Tag Archives: Saint Clare

11 August, Little Flowers of Saint Francis: XLVII: Saint Clare blesses the bread.

 

ST. CLARE, most devout disciple of the Cross of Christ and sweet flower of St. Francis, was of such great sanctity that not only bishops and cardinals, but also the Pope was filled with great longing to see her and to hear her, and oftentimes visited her in person.

Once the holy father went to her convent to hear her speak of things celestial and Divine; and, while they thus reasoned together of divers matters, St. Clare caused the tables to be made ready and bread to be set thereon, that the holy father might bless it. Wherefore, when their spiritual discourse was ended, St. Clare kneeled down with great reverence and besought him to vouchsafe to bless the bread which was upon the table.

The holy father made answer: “Most faithful Sister Clare, I desire that thou bless this bread and make thereover the sign of the most holy Cross of Christ, unto whom thou hast wholly given thyself”. St. Clare said: “Most holy father, I pray thee have me excused, for I should be deserving of great blame, if, before the Vicar of Christ, I, who am but a vile and worthless woman, should presume to give this blessing”.

And the Pope made answer: “To the end that this be not imputed to presumption but to merit of obedience, I command thee by holy obedience that thou make the sign of the most holy Cross over this bread and bless it in the name of God”. Then St. Clare, as a true daughter of obedience, blessed those loaves most devoutly with the sign of the most holy Cross.

O marvellous thing! On all those loaves there instantly appeared the sign of the holy Cross most fairly cut; thereafter of those loaves part were eaten and part were preserved in record of the miracle. And the holy father, when he had beheld the miracle, departed, taking some of the said bread with him, giving thanks to God and leaving St. Clare with his blessing.

There dwelt in the Convent Sister Ortolana, the mother of St. Clare, and Sister Agnes, her sister, both of them like St. Clare full of virtue and of the Holy Ghost, with many other holy nuns and brides of Christ; to whom St. Francis was wont to send much sick folk; and they by their prayers and by the sign of the most holy Cross restored health  to them all.

Almost as an afterthought we learn of the sisters’ work with sick people! My grandfather was a baker, and his practice was to make three cuts in a long loaf, or even a little mince pie, saying ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Round Soda bread would be cut into four pieces with a cross and we still have hot cross buns! This post is out of sequence to mark Saint Clare’s feast day.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lff/lff036.htm

 

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September 4. Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXXIII: He is given a great promise.

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SAINT FRANCIS being on a time grievously afflicted in his eyes, Cardinal Ugolino, protector of the Order, for the great tenderness that he bore him, wrote unto him to come to him in Rieti, wherein dwelt most cunning physicians for the eyes. Then Saint Francis, having received the letter of the cardinal, gat him first to Saint Damian’s, where was Saint Clare, the devout bride of Christ, for to give her some consolation and thereafter go to the cardinal.

Saint Francis having won there, his eyes grew so much worse on the next ensuing night that he could not see the light a whit; wherefore he could not go upon his way. Saint Clare let build for him a little cell of reeds, wherein he might the better rest himself. But Saint Francis, what with the pain of his infirmity, and what with the multitude of rats, that did him exceeding great annoy, could find, nor day, nor night, no rest at all. And having yet more of such pains and tribulation to endure, he began to think and understand that this was a scourge from God for his sins; and to thank God with all his heart and with his mouth, and anon cried with a loud voice, saying:
«My Lord, of all this am I deserving, and much worse. My Lord Jesu Christ, Thou good Shepherd, who dost show forth Thy mercy to us sinners in diverse pains and anguish of the body, grant unto me, Thy little sheep, such grace and virtue that through no infirmity and agony or pain may I ever part from Thee.” While thus he prayed, there came a voice from heaven that said: “Francis, answer me; if all the world were gold, and all the seas and streams and fountains were balm, and all the mountains and hills and rocks were precious stones; and thou shouldst find a treasure yet more noble than these things, as much as gold is nobler than earth, and balm than water, and precious stones than mountains and rocks, and if for thine infirmity that nobler treasure were given wouldst thou not be well content therewith and right glad?”

Replied Saint Francis:
“Lord, I am not worthy of so precious a treasure”;

and the voice of God spake unto him:

“Rejoice, Francis, for this is the treasure of eternal life, the which I have laid up for
thee, and from this hour I give it thee in possession; and this infirmity and affliction is the earnest of that blessed treasure.”

Then Saint Francis called his companion, with great joy in so glorious a promise, and said: “Let us go unto the cardinal,” but first of all consoling Saint Clare with holy words, and humbly taking leave of her, he set out on the way to Rieti.

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10 July, Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXVIII: He is called to preach and pray, II.

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So Brother Masseo departed, and according to the bidding of Saint Francis carried his message first unto Saint Clare and then unto Brother Silvester.

Who, when he had heard thereof, forthwith fell on his knees in prayer, and as he prayed received answer from God, and turned to Brother Masseo, and bespake him thus: “Thus saith the Lord: Say unto Brother Francis that God has not called to gain to this estate for himself alone, but to the souls’ end that he may gain fruit of souls, and that many through him may be saved.”

footwashWith this reply Brother Masseo returned to Saint Clare to learn what she had received of God, and she answered that God had sent to her and her companions the same reply as He had given to Brother Silvester. Whereat Brother Masseo hied him back again to Saint Francis; and Saint Francis received him with exceeding great love, washing his feet and making ready for him the meal, and after he had eaten, Saint Francis called Brother Masseo into the wood ; and there kneeled down before him and drew back his hood, stretching out his arms in the shape of a cross, and asked him: What has my Lord Jesu Christ commanded that I should do?

Replied Brother Masseo : “As unto Brother Silvester, so likewise unto Sister Clare and her sisters, has Christ made answer and revealed; that it is His will that thou go throughout the world to preach, since He hath chosen thee not for thyself alone, but also for the salvation of others.”

