Blessed olive leaves, Kenyan olivewood bowl, William Morris olive and oak leaf print
n the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. Ezekiel 47.12
hen the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life, with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22.1-2
Mosaic of God's Lamb, the Tree and the Water of Life
This essay, a weblog, is cut and pasted together from letters on the Internet, letters from Kenya, letters from Sweden, letters from Russia, letters from Italy, letters from America, letters from Israel, letters from Ireland, letters from around our blue marble. The best is at the end.
'liveleaf' is no magic, but about compassion. Its only cost is mercy, not money, and about gain for all, where there has been loss. It is both about Christianity, born in Judaism, first of the Tigris and the Euphrates, then of the Mediterranean, and about all of humanity.
It is a strange kind of ministry, born out of Gethsemane despair and in Gethsemane watching and praying. Those who are abused, particularly by Church people representing God, have their souls killed, and are possessed by that evil - until they forgive their abusers and resurrect God, who was killed and entombed in a Sabbath in their souls, until they gain power back from their abusers, power which should only be used to heal, not harm. I learned to use blessed olive leaves against such abusers, sending my last blessed olive leaves from Gethsemane even to bishops in a plea that they help, not harm, children in their charge. We are wounded healers. We seek shalom, wholeness, for every child, every woman, every man, all God's Holy Family.
Blessed olive leaves, Kenyan olive-
wood bowl, William Morris olive
and oak leaf print
Noah waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. Genesis 8.10-11.
'When they had sung the hymn, they went
out to the Mount of Olives . . . Then Jesus went with them to a
place called Gethsemane', Matthew 26.30, 36, Mark 14.26, 32,
In the Middle Ages there had been a
network of contemplative men and women all over Europe, called
the Friends of God. In my convent's
library we began an ecumenical group, called Godfriends after
this medieval network of mystics. When I had to flee my convent,
we took to cyberspace and now Godfriends are found in Japan,
Alaska, Canada, America, Argentina, Norway, Sweden, Shetlands,
England, Italy, Israel, Russia, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya,
Sri Lanka, Australia. One of these, Ken Lott, a Merton
contemplative, was dying of lung cancer. In our conversations on
the Internet we could only say these blessed olive leaves are
not magic, they cannot heal one from dying, but that they can
bring to that dying, compassion, friendship, sharing. When we
bravely confront and share with another's dying, we are sharing,
beforehand, in our own and we become less afraid. In sharing the
tale, we become like Julian , for she
lived to tell us her tale of dying. When we work in an Italian Misericordia , helping the dying, or in
an English Hospice, again helping the dying, we shall be less
alone ourselves at that hour. This is what Mother Teresa has
been teaching us. I beg your prayers for Ken gently leaving us,
and for his wife Ruth he is leaving us.
Next, Godfriend Isabelle, who is Anglican, in Nairobi, Kenya, wrote to us in the aftermath of that bomb. Impulsively, I offered to send her a thousand olive leaves, in that kind of act that seems to come only from the Holy Spirit.
Blessed olive leaves, Kenyan olive-
wood bowl, William Morris olive
and oak leaf print
At 23.22 09/08/98 +0300, Isabelle wrote:
Even though I have not been an active member of this List for the past few months, it has been a joy to read your words and, with your help, to become a better Godfriend, day by day.
You may have heard, this week-end, of the great tragedy here in the city Nairobi , from the bomb that exploded near the American Embassy last Friday. Nairobi is where I have been working, for over seven years now, at All Saints' Cathedral (Anglican Church of Kenya). My task is development work - helping three slum communities as they develop themselves.
Nairobi has never had a bombing, nor has it ever experienced any other catastrophe of this suddenness and scale. The only bomb that has ever caused deaths in Nairobi, was a Palestinian one many years ago, which was aimed at an Israeli-owned hotel. Nothing since then.
I am sure you will have heard the terrible statistics - deaths rapidly creeping up to 150 persons (and likely to significantly exceed this figure when the final toll is taken), with another 100 or more still missing, over 1,400 admitted to hospitals with injuries, over 4,000 injured (if those already discharged from hospitals are included), 23 solid buildings (including high-rise office blocks) completely destroyed, some 30 others badly damaged, all windows and doors broken in a radius of 1 km. Many of the injuries (as well as some of the fatalities) were caused by flying glass, with terrible wounds to people's faces.
The 5-storey office block behind the American Embassy took the brunt of the blast - several storeys contained a secretarial college, and it is the young students who suffered particularly badly. Several of the "luckier" ones were trapped in a lift, and rescue workers (including an Israeli team) are still trying to free them. Three died as the rescue workers had almost reached them, two were taken out alive last night.
The whole area has been sealed off to traffic. There is a curfew in the city centre at night, in order not to hinder the rescue teams. All festivities have been cancelled, and flags will be flown at half-staff for a week.
Appeals were made over the radio and television for all medical doctors and trained medical personnel (particularly surgeons) to report for duty at the various hospitals, and indeed the hospitals have done truly remarkable work with the help of these and other volunteers. The hospitals in Nairobi are always overstretched, and I have visited patients lying two to a bed - but space was found for all the injured, and some of them were taken out into the broader commuter belt for treatment.
My colleague Kathleen has a brother working as a doctor in Aga Khan Hospital. And one of her good friends is the Matron of the same hospital. Both doctor and matron have hardly slept over the past few nights - and if time had been there, they would have been unable to sleep... Some of the injuries they have attended to, are horrendous - people missing jaws, parts of their faces, eyes...
Nairobi is full of stories of selfless acts. A friend, who narrowly escaped death himself, and whose car miraculously survived, spent all day Friday ferrying the injured to the various hospitals in his car, and only gave up after several hours, when his car was drenched in blood and he grew physically sick. Another friend spent all day driving his neighbours in an outlying suburb into town, so that they could donate blood at a special centre opened by the Red Cross in a public park right next to our Cathedral.
It now looks as though the bomb had been planted by international terrorists from the Middle East. Four Arabs have been arrested, Egyptians among them. Possibly Kenya and Tanzania (where there was a simultaneous bomb, causing far less damage and loss of life) were regarded by them as soft targets, since the US Embassies here would not be conscious of any threat to their staff.
Two of my colleagues, Louise and Lucy, were in town at the time, close enough to be physically shaken by the blast and to see the flying glass. Our Provost was conducting a Service in the Cathedral, about 2 km away from the explosion site, when the church was rocked by what he thought to be a violent earthquake, one of the windows shattered, and his Bible covered in fine dust dislodged from the ceiling.
Even in the suburb of Nairobi where I live, about 8 km away from the epicentre of the blast, the explosion was so loud that the houses shook and people gathered, wondering what had happened. There are quarries nearby, where stones are regularly blasted. Was the explosion from the quarries? And yet, it had sounded far louder than that.
This morning, the whole city was still quiet and in mourning; it had not yet come to terms with the enormity of its loss. Every conversation starts the words "where were you when..." and "whom did you lose..."? I found myself laughing through tears, when I saw so many people still *alive*. They are like a gift from God, all over again.
The Main Service in our Cathedral (11.00 am) was packed. Every last seat was taken - even the spare Choir Stalls and Canons' Stalls. We must have had a congregation well above the usual 1,200. The Provost asked those affected by the bomb to come forward for prayers :
* those who had family members injured and still in hospital;
* those who had been injured themselves but had made it to the Cathedral this morning; and finally
* those who had lost family members through the blast.
* 4 who were missing family members,
* about 50 who had family members in hospital, and
* 3 who had come to the Cathedral after being injured themselves (they were all bandaged extensively).
Nairobi is a big city (population 2 to 3 million), but this tragedy affects us all. There is not one person here who is not feeling the pain. The degree of suffering is vastly different, of course, but we are all suffering. Some will suffer for many months to come. Please pray for their healing, for the light of God's love to shine into their world in its upheaval, and for comfort and consolation to all who will so desperately need it. Please pray also that we who have been spared may be blessed to become instruments of God's love and peace for others.
Thank you for bearing with me as I write these stories (it is probably part of my own healing to recount them to you), in God's friendship,
Isabelle Prondzynski, Funding
Co-ordinator, All Saints' Cathedral, P.O. Box 40539, Nairobi,
Dear Isabelle and all Godfriends in Nairobi,
I've talked with Padre Superiore and two other priests of our Comunita`, don Serafino, don Silvano, don Bernardo, and we all agree. We should like to send you for your cathedral and for all who need them, something tangible, healing, reconciling, in the form of a thousand blessed olive leaves. Could I have your address or where we should send them? The idea is from the leaves of healing for the nations of Ezekiel and Revelation, for Moslem and Christian and all others, no boundaries. Perhaps a tray in the cathedral, perhaps giving them out at Communion and telling people to take a handful and give in turn to all they meet? Whatever you think best. One warning, Italian post is slow. So be patient. But the envelope shall come with all our love and care. It's just a gesture. But perhaps gestures of love are the most valuable and precious we ever receive in our lives. Keep writing to us,
Painted by Myra Luxmore, 1912, from
direct observation in the Holy Land. The painting, by a woman
artist, is of the moment just before the Blind Man, about to be
healed by Christ's compassion, shall see the exquisite colours
and embroidery of their clothing. Given to my Mother Foundress
of the Community of the Holy Family, Agnes Mason, by her
brother, Canon Arthur Mason and hung in the Holy Family Chapel.
Photographed, Revd Kenneth Clinch.
The thousand plus blessed olive leaves are on their way, courtesy of DHL, to you in Nairobi. Now I hope there can be a further miracle - like that of loaves and fishes - and they be multiplied enough to reach all in need of them. And remember to keep one for yourself, and another for Lucy who was killed, to heal both your memories. The particular passages for these leaves are: Ezekiel 47.13, Revelation 22.2. They are wonderful together.
At 10.34 18/08/98 +0300, you wrote:
Dearworthiest Sister Julia and Godfriends,
This is the first time that I have used this form of address, for its beautiful sound and shape and general satisfactoriness - some time, could you please explain to me its meaning and derivation?
It is a wonderful thought that the olive leaves for the healing of the nations are now on their way to us, having already left you and your Community, presented to God and blessed with your prayers. Thank you for having given us verses Ezekiel 47.12 and Revelation 22.2 with them.
You said in yesterday's message to "keep one for yourself, and another for your dead friend, to heal both your memories". Last night, I went back to the family and just sat with them, as other guests do, having no particular task this time. I told them of the olive leaf for Lucy and shall make sure I deliver it to her in person.
It is customary here to wait for some time before a funeral - the waiting interval being used to sit together every evening and throughout every night, to comfort the family, to pray together, to gather relatives from far and wide, and to raise the necessary funds for the funeral costs. The latter task will be somewhat eased, in this instance, since the government will be contributing to the transport costs of funerals resulting from the bomb, on a moving scale depending on how far away from Nairobi the burial will take place.
The Ononos are Luos and will be travelling almost as far as the Uganda border (beyond Kisumu, on the banks of Lake Victoria) on Thursday evening. Luo burials are great occasions which I know only by reputation - several days of entertaining huge crowds in the rural home area. I am often reminded here of Joseph taking his betrothed to the city of David, his ancestral home. Kenyans, like Joseph, have their ancestral homes and all important functions take place there - except if they are completely uprooted and dispossessed and their entire family is landless... the modern-day urban poor... But even in the slum where we work, the majority of the people still have their rural roots, and few need to be buried in the city cemetery when their time comes. Indeed, the city cemetery has a disproportionately high number of expatriates.
Having a period of "open house", a stream of visitors, and prayers together every evening, has the extraordinary effect of calming the bereaved, making them feel truly comforted and encouraged, giving everyone something to do (i.e. entertaining the visitors, feeding them and helping the family through fund-raising), and preparing people's hearts for the funeral itself.
The funeral service will take place on Thursday at noon - amazingly, of all the many funerals now passing through our Cathedral, it is Lucy's funeral that will happen at precisely the same time as the Ecumenical Memorial Service on the Mount outside the Cathedral! I shall be walking between the two with your olive leaves, praying for God's blessing to be upon families, churches and nations as I do.
Thank you again, and thanks to your Community and all Godfriends, for your warm thoughts and prayers and the blessings which will flow from your gift. And please tell Padre Divo Barsotti that we remember him here and pray for his speedy recovery. I was very touched by his picture of our music joining the angelic voices in praise of God.
With love in Christ,
I think Godfriends will be amused! This has come from DHL headquarters in answer to my query placed August 15, when Italian offices were closed, about posting olive leaves to Nairobi. Actually they went off in an envelope saying it contained a document and a photo. The Italians did this! So there's a chance they'll make it yet! Here's praying they do! But it is a delightful illustration of the potential clash between bureaucracy and spirituality.
At 09.57 18/08/98 -0400,
Dear Sister Julia Bolton Holloway,
We were very pleased to receive your message and we thank you. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to provide you this service as Nairobi is served in 4 working days. Moreover, this kind of content needs to have a phytosanitary certificate, provided from sender's local Health Dptm. This documents would take you other 2 days before forwarding. It means that we cannot make it on time as delivery would be expected at the end of this month.
Thanking you in advance for your kind attention, we remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.
Nives De Masi, Customer Service
At 13.54 19/08/98 +0300, you wrote:
Dearworthiest Sister Julia and Godfriends,
You wrote yesterday of the olive leaves delivered into the care of DHL :
First thing this morning, I got in touch with the Revd Mutava Musyimi, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, the co-ordinator of tomorrow's National Memorial Service, to make sure that he is aware of the leaves and can plan for their distribution. It was quite a task tracking him down, as the NCCK office building, Church House, is located directly across the road from the American Embassy. Last week, the staff spent all their time tidying and repairing it as best they could and, this week, they have been given time off to seek in-depth counselling to recover from the effects of the blast. Electricity and telephones have not yet been reconnected.
Mutava was happy to hear about the olive leaves and will incorporate them into the Service. He asked us to come with them early, so that he can involve the ushers in their distribution. He is expecting a congregation of 10,000 - so perhaps he will decide that the leaves should be for those most in need of healing. Some 20 or so will go to Lucy's family at her funeral, which will be taking place concurrently.
I also rang DHL and was most impressed with their records - they could tell me precisely how many parcels (3) had been sent from Florence to Nairobi on Monday! They were pretty certain, when I rang, that your parcel had already arrived and was, at that very moment, being taken to the Cathedral by the courier! We are awaiting its safe arrival.
As for ourselves, we are on power rationing until lunchtime. My computer battery is almost exhausted and has cried out that it is about to switch off for a rest, so this goes to you now with what little energy remains, and with every good wish and prayer, love,
P.S. There was not enough energy left,
and the machine switched off even as I was ringing ARCC. But
this delay gives me the chance to tell you the good news : the
leaves arrived about an hour ago, safe and in good condition,
ready for use tomorrow. Thank you so much for having made it
possible! And thanks to all you Godfriends for your prayers and
support and warm thoughts that accompanied this parcel on its
way! Peace and joy to you all, Is.
Dear Nives De Masi, DHL,
A thousand plus blessed olive leaves, posted from Florence by DHL on the 17th, they safely reached Nairobi this morning, the 19th, within two days! The service at which they will be used tomorrow will be for thousands of people outside the Cathedral. We are so very grateful. Blessings,
At 06.25 20/08/98 +0300, Alifa in Jerusalem wrote:
If there's one thing I have plenty of, it's olive leaves. I can send a boxfull to any of the recent sites of terrorist incidents, albeit with my own very human blessing rather than an "official" one.
Do you have an address in Kenya, Tanzania, or Ireland to which they can be mailed?
This is lovely of you. Let me forward
this to Isabelle in Nairobi who is Irish and thus has the
addresses for Nairobi and for Ireland, and I am sure she can
also tell you where the Tanzania posting could best go. She is
Anglican but this is beyond all boundaries! I've been giving
blessed olive leaves, used up all mine now from Gethsemane, to
my worst enemies! It seems to make a difference.
At 23.34 20/08/98 +0300, you wrote:
Just the shortest of notes, Dearworthiest Julia, at the end of a long day, to let you know that your prayers were amply answered today and your olive leaves bore their message of consolation to the multitudes on and beyond the Mount.
Details tomorrow! Sleep in joy and peace,
At 14.03 21/08/98 +0300, you wrote:
Dearworthiest Sister Julia and Godfriends,
Even before I typed the very first letter on my keyboard, I could already see that this would be a long message - please excuse me one more time. The next notes should be a lot shorter!
Thank you all, Dearworthiest Godfriends, for your prayers joining ours here yesterday. We were very conscious of your presence with us in spirit. God answered our prayers and gave us a beautiful day, a day of healing, a day of looking back and looking forward, a day of solemn remembrance and of hope.
