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GIUBILEO ITALIANO/ITALIAN JUBILEE:

PENTECOST/ PENTECOSTE, 2000

A detail from Ghirlandaio's Nativity, painted for the Foundlings of the Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, who are shown rebuilding the ruined stable in which the Christ Child is born. Taken from a French Christmas Card. We held the conference on Fioretta Mazzei here, seeing these paintings in its gallery, once assembled for the abandoned Florentine babies raised in this Hospital as an act of charity . Our suggestion to counter today's abortions . We are the One Body of Christ. An abortion crucifies that of Christ. In harming others we harm Christ, we harm ourselves. We are each man, woman, child, that ever was, is, and will be. We are not only a self, a 'me', an I, but 'I am' who is God and neighbour both.
 

PENTECOST

{ Peter in Acts 2.17-21, quoted Joel :

{ In these last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit: and they shall prophesy.

. . . Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
________

{ Pietro negli Atti degli Apostoli 2,17-21, ha citato Gioèle:

{ Io effonderò il mio Spirito sopra ogni persona; i vostri figli e le vostre figlie profeteranno, i vostri giovani avranno visioni e i vostri anziani faranno dei sogni.

E anche sui miei servi e sulle mie serve in quei giorni effonderò il mio Spirito ed essi profeteranno.

. . . Allora chiunque invocherà il nome del Signore sarà salvato.
________

{ Petrus, i Apostlagärningarna 2.17-21, citerar Joel.

{ Och det skall ske i de sista dagarna, säger Gud, att jag utgjuter min ande över alla människor. Era söner och döttrar skall profetera, era unga män skall se syner och era gamla män ha drömmar.

Ja, över mina tjänare och tjänarinnor skall jag i de dagarna utgjuta min ande, och de skall profetera.

. . . Men var och en som åkallar Herrens namn skall bli räddad.

Christ of the Apocalypse, St John's Cathedral, Icon School, Pskov, Russia
 

POPE JOHN XXIII

{ My father, years ago, wrote a book titled, Living Peter: A Biographical Study of Pope John XXIII. It does not end with that Pope's death, for it was being written when John XXIII is alive. Instead, it ends with the scene that echoes Christ's words read from the Isaiah scroll in the Nazareth Synagogue:

__________

THE REPUBLIC OF ST PROCULUS

{ The Mayor of Florence, Giorgio La Pira, and his friend, Fioretta Mazzei , helped start the Republic of San Procolo amongst Florence's Poor. Each Sunday Mass, this proud poor Republic in Florence's midst prays for the Pope.

This is their prayer:

{ My Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross, You have given life to the world, free me, through this Your sacred Body and Blood, from all my sins and from all evil. Make me be always true to Your commandments, and do not allow me to draw away from You.

O good Jesus, I commend to you, all those who weep and suffer, and all those who make them weep and suffer. I commend to you the abandoned children, youths in scandal and peril, the old in need, all those who suffer in poverty.

I commend to You those weeping the death of their beloved, those who seek work and do not find it, who suffer in loneliness. The ill, the handicapped, the victims of drugs and alcohol, the prisoners, the exiles, the immigrants, the oppressed, those in war, the refugees. Comfort them, O Lord, help them, bless them. I commend to You our earth. I commend to You the Pope, the Bishops, the priests, the sisters, the missionaries, the families. I commend to You those who do not yet know You and all those who are far from the Church. Shape, O Lord, but one sheepfold, under one shepherd only.

Pietro Parigi's drawings of the Mass for the Poor, the Badia, Florence
 

La Preghiera della Messa di San Procolo a Firenze scritta da Giorgio La Pira e da alcuni fratelli a lui vicini.

{ Signor mio Gesù Cristo, che morendo in croce, hai dato la vita al mondo, liberami, per questo sacrosanto Corpo e Sangue Tuo, da tutte le mie colpe e da tutti i mali. Fà che io sia sempre fedele ai tuoi comandamenti, e non permettere che io mi allontani da Te.

O buon Gesù, io Ti raccomando, tutti coloro che piangono e soffrono, e tutti quelli che fanno piangere e soffrire. Ti raccomando i fanciulli abbandonati, la gioventù nello scandalo e nel pericolo, la vecchiaia nel bisogno, tutti coloro che soffrono nella povertà.

Ti raccomando chi piange la morte dei suoi cari, chi cerca lavoro e non lo trova, chi soffre nella solitudine. Gli ammalati, gli handicappati, le vittime della droga e dell'alcool, i carcerati, i deportati, gli immigrati, gli oppressi, coloro che sono in guerra, i profughi. Confortali, O Signore, aiutali, benedicili. Ti raccomando la nostra terra. Ti raccomando il Papa, i Vescovi, i sacerdoti, le suore, i missionari, le famiglie. Ti raccomando quelli che ancora non ti conoscono e tutti coloro che sono lontani dalla Chiesa. Forma, O Signore, un solo ovile, sotto un solo pastore.

For other essays concerning Fioretta Mazzei, see also /bluegreen, /child, /fioretta, /homage, /lapiramazzei, /lapo
 
 

OUR GOOD BISHOP

AND THE GOSPEL
 

Julian of Norwich first filled her Showing of Love with direct quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek Testament. But her final version, the 1413 Short Text of the Amherst Manuscript had to have most of these passages excised as translations of the Bible into the vernacular came to be forbidden at the beginning of the fifteenth century in England, though they had been gloriously carried out with Caedmon 's verse, and the Lindisfarne Gospels .

Lindisfarne Gospels' Manuscript , opening of Luke's Gospel, 'multi cona[n]ti sunt ordina[re n]arrationem', Old English interlinear gloss, in which Luke writes to Theophilus, ' Friend of God ', telling him that many have sought to narrate the Life of Christ as their Gospel ministry, and he is assembling and organizing these accounts after verifying them. See also Maria Makepeace, Codex Amiatinus , related to Lindisfarne, now in the Laurentian Library, Florence. By Permission of the British Library, Lindisfarne Gospels, St Luke's Gospel, MS Cotton Nero D.IV.fol 139.

Similarly, on Iceland , the Bible had been translated into that language, the purest form of this debased and conquered English I now write. At the Reformation, Protestants had the Bible , Catholics, the Mass . Then, with the Second Vatican Council, Catholic laity could again, after centuries, study the Bible in our own languages. Meanwhile, Anglicans, who before followed Luther's precepts and who had required Greek and Hebrew for priestly Ordination, gave up that learning. Today, Catholic laity have both Gospel and Mass. And Sainte Thérèse of Lisieux's recommendation that priests read the Bible in its original tongues.

