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!
More anon, love to one and all ft