Arriving at the Cathedral for our Staff Prayers in the morning, I brought down the parcel of olive leaves from our office. Our staff members gathered, seeking God's help for an exceptionally busy day. One of our organists joined us quietly. Already dressed in her red choir robes, Olive was preparing herself for the first of the five funeral Services due to take place in the Cathedral yesterday. It was my joy to read your passage from Ezekiel and speak about the significance of the olive leaves. A sprig of olive leaves did the rounds (no one had seen any before) for all to touch and admire. And when it came to prayer time, I gave Olive your parcel and asked her to pray for the leaves - others prayed for the funerals, the Memorial Service and our other needs.
Olive prayed beautifully, for healing and reconciliation and for these leaves to be a blessing to those who would receive them - and she prayed with a firm and steady voice, clearly and audibly. After the end of our little Service, everyone continued to talk about olives and their leaves. We thanked Olive for joining us and our prayers. That was when she told us she had never prayed in public before! Leaves of blessing...
We are four members in our Urban Development Team. One of my colleagues, Louise, was in the Cathedral already, the other two were still busy outside. The two of us set out together for Church House, to deliver your parcel for the Service. Church House was one of the houses declared unsafe after the bomb - it had to be inspected before the NCCK staff were allowed back to clear up the damage. By yesterday morning, the shattered windows had been covered with plastic sheeting, much of the debris cleared up, and even some electricity was back. Upstairs, we found the room facing the street with the American Embassy (where one of the NCCK staff had died in the blast), full of sisters, clergy and bishops of many denominations and congregations, dressed in their different colours and each carrying a long-stemmed red rose.
Revd Mutava Musyimi, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), was busy allocating tasks to those who had gathered. When he saw me, huddled at the door together with other latecomers, he called me forward and asked me to explain the provenance and significance of the olive leaves. This, he then told me to do again in Uhuru Park, when the time came.
We walked out in procession, following the crucifer and the robed choirs and the sisters, clergy and bishops in their respective habits and robes. Outside, at that busy roundabout, where the bomb had killed all the passengers in two buses, and so many others, two weeks ago (almost to the hour as I write), the police had stopped all traffic and we crossed in safety, over to the site of the explosion. The US Embassy compound is still sealed off by razor wire, but we were allowed to walk through the outer security zone and around to the back, where Ufundi Co-operative House had stood, until it took the full force of the blast. The whole building has now been cleared away as though it never was, and all that remains is the small pile of rubble that has become a memorial to the victims. We stood in a circle round it, shivering in the grey winter air as the site spoke to us. All around us, the city's work was continuing, there was hammering, traffic, voices - all as it would have been that fateful morning when devastation sought out this little place of ordinary innocent people.
We prayed there, then moved forward one by one to deposit our roses on the memorial and pray for a moment. Meanwhile, the cameramen had climbed another mound of rubble and took their pictures, while the American soldiers looked down at us from the gaping window openings of their Embassy building.
Then, we processed back to the roundabout and forward, singing, for more than a kilometre on one of the busiest Nairobi streets, blocked to traffic as we walked, led by a policeman and the crucifer. This gave us time to look at the other buildings around, glass broken and roof tiles missing everywhere, but the damage being repaired everywhere too, and some people waving to us after a while from buildings that had been sufficiently far away to have survived in restorable order. As we walked, other people joined us. A mother carrying her baby, a huddle of street boys, a group of bystanders, and finally we merged with a stream of worshippers who were making their way to the park, more and more people joining in the hymns as we walked. Arriving at the park, we sat with our other colleagues Kathleen and Lucy, on the dais normally reserved for dignitaries - the first time that we ever were in such splendid positions - and looked at the crowds, steadily building up in front of us, all the way up to the top of the hill. Throughout the Service, the temperature stayed chilly - not a parasol in sight - while the crowd with its many-coloured attire, bit by bit, covered the remaining green of the grass. Everyone was issued with a red ribbon and lapel pin - red is the colour of mourning in Kenya - and the colour of the blood that was spilt by the bomb.
The names of the bomb victims (now 263, two of whom have not yet been identified) were read out in groups of six, alphabetically by letter of their first names - all the Elizabeths, all the Johns, all the Wanjikus together. Lucy Onono's name was there too. After every group of six, we prayed "Lord, have mercy". This was a very moving moment. So many had died - rich and poor together; young and old together; black, brown and white together; people of many faiths and denominations together.
Mutava made sure that representatives of different denominations were involved in the Service. Even the Hindu and Muslim representatives were given opportunities to address the congregation. The sermon was given by the RC Archbishop and Primate of Kenya, the Most Revd Ndingi Mwana 'a Nzeki. There was no sense of outrage, of hatred, of revenge - just grief and suffering and the desire to rise above it.
And then - my turn to speak in front of the biggest crowd I have ever addressed, the television cameras, the radio and a small forest of microphones. For a moment, I prayed as I took it in... Then, I brought your greetings from all around the world, your prayers, your work and your gesture to Nairobi, and some words about the significance of your symbol of healing, peace and reconciliation. I read Revelation 22 : 2. And told the people that the ushers would be distributing the leaves.
It really was like the feeding of the thousands - we sent out six ushers with six baskets of olive leaves, and soon, we could see them walking along the terraces of the hill, serving the leaves to the people for the entire remainder of the Service. The Tanzanian High Commissioner spoke, the US Ambassador spoke, the President of Kenya spoke. The Benediction was given (by a Black American Presbyterian woman priest, married to a Kenyan and ministering here), another hymn was sung, and the crowds stood up to watch the President and some of the other dignitaries leave.
Bit by bit, some of the baskets began to find their way back to us. Louise collected them, one by one, some with a few leaves left. Others arrived where Kathleen and Lucy were standing. Soon, I was the centre of attention for a trickle of people who came and told me they had not received any leaves - did we still have some? Others wanted to know more about the olive leaves and their significance. Amazingly, the cover of the Service programme was adorned with the dove of peace, carrying an olive branch... so, we explained some more.
Two women came, saying they had not taken an olive leaf as they first wanted to know its significance. The Service had been conducted in English, which they could not understand... so, Kathleen explained to them in Swahili and answered their questions. Then, satisfied, they held out their hands and asked to be given one each. By now, the leaves in the baskets (which Louise and I had carefully separated from the few remaining twigs) were exhausted. The four sprigs I had kept for our office, for the bomb victims who will now come to us, looking for financial help, were still in the DHL bag, and two of them were separated from their leaves even before we had left the park, as more people came, looking for these symbols of healing and peace. Many Kenyan Bibles will be carrying your Italian leaves of blessing.
Together, we walked back to the office. There, people had heard me speak on national radio (the Service was broadcast live!) and several approached me for the leaves of healing. Finally, four remained.
Meanwhile, in the Cathedral, Lucy Onono's funeral Service had taken place. By the time we returned, the family were seated in the garden by the open coffin, receiving embraces and condolences from a seemingly endless queue of people, while the next funeral service was already in progress within the Cathedral. When the queue got shorter, I joined it, bearing the olive leaves set aside for the family. Mordechai Onono (Lucy's husband) asked for a whole sprig - and received it. Individual leaves to each of the five children. I can still see before my eyes that sad, sad head of Lucy's in the coffin, reconnected to the body which it had left so violently in the blast, and stitched in several places. Dark and lifeless, it looked almost like one of those mummified heads which we sometimes find in European bogs, well preserved after hundreds of years. Surely that face I saw yesterday cannot have much resemblance with the real Lucy, the living, loving mother and wife... In the resurrection, the family knew, Lucy would have a new and beautiful body, so that her outer shell in this earthly life or death would have no more meaning for her.
We are exhausted now. This period of trauma, grief and mourning has taken up a lot of our energy. As I have been writing to you this morning, the actual time of the bomb blast, two weeks ago, has passed. We pray now that God will give us the grace of a new beginning, and the energy to help those who need support at this time. Already, we have heard some horrendous stories...
With so much gratitude, love and prayers for all of you,
Our prayers are with you and for your own healing of memories and with such thanks that you sought and found ways to help heal so many. More olive leaves shall be on their way. One of the most blessed things, I have found, is to give these leaves to heal one's enemies. The Lesson this morning at Terce, read by young, red-haired, just-priested don Bernardo, whose saint's day it was yesterday, was from Romans 12.17-21: 'Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good'. He had kept the three hundred and thirty three leaves in his cell in prayer before his icon, until it was time for their blessing and posting to you.
Later Isabelle sent us olive leaves from Kenya, a card of a Madonna and Child, the mother carrying flagons of water as well as her child, and rosary made by Elizabeth Waithera who is Catholic, mother of a daughter and son in Nairobi.
Kenyan olive leaves, Madonna and Child, Rosary made by Elizabeth Waithera
I found myself explaining today about the Indian Chief of Boulder, Colorado, who cursed the white men settling in the shadow of the great boulders, Indian sacred land, so sacred they never slept there in their shadows. The curse was that where the white men had stayed there overnight in those overpowering shadows they would always yearn to return, a blessing of a curse. I think the reverse is also true, that a blessing cannot be cursed! But we'll say it is a prayer, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul! And all that is within me bless His Holy Name!'
I'm afraid olive leaves are rather
humble, like the Magnificat! That they have been prayed over is
absolutely the truth. Suddenly I saw our not-always-too-serious
young Olivetan monk of a parish priest, in his prayer of
blessing, be absolutely single-hearted and eloquent about the
crucial need for peace. The children in my village, and it's
Communist, whom he oversees, are now busily gathering leaves for
In deep gratitude for that very beautiful and meaningful day you enabled us to have yesterday.
Is what we did at Nairobi all right? Somehow the thousand green olive leaves of healing now in people's Bibles there, when they had never seen an olive leaf before, in the midst of all that red, red roses, red ribbons, for death and blood, seems right.
I hope I am right in this, but when I was reading the Gospels so intensely, in Greek, in the convent, what comes through is that Christ, in the midst of tremendous evil, Roman imperial abuse of Israel, even and especially using its priesthood against its people, that Christ had to completely mirror to the oppressor the evil of its power, as had John before him, while stepping aside from those structures of power. I think this is why the olive leaves of healing are so powerful, - for they began for me with Gethsemane. It's a way of even including despair and doubt into Godness? And that if one shares that with others it can help heal their despair and doubt and restore Godness?
At 11.18 26/08/98 +0300, you wrote:
Dearworthiest Sister Julia, Godfriends and olive leaves,
What a lovely form of address! Would that we can all become olive leaves of healing wherever we may be... olive leaves bringing light; friends of God and friends to others; brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sorry about the long silence - we were all a bit drained by the fortnight of mourning and strong emotions. It was wonderful to be supported by your prayers and loving concern. There is still a lot of correspondence to catch up on - so please, Dearworthy Godfriends, bear with me some more... Normal work too is becoming urgent. And then, there is the new fund for the bomb victims, which needs to be properly managed and utilised. Every story listened to attentively, every person given a chance to explain. Counselling also is extremely important, given the great psychological damage that has been done to many people in the vicinity of the bomb - and those who suffered more indirectly.
There is no great tradition of counselling here, and people are reluctant to come forward and declare themselves "in need of help" when they have already survived and healed their wounds and organised funerals, or whatever else needed to be done. So, our counsellors are spending parts of the day just waiting for people to come and seek them out. Asking for financial help is easier - but even these requests are slow in coming in, perhaps because it is not easy to put any kind of figure on the horrendous damage that people have suffered, and any assistance given is bound to be very small compared to the actual loss.
We spoke to a man yesterday who is suffering in two ways : firstly, he lost his job. He was working in Ufundi Co-operative House, that building which collapsed with the people inside, most of whom died in the rubble. He was a messenger in the company for which he worked. Of all the staff of the company (some 15 people), only he and the other messenger survived. Both of them were out on errands at the time, taking messages to other parts of the city. The owner perished with his staff of the company - there is no hope that it can ever be restarted.
Secondly, he had been doing some part-time studies, for which he was sponsored by his uncle. He had recently registered for a course in aircraft maintenance at the Nairobi Polytechnic across the road, which his uncle had agreed to pay for. Same uncle was queueing to withdraw the fees at the Co-operative Bank head office, the building next to Ufundi House. The Co-operative Bank building, one of the most beautiful in Nairobi, has become a symbol of the bomb - a totally devastated shell. Strong too - many of the people who were there at the time (including the US Ambassador herself, on a meeting with a Government Minister in the nineteenth floor) survived the blow. Our man's uncle (queueing in the ground floor) did not. The fees for the course never got paid.
We have the money in the Cathedral bomb fund (growing week by week) to help him. But listening to the stories can be harrowing... And realistically, we also know that the availability of funds can be an incentive to the con people of this great urban centre, who may be challenged (or sufficiently desperate) to try their luck!
It is terrible to see other bombs exploding elsewhere - in Sudan, Afghanistan, several yesterday on Ugandan buses (killing 40 people and injuring many), last night one in South Africa - violence begets violence... and it is terrible to see bombs introduced to this region of Africa, which never had them before.
Very special thanks to Alifa, for her offer of olive leaves from Israel. This would be very meaningful to the people here. And I have seen, the olive leaf as a symbol of healing and peace is a fine gesture. It would allow us to talk with a sorrowing person, pray with the person and send them away with an olive leaf from a praying friend to give them courage.
To my distress, our office was besieged yesterday by Francophone people from Zaire-Congo, Central Africa, Rwanda, plus the odd Anglophone from the Gambia and Sudan - all refugees, some of them brand new (the Zairean had fled from there only last week, with his 13-year-old sister, who was raped on the journey...). A prayer with an olive leaf would help them and us, and would add to what little we are able to do for them financially (the Cathedral only has the equivalent of 25 pounds sterling per week for all the needy people who come to us - hundreds of people most weeks...).
There is a different type of olive tree grown in some Kenyan regions. It is bigger than the Mediterranean olive tree, and is grown mostly for its wood, which produces beautiful carvings in a gently marbled wood - not sculpture, but salad bowls, salad servers, salt dishes, pen dishes, etc. I have used a salt dish for my desk bits-and-pieces for over ten years now. I should be very happy to send Kenyan olive leaves to Godfriends whenever I get a chance to travel to those olive-growing regions again. As your priest said, Julia, the olive leaves are documents indeed, letters from our hearts.
You also mentioned to Father Nathanael: "Our most recent postulant. We're a bit worried about him as to whether typesetting is overtaking the vocation! So I sat him down, with Father Superior's permission, in my cell and showed him your icon of Julian of Norwich on the screen, etc., struggling to teach Alessandro how a computer can become like a Tibetan prayer wheel, a machine or tool for prayer." Could you teach us too? For people working with computers all the time, this is a valuable lesson!
Nairobi is still cold and grey - this year's winter has been much harder and longer than usual. But this season also has its joys - it is avocado time, my very favourite fruit! And in my little front garden, I have spent a few therapeutic half-hours at the end of some tiring days, pruning the passion fruit vines and providing them with wires to direct them along the garden wall. After two years of growth, these are the very days when I was rewarded with the first flowers - blue-and-cream, sweetly scented. An iris also took the opportunity to open, and an impatiens, recently planted, gives me a flower a day. This brought a couple of little sunbirds - the female in grey-green metallic plumage, drinking in the nectar of even the smallest flowers, the male chasing her in a splendid coat of blue-green feathers, more interested in her than the plants. I had to linger on my doorstep with the office baggage until they had taken off for the neighbours' garden!
With thanks, love and prayers to you all. You have been a joy to us as Godfriends, during this tough time. Please take our prayers and greetings to wherever you are.
I had just posted the request for prayers for you, knowing how battered and drained you yourself must be now. Your sending the letter that had been sent on to others who sent it on to others and thus it has come back to me from a Jesuit in New York and Dignity in Chicago! I have to find out how I can officially send you olive leaves. And in this post comes a cheque. Making a computer itself prayer - I surround its oliveleaf/Godfriends work in prayer, in the early hours of the morning, between the Office of Readings and Anglican Sarum Lauds and Prime, then am off to Roman Matins, Mass and Terce at San Sergio. I have by its side the beautiful Simone Martini diptych, which I painted in my convent, not having seen it, just a postcard, far too large.
Simone Martini Diptych, Museo Horne, © Giusti Beccocci, Firenze
We all had qualms about scanning and putting the Julian icon on the computer screen and Internet. Especially our pornographer on Godfriends. But the Orthodox monk who drew it in fasting and prayer for the Julian Website willingly gave his consent. It is of Julian contemplating Mary (her face taken from the Cook Tondo in the National Gallery painted by Fra Angelico), here not at the external Epiphany of kings bringing worldly wealth, but at Advent, a mother in poverty and pregnancy, contemplating her yet unborn child, with the Great O Antiphon, ' O Sapientia' , the Christ within all of us. A prayer that that Christ within each of us, our Inner Child, not be aborted or soul-killed by abuse or trauma.
