Tag Archives: Saint Clare

11 August: Saint Clare of Assisi

Clare.800px-Simone_Martini_047

Leonard Chikasasa was a pioneer sculptor in Kungoni, Malawi. His 1973 ‘Prayer’ stands in the chapel of the Convent of the Poor Clares in Lilongwe, Malawi. In the video we see the statue at the heart of their worship.

Click on th link, and may your spirit dance on Saint Clare’s day!

Poor Clares, Lilongwe.

MMB.

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Further Notes from a Pilgrimage

3rd October Assisi

from .casa papa giovanni.foursquare

After siesta we had our own Transitus service for Francis. Michael, one of the pilgrims, was Francis, with others taking the part of Leo, Rufino and Lady Jacoba and a narrator. Very moving and they did it well. (The Transitus remembers St Francis’s transition from this life to the next, drawing on the memories of those who were present.)

Soon after that they all went down to Porziuncola for the Transitus there with the Minister General giving a blessing with the relic. that makes it sound short but of course it wasn’t, there were speeches of welcome etc from everyone to everyone, and especially from Assisi to Piedmont which is the district bringing the oil for the tomb of Francis this year. Then there was Evening Prayer and a long homily and finally the Blessing and more speeches and acceptance of the oil and more speeches! No corners are cut as a rule and this year seems to have been the same. I did not go as I went last year and think that will do, especially as I have now been through six holy doors and been to confession. No need to overdo things! The six doors are St John Lateran, St Peter’s, Rieti Cathedral, San Rufino, Porziuncola and San Francesco. I hope you are impressed!

This evening the people of Piedmont were given a free supper in the piazza by the comune. Tables and chairs filled half of it and on the other half the young men in mediaeval costume with their banners ready for the display, were hanging around. Some of them were really little boys but obviously proud of being there in the period costumes and with smaller banners. It is a smart move on the part of the Comune to bring them in so young and get them enthused, it secures the major tourist attraction for the future apart from keeping a tradition alive! Drums started up at about 10.00 but I think we were all in bed by then, pilgrimaging is tiring and by now it begins to show. Almost everyone goes to bed soon after supper which is about 8.30/9.00 by the time it is finished.

4 October
Today was The Feast so we began with Morning Prayer in the chapel here at Casa Papa Giovanni, a nice morning prayer based in the Canticle of Creation and honouring the five elements though at this moment I can’t recall what the fifth is!
After that we had a festive breakfast, which means that the pilgrims were offered bacon and scrambled eggs though this member of staff did not participate! Kumi, the nice Korean woman ate mine. She is the one who shocked us all by arriving off the plane in a wheelchair! In fact she has turned out to be a lovely, reflective woman, though walking a lot is not easy for her, she is very small boned and frail looking and has neuropathy in her feet. But she said the other day that she is much stronger for all the walking as at home she simply walks from the front door to the car. But she is going to go home with good resolutions! Breakfast once survived, we went down to the piazza to see the procession to the Basilica.

See photos here: 

This was only ten minutes late when the trumpeters blew their trumpets and the drums drummed, ear splittingly resonant in the enclosed piazza as there were about 20 drummers with big drums like oil drums! When the procession came, it was lovely, preceded by all the school children of Assisi schools who had made symbols of the Canticle of Creation and all came through waving suns and moons and stars and flowers and rain drop etc, made of coloured card and mounted on drinking straws. They stole the show as you can imagine. Then all the guilds, led by those of Piedmont and closed by those of Assisi, came with banners and coloured scarfs though only Assisi wears mediaeval clothes. They look heavy and the women’s dresses all drag on the ground and have trains which drag even more but would keep the mosquitoes out. That’s for sure. The procession made its way down the hill to San Francesco for the Grand Mass with whichever grandees of the church were around and some of the pilgrims joined in, on fact I think they all did. Una, an Irish sister, was right in the middle with the guilds who either did not care or thought she belonged to somebody else. The upshot was that she got into the basilica and had a seat while the rest were asked for tickets which they did not have!!!

At 12.00 we had a festive Mass at the Casa, homily from ft, and then a very festive pranzo, beginning with a mouthful of salmon on a thin slice of bread with lemon and another tiny slice with some sort of fish paste, a superior sort of fish paste actually. This was followed by manicotti which is a thin lasagna rolled around mozzarella cheese mixed with spinach. Then came either slices of veal, chips and veg and, as they have done each day, they made me a vegetarian dish, which I have never asked for but much appreciated. Usually it is some variant on aubergines and cheese and this was too, but very tasty. Finally we wound up with a kind of ice cream saturated in something or other very nice, with enough thin slices of cake around the edge to hold it up! Wine flowed of course and afterwards the house was very quiet!

