Tag Archives: Saint Francis

July 2: Introduction to Mary Webb

 

Mary_webbMary Webb, 1881 – 1927, the Shropshire poet and novelist, suffered from Grave’s Disease, a thyroid problem that is much better understood and treated today. The introduction to her book, The Spring of Joy reveals:

One to whom life was pain, and death a charnel-house, came under cloudy hollows stained with sunrise into a country pleasant as lilac in the rain. Wandering down aisles of birdsong to the brink of a river, she drank where the ousels and the stars had been before her, and found comfort and joy. So she brought back in the palm of her hand for those in need of healing a few drops of the water which sparkled and held the sky.

Some readers may find her writing sentimental, but it is nevertheless authentic and from the heart, and Franciscan in its living in God’s Nature. An ousel is a water blackbird.

WT.

 

 

 

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July 1: A New Beginning

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Walking together

Well, dear readers, this is the start of the post-FISC Agnellus’ Mirror. The Franciscan International Study Centre is no more. Who knows were the future will take us? Although the Centre kindly adopted us, we were separate enough to feel bereaved but neither divorced nor terminally compromised when its closure was announced. There are still Franciscans on God’s earth and we’ll try to be in that number, even if not all of us count ourselves among the first, second or third orders in all the ecumenical cousinage of the Poor Man’s family. For the present we will continue to be based in Canterbury, but we have contributors across the UK and further afield. Please continue to walk with us and pray with us.

Let’s turn our backs on the removal men and take ourselves to Shropshire with Mary Webb, poet of the early 20th Century. Her reflections this week inspire a Franciscan Exclamation: Laudato Si’ !

Will Turnstone

Editor.

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31 May: The Visitation: Mary, Mother of God.

 

360px-Church_of_the_Visitation_IMG_0637On the feast of the Visitation, here is Fr Austin’s reflection on Mary, mother of God, and what that means for us.

When God chose to become part of Creation through the Incarnation, the motherhood of Mary was already implied. The Church says nothing about the course of her life from the day it began until the Annunciation. What happened during that time, what it meant to start life full of Grace we don’t know. It will have been ordinary, if only because ostentation and grace do not belong together.

Scripture does not primarily tell us of the dignity of Mary by recounting facts about her physical motherhood of Jesus, or say that Mary is Mother of God as a consequence of a physical event. It tells us what Mary did, and this shows her importance and dignity. Luke shows us Mary, becoming through free consent one who is blessed. Because the divine motherhood is described from the start, not simply as a biological event, but as taking place through a free, personal and grace-inspired act of faith, Mary is seen not simply with a private relationship to Jesus, but as inserting her into the wider story of redemption. She appears as a figure in history, like Abraham and other characters in the historical dialogue between God and Israel. We are simply told that this person was asked, and replied: be it done… Because of her consent, the Word became flesh, and Mary is Mother of God.

God created the world, and so everything belongs. But this creation can stand forever distant, or it can belong. Which of the two possibilities is actually realised is not finally decided by the fact of creation; it is only decided in the course of history. God created a world of free persons, and so a drama develops between God and the world. For God is not the only one who is active, producing the drama as though through puppets. God creates in freedom, so there actually does arise a dialogue between a free God and free human beings. From God’s point of view it is a dialogue always open; we can act freely as long as our history lasts, we can freely choose to respond in any way we like.

From a natural point of view God is free to choose to respond in whatever way; we do not know God will act in our regard. God could dissociate from us, or invite us closer. Happily, everything is very different from that. God has spoken clearly, definitively and irrevocably. This word has been spoken into creation, and it will not return to the Father without achieving its purpose. God’s intention has become flesh in our world. God has determined that the world itself shall be taken into eternal mercy, and that it now has a destiny that transcends its own natural one. Judgement is not God’s last word, but compassion; not isolation but intimacy.