More than all other texts we may read, it is in the Gospel that Christ is present, in our midst, where we most clutch teh fringes of his garment, then on the shores of Galilee, on dusty roads going up to Jerusalem, now every one of us, drawing all of us to Him. Dante's great Commediais but an aggiornamento of the Gospel in Florence in the Jubilee of 1300, bringing the 'I n Principio' into our midst, ' Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita '. It is commentary to the Bible.

Our Bishop of Fiesole, + Luciano Giovannetti, for whom we pray at every Mass, is celebrating the Jubilee of 2000 with his entire Diocese by giving to each and every one of our households a most beautiful Gospel. Teams of lay Gospelers go out, knocking on every door, bringing this Gospel, the Bishop's Pastoral Letter, and praying and reading with us. Within red paper back covers, illustrated with a bronze from the Cathedral's Gospel of the Holy Women at the Tomb, on fine Bible paper, in beautiful large type, with scholarly notes and maps, and further illustrated by paintings, frescoes, and crucifixes present in Fiesole, and especially its Cathedral, are the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This was put together with much love, the love of God and neighbour, expressed with all one's heart, mind and strength.

The humble, paper-back Gospel given to us this Jubilee Christmas by our Bishop of Fiesole opens to this glory, opens to this painting by the Master of the Fiesole Epiphany, a painting in the church at San Francesco on the very top of Fiesole's citadel, celebrating St Francis' celebrating the Nativity at Greccio on a similar crag. Above the kings and their wealth and power are Saints Francis and John the Baptist in their poverty and renunciation of such wealth and power. Our Bishop begins it with:

'Duemila anni fa l'Eterno è entrato nella storia degli uomini'
 


The Master of the Fiesole Epiphany, San Francesco, Fiesole

'Two thousand years ago Eternity entered into Humanity's world of time'.
 

And this is our Bishop's handwritten Letter to us:

IL VESCOVO DI FIESOLE

Carissimi,

con questa lettera mi permetto di bussare discretamente alla porta della vostra casa per rivolgervi il mio affettuoso saluto e l'invito ad accogliere con gioia il Vangelo -

Alla vigilia del 2000 mediante questo piccolo e prezioso libro è Gesù che vi avvicina alla vostra casa e ripete "Ecco sto alla porta e busso - Se qualcuno ascolta la mia voce e mi apre la porta, cenerò con lui ed egli con me" (Ap. 3,20)

Vi auguro perciò che la lettura del Vangelo sia fonte per la vostra famiglia di gioia, serenità e amore -

Vi benedico

+ Luciano vescovo

Fiesole 4 ottobre 1999

St Matthew and his Angel, Fiesole Cathedral

St Mark and his Lion, Fiesole Cathedral

______________

THE BISHOP OF FIESOLE

Dearest ones,

Allow me to knock on the door of your house quietly with this letter to bring to you my affectionate greeting and invite you to accept with joy this Gospel.

On the Eve of 2000 may this little and precious book be Jesus Himself drawing near to your house and repeating, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock . The one who hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will dine with him and he with me" (Apocalypse 3.20).

In the desire that the reading of the Gospel be for your family a source of joy, serenity and love.

I bless you,

+ Luciano, Bishop

Fiesole, 4 October 1999

St Luke and his Ox, Fiesole Cathedral

St John and his Eagle, Fiesole Cathedral
 

For the Daily Reading of the Gospel it is possible to contemplate in lectio divina upon those passages read at Mass/Holy Communion , the same passages generally being read by Catholics and Protestants. These may be found at The Church's Liturgy in its Missal section.
 

Godfriends began as a group in my Anglican convent's library, of which I was Librarian. When I had to flee, we took to cyber space, growing internationally, ecumenically. We celebrated, at the beginning of the Jubilee Year, the Bishop of Fiesole's gift of the Gospel . At the end we celebrate the Bishop of Lisbon's Jubilee Messages of ecumenism. And delight in hearing that the Patriarch of Lisbon is now Cardinal.
 

GODFRIENDS
 

{ Godfriends, deeply shaped by the Gospels, by the medieval Friends of God, by don Divo Barsotti's theology, and by Alcoholics Anonymous, choose to continue our ecumenism into the Third Millenium . As 'Godfriends' we find no barriers between us. Our only exclusion is exclusion. The Magdalen's myrrh is not blamed by a jealous Judas, Cain does not murder Abel, the mother blesses the Sabbath lights, Melchisadek shares bread and wine with Abraham, the child asks questions in the Temple, the nails are stolen from His hands by gypsies. Godfriends' Canticles are those of Luke and of St. Sergius. Its Gospel within the Gospel, those words Christ reads in the Synagogue in Nazareth from Isaiah.

The Earth Seen From Space: Heaven on Earth
 

DON DIVO BARSOTTI

{ Above Florence in Italy, amongst olive groves, is a small and simple hermitage, named 'San Sergio'. It has a splendid contemplative library which its monks do not choose to read. Its nuns, of the Communit` dei figli di Dio, the Community of God's Family, used to live nearby walking to morning Mass, like grey sculpted columns. On the chapel's outer wall, so that passers-by may read, are these words:

{S ergius of Radonez is Julian of Norwich's Russian contemporary. A hermit who lived in the Russian forest and around whom a community grew. Nothing survives of Saint Sergius' writings. This poem came in a dream to don Divo Barsotti - it is influenced by the theology of Julian of Norwich.
 

NO CROSS, NO CROWN

St Birgitta 's Prophecy concerning Popes and Cardinals, which the Holy Father cited in his Proclamation of her as Co-Patron of Europe, says that all clergy must live Christ's poverty , Christ's chastity.

St Francis at San Damiano heard and saw the Crucifix speak to him of the need to repair the Church through Madonna Poverta`.

Fra Angelico frescoed the Crucifix in his Priory at San Domenico in Fiesole of which he was Prior. Napoleon's soldiers looted and destroyed that monastery. This fresco, hidden under whitewash, was remembered on consulting Vasari, and brought again to light.

The Quaker William Penn, author of the 'Holy Experiment' of Pennsylvania, wrote 'No Cross, no Crown'. One can receive no heavenly reward save through the cross, the execution of a slave, of uttermost degradation, of uttermost poverty, only Our Lady giving to Christ her head veil to hide the ignominy of his nudity, only the Good Thief still believing in him, even his disciples having fled.
 

