Tag Archives: Rome

November 12: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xii – ‘Violence against violence.’

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For Jesus, non-violence is at the heart of his message, in which we are called to love – even our enemies. This was so threatening to the Roman and Jewish authorities that they eliminated Jesus, hoping his way would die with him. But the message was more enduring. However, early catechesis missed out on the dynamic power of life fully lived even to death. Missing the significance of life resulted in death being seen as the primary constituent for redemption. This led to the notion of redemptive violence: salvation coming through the cross, by the one made perfect through suffering even to the last drop of blood in obedience.

My desires are in imitation of the desires of others. My “I” depends entirely on those who surround me. If I recognise my dependence on other for my desiring, I will be at peace with this other. But as soon as I insist my desire is original I am in conflict with the other. Someone appears wearing a new fashion; someone I like and admire: I’d like to be like. I buy the same item – others comment on my doing this in imitation I reply yes I like what he’s wearing. However, by far the majority of us would resent the implication – insisting my desire has nothing to do with him. The world of advertising seeks to seduce us by showing someone/thing attractive – if you buy X you can be like Y!

We all desire through the eyes of another. The promising protégé soon experiences alienation from the teacher when the latter fears his standing is being eclipsed by this brighter student – and wonders what has happened – what have I done wrong to merit this reaction? Friends have become rivals.

In an attempt to patch things up we seek for a common scapegoat – this would never have happened if he’d never come here – get rid of him and all will be well again. Having achieved this, we experience a kind of peace – but not real peace. It is peace based on deceit, and the covered-up rivalry will emerge eventually, leading to an eventual exclusion of somebody else, to restore such peace.

In this scenario we have to establish 3 things to maintain peace: 1. forbid all sorts of behaviour that would disturb the peace and lead to conflict; 2. repeat where possible the original exclusion or expulsion, which led to our peace, which consists of ritual actions ending in the immolation of a victim – originally human, later animal; 3. and tell the story of how we were visited by the gods and founded a people – so giving birth to myth.

So, social exclusion is a violent form of protection against violence, made possible by murder – disguised through being ritualised. This universally accepted way is a blind justification of what we are actually doing – cultivating a belief in the guilt of the innocent victim. Cultivating such blindness is the only way to resolve conflict and to avoid social self-destruction [it is good that one person die…].

There is only one way this can be challenged. When someone with an entirely different perception, one not dependent on such a lie, comes to the group and points it out. The Jewish story is a long, slow discovery of the innocence of the victim. Look to the foundation of human culture – Cain and Abel – so too with Romulus and Remus – the two brothers who fight about who is the founder of Rome. They organise a competition to see who has received the blessing of the gods. Remus sees some birds, Romulus sees some more impressive birds. In the fight that ensues Romulus kills Remus and becomes the founder of Rome. Remus was accused of impiety towards the gods and for that reason Romulus was right to kill him.

So too with Cain and Abel [Genesis] – the same thing happens – Cain kills Abel; but there is a difference of interpretation: God says to Cain – where is your brother? A – His blood cries out to me! This declares that the murder is no more than that; a sordid crime, and God is on the side of the victim.

AMcC

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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.

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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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