And then Saint Francis, when he had heard this answer and known thereby the will of Jesu Christ, rose up with fervour exceeding great, and said : “ Let us be going in the name of God”; and he took for his companions Brother Masseo and Brother Agnolo, holy men.

Illustration from an old edition of the Little Flowers from which this text is taken.

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9 July, Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXVII: He is called to preach and pray.

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How Saint Francis received the counsel of Saint Clare and of the holy Brother Silvester, that it behoved him by preaching to convert much people; and how he founded the third Order, and preached unto the birds, and made the swallows hold their peace

THE humble servant of Christ, Saint Francis, having already gathered together many companions and received them into the order, fell into deep thought and much doubting as to what he ought to do: whether to give himself wholly unto prayer, or some time also unto preaching: and on this matter he much desired to learn the will of God. And for that the holy humility that was in him suffered him not to trust over much in himself nor in his own prayers, he thought to search out the will of God through the prayers of others: wherefore he called Brother Masseo, and bespake him thus: “Go unto Sister Clare and tell her on my behalf, that she with certain of her most spiritual companions, should pray devoutly unto God, that it may please Him to show me which of the twain is the better: whether to give myself to preaching or wholly unto prayer. And then go unto Brother Silvester and tell the like to him.”

Thus was that Brother Silvester who when he was in the world had seen a cross of gold proceeding from the mouth of Saint Francis, the which reached even unto heaven and the arms thereof unto the ends of the world, and this Brother Silvester was of so great devotion and so great sanctity, that whatsoe’er he asked of God was granted him, and oftentimes he spake with God; wherefore Saint Francis had a great devotion unto him.

Francis places great trust in God and in his friends!

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8 June: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXVI: How Saint Clare ate with Saint Francis, 3. (Shared Table XX)

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Then after some long space, Saint Francis and Saint Clare, together with all the others, returning to themselves again and feeling of good comfort from the spiritual food, took little heed of the food of the body.

And, that blessed feast thus ended, Saint Clare, escorted well, returned unto Saint Damian, whereby the sisters, beholding her, had joy exceeding great; for they feared lest Saint Francis should have sent her to rule some other convent, even as he had already sent Sister Agnes, her holy sister, as abbess to rule the convent of Monticelli at Florence: and Saint Francis on a time had said to Saint Clare: Be thou ready, if so be that I needs must send thee to some other House; and she, as a daughter of holy obedience, had made answer :
Father, I am at all times ready to go whithersoever thou mayest send me.” Wherefore the sisters rejoiced exceedingly when they saw her face again: and thenceforward Saint Clare abode in much consolation.

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7 June: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXV: How Saint Clare ate with Saint Francis, 2. (Shared Table XIX)

800px-Caravaggio_-_Cena_in_EmmausAnd the hour of breaking bread being come, they set themselves down together, Saint Francis and Saint Clare, and one of the companions of Saint Francis together with the companion of Saint Clare, and all the other companions took each his place at the table with all humility.

And at the first dish, Saint Francis began to speak of God so sweetly, so sublimely, and so wondrously, that the fulness of divine grace came down on them, and they all were rapt in God. And as they were thus rapt, with eyes and hands uplift to heaven, the folk of Assisi and Bettona and the country round about, saw that Saint Mary of the Angels, and all the House, and the wood that was just hard by the House, were burning brightly, and it seemed as it were a great fire that filled the church and the House and the whole wood together : for the which cause the folk of Assisi ran thither in great haste for to quench the flames, believing of a truth that the whole place was all on fire. But coming close up to the House and finding no fire at all, they entered within and found Saint Francis and Saint Clare and all their company in contemplation rapt in God and sitting around that humble board. Whereby of a truth they understood that this had been a heavenly flame and no earthly one at all, which God had let appear miraculously, for to show and signify the fire of love divine wherewith the souls of those holy brothers and holy nuns were all aflame; wherefore they gat them gone with great consolation.

Emmaus: another meal where Christ  was present. 

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6 June: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXIV: How Saint Clare ate with Saint Francis, 1. (Shared Table XVIII)

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We continue the theme of shared table in the next three posts from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis.

How Saint Clare ate with Saint Francis and the brothers, his companions, in St Mary of the Angels

WHENAS Saint Francis was at Assisi, oftentimes he visited Saint Clare and gave her holy admonishments. And she having exceeding great desire to once break bread with him, oft-times besought him thereto, but he was never willing to grant her this consolation ; wherefore his companions, beholding the desire of Saint Clare, said unto Saint Francis: “Father, it
doth appear to us that this severity accordeth n0t with heavenly charity : since thou givest not ear unt0 Sister Clare, a virgin so saintly, so beloved of God, in so slight a matter as breaking bread with thee, and above all bearing in mind that she through thy preaching abandoned the riches and pomps of the world. And of a truth, had she asked of thee a greater boon than this, thou oughtest so to do unto thy spiritual plant.”

Then replied Saint Francis: “Doth it seem good to you that I should grant her prayer?” Rejoined his companions: “Yea, father, fitting is it that thou grant her this boon and consolation.” Then spake Saint Francis : “Since it seems good to you, it seems so likewise unto me. But that she may be the more consoled, I will that this breaking of bread take place in Saint Mary of the Angels; for she has been so long shut up in St Damian that it will rejoice her to see again the house of Saint Mary, where her hair was shorn away and she became the bride of Jesu Christ; and there let us eat together in the name of God.”

I like the way Francis listened to his brothers and considering their advice, followed it. In Francis and Clare’s time, the sisters were all enclosed in their convents, unlike the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Littlehampton in this photo. WT.

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11 August: Saint Clare of Assisi

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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

 

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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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