{ It is the Jubilee Year. We need to repent, confess, enter the Door which is Christ. A Godfriend and I chose to do so through another Christ, St Francis, journeying to Assisi and then Rome. We came to the Porziuncola, the little church within the great one, the humble one within the proud one, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, mingling with the great crowds of Jubilee pilgrims there, entering its humility, seeing before us Mary in her humility at the Annunciation, in this painting done by the priest Ilario of Viterbo in 1393, when Julian was writing her Long Text of the Showing of Love. We went to San Damiano before dawn, seeing the sun rise (Dante said 'Assisi' meant sunrise) in the Angolo where Francis composed the Canticle of the Creatures, we went to the Eremo dei Carceri, where Francis preached to the birds, we went to the Basilica, we went to St Clare's church, we saw their now separated tombs. Both Clare and Francis are doors to Mary and Christ. Then on to Rome amidst thunder and lightning, finding St Peter's Square too full of pilgrims to enter that Basilica. In despair we made our way to St John Lateran, the first Holy Door for pilgrims, the Basilica of the Pope's dream which St Francis holds up, in Giotto's great fresco, upon which is Giotto's other fresco of the Pope proclaiming that Jubilee. There we confessed - to Franciscans - there we entered the Holy Door.

St Clare's Monastery is still suffering from the great earthquake just prior to the Jubilee which had shaken the Virgin above the great Santa Maria degli Angeli above the Porziuncola, which had shattered the Giotto apse frescoes in the Basilica of the Doctors of the Church. St Francis' Poor Ladies finally can sleep indoors, not in garden tents, but still must eat in tents. Great crowds of lay people come in reverence to Clare's tomb. There is need to repair her beautiful resting place, once also the resting place of St Francis before Brother Elia took away his body. Please send help to his Poor Ladies, for whom I now beg, care of:

Madre Abbadessa
Protomonastero S. Chiara/Assisi
Piazza S. Chiara 1
Assisi (PERUGIA)
ITALY
 

THE POPE'S PARDON

Come into St Peter's Basilica in prayer and hear in your mind's ear, see in your mind's eye, this penance. I read these words on the Vatican Website, having just sent blessed oliveleaves from Fiesole to one in need, and having just read in the Tablet the story of the dove flying above the Pope during these prayers.


UNIVERSAL PRAYER

CONFESSION OF SINS AND ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS

Introduction

The Holy Father:

Brothers and Sisters, let us turn with trust to God our Father, who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, great in love and fidelity, and ask him to accept the repentance of his people who humbly confess their sins, and to grant them mercy.

All pray for a moment in silence.

I. CONFESSION OF SINS IN GENERAL

A representative of the Roman Curiat

Let us pray that our confession and repentance will be inspired by the Holy Spirit, that our sorrow will be conscious and deep, and that, humbly viewing the sins of the past in an authentic "purification of memory", we will be committed to the path of true conversion.

Silent prayer.

The Holy Father:

Lord God, your pilgrim Church, which you ever sanctify in the blood of your Son, counts among her children in every age members whose holiness shines brightly forth and members whose disobedience to you contradicts the faith we profess and the Holy Gospel. You, who remain ever faithful, even when we are unfaithful, forgive our sins and grant that we may bear true witness to you before all men and women.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

Cantor:

Kyrie, eleison ; Kyrie, eleison ; Kyrie, eleison .

The assembly repeats:

Kyrie, eleison ; Kyrie, eleison ; Kyrie eleison .

A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

II. CONFESSION OF SINS COMMITTED IN THE SERVICE OF TRUTH

A representative of the Roman Curia:

Let us pray that each one of us, looking to the Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, will recognize that even men of the Church, in the name of faith and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospel in the solemn duty of defending the truth.

Silent prayer.

The Holy Father:

Lord, God of all men and women, in certain periods of history Christians have at times given in to intolerance and have not been faithful to the great commandment of love, sullying in this way the face of the Church, your Spouse.
Have mercy on your sinful children and accept our resolve to seek and promote truth in the gentleness of charity, in the firm knowledge that truth can prevail only in virtue of truth itself.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

III. CONFESSION OF SINS WHICH HAVE HARMED THE UNITY OF THE BODY OF CHRIST

A representative of the Roman Curia:

Let us pray that our recognition of the sins which have rent the unity of the Body of Christ and wounded fraternal charity will facilitate the way to reconciliation and communion among all Christians.

Silent prayer.

The Holy Father:

Merciful Father, on the night before his Passion your Son prayed for the unity of those who believe in him: in disobedience to his will, however, believers have opposed one another, becoming divided, and have mutually condemned one another and fought against one another.
We urgently implore your forgiveness and we beseech the gift of a repentant heart, so that all Christians, reconciled with you and with one another will be able, in one body and in one spirit,to experience anew the joy of full communion.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

IV. CONFESSION OF SINS AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL

A representative of the Roman Curia:

Let us pray that, in recalling the sufferings endured by the people of Israel throughout history, Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by not a few of their number against the people of the Covenant and the blessings, and in this way will purify their hearts.

Silent prayer.

The Holy Father:

God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer,and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

V. CONFESSION OF SINS COMMITTED IN ACTIONS AGAINST LOVE, PEACE, THE RIGHTS OF PEOPLES, AND RESPECT FOR CULTURES AND RELIGIONS

A representative of the Roman Curia:

Let us pray that contemplating Jesus,our Lord and our Peace, Christians will be able to repent of the words and attitudes caused by pride, by hatred, by the desire to dominate others, by enmity towards members of other religions and towards the weakest groups in society, such as immigrants and itinerants

Silent prayer.

The Holy Father:

Lord of the world, Father of all, through your Son you asked us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us and to pray for those who persecute us. Yet Christians have often denied the Gospel; yielding to a mentality of power, they have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions: be patient and merciful towards us, and grant us your forgiveness!
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

VI. CONFESSION OF SINS AGAINST THE DIGNITY OF WOMEN AND THE UNITY OF THE HUMAN RACE

A Representative of the Roman Curia:

Let us pray for all those who have suffered offences against their human dignity and whose rights have been trampled; let us pray for women, who are all too often humiliated and emarginated, and let us acknowledge the forms of acquiescence in these sins of which Christians too have been guilty.

Silent prayer.

The Holy Father:

Lord God, our Father, you created the human being, man and woman, in your image and likeness and you willed the diversity of peoples within the unity of the human family. At times, however, the equality of your sons and daughters has not been acknowledged, and Christians have been guilty of attitudes of rejection and exclusion, consenting to acts of discrimination on the basis of racial and ethnic differences.
Forgive us and grant us the grace to heal the wounds still present in your community on account of sin, so that we will all feel ourselves to be your sons and daughters.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.

