Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mount Evans

August 20 - A chilly, windy morning, a sea of clouds below 10 thousands feet, a clear sky above, and a trail covered with frost and a snow dusting.

Thank you Pietro for getting up early and hiking to the top with me. I love you.
Now, let's walk together through this school year and run some cross county together, just as St. Paul said: "I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith".  It is not easy to run to the finish, but we can do it. I am grateful you are enjoying running, which has been such a relevant part of my life when I was your age.  I now jog for a different reason than when I was younger, but running still teaches me to endure, to try again after a mistake, to accept pain, to focus, to listen to what your body is telling me. I hope you will learn that as well, because it s a reflection of life. God speaks in the silence and stillness, similarly to the stillness within that you sometime can experience when you run.

Your dad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The start of a new pilgrimage?

They say life is a journey, yet, as I grow older, I am thinking of life more as a pilgrimage.
The word pilgrimage indicates that the goal is spiritual, the road at times arduous and the pace reflective.
We traveled to Rome this summer to walk through the Holy Doors. It was a wonderful experience, but did not feel as a pilgrimage. Maybe because we were on vacation, maybe because we were exhausted from the extra long trip we took this time and the new responsibilities that we had to face just before leaving...

So, before the Year of Mercy ends I felt called to start a  true, albeit local, pilgrimage. The goal is to visit all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Denver and spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration, where that is available. The idea is to walk, jog, bike or get to my destinations.
I am not sure if and when I will be able to finish. I am going to let God's lead the way and not worry.

Today (August 10, 2016) that pilgrimage started. With Norine, Emma, Pietro and Paolo, I took the light-rail to downtown Denver and then walked to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Holy Ghost and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. We spent some Adoration time at Holy Ghost (available between 7:30AM and 3:30PM every day).

Itinerary of Day 1

Catholic is fun.


Can you read the year in Latin numbers? MCMXXIV

Statue of St. John Paul II at the Cathedral - JPII, pray for us

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Denver

Station of the Cross at the Cathedral

Stainglass window at the Cathedral

The highlights:
- Meeting Fr. Jeremy Paulin at Holy Ghost and sharing stories about Rome and a selfie with Pope Francis (see Facebook)
- (Part of) my family starting on this road with me. Thank you!
- discussing with the children about Jesus and the disciples walking together for 3 years. Was one of them always ahead and another always the "slow-poke"? Did they laugh or joke along the way?
- The slurpee at the 7-Eleven that was not there.... A nice refreshing break on a hot Denver day (93 F today)
- The peace that God in the Eucharist can bring even in the midst of noise and crowds, if we stop and listen.
- Wearing the Canada shirt. Almost any stranger I talk to asks me if we are from Canada... Today somebody said: "I like Canadians, they are nice people".

Reflections about the journey, walking downtown and the reasons behind the pilgrimage I will leave for Day 2. That's my incentive to get out there again

Holy Ghost parish in Denver

The altar and Blessed Sacrament at Holy Ghost

Holy Ghost

With Fr. Jeremy and #Flat Francis at Holy Ghost

St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Denver

Stainglass window at St. Elizabeth

Stations of the cross at St. Elizabeth

With #FlatFrancis at St. Elizabeth

Three churches down, 139 to go: http://archden.org/parish-locator/
(Total time 2:45 minutes approx. , walked 2.4 miles, 30 minutes of Eucharistic Adoration, temp: 93 F)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Birthday gift...

My second 14er, mt Democrat:

It was more than a week ago, but I still want to post this.
4AM alarm. International hiking team: Enrico and Isabella (Italian-American), Agustin and children (Mexican-American), Eric (American) and Kamile (Uyghur)
It's a long drive to Alma, Colorado (past Fairplay). We get to the trail-head at 6:30AM.
The hike is not too long but steep.
Columbines welcome us. It will be a good day!

Columbines - Colorado state flower

going up with Kite Lake in the background

I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip

Do I really believe that? It is easy to say "God will come to my help" when everything is fine and life is good, but to believe the statement when things are not going well it's a different thing. I am trying, but I am not there yet.    So, as I am hiking with some back pain, I think of all the people we know that need prayers because they are suffering physically or emotionally.  There seem to be so many. More than I can truly remember to pray for each day. That is way we have a prayer list in our rosary basket. I put them in your hands Lord. Help them feel your loving presence, We can't do it down here without your help.

Climbing with #FlatFrancis

On the top with my favorite hiking buddy

On the top with #FlatFrancis
Thank you for hiking with me Isabella on my birthday. I love being with you and I love that we share the love for the outdoor and for God's creation and his church!

Agustin on his first 14er
Congratulations, my friend for trying something new and challenging. Let's do one more before the summer is over.

Our team


an idea of the incline

For those of you that do not know what a 14er is, take a look here: www.14ers.com

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Memories of Italy

The sentence I will cherish the most from this trip was Norine's talking about Fontanazzo: "This is a place it hurts to leave". Indeed it is. This tiny village, which does not even show up on many maps, is such a beautiful place, not very different from what is portrayed in the movie The Sound of Music. I spent many summers during my youth there, hiking, looking for mushrooms, picking wild berries, playing Risk when it rained or soccer when it was sunny. I have so many memories. And it is here that Norine and I met. And that makes it an even more special place; both of us are so attached to it and now our children too.
Thinking of Fontanazzo reminds me that I need the capture the best memories of this trip, before they float away. Simple bullet points and a few pictures will do; they will be enough for me to recall the details later. You readers may not understand all of them, but they all mean something special to at least some of us Contolini.

