We knew from the start that we were going to a Sanctuary to the Madonna on a rock where a young boy had a vision and a healing. It should have been no surprise that we were in for a pilgrimage. That is what the local *gitas* usually are but with a sprinkling of local flavor and history along with some scenic interests. I am not of the Catholic faith but I do have a healthy respect for those that are believers and followers of any religious persuasion. I think my tendencies lie to the Quaker meditative and personal interaction with the creator.
From the get go we were prayed over...and over and over. I shall be honest about this. I tried to be attentive to understand the language. The lady doing the Rosary was clear of voice and spoke Italian. The trip to the Sanctuary was 2+ hours of solid praying. I got lost somewhere after the first half hour. Finally we reach the Sanctuary.
It was a pleasant morning and Belpasso is located at the foot of Mt Etna. We were happy to get off from the bus. The Sanctuary is in a remote place and we walked to the Madonna on the rock. This Sanctuary was built in 2000 or 2002...I can't recall exactly. Vendors were selling flowers to be placed around the Madonna. We were cautioned not to expect a miracle of extreme proportions but to ask for a change of ourselves.
Those are my flowers at the base of the Madonna. I put five there, one for each of my children and their families. I was told I placed them in the wrong place as there were containers for flowers around the walk ways. No one moved them and other folks put theirs along with mine. We sat in the seats for awhile as there was more praying and Rosary offerings. We then followed our guide to the grotto. It is a cave like structure with an altar. It is closed fenced and folks leave items on this fence to petition for miracles.
The Mass was scheduled for noon and in the mean time there were more prayers. There were three priests giving open air confessions. The Mass lasted for one and one half hour.
It was much too hot to be under the sun for that length of time and that time of day. There was a medical tent and ambulance situated on the parameter and staff hosed the place down at intervals. Several elderly had to be medically assisted.
After the Mass we went back on the bus and traveled to a restaurant for lunch. I made a friend on this trip who insisted to give me gifts. She had brought vegetables from her farm and insisted that I take a cucumber home. She also gave me a small Etna rock. It was a challenge to me to talk all day in Italian and they really wanted me to talk in Sicilian dialect. My friend speaks dialect Sicilian so they were thrilled with her and she was also able to understand what they were saying. Some comments weren't so nice but since this was a pilgrimage they are forgiven.
After lunch we thought we would be going into the town for some sightseeing but we were bused back to the Sanctuary for another two hours of prayers and adoration to the Madonna. I confess...it was way over the top for me. I had lost it at this point. We sat in the shade with some of other bus mates and waited for those who were praying to finish.
At 6PM we boarded the bus again and were now heading to Catania for the Centro Commerciale. Everyone was so excited to show us the Sicilian Mall. Believe you me...I did not care. I smiled and agreed but I wanted to be going on that autostrada towards home. We got to the Mall and had 45 minutes to browse. It was nice and had 140 stores. I admit I quite prefer the local shopping style of going to separate shops. Lucille and I scoped the place in 45 minutes. Stopping only at MacDonald's to take a picture. That was the only sightseeing we did and it was disappointing.
We got back on the bus and headed home. Yippie! We had a 30 minute rest of quiet talking and relaxing. My new friend and I exchanged addresses and she gave me another gift of a sample perfume. I had nothing to exchange with her but she was so happy to offer these items to me.
One hour before reaching Oliveri...the praying started again. Voices were strained and croaky...but the microphone delivered the volume. I called Andy to tell him we would be arriving in one hour and asked if he would come and get us off this bus! Both Lucille and I had had enough. I was a very bad girl. Naughty even. When the songstress with the microphone paused and there was over a minute silence I spontaneously sang .--"When I Fall in Love"" ---etc...."It will be Forever" or ....! Don't ask me where this came from. I'll offer frustration. Too much repeating the same stuff for the whole day. Andy told me that this would happen. It is the first *gita* that I have been on that I was prayed around and over for the entire day.
I was glad to get home... I met a new friend and they wanted me to sing more!