After a little riposo I went down to San Francesco to look at the frescoes as I do a presentation on those in the lower basilica. Every year it gets easier and I feel more confident and could do it without my notes but I take them for the dates. Then I came back, about 4pm, nothing until 7.30 so I sat in the shade on the roof garden and read. What a treat! About 6.30 it began to get chilly and I came in and wrote a bit of this journal.

The pilgrims were out on their own for cena and we had ours with two friends of André who are joining us for these few days, two nice people, both of Italian extraction, here to celebrate their fiftieth Wedding Anniversary. Then about 7pm Murray invited me into his room for a pre-cena drink, then we went to supper with the couple and drank some wine. Then Antonella, the lady, produced some Alverna, a herbal digestivo. So the conversation got better and better as you can imagine, also louder and louder in true Italian style.

On that rather disedifying note, I will leave you for this posting and do more later. Love and prayers to all.

La Verna from Wikipedia

Dear All,

News from Rome

I know I said nothing about the wonderful day we had at La Verna where the weather was beautiful, and the Australian pilgrim and the two Poor Clares (not this one) climbed the mountain and came back with stunning photos of the mountain panorama all round them. Coming back in the bus we read to the pilgrims the letter which is read on the refectory on 30 September each year. This letter is Brother Masseo’s account of Francis leaving for the last time and saying farewell to the mountain and the falcon, thanking them, and to the rocks which had sheltered him. It is a very moving letter which I just managed to read aloud without getting choked up. Having had only cestini, bread and cheese or salami for the meat eaters, and water to drink, we were all glad of a very nice pasta supper when we got back to Casa Papa Giovanni.

One day we went down to San Rufino d’Arce, the church of the young Rufino, martyred because he would not lie. This is cared for by some Franciscan sisters, who welcomed us warmly as always, we had Mass there and then a short ritual in honour of St Mary Anne Cope who worked among the lepers at Molokai with Damian. She is one of the first canonised saints of USA and so especially dear to the Americans. Then on to the even smaller church of La Maddalena where it is probable that Clare and her sisters came to work with the lepers in the early days. This is not only a tradition in Assisi but also we know that Francis sent all those who joined him in the early days to spend time among the lepers, and that for a while this counted as a novitiate.

 

We know that he did nothing to make anything easier for Clare and it seems most probable that he would have insisted that she, Agnes, Pacifica and Filippa learnt in that same school. If so, this is the logical place, the chapel of the women lepers and just down the hill from San Damiano. There we had a ritual replicating the ‘funeral’ service which was said over any poor wretch diagnosed with leprosy, when they were given their begging bowl, bell and clapper to warn people, told always to stand downwind of anyone, not to approach anyone. It was a real death sentence, but a living death that could go on for years. Down at that actual place and looking up the hill towards Assisi, you can imagine how terrible that must have been to know that your family, friends, home and everything were there but unattainable. Actually when I looked at my choice collection of mosquito bites, in spite of anti-zanzare spray, I wondered how many of them had other things than leprosy. Each year there was a new podestà and one of his first duties was to go through the town and seek out any new lepers and remove them.

On the 6th the day began with Mass at the tomb of Francis followed by a presentation on the art of the upper basilica (André) and then the lower basilica (me – it went OK). At the end of all that they were all pretty bombed out. I went off and had an espresso then felt up to climbing the hill. Towards the top I met Luisa and Isabel, the two USA Poor Clares so we had yet another photocall. We also met in the afternoon and had a gelato together and a good chat as a result of which I forgot there was a lecture at 5.00 on finding the tombs, and that I was supposed to be there to do finding Clare’s tomb. By the grace of God and my two guardian angels, I arrived on time to do my half.

The day after St Francis was the Fair in Assisi. It began with Morning Prayer and then a festive breakfast. The next day too was festive food as it was our last meal together. The kitchen pulled put all the stops and gave us a  festive pranzo, which started with an antipasto of truffles on a thin slice of bread and some little round rusk like biscuits with mozarella and an olive, very tasty!  It closed as it should, with Tiramisù and champagne! One of these days, maybe the day of the feast, Murray went out and bought porchetta for himself and André and two friends. Porchetta is a slice of young pig which is roasted whole with traditional herbs then eaten cold with good local bread. Since I don’ t eat meat I too went shopping at the stalls and bought a huge slice of Piedmontese focaccia bread with olives and tomatoes in, also some pecorello (sheep or goat’s milk)  cheese and a small jar of honey to go with it, some olives and coils of liquorice which I treated myself to. I also stocked up on striped socks!  So lunch was a light hearted affair and everyone tucked into the focaccia as well as their own porchetta.

I also managed to call in at the art shop where the work of several artists is represented, and Allesandro was offering me, thanks to Murray’s introduction, a couple of pictures which I might like for the cover of volume four part two. We shall see. The deal is that he and his brother who is the artist, have a copy each which they display in shop or studio and I have the picture for free. Sounds good me.