  1. Getting a glimpse of Banff National Park, Isabella and dad alone
  2. The Canadian hare
  3. The excitement of landing in Italy again
  4. Raffaello looking at me from his painting in the Vatican Museum
  5. The painting of the triumph of the cross over pagan gods
  6. Isabella and the Vatican Post
  7. Walking through the Holy Doors in several Cathedrals
  8. Sunday Mass at the Pantheon
  9. The marble statues at Villa Borghese
  10. The expression of the French man I gave two free tickets to. He came back and thanked me: "It's my birthday today. Thank you for this birthday gift".
  11. Waiting the bus to Stazione Termini that never came. And so we walked more...
  12. The sweet old lady (97) in Anne's apartment building, whose tiny apartment we had to enter in order to retrieve Keely's clothes. When will you come back to visit me? She asked.
  13. Macine and Abbracci (biscotti)
  14. The look of the trip: Isabella wearing my baseball hat turned backward
  15. The 20+ points turn in the "no-outlet" alleyway in Rome. Cars parked on both side, people staring, Norine directing from outside, dad sweating. A true Italian moment!
  16. Pietro enjoying gelato
  17. Meeting with Guido and Simonetta again
  18. Dining on the terrace of Pensione Bencistà
  19. Multicolored marble in Florence.
  20. Emma has to buy two scarfs to cover herself and be able to enter the Cathedral.
  21. Norine's idea for remodeling Bencistà
  22. Walking with my precious family through the narrow, cobblestone, streets of Siena.  Even with all the tourists walking around I could imagine glimpses of life centuries ago moving through this medieval city on a hill
  23. Isabella feeling the desire to spend a semester in Italy/Siena during college
  24. The Tuscany cypress trees and Emma wanting to save their seeds
  25. Pietro opening the bathrooms with a pencil at McDonald's in Florence. Great work, buddy!
  26. The tourist tour bus through Verona. A part of me belongs in this city and I am ready again to spend some time here if it is God's will
  27. Driving to Fontanazzo
  28. The sense of familiarity with the houses, the trees, the hiking trails, the water fountains and all that make up Val di Fassa. A part of me belongs here also
  29. The gentle roar of fiume Avisio from the bedroom of the apartment in Fontanazzo
  30. Hiking alone up the steep path in the forest that I knew so well when I was going mushroom hunting
  31. Hiking to Rifugio Principe with Isabella and Pietro. I trusted I could do it and my back did not hurt. 
  32. "Rifugio's hopping". Norine's idea for next time in Val di Fassa.
  33. Eating pizza at Salin, in Pera di Fassa
  34. The European soccer cup: Italy beats Spain 2-0
  35. The morning walk alone around Fontanazzo looking for Wi-Fi.
  36. My dad hiking with us without physical pain
  37. My mom feeling relaxed during the stay in the mountains.
  38. The slightly humid smell of the stairwell in the apartment building in Fontanazzo. It is nothing special, but so unique and familiar to me.
  39. The view from the top of the Col Rodella funivia (gondola)
  40. Norine's squeak of excitement for the funivia of Pordoi appearing through the rocks.
  41. Burying a Euro cent next to the tree of the Fontanazzo apartment building. Will we remember it is here next time? will we be able to dig it out?
  42. Norine's girly joy when we purchased the "cucù clock" in Campitello. Even the store owner noticed it.
  43. Visiting with Arturo on the wheelchair and is sweet caring wife before leaving Fontanazzo.
  44. The Cathedral of Trento. The old frescos on the walls, forgotten for centuries
  45. Francesco and Ileana's generosity at their house in Lonato.
  46. The renovated patio
  47. Le mosche (flies)
  48. Noemi durante la colazione: "Mamma, quando uccidono le galline?"
  49. The day at Grest at the oratory in Lonato
  50. The conversation with Ileana's nonna in the field racking hay in 100F weather.
  51. Ileana's nonno's smile
  52. The day at Lake Garda.
  53. Don Matteo
  54. Fig trees growing from cracks on the streets. I have to figure out how to grow one in my greenhouse....
  55. Airline strike, flight cancelled, 4 hours on the phone to figure out a re-booking for 6 people. Priceless!
(more to come as I/we think about them)






#6 and #11

Pietro enjoying Rome

#10 almost. Abbracci are missing



#19 - Paolo


Norine's favorite piece of art. Florence

It is strange to think that so many things that I am so familiar with are so far away. They exist, grow and change, while I spend my life in another continent. Yet, with a plane flight I can suddenly be there and touch them and experience them in a renewed way.  Modern air travel is amazing and I am grateful for it, but somehow it also contributes to this feeling of "separation" and "imperfection". My life belongs in Colorado now, but I cannot negate that, during this trip, I felt that part of who I am is in Italy and the two places and cultures cannot be fully reconciled in this lifetime. I cannot live, experience and enjoy both places and the people I love that live so far away at the same time. 
Until I few years ago I was worried I would get bored in Heaven. Now I am convinced that part of Heaven will actually consist in being able to experience to the fullness those we love and the places and beauty that give us joy. No that I have not heard that before said to me so many times, but only "feeling divided" between two countries made me finally understand it.

More pictures about the list above in another post, if our readers want to see more (do you?).