Dear Friends. Greetings from Manziana, my final farewell from this small town about 100 km NW of Rome. I've had a wonderful ten weeks here, with a group of fourteen men, all of whom one could say 'have borne the heat of the day' , and who find themselves, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, in their late 60s (like myself) or early 70s and still members of the religious congregations which they joined in their teens. (One of the presenters on our course, a Scottish priest, David Glenday said he first expressed interest in the missionary order he joined by answering a letter of invitation in a Catholic paper at the age of nine years! But I think most of us were a bit older. ('Who can contain the Spirit of God, for the Spirit blows free whence it rises' Chant for 26th Sunday of Year B )
We've all just finished a beautiful final banquet in the dining room and, as befitting senior gentlemen after a large meal washed down with fine wines, many are enjoying an extended siesta. Before the meal, we had our final mass of thanksgiving at which we were invited to reflect on particular things for which we were grateful in the course of our lives, and to express that in prayer, if we felt so inclined. Each of us also put our thanksgivings in writing which were then placed on the altar during mass. Earlier today, I had received an email from a former Brother, filling his friends in on some of his many adventures, including an overseas trip with his wife during the past year. He included a beautiful photo of his 4th grandchild, a beautiful little girl, born on March 3rd. (Who teaches babies to smile??? They're just so clever. Also news of his Probus activities and how he spends his time in busy and happy retirement. So it was good to receive this email from my friend as it helped me to reflect on that for which I was grateful and the rich tapestry of different life choices.
I've been wrestling with the text and melody of a new song, 'Celebrate our Marist Story' for our bi-centenary in 2017. This time, I've been working with another Brother on the text, a Brother Stephen Smythe from Scotland who happens to be a published poet, so I've had to give pretty good musical reasons for changing anything he's written. All has to be negotiated, and I can say I've found this task of collaboration and sometimes compromise quite difficult. Another reason to thank God for the gift of celibacy! Marriage would have been too hard altogether! But no, it wasn't one of the items on my piece of paper on the altar!
In two days time I'll be in the Holy Land. I'm really looking forward to that ...... to walk where Jesus himself walked. I'm hoping in some strange way it will deepen my faith in, or sense of ....what the Incarnation means, and who Jesus is for me. Know that you will be in my heart and prayer at this special time. And yes ........ it is good to be coming home soon! God bless, Michael