I think if we return to a theology of souls and the reading of texts in lectio divina, and learn to make our texts as much 'soul' as possible, as sacred, rather than this modern world's world, flesh and devil stuff of seduction, if we can instead seduce people to God, with our computers, back to our baptismal promise, then all shall be well. I have now even put Australian Alan Oldfield's painting of Christ and Julian on my screen when I am not working on a programme. In these ways we can fill all we do with the Name and Image of God.
Alan Oldfield, Julian of Norwich's Revelations, St Gabriel's Chapel © Friends of Julian of Norwich, and Community of All Hallows, Ditchingham, Suffolk
A thousand blessings to all you meet,
wrote not only of the bomb in Nairobi, Kenya, but of that in
her own country's Omagh, in Ireland. By chance I was to be in
Ireland that month, so we set about picking now an enormous
bag of olive leaves to take on the plane there, hoping it
could be used by all, Catholic and Protestant to give to each
other in reconciliation.
Dearworthy Godfriend Declan Smith,
Isabelle, who is now, I think, very tired, speaks so warmly of you. I began to realize some of the Irish tension when a family dropped by the other day, Protestant Irish settled in Florence, and to understand what Isabelle and you were saying about olive leaves as 'blessed' being not the right word amongst Protestants. What set him off was 'Madonna'. She's not in the Bible, he proclaimed. I fear I got out my Bibles, a Bible in Hebrew, a Bible in Greek, Strong's Concordance, and we went at it hammer and tongs, I replying with Hannah's Song in the Temple, Mary's Magnificat, Cana's Wedding Feast, all the accounts of the Upper Room, Passover and especially Pentecost, Samuel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts. But meanwhile the children, brother and sister, were blissfully drawing the story I told them of the Irish brother and sister who came here Christianizing this part of Tuscany, their names, Andrew and Bridget . Both their drawings have them, Bibles in hand, preaching away!
The younger Irish brother's drawing of Irish St Bridget and St Andrew preaching from their Bibles in Tuscany. Italy
The older Irish sister's drawing of Irish St Andrew and St Bridget preaching from their Bibles in Tuscany, Italy
For where St Andrew had built his
hermitage a thousand years ago, Mary appeared five hundred years
later to two little shepherd girls, telling them to tell the
Florentines to study their Bibles, and when the children weren't
believed, Mary appeared to the grownups telling them to believe
the children! But she couldn't have, their father sputtered, she
was dead, mouldering in the ground! Likewise Moses and Elijah at
the Transfiguration? I should have just kept quiet! We were both
being Pharisees! But when I go walking through our Tuscan
countryside, now beginning to be under the stars again, to Mass
and am singing St Patrick's Breastplate, which is so like the
Jewish Binding Prayer, the Shema,
I realize it is not the first time Irish prayers and songs have
been heard here! Each day, returning to my hermit cell, I am
picking olive branches for you. And ripening figs for myself,
green ones from one tree, purple ones from another, delicious.
It is splendid living amidst an agriculture straight out of the
Bible's pages. Others are also picking leaves for us. Such as
the Communist children in my village. And the nuns and priests
of the Comunita`. I should explain I was Anglican, and as such
was allowed by the Cardinal of Florence to receive Communion
from Catholics, and eventually because of their courtesy and
kindness asked to be Catholic, at which they all said for me to
be both! And I've also not stopped being Quaker!
Julian, in the best manuscripts witnessing to her actual vocabulary, does not use the word tormented, abused, so much as 'noughted'. Christ is 'noughted' before and by the Crucifixion. The opposite of that word, for Julian, in her vocabulary, is to be 'oned' to God. Christ's agony amongst olive trees in the garden and on the cross is the sense of being 'noughted', by the sleeping, betraying, denying, fleeing Disciples, by his Father's silence, by meaninglessness, instead of that glorious affirming 'oneing' speech at the Baptism, the Transfiguration. Yet he places his spirit trustingly into those hands which created him as in the prayer his mother taught him when he was a child. Perhaps if we see the 'noughting' of souls, minds, bodies, done through acts of war, terrorism, abuse, cancelling out the affirming oneing of souls to parents and God, we can come to understand and then heal damage that is done in these instances? Perhaps that means going through the 'noughting' of Christ, with leaves from Gethsemani, whose olive trees' roots are carbon dated to two thousand years ago, placed into hands trustingly? By 'oneing' with 'noughting' to cross it out? By reaching out with that 'oneing', in the face of 'noughting' and Viktor Frankl's meaninglessness, to friend, neighbour, and, perhaps, especially to foe and enemy.
I have an enormous bag of olive leaves
now for Dublin! All the children in Montebeni and all the monks
and nuns, as children of God, picking them, as well as myself! A
Declan gave me this e-mail in Dublin
Airport and I gave him a huge bagful of leaves, that had been
smelling like attar of roses in the plane and having the
opposite effect on me than healing! I always did get ill around
hop season! He also gave me two Celtic crosses, one which will
be for San Sergio, the other for our village church whose
children picked so many leaves. The latter mainly Communist,
though they were blessed by our don Camillo, who is the Olivetan
monk, don Patrizio! I've brought home water from St Bridget's
Well in Kilcullen. A thousand blessings,
At 14.38 02/09/98 +0300, you wrote:
Dearworthiest Sister Julia,
Welcome to Ireland! Thank you for bearing your gift of olive leaves - may they bring peace and healing to Ireland just as they have done to many in Kenya. I am glad you will be meeting Declan and hope you will get a bit of time together.
Yesterday brought us an envelope with an Italian stamp - the letter had to be from you! Thank you so much for writing to us. And when I opened it - out came your note, your olive leaves and your cheque. It was a wonderful occasion. The first olive leaf went immediately to our organist, Olive, who had prayed for the other parcel when it arrived. She was very touched. And I cannot say how touched we all were about your cheque. You are so good to send us something to help people here - it is very precious to us.
I am not sure how long you will be staying in Ireland. May it be a good stay. May your meetings will be blessed, and a blessing to others. Let me give you this prayer, which my Kenyan colleagues Louise and Kathleen brought last year, when we travelled round Ireland together and visited many of our link churches :
Lord, bless us to be a blessing, fill us to be fountains, use us to be vessels, pour us into the lives of others. Heal us to be a healing, forgive us to forgive. Prosper us to prosper others. Thank you, Lord, for teaching us the joy of generosity, so that we might give to others all that you have given us. Amen.
With love in Christ, Isabelle.
Dearworthy Godfriends Declan and Isabelle,
I have given one Celtic peat cross already to the Comunita` dei figli di Dio whose monks and nuns picked olive leaves for you. Tomorrow I give the other cross to the Olivetan monk/parish priest and to all the children in this village who picked olive leaves for you, likely to be kept in our church here. For this region was Christianized a thousand years ago by Irish pilgrim/hermits. I forgot to explain that two Irish Protestant children now living here did the two drawings I put in the bag, which are of the brother and a sister, Saints Andrew and Brigida, who came and evangelized here! But it could help if I could tell all these people how you shared the leaves in Ireland. This is so much about sharing, like the Chinese word for peace, ho-ping, meaning food for all. The three Catholic nuns in their eighties and sixties had a splendid week together in Ireland, which we called the Julian Summit , and one has now gone home to America, the other to Italy, both with bottles of St Bridget's Well water from Kilcullen, leaving the third in her peaceful Kildare convent! Odd how the simplest things are the most healing. Blessings and Thankings for the meeting at Dublin Airport.
Dearworthiest Isabelle and Godfriends,
Isabelle's letter has moved me to tears. I've sent a cheque for a 100 pounds but have no more in the coffers to send. I am so touched by the story of Julia below. Please, Isabelle, give her my love!
Another Godfriend has sent important books, Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer, Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence- From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, Lenore Terr, Too Scared to Cry: How Trauma Affects Children and Ultimately Us All. These books are now reviewed on the Oliveleaf Website. In line with Anna Freud's work with children in the London bombing (bombing which I experienced as a small child) they seem to be giving clues how to heal in the aftermath of soul, mind, and body wounding/damaging. My friend Leslie Silko, also talked to me about the ways her people tell stories for consolation and healing. We need to pray, too, for Isabelle's own healing from these multiple trauma, in Kenya and Ireland. The other problem is my needing to leave this one room hermitage, at least for a while. I shall be further up into the mountains, in a room at the Santuario della Madonna del Sasso, that began as an Irish pilgrim's hermitage. But there I may lack telephone access. Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience teach one how to do the most with the least, like the simplicity of olive leaves of healing, baptismal water, eucharistic bread and wine. Godfriends may need to go into a silent retreat. If it does, listen to God, the word obedience meaning ob+audire, listening in that silence, then share in the babble after a retreat is over, what the Spirit has wrought amongst us so joyously, so gloriously. The children in my Communist village have been telling me how beautiful Declan Smith's Celtic Cross is, shown them by our Olivetan monk/parish priest.
But strangely we need not your gifts
but your giving of our gifts of humble olive leaves to all to
give to each other, friend and foe, in Ireland that this
bloodshed may cease.
At 11.51 19/09/98 +0300, you wrote:
Dearworthiest Sister Julia and Godfriends,
Silence on the electronic networks may not be golden - it may merely be hiding the cacophony going on outside your hearing! There are times when I think, we could not possibly be any busier than we already are - but time and again I have been proved wrong... You have all been wonderfully supportive, and this latest upswing in our efforts and energy could not have been possible without your encouragement, your prayers and your olive leaves for healing.
The story of the olive leaves (the Bible verses, the carbon dating of the Gethsemane roots, the gathering of the leaves by your community, the Sicilian visitors, the children of the Communist village, and the prayers and blessings by so many people) has moved those who receive them and has made out of humble leaves a precious gift, which has made people joyful and given great value to the leaves. I am sure they will stay in people's Bibles, probably at one of the two verses you gave them with, for many years, as a memorial of these terrible times and the friendship which we received from you to overcome the injuries in body, mind and spirit.
Here in Nairobi, we are still appreciating the second envelope of leaves, which you sent by post. For the past five weeks, the Cathedral members have been collecting funds for the bomb survivors and have so far raised KShs. 210,805, i.e. about Stg. 2,270. Gifts from abroad are also coming in and may eventually match the Cathedral members' contributions.
We have formed a Disaster Committee, which meets every Thursday at noon and takes decisions on applications submitted. Our own Urban Development Team meets the applicants in advance on Tuesday afternoons, so that we may hear their stories, brief the Disaster Committee members, and ask applicants to bring to the interviews whatever supporting documentation may be necessary.
Applicants are coming forward quite slowly. We are therefore able to give them the time they need. There are so many different stories... just some of them, I shall tell you below...
There is Isaac, the promising young man, the computer expert, who worked as computer manager in several big-name companies and went to the US for a postgraduate degree. In January this year, he set up his own computer consultancy company, based in the fated Ufundi Co-operative Building. In June, he was injured in a terrible car accident and kept in hospital for several weeks. One week before the explosion, he resumed work. Many appointments had waited for his return - clients preferred to deal with the boss. One such client was discussing with him at the time of the explosion. Seated closer to the window, he was killed outright. Isaac was severely injured and did not regain consciousness until he awoke in the best hospital of the city, having already undergone an operation, and blind in both eyes... Some days after the operation, he regained the sight of one eye, but cannot see all that well. His head has been injured, and he is taking strong medication while awaiting his next operation. His business has gone, together with the rubble of Ufundi House. His wife had lost her own export business in an unrelated event just a few months earlier. She was the one who had, months before the bomb, brought us those very banana fibre baskets, in which your olive leaves were distributed on the Mount...
Or take another applicant, Beatrice. A Rwandese woman, young still, but aged by life. Mother of eight children - four her own, the other four adopted from various brothers and sisters (her own and her husband's) who died in the Rwanda genocide. The whole family have been allowed to stay in Kenya - their UNHCR status is the safest that I have ever seen. Her husband had started a small business baking mandazi (a kind of doughnut) which he sold to supermarkets in the city centre. He was sitting in one of the two ill fated buses that suffered the full impact of the blast as they turned the roundabout in front of the US Embassy. She now needs school fees for five of the children, and she needs some start-up help to resume her husband's baking business. The Cathedral cannot provide her with all her needs, but she really touched the hearts of the Committee members, and we shall give her the basic school fees, as well as a contribution towards her resuming business.
Another applicant, Sarah, a trained computer secretary, was a young and happy housewife and mother of two small children, while her husband earned their income as a manager in Ufundi Co-operative. He was killed by the bomb... Sarah now has no income. Her home belongs to her father-in-law, who has turned against her - so she needs to find another home, and the money with which to pay the rent, the deposit and the removal of her furniture. She needs to find a childminder, so that she can go out and look for work. The day we saw her, she was on her way to a job interview.
And there is Grace. Grace has not been affected at all by the bomb. But every Sunday, she teaches the children at her local church, and shares this work with another young woman, Julia (so)! Julia was terribly injured in the blast, and we have not yet even seen her. Grace is being a good neighbour - applying to the Cathedral for help, making sure that she gets food and care, that she starts to receive counselling, that she informs her employers of her inability to resume work just yet.
All these applicants have been given olive leaves. We have prayed with them, and we have tried to advise them, as well as helping them to claim assistance from the fund. When we gave a leaf, and your stories, to Grace, she danced round our office in joy. She loved the love and the symbolism expressed in the leaf! And she came back a week later to tell us that Julia (who knows your name, Julia!) had received her leaf with joy too - and that, having received it, she got out of bed for the first time and managed to escort Grace to the house door...
So, receive these stories with our thanks and prayers. You have been so good to us. Your leaves have given strength to us too - strength to find extra time and to work with the people who need us right now.
A separate, but concurrent happening, is a new influx of refugees to our office - from Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, Congo-Brazzaville, Sudan, Somalia... we do not have money to help them (except, now and again, by the grace of a friend who might send us a cheque), and their problems can be just as severe as those of the bomb blast survivors. Word has got around that I speak French...
It is a real problem, since only rarely can we help - but every time we do help, more people come... and our "proper" work load is already huge, so that we do not really have the time... it is a terrible dilemma, since we do not want to be harsh with them, and we know that sometimes, we can find solutions... but meanwhile, the stress is huge and the demands on our time almost impossible.
We should appreciate your prayers for this dilemma.
Wishing you God's peace and healing, wherever you might be - and may you too be enabled to spread God's love, through olive leaves or in other ways that bring comfort, encouragement and support.
Isabelle Prondzynski, All Saints'
Cathedral, P.O. Box 40539, Nairobi, Kenya
At 13.45 28/09/98 +0300, Isabelle wrote:
Dearworthy Sister Julia, Melissa and all Godfriends,
I wonder, Julia, where you might be at present, and what you might be doing. You are so much at the centre of this group of Godfriends that the news of your mountain retreat has driven us to silence...
I cannot but echo Jeannette, when she says that your ministry to Godfriends and others through the Internet continues that of the early monks and nuns, who minister to us even now, through their dedication to the best and finest in quality and materials. You have given the Internet voice to speak to us of angel song, of heavenly choirs, of marbled paper, of icons and illustrations, of Julian and contemplation, of early morning bird-filled walks and of the garden of Gethsemani, of peace and healing. You have added salt and light to our lives. We should be poorer Godfriends without you.
But if you are retreating up the mountain, we wish you peace and joy and a rest from the babble of the internet voices. We wish you a clearer vision of God and a letting-go of your lovely cell for the time of your absence.
Melissa enquired about the rosary tree from Mexico. We have a tree here, called Mubagi in Kukuyu, or Caesalpinia Pulcherrima in Latin. This tree produces brown seeds widely used for lovely necklaces and, to my mind, very suitable for rosaries. Please let me know whether you found the seeds you were looking for, or whether you would perhaps like us to send some of these.
Today's "Irish Emigrant" wrote about the Omagh bomb as follows :
Sister Julia - the main reason I wanted to write today, is to let you know that we have finally met with your sister Julia - or Juliana, as her friends call her! She managed to come to the Cathedral and spoke to the Disaster Fund Committee. Her leg is still very painful, and not fully healed. Her head wounds are sore, and her scars require further plastic surgery. She gets dizzy when she walks - but she insisted she had to take the bus on her own, so as not to grow dependant on others' help. A young person, initially quiet, and visibly hurt. Faced with a whole panel of decision-makers. She answered softly, the pain showing in her face. Told us the events of that day, which had caused her such severe injuries. And then, she relaxed - joy shone out of her eyes - she realised she was alive, and that all of us were only there to help her. Within a minute or two, she had made us laugh with her. Through the tears that had gathered in our eyes as we heard her straightforward tale.