Then finally we arrived at the closing ritual. They had gelled into such a lovely group. After some readings and prayer, each of us said a little something and then we gave each pilgrim a Tau cross and sent them off to be ‘champions of the Tau’ in the words of Innocent III.

Next morning it was up early and on the bus by 4.30 to head for Rome and the first flight out for USA. That was this morning, though it seems like a lifetime away but as the evening moves on, it feels like I have not been to bed for a very long time, so that is all I am going to write tonight!

Love and prayers to one and all
ft

 

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Notes from a Pilgrimage: Bastia San Paolo and San Damiano

 

Clare.800px-Simone_Martini_047

This morning we went to San Paolo in Bastia, where Clare went, accompanied by some of the friars, after they had received her into their fraternity at the Porziuncola. History does not record what the Benedictines felt or thought when she turned up at 2 or 3 in the morning with a bunch of scruffy young men, and in fact they did not take her into the enclosure but possibly into the guest house, or even the servants’ quarters. This becomes quite clear when you are there as the chapel with the altar which scholars seem certain is the one to which she clung when the family accosted her, is obviously not a big monastic choir and would never have had rooms for all the nuns. So it must have been some sort of outside chapel. It is quite little, perhaps three times as big as our chapel in Hollington.

The sister who always used to bring over the Mass things for us from their monastery in Bastia was called Sister Noemi. But about two years ago she was elected abbess so we have not seen her. So it was a lovely aurprise when she came over herself together with the previous abbess, Madre Cecilia, who had been abbess when we had the Poor Clare pilgrimage and had gone to their monastery as they are the descendants of San Paolo. We had a nice chat, she told me that they had a profession last week but have also taken in six elderly sisters from two monasteries which have had to close. The protomonastery have done the same, so it looks as if there have been several closures over the last year or so. I asked her if there was really nothing in their archives (which is what they had told me earlier) about the incident with Clare and her family, and she replied that she had been thinking about it too and thinks it possible that there is something on the archives of San Giuseppe in Assisi. When the monastery was invaded, the sisters grabbed what they could and fled, but went back late to collect other stuff. Some sisters went to Bastia but some also went into Assisi to the monastery of San Giuseppe. So I will write to them (sometime) and see if there is anything there.

We had a beautiful Mass and we three Poor Clares renewed our vows. The other two are both from the Philippines originally but now in different monasteries in USA. They are having a wonderful time, bowled over almost every day! They will go home exhausted but topped up for a long while to come.

So back to the Casa for pranzo and a minimal reposo since we were back in taxis at 3.45 to go to San Damiano for Clare, These are the Clare days. There were crowds of people there and since nobody is allowed to talk inside the monastery, I had to do all the input outside. Murray is on good terms with the Irish friars there, and asked the reason for this new prohibition which makes things very difficult. He said that there had been some incidents and friars leading groups had been very confrontational with the resident friars so the whole community in chapter had decided to insist on silence throughout the monastery. Understandable since it is not only their home but also their novitiate but hard on those who come for a once in a lifetime visit. One our way back through the Piazza Commune, there was a concert going on to raise money for those whose homes were damaged in the earthquake. This includes some of the Poor Clares, mainly those in Camerino as you probably know. I had a couple of letters to translate about it which Cortona were going to circulate.

We closed our visit to San Damiano by going into their small conference room where we had a Ritual of Healing. Murray had found a little bottle of nard so we used that, the scent was wonderful and lingered. It was especially appropriate as at Bastia we had used the gospel about Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly ointment, pure nard. People really gave themselves to the ceremony and it was very moving. As it is a small group we both anointed everyone and then Murray and I anointed each other. Then we hopped back into taxis and up to the Casa where their day was not finished since they had a lecture at 6 on the Office of the Passion in preparation to La Verna tomorrow and after supper Murray had a poetry reading. Everyone was tired but as he got into his stride they all got caught up in it and woke up and entered into the poems. He does it so well and the poems he uses are very accessible and he introduces them well, so it is always a good experience.

A long day but a good one. Tomorrow off to the mountain, two hours nearly each way by bus; early start, 6.45 breakfast, never my favourite moment, watch this space.

Love to all and prayers in each place ft

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Notes from a Pilgrimage: VII.

San Damiano, by Gunnar Bach Petersen

More news from Sister Frances Teresa in Assisi

27 September
Our adventures have not been as exciting as those of another group here, school children, 15 or 16, from two Catholic Colleges in USA. These run a senior programme in Franciscan studies and bring them here at the end of the year for a week in Assisi. The week before coming away, one of the girls kicked the football and her Achilles Tendon snapped, extremely painful. Then during the week, another child fell and broke her ankle and two of the staff spent most of the night at Perugia Hospital. Neither child wanted to go home and miss anything, so both hobbled round on crutches which must have been challenging for the team leaders. Fortunately they were six, the number relevant to student numbers that USA schools require. One was the head of the school, an ex-military man from Afghanistan who had them all exactly where he wanted them, no nonsense although he was so friendly with them and a nice bloke. But when he said ‘6.00pm’ they were there!!

