Tag Archives: Rome

August 17: Water of life

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It was my joke, when I was researching in Rome, that my constitutional walk was down the Via Aurelia, round the fountain and back to the HQ of the Missionaries of Africa, and the (thankfully dust-free) files in the archives. The fountain was a good goal to aim for: you could hardly miss it, unless you mistook it for the one on the opposite side of the piazza. And a thing of beauty it is with the water playing in the sunlight.

This summer it is not playing. When the old popes brought water from the hills to furnish these fountains and many others throughout Rome there were many fewer people drinking less water, using less for washing and all the many processes that need water. The spring rains have not come this year: the City of Rome may soon ration water, so the Vatican City has turned off the supply to many of its fountains in solidarity with the Roman people.

People come before ornamental fountains, though even in April I was glad of the drinking fountain in the wall of the Vatican. I hope that is still running in the heat: my friend Fr Dominique Arnauld told me that the water in the fountains of Rome is reliably fresh and drinkable; and cold. You could spend a small fortune buying bottled water!

Let us not take water for granted – nor the needs of our fellow human beings, brothers and sisters. Nor indeed all the creatures that depend on water from the hills and from springs and rivers and the clouds. I’m sure I could use a little less each day. And you?

Laudato Si’ !

 

 

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29 June 2017: Mercy needs humans to live it.

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Mercy, as we have remarked more than once before, needs humans to live it, to give it. Masefield has one merciful man, the Apostle Peter, today’s saint, introduce himself:

A fisherman, who will pull oars and sail,

Mend nets and watch the weather by the lake.

A rough man, with rude speech, who’ll follow you. Giving up all,

And after, will go telling of your glory

A many hundred miles, to Babylon;

And feel your glory grow in him, and spread

To many others in that city, far

From lake and home and the chatter, mending nets.

And after, I will see you come for me;

For all I’m rude and did deny, you’ll come;

And I shall drink your cup, Master, you helping;

And enter glory by you.

Peter had been with Jesus at the Transfiguration (see today’s Gospel, Matthew 17:1-9) and was there when his Master prayed in the Garden, saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. Luke 22:43.

Peter’s Master and ours will give us mercy to drink his cup with us: the Eucharistic cup, which we remind ourselves at every Mass we can only drink worthily though his mercy; and the cup of daily life, which can be bitter or just too much for us at times.

WT

St Peter by Dirck van Baburen

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2 June: D is for Dover

Pharos -Roman lighthouse by Saxon Church

Pharos – Roman lighthouse by Saxon Church, Dover Castle

This picture suggests there may be more Roman remains above ground in Dover than in Canterbury, but is that a reason to talk about a place so close to home?

No, but the Pharos is significant. On the day I visited with a friend, the other side of the Channel was clearly visible, though I could not convincingly discern the column to Napoleon’s Grand Armée above the French cliffs. (I did once!) The Pharos has shown the way for nearly 2,000 years, though it’s a long while since the beacon fire was kindled there.

And who has come? The Romans, were they in peace or war? Both, over the years. And so on through two millennia. Napoleon certainly meant War.

Nowadays, thank God, those who come through Dover come in Peace; no more is it called Hell Fire Corner; the video displays in the Castle upset my friend who was seeing them for the first time.

My wife’s sewing machine was all that could be salvaged from a bombed house in Dover. It was made in Germany …

Let us pray for a continuation and a deepening of peace in Europe – and may the Pharos and Castle be a sign of welcome, not rejection, to travellers.

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14 April,Good Friday: Pilate’s Politics.

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John Masefield wrote a play in verse about Good Friday. In an exchange after Jesus was condemned, we hear Pilate and and his wife Procula, who famously warned him ‘Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.‘ (Matthew 27:19)

Pilate:

Another charge was brought some hours ago,

That he was claiming to be that great King

foretold by prophets, who shall free the Jews.

This he persisted in. I could not choose

But end a zealot claiming such a thing.

Procula:

It is a desecration of our power.

A rude poor man who pitted his pure sense

Against what holds the world its little hour,

Blind force and fraud, priests’ mummery and pretence.

Could you not see that this is what he did?

Pilate:

Most clearly, wife. But Roman laws forbid

That I should weigh, like God, the worth of souls.

I act for Rome, and Rome is better rid

Of those rare spirits whom no law controls.

He broke a statute, knowing from the first

Whither his act would lead, he was not blind.

‘Good Friday’ in John Masefield, ‘Collected Poems’, London, Heinemann, 1925, pp449-507.

Procula’s speech is as good an examination of conscience as any for today, but if you can find the text, the whole play is worth reading and pondering.

Tissot: The Message of Pilate’s Wife, Brooklyn Museum

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21 January: Saint Agnes

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Pope Benedict XVI wearing a pallium, and a mitre  with the Good Shepherd and his sheep.