An extraordinary person of faith and strength and courage. Her frail and battered body tells the story of God's love and power, and her eyes shone when she talked about her olive leaf. She sends her fondest greetings to you, Julia, and all Godfriends. We felt we had been blessed by her presence among us. God truly speaks powerfully through the suffering and the powerless!
With greetings to all of you Godfriends,
I have dismantled the computer from the telephone in the entrance hall in the men's monastery and returned it to my cell. I was finding the babble of the monks, their telephone calls, and so forth, too much to take! They were on the phone non-stop, when it wasn't the Offices which we all attend! Did it ever dawn on monks that so many of them might be distracting to one hermit nun! So this will be e-mailed in a week's time, when I return to my one room, my tenure to it always precarious, in a chaotic, but quieter, bachelor's house! For the 'camerlengo' (chamberlain) of the sanctuary has decreed that 'No, the room we were considering could not become a library as it is needed for lunching pilgrims'.
How moved I was by the story of Julia/Juliana! She really has become my alter ego, as if I gave olive leaves of healing to myself, to my own soul! Here I am always called 'Giuliana', for that is how Italians translate the name of Julian of Norwich, who also seems to have become an alter ego. I found myself at Mass, when the sentence was read about God calling us by our name, realizing He was calling both of us at once, the tears rolling down my cheeks this morning!
On Ireland it is so important there be ceremonies of healing, of caring. I remembered I treasured for years a letter sent from King George VI to each English school child, thanking us for our bravery during the bombing. I lost much of my hearing at six, my brother then 4, in a V2 rocket explosion above our house and somehow that letter made things better, more bearable. That was why if the olive leaves could have been used so in Ireland it could have been good, an acknowledgement by authorities, communal leaders, for ordinary people, innocent bystanders, that there had been suffering and loss. When a mother leaves a hospital when her baby has died or been born dead it is important to put a bunch of flowers in her arms, so that she is carrying something away, a caring, a recognition of loss and pain. Not money, but a symbol of what is lost and of a communal desire that the loss be healed. And it needs to be done very soon after the trauma.
Jeannette Schiff has sent some important books which we review on the Oliveleaf Website, on trauma and recovery, where abuse to children, rape of women, spiritual abuse, political terror, shell shock to combatants in war, victims of natural disaster, death-threatening accidents, are observed to bring about damage to individuals' psyches, a word which means 'soul', PTSD, Post-Trauma Stress Disorder, actually changing the brain's chemistry, with effects ranging from disassociative numbing, to depression, through bipolarity, to multiple personality disorder, or suicide. Understanding how to help bring about soul healing, and how to prevent trauma to souls to begin with, is part of Godfriends' reason for being. On my news service came the following:
Bless you, Isabelle, for what you do!
Dear Revd Declan Smith,
It's Julia again, of the prayed over olive leaves. It was God, I believe who put us all together, even if it was also the devil's work of bombs. You see, a group of us came together who had experienced firsthand and devastatingly the trauma of clergy abuse and are dedicated to working with fellow trauma survivors, and have linked up with professionals in psychiatry and social work and law, and are coming to see the symptoms as being the same, whether from bombs, incest, child abuse, clergy abuse, shell shock, etc. For treatment timing is of the essence. I have shared with Godfriends the tragic international news story on Omagh, now into the depression and denial stage, which Isabelle so excellently helped counteract in Nairobi. I'll also post that one on to you. There are different factors however in Kenya and Ireland, Kenya not having experienced repeated bombing. The aetiology of repeated abuse is more severe than is the once only trauma, though that is enough to deeply damage a soul. And following that, an account put together by a member of 'oliveleaf', the discussion list on trauma, because I think it may help you in your ecumenical work in Ireland to heal these trauma. God's servants are good Samaritans binding of the wounds of travelers beaten, robbed and left for dead, with wine and oil and a donkey ride and lodging for the night. I got the donkey ride from you, the lodging at the inn in St Bridget's Kilcullen's Cross and Passion Convent, and am forever grateful to both Anglican and Catholic hospitality in Ireland!
A Thousand Blessings,
Date: Sat, 17 Oct 1998 06:24:48
OMAGH, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Relentless rain drowned the bomb-scarred town of Omagh as it learned Friday that John Hume and David Trimble had won the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace to Northern Ireland. Grieving, media-weary townsfolk were not in the mood to talk, still stunned by a car bomb that tore Saturday shoppers limb from limb on Market Street on Aug. 15, nearly four months after the peace deal was signed. Hopes have been expressed that Omagh might be the last atrocity in three decades of violence that have cost the lives of 3,600 people in the British province.
Italians, where there is a death, send
telegrammes saying, in Italian, 'We are neighbouring you, close
to you, in your grief'. Can we Godfriends send prayers of
'neighbouring' for these tragic people in their grieving in the
hopes that joy may return?
Dear Jeannette, Godfriends and Oliveleaf,
Actually my meeting with the bishop is on Monday, around 9:30 a.m. Italian time and I would much appreciate your prayers for it. I am sharing Jeanette's excellent material below on trauma with a wider circle than just oliveleaf and Godfriends because it relates to issues such as the bombings in Nairobi and Omagh. Prayers also for Isabelle Prondzynski and Declan Smith working on these issues. It is crucial that the churches study the effects of trauma for they are in a leading position to heal individuals, groups and nations from these effects. Trauma may arise from bombing, natural disaster, rape, incest, clergy abuse, shell shock, etc. We are back to Viktor Frankl's The Doctor and the Soul , about meaning in life being crucial for happiness, far more than sex or power. And to Victor Turner's The Ritual Process: Structure and Antistructure , of true ritual bringing about 'oneing' to God across all boundaries and frontiers and race and class and gender.
Alan Oldfield, detail, 'Julian's
Revelation' in St Gabriel's Chapel, All Hallows, Ditchingham,
I have captured and copied the basic information from the trauma web site and placed it below. The URL is at the bottom of the post. It does a good job of summarizing what is known. There are many links from this page to others but that can't be perceived in this copied version.
How was your meeting with the bishop? Any propects of securing a place of study and prayer?
You are very much in my prayers.
Traumatic experiences shake the foundations of our beliefs about safety, and shatter our assumptions of trust. Because they are so far outside what we would expect, these events provoke reactions that feel strange and "crazy". Perhaps the most helpful thing I can say here is that even though these reactions are unusual and disturbing, they are typical and expectable. By and large, these are normal responses to abnormal events. This page briefly summarizes some of what we know about traumatic symptoms and responses, and includes links describing PTSD symptoms and coping strategies. There are also other links to more research-oriented issues, such as measuring treatment efficacy, etc. The next page provides additional links to more detailed references and resources helpful in understanding trauma responses and treatment.
Trauma Symptoms. Illustration: The Field Glass (1963) by Rene Magritte
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most common diagnostic category used to describe symptoms arising from emotionally traumatic experience(s). This disorder presumes that the person experienced a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death or injury to themselves or others -- and where they felt fear, helplessness or horror. Three additional symptom clusters, if they persist for more than a month after the traumatic event and cause clinically significant distress or impairment, make up the diagnostic criteria.
The three main symptom clusters in PTSD are: Intrusions, such as flashbacks or nightmares, where the traumatic event is re-experienced. Avoidance, when the person tries to reduce exposure to people or things that might bring on their intrusive symptoms. And Hyperarousal, meaning physiologic signs of increased arousal, such as hyper vigilance or increased startle response. The actual symptoms used in the United States are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV; 1994); they are summarized here. An alternative classification system, the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases, or ICD-10, uses a similar but somewhat different symptom summary.
Trauma symptoms are probably adaptive, and originally evolved to help us recognize and avoid other dangerous situations quickly -- before it was too late. Sometimes these symptoms resolve within a few days or weeks of a disturbing experience: Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. It is when many symptoms persist for weeks or months, or when they are extreme, that professional help may be indicated. On the other hand, if symptoms persist for several months without treatment, then avoidance can become the best available method to cope with the trauma -- and this strategy interferes with seeking professional help. Postponing needed intervention for a year or more could make the work much more difficult.
While PTSD is the "prototypical" traumatic disorder, some people -- or some stressors -- present variations on this theme. Depression, Anxiety, and Dissociation are three other disorders that may sometimes arise after traumatic experiences, but Somatoform disorders are also seen in some populations. The differences may result from how the particular individual deals with or expresses their stress, and probably depend some on the individual's subjective interpretation of the stress as well. Individual differences affect both the severity and the type of symptoms experienced. For example, almost everyone dissociates to some degree. Dissociation is also a fairly normal coping strategy in the face of overwhelming stress; but at the extreme of this continuum, Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID (formerly called MPD), is a condition requiring specialized treatment. PTSD is officially classed as an anxiety disorder, but some have argued that it fits more closely with the dissociative disorders, and others feel it belongs by itself. There has also been discussion over differential diagnoses for simple vs. chronic traumatic histories (such as Complex PTSD, or the proposed DESNOS diagnosis: for Disorders of Extreme Stress, not otherwise specified). Classification issues such as these will probably be revived again during field trials for the DSM-V.
We create meaning out of the context in which events occur. Consequently, there is always a strong subjective component in people's responses to traumatic events. This can be seen most clearly in disasters, where a broad cross-section of the population is exposed to objectively the same traumatic experience. Some of the individual differences in susceptibility to PTSD following trauma may stem from prior history and its effect on this subjectivity.
In the "purest" sense, trauma involves exposure to a life-threatening experience. This fits with its phylogenetically old roots in life-or-death issues of survival, and with old brain, (e.g., limbic system) involvement in responses to stress and fear. Yet, many individuals exposed to violations by people or institutions they must depend on or trust also show PTSD-like symptoms -- even if their abuse was not directly life-threatening. Although the mechanisms of this connection to traumatic symptoms are not well understood, it appears that betrayal by someone on whom you depend for survival (as a child on a parent) may produce consequences similar to those from more obviously life-threatening traumas. Examples include some physically or sexually abused children as well as Vietnam veterans. Experience of betrayal trauma may increase the likelihood of psychogenic amnesia, as compared to fear-based trauma. Forgetting may help maintain necessary attachments (e.g., during childhood), improving chances for survival; if so, this has far-reaching theoretical implications for psychological research. Of course, some traumas include elements of betrayal and fear.
As you might expect, multiple or chronic trauma experiences are likely to be more difficult to overcome than most single instances. In other words, risk for PTSD increases with exposure to trauma. Epidemiological estimates suggest that the incidence and lifetime prevalence rates of PTSD in the general population are around 1% and 9%, respectively. But these levels increase markedly for young adults living in inner cities (23%), and for wounded combat veterans (20%). There is also evidence that early traumatic experiences (e.g., during childhood), especially if these are prolonged or repeated, may increase the risk of developing PTSD after traumatic exposure as an adult. Animal studies (see particularly work by Robert Sapolsky and by Joseph LeDoux) suggest the possibility of permanent physical damage to the hippocampus and changes in the amygdala when severe or chronic trauma (and its symptoms) persists; unfortunately, there is no easy way to compare the relative types or degree of trauma across species. There's no clear evidence that susceptibility to PTSD varies for members of different ethnic or minority groups (given a traumatic experience). But individual differences almost certainly play some role. For example, more introverted or shy individuals may have stronger emotional reactions to upsetting events, and young children will have less ability to predict and avoid, or make sense of, such experiences. Children, especially young ones, are apt to see things quite differently than adults; it can be very easy for a stressed-out parent to overlook or fail to recognize a child's fears about such events. If you take time to listen receptively, they'll probably tell you. Bruce Perry has given permission to make two excellent and informative booklets available here; they list clear guidelines written for adults who must work or live with children traumatized by death and summarize the child's experience of grief from a death or other loss. There are also links to other sites specifically concerned with childhood trauma, on Page 6-1.
Several different resources give concise information about characteristic symptoms of PTSD. For example, Matthew J. Friedman has written a clear chronological overview of PTSD diagnostic criteria. The American Psychological Association has a brief summary of typical PTSD symptoms, and also a short press release summarizing some coping tips for people who have either experienced a disaster or been traumatized. A fact-sheet on traumatic responses, written by Patti Levin PsyD, also provides very good general information about symptoms and some helpful things you can do about them. Finally, Lisa Beall has written an extensive bibliographic essay on PTSD, summarizing much literature on this disorder and some of the controversy surrounding it.
One additional aspect of traumatic exposure affects primarily the workers who help trauma and disaster victims. These people include psychologists and other mental health professionals, but also the emergency workers -- EMTs, physicians, fire, police, search & rescue, etc. -- exposed to an overdose of victim suffering. These professions are at-risk for secondary traumatization. Known by various names -- compassion fatigue, secondary or vicarious traumatization, and "burn out", the symptoms here are usually less severe than PTSD-like symptoms experienced by direct victims in a disaster. But they can affect the livelihoods and careers of those with considerable training and experience working with disaster and trauma survivors. Expect this, if you work with or are exposed to the stories of many disaster/trauma victims, and take steps to protect yourself at the first sign of trouble. Basically, there are three risk factors for secondary traumatization: exposure to the stories (or images) of multiple disaster victims, your empathic sensitivity to their suffering, and any unresolved emotional issues that relate (affectively or symbolically) to the suffering seen. Aside from using whatever stress management, stress reduction, or relaxation measures work best for you, there's little an emergency or disaster worker can do about the first two risk factors, but it does help reduce the risk for vicarious traumatization if you know your own personal vulnerabilities and unresolved upsetting issues. Those are the cases best referred to your colleagues, when possible. Beth Stamm has created a wonderful website particularly on Secondary Traumatization that discusses these issues in much greater detail. For many in the at-risk professions, participation in well-run CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) groups may also help resolve upsetting experiences during the course of emergency work, but brief individual sessions may be needed for 10 - 20% of those suffering the most severe exposures. (There are now several links to articles and references about CISD on Page 4.)
The traumatic-stress mailing list, run by Charles Figley PhD since April 1994, has created an international forum for discussion of diverse issues related to emotional trauma. Discussion on this list has been very helpful for me in building a better understanding of trauma response and healing. So far, my posts to this list have concentrated on these topics: a summary of structural equation modeling (SEM) research regarding PTSD, general difficulties and issues in outcome research with trauma populations, problems specific to non-self-report data (such as biological measures) in assessing treatment efficacy for PTSD, empirical evidence supporting my assertion (above) that early traumatic experiences can have long-term consequences, my response to a post asserting "no cure for PTSD", an account of practical considerations affecting informed consent in mental health disaster work, and a summary of list members' recommendations concerning "self-help" books and workbooks for use with trauma clients.
It was difficult to summarize what we know of trauma responses, as above, without feeling superficial and overly simplistic. To counter that, here are two separate links to reference lists I've collected on this subject; both sets of readings concentrate on research and theory, rather than on clinical issues. The easy list is shorter and fairly accessible, with lots of Scientific American-level articles concerning emotional trauma. For those who want more detailed readings, the longer list contains additional work in this field; I found these articles very important in building my understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved in emotional trauma. You may be able to use your browser to search for specific names or words in these lists; it looks like it will be a while before I figure out how to add form-searchable support. On the next page, you'll find more information about resources in the trauma field, including the traumatic-stress mailing list, searchable online databases, and some full-length articles.
Copyright © 1995-1998 David V. Baldwin,
PhD, Eugene, Oregon USA (541) 686 2598, http://www.trauma-pages.com
In the material on trauma, it is said that the part of the brain that responds and is affected, is the most primitive part, the limbic region. Our human brains have developed in tandem with our hands, in Hebraism God creating us with His hands. This limbic part of the brain, dealing with terror, may well have to do with man as hunter and with 'nature as red in tooth and claw', the fear of imminent death if one is in error. ['This fits with its phylogenetically old roots in life-or-death issues of survival, and with old brain, (e.g., limbic system) involvement in responses to stress and fear.'] But women have traditionally been gatherers and then gardeners, using hand and brain together, not with weapons, but with baskets and with tools. Perhaps it is that part of the brain that responds when an olive leaf is placed in a palm of a hand?
In the Bible who is it who bring provisions in their hands or in baskets? The priest king of Canaan, Melchisadek, brings bread and wine to Abraham. Mary tells the household to obey her son in filling great pottery containers for purification with water - which become wine. A little boy brings, in the New Testament, not David's five smooth pebbles which deliver death to one giant, but five round loaves of bread and two fishes which feed five thousand men, and all those in their families besides, the old, the young, the women and the children who don't count. A hated Samaritan uses oil and wine to bind the wounds of a traveller, and also gives coins to the innkeeper. Women support Jesus and his Disciples out of their sustenance. A fallen woman anoints Christ the 'Christ'. The widows, owning Upper Rooms, provide the feasts held there, at Passover and at Pentecost. Who is generous? The Disciples? Or outsiders and children and women.
