Friday, May 15, 2009
Last night Br. Thomas Anthony and I bought a stack of pizzas and went to have dinner with the brothers of the Society of the Atonement. They have been very friendly and generous to me during my stay in Italy, so I thought a celebration was in order. As we ate and drank, the conversation began to flow, crazy stories about our everyday lives, memories of events that happened in our past: the kind of conversation that happens whenever people are getting together to enjoy each other.
These kinds of gatherings are really important for my work, pleasant as they sound. Because at the heart of the Franciscan life is the effort to help people to learn how to live differently on the planet today. And part of that differentness is to create strong bonds across different divides. Pizza based friendships will very likely open to deeper levels of conversation and shared endeavors. Real friendships will never be satisfied with any kind of complacency about winners and losers in the Gospel life. In "Centro" a newsletter from the Anglican Centre in Rome Mary Reath writes: "Mary Tanner rightly says in the preparatory book for the conference [called Receptive Ecumenism and Ecclesial Learning held in Durham, England, in January 2009] that the personal and the relational is always prior, and that needs to be built up for all people, not just the theologians and leaders." Never was a pizza party so important!
Wednesday midday I was given a tour of some of the behind-the-scenes places in the Sacro Convento, the "friary" at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. After admiring the Papal Apartments and marveling at the ancient books in the library we dashed down a colonnaded walkway to the refectory. My host was modest about it, apologizing for it's "unattractiveness." Staring around the cavernous baroque space I said, "For a guy from Snohomish, Washington, I think it is amazing!!" It is all in one's perspective. And when I was introduced to the brothers, a group of young men at the center table turned and stared and started to whisper to each other. After checking my fly I sat down and started talking to the brothers seated next to me. When lunch was over the young men all crowded around me. They are the postulants for the OFM Conventuals in this part of Italy. "We've heard of Anglican Franciscans," one said in English,"But never met one before!" They peppered me with questions in Italian and after translation I answered in English and hoped the translator got it right. They wanted to know about our rule, and origins, how many of us are there, where do we live. Some wanted to know about Anglicanism and how we came to be. I gave them the abridged version while they looked at me with fascination, making amazed comments to each other. How is it, I thought to myself, they know nothing about Anglicanism? Our "birth" was a pretty significant world event in the 1500's. We took a photo, shook hands. Mary Reath goes on to say: "We should be in each other's churches, explaining who we are, sharing ashes, singing Christmas carols, renewing Baptismal vows, and on and on."