VII. CONFESSION OF SINS IN RELATION TO THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE PERSON

A Representative of the Roman Curia:

Let us pray for all the men and women of the world, especially for minors who are victims of abuse, for the poor, the alienated, the disadvantaged; let us pray for those who are most defenceless, the unborn killed in their mother's womb or even exploited for experimental purposes by those who abuse the promise of biotechnology and distort the aims of science.

Silent prayer.

The Holy Father:

God, our Father, you always hear the cry of the poor.
How many times have Christians themselves not recognized you in the hungry, the thirsty and the naked, in the persecuted, the imprisoned, and in those incapable of defending themselves, especially in the first stages of life.
For all those who have committed acts of injustice by trusting in wealth and power and showing contempt for the "little ones" who are so dear to you, we ask your fogiveness: have mercy on us and accept our repentance.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

R. Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie, eleison; Kyrie eleison.

A lamp is lit before the Crucifix.
 
 

Concluding Prayer

The Holy Father:

Most merciful Father,
your Son, Jesus Christ,
the judge of the living and the dead, in the humility of his first coming redeemed humanity from sin and in his glorious return he will demand an account of every sin. Grant that our forebears, our brothers and sisters, and we, your servants, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit turn back to you in whole-hearted repentance, may experience your mercy and receive the forgiveness of our sins.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

As a sign of penance and veneration the Holy Father embraces and kisses the Crucifix.

Girolamo da Cremona, Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost, Getty Museum
 

WITH PITY, NOT BLAME

{ Julian spoke of all manner of things becoming whole, 'shalom', and also of God's pity, not blame, for our misdoings, and of evil as the tending to nought, and of God doing a thing at the end of time that shall make all manner of thing be well, be whole, be one with God.

This Jubilee Lent, His Holiness John Paul II, like Aaron the High Priest, takes on his shoulders the sins of the Church, sins against Jews, against Africans, against Indians, against women, against children, against the unborn, against Orthodox, against Protestants, against the 'Other', who is One, the Bride with the Groom, who is Christ. 'Whom God hath joined, let no one put asunder'. Man and Wife shall be one flesh. There shall be no Great Divorce. We are one, children and parents, wives and husbands, oneing ourselves back through umbilical cords of pulsating red and blue to Eve as One to Adam, in the image of God.

Jesus uses the Jubilee in the Lord's Prayer , speaking of our doing His Father's Will here on earth as in heaven, honouring his name that the kingdom be now in our midst, forgiving our debts to the measure that we forgive those against us, giving each day bread to the measure that we work to give bread to our neighbour, to the hungry, turning us from temptation that we be freed from evil. That we not be noughted from God, but oned with God.

This Jubilee Lent, His Holiness John Paul II, in the name of the Church and of God, has asked pardon for all wrongdoing, all noughting, done by sons and daughters in the Church against the Church. In America I hear of nuns saying 'It is too little, too late'. In Italy I hear a priest preach, 'This doesn't touch me. Il Papa is being too Protestant'. And a greyness comes. Metanoia is wanting.

I take the bus into Florence and shudder at a large poster. Italian law prohibits public display of sexuality. Lawfully-wed honeymooners from England can be arrested for kissing in the street. We greet each other in public with a chaste kiss, one on each cheek, not full on the mouth. This poster advertises a shopping centre called 'I Gigli', 'The Lilies'. An emblem taken from the Virgin Mary as emblem for the city of Florence. It reads 'Trova Amore a I Gigli'. The words flank a man kissing a boy (or is it a woman trying to look like a boy?), full on the lips. That's not about love, but prostitution, selling desire, selling materialism, selling consumerism, not just of things, but of souls, minds, and bodies, where our bodies are the Temple of the Spirit.

Meanwhile the great art of the Church, the Madonna and Child, the Fra Angelicos, the Della Robbias, the Michelangelos, is shut up in cold museums, vast sums to be paid for reproduction rights to the government, so these images are lost to the world. Instead, in the churches are violent abstracts of ugliness, human forms mechanized into metal, not flesh and blood and bread and wine. Families are destroyed in divorce: though first their babies are born unnaturally (if they are born at all), with drugs, machines, and men, not midwives, around them; then fed artificially from bottles and sterilizing machines, not with being nursed at the breast; and last left exposed to aggressive predators while single mothers are at work. Humanity and God both lost, into machinery, ugliness, abuse, trauma. A new Sparta, a new military machine. In Fiesole, just now, intrusive sculptured monuments have appeared everywhere, of rusting angles, silvered curves, about machines and sex.

Which side will win? It seemed, until the Pope's Pardon, as if the world were growing grey with the breath of a counter-religion about power, wealth, lechery, not humility, poverty, chastity; with a barbarism about cruelty, secrecy, sexuality, slavery, not Christ's freedom from evil. We need to speak 'with pity, not with blame', but we must speak. A group not really mentioned in 'Memory and Reconciliation', though it is in the Pope's Prayer for Pardon, is that of children, of harmed, abused and traumatized children and their souls, who may grow up in consequence to become Masons, Communists, Atheists; who may, worse, as such, enter the Church to do as was done to them, vampire-like, feeding upon and destroying souls, in a terrible vicious cycle. We think of Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy orphanages in Canada and Australia. The words, 'healing of memories', 'purification of memories', taken by the Pope and his International Theological Commission, come from psychotherapeutic work amongst dysfunctional families, where children have been incested, abused, and traumatized.

Such children, abused in their own families, or by clergy, or in schools, or in institutions, or in hospitals, or in any combination of these, for the rest of their lives, may live with damaged souls, damaging also their minds, damaging also their bodies. Research now shows that such trauma physically changes brain chemistry in victims, ranging from numbing, through denial, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, bi-polarity, multiple personality disorder, self-mutilation, suicide. Those of us experiencing these trauma desperately need our perpetrator's metanoia for our own, for we until then we must shoulder their sin alone and it robs us of God, noughting us from God, - not 'oneing' us to God. In these few days since the Proclamation of the Pardon those of us with this burden on our shoulders are feeling this burden unbearably. Before we had rigorously suppressed it, fearing for our very lives if we gave it expression. Oliveleaves , which is part of Godfriends' work, is about the healing of abuse, especially clergy abuse, of which we have been victims. We support each other that we not lose God. Viktor Frankl said our greatest need is not Freud's sex, Adler's power, but meaning. With that we can come through Auschwitz to publish our books against inhumanity, against death machines.

