DAY 1: Oct. 5 Monday DEPART U.S.A.
Depart on an overnight flight to Malta. Dinner and breakfast will be served on board.
DAY 2: Oct. 6 Tuesday MALTA
Welcome to Malta. Upon arrival, collect your luggage from baggage claims and proceed to the Arrivals’ Hall, where you’ll be met by a tour guide and/or driver. There are 140 churches and chapels dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Malta. Consequently, Malta is often referred to as the “Archipelago of the Virgin Mary”. This is also the Island of St. Paul, and in the next several days we explore the most important historic and religious sights of this beautiful island. We proceed to The Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel for Mass. It is a Roman Catholic church in the capital Valletta on the island of Malta. It is one of the most famous churches and main tourist attractions of Valletta, and it forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage site which includes the entire city. Hotel check in then proceed to participate in Gudja village Festa procession on this eve of the Feast of the Holy Rosary. Welcome dinner. Overnight. (D.)
DAY 3: Oct. 7 – Wednesday Feast of the Holy Rosary – GOZO
After breakfast we depart for a full day excursion to the island of Gozo via Gozo Channel Ferry. We visit the Ta’Pinu Shrine, the National Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Malta, visited by John Paul II during his historic trip to Malta, where we celebrate Holy Mass and celebrate in procession the Feast of the Holy Rosary. The narrow rooms on either side of the altar are full of testaments of the local belief in the intercession of Our Lady. Visit the Cittadella & Victoria, old Capital Cittadella, the Cathedral dedicated to St. Mary, St. George’s Basilica known as the golden church of the “marble basilica” of Gozo. The relics of St. Clement rest in the Baroque altar in the side chapel of St. Lazarus, one of eleven side chapels within the Basilica. and the picturesque bays of Marsalforn and Xlendi, Gozo Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Visit to the Megalithic Temples of Ggantija, followed by the Old Citadel in Victoria & Calypso cave. Later, see Munxar Parish Church, a Baroque style building dedicated to St. Paul. A visit to Xlendi Bay and Dwejra, where we will be able to admire the Inland Sea before we take boat crossing back. Overnight Valetta. (B.D.)
Day 4 – Oct. 8 Thursday – Valletta & the three Cities
After breakfast, we will embark on a full-day tour to Valletta, the capital city. The Knights of Malta settled the capital La Valetta in 1530. Our day starts with a Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Pompei at Marsaxlok. Proceed to the Carmelite Monastery for Holy Hour then visit with the Nuns. Afterwards we then visit the Church of St. Catherine’s and the Blue Grotto. Visit the Shrine of Zurieq. The Miraculous Crucifix of Ta Gesu Our excursion will include the Barraca Gardens, with their panoramic views of the Grand Harbor and the Three Cities. A highlight is our visit to the magnificent baroque St. John’s Cathedral whose precious works of art include Caravaggio’s Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. We will stop for lunch, and then we will enjoy the Malta Experience Multi-Vision Show, which depicts 5000 years of Maltese history. After lunch on our own, we will travel to the Cottonera area named after Grandmaster Nicolas Cottoner who fortified the three cities of Vittoriosa, Cospicua, and Senglea. We visit the Inquisitor’s Palace, churches of St. Lawrence of Vittoriosa. Next, we tour the famous harbor (weather permitting) in a typical small Maltese boat called fregatina for a cruise around Malta’s impressive Grand Harbor. (B.D.)
Day 5 Oct. 9 Friday St. Paul’s Bay – Mdina – Rabat
After breakfast at our hotel, we will embark on a full-day guided sightseeing tour “in the footsteps of St. Paul,” who brought Christianity to the island in 60 A.D., after surviving a shipwreck en route to Rome. We will have Mass followed by Holy Hour at the Church of St. Paul (1572) and visit St. Paul’s Grotto beneath the church. St. Paul’s Grotto is said to be the place where St. Paul took refuge and prayed for three months while trying to convert the Maltese to Christianity following his shipwreck around 60 AD (Acts 28). Pope John Paul prayed in the grotto during his visit in 1990. St. Paul’s Bay (including a ride on a “Luzzu” boat towards St. Paul’s Islands, the site of the shipwreck), the old Capital City of Mdina the Silent and Medieval City whose quiet, narrow cobblestone streets are mostly free from vehicular traffic, (including entrance to the cathedral, built on the site of the house of the island’s first bishop). St. Paul’s Catacombs, St. Paul’s Cathedral to view the stone where St. Paul was beheaded, St. Paul’s Island, San Pawl Tal – Huggiega Church. Visit with the Nuns in the Carmelite Monastery currently on foundation. (B.D.)