The oliveleaf ministry seems to be a children and women's ministry, though we bring the leaves to priests for their blessings. Hunting culture is about territorial imperative and hierarchy. Gathering culture is cooperative, inclusive.
Let me place an olive leaf in the palm of your hand.
Myra Luxmore, 1912
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 11:50:02
Dearworthy Godfriends, Oliveleaf,
I haven't heard yet in the Catholic liturgy the use of a lovely saying used seasonally in the new Anglican one, about bringing out old and new treasures. But that is what today has felt like. First Leonid sending us the Canticle of St Sergius in Cyrillic from Moscow via Internet. Then waiting in the Bishop's salone with the parish priest of Santa Brigida, who also has the Santuario della Madonna del Sasso in his parish, and with an Albanian Franciscan, imprisoned for forty years, on the firing line awaiting execution (like Dosteivsky), speaking of his scattered flock, all over Italy, all over Melbourne, Australia, fleeing in every way they can from bitter memories of cruel trauma in Albania. It was a long but joyous wait. A beautiful book on Russian icons to look at - and pray with. I especially love the one of St Anne with the Madonna perched on her knee who holds what seems to be a carnation. Talking of Irish pilgrimages with the parish priest of Santa Brigida, talking of 'oliveleaf' with the Albanian priest - who was forever quoting Augustine. One quotation I must find, that he who saves another's soul saves his own, a good Alcoholics Anonymous principle.
Sant'Andrea and Santa Brigida in Tuscany
Interesting, and sad, that great art can come of trauma, Dosteivsky's epilepsy and novels, especially 'The Grand Inquisitor', Mozart's Don Juan, Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, the Irish Abbey Theatre, the compulsion to tell and retell the trauma, the soul-loss. Yet to flee the places where the trauma occurred, from Albania to Australia, from Italy to America, not wanting the memories to come unbidden from without, though it may be healing to bring them up from within. Being in control of loss of control. What Coleridge was talking about in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the obsessive story-telling of the Wedding Guest. Perhaps at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb there shall be the telling of countless stories of trauma, to which especially those most guilty listen, like Dante's Inferno, until finally a Thousand and One Nights Later, there can be healing silence for all. Leslie Silko talks of the healing of the telling of tales in her book, The Storyteller. Julian says all who have God's word in them shall be saved, and that all are created by that word, God despising nothing that he has made.
And all this patient and joyous waiting and learning and listening and telling in a most beautiful room. The Cardinal's in Florence is austere, the Bishop's in Fiesole is a delight, all what Italians call 'chiaroscuro' and we call 'trompe d'oeil', three-dimensional marble and gilded sculpted arches and columns and friezes, a nightmare to dust, but which are really flat walls and therefore not needing dusting at all! There must have been an extravagant/penurious bishop in the seventeenth or eighteenth century! Which is rather unusual in Tuscany.
And the Bishop is kind and sad and good. And there is hope. I explained this time I was alone because don Bernardo comes back from Benin in Africa today and therefore could not accompany me and that I'm to go with his brother don Benedetto to Australia in February. The last time in that riot of a room we had met with a group of Sri Lankan and Indian seminarians training in Fiesole. It's one of the networking places throughout the whole globe, and quietly of goodness. I told the Bishop about the Canticle of St Sergius arriving the evening before from Moscow by way of the Internet. And about Kenya and Ireland and olive leaves. And parted with his Blessing, to walk home to Montebeni, to my one book-crowded room, a most beautiful hour long walk above a Florence lost in Autumn mist. We are all so blessed. Even, and perhaps especially, where trauma are being healed through placing God in the first place in our lives. The shy Franciscan Albanian with the terrible story to tell truly lives theology.
At 11.34 30/10/98 PST, Catharina in Sweden wrote:
Dear Sister Julia and Godfriends,
This is a dreadful morning in my city Göteborg in Sweden. 60 young people aged 15-18 have burned to death at a Halloween disco last night. At least another 120 are in hospitals and the number of deaths is expected to go up. There seems to have been a lot of immigrant kids as well as Swedish, the party organizer is a Macedonian society. We still don“t know if the fire was arranged, but a lot indicates that it was. All parents involved still this morning don“t know if their children are dead or alive. It“s just horrible, my heart goes out to all of them, but I feel paralyzed and can“t pray, the images keep spinning through my head. Will you help in prayers for the families effected?
Blessings and thanks for being out there,
Catharina in Sweden
Dearworthiest Catharina in Sweden,
It's posted to Godfriends, with the corrections, and I'll send you olive leaves. My prayers and those of Godfriends are with you and all these people. Have just telephoned Lee Beccocci who will now take care of the order for the Florentine postcards for Christmas cards tomorrow morning and so I can post the cards and the olive leaves together, Air Mail, Monday. Wish I could afford to send them DHL, but I can't. Let us pray they arrive promptly. If Isabelle is still in Nairobi perhaps she could tell you of her experience with olive leaves following the bomb, for you joined us after that. Remember you yourself are going through a shock, rest, talk to others, pray, but knowing that your helping to do something of healing in it all will also help your own self. Suggest that the olive leaves be given out in an ecumenical service in the cathedral the sooner the better, before the numbing and denial sets in . . . Explain that they are for the healing of the nations, from Ezekiel 47.13, Revelations 22.1. That they are about peace and healing, in all ways, spiritual, mental, physical. Especially where there is deadly racial hatred. I will have them blessed by our Olivetan monk/parish priest on Sunday at Mass. But in a blessing that transcends all sects. In a sense they come from the Mediterranean world which includes Macedonia, are of its agriculture and, rather than of its folly, its wisdom. I am so sorry this has happened. And bless you,
This is how it has just come over on the Internet:
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (Reuters) - At least 60 young people died when a fire broke out at an immigrant cultural center in the western Swedish city of Gothenburg, police said Friday. Police could not say if it was a racial attack, but said several hundred youths between 13 and 20, both Swedes and immigrants, were at a Halloween dance at the Macedonian cultural center when the fire started shortly before midnight. The cause of the fire was unknown, but officials were not ruling out arson. Many youths panicked, breaking windows and jumping from the roof of building when they could not escape through the second-floor disco's only exit. Officials said there was another exit but did not know why it was blocked.
At 12.11 31/10/98 PST, you wrote:
Thank you for sharing your concern and prayers for the victims of the horrible fire tragedy in Göteborg. Forgive me for not responding to each of you who have mailed me privately. Know that it is greatly appreciated.
I don“t know how much information reach your different parts of the world. There seems to be a massive media coverage so I won“t burden you with all the details.
There is no definitive number of deaths, it varies between 65 and 70. The number is expected to go up since several others have serious injuries. 16 of the bodies are so badly burnt they are still not identified. Parents are waiting for confirmation.
Yesterday at evening Mass my Catholic Church was filled with people and candles. Teenagers, friends, who themselves had been at the disco, afterwards telling about the chaos, the panic and seeing their friends die before their eyes. Parents, grandparents, crying out loud. There were 20 kids from our Catholic school at the party. One girl is dead, one fatally injured, two are missing and not yet identified. Several others have slighter injuries.
Two of the teachers and the headmaster of the school are SSND:s. Please keep them in your prayers, as well as our priests and all people working in the many crisis groups formed in many churches to meet the great need. They all have a heavy burden to carry for some time to come.
I am sorry to give you this tragic information. The families affected need prayers. I feel the best I can do for these people is to urge you to keep remembering them. My own prayers are so tiny.
Love to you all.
Catherina, we are with you, and so too
is Sister-L, and they are far larger than our small list. Your
own prayers are not small but linked to the whole globe. Olive
leaves shall be blessed tomorrow at Mass.
I have the box of Florentine cards for the Shop, and your choices are most beautiful, all ready waiting for the olive leaves to be picked and blessed tomorrow, then posted together to you on Monday. The leaves, of course, are free. Australian Lee Beccocci in my village and I were taking about that fire so disconsolately. She has teen-age sons. I keep thinking of my own. It is a terrible tragedy.
This is especially tragic, young Muslims dying in a foreign land, even doing what their more stern religion than Christianity does not permit. The olive leaves and postcards are all wrapped up, addressed and sent this morning from Settignano after our Requiem Mass for All Souls' Day, at which I prayed especially for these young people, the dead, the burned, the injured, and for their families, and where a married couple was admitted as aspirants to our Community's second branch, for married couples, who had lost their only child, a son. It doesn't matter what religion, a family is sacred, and the loss of a member, a tragedy.
When I climbed Mount Sinai on pilgrimage, an Anglican with Italian Catholics before entering my convent, on that mountain in the dark were so many, a group of aging Greek Orthodox ladies with great long staves, like medieval pilgrims, climbing the mountain like agile goats with joy, their guide named Dionysia, a Muslim family all in their sacred blue green, even their teenaged son and daughter, who were smiling at us.
The initial response when we in Italy talk about what happened in your town is a shrug, a discotheque, an evil place, a numbing. But that is what western culture seems now to prize most, instant gratification, what most religions have said is the opposite of holiness. Dionysius can exact a terrible price.
The blessedness of olive leaves is that they are not about creeds, and are an antidote to Dionysius, being of Athena. A Christian can give a Muslim an olive leaf and vice versa. The Koran has the enchanting story of the Christ Child breathing on clay figures He had made bringing them to life.
Perhaps with the leaves, just use your beautiful calligraphy and explain they have come from Italy to help the sorrow, and put them in baskets to give to the Muslim community and the Christian community. Isabelle had them given out at an an ecumenical service on a mountain in Nairobi from six baskets like the miracle of loaves and fishes after the readings from Ezekiel and Revelation. Somehow I think they don't quite work when put into men's hands, they tend there to get bogged down in committees! But your headmaster seems to be a woman? Perhaps give them to her to help the surviving children and their families with giving them. And to take them to the hospitals to place in bandaged hands to help them heal. Our prayers are with you, especially on this day of All Souls.
A further meditation on Dionysius: Today, much later, I was with a Southern lady married to a Florentine, who was talking about her family's wealth from tobacco, and the conversation then changed to Native Americans' use of tobacco in the Peace Pipe, and to the Jewish Blessing of Wine and Bread; we can use these substances spiritually, or we can use them to narcotize ourselves where spirituality is lost, where meaning is lost, where abuse and trauma have occurred. Sexuality is also in this category. All these are sacred and best used so. When used only commercially and addictively, without love; without love of God and neighbour, they bring disease and no happiness.
Amongst the readings Jeannette has been
sending me about trauma and its effects I read of a fire on a
oil rig in the North Sea and that the workers, when rescued, had
each been given a little piece of paper with instructions,
including the advice not to use alcohol to deaden the effect of
their memories. A year later they were found to still have these
little pieces of paper and to have followed this advice. The
pieces of paper, folded over in their wallets, had meant to them
that someone had cared about them. For years I treasured the
letter the King of England had sent to the children in his
realm, thanking them for their courage during the bombing in
WWII. That is what olive leaves can be, a very simple message of
affirmation and healing.
At 10.55 02/11/98 PST, you wrote:
Yesterday at Mass I gave my two olive leaves you sent me last week to the SSND headmaster. Two girls of fifteen are dead, others are injured. She was crying. We all were. But there is also so much caring and loving. The grief is welding people together.
Friday I told my parish priest about the olive leaves coming, haven“t talked to him since. He is very busy right now. When I catch him next, I should tell him when we can expect the leaves, to give him time to arrange something ecumenical and perhaps even wider. Most kids that died were muslims. Do you have any idea when the leaves might arrive? Do you also have ideas of how such a giving-out of leaves might be arranged? If you have the time, please tell me how it“s been done elsewhere. Is there anything we should specifically think about doing?
At my lunch break I will take the tram to the place of the fire to put down a flower in remembrance, as have thousands of others done over the weekend.
At 12.28 06/11/98 PST, you wrote from Göteborg:
It“s cold here! And the poor kids sitting wrapped in the Red Cross“s grey blankets among the millions of flowers and candles and poems at the spot of the fire, grieving and crying and hugging each other. They have been sitting there for days. It has been a sad sight, yet so hopeful, to see them comforting each other, but now it“s really time to get those kids back home, indoors, back to normal life, how normal it can be after such a loss.
I wish you a good weekend, Sister, we“ll meet in Eucharist.
Give them oliveleaves to give to each other, with our prayers. And with our blessings.
A request came for a Thanksgiving Day message from Dame Julian for Americans. I sent this this morning.
Then, I learned of Fioretta Mazzei's death the day before, her funeral this morning, so I went. In Italy we bury the dead immediately. I had just heard the news of the birth of Giannozzo and Benedetta's daughter. Gianozzo read the Lesson in the huge church of San Frediano absolutely packed with Florentines. And the Cardinal preached and with my Bishop alongside him celebrated the Mass. Outside the door as we had entered we were given little pieces of paper, printed on them:
Dictated 2 October 1998, Feast of the Guardian Angels'.
Let me share with you her thanksgiving.
At 17.05 27/10/98 +0300, Isabelle wrote:
Dearworthiest Julia and Godfriends,
Just a short electronic olive leaf to you all, who have supported us so well during this time of trauma and stress. I am about to take off on four weeks of rest and holiday - the first and biggest chunk of which will be spent in Japan, the rest in Ireland. The journey and homecoming will be my mother's and my special treat together. At present, I feel so tired that this tiredness could almost be cut with a knife. Nights and nights of preparations, so that I can leave my work behind tidily - days and days of work, week-ends and all. This has been going on almost uninterruptedly since 7 August 1998, the Day of the Bomb, but has been getting worse as time has gone on. I may find it quite hard to unwind.
Julia came this morning, to fetch some medicines which we had waiting for her, and to tell us that she is getting stronger. She still suffers from atrocious headaches at times - enough to wake her at night and make her sit up in pain. She also has eye problems and finds it painful and hard to focus downwards. This can cause problems while walking - not only does her injured leg hurt, but she also finds it hard to see what obstacles (and in Nairobi, there are plenty!) are at her feet.
Please pray for her recovery, and thank God that she has already come thus far and has been able to kept her good spirits and her enriching smile. And thank God for having given her a good friend, Grace, who has been a wonderful supporter.
Please pray also, if you will, for my colleague Louise, who will have to bear the administration of the Disaster Fund largely on her own - and that on top of all the other work which is already hers. I am leaving all the files in her very capable hands, knowing also that she is surrounded by other colleagues, most importantly our own wonderful Development Team members, Kathleen and Lucy. They are a gift from God to all who meet them and work with them - full of concern and dedication and patience - an African quality which I so often lack.
Our Provost (the head of our Cathedral) this morning asked what I would be bringing back - did Japan have olive leaves? It would be so good if I could find a similarly healing and uplifting gift for my colleagues there at this time.
As ARCC does not like my mailbox to be overflowing, I shall very sadly ask you to take me off your mailing list from this evening until I get back in touch again. It may be that I shall be able to reconnect in Ireland - otherwise, it will be the end of November here in Kenya.
May God bless all you his friends, and may he give each of you a personal olive leaf of healing and peace and joy, speaking directly to your own situation.
Prayers for all these blessed people, Isabelle, Julia, especially a prayer for her eyes, Grace, Kathleen, Lucy, your cathedral's provost, Declan Smith. I shall sadly remove you from the list until my own return from England, December 3/4, the days of two of my sons' birthdays, for I shall be there, partly to lecture on Julian of Norwich in Norwich Cathedral December 1, partly to lead a retreat at Lee Abbey on Julian before hand, and partly to do research on her. Rest, you have so richly deserved this. Remember, you too are a trauma victim, and need all our love and caring. And do reconnect whenever you can. I am here until mid November. Perhaps from Japan, bamboo leaves? A thousand blessings,
At 14.11 13/11/98 -0500,
We truly need a clearing house on trauma information and a study of its effect on psychological health, that word including in itself psyche, the soul. Plus definite cultural recommendations that trauma be recognized, reduced and treated. This should be the business, too, of churches.
There is a national clearinghouse and research center on trauma at Dartmouth U. in Vermont. There are also numerous sites dealing with multiple aspects of trauma and abuse. I know that you can't surf but I will paste the URL to one of the most comprehensive web sites - David Baldwin's trauma info pages. Very thorough and exahustive. Just save it in case of future need.
