lovely and warm earlier.  However as the late afternoon progressed they were a wee bit chilly.  How kind and thoughtful of Brother Dan to think of them and to show this act of kindness.  Fr Tom returned them in the next day or two.

After our tour Fr Tom celebrated Mass in the private chapel in the Basilica – very special indeed.

Fr Tom celebrated mass at Santa Chiara (Chapel of the crucifix of San Damiano) The Cross that spoke to St Francis is here, it gave him the encouragement to join the Priesthood.  I believe that it was moved to this church from its original church.

St Claire’s body is buried here in the basement there is a model of St Claire in a large glass case.  She looked beautiful and at rest. Also a display of clothes worn by St Claire. Incredibly Interesting, I felt that it helped me to imagine them when they were alive and walking around Assisi.  Somehow they seemed more real.


Eremo delle Carceri – Fr Marco – spiritual – tranquil- wooded – serene – up on the mountain.  For me this was this was incredible.  You could feel at ease and felt God’s presence in a very moving way.

At home in Ireland I was brought up in County Galway, west coast.  We live near a monastery run by Redemptorists.  Their base is called Esker and they come and go at different times.  They go abroad on Missions.  They are inspirational priests (they are called brothers).  Esker is in the middle of the country set in a small wooded area.  The church, people and priests have great devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Succour.  I still go to mass there when I go home to see my family.  The grounds are serene.  The Brothers did wonderful work in the grounds and the Stations of the Cross line the pathway through the woods.  It is serene, therapeutic and even if people are not religious they can feel the incredible tranquillity there.  The Brothers have something that we did not have when we were young – their own private swimming pool, set in the middle of the woods. Why not!  They do wonderful work and are very kind and caring people.


We took the local bus to Santa Maria degli Angeli (I believe that one of the passengers knew Fr tom)!  Inside this splendid Church was the small chapel – this is the one that St Francis rebuilt. Small and welcoming.

Later that afternoon we went to the place where St Claire was born (next to a beautiful Church).  St Claire and St Francis were both baptised in this Church.

Inside this Church they had a room dedicated to the late Pope Jean-Paul (RIP).  I had great admiration for Pope Jean-paul.  This room was a long narrow room with various paintings and pictures of our dear and wonderful Pope, who is now in Heaven.   When I was a teenager, he came to our City of Galway and my friends and I decided to walk there to celebrate mass.  We set off at midnight (think it was summertime around the month of June) and it was pitch dark on the country roads, some lights here and there but not much.  It was about 12 or more miles.  Spirits were high (I can read your minds – not those kind out of the bottle) and we were very excited.  We arrived and it was such a wonderful experience to be there.  Pope Jean-Paul had something very special (as all Popes have) but due to my age I think I decided that he was my favourite Pope.  I was delighted to be in this room in Assisi.  The next day when we had some free time I went back there and looked at the pictures again and had a few quiet moments to reflect and enjoy the experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The home that St Francis shared with his parents and the tiny space in the wall where his father used to lock him up.  There were bars on the hole in the wall.

This is now a small Church and you can see where he was ‘imprisoned’ behind the iron bars. 


The place that St Francis was born, a small stone building. If I remember correctly I think that I went with one other person and Fr Tom to see this.  It was around the corner from where St Francis lived with his parents.

San Damiano –Where St. Claire lived.  There were 50 nuns living there.  It was about 30 minutes’ walk from our hotel, in the countryside, at the edge of Assisi, a very fitting place.  It was away from the hustle and bustle of the city (although due to being Feb. the town was quiet but still had great atmosphere).

St Francis stayed here when he was ill – he inspired St Claire.

It was a very ‘raw’ way of life.  St Clair and the other nuns slept in one room (imagine an old stone building, stone floors and sleeping on a straw mat).  It had just a few small windows, no heating (as far as we know).  It would have been a ‘cosy’ fitting as it was approximately only about maybe 40-50 feet long and maybe 20-25 feet wide.  Also no ‘en-suites’ for them.  We did not see a shower nor a bath!  Not sure how they washed.


We stayed at a Convent run by Nuns of course, we hadn’t any high expectations regarding the accommodation.  Fr Tom pre-warned us not to get too excited about it.

What a treat. It was beautiful.  Lovely generous sized rooms with beautiful en-suite bathrooms.

The nuns that run the convent are truly lovely, they look after the sick in hospitals.  What lovely people they are.  Dinner was served to us both nights by the nuns and it was very tasty.

More places of interest that we experienced

The Basilica and Holy Little House, Loreto Sanctuary  where Fr Tom celebrated Mass at 6.30 am(only standing room, no seats).  There were 2 or 3 other people that joined us for the Mass.  Very special indeed.  The story goes – the Little House was transported all the way from Nazareth.  In the corridor leading into the Basilica are pictures on the wall, showing the angels carrying the house!  It is rather splendid. As we looked towards the Alter where Fr Tom celebrated mass, high above were some loose stones just like it had been put together stone by stone. What a thought!

    Tradition tells us that on May 10, 1291, the Holy House of Nazareth was raised from its foundations in Nazareth and transported by Angels across the Mediterranean from Palestine to Dalmatia to the small town of Tersatto.

     I have copied The Miracle of the Holy House of Loreto so that you can read the full story (It’s at the end of this story)!

After a tasty lunch at a local restaurant we visited Museo Antico Tesoro Santa Casa.  We had some fun getting ticket reductions and in the end Fr Tom managed to get a good deal for all of us to enter.  Interesting paintings and displays.  We almost had the gallery to ourselves.  Some beautiful artwork and paintings displayed here. 

The next day was Friday and we had mass in the chapel at the convent at 8am in the morning with the lovely kind sisters.  They sang and one of them played the guitar.  It was a wonderful way to start the day before we waved good-bye to them and boarded our minibus to go to the airport.