The Word was made flesh because a girl of our race, listened, was apprehensive but cooperative and said yes, freely. This is the way God chose to become part of creation. Of course, Mary’s consent her willingness freely given is itself the fruit of grace. Yet though all this is the fruit of grace, yet it remains Mary’s own freely given consent. When God gives gifts they become precisely what is our own, completely identified with us. God gifts me with the ability to love worthily, yet with a love that is truly mine! It is as much mine as my life – since it is gifted from the same source.

Mary’s motherhood is by the grace of God alone, and her own free act, inseparably; and since this belongs intrinsically to the story of Redemption, it gives Mary a real relationship with us, since we are living within the history of redemption. To praise her motherhood is not to honour something belonging to her private life, but in the light of the context of the Incarnation, she is also mother to us.

Saint Francis tells us we are all mothers of the Lord – we have conceived through word and sacrament, now bring him to birth by the way you live.

AMcC.

 

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25 May: The Builder’s Dog without the Ossyrians.

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The Builder’s Dog in his Hi-Vis coat was wary when he entered Will’s place. Were those Chihuahuas around? Nor scent nor sound nor scratch marks on the gate. All was well, except that he had a stretch of time, impossible to contemplate, without his mistress who could not take him on her sunshine holiday.

The food was good – exactly the same as at home, except for treats like scraps of Sunday dinner. The walks were OK, except that the Mistress was not there and Will and Mrs T avoided walking down BD’s home street. But the park and Abbot’s Hill were full of smells that humans were utterly unaware of.

It was coming down Abbot’s Hill one evening that BD gave Will his reward. Or was it the other way blackcaparound? An urgent, complicated overlay of scented canine communication required close study, and BD was pleasantly surprised not to feel the lead jerk. Will, too, was fixed to the spot. He was listening to a Blackcap, perched in a suburban Japanese cherry tree, singing his heart out, ignoring the human and dog below.

As Will said later, there’s always something to be grateful for. And he enjoyed another little link as he researched this post: according to Wikipedia, the Blackcap’s song provided the theme for Saint Francis when that famous bird lover Olivier Messiaen wrote his Opera, Saint François d’Assise. Not just any bird then!

Blackcap by Ron Knight

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16 April, Easter Day: ‘…linen cloths on the ground.’

Easter SundayImage from http://www.swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/april2013p3.htm

Easter Sunday Morning Year A

John 20: 1-9

‘…linen cloths on the ground.’

When a person has conquered the fear of death, there is nothing left to fear in life. He/she has complete freedom of soul and peace of mind. Fear and death both come into the world in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, feeling shame for the first time, cover their bodies and hide from the Lord.

In the garden of the Resurrection, Jesus, having conquered death and fear, leaves his covering behind in the tomb and comes out into the open, fearless and naked as a new-born human.

St. Francis intuits what it means to be freed from fear by Christ’s Resurrection. When he comes out of hiding from his earthly father and openly claims his Father in heaven, he also sheds all his clothes, facing his new life with the fearless innocence Christ has won for him. Now that he can even look on death as a sister and a blessing, he no longer finds any enemies in God’s creation – only sisters and brothers.

Father, may we, in union with Christ, be unbound from all our fears and claim our true created nature in the power of his Resurrection. Amen.

FMSL

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27 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: II, Look up!

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Dear BBB,

Will continues our reply to your lament.

Today I’ll start with your question: I couldn’t help but ask myself, as I looked around and saw several dozen teenage boys counting the ceiling tiles, looking as though they wanted to die…is our faith on life support?

My faith is on life support all the time. It’s called Grace. God’s breath within me. As Doug was describing yesterday, Grace cannot be defeated.

But as for the lads looking at the ceiling: I too sometimes switch off, especially from ‘cut and paste’ sermons, and compose my own thoughts. Not that that’s needed with Franciscan sermons!

I feel it’s a shame if all there is on the ceiling is tiles. Our ancestors decorated churches in more or less good taste, but there was always something to look at! I read this morning that one of the gifts the Church has given the world is colour. Maybe our ceilings should be colourful so that drifting eyes have something to look upon; the one above is from Zakopane in Poland.