What I haven't seen out there is a site that deals with the spiritual dimensions of healing of those abused by clergy and spiritual leaders, or with abuse by women on women. So we are a tiny grain in this world where there are vastly more survivors than we would want. David Baldwin's Trauma Information, Page 4
A thousand blessings to you, Catherina in Göteborg,
You have done something wonderful! I am sitting here reading this, all of this abundance, and seeing how much I shall miss Godfriends until I come back December 4 from England where I am leading a retreat, called Julian of Norwich: Olive Leaves and Hazel Nuts, in Devon, lecturing on Julian of Norwich in Norwich Cathedral, and doing research on Julian in Devon, London and Norwich. But you have the addresses now and can keep it going. If you get desperate for oliveleaves Alifa in Jerusalem has them, too.
Dear Sister Julia,
Thank you for the wonderful story on Florence's Rose. I felt as if I were there.
Since I haven't told you anything about the olive leaves you may think I haven't done anything with them. I have. A report that will last until they throw me out of the museum:
The leaves are distributed to the Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim communities in different ways. Mostly through women. At first I left them with our parish priest because I didn't know quite what to do with them. I felt too small for this important task. But since they seemed to stay on his desk and weren't given away at the speed I wanted them to (he is extremely busy and I don't blame him), I took them back and did it myself.
The Serbian-Orthodox priest, Father Dragan, invited me to Vespers in their chapel, which, according to him, is the most beautiful in Sweden. I'm sure he is right. A round room with a dome ceiling, every inch covered with icon paintings. A choir of three young men in jeans and quilted jackets stood modestly beside the iconostase, but when they started to sing...aaah, it was like a taste of heaven! Powerful, melancholic, incredibly beautiful. Father Dragan immediately grasped the idea of the leaves and took it to his heart. He said 'So this is a gift of love? Thank you!' When I said 'Well don't thank me', he replied 'No, first we thank God, then the people in Italy!' He has four dead and several badly burnt and injured in his parish.
Another lovely olive leaf distibutor is a woman working in the suburb where most kids lived. She is quite extraordinary and does wonderful things out there. 80-90 % are immigrants. This woman, Gun, has organized various daytime activities for immigrant women and homework help for children after school. These kids never meet Swedish adults except for these occasions. Gun is a strong, warm-hearted Catholic, with a true love for the 'littlest' and the ones on the outside. She gathers people of all confessions and creates a warm, loving atmosphere in the middle of the ugly, hard, concrete city, where most Swedes never set foot unless they absolutely have to.
When I told her over the phone of the leaves she was so touched by it she wanted to cry - and she is one of the toughest women I know. She said 'It will be an *honour* to give these forward' and she took the box in her hands with the greatest respect. She told me of the girls who had worn contact lenses on the night of the fire. They melted in their eyes and made them blind. They are only fifteen. I suggested putting leaves in the bandages.
Myra Luxmore, 1912
The sorrow and pain goes on, it's important for us who are not in the middle of it to remember, when media loses interest in the matter. Please keep praying for these injured children and their families, and for those who have lost their best friend or their only child. -- Now I'm getting thrown out any second--. There ARE good things coming out of this also, a kind of brotherhood we have never seen before. The teenagers showing the way to their parent, who have a lot harder time to overcome the racial differences. The concern and the compassion.
In haste - and with no time for finesses or to look in the dictionary! And keeping you in my prayers on the journey.
Love, Catharina, Göteborg.
How can we thank you! It is wonderful! It was horrible, but when even just one person breaks through the apathy and cares, everyone feels better. Like a mother kissing her child's hurt better. Nonsense, perhaps, but it works!
Subject: Leonid shower
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 13:32:30 +0100
Walking to Mass this morning, the sky a dawning blue orange, the moon, the young with the old together, and the flash of meteors, the Leonid shower! That returns every thirty-three years. There had been a terrible time, from clergy abuse, when my faith was almost gone and I was saying, 'God, why are the stars untidy?' There were books around like the Gerard Hughes' The God of Surprises, that helped just a bit. Now I rather like God as untidy, of surprises, playing games, Ghost-writing, with coming to be at peace in my soul. There's space for chaos! There was a time when I was seeing myself as the wounded traveller who had to be the Good Samaritan to the robbers and priests and levites. This morning at Mass during padre's sermon I began to see myself as robber, priest (that of course forbidden!) and levite, and perhaps one can only be the Good Samaritan to one's wounded self when one does? Likewise only when one sees oneself in the elder brother to the Prodigal Son? A thousand blessings to Isabelle and Catharina for their oliveleaf ministry which is truly Good Samaritan stuff. And prayers for all in need of them, the children and teenagers in Göteborg, especially those blinded at fifteen, the bomb victims in Omagh and Nairobi, for Julia, Grace, Olive, Sarah, Beatrice, Isaac, there, for Ken, for Tom, for Kate, for Hazel, for Jeannette, for Fathers Nathanael and Matthew, for all affected by the floods on the American Continent, and those earlier in China, for all in need of our prayers, and for all suffering life-long effects from trauma of any kinds. I pray that Julian is right and at the end of time time itself will unravel, go backwards, harm be undone, be forgiven. Padre Barsotti describes it as the time when we all become the one Body of Christ, wounded yet whole. I was glimpsing myself this morning as one of the wounders, the mockers, the crucifiers. Prayers too for 1 December, for my poor audience in Norwich Cathedral! I'm throwing the book at them! Julian's Book! They may well come at me with bell, book and candle! My Anglican Mother Foundress said in one of her Conferences in Chapel to the Sisters, 'Rabbis say that God could at last rest on the seventh day, because he had finally made something he could forgive'! A thousand blessings,
'For love is without beginning, is and shall be without end'. Julian of Norwich
General rule on Godfriends is to try not to ask for money. But this has come. Read it to the end, to the most beautiful poem by Thomas Merton, echoing those of John of the Cross whom Merton loved only somewhat less than Julian of Norwich, and who in one poem had written, 'The Divine Word in the pregnant Virgin comes your way if you give her lodging'. Think about whether to give rich gifts to those who already have riches; or to make a new life starting in poverty, like Christ's, less than hopeless. Am sending them olive leaves and other things. Mustard Seed Catholic Worker is Dorothy Day's legacy. They are doing so much with so little.
At 08.13 06/12/98 -0500, you wrote:
We are never more aware of our gratitude to you than now, when we are composing our annual appeal. All that you have already given to us and all that you make possible springs up in our hearts and we find that we must bow our heads in thanksgiving from the very weight of it.
Under this burden we come to you again. Our operating expenses are approximately $30,000, and more than half of it must come from your generous donations. With these we are able to provide a warm and welcoming home to about sixty women and children each year.
Most of our guests are struggling with recovery from drugs and alcohol, or coping with mental illness. Some are mothers faced with evictions from their homes because they are unable to pay rent with their low-income and unstable jobs. Some are pregnant, trying to save money, hoping to bring the new baby home to a place of their own. A few are elderly, victims of abandonment or abuse. We must extend *their* gratitude to you, as well.
We experience over and over how vital the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker is to the marginalized of Saginaw, and so we pray that you continue to remember us with your prayers and alms.
May the tender presence of Christ be within you this advent season.
I've sent the appeal on to the 50 people around the globe on the Godfriends Discussion List, piling John of the Cross upon Thomas Merton in doing so. I wish I weren't so poor myself. What you are doing is truly wonderful. I do hope this helps. One friend in England, dying of osteoporosis, has sent me 10 pounds. Take it to your bank to exchange it at the best rate. Prayers for her, Eunice Martin. She's been given blessed olive leaves too. She's a dear, kind, compassionate retired nurse in her eighties now. Lots of pain.
Blessed virtual olive leaves to all in need of them. Am also sending some real ones. Place them in the hand of any in particular anguish. They are blessed and for the healing of the nations. Tell those to whom you give them to use them as bookmarks in their Bibles to keep their leaves from curling. And to look up Ezekiel 47.12, Revelation 22.2 and the sections in the Gospels on Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. They are about healing and acknowledging suffering. Also the bookmarks I enclose are a model you could make. I print them out, add decorated initial letters, photo-copy them onto thin card, then paint the capitals with a tube of red and a tube of blue water colours, most therapeutic. They cost the least and sell the most and impact spiritually, possibly for generations. You can also download them from the website below, and add your own, like the fine Thomas Merton poem.
At 12.21 06/12/98 -0500, Rosalie Riegle wrote:
Oh, you're a doll for sending this on. We all need to be poor and what you do is truly wonderful, too. We will appreciate the donation from Eunice and will remember her in our daily prayers for those who are dying. We light a candle each evening to remind us of them.
I'm even more excited to be getting the blessed olive leaves. We have had so many disturbed women in the last week. These calming leaves will help them to cope with all that troubles them. Many are deeply religious as well as rebellious, if you know what I mean, and I go 'round and 'round about how much to support the women in their rebellion and how much to support our mental health system, which can sometimes be compassionate but sometimes just seems to want to get people off its case load.
I wonder if our women could make leaves for others? We'll download from your beautiful website and give it a try. I am all thumbs with a pen but Jeannine Coallier of our community is facile and talented and a truly gentle woman.
I ought to have been clearer! The leaves make fine bookmarks in their own gentle right. And otherwise do curl up. But there are also other more standard bookmarks coming in that package. What I wrote is muddling. Sorry! I just find capitals from elsewhere, stick them on, then photocopy, then paint, then cut. I had made sheaves of these, giving them out quietly by leaving them on pieces of furniture, especially outside chapel, to be found at a retreat I gave on Julian for 80 two weeks ago and people were ecstatic, in the silence to be getting such profound messages from Julian and John of the Cross and others. The leaves cost nothing, the bookmarks almost nothing, but can become infinitely precious in their contexts. Doing the most with the least. Above all, say to the painters it doesn't matter about staying within the lines, that true artists don't! That beauty and colour and joy are more important than dead angry perfection! When I get tense I go off and paint bookmarks to calm down! On my knees in prayer! All that's needed is a water colour brush, a cup of water and the two colours on a saucer. Much better than jigsaw puzzles.
At 09.18 10/12/98 +0200, Alifa in Jerusalem wrote:
Let me tell you about Shabbat and its blessings, from a practical and very earthbound Jewish mother's point of view.
On Friday morning I wake up and say, "oh my God, Shabbos is coming." This may be a prayer; I'm not sure. As I finish feeding the insistent cats who have adopted me, and making some sort of breakfast, I say, "oh God, I have to go shopping" (this is a complaint, perhaps a prayer also). I hate going shopping, since I don't have a car, and it's a terrible shlep to get into Lod to take care of it and Friday is the only day I can do it. My next prayer, which arises because my mind is a total blank, is "oh God, what am I going to cook for Shabbat?" I keep thinking that instead of spending all this time shopping and cooking, I ought to be working on editing an article that's still sitting on my desk. I give up on that last point no earlier than ten o'clock. From noon until sunset, I'm trying to put together whatever we need for Shabbat, since all the cooking must be done before we light the Sabbath candles. I usually bake bread, although in the summers the oven makes the house very hot, and in the winters (when a warm oven would be nice), there isn't much time to add bread baking to my other list of tasks. We are not a "chicken soup" family, and vegetarian meals seem to take longer to prepare. I am also not a fan of store-bought prepared foods. I learned about Shabbat at the old House of Love and Prayer in California, and my California lifestyle comes through a lot in my preparation. I am also not one of those Jewish women who starts cooking on Wednesday. One of my neighbors, Mordechai Gess, a househusband, told me once that he read Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story called "Short Friday" and resolved never again to begin Shabbat preparations before Friday itself. I haven't read this story yet, but it sounds good to me. The afternoon races on. My daughters come home from Jerusalem and help with the cooking. At some point, someone looks at the calendar, which has a page listing the candle lighting times for each week - there are three tables of candle-lighting times, for Haifa and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Jewish women light their Sabbath lights 20 minutes earlier than elsewhere. Usually, though, I prefer to look out the kitchen window and check the angle of the sun as my guide for when to light, but the calendar times are useful for rainy days in winter. There is a sense of last-minute hassle as the time approaches. Did I remember to turn on the lights that will remain on during the Sabbath, and tape the others closed so they don't get turned on by accident? Did I set the refrigerator light so it won't go on when I open the door? Is there a flame on the stove left on with a cover so that we can have hot water for coffee in the morning, and also warm up our food for the meals? Did everyone finish their showers and turn off the hot water heater? Anything else we forgot? At twenty minutes to sunset, we gather round the candles, taking a deep breath and a giving a sigh because once more we Got It Together for Shabbat! We light the candles, and the more traditional ones (my daughters, that is) cover their eyes with their hands as they say the blessing: "Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe and Time, that has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath lights." Usually, one says a blessing *before* doing the thing associated with it, but in kindling the lights for Shabbat, one must actually have the candles lit beforehand, since it is forbidden to handle fire once the Sabbath comes in. Thus, we even cover our eyes when saying the blessing, since that ushers in the Sabbath and so the first thing we see when we've completed the blessing is the Sabbath light. Neat! There is, without a doubt, a sense of stepping into another world when you open your eyes again and see the candles burning. The Sabbath is a strange concept in some ways - it is a legally-defined period of 25 hours and 20 minutes that is called holy, a holiness of *time* itself. The Sabbath comes and goes whether or not anyone observes it by lighting candles, or by ending it with the havdalah ceremony. It's not just a weekend; it's not a time to do "just anything." Orthodox Jews are quite strict about even the topics that they discuss on this day - e.g., nothing to do with money or business, and you aren't even supposed to handle money. In Israel, if you have to go to the hospital on Shabbat, it's understood that the emergency room will bill you afterward. In some ways, the Sabbath can feel very restrictive because you can't travel about, either, and there have also been times in my life when I resented the seemingly endless stream of visitors and guests. Our community has a strong tradition of welcoming people, who often come just to experience our way of life. But this doesn't mean that it's always wonderful to have strange folks in the house for Shabbat. I have a heavy work schedule and a lot of the time, I just want to be left alone to recuperate from my week. When non-Jews learn about all the restrictions that operate on the Sabbath, it must seem rather like a prison in time to them. There is always going to be a dynamic (and hence creative) tension between the strict "legalism" that surrounds Sabbath observance, and the "true spirit" of it. At times the regulations seem terribly constricting (e.g., when I'd like to listen to music or watch a movie); yet the restrictions are also the point at which the Sabbath becomes ultimately liberating. Compare it, for example, to the Buddhist monk who "sits" or the nun who is enclosed: in these cases, too, one's external movement is limited, yet it's the only way to practically achieve the spiritual "spaciousness" necessary to really and truly discover the ultimate ground of being. Harvey Cox, the Protestant theologian, pointed out that the Jewish Sabbath is, in fact, a kind of meditation for Westerners [in his book *Turning East.*] Sunday used to be like that for Christians, although there were fewer restrictions, but even in Victorian times, children weren't supposed to play ordinary games, and I've even heard of families who did their cooking before Sunday just like the Jews do, and also didn't travel except to go to church. Certainly, in Jerusalem's Old City, the Christian-owned shops are closed on Sunday. By contrast, Fridays, the Muslim day of community prayer, is still considered a working day except for the period of noon prayer in the mosque. Muslims usually tell you that "God is not cruel" and hence the idea that God would forbid people to earn their living for more than the space of Friday prayers, is unthinkable.
Lighting the Sabbath candles is one of the three mitzvot particularly associated with women's duties. I suppose in ancient times it was important in a way we have forgotten, since the lamps *had* to be lit before sunset in order to assure that the festive Sabbath meal would not be taken in the dark (how we take electric lighting for granted!). Because women were more likely to be home at that hour, this became not only a practical duty, but over the centuries became imbued with many mystical meanings.
There are three other major blessings associated with the Sabbath: blessing the children; blessing the wine and bread; the Havdalah blessing at the close of the Sabbath.
Blessing the children is usually given by the father just before making kiddush (the blessing over the wine and bread that begins the formal "First Meal"). Boys are blessed to be "like Ephraim and Menashe" and girls to be "like Sarah, Rivka [Rebecca], Rachel, and Leah." This is followed by the "Priestly Blessing" (i.e., the one recited by the kohanim [descendants of Moses' brother Aaron] in the synagogue): "May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord shine his countenance upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord favor you and grant you peace." There are very deep meanings to all of this. And although the priestly blessing is indeed associated with the formal ceremony for it in the synagogue, having it part of the blessing for children reminds us that even though there is a special status for kohanim, all of Israel shares in a spiritual priesthood. We sing before the meals a hymn to the "Sabbath angels" and the section from Proverbs about Eshet Chayil (the "valorous woman"). Note the rather military term *chayil* used to describe the noble housewife's many weekday tasks. This may seem a bit unusual, but when JoAnn McNamara wrote her history of Christian women religious, she called it *Sisters in Arms* in part because of that sense of militancy, of discipline and courage and strength. Jewish women have always been noted for being somewhat independent and uppity in running their households.