I am speaking for the children, children who may now be grown, children who are now dead, children whose souls were hurt. Children who were innocent. Children who were once you. Why Christmas becomes so unbearable for so many, why the suicide rate then is so high. Julian of Norwich speaks of God as regarding us with pity, not with blame. But we must seek to change patterns in our religion, to shift the paradigm again to Christ's teaching of the Gospel concerning children's innocence, rather than backwards and forwards to the pagan world's use of pedophilia in education which so damaged Augustine . I recall my perpetrator's heavy black lines noughting my Mother Foundress' words in our Rule about the innocence of children. Perpetrators shift the blame for their act on to their victim, 'blaming the victim'. In this world of sham and of cruelty, those who are punished are those who are innocent, those who are contrite, those above them instead perpetuate the paradigm of evil, disbelieving in God, going deliberately into evil, scapegoating those less guilty than themselves. The Holy Father has done the opposite of clergy perpetrators. He has shouldered the blame, he has become the Lamb of God himself, giving victims, at last, peace.

'To shift the paradigm', that insight the Holy Father uses in 'Memory and Reconciliation' comes from a scientist, Thomas Kuhn, writing on Galileo Galilei. Nathanael, Thomas's son, became my friend, first at Princeton, then at Boulder. This is a Jewish family become Quaker. When the Holy Father began the Jubilee it was with the Proclamation of the three Co-Patronesses of Europe, Saint Birgitta of Sweden , Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross ( Edith Stein ). The Holy Father, moreover, cited Birgitta's Revelationes IV.49 . That chapter is fierce, demanding of Popes and Cardinals that they not be corrupt, but follow Christ's teaching obediently, abandoning power, wealth, and lechery to do so; if they do not, Christ and the Virgin tell Birgitta, they are to be excommunicated.

It is honourable and healing that the Church speak against the part within itself that has fallen amongst the lilies. 'Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds'. With pity, not with blame, let us seek metanoia and Jubilee. Let us no longer cancel out lines about holy innocence with heavy, deadly black ink, but allow the Word as Child to reign in the Peaceable Kingdom, Lamb and Lion together. The Vicar of Christ has become our Advocate with the Father.
 

BENEDICTINISM: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW

{ Earlier, on our Godfriends' Discussion List, I mentioned The Tablet's report on the International Conference on Benedictine Education, held this May in Sussex. Then Father Matthew sent me to: http://www.osb.org/icbe/ giving a much fuller account, with whole texts of papers. It is magnificent reading, and to be read in prayer and in listening.

That is both from the Rule of St Benedict and from the opening psalm which begins the Office of Readings that St Benedict is echoing because he has listened in lectio divina, writing in that same mode. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, says the first crime amongst the early Christians comes from a married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, Peter asking 'Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit'. Refusing to listen to their heart, their soul, being in denial .

There is a fine essay by Eamon Duffy of Cambridge on not just the history of Benedictinism, but the history of Catholicism. I could not have understood the difference and ordering of the two main versions of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, one Long, serene, complete, the other, Short, stressed and stripped, without Eamon Duffy's Stripping of the Altars. Now I see that he was showing in that book, in the past, what also has happened in the present, where Church architecture has been radically altered, stripped, made barren, what I have spoken of as church altars uglified to look like wrecked car lots, like ours here in Montebeni. H.M.W. Prescott in The Man on a Donkey was writing about the same terrorizing and traumatizing, done through religion, against religion. Julian's East Anglian churches still preserve some of the former beauty, despite mutilated faces, which Anglo-Catholics strove also to restore. All this similar to Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolution. Paradigm shifts create enormous anxiety, denial, resistance. The Dominican Master quotes Aquinas on the appeal to authority as the weakest appeal.

The Benedictine conference is about a New Pentecost through returning to the 'Birthing Church', 'la Chiesa nascente', as it is in Italian, the 'Primitive Church' in English. Through listening again to the Rule of St Benedict 's listening to the Word. They quote John Paul II at Subiaco saying we must live Benedictinism in the secular world. One gap, what they had neither seen nor heard, so which went unnoticed, was that the English Benedictine nuns through Father Augustine Baker and Father Serenus Cressy actively participated with the pen in the English Mission copying out the writings of the English Mystics, among them Julian . Like their menfolk, they were risking prison, exile, execution, burning at the stake, drawing, hanging, quartering, and guillotining. These nuns were with the Compiègne Carmelites, inheriting their dead sisters' clothing. A missing chapter deserving of inclusion. These nuns also taught, first French, then English, school girls, the French ones at the Revolution cataloguing their teachers' books for Pascal Ameilhon's Bibliothèque Nationale.

Yes, there is the shadow, the abuse of school children, and the concern of the breakdown of the marriage in the twenty-first century, our media-induced instant gratification. The Fatima Third Secret is on the forces of Anti-Christ at work. But in the Anglican Communion it was the Third World bishops who came and said to the First World ones 'You can't go against Christ's teachings which you taught to us'. I've seen the best of Anglicanism, my school's tradition so steeped in that of the English Benedictine nuns in exile, our formation being Augustine Baker's Holy Wisdom, - and the worst, its downfall. Pope John Paul II, this Lent, asked Pardon for these crimes committed by sons and daughters in the Church. This Pardon is meet and right so to do. This tragedy needs to be said, and it needs to be said it is wrong. Hilda's Whitby, at the Benedictines' conference, from which many bishops came, is praised. One comment made is that nuns with a good library, losing all else, can survive. Such libraries' books are living things, about the Word.

What does come through in the Third World, the Second World, the First World, is that Benedictinism's lectio divina works with both men and women, boys and girls, this greeting of the pilgrim as Christ, this reverencing of each other for the image of God in us. Ester de Waal as an Anglican likewise writes of Benedictinism for the laity. And scholars like Philip Roughton in the Árni Magnússon Institute, Reykjavik, Iceland will be pleased, where he works in the 'vineyard of the text' of that great flowering of medieval manuscripts now returned there from Denmark and the product of Skalholt's cathedral school around St Thorlakur who had formerly studied in Paris and Lincoln. Iceland , this year, celebrates a Jubilee within a Jubilee, having become Christian in A.D. 1000, a democratic decision made by the Althing held outdoors at Thingvellyr.