Catholics will be familiar with Agnes’ name since she is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer as one of the great early martyrs. She suffered death in her early teens. It seems unlikely that we would respect a modern teenager the way the Church has celebrated Agnes for 1700 years; perhaps we have something to learn from our ancestors!

 Agnes was from a noble family who were too prominent to avoid attention in the early fourth century persecutions. When she was arrested, she was steadfast in saying that she was a Christian. It is said that she was desired as a wife or mistress by one of the magistrates. No doubt this would have enabled her to escape execution, but she did not yield.

She was to be burned alive but the wood would not light; instead, Saint Ambrose tells us, she was decapitated with a sword.

There is a special tradition linked to Saint Agnes. On her feast day two lambs are brought from the Abbey of Tre Fontane to be blessed by the pope. When they are shorn later in Spring, the wool is woven by the Benedictine nuns of Saint Caecilia’s Abbey to make Palliums. These special collars are given to new Archbishops by the pope on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Carrying lambs’ wool on the shoulder reminds the Archbishop that he is to be a good shepherd to his flock.

MMB

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Notes from a Pilgrimage

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More news from Sister Frances Teresa in Italy.

Dearest All, 
On 12th we had a busy day and went up to Assisi to collect Pilgrim’s Handbooks, to shop for the Christmas Pranzo in Rieti, to contact Sister Ectorina at the Cabrini Centre in Rieti and confirm dates, numbers, times of arrival etc etc etc. All done.
On the way back we stopped at the Springs of Clitunno near Assisi, at my request. I had been before but they are so beautiful and tranquil, water gushing in many small springs from beneath the rock of Subasio into a wide shallow lake which is always clear because the water is always on the move, gently but unmistakeably.
I am very interested in the long tradition of healing in that area. San Damiano was a place of healing which is why the chapel was dedicated to St Damiano, and in pre-Christian times, to Castor and Pollux, the two Roman gods of healing. There are also other springs higher up the flank of the mountain near San Damiano which have been healing springs, again from Roman times. So the tradition which connects Clare with healing has a long root.
Yesterday we did very little. André is still in jet lag, he reckons a day for every hour’s change of time which is a useful rule of thumb. Murray, who is lactose intolerant, ate an ice cream and forgot to take his pill because we were having so  much fun, had had stomach cramps all the previous night. I am in my usual crude good health but felt tatty in sympathy.
The pilgrims were due the next morning. At that stage, nobody wants them to come but at the airport the excitement begins to build and the sense of starting a work, which simply grows as they turn up one  by one.  This was all the more so as everyone had their luggage and all seemed younger than sometimes with no health issues except one lady who turned up pushed in a wheelchair. To say we were struck dumb is a mild account! Pilgrimage is called the prayer of the foot, so how do you do that in a wheelchair and, even louder, how were we going to do it for someone in a wheelchair? However it seemed she is more mobile than appeared. Anyway she walked spunkily to the far end of the airport and managed the coach with no fuss, and found her room, came to dinner, all normal. Sighs of relief from the staff thinking of some of the places and all the steps!!!
Now everyone is having some riposo and we hope they turn up for the first session at 5.00 pm.
It is extremely hot here and the cicadas are blasting away like car alarms making it sound hot as well. However your true Romans have got their jackets on because it is September and there might be a draught! All for now, watch this space
FT

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Notes from a pilgrimage.

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Praying woman, Chichester Cathedral. MMB.

Sister Frances Teresa Downing is sending us news from her pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi.  Let’s follow her and see how she gets on. WT.

Day One. After a good flight, more or less on time and not at all bumpy, I arrived in Rome where I was met by Fr Murray and Fr Andre. We set off back to the centre of Rome, stopping a the autogrill for a snack on the way. It was 1.30 by then and my spoon or two of Muesli was a distant memory. Easyjet do not pamper you with meals and anything you have you need to buy. Desperate, I had a mug of coffee which was, fortunately, quite nice since it cost me £2.20!

Shown my room which is on the seventh floor, a sort of very mini penthouse suite, I peeled my anti thrombosis stockings off with great difficulty and had a shower. The temperature must have been in the upper eighties and very soon there was a massive crack of thunder which rumbled on for nearly 15 minutes before the rain began. There are two parakeets nearby making their unmistakeable call and almost invisible in the tips of the acacia tree outside. The room has a splendid view onto, of all the surprises in central Rome, a field! It might be a park and if there is a chance I will try to find my way to it along a road I can see round the back.. Also if I can solve the technology, I will try to send a picture of the view.

I gather John Cella ofm is in town tonight and we are going to join him for supper. John is the director of the Franciscan Pilgrimage Programme so in a real sense, our boss! He does the hiring and firing too! However he can always be counted on for a good and generous meal, so that will be nice. I shall be starving by then, muesli and salad having vanished over the horizon!

