Novitiate 56-58 Italian Holiday

Novitiate 56-58


I joined the monastery on September 16 1956. I had left school in the march and went with Fr. Edmund Hatton on a trip to Italy. We drove through France, camping and living cheaply until we got to Rome where we saw the sights staying in a pensione. We split up and I travelled with a Gibraltarian priest to San Giovanni Rotund to see Padre Pio, whom he wished to see though I had not hear much about,. We found a small franciscan monastery with a large hospital just finished next to it and then leading to the town a road which was rapidly filling up with guesthouses and hotels. our hotel called us at 5.30 so that we could get to Padre Pio’s Mass at 6. We joined a crowd of mostly women in black shawls who pushed and shoved into the church when the doors opened and I found myself about 3 rows back from aside altar. PP entered slowly and began Mass with a firm quiet voice. There was quite an air of expectancy around. I had discovered by this time that he had the stigmata and that it was painful for him to walk and, this was the reason why had mittens on. He paused for quite a time during the Eucharistic prayer and in then atmosphere of reverence and concentration, he was quite sharp with the women who tried to kiss his hands when he gave communion. After Mass I went into the sacristy to be introduced to him, but though I received a short formal blessing I spoke not Italian and he spoke no English. From San Giovanni Rotondo where Count Telfnner lived – he had lived at Ampleforth village for some months in the 1930s, and then went to live at San Giovanni. He knew Terence and my Father, but I never linked up with him. I then met up with my parents at Sirmione on lake Garda where they were having baths – this was the second time that my Father went there for his rheumatism. I returned back to England with them.

On the week before entering the monastery I went on a boat on the Dutch canals with Denis and Stephanie Drew. They lived in Duffield, and she was quite keen to get me a wife. We had a delightful time in their boat, and stopped at pubs and drank Bols which was disgusting. Stephanie had invited Rowena Lewis to join us, and we go on very well. I kept in vague touch with her for some years, and she came to Belgrave Square for a little party before my solemn profession in 1960. She married lived in Bath and we lost touch.