Let us in this Jubilee year of 2000, love the Lord our God with all our heart, our mind, our strength, and our neighbour as ourself, living this mystery of the Incarnation, the Word tenting within us, that Julian also in her lectio divina gives us. Then all the world shall become a Benediction, a Blessing.
 

JULIAN'S DAY

{ On 13 May 1373, a young woman in Norwich, as all thought, lay dying. Already given the Last Rites of the Church, the priest now brought her the Crucifix to gaze upon. Then began the series of visions, the Showing of Love, of Julian of Norwich . Miraculously, in partaking of that vision, the Crucifixion turned into Resurrection, tragedy to comedy, agony into laughter, death into life. And Julian continued writing of her vision in books, composed when she was fifty, when she was seventy. She lived to tell the tale and to console her even-Christian. For we are the One Body of Christ.

Dearworthy Godfriends,

Last night, Corpus Domini, was our 'Cena in Piazza', a Montebeni tradition begun years ago by Don Patrizio, our Olivetan monk of a parish priest, and he and other villagers prepared and served this tremendous meal which we ate outdoors, old and young together. Too much food! So I walked to Mass this morning to walk it off, an hour through our mountains from Montebeni to Fiesole in the golden dawn.

Before that, reading the morning Office of Readings, today about David garbed in heavy armour by Saul, unable to walk, taking it all off again and going to meet Goliath as just a simple shepherd boy, like our Giotto here. And thinking of Hebraism's smallest letter, yod, which becomes Greek's iota , our letter i, as the letter which begins the names of God, and Jerusalem, and Jesus. And how small Florence identified herself with David, though Michelangelo, who also was a child here in Settignano, his wet nurse a stone cutter's wife, joked with carving David out of the stone called 'Giant'. We need to turn our is from giants into children, to enter the kingdom of heaven.

And realizing sin is the taking of power from another, and from God. For God is in the other, in the self where shared in love, where we see all as the One Body of Christ. And where we choose littleness over bigness, going on foot over the car and the plane, holding the hazel nut, the olive leaf, in the palm of the hand, we find God and goodness and peace and happiness. And realizing love is lost where we take power from another, why marriages now go toxic and children in turn are blighted. Why we must pay all debts in order to be forgiven debts. To reestablish God credit we need to earn it with our own labour, the sweat of our own brow, not another's in the Third World whose work we cheapen for our wealth.

The smallest bones in the human body are those in the ear, which the Psalm notes He has marvellously made. It is with those tiniest bones that we hear God and our vocation. Fibonacci, the Italian medieval mathematician, loved to study the curves in God's creation, the whorls of shells, of ears, the shapes of leaves, of nuts, of eggs, universality and littleness.

My landlord has just given me a newspaper article on a poem written very shortly after Dante's death, 1321, in 1328, by a Jewish acquaintance of Dante, Immanuel Romano (Manoello Giudeo), and which is a Divina Commedia written in Hebrew, its guide to the author named Daniel (perhaps, Dante), and which is titled Machbaroth, now translated and published in Italian. There's a lovely sentence in the review: 'Immanuel e Daniele salgono poi al cielo arrampicandosi sulla scala di Giacobbe'. And in heaven amongst the women is Pharoah's daughter who rescued Moses. Cesare Segre, who writes the review, says that a difference between Dante and Immanuel is that Immanuel sees men's crimes as not one alone, but part of a web he chooses to weave, sending waves upon waves about him of wrong. A book I must buy for our library. We have many copies of the Commedia, in Italian, in English. And we have the Moslem predecessor of Dante's Commedia, translated from Arabic into Italian. Where Mahomet is taken on his voyage through Hell and Paradise by the Angel Gabriel. It shall truly be an ecumenical library! For the Three Peoples of the Book! And beyond! For we are the Book God writes. Even where we map the human genome it is to study God's Word encoded within us.

I am dreaming, too, of an annual 'Cena in Piazzale' in the Piazzale Donatello English Cemetery! Since I plan on tables that are boards on trestles in the Gatehouse anyway, this will be possible, for we can move these outdoors to feed a multitude! Don Patrizio funds his parish work through his Cena in Piazza and bonds his congregation with it. He reminds me Cyril of Jerusalem saying 'Christ girds himself with the towel of our humanity, to minister to that which is sick'. We can do the same with the Biblioteca Fioretta Mazzei!

Blessings,

Then, the following day, the Vatican reveals the Third Secret given to the shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. Throughout the programme on the television, learned men of power in the Church, discoursing upon the discourse by the Virgin Mother with children, with shepherd children, there is recourse to the revelation of this prophecy to John Paul II, recovering in the Clinico Gemelli (where my brother died), from his being shot, 13 May, 1981. Sister Lucy, in her nineties, still alive to tell the tale, is shown in conversation with the Pope. My mind goes backward through time, for Julian speaks of such a secret told her, 13 May 1373, that God will do at the end of time, unraveling time and sin back to goodness, to the One Body of Christ in Adam and Eve, together, one flesh, and I recall, too, the Virgin appearing here in our Diocese of Fiesole, in the Renaissance, to two shepherdesses, the Ricoveri daughters, telling them to tell Florence to study the Gospel, her Son as Word. And before that I recall the Irish brother and sister, Saints Andrew and Bridget, having come to that same rock, Il Santuario del Sasso della Madonna delle Grazie, with their Bibles, bells and staffs, and living here in caves, converting this part of Tuscany to Christianity. I recall, too, that Saint Birgitta of Sweden, copying this Irish Bridget, went on pilgrimage, coming to Rome and writing her massive book, next journeying to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, then returning to Rome to die in June 1373, giving her writing as validating model to Julian in Norwich. Pope John Paul II particularly reveres St Birgitta , citing Revelationes IV.49 , and Solidarity began in Poland in her church in Gdansk. The message, the secret, the Virgin and Christ give to all these women, to all these children, themselves being shepherds and shepherdesses to Christianity, is that we are the One Body of Christ, that we are all our even-Christians, that what we do to the One Body of Christ, to the other, we do to ourselves. Why we must love God and our neighbour with all our being. The Virgin Mother of God, and children, are telling men to study the Gospel, children, who are country shepherds and shepherdesses, are warning great cities of destruction and the need for metanoia, for repentence. It is Beatitudes-tide, Magnificat-tide. For it is as little children that we enter the kingdom of heaven. When we treasure the hazel nut, the olive leaf, held in the palm of our hand, as measuring all of God's Creation, who despises nothing that he has made.
 