The experience

We shared each other’s company, ate some very tasty meals, had a drink or two along the way, had a bit of banter and everyone seemed to embrace the purpose of our pilgrimage.  We prayed and sat in silence in churches and holy places.  We embraced the stillness, and enjoyed the beauty of these places of worship. I’m sure each one of us got something ‘spiritual’ from it, but in different ways.

This was my first pilgrimage whereby I went away with our parish and joined in as part of the group.  As result I have booked to go to Walsingham in December.

I hope you enjoyed my story about Assisi and hope that you get the opportunity to visit Assisi one day and see for yourself!  It is truly splendid.

 Ciao, June

The Miracle of the Holy House of Loreto
by Lee Wells

THE MOST TREASURED and venerated Shrine of our Lady throughout the world is that of the Holy House of Nazareth in the Basilica at Loreto, Italy. And rightly so, for according to tradition, to testimonies of Popes and Saints this is where the "recreation"
-----our redemption-----began. Over the past several centuries, people from all parts of the world have travelled to this shrine to pray and seek Our Lady's help. Thousands of miracles attributed to Our Lady have been recorded at Loreto. 

The tradition and history of the Holy House goes back to Apostolic times. From the earliest days of Christianity, the little house and the grotto which formed one side of the Holy House have been a place of worship and pilgrimage. Shortly after the year 313, Constantine the Great had a large Basilica built over the Holy House of Nazareth. The Holy House and the grotto formed part of the crypt of the new church. About the year 1090, the Saracens invaded the Holy Land, plundering and destroying many of the shrines sacred to Christians. One of these was the Basilica in Nazareth, but the Holy House and grotto in the crypt were left intact. 

When St. Francis of Assisi visited the Holy Land (1219-1220) he prayed at the Holy House. St. Louis IX, King of France, also visited and received Holy Communion in the shrine when he was leading a crusade to liberate the Holy Land from the Moslems. Another Basilica was built during the 12th century to protect the Holy House and offer ample room for pilgrims. This second Basilica was destroyed when the Moslems overpowered the crusaders in 1263. Again the Holy House escaped destruction and was left intact under the ruins of the Basilica. Finally, in 1291 the crusaders were completely driven out of the Holy Land and it was at this point in history that the Holy House disappeared from Palestine and made its appearance in what is now known as present day Croatia, where a most important shrine was erected, Our Lady of Trsat (Tersatto in Italian pronunciation).

Tradition tells us that on May 10, 1291, the Holy House of Nazareth was raised from its foundations in Nazareth and transported by Angels across the Mediterranean from Palestine to Dalmatia to the small town of Tersatto. The pastor of the Church of St. George, at Tersatto, Alexander Georgevich, was puzzled by the sudden presence of what looked like a tiny church and prayed for enlightenment. His prayers were answered when the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in sleep and told him that this was indeed the Holy House of Nazareth where the Annunciation took place and it was brought here through the power of God. To confirm what she was telling him, he would be restored to health. At that moment, Father Alexander was cured of an illness which he had suffered for many years. 

With the Moslems taking over Albania in 1294 and the possibility of profanation, the House disappeared from Tersatto. According to some shepherds, it was seen on December 10, 1294, being borne aloft by Angels across the Adriatic sea and came to rest in a wooded area four miles from Recanati, Italy. The news spread fast and thousands came to examine the tiny house which resembled a church. The House became a place of pilgrimage and many miracles took place there. Bandits from the nearby wooded area began to plague the pilgrims, so the House was borne to a safer spot a short distance away. But the spot where the House was finally to rest was still not settled since the two brothers who owned the land were quarrelling. The House was moved a third time to the site it now occupies. The brothers became reconciled as soon as the House settled in its final location. Incidentally, wherever it landed, the Holy House rested miraculously on the ground, without a foundation. 

Once again miracles attended the presence of the House, and the townspeople sent a deputation of men to Tersatto and then to Nazareth to determine for certain the origin of the Holy House. Sixteen men, all reliable citizens, took with them measurements and full details of the House, and after several months arrived back with the report that in their opinion, the House had really come from Nazareth. 

Over the centuries, many Pontiffs have testified to the authenticity of the Holy House and the miracles that have been attributed to it. The devotion and respect of the Pontiffs for the Holy House may be gathered from the numerous indulgences granted to those visiting the Holy House. The first were granted by Pope Benedict XII, then followed by Urban VI who granted certain indulgences for the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These indulgences were confirmed by Popes Boniface IX and Martin V: An enumeration of the many popes over the centuries that have shown special interest and support of the authenticity of Loreto by their words and actions in 
Part 4. 

. . . Wherever there is a genuine shrine of Our Lady or miraculous image, you may be sure there will be many miracles. This is particularly true at the Holy House, where there have been so many they no longer are recorded. In fact, three popes were miraculously cured at the shrine of the Holy House of Loreto. 

More than two thousand persons who have been canonized, beatified or made venerable by the Church have visited the Holy House. St. Therese of Lisieux made a momentous pilgrimage before entering the Carmelites, to which she alludes at length in her autobiography. St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Frances Cabrini, Cardinal Newman, St. John Neumann, and St. Francis de Sales, to name but a few, have visited the Holy House. See 
Part 3.

St. Francis of Assisi in the early years of the 13th century established a monastery at Sirolo, north of Recanati. To a group of puzzled friars, Francis foretold that before the close of that century, a sanctuary would be built near there which would be more renowned than Rome or Jerusalem and that the faithful would come from all over the world to visit this Holy Sanctuary. This prophecy proved true when the Holy House of Loreto arrived on Dec. 10, 1294. 


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