This stone outside the main South Porch of Canterbury Cathedral marks the start of the ancient Via Francigena through France to Rome.
More from Sister Frances Teresa as she makes her way through Italy
Posted: 20 Sep 2016 07:15 AM PDT
Today we went to Poggio Bustone, the place of pardon, also the place where Francis went very early on with a bunch of brothers. The locals thought they were scruffy and disreputable and shunned them. So to break the atmosphere, Francis went up to them and said Buon giorno, buona gente, Good morning good people, and the ice began to break. Today on his feast a friar goes round the village knocking on all their doors and saying Buon giorno buona gente!
When we arrived we found a French Mass already in progress, but the nice guardian said they would not be long and they weren’t. This is the sanctuary where Francis finally found a sense of having been forgiven by God and the friars make it a centre of forgiveness, schools bring children here for first confessions too. So those who wanted had the chance of confession. André began by speaking about his niece who had had twins, and towards the end of her pregnancy, she was so big she felt there was no room in her for anything else! Sin is like that, he said, it fills us up till there is less and less room for Christ. So everyone went to confession!! After that there was some prayer space, the energetic ones, about eleven of them, climbed the mountain up to the top where there is a chapel and a cave where Francis used to stay with Brother Elias. Once there they rang a bell as the tradition requires! Then they came down very pleased with themselves! I sat on a bench and thought some thoughts and wrote a bit more of the essay on solitude I am writing for the book Andre is producing. I keep writing little bits but when I get home I shall have to see how to cobble them together!
Then back into the bus and back to the Cabrini Centre for pranzo. André had a guest, the 5times great niece of Fr Pamphilo who was the Italian friar sent to USA in the late 1800s to minister to the Italian immigrants. Pamphilo or perhaps Pamfilo then went on to be the founder of the Province, and of St Bonaventure’s University in Washington and of two religious congregations, two because he founded one then the bishop of another diocese wanted the sisters but their own bishop would not let them leave so Pamphilo founded another lot. Great man!
With the help of Margaret Carney when she was President of the University, they wanted to bring his body to USA but it could not be found. This is because in Italy they put the bodies in the grave or, more likely as in this case, into a sort of little house, then after some years, when the shelf fills up, they shovel the bones to the back and put the new body in front. All very well but who knows now which bones are whose? However the latest is that they are thinking of a way, possibly through DNA testing. He had seven siblings all of whom had seven or eight children, so there are millions of descendants from whom to get DNA. Pamfilo’s niece, called Laura, is about late 40s, lovely girl.
As I have never seen the city of Rieti, she took me in during siesta time, very noble of her. She showed me the city which is small, the cathedral and the old part, very picturesque. We were just passing the church door of the Poor Clares when the portiere epened it so we said hullo, and she turned out to be a very friendly and chatty Sicilian. She was very pleased to meet another PC especially from England where she thought everyone was a Protestant! We had a great chat, she told me the monastery is built on the foundations of the house of Angelo Trancredi, a former knight who joined Francis and that they still have a room which goes back to that time. The monastery was founded on 1230s, within the life-time of Clare. It housed 34 when she entered and now they are eight and all old. Every day they run what she called Mensa Santa Chiara, the table of St Clare, with the help of local lay people, and feed over 100 poor people every day.
Laura, my guide, told me that their abbess, who was younger, got worn out and transferred to the monastery of Camerino. As it happened, I had recently translated a letter from the sisters in Camerino appealing for help because their monastery is 3/4 destroyed in the earthquake, including the church. There are five or six Poor Clare monasteries damaged n the earthquake. Even Cortona told me they had felt the shocks though had no damage. You wonder what will happen to all these monasteries, even more so when less than 50 yards up the road I found another Poor Clare monastery but nobody was around. In fact the place looks deserted, I hate to think what it is like inside. So sad. Then Laura took me home, having thoroughly practised my Italian and somewhat tired!
This morning we went to Fonte Colombo where Francis wrote the Rule, had his eyes cauterised and lived at various times before that very peacefuly in a lovely spot.
After Mass we had the historical visit. This is one of the friaries which go back to Francis’ time, though not the church we see today, chapel really. Because this is such a small group, only fourteen, we didn’t divide them as we usually do, half coming to me for a recommitment ceremony and half going to Murray to visit the Magdalen chapel and see the Tau on the wall almost certainly painted by Francis himself. Instead they all came as one which was nicer when possible. I had lit the candles and was waiting until they came, watching a lizard running up a tree branch but I did not have a chance to find out what he would do when he reached the end because the pilgrims arrived! Because of the steep slope of the land, he would have a long long drop if he dropped. But I guess he has more sense.
The recommitment is always moving, very simple a short scripture reading, a psalm which we said altogether, then they have a lit candle each from the ones standing on the small stone altar amid the mouse droppings! They read a statement of commitment all together, and we give them a card each signed by the three staff. It means as much as each one invests in it, but nearly always they do invest greatly. You don’t come on a pilgrimage like this and then fool around.
Then they had some free time, photograph time, prayer time, gazing into space time, some beautiful space to gaze into and the sky was as clear as can be, almost every rock of the mountains opposite could be seen. The temperature last night went down to 11C so a big change from the temperature in Rome. It was quite a shock to wake up in the morning and hear a cock crow, some rooks, a distant dog and a cow mooing, instead of two hundred cars and seven hundred motor bikes, all honking and hooting! Out of my window which overlooks the front drive, I can see pine trees and grass and hear the permanently cross squirrel in the trees. The little cat Rocchi who was a small kitten last year, seemed to remember me and jumped up on my lap purring like a train.
All for the moment as it is almost time for the talk. I know I have heard it before but each time I rehear it, I seem to find something else good.
All for now, love to one and all