ALL AS ONE, ALL ONED IN GOD

{ Messages come to the umilta website, from all the corners of the round blue marble, in response to oliveleaf, Godfriends' ministry in the face of trauma, in the face of famine, from Aborigines, from Hopi , from Penitentes , from Kikiyu, from Russians, from Muslims. There are no barriers to this circle of God, this Kingdom of Heaven in our midst, this Gospel.

Last year, I went to Australia on mission for the Comunita`. I took a bag with Elizabeth Paine's tiny little English wild hazel nuts and of Settignano's olive leaves, both blessed by don Divo Barsotti , Father Founder of the Comunita` dei figli di Dio, who just that morning preached on Julian of Norwich and her hazel nut in the palm of her hand and how all shall be well. But these olive leaves and hazel nuts had to be destroyed at Melbourne's Airport. We next picked olive leaves in Melbourne Italian's gardens and blessed these, and I bought hazel nuts, huge Australian ones, in Wagga Wagga, and these too were blessed. Everywhere I took a borrowed basket with me, giving out these hazel nuts and olive leaves to all who desired them.

Strangely I found myself placing them on a memorial marking the reburial of Aborigine bodies. I had not dared to ask if I could meet these people. But the silent prayer was answered and there I was at the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in a garden explaining 'Oliveleaves' and giving them olive leaves and hazel nuts. Annette insisted on going to her home to bring back sacred gifts, clapper sticks with two women at the mill, one white, one black, she had made for reconciliation, white ochre used like holy water for protection, and a book, Rainbow Spirit Theology : Towards an Australian Aboriginal Theology, by the Rainbow Spirit Elders, reconciling Aborigine spirituality and Christian theology, commenting that the model should not be Joshua conquering with bloodshed, but Melchisadek the priest king sharing his culture with Abraham in the gift of bread and wine, that becomes the Sabbath Eve Blessing among Jews, the Eucharist among Christians, but which was the Canaanite Rite of Hospitality, and which comes from the Holy Land's Aborigines. Let us give thanks for these sacred gifts, these blessed sacraments , of water, wine, bread and oil.


Counterclockwise: white ochre for spiritual protection from Australia, blessed olive leaves from Montebeni, one small wild English hazel nut, one large Australian hazel nut, clapper stick, one of two, made by Annette Zerberis in Melbourne, Australia, of two women working at the mill, carved from oak.

The Aborigine speak of 'Dream Time', 'Dreaming', of our being in touch with the Ancestors, with the Dead.

I remembered Eldest Elder Dan Evehema's Hopi Message for Humanity , likewise speaking of the Ancestors, the Elders, and of their spiritual wisdom for us and for the future of all on our shared Mother Earth. We have so much to learn from the Earth's Elders.

We also, in Australia, visited Tarrawarra Abbey, a Trappist abbey, whose church has great plain windows shaped like crosses through which one glimpses Della Robbia blue skies with white clouds. When I wrote of this, Kent Lott, whom I met on the Thomas Merton Discussion List, and who was dying of cancer, wrote back:

This morning, suddenly I had such a sense of Ken Lott's presence, remembering those great cross-shaped windows with the blueness of their skies, that I realized I was in the Aborigine's Dream Time. A time more real than ours, of far greater value, indeed, not time at all, but eternity.

A detail from a poster by Jillie Nakamarra of the Warlpiri nation, Yuendumu, Central Australia, for 'The Indigenous Peoples' Medical Scholarship', and showing the vital link between health services and Aboriginal communities. The figures, as above, are the half circle shapes, ourselves seen from above, black, brown, white, working together in harmony, in circles, each linked to the other, the background, our earth sustaining us, all as sacred.

Jillie Nakamarra's 'nephew' from initiation, who gave this poster to me, is Italo-Australian. He has done the 'Walkabout', carrying water on foot from the rivers of Australia and Europe, including those of the Thames and the Tiber, to Pope John Paul II, as a prayer for peace in the world between all humanity, past, present, future.

Closer to home, in Florence one day, having just withdrawn my month's pension, all I had to live on, I found a girl child in front of me, her hand in my bag. To my relief, though in my shock I said the words in English, 'That was bad'. Not 'You are evil'. We stared into each other's eyes and I realized I had judged her act, but not her, that this child before me is not evil; instead she is my sister, she is poor but she is Christ. I came home and wrote of this on the Thomas Merton List. Chesko answered, thanking me for my kindness to his sister. He, a Trappist hermit, had come from China at twenty, a gypsy too. I contemplated good thieves and bad thieves on crosses that day, bishops in churches who steal millions of pounds sterling, a child who would be beaten if she returned home without having stolen. I've now learned to keep my change separate from paper bills and to give all my coins to gypsy mothers and their babies. When I reach in my bag for those coins I also feel the roundness and smallness also of a hazelnut that is there. These women's smile is the most beautiful thing I see all day. Worth far more than the coins is our sisterhood, our love, our joy. Bits of the kingdom of heaven come down on earth, 'Heaven' in Italian being also as if Della Robbia blue sky, white cloud to our terra cotta of clay, 'celi'. Never despise anyone, Simone Weil has taught us. God despises nothing - and no one - that he has made.

JERUSALEM AND JUBILEE

{ Annette Zerberis and Jillie Nakamarra, on the other side of our globe, in Australia, both of the Indigenous Peoples, have shared with us Melchisadek gifts. When Peter quoted Joel in Jerusalem in Acts, he shared those words of inclusion, of young with old, of women with men, of slave with free, of prophecy and dream, of 'Dreaming' and 'Dream Time'. ' I Have a Dream ', said Martin Luther King, Jr., while Gandhi touched Untouchables, and Albert Schweitzer tended lepers and Mother Teresa of Calcutta lifted the dying, all becoming the Messiah, whom also are we.

St Umilta `, in Florence, though herself paralyzed in the Jubilee year of 1300, the year of Dante's Commedia, wrought miracle upon miracle. St Birgitta in the Jubilee year of 1350 journeyed from Sweden to Rome, and with her she had a wooden bowl with Latin words on it written in Cyrillic letters. It is today at Altomunster, which one reaches through Dachau, with terrible memories of the Holocaust, in which St Birgitta's Co-Patroness of Europe, Edith Stein , died. St Birgitta's lovely daughter, St Catherine of Sweden, worked with St Catherine of Siena , our third Co-Patroness of Europe, defending Pope Urban VI.