On Tuesday we had our first visit to San Damiano, for Francis this time, so they were warned not to ask about Clare! San Damiano’s new guardian has forbidden any talking in the building so it all has to be done outside before you go in, when it doesn’t really make much sense! However we had a lovely Mass with Murray who preached about stones and had earlier given them his wonderful talk about Troubadours and the Canticle of Creation. After dinner, came some riposo and they had a bit of space until Andre’s lecture on the document on solitude, the preferred name for the rule for hermitages.

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Wednesday was the day for Cortona and Lake Trasimeno. The talk on solitude is a preparation for the day when we give them a doggy bag of two panini and two bottles of water and after getting there, send them off in silence for three hours. Getting there means a drive of about an hour to Tuscany in the rush hour. Then we went to the sanctuary of St Margaret of Cortona for which I had been detailed to do the historical input, starting from knowing nothing! I read a couple of pamphlets and put the talk and people seemed happy. The sister who ran the place were so nice and friendly and know the Poor Clares in Cortona. I would love to have visited them, but there is simply no time as after Mass we bundled back into the coach to go and catch the ferry to the island.

Once on the boat, we watched a nice couple with their black labrador dog, they had to put a muzzle on him to come on the boat and he did not like it. They were near us on the boat, the man was a cabin crew worker and spoke good English though they were Belgian. They clearly loved their dog and said he always went on holidays with them. When we came to leave, some hours later, the man came up in a rush to speak to the captain, then we saw him walk away and join his wife, but no sign of the dog though his wife was there. He put his arm round her and they hurried off. Clearly they had lost him, perhaps he had rushed off after a pheasant, of which there are lots on the island, though one pilgrim insisted they were peacocks. Alas.  However we will never know if they found their much loved dog, I hope they did. One comfort is that it is an island and another is that they clearly loved him so won’t abandon him, I keep praying to know they have met up but can’t see how even God can work that one!

It was lovely on the island though when Francis was there for Lent it may have been a lot tougher. The tradition is that he went on Shrove Tuesday with two loaves and returned on Maundy Thursday with one and a half. I had eaten mine by 2pm!! Apart from the anxiety about the dog, it was a lovely afternoon and clearly had been for all the pilgrims. They all slept on the coach coming back, saturated with sun and solitude! Maybe they were really relaxed too.

Love to one and all ft

29 September

Today was the feast of one of the pilgrims, Michael, a nice Australian bloke (or cobber?!) and also the day we went to Santa Chiara. Big day for me. We began with Mass at the tomb, which they only allow on two days a week, always a lovely Mass though I have big reservations about the tomb! After that we had a historical visit and they let us into the railed off transept to see the dossal and also to have prayer ritual in the San Damiano chapel. We think these favours are helped along by the fact that each year we carry all the coins collected in various boxes around the basilica, and change them into euros which the Italian banks will collect. This year I had nearly €400 worth of sterling. It is not so much the money as the weight. When we collected the box it weighed a ton and Andre struggled along with his bad back. I offed to take a turn but he said it weighed more than I do. If only! Finally we put it in a knapsack and carried a handle each. They should have a nice little consignment when US and Australian dollars are all collected. Michael, our Aussie component checked the exchange rate for me and I was dismayed to find a pound is almost down to a euro, £10 is €11.5 all because of Brexit they hasten to tell me on many occasions. Clearly the rest of the world thinks we went mad and hope it is temporary.
More anon with love to one and all.

I heard last night that Andrea Williams had just died, she was a longstanding friend and so lovely. Please pray for her and her children and grandchildren and all her friends.
ft

 

 

 

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Notes from a Pilgrimage

Clare.800px-Simone_Martini_047

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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11 August: Saint Clare.

Clare.800px-Simone_Martini_047

Women may have been seen as second-class humans in past ages, yet there have always been saints who stood aside from  what society and family expected of them to live as God called them to.

While aristocratic women may have had more resources to be able to arrange this, they would have been lined up for profitable marriages arranged by others. Not necessarily a doorway to happiness or fulfilment at any level. We have already met the Saxon princesses Eanswythe and Mildred who were given the grace to hear the call and to convince others that they were doing God’s will by entering religious life. Clare was another such aristocrat, and an influence still felt today.

Let us pray to God our Father:

  • for all Franciscan sisters especially those at the Franciscan International Study Centre;
  • for all women and girls whose lives are limited by other people’s expectations and prejudices, whether in education, employment, life choices or female genital mutilation;
  • for those men and women perpetuating the oppression of girls and women;
  • for the Franciscan family around the world.

Saint Clare, Pray for us.

 

.Picture by Simone Martini

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