Posts Tagged ‘Simone’
Not the peace of the season, for it is too fleeting.
Not the peace of the carol, for it is nostalgic.
Not the peace of the greeting card, for it is too slick.
Not the peace of the crib, for it is too wistful.
Peace of the ordinary, the daily, the homely,
Peace for the worker, the driver, the student,
Peace in the office, the kitchen, the farm.
I have come to bring you peace.
The peace of accepting yourself as I fashioned you,
The peace of knowing yourself as I know you,
The peace of loving yourself as I love you,
The peace of being yourself as I am who I am.
I have come to bring you peace.
The peace that warms you at the completion of a task,
The peace that invades you at the close of the day,
The peace that sustains you at the beginning of the day,
The peace that reinforces you when you reconcile with another,
The peace that touches you when your family is in order.
Without peace, my coming is unfulfilled.
Without peace, my birth is forgettable.
Without peace, Christmas is a contradiction.
I have come to bring you peace.”
For the last six months, I have been spending every Thursday night at the Hamilton Night Shelter. I have to admit, this is not an easy ministry for me. My first difficulty was to make the people there understand who I was. There was a combination of factors that probably played against me: many of them had no idea of what a religious order is about, let alone a franciscan one. On top of that, I was a foreigner with a funny accent from a very faraway land. I suppose some of them saw me as an alien when I first arrived! I also think some others saw me as an “outsider” like them. That probably helped me to break down cultural and language barrier and build up some trust. Moreover, I believe they appreciated that fact that, despite being associated with a church, I wasn’t there to preach or convert them, which is something that always puts some people off. In fact, I was there in a spirit of service to them.
The first few weeks were quite hard: very few people were willing to have a conversation of any depth with me. But I kept on going, week after week, without really expecting anything in particular to happen but just being open to whatever could arise.
I have to say that the staff working there were amazing from the very beginning and made me feel welcome all the way through.
I soon realized some people had made the night shelter their permanent home, so I kept meeting them week after week. I could see changes happening in their life, sometimes good ones, other times quite bad. Other people were more transient and able to move on to a new address very quickly.
Working there as a volunteer has surely opened my eyes on some situations in life I didn’t know. Most of them come from very dysfunctional families, some have been lost everything they had like jobs, friends, partners, nearly all of them have an alcoholic problem. I listened to their stories with respect and interest, trying to share their burden and pain.
I learnt a lot from them but sometimes it was very frustrating as I was wondering if I was doing enough for them. Was I really able to help them get through all of that or at least give them a sense of hope in the future and dignity to themselves?
Almost all of those men have been quite nice to me while I was there, with only some occasional abuse fueled by too much alcohol. Even though the shelter has a very strict no-alcohol policy, some of them are already intoxicated when they arrive but are asked to leave immediately. Let’s say that they don’t take it very well and always find the time to swear at some staff member, me included, before leaving the premises.
But generally speaking, they usually comply with the rules without a problem.
The night I am in is usually quiet, sometimes they are all in bed by 9 o’clock! However, there is a smoking area at the back of the building which is a favorite spot to have a chat before bedtime. I usually sit there with 2 or 3 of them, even though I don’t smoke, and use that time to try to talk and listen. I also share some of my experience with them and some of them seem to be interested in my way of life and even amused! They don’t quite understand the reason for celibacy, especially.
I believe that this experience may be useful to me as much as to them. I certainly have the chance to live out an important aspect of the franciscan spirituality which seeks to see the face of Christ in the midst of this broken and wounded humanity. And, on the other hand, I hope I can help them to look beyond their immediate pain and suffering, to prove that there is someone who cares and they are not forgotten by the rest of the world or by God. I don’t know if I can make a difference in their life but I hope that someone may feel, at least for a moment, that their life really matters. I notice sometimes that this is best expressed in silence rather than words. No preaching, no theology spoken, just an open heart and mind to welcome them as they are and the awareness that we all the same is what I bring into that place every week.
In our time, the internet is the primary source of information for many people. I remember when I was looking for more information regarding the Society of Saint Francis, an online search for “Anglican Franciscan in NZ” was the first thing I did. And, by doing so, I came across this web-site.
Well, It wasn’t exactly like this at that time, but it had plenty of interesting material for an enquirer like I was. One thing among the others caught my attention: the blog. It was mainly due to brother Kentigern, who spent few years in New Zealand before heading back to Britain where he continues his life and ministries in Leeds. I can only thank him for the time and effort he dedicated to the blog: beautifully written, witty and honest, it helped me to shape my idea about SSF and life in this friary.
I would like, with the help of my brothers, to carry on this tradition. Of course my style won’t be the same unfortunately, because English is actually my second language. So I apologize in advance for any mistake I’ll certainly make. However, like I said, I’d like to keep on talking about our daily life here at the Friary of the Divine Compassion, our ministries, the people we meet, the things we do, the wider community we live in but also about our life of prayer, our spirituality and what really means being followers of Christ in the footsteps of S.Francis in the XXI century.
Maybe, there will be one or two out there who, after meeting us online by chance, would like to know more and to find out not only about our journey of faith but also why and how we decided to dedicate our lives to God: the Gospel passage we read few days ago at the Eucharist expresses quite well the sense of longing, the desire and the thirst for God that are at the heart of every vocation and keep us moving towards the source of life and love: Jesus said to them “What do you seek?” and they said to him “Rabbi, Where are you staying?” He said to them “Come and see” They came and saw where he was staying (Jn 1.38-39).
