Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Miracle through the Intercession of St. Philomena

Michael and I had planned to travel to the little Italian town of Mugnano to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Philomena at the shrine that contains her remains.

The journey there would be long and somewhat challenging.  We'd have to take a 2.5-hour train ride away from our beloved Rome to the city of Naples, which is known for not being the nicest or cleanest place.

From there, we'd have to find the blue Evabus, ride it for about an hour toward Avelinno, hop off at the stop the driver suggests, and then either take a cab or walk a few miles to the shrine itself.

Once there, we'd have to hope that the pilgrim center had a room for us, and there was no guarantee that we'd get to sleep beside one another.  It was possible that there would be a dorm for men and a separate one for women.

All this would have to be figured out before nightfall, and all communication would have to be done in Italian.  I had my trusty phrase book ready.  And I asked St. Philomena to protect and guide us.

But, after arriving to Naples by train, we couldn't find the blue Evabus.  We spoke to 9 different people that afternoon, hoping that one of them might point us in the correct direction of Mugnano, but each person gave us a different recommendation in rather insistent Italian.

After doing tons of walking around Naples and even riding a bus far out of the city, we decided that--before we got even more lost--we ought to hop off it, catch the next bus back to the train station, and start over.  After all, we had a lot more to do and only about 5 more hours of daylight.

Since we had no idea where we were, I started taking pictures of street signs with my camera, in the hopes that we'd have an easier time retracing our steps.

The bus we boarded to get back to the train station was crowded, noisy, and dirty.  I held on tightly to my backpack and had moved it to hang on the front of me, lest I get pick-pocketed from the back.

Michael and I were both on high alert, both of us clenching our respective suitcases and wondering if we should abort the mission altogether and just return to Rome.  There was just enough sunlight remaining to get us back there, but only if we began the return soon.

But, just as the bus came to a stop and the doors opened, a man lunged at me, speaking Italian and pressing with force into my backpack and chest.  Michael and I were separated for a moment because this was the bus stop we wanted to get off at, and the man had taken this point of weakness as an opportunity for himself.

He made it seems as if he was urgently trying to push past me and get out the doors behind me, even though they were not open.  But, just then, I noticed that his other hand was gently maneuvering near my waist, attempting to slip inside my money flap and rob me of either the money or the camera (with all of our precious honeymoon pictures on it!) I had in there.  I thought this valuable stash would have been unnoticed and protected by the large backpack I had hanging over my chest.  But he caught a glimpse of it and was now hoping to catch a handful of it.

In panic, I yelled, "STOP IT!" and instinctively pushed him away.  In the commotion, my suitcase flipped over and fell.  All the women on the bus seemed to look terrified.  Michael grabbed my arm to usher me out of the bus, but first I looked back at the man once more to glare at him and also to check and see if he had stolen anything from me.

With that, he spit on me, with all the disgusting phlegm he could muster. 

Once off the bus, I was fuming with anger.  Michael checked to make sure I was OK, and I think I was.  But I could only think, Why would anyone want to be so mean?  What would this man's mother think?  What has convinced him that he should steal to get what he wants?!  And, ohmygosh, what germs does this man have?!

Michael wiped the spit off of me with a leaf he found on the ground.  I wanted to cry, but I stayed strong.

Just then, Michael said, "I want to talk to a police officer."

"No," I said, "There's nothing we can do about it now.  I'm fine, and I don't think he got anything."

But Michael wanted to talk to the police anyhow.  Maybe they would tell us how far away from Mugnano we were and whether or not getting there would be advisable.

As we waited for the Italian officers to find someone who could speak English to us, I suddenly noticed that a zipper was unzipped on my backpack.  It was the pocket closest to my body, the one on the same side where the man's hand was.  And it was the one I had been keeping my white iPhone in during our whole journey.

I reached in...and the phone was GONE.

I immediately burst into tears.  How did he know?  How did HE know?  How did he KNOW?!

"I want to go back to Rome!" I cried.  "Take me back to Rome, please!!"

Michael immediately escorted me into the train station and bought a return ticket, lickety-split.  Within 10 minutes, there'd be a train going back to Rome.  We were on it in no time.

Once in our seats, the tears continued to flow.  My iPhone had countless photos on it, tons of personal information, and credit card information.  And where would we sleep tonight?  Perhaps we could go early to our second hotel and ask if they could take us two days early.  But, still, I thought to myself, How did he know?  How did HE know?  How did he KNOW?!

A little old lady that sat near us on the train began to look concerned.  I was a crying wreck and Michael looked concerned but more composed, and I think she worried that I was in an unhealthy relationship or something.  It was only a matter of time before she would lean over and ask me in Italian if I was OK.

But first, I would need a tissue.  And this would cause me to have to look in another compartment of my backpack.  And then...a miracle would happen.

THERE WAS MY iPHONE!!  Our beloved St. Philomena had interceded!  God granted me nothing less than a miracle!!  I began to sob again, only this time my tears were tears of joy.

At this point, both the little Italian woman and Michael leaned toward me to ask if I was OK.  Indeed, I was just fine!!  As best I could, I tried to explain what happened.

Perhaps a skeptic would say I unknowingly simply placed the phone in the wrong zippered pocket and didn't realize it.  But I know it was a miracle.  Remember, the un-zippered pocket had alerted me that something was wrong.  The un-zippered pocket was right where the thief's hand was.  And the un-zippered pocket was where I had religiously kept my iPhone hidden during the whole time we've been in Europe.  It was intentional, on my part, that I should always keep it in one place.

St. Philomena must have wanted to get us back to Rome because the iPhone didn't appear until we had boarded the train and it started moving.  Perhaps she saved us from getting lost or running into further trouble.  We were sad that we didn't get to her shrine to enjoy her feast day festivities, but we had received a special blessing in her friendship that kept us safe.

To Rome we returned!  And we couldn't have been more excited to have the extra time there!