Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ciao Italia

Snow flurries, quiet medieval streets, bells ringing, muffled pedestrians murmuring “Pace e bene” as they pass: its like falling down a rabbit hole.

I'm not in New York anymore!

I arrived in Assisi Saturday night and was met by the Warden of St. Leonard's Anglican Church where I am to be chaplain for a month. I am living in a warm and charming apartment right in the center of the old city. How great is that?

I'd been in Rome for several days, where I was part of an Ecumenical Symposium on the Consecrated Life, sponsored by the Institute for the Consecrated Life of the Vatican. I gave a paper on Religious Life in the Anglican Tradition and the Ecumenical Journey (their topic). Apart from the Roman Catholic archbishop moderator, who is also a Franciscan, giving me a good natured razz about “How can you be a real Franciscan if you don't obey the Pope?” my talk was well received.

The symposium was interesting, on and off. The Catholics read a lot of papal documents. The Orthodox talked about the Trinity and keeping the Orthodox tradition alive in the face of great adversity. I talked about the Anglican tradition of prayer and worship; the blessing of freedom and minority for Anglican religious in the face of a lack of church laws, and our small size; and the characteristic of Anglican religious to cross boundaries: social, as in opposing apartheid and warring militia, and ecclesiastically by welcoming members from different denominations in some of our Anglican communities.

Most participants wanted to impart as much information as quickly as possible so many of the papers were read rapidly in a monotone.

Jetlag eroded my attention span from time to time (let the reader understand).

But there were sparkles: presentations from the ecumenical communities of Bose and Taize especially. Vespers each night was from a different tradition: Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican in churches of those traditions. They were really beautiful, though standing in the Russian Orthodox church packed in with other people close by I had to edge to the wall to ameliorate claustrophobia.

The Director of The Anglican Centre in Rome, Sir David Moxon, took me, and Sr. Joyce and Br. Desmond Alban, also representing our community at the symposium, to dinner at a little restaurant run by the San 'Egidio community. It is staffed by neighborhood youth who learn how to wait tables and cook so that they can then go out and get jobs. The food was great, the service very friendly and attentive: it was terrific. David told us fascinating stories about his work to end slavery, coordinating the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope and several leading Muslims.

Saturday we walked across St. Peter's Square to meet the Pope, and I got to shake his hand.

Standing in the Square were a group of people with a blue banner emblazoned with “12” and wearing Seattle Seahawks football jerseys. Superbowl hoopla all the way over here. I gave them a wave and we all sang out “Go 'Hawks!”

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