Earlier and later women went not just to Rome but to Jerusalem, which is the centre of God's world. Among them Constantine's mother, the British slave from York, where she had given birth to him, the Empress Helena . Another the Spanish nun, Egeria . And Jerome's friends and supporters, Saint Paula and her daughter Saint Eustochium, translating the Bible with him from Hebrew and Greek into Latin in their cave at Bethlehem next to that of Christ's Nativity. And Margaret of Jerusalem , born there to her English parents, returning there from Beverley, fighting with a cookpot on her head in the Seige of Jerusalem and the war between Richard I and Saladin. And Guthrithyr journeyed from Greenland to Jerusalem. And Birgitta of Sweden in her seventieth year, writing Revelation after Revelation, as her daughter tell us, there. And Margery Kempe . And myself in all their footsteps. All of us journeying, Bible and Psalter in hand, in the Holy Places of the shepherd child David, of the carpenter's son, Jesus.

Birgitta's Bowl: Brigittine Priory, Altomunster. I have held it in my hands and it is exactly the dimension of one's hands cupped for holding water. It has an inscription in Cyrillic: 'estj iesus nazarenus rex iudeorum ', the inscription on the cross given in John 19.19, preceded by ' estj ' 'it is, this is '. On its bottom a date is given, letters being also numbers in Old Church Slavonic as in Hebrew, of 'SXYS ', which translates as being of A.D. 1188 (6696-5508=1188). Orthodoxy permits patens of wood, this statement, 'This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews', said here being of what it could hold.

Blessed olive leaves from Italy, olive wood bowl
from Kenya, William Morris olive and oak leaves
print from England
 

THE WEDDING FEAST'S GUESTS

Every society, including the Glass House of the United Nations, seems to collude in creating its Untouchables, its brothers/sisters who are disowned, murdered like Abel, enslaved like Hagar. Christ's ministry was amongst these, not to the Pharisees, but to the lepers, to unclean women, to Samaritan women and men, to the repentent thief on the cross, in unthinkable, spontaneous acts, and these he invited to his wedding feast in Paradise, a further scandal. The Pope canonized a gypsy a saint. Italians, especially Florentines, are ultra-clean, the rubbish collected every day, plastic gloves worn in supermarkets when touching fruit and vegetables to see if they are ripe enough, hygiene equated with well-being. Gypsies, who came to Europe in the Middle Ages, are still not Italian citizens, they sleep outdoors, the mothers nurse their babies in the street while begging, they steal. Their legend is they even stole the nails from Christ's Cross, alleviating his pain, and he forgave them their thieving. Theirs is a culture of abuse, the men beating their wives and children if they return without enough money. Tourists mistake them for Italians.

I go to Mass at the Santissima Annunziata and the loggias around that most beautiful piazza were up filled with sleeping forms. Refugees, I wondered? And bought brioches and sandwiches, a salami and clothing for them. One, under the loggia of the Ospedale degli Innocenti, night after night, just a child . Worried about her, I asked at UNICEF, which has offices there, for help for her. Then at the Ospedale. UNICEF responded to my e-mail, 'Accredition failed'. The Innocenti's Florentine Director tried to help. Together we found not one, but two children, Samantha and Marianne, cousins, they told us, Samantha, ten years old, Marianne, twelve. Waking up in their smelly thin cotton coverlets on cardboard on stone. Dirty, impudent, smoking, later we realized even heroin. They were taken to the hospital and cleaned. Such trauma. Such identity threat. Samantha's parents in prison. Their story, their ages, in headlines in the Florentines' papers. Soon they escaped, last seen collecting their very few possessions from the loggia in all the bright new store-bought clothing given to them, and disappeared. But I also saw them as normal, as beautiful, as human, as our sisters.

Knowing now of heroin even amongst the children - the anodyne to poverty and hatred - I don't want to give coins to the nursing mothers. (They always preferred coins to paper money as more real.) What to do? So I tried cards, postcards, instead, of the great Florentine art these gypsies can never see, most of it shut away as the great paintings are in expensive museums for tourists. Though this magnificent Della Robbia was above the two sleeping girls. The response was overwhelming. The mothers kissed the Fra Angelico Madonnas and Della Robbia babies, recognizing these as sacred images. They exclaimed to me of their great beauty, their colour, the babies also reaching out and smiling and laughing in joy. Even a father, who would normally make his wife whine for money, drew near and approved. And a child ran after me in the street begging for one. Once I had no more of them to give, and so tore off a picture of Dante teaching the Commedia to Florence, instead. The mother asked, while kissing Dante, was he a saint? No, I answered, but he preached about God to Florence. These simple postcards, concentrating beauty into inches, mean more to them than money, than food. If we want to avert cultures of abuse, of violence, of drugs, this is where we must start, with nursing mothers and their babies, with God, with the greatest beauty we have to give. Not hygiene first, but love. So now it's simple sandwiches of brown bread and cheese, my own fare shared with them, on Sundays, the blessed bread from the Badia's Mass for the Poor, and these Florentine postcards that I give. Now these mothers and their babies are my friends in this city; though they usually look so angry, so filled with the hate they almost always meet, I now see their changing, smiling faces as more beautiful than Florence's great art, in their mirroring of it.

And in the post came Elise Boulding's new book, Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History, prefaced by UNESCO's Director-General, Federico Mayor. I had thought it wise to separate Samantha from Marianna, to bring up the younger one in the Ospedale degli Innocenti. Quaker Elise writes that street children are surprisingly resilient, need each other and then can work with an adult to rejoin the human world. Best of all is to reach out to all mothers, all children, and their fathers, in time. While the Australian Aborigines had explained it is wise not to destroy another and different culture, but instead to share cultures, as did once Salem's priest king Melchisadek with the nomad Abraham, through agricultural gifts. Of blessed bread and wine.

Everyone is invited to the Wedding Feast in Paradise. The abused, more than the privileged.
 

CANDLEMAS

{ The Holy See especially called for the Jubilee of the Consecrated Life to be celebrated at Candlemas, the day I had became Catholic at St Sergius, 2 February 1998, the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple. This is the day the Virgin carries her Child into sacred space, the aged Simeon receiving Him in his arms and singing his Canticle of Joy and Benediction, and likewise the aged Anna. Mechtild of Magdebourg and Angela of Foligno (Memorial IX) both experience visions of their own Presenting of themselves to God on this day. It is the day when young and old, women and men, lay and priest, free and slave, ingather, the human family and the Holy Family are Oned with God. We only become ourselves Consecrated according to the measure that we Consecrate, rather than abuse, the Other. When all are set free from bondage, all debts forgiven, all are delivered from evil.

The Boathouse Mass on the Swedish Island

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