Christopher M. Graney, professor of physics and astronomy  in Louisville Kentucky reminds us: It is funny how we learn about our surroundings when we start looking carefully for something.  Scientists have this experience a lot. He’s right, of course, but he would agree that Christians should look and learn about the beauty that surrounds us.

Seeing, noticing, beauty is part of Laudato Si’ – Pope Francis’s letter named after Saint Francis’s hymn of praise – bringing Creation into our prayer. Pictures are concrete prayer. Better to have something good to look at than bare ceilings and walls. We are body and soul: the body is called to worship by standing, kneeling, signing with the Cross, but also by receiving God’s gifts.

We should have something for each sense. A sermon and hymns for the ears, but please go easy on piped music when the Church is quiet; some of us like quiet. A handshake of welcome as well as the sign of peace for touch; an open and a warm building if it can possibly be afforded. Eye-to-eye contact at the welcome; the readers, Eucharistic ministers and priest looking at the people they are addressing. For taste: a genuine welcome to approach the altar, and communion under both kinds; then refreshments after Mass – we have a tradition of English mince pies and mulled wine after Midnight Mass. Maybe even some incense for the nose, but flowers make a difference too – and so does their absence in Lent.

karins-flowers

All this is part of the welcome. But I have been in Catholic churches where I would hesitate to bring any non-churched friend to what I know would be a less than joyful and welcoming gathering. As Catholic Christians we are not called to worship in an 18th Century Lecture theatre, and not with our minds only.

Zakopane Ceiling by MMB; flowers by Karin.

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February 13: Favela!

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As well as fantasy, the BOing! Festival at the University of Kent tried to provide a contrasting awareness of the hurtful and distressing reality of severe overcrowding. This installation in the foyer of the Gulbenkian Theatre was called ‘Favela’ which is the name for large concentrations of slum dwellings in shanty town conditions around the cities of South America. The impression of thousands of families barely housed at all, piled on top of one another, given here for the teenagers and pre-teens to wonder at, was very striking. Poverty, even when represented in a cardboard imitation, is overwhelming.

The Brazilian Catholic Franciscan theologian Leonardo Boff writes about the way in which Francis of Assisi “brought great liberation to the poor,” even without the advantages of a social services structure. “That which makes poverty inhuman is not solely (though it is principally) the non-satisfaction of basic life needs. It is the denigration, exclusion from human community, the introjections into the poor of a negative image of themselves, an image produced by the dominating classes. The poor person begins to believe he is low and despicable.”

In St. Francis, “the ferment of the Gospel breaks forth in all its questioning, challenging reality. We realize how lazy we are, how strong the old man still remains within us. [Francis] is more than an ideal; he is a way of being, an experience of identification with all that is simplest, fraternization with all that is lowliest, enabling the emergence of the best that is hidden within each human being.” [From L. Boff & W. Buehlmann eds., Build Up my Church.]

CD, January 2017

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5 January: On the way and already there.

 

Saint Francis is known for his Christmas Crib, among many other things. All sorts of additions have been made to the Nativity scene since then, often reflecting the way of life around where a crib is set.

Our family crib too has extras for our delight. The West Highland Terrier is a rescue dog; he has attached himself to the Magi on the way to the stable of Bethlehem in our living room, where he was found wedged under the skirting when the floor was sanded and polished.

As for the little black cat who has taken up residence in the stable already, making friends with the gentle cow: she is another foundling. When our daughters were little I would bring home these tiny toy animals, each in its own tiny bag from a tiny shop in Broadstairs; unwrapping them on Friday evening started the weekend. There was delight when this one was unearthed in the garden; she was gone but not forgotten. In gratitude for those happy days, she will sit in the stable for years to come.

We are on the way to meet the Lord, but we may be surprised to see who is ready to greet us when we get there!

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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