Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Home of Saint Catherine

We arrived in Siena after dark on Friday. The walk across town was a little confusing, but as usual I left the navigating to Brian and followed along quietly; I was very, very tired, having lugged my duffel bag (which held all my belongings for our Italy ten-day) around Bologna all day. Bill and Kat diverted themselves by quoting Disney lines and making animal noises- Bill really has a knack for it. Finally, we found the hostel, after much walking and a bit of prayer. The man behind the desk wasn't the friendly sort, and he warned us that there was no heat for the building or for the showers. As it turned out, there was hot water for the showers, which was a blessed relief.

We spent a very cold night in that hostel though- because the central heating really didn't work. I awoke Saturday morning curled up into a ball and very stiff. After meeting the boys at breakfast, we all broke our fast on Kool-Aid and bread. Actually, I also had delicious hot tea, which improved things. Then, we left our hostel and discovered that we had missed the bus by four minutes. So we briskly walked across town in the cool, sunny morning. The air was fresh and all around us, birds were singing. This was noteworthy, because I realized then that winter was finally breaking- the birds were back.

We made it to St. Dominic's in time for Mass, which was held in the crypt below. The Mass was said by a portly priest, and I enjoyed listening to the liturgy in the beautiful Italian language. After Mass, I went up to the main church and, kneeling before the head of St. Catherine, said a rosary. The girls of Beloved First Truth household, who were also in Siena, came into the church when I was about the third decade, and Emily knelt beside me for a while. After a time, we left the church and strolled through the narrow, crumbly streets of Siena until we found the Benincasa home. There was a spacious courtyard with a well from which Catherine perhaps drew water. We saw her little chamber where she spent three years in seclusion and constant prayer. Around the room adjoining her chamber were beautiful paintings of the outstanding stories of her life, such as her mystical marriage to Christ. We also prayed in the chapel directly beside her house, which contained the crucifix from which she received the stigmata.
The stigmata cross

Then we looked for lunch, and found a nice little pizzeria where we got a huge slice of pizza and a Coke for three Euro. Kat also broke out a loaf of banana bread she had made herself, and we enjoyed a feast. Later, we wandered Siena and found the main plaza, called Piazza del Campo. There was music playing, pigeons, was a pleasant place to rest and lie in the sun. Our final stop was the magnificent Duomo of Siena, which was awe-inspiring, both the facade and the interior.
The Siena Duomo

It was only after all our sight-seeing that we truly got lost: we were trying to get back to the train station and kept going in circles in the confusing network of narrow streets. Also, I discovered during this time that my faithful old purse was falling apart, which was sad because it has been many places with me and its previous owner, Lauren. Anyways, we eventually made it out, reached our train, and sped along to the Eternal City.

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