So, let’s begin this journey together.
The Good Portion
As I begin my noviciate at the friary in Hamilton, I still get asked what brought me over here from Italy. I have also found out some people thought I came straight all the way from Europe to join the Society of S. Francis over here! In reality, my story with SSF started over one year ago in America, where I first met the Brothers and had a first experience in the life of the community. I was already living in New Zealand at that time and I was in New York to visit some friends. I came across the Friary of Little Portion almost by chance, for I was looking for a retreat centre and that place came up first on the list. When I got back to NZ, I got in touch with the brothers in Hamilton and after a while I began living with them.
I have to say neither Franciscan life nor religious life were totally unknown to me: the former because S.Francis (we call him Francesco) , S.Clare ( Chiara) and their spirituality go way beyond religion in Italy and they are deeply and truly interwoven with the local culture and the way of living and the latter because I had already had a period of discernment in a Benedictine monastery. In fact I have an enduring conviction that I was called to religious life long ago and that in spite of attempts to have a regular life, I have always had this strong sense of call reaffirmed.
The community life here doesn’t differ too much from bigger religious houses around the world. We live under a rule and a we treasure the life of prayer, the liturgy of the hour, the possibility of listening to the Word of God and above all the holy eucharist, but also our community seeks to be open, to welcome and listen to all, to share the joy and hope as well as the sorrow and distress of all people.
The life of each brother is centered on the service of praise offered to God in prayer and on the service offered to others through work, hospitality offered to guests, and service offered to the church and to different Christian churches and agencies.
Nevertheless, this way of life might sound quite odd to someone, but in fact I believe that by answering this call, we are not undertaking a new way of living the Gospel and we are not alone on this road travelled by many Christians over the centuries. Before us, others with the same vocation, expressed in different ways according to the times and places in which they lived, have made this journey: Elijah and John the Baptist, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Benedict and Scholastica, Francis and Claire, and many others.
After all, monks and nuns, present in the church from the first centuries, are men and women who live their Christian vocation as a radical commitment, often at the margins of society and of the visible church, even at the cost of being marginalized. The monk looks toward the city and the church and remains in contact with them, never separating himself but expressing his complete solidarity through his prayer and intercession. He sometimes addresses a word or gesture to the city and church, or addresses them through his silence; but some of the time, in order to protect what has been entrusted to him, he finds it necessary to turn toward the desert, giving the impression that he has turned his back on the city and the church. But this turning away is in no way a gesture of disrespect: it is simply a sign of his thirst to return to God, in silence and attention.
Despite sharing so much of this vision, we need to say though that franciscan spirituality is not monastic: rather than fleeing the word to find God, it seeks God in the world. Typical Franciscan idea is “the world is my cloister”.
Francis had a deep experience of God in the run-down church of San Damiano: facing the wounded Christ on the cross, he met the God of compassionate love, who delights to be with the simple and those rejected by the world. In that image, he discovered his own wounds and the deeper he entered into the mystery of Christ in his own life, the more he saw Christ in everyone and everything around him.
The God Francis saw wasn’t the one asking for offerings or sacrifices but He was the one offering himself, sacrificing himself, giving himself to all His creature so that we could have life. Francis understood that it is God who is coming to seek us in order to be in communion with us. The central act of our worship, the eucharist, is our way to respond to that and our thanksgiving to God, who allowed us to take part in His life.
In fact, all of our life should be a thanksgiving to God. Few things make me feel guilty like not dedicating enough time to prayer and praise to God. When that happens, I recall the word of Jesus to his disciples in the garden of the Gethsemane: ““Could you not watch one hour with me?”(Mt 26.40) He was asking them to watch with him, to wait and be awake with him in the hour of crisis.
How many of us still immerse ourselves in activity, rushing everywhere, busy, busy, busy because the call of Jesus to “keep watch and wait” seems too great a challenge. Yes, keeping watch is certainly one of the hardest things. Gethsemani reminds us that what we are asked to do is something more simple and difficult than springing into action. We are asked to “be” rather than “do”.
Francis himself was a man of prayer, even though his ministry to the lepers and his preaching the gospel seem to have overshadowed the centrality of prayer in his way of life. Certainly Francis considered prayer as the basis for following Christ as it is shown in all his writings.
As we follow in the footsteps of Francis and Clare, we are not trying to preserve a strange relic from the Middle Age, but even in the 21st century a life of renunciation and sacrifice is still a mean by which we can obtain true freedom, even though it sounds like a paradox. The way of the Gospel is the opposite of the common mentality and we can really find ourselves once we give up our own will and surrender to God. Instead, our modern culture is more and more obsessed with individualism and consumerism and we live in the illusion that the more we have the happier we are. But such behavior has quite a devastating impact on our life and on our natural environment. As Christmas approaches and the race to get presents for family and friends and to organize parties starts, it might be useful to remember the answer of Jesus to Martha, who was left alone serving the Lord while her sister Mary was sitting at his feet listening to his teaching: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10.42). This good portion is all we need.
Br Simone n/ssf