Day 6 Oct. 10 Saturday – Mosta – Mellieha
Enjoy an excursion to the Marian Shrine in Mosta – Mosta Dome, built in the 19th century, which is the fourth largest unsupported dome in the world and the third largest in Europe. The Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Sarria Church renowned for paintings of Malta Preti. Proceed & celebrate Mass at National Marian Mellieha Sanctuary. This is the oldest sanctuary in Malta, which stands over the Bay of St. Paul and contains a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary. The vicinity where St. Paul was shipwrecked on this island. The Crypt of Our Lady of Mellieha was originally one of the many natural caves found around the northern part of the island. According to an old tradition, the Byzantine style fresco, depicting the Virgin Mary holding Christ on her right arm, was painted by St. Luke, when he was shipwrecked on the island together with St. Paul. Visit the Sanctuary crypt of Our Lady – Il-Madonna tal-Għar. Then proceed to the Sanctuary of Our Lady Of Girgenti – Guza Mifsud. Penitential Prayer service and Holy Hour at Church of Nazzarenu. (B.D)
Day 7 Oct. 11 Sunday – Central – Western – South Malta – Marsaxlokk
After breakfast, we will head to Naxxar Parish Church – Nativity of the Virgin Mary, Mass and Holy Hour. Walk to the Dingli Cliffs with its steep drops; this is the highest point on Malta, about 250 meters above sea level for open views of inland Malta and nearby Buskett Gardens and Verdala Palace & tiny, uninhabited isle of Filfla. We proceed through the South of Malta, drive to the Shrine of the Redeemer in Senglea for Mass and Holy Hour. We visit the typical fishing village of Marsaxlokk, and continue on to the Neolithic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnjadra, UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We visit to the Tarxien temples, the most complex of all temple sites in Malta, which date from 3600 to 2500 BC. Consisting of four megalithic structures, the temples are renowned for their detailed carvings, which include domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns. Then we’ll visit the Blue Grotto (boat ride included), the fishing village of Marsaxlokk and Ghar Dalam’s prehistoric caves. We continue with a guided tour through these caves. Holy Hour at the Carmelite Friary then visit with the Friars. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B.D.)
Day 8 Oct. 12 Monday MALTA – SICILY: NOTO – TAORMINA
After the Claudian expulsion, Paul did not stay long in Malta as he was anxious to see what was left of Christians in Rome. He set off and landed in Syracuse, Sicily, less than seventy miles away. We check out of our hotel very early this morning with a box breakfast and follow a similar route by ferry, disembarking in Pozzallo. We stop for typical, light Sicilian pastries and coffee, following the celebration of Mass at Carmelite Monastary. Enjoy a light buffet lunch and wine tasting at Enoteca Val Di Noto. We drive to Taormina and check into our hotel. Dinner and beautiful views await us on the terrace. Overnight in Taormina. (B, Lunch, Special dinner.)
Day 9 Oct. 13 Tuesday – FEAST OF OUR LADY OF FATIMá – SYRACUSE – TAORMINA
We celebrate Mass at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Tears. The miraculous image that wept in 1953 is itself enshrined above the main altar of the Santuario Madonna Delle Lacrima, where we’ll have Mass and procession. Afterwards we explore what was once one of the greatest ports in the central Mediterranean, and where Paul stayed after he departed Malta. We see the Greek and the Roman Theaters and the Viale Rizzo. We visit the Church of St. John the Baptist where St. Paul preached. The building has an inscription in memory of his brief stay in Siracusa: “HIC OLIM SYRACUSIS TRIDUO MANENTIS”. In Roman times, Christians were not allowed to bury their dead within the city limits, so they went outside the boundaries to create burial chambers in what had been used by the Greeks as underground aqueducts. The Catacombs of St. John contain some 20,000 early Christian tombs. St. Paul is said to have preached on this spot, and early Christians venerated it as a holy site. Return, overnight in Taormina. (B D)
Day 10 Oct. 14 Wednesday MESSINA – TAORMINA
Today, after breakfast, we depart to visit Messina, We’ll visit the Cathedral, whose bell tower contains the largest and most complex mechanical and astronomical clock in the world. Tradition says that in 42 AD, the people of Messina were inspired by St. Paul’s impassioned words and sent ambassadors to Jerusalem to pay their respects to the Virgin Mary. They returned with a letter from her promising eternal protection to the city. The end of the letter, “Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus” (I bestow my benediction upon you and your city) is written on the base of the statue of the Virgin Mary, at the entrance to the port. This scene is represented on the bell tower and a little after noon each day is reenacted. Mass will be celebrated, followed by a Holy Hour. Following a break for lunch on our own we continue to the Sanctuary of Madonna della Rocca, built from limestone rock that acts as a cover to the interior. We then continue to Taormina, known in the ancient times as Tauromenion. The town lies in an elevated position of amazing, almost unique beauty, affording magnificent views of the sea and clear sky with miles of a curving coastline and picturesque mountain scenery, while the majestic pyramid of Mt. Etna on the other side constitutes a scene of indescribable beauty. Upon arrival, we visit the most impressive monument of the city: the Greco-Roman Theatre. This evening, we enjoy special dinner in a restaurant overlooking the Ionian Sea. Overnight at our Hotel. (B, Special Dinner.)
Day 11 Oct. 15 Thursday Solemnity of St. Teresa of Avila – BAGNI
This morning, following breakfast, we journey to the Carmelite Monastery of our Discalced Carmelite Nuns for the Solemnity of Our Holy Mother Teresa de Jesus. Following Mass, we share a Holy Hour for our Priests. Completing our Holy Hour, we then visit with the Nuns and Priests in the Speak Room of the Monastery. Following our visit at the Monastery, we journey to Mt. Etna, site of some of the most magnificent views in the Mediterranean. We enjoy lunch on our own en-route and return to our hotel for a short period of leisure before our “farewell” dinner. Overnight at our hotel.
DAY 12 – October 16 Friday – SICILY/USA
Today we depart for the airport for our flight home to the U.S.