Saturday, September 21, 2019

Italy Update

We've really settled into the General Chapter lifestyle after two weeks. (I even started translating in my sleep shortly after the work began.) On my rosary walk (when the meeting schedule allows enough time for a walk!) I am really enjoying the wild flowers, especially the cyclamen, which are popping up everywhere now.

One of the things we were alerted to early on was that we should not walk the grounds after dark (or before sunrise) (or, for that matter, around 10 a.m., as one sister found out by surprise). There are herds of wild boars on the property, which is surrounded by woods. Just before dawn they come out to shovel the lawn with their tusks, in search of grubs and other delicacies. I keep trying to set up a web-cam to catch them in the act, since one of their favorite patches of lawn is within sight of my room (it's just that it' dark!). The brother who takes care of the grounds sighed that between the wild boars and the moles it is impossible to keep the gardens in some kind of order, but he keeps trying! And just today we had wild boar for lunch!!!

Sr Julia and I are trying to get some of the music for the psalm-tones that are used for Evening Prayer; that will really add to our community repertoire back home! Each day, the liturgy readings and music, and the assembly's prayers, are led by the sisters from a different part of the world. (Too bad I didn't have my phone with me when the African sisters sang at Mass the other day! It was amazing!) We from the US were assigned two days: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the upcoming feast of St Francis (which coincides with the day of our scheduled private audience with Pope Francis).

Yesterday's presenter explained that the odd name for this meeting (a "Chapter") comes from the custom in the early monasteries of gathering for community meetings that would typically start by reading aloud a chapter from the Rule (or a chapter, once there were "chapters," from the Gospel). Eventually, the meeting room was just called the "chapter room" and the gathering itself a "chapter." That has lasted a thousand years, and here I am today, serving the "capitular" sisters in a General Chapter.

The talks that we are translating have been very rich. Yesterday's was especially enlightening for today's feast of St Matthew. It gave me a whole new insight into God's way of working with our darkness. The speaker told the story of a religious order priest who had, without any authorization, just taken off on a personal adventure in Eastern Europe. I suppose he was trying to find himself, getting on a train without a particular destination without even having made plans for accommodations. When he got off at a remote location and inquired about a place to stay, he was advised that there was a group of religious people that would probably take him in. It turned out to be a kind of inchoate religious community who had not had the Mass in years. The first thing they begged him for was to celebrate the Eucharist. And with that, the rebellious, runaway priest found himself calling his Father General, confessing his whereabouts, and asking for authorization to establish their congregation in an outpost that none of their long-range plans had ever foreseen. From renegate, he became a missionary founder. In his very act running from his community and whatever responsibilities or relationships he had there, God met him face-on and gave him a new degree of commitment to his congregation and a new level of trust! No one in that man's order would have entrusted him with the establishment of a far-off mission, but God did. That is what the Feast of St Matthew is about.

As I prayed over today's Gospel, the words of Psalm 139 came to mind: "Even darkness is not dark to You." That is why I need to remind myself not to focus on the dark place where a person might be when I meet them (or have to deal with them!). God can work in the dark. Even in the darkness he finds in me.

1 comment:

Leo said...

Your story about the wandering priest is beautiful. Thank you Sister Ann and God bless you and all your Pauline family.