Tomorrow we shall work at the papers, medical snags, bookings etc etc, have our own post mortem on last year and get everything as ready as possible. The next day will probably be shopping for the Christmas pranzo and going to Assisi to collect things like the pilgrim´s handbook which is distributed at the start of the pilgrimage here in Rome. Tuesday is a rest day and Wednesday the pilgrims arrive and the show starts.

Love to one and all
Ft

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September 2: Algeria VI: Pax et Concordia

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In Deo Pax et Concordia

This postage stamp was issued by Algeria to commemorate an international conference on Saint Augustine. It shows a 4th Century Mosaic from the Roman Port city of Tipasa, some 40 miles from Algiers, a work of art from Augustine’s time.

All those fish recall Chapter 21 of Saint John’s Gospel where the risen Jesus tells the disciples, who have been fishing all night and caught nothing, to try once more, and they haul in 153 big fish.

The mosaic dates from before Islam, when what is now Algeria was part of the Roman Empire. It is clearly Christian, with the ChiRo symbol in the top centre. (It looks like an X with a P, the Greek letters K and R, short for Christ.)

The inscription means: In God may Peace and Concord be what we share.

May Peace and Concord be what we share with each other, with every sister and brother. And may Peace and Concord be a mark of Algeria and her people.

 

 

 

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July 30: Pierre and Mohamed, Martyrs Together.

stMaurice.Claverie.Muhamed

The great doors of the ancient Abbey of Saint Maurice in Switzerland are modern but in keeping with what is a place of martyrdom. Here the soldiers Maurice, Victor and their companions were martyred for not obeying unjust orders. They were Roman Africans from what is now the Egypt-Sudanese border.

The doors bear the names of martyrs down the ages. On this panel we see, among others, Saint Oscar Romero, the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, and Bishop Pierre Claverie and his driver and handiman, Mohamed Bouchikhi. The story of the monks has been told in the film Of Gods and Men, but Pierre and Mohamed are less well-know, at least in English speaking circles. I invite you to remember them today as they were killed on August 1, 1996 – just twenty years ago.

Pierre Claverie OP was born in Algeria, though living in the French Community there, he had little contact with the Muslim majority. His Dominican vocation brought him back to the now independent land of his birth, living much closer to the ordinary people. He was appointed Bishop of Oran in 1981. He remained at his post during the upheavals of the following years, and was awaiting Algerian citizenship at the time of his death.

Intolerant Islamists set a booby trap bomb outside his home; the blood of Pierre and Mohamed was mingled together, two sons of Algeria, two brothers, two sons of Adam.

Mohamed and many other Muslims have accepted the gift of quiet presence and service offered by the Church in post-Colonial Algeria, and continue to do so and to make Christians welcome in their communities.

St Maurice is a place of Pilgrimage for Africans who gather to remember their martyrs on the nearest weekend to the feast of the Martyrs of Uganda in June.

MMB

 

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July 3; Relics I: Relics and the Altar

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Not long ago, a relic of Saint Thomas Becket was brought back briefly to Canterbury from Hungary, where it had helped the Church resist persecution by the Communist regime. There were many Hungarian martyrs whose names will never be known to the rest of the world. The link that Thomas’s relic represents to the European and world-wide Church, through the past  840 years, was greatly appreciated there. (Another relic was sent to El Salvador following the martyrdom of Saint Oscar Romero.)

This event set me thinking about relics, and I turned first to Monsignor Ronald Knox and his little book The Mass in Slow Motion, published by Sheed & Ward in 1948. We read from pages 14-15.

[The altar] stone has been consecrated long ago, by a bishop; and the bishop in consecrating it fills up some holes in it with – what do you think? Tiny bits of relics of the saints. People used to use relics of that kind rather freely in the Middle Ages; they used to put them into bridges, for instance, so as to be sure that the bridges held up… Even a military chaplain carries round with him an altar stone, with relics let into it, and he must never say Mass without having that stone on the soap-box or whatever it is he is using for an altar.

mercylogoNow, just as he is going to begin the Mass proper, the priest rushes up to the altar, kisses it, and says, “We beseech thee, 0 Lord, by the merits of those saints whose relics are here, and of all the saints, to be indulgent towards my sins “. The saints whose relics are here – why is that so important? Why, because in the very early days, when the Christians at Rome were being persecuted, they used to meet for worship in the catacombs … There the Christians used to bury the poor mangled remains of their friends who had been killed in the persecution; and on the tombstones raised over these bodies of the martyrs the Roman bishop used to say Mass. And when the priest, saying those words, kisses the tiny relics tucked away in the altar-stone, he reminds himself, if he has any sense of history, that by that action he is putting himself in touch, so to speak, with the Universal Church that is in Communion with Rome.

  • Saints of the ancient Church of Rome: pray for us.
  • All saints of this place where I find myself: pray for us.

Here is a story about a long-lost altar stone which tells about the present day policy towards relics as well as the tradition of the last few centuries. Toronto Altar Stone.

Parts of this weeks’ reflections have appeared in the Independent Catholic News website. http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=30282

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