PREPARING A PLACE FOR PRAYER
As it says in the Old Testament scripture of Ecclesiastes, there is a season for everything. For the last five years I have been involved in starting up new endeavours - The Contemplative Women of St. Anne community for lay Catholic women in Toronto; the Magdala Conciliary at St. Basil's Church and a series of international seminars in Rome called Towards An Intrinsic Feminine Theology.
Now it is a season for preparing a house of prayer. I have only recently realized that the prayer of gratitude to God for the abundant gifts received at Migliara requires much more than recital. It requires doing something. One of the most important aspect of any prayer, and especially contemplative prayer, is to praise and glorify God, to give thanks for life itself and the beauty in all that that life bestows.
Silent prayer at the Capuchin Franciscan monastery of Montecasale revealed the directive. It was time to restore the chapel/oratory that had been on the land at Migliara for 800 years. Just like the old times, when Abraham made altars for such purposes, or where sanctuaries were erected on sacred spots, this was what we were to do. And, as is always the case with Divine Providence, everything began to unfold in an especially surprising way.
The first unfolding was the making of new friends. After our request for a stained glass window, Sister Abir, originally from Lebanon, and now an Augustinian sister in the community at Pennabilli (Rimini) invited John and I to their monastery, atop a vast hill, where we toured the workshops of these young, talented and joyful nuns. Reverend Mother was on her hands and knees weeding around the fruit bushes in the garden while Sister Eva, resident carpenter, showed us her storage of various timbers. Sister Elena, who was completing a sculpture of Mary Magdalene for Siena Cathedral, showed us a stained glass of the Garden of Eden she was preparing for the convent.
Sister Eva measuring
A week later the sisters drove to Migliara to walk the land and listen to the stories,and relish the rushing stream. We all felt this project uniquely graced. Sr. Abir, whose expertise is in archeology advised us on the basics of restoration,
while Sr. Eva measured the arch to frame the window. In between her intense studies for a theological degree, Sr. Elena was intuiting ideas for the design.
Seeds have sewn, rocks have been recovered, our contractor, Nicholas Risley, is making good the inside walls and the roof, putting new steps at the front.
And the birds who have nested in these walls, sing their songs of praise.
For more on the Augustinian sisters' monastery visit www.osapennabilli.net