More about the blessing of the wine and bread, and the close of the Sabbath will have to await Part 2, as I really *do* have to get on with some editing.
And in Part 3, if you all remind me, I'll tell you about other kinds of blessings, and the continual blessings we offer each other all the time.
Isabelle sends Greetings from Nairobi and my namesake:
Greetings from Julia, whom we saw yesterday afternoon, and who is continuing to improve. She still needs prayers for the recovery of her eyes, and for the pain she feels from a deep wound (now healed) to her thigh. Both combined make walking difficult for her. She radiates goodness and love and joy, and just seeing her can make a person feel happy! We are blessed to have met her and others during this time of suffering.
Myra Luxmore, 1912
And yesterday I toiled up my mountain, almost collapsing because the Jesuits believe one does not need bread to mop up one's pasta. Lower class Italians do, of course, leaving a spotless plate. Reading Alifa explained my faintness!
And there was a parcel from England, its contents, a WWII nurse's cloak. Such a story to this cloak. My own much loved one, like a monk's, had been given to the cook in the convent and my nun's one I had had to give back so I had none. Then at the Devon retreat a dear and brilliant older person came bustling up, 'Would I like a cloak, one like a monk's?' 'Yes!' Such a story it has. Let me give it:
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 20:26:58
Dearworthiest Elizabeth Paine,
It has come! It is lovely! I am so glad you missed your train! My prayers for your brother. Mine has died, young, in his forties, so bitter, so materialistic, so selfish, so blighted, and with so much promise. Blond, blue-eyed, a fine cricketer, a fine actor, but we both lost much of our hearing in a V2, and he could never admit to not hearing. I didn't admit to this until my thirties, when I couldn't pass my PhD oral examination. Wish I could go back into the past and help him.
Norwich Cathedral was full! And beforehand I was on my hands and knees on the cathedral floor helping the young technician stretch cloth with velcro across vast back-lighted screens, two of them. At one point we almost gave up and I almost went back to one slide at a time as at Lee Abbey. I'm so glad we got it right finally. People did like it. And it was much improved with all the Lee Abbey retreatants' suggestions, all of which I heeded. The Cathedral asks to publish it, so am working on that version with the notes on the manuscripts I used. Two sets of footnotes to the bottoms of the pages in point 8 type, one for citations, the other describing the slides. And the Julian research is now finally finished, thanks to Lee Abbey and Norwich Cathedral paying travel expenses.
Today I went to Mass in the dark, ploughing my way through snow! Feeling like Pooh Bear sort of. I wonder how the hood works? I've been trying it all sorts of different ways. I think in the end, I'll take it apart and re-do it like a monk's hood. I've made several of them before. And I'll line it. San Lorenzo in Florence is the market region, street barrows, and fabric shops, and I can find some good lining material which will make it even warmer, very much needed here on the tops of these mountains where the wind blows off Siberia and across the Alps' tops! Much colder here than England. While we were basking in Devon my Fiesolan neighbours were ploughing through snow!
I shall always remember you when glimpsing this beautiful and very healing cloak. I use to tell my students about Odysseus telling the story about his lost cloak, to earn another! For once it worked! Yet the story is absolutely true! Long ago I wanted to write a book about textiles in texts, in the Odyssey, in the Oresteia, in Middlemarch . . . . The stories in garments. Brrr! It's getting colder. And I am so grateful!
Would you like to be on Godfriends?
It's a global discussion list, about 50, ecumenical, based on
Julian. Just let me know. I run it out of my mailer. And if you
need more olive leaves, you've only to ask. You've more than
These continued Notes from a Jewish
mother are most nurturing, and a blessed Shabbat to everyone,
and especially to those in Jerusalem and Israel. And when it's
not Shabbat Eve, and when Alifa has any time at all, could she
please tell me more about the recognising of Jesus at Emmaus,
the Emmaus Epiphany. I've written a whole book on that topic but
many more need to be written!
At 08.36 11/12/98 +0200, Alifa in Jerusalem wrote:
Notes from a Jewish Mother, Part 2
It really seems like the Sabbath is centered on eating, lots of opportunities to consider spiritual depths there.
Let's start with the fact that Shabbat has three formal meals. A formal meal, by the way, is any time you break bread -- I have a late nineteenth-century Hebrew-English prayer book that entitles the blessings after meals as "Grace after Meat" but this is more a reflection on the English-speaking society in which this book was published. Meat does not make a meal in the Jewish world; bread does. Anything else is a mere snack, no matter how much you eat or what the quality of food is. Ordinary working days might have a single formal meal with bread; a holy day must have two, but the Sabbath has three.
So, the three Sabbath meals include breaking bread, and this means that following it is the long and complex grace, which is preceded by Psalm 126, usually sung to any sort of tune you can think of that fits the words, and followed by several pages worth of thanksgivings and petitions. You can sing most of that, too, if inclined.
As the world knows, however, the Sabbath meal is ushered in by making kiddush (a special blessing of sanctification) over wine. Few people outside the Jewish world realize that if you lack wine, the same words of the blessing are said over the bread by itself. The kiddush includes a blessing over wine, to be sure, but the primary focus is the blessing for the sanctity of the Sabbath day itself.
Wine has something of an ambivalent status in Jewish thinking: on one hand it's praised and enjoyed; on the other, there are those tragic stories in the Bible such as the embarrassment of Noah (who invented viticulture after the Flood). Of course it's *human beings* who make fools of themselves over wine, and one can even perceive contradictory meanings in the Talmudic proverb "when wine goes in, the secrets come out" -- the "secrets" can refer either to personally embarrassing information, or to insights on the divine. Clearly, on the Sabbath and holy days, the blessing of wine links to Torah study and other observances to bring out the holy secrets.
So, on Friday nights, the Sabbath table is set in a festive way; the fresh-baked loaves are covered with an embroidered cloth, the wine is poured, and the blessing recited. There are many variations on how this is done. Some stand to recite the blessing and drink; others stand for the blessing and sit for drinking, or some sit for the whole ceremony. Why stand at all? Well, one reason is that Jews stand when they pray the liturgical prayers as a sign that in spite of our foibles, ego trips, and outright sins, we don't grovel before God, but have the dignity to be human beings who can always address God directly without intermediaries. Also, God is addressed as "King" and is impolite to sit in the presence of the King until permission is given.
The first half of the blessing recounts the story of Creation. Then we recite the blessing said whenever we drink wine: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe and Time, who brings forth the fruit of the vine." (if there's no wine, the blessing for bread is substituted.) Another blessing follows this that recalls both Creation and the Exodus -- "the paradigm for all physical and spiritual redemptions and rebirths" as the old *Jewish Catalog* puts it. We then say a blessing over the sanctification of the Sabbath day itself, and the wine is drunk by the person who said the blessing and shared with everyone else at the table. Immediately afterward, we wash our hands (so controversial in the New Testament!) as a reminder of the washing for ritual purification in the Temple, and a reminder that any table upon which bread is broken is in a sense an altar. There's a blessing recited when we wash our hands. Curiously, the wording of this blessing is not on *washing* the hands, but rather on the act of raising our hands after washing them with clean water. Afterward there's no talking until the bread is shared out: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe and Time, who brings forth bread from the earth." The act of breaking the bread, again, is a matter of individual custom. In our house, we follow the Sefardi custom of breaking it by hand and tossing pieces across the table to our family and guests (symbolic of the manna of the desert dropping from the sky, no kidding!). Others slice the bread with a knife and pass it around. In the old House of Love and Prayer, each person would feed someone else: this custom derived from a hassidic story about heaven and hell. In both places, there was a vast banquet, and people sat around entranced by the lovely food and drink. In both cases, everyone's hands were chained to the table in such a way that they couldn't reach out to take food for themselves. In hell, there was great anguish and suffering and everyone was thin, but in heaven, there was laughter and joking and a festive atmosphere -- in heaven the people had caught on that despite their chains, they could feed each other and see that all were satisfied.
[Ah, in Christianity this becomes the long spoon with which one sups, in Heaven helping the other, in Hell going angrily hungry.]
Since most of the Godfriends are Christians, I'd like to point out that in the story of Jesus' meeting with his disciples "on the road to Emmaus" after the Resurrection, he was not recognized at first -- but it says "they recognized him in the breaking of bread." What was Jesus' unique way of breaking bread, one wonders. Did the early Jewish-Christian community retain this custom, and then it got lost as Christianity spread throughout the Roman world and beyond? I have always wondered if there's some obscure Christian community in existence since ancient times that retained the custom. How would Jesus be recognized today? Is there a difference in recognizing "Jesus" and recognizing "Christ"? Did the disciples at Emmaus first recognize Jesus whom they knew, and then recognize the risen Christ in him? Compare it to the story of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem [House of Bread] - See what you come up with.
I could go on and on about the Sabbath and its many-layered meanings, not to mention the political (yes!) controversies in this country about its observance, but as you may have noticed, it's Friday morning and I haven't even *started* to get Shabbat together yet!
From Catherina in Sweden
The Christmas cards from your Australian/Tuscan neighbour are disappearing from the stand at a wonderfully high speed! People love them. But then I knew they would. I'm sending you one of our others to show you what competition they are up against!
I have just unpacked a new book to sell in the shop. This one is a bit unusual. Three teenage boys who survived the fire in Göteborg have published poems, thoughts and prayers written to the fire victims. These words of sorrow and compassion had ben put on the ground outside the burntdown house amongst the candles and flowers, pictures and teddybears. Small pieces of paper, words sometimes written on the spot on any paper found in the pocket. The boys have engaged a number of businesses to work for free to get this book out, and the whole sum that the buyer pays goes to a memorial fund organized by the local paper. It's quite amazing what these 18-year-old immigrants have achieved in this short period of time. Right now they are in Stockholm, giving the book away to the king and queen and the hot shot politicians. I will have a closer look at the texts after work. I glanced at some of them but it was impossible to hold the tears back. Just now two teenage girls saw the book in the window and came in and had a look at it. They left sobbing. Oh, this pain...
[Viktor Frankl's Logotherapy]
Information about the cause of death has been published now that all the autopsies are done. It says all of the kids without exception died from asphyxiation, poisoning by smoke, and not from burns. It is a quick, painless death and knowing this must be such a relief to all relatives. All thousands of items put down by people at the place of the fire were removed last week and will be kept in the museum. Eventually they will be part of an exhibition which is good in order to remember the children and continue to work for integration. Though my heart breaks over and over about this I can't help but rejoicing in the enormous compassion and love showed by so many people. Suddenly shy, reserved middle-aged Swedish ladies venture to reach out their hands to young Somali or Iranian boys. To share their sorrow and express the pain. Who would have guessed... We are getting closer to one another...
Myra Luxmore, 1912
Blessings and love from Catharina
I've turned to Jerusalem: Essays in Pilgrimage and Literature (New York: AMS Press, 1998), p. 256, to find I wrote in the 'Epilogue: To Be A Pilgrim', about being on pilgrimage in Jerusalem and actually written now years ago:
"Jerusalem means 'Vision of Peace'.
Arabs and Jews greet each other with 'Peace (Shalom, Salaam) be
unto you'. In Jerusalem one sees the three alphabets, the
Hebrew, the Arabic, the Roman, everywhere. Perhaps it is time
for a great Jubilee for all Three Religions at Jerusalem. Could
we, both Christian and Arab, instead of jealousy, express
gratitude for God's gift of Judaism, as a people, as a religion,
as a culture, to the world, coming to understand and admit our
vast indebtedness to it, our borrowings and piracy from it, and
could we accept and proclaim its legitimacy? Without Iraq and
Israel we would not have our religion, our writing, or our
At 21.19 04/01/99 +0200, Alifa in Jerusalem wrote:
Reading your meditation from Julian of Norwich on God being close as father/mother, I am reminded that family lived in a Quaker-founded town in Indiana during my high school years, and I am very grateful for what I learned from the Quakers, especially that nothing in the world is as strong as a person with a conscience. Of course, by then (1960s) Quakers no longer used "thee" and "thou" in ordinary conversation. When I was growing, however, formal prayers, and of course the Bible used Thee and Thou to refer to God, and it seemed terribly distant -- the very opposite of what was intended by the scholars who put together the Authorized Version!
It raises a whole series of questions about how we do address God. "Hey You!" seems rather disrepectful at first, though it may not be. And certainly there are times when we want to create a little space around God -- not so much to keep God at a distance (that's another topic!), but rather to keep a certain perspective.
Jewish tradition is quite strong about people complaining to God, arguing with God, bargaining with God, criticizing God to his face, so to speak, all alongside formal praises, formal thanksgivings, formal petitions, not to mention the spontaneous prayers and poems and niggunim (melodies) that are also part of our prayer. One hassidic group, the followers of Rebbe Nachman from Bratslav, recommend that everyone find a lonely place and pour one's heart out, crying, screaming, jumping up and down -- this method is not for everyone, and in the Jewish world is considered either eccentric or extreme, even for hassidim. Perhaps this "holy chutzpah" stems from the the Jewish practice of standing when we address God in the essential part of our liturgy, the "Amidah" prayer.
Coming to terms with a difficult period of my personal life, there were years in which I couldn't say anything to God. I began to understand how it was that some survivors of the Holocaust could only stand in shock and say before God "How could you!!!" or turn away completely.
It was good to know that in our tradition God is known to take our words, our song, our dance, our silence, our shock, our gratitude, our budding understanding... it's a good thing God is noted for patience...
I know you're tremendously busy, tremendously weary. Just wanting to let you know how splendid what you did was. And hoping to write it up for oliveleaf but needing to ask you first. I believe you have gathered that I fled from Anglicanism because I stumbled into the very greatest evil. And I've become a sort of pariah in official Anglican circles! Being on the side of the Archbishop and the African and Asian Bishops against the rest! But my Comunita` very much wants to keep the doors open for ecumenical theology. As do I. Healing the cracks in the world for it totters. Catharina in Sweden has been able amongst young people to do a similar ecumenical sharing of olive leaves, finding it worked especially well amongst Moslems. Catharina is just converted to Catholicism. The Communist children in my village, not hearing news of the leaves in Ireland, have gone back to their atheism. It was a lovely flicker of hope we had for them! And they responded so magnificently. The garden just filled up with olive branches overnight and I picked and picked leaves for Declan the next day! I next gave blessed oliveleaves to the 80 Anglican retreatants at Lee Abbey, suggesting they could even be given by them to their worst enemies! It was lovely being there, and having a captive audience to which one could give Julian! And they were willing guinea pigs for the Norwich Cathedral Lecture I was next to give. They were wonderful about it too, not complaining when it was too long, which also gave me the chance to shorten it. I hadn't realized justified type threw out my timing thinking I had two minutes to a page!
A bit weary myself and time for Compline. Blessings,
Oh, bless you, Isabelle,
At 21.41 11/01/99 +0200, Alifa wrote:
I want to ask you to join me in a Thanksgiving: my foster son Elyon and his wife Leyla just became parents of their first child, a boy. I won't know the baby's name until next Monday, when he has his brit milah. On Friday night, there will be a "shalom zachor" -- in honor of the baby's first Shabbat in the world, his family and friends will gather to learn Torah, all night if possible. It's a really beautiful custom. The baby will always associate himself with this week's Torah portion (it will also be his bar mitzvah portion), called "Vayera" (Ex. 6.2-9.35). It's the section of Exodus in which God promises to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt as free human beings. He says, "I am the Lord" -- and wherever that phrase comes in the Bible, it means that God is "signing his Name" to the matter, so to speak.
Yet after making that promise of deliverance, times in Egypt got very tough indeed: this portion of the Torah goes on to describe the plagues of Egypt, and the mysterious "hardening" of Pharaoh's heart. The Israelites were protected from some of the effects of the plagues, but in the plague of darkness, for example, four-fifths of them also died. So it wasn't only the Egyptians being finally at the end ready to send the Jews out of Egypt, the Jews themselves were aching for freedom.
So, it is with spiritual growth of all kinds -- we suffer and suffer until the longing for freedom *has* to be satisfied somehow, some way... we reach the point where we're willing to do whatever it takes, and oddly enough, it is also the time in which we realize our utter dependence on God. How powerful is that image of God's "outstretched arm" -- not only an image of strength, or force, to bring the people out of Egypt, but also the strong arm eagerly outstretched to give a hand, to pull them up from a state of misery and pain, confusion and doubt. Don't fall into the trap of thinking of God's outstretched arm as only a "masculine" image of the hand with a sword or some such -- think of the father or mother who thrusts out a hand to keep a child from running into a dangerous street, of arms held out to welcome someone home, of arms pulling a child to her feet again after she's stumbled, and encouraging her to try another step, and another...
