San Damiano, by Gunnar Bach Petersen
More news from Sister Frances Teresa in Assisi
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.
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
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.
I looked at my watch, just 6.15 am. I rose drowsily from my bed. My brain was telling me I had some important things to do. The jet engines on the test beds were roaring. I went to the briefing room where we were informed by a very smart young Flight Lieutenant that we would be taking off at 7.30 am to carry out practice interceptions with an American squadron under the direction of an American Flight Controller. I would be flying with a very experienced, rather aristocratic, Polish pilot, Zak Jublonski with whom I had got on pretty well since I joined this unit six weeks before.
This attempt to turn me into an air navigator was an interesting change which I welcomed after spending the previous twelve months as an education officer at a recruit training centre on the Welsh Border. Although earlier in my service career I had resisted attempts to turn me into a flyer, notwithstanding blandishments about promotion and more money. So far everything had gone quite well and I relished being treated with the respect a flyer gets, albeit only an embryo one. We went for a very light breakfast, then for a medical and a check to ensure we had not broken the ban on alcohol from yesterday lunchtime.
This was my sixth training flight and I had passed all my air tests so far and was doing pretty well on my navigation theory which I enjoyed.
Zak and I strolled out to inspect our Meteor night fighter NF11. These were quite old aircraft and were due to be replaced soon. I knew that Zak would inspect everything very thoroughly.
A flight sergeant appeared and handed Zak a file. ‘All present and correct Sir. But she’s not armed up.’
‘No ammunition or no staff?’ Quipped Zak.
‘Well as a matter of fact it’s both Sir.’
‘I think the C/O must keep the ammunition locked up in his desk’, said Zak.
I recalled his words the last time we flew a proper patrol: ‘Remember it costs £623 8.6 when you fire a ten second burst to clear your guns’.
‘What are we fighter pilots or accountants?’