It was just starting to rain lightly as I made my way to Longoio’s chiesina last Sunday for the annual Mass celebrations. Our three cats followed me with religious determination.
Marian May has now started – the month dedicated in the Roman Catholic church calendar to the Virgin Mary, The church, nestled in its woodland surroundings, had been beautifully prepared by the daughter of our former shop-keeper. The flowers she arranged made a gorgeous display on the altar.
The Mass was officiated by Don Giuseppe (Joseph). Well into his eighties, he remains a sprightly and witty person. Don Giuseppe remarked that he thought he’d visited every chiesa and chiesina in our valley but this was the first time he’d been here.
The unfaltering Claudio assisted Don Giuseppe in the religious celebration on the eve of May.
The Gospel was from John chapter 14 verses 23-29 which includes that highly memorable phrase spoken by Jesus at his last appearance before his disciples and now incorporated in the Mass liturgy: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Don Giuseppe stated that this peace was not the sort of peace one craves for when annoyed by other people (i.e. ‘‘lasciami in pace” – leave me in peace) but something much greater, more interior and more cosmic at the same time. He mentioned that the nearest most of the world knows today about this true peace is a sort of convenience cease-fire. (And even that collapses as we all too tragically know from recent events in the Middle East).
At this point in the Mass I espied Cheekie, one of our three cats, rush up to me from outside the church where the door had been left open. She looked at me, and then rushed out again. Since the little church was full (most of the thirty odd places had been taken) I thought it was quite a bold move. It caused a little flurry of amusement among the congregation, it must be said.
If only we could recapture the peace that animals seem to be able to attain in their lives!
I’ve written so much about our little church (which dates back at least to the first half of the seventeenth century) in previous posts that there’s no point repeating it here. If you’re interested the main posts are at:
PS In his sermon Don Giuseppe reminded us that the last disciple to see Christ was actually St Peter. Giving up on preaching to the Romans with the risk of being crucified Peter decided he’d return to his homeland when he met a stranger on the road going out of Rome. “Quo vadis? (Where are you going?)” Peter asked the stranger. “Romam eo iterum crucifigi” (“I am going to Rome to be crucified again”) the stranger replied. Peter changed his mind and returned to Rome where he, too, was crucified (head-downwards as, humbly, he didn’t want to emulate Christ. (PS don’t bother to look this incident in the Bible. It comes from the apocryphal Acts of St Peter).
(Quo Vadis? Painting by Annibale Carraci in London’s National Gallery)
I thought to myself “how many of us ask the same question to ourselves – quo vadis?”