For all who have asked for prayers, may God's "outstretched arm" be there for you to grasp and bring you to wholeness and healing. Don't forget: God *signed his Name* as a pledge to be there.
This is a great Thanksgiving! What could be more lovely and more healing than the shalom and the brit of a child! And you are an answer to my prayer.
Here is Julian having God sign the Name in the centre of her text, in its XII Showing, 'On God as all Sovereign Being':
At 17.22 13/01/99 +0300, you wrote:
Dearest Julia and Godfriends,
In the midst of preparations for my annual working trip to Europe (with a little holiday at the end, this year!), I want to write and let you know what a blessing it has been, this past year, to be part of Godfriends. It is good to catch glimpses of you all, here and there, to know something of your pleasures and pains, and to remember you in prayer.
Julia, you have been wonderful in keeping the group together, encouraging us to share something of ourselves, and stimulating our prayer life. I have particularly enjoyed the personal glimpses of us all. Alifa's Sabbath was a wonderful experience, a mental visit to your home and family, which touched something very deep inside me. If you ever get the time and energy to continue with the everyday blessings in Jewish life, I should be so grateful.
In a world where we are surrounded by people like ourselves, or by those who have lapsed from all expressed faith, it is hard to know how others experience faith, religion, the sacred in their daily life and worship. That is what makes it wonderful to read about Melkite, Orthodox, Coptic worship. About your personal experiences and sufferings. Thank you for taking time to help others understand your faith and lives. For helping us to pray with you.
I love Julia's descriptions of her walks to Mass, her musings under the moonlight and the olive trees, her stories of the village, the children, the mountain monastery with its telephone-addicted monks, the comunita` in general and the weather (so different from here!), and particularly her renderings of the sermons she has heard. You pass these on, Julia, in such a direct way that they can do their work of building faith, even at this distance.
Let me send you now a couple of "clippings" from the electronic newspaper that comes from Ireland every week. Here they are, in chronological order at least :
- The last victim of the Omagh bomb to be released from hospital went home on Tuesday to spend Christmas with her family. Tracey Devine (27), from Dunamanagh near Strabane, spent two months in the intensive care unit at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital unaware for much of the time that her baby daughter Breda was the one of the 29 victims of the bomb. Mrs Devine, who has three other children, was not told of Breda's death until six weeks after the August 15 bomb. With her husband Paul she praised hospital staff for the care they received and said they would try to "get back to some kind of normality" for the sake of their children. Meanwhile the Minister for Health John McFall has announced a Stg2m donation to the Trauma and Recovery Centre in Omagh. In the past four months staff at the counselling centre have seen 311 people - 100 of these in the past month. The Minister praised the staff for helping the "many people who are still suffering today".
Here in Nairobi, healing is happening, and we can be surprised at its speed or depth. Many of the people whom we helped, come back to greet us, looking better and speaking with more confidence. Many will be facing into the second round of operations now, in January. Hospital beds are being prepared for some as I write.
One of these will be for Phoebe, who came to us with a badly disfigured face and limp wrist, powerless as the radial nerve had been cut in her arm. She is a person of prayer. She told us how her face had been wonderfully healed one day as she sat in a minibus, wedged uncomfortably between other people and their packages. As her face suddenly warmed, she prayed to God that, if this was his work, she was willing and ready for him to do it. The warmth continued, she felt her features change and, when she came home and looked in the mirror, she saw that, for the first time since the bomb, the corner of her mouth had returned to its position and her lip, which had been hanging down to her chin, had closed perfectly.
Phoebe has prayed a lot to know what God wishes of her now that she has survived. She, who has experienced suffering and healing, feels called to become an instrument in God's work of healing others. As she prepares for her own operation, I gave her an olive leaf, telling her that it represented healing and peace - both for herself and for those to whom she will minister.
Some of the survivors will be left with permanent disabilities. Julia is among these. We thank God that we can, at least, continue to support her financially in a small way. She finds it very hard to walk, and cannot see the obstacles at her feet. If she can ever go back to work, it will not be for some time yet. But she continues to be strong in spirit and, always when she visits us in the office, we are blessed and uplifted by her presence. Julia has returned to her Sunday School class, assisting the teacher who took over while she was bedridden. The children were delighted to see her. They soon understood that she now needs their care - and they are freely giving it.
The most recent olive leaf went by post to Mildred in Uganda. Mildred came to Kenya in the good old days of the East African Community in the 1970s, working as a secretary with diplomatic rank. But the EAC has long died and disappeared, and with the troubles in Uganda, she could never go back. Her home area, moreover, is very poor, and she did not wish to become a burden to her family. So, she stayed in Nairobi, making a living as a small-time dressmaker. But something happened in 1992, which she explains as a poisoning, which others might see as a curse, or Westerners as some sort of psychological trouble - from one day to the other (as I can vouch), she became an invalid who was never able to provide for herself again.
Last year, she decided that she could not continue to live by begging for subsistence in Nairobi. She returned to Uganda, where I had referred her to a hospital whose director I know. He took great care of her, but was unable to help her. Her family were too poor to provide for her at home. So, she is now in Kampala, making tea on the streets for passers-by, and begging. As a wonderfully literate person (in English!), she continues to correspond with me, and I sent her an olive leaf for healing and peace just the other day. Mildred is a fine person, with a wonderfully good heart, and it continues to sadden us to see her suffering.
So, Julia and village children, you can see that your olive leaves continue to bless us here, and that they have given comfort and hope to many. I do not really know how to convey this to the village children - but they should know that there are people like themselves here and in Omagh, who have been blessed by their gift of their time, their energy and their prayers.
This time, I shall be travelling with my computer and, though I may be off-line for a couple of days now and again, it will not be for long. May you know how much good can be done by this weaving of warm thoughts and prayers around the world...
With love, Isabelle.
Ah, prayers for Tracy, for Phoebe, for my namesake, Julia, for Mildred, for Isabelle, for Ken, for Tom. And what would be lovely would be if from Omagh you could send by e-mail a letter addressed to my Montebeni children. I'll be away from a computer, February 4-March 4, in Australia, in fact. The village children seem very tough on the surface, watch gangster movies, ride around on motorbikes, but are really very gentle and kind and would like to be written to, and to believe in a world of goodness. Needing olive leaves themselves! We've got a war memorial on this street, 'partigiani' machine-gunned down, so memories of violence are much institutionalized in bronze and stone and even this street's name where it happened. Italy, too, was a kind of Ireland. Why the children responded so intensely. They were tearing up the street on their motorbikes beneath branches of olives! I'll translate your message and we'll publish it in the village newsletter called 'Scarabocchio', which Piero Manni and don Patrizio edit together and that goes to every family. They would love to know the ending of the story of their oliveleaves. They were only involved in those for Ireland. Where I wanted to send a whole sackful! Which perfumed the whole plane! The beginning was in the newsletter and that is why the children are a bit cross with me! When one tells stories, one can't leave off the ending! Bless you!
Icon painted for Maria Novella
Fioretta, here unfinished, copied from
one painted for Byzantine Princess Anna Tschernigow, 1103, Smolensk.
I talked with Gianozzo Pucci, who has just married, Fioretta's doing, and produced the child she wanted, Gianozzo placing it on her bed just before she died, - the baby cried, and Fioretta woke up and smiled. The baby was to be called Maria Novella anyway, but she's now Maria Novella Fioretta, both Fiorettas being after the big Duomo/Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore! Giannozzo, when I asked him this Sunday, explained that Fioretta had three Vocations, one inside the other: the first to be Christian, to be for Christianity, but not a nun, instead a celibate working in the world; the second, for women; the third, for the city of Florence. Born into the wealthiest Florentine family, with a doctorate from the University of Florence, she renounced all that, living in the poorest part of Florence, San Frediano, always caring for the poor. She and Giorgio La Pira, the great post-WWII Florentine Mayor, started the Mass for the Poor at the Badia, where bread and money is always given out after the Mass, and which is for all the downs and outs. It's now been moved elsewhere. They also worked together after he was Mayor for peace in the world, travelling worldwide. Giorgio La Pira was a tiny man, filled with exuberant energy and joy, a Christian Democrat. Fioretta Mazzei was tall and beautiful and utterly unselfconscious about it. I knew her when she was ill and dying, wheelchair bound at the end, but she was always beautiful, not in the least trying to be, the beauty being in her smile from her soul. She cared about the littlest. Giannozzo who adored her as did we all says she was the most womanly woman he ever knew. She practised a very different Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. One very much in the world. Let me give you the translation again of her thanksgiving she dictated shortly before she died and which was given out on little slips of paper Florentines now carry about with them and treasure. Giannozzo has insisted on this re-translation! I still think mine is better! Though I love hearing his Italian voice struggling through its English words as he dictates it to this computer. He had taken down these words in dictation from Fioretta.
Fioretta, Dictated 2 October 1998, Feast of the Guardian Angels
At 15.55 13/01/99 PST, you wrote:
Dearest Sister Julia,
This Fioretta Mazzei of yours. Sr. Teresa was very interested to hear some more about her for the alternative saints calendar. Do you have any time at all to spend on telling either me or Sr Teresa a little more about her? I'd love to hear about her too and could forward the story.
Blessings and love, Catharina
Next, I needed to go to Australia on Comunita`. I took a bag with Elizabeth Paine's tiny little English wild hazel nuts and of Settignano's olive leaves, both blessed by Don Divo Barsotti, Father Founder of the Comunita` dei figli di Dio, who just this morning preached on Julian of Norwich and her hazel nut and how all shall be well. But these olive leaves and hazel nuts had to be destroyed at Melbourne's Airport. We next picked olive leaves in Melbourne Italian's gardens and blessed these, and I bought hazel nuts, huge Australian ones, in Wagga Wagga, and these too were blessed. Everywhere I took a borrowed basket with me, giving out these hazel nuts and olive leaves to all who desired them.
Strangely I found myself placing them on a memorial marking the reburial of Aborigine bodies. I had not dared to ask if I could meet these people. But the silent prayer was answered and there I was at the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in a garden explaining 'Oliveleaves' and giving them olive leaves and hazel nuts. Annette insisted on going to her home to bring back sacred gifts, clapper sticks with two women at the mill, one white, one black, she had made for reconciliation, white ochre used like holy water for protection, and a book, Rainbow Spirit Theology : Towards an Australian Aboriginal Theology, by the Rainbow Spirit Elders , reconciling Aborigine spirituality and Christian theology, commenting that the model should not be Joshua conquering with bloodshed, but Melchisadek the priest king sharing his culture with Abraham in the gift of bread and wine, that becomes the Sabbath Eve Blessing among Jews, the Eucharist among Christians, but which was the Canaanite Rite of Hospitality, and which comes from the Holy Land's Aborigines.
white ochre for spiritual protection from Australia, blessed
olive leaves from Montebeni, one small wild English hazel nut,
one large Australian hazel nut, clapper stick, one of two, made
by Annette Zerberis in Melbourne, Australia, of two women
working at the mill, carved from oak. Compare with the Hopi Message for Humanity .
The Aborigine speak of 'Dream Time', of our being in touch with the Ancestors, with the Dead.
I remembered Eldest Elder Dan Evehema's Hopi Message for Humanity , likewise speaking of the Ancestors, the Elders, and of their spiritual wisdom for us and for the future of all on our shared Mother Earth. We have so much to learn from the Earth's Elders.
We also, in Australia, visited Tarrawarra Abbey, a Trappist abbey, whose church has great plain windows shaped like crosses through which one glimpses Della Robbia blue skies with white clouds. When I wrote of this, Kent Lott, whom I met on the Thomas Merton Discussion List, and who was dying of cancer, wrote back:
Peace, Ken Lott
Then I wrote to Godfriends:
At the Eucharist today, in this anguish over this war so near to us in Italy, came this.
We need to send, not jets and bombs, but civilian helicopters with blessed olive leaves, blessed by Muslim and Orthodox and Catholic, all the Peoples of the Book, for all to give to each other. We are all God's sons and daughters. We need to give them too to the school children of Dunblane and Littleton, and in all other instances, holocaust victims, indigenous peoples, present victims of ancestral injustices, where the world seems to be of violence rather than of nurturing. There needs to be a simple, humble, tangible act, like Julian of Norwich's hazel nut in the palm of one's own hand. Something not costing the earth but regaining it for all. Olive leaves can convey the acknowledging of great wrongdoing, enslavement, mass murder, the times of Gethsemane, they can come asking for forgiveness, they can come with healing for past crimes, for past damage done to soul and mind and body. They are not only the leaves of the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, they are also the leaves in Ezekiel and Apocalypse, the leaves of fruitful trees by the rivers flowing from the holy city, with healing in them for the nations of all the world.
Ezekiel 47.12: On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
Revelation 22.1-2: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life, with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
And the letter was shared, someone in
America sending it to the Religious Society of Friends in
Philadelphia, and giving me the addresses of the Heads of State
involved, and also those of Zbigniev Brzezinski and Madeleine
Albright, to whom I sent it, and another person in Russia,
translating it into that language and sending it to President
At 01.08 23/04/99 EDT, you wrote:
Dear Godfriend Julia,
I am sending an article of Zbigniew Brzezinski which will appear in the May 3rd issue of National Review. I, too, am working my way through his perspective, knowing in my sadness that only God can understand how we have brought ourselves to this place where these conclusions are tolerable to us.
Know you are filling a great void.
In appreciation, and with every good wish,
Fwd: Broad Implications of NATO/US Response to Kosovo Crisis
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1999 18:46:29 -0400
From: Balkan Action Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Brzezinski Op-Ed
THE BALKAN ACTION COUNCIL
April 16, 1999 We commend the following article to your attention, written by Executive Committee member Zbigniew Brzezinski and published in National Review in its May 3, 1999 issue.
Get Serious - Steps to victory in Kosovo.
On April 23, NATO is scheduled to hold in Washington a huge celebration of its fiftieth anniversary. If by then the conflict over Kosovo is still on, the meeting will provide an opportunity for a council of war--yes, it is a war--and for a reaffirmation of NATO's commitment to prevail. If by then NATO has won, the event will be a true celebration. If, however, NATO has embraced a negotiated settlement that yields to Slobodan Milosevic some concession over what NATO demanded just prior to the bombing, it will be a wake. The stakes now involve far more than the fate of Kosovo. They were altered dramatically the day the bombing began. It is no exaggeration to say that NATO's failure to prevail would mean both the end of NATO as a credible alliance and the undermining of America's global leadership. And the consequences of either would be devastating to global stability.
It is instructive to pause here and ask, Who endorses the use of force to stop the ethnic killing and cleansing in Kosovo, and who opposes it? All of NATO's 19 democracies stand united (even if a couple are wobbly), and all of Europe's other democracies are generally supportive. Violently opposed are the erratic admirer of Hitler in Belarus and the current Russian regime, which failed in Chechnya in what Milosevic is attempting to do in Kosovo. Two visions of the European future are thus colliding: one that views Europe as a community genuinely bound by a shared respect for human rights, and one that believes ruling national elites have the sovereign right to engage even in a type of genocide against their minorities.
Ill-wishers of America and Europe understand this well. A leading Moscow newspaper (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, on March 25) gloated openly--while also informing the Clinton administration where the Kremlin really stands-that the crisis initiates "the epoch of the collapse of the U.S. global empire and, evidently, the epoch of Europe's final eclipse." It went on to urge Russia "to just sit on the fence, saying all the necessary things and watching NATO destroy itself."
So far, the administration has done very well in keeping NATO together. But it has not done as well on the military level, and its political fortitude is questionable. During the first three weeks, NATO's air campaign against Serbia was timid and morally irresponsible. Sadly, there has been a failure to react in a timely fashion to the bestial treatment inflicted on the defenseless Kosovars. Though the ethnic cleansing undeniably predated the bombing, it was accelerated after the bombing started. The White House team cannot escape responsibility for the failure to do at least the minimum possible to impede the victimization of the Kosovars.
It is simply incomprehensible why the needed attack helicopters were not assembled before the air operation was launched. Did it not occur to any senior official that Serbian forces would move against the Kosovars? Why were the helicopters denied to NATO commanders for some ten days after the operation started, with the entire world watching the mass expulsions and learning also of large-scale executions? A strong tactical air assault against Milosevic's ground forces should have been launched from Day One, even at the risk of losses. It is painful to imagine young Albanians desperately scanning the skies before being either raped or shot.
Moreover, the bombing has been conducted in a manner that defies even the most elementary notions of human psychology under conditions of war. Instead of shocking and intimidating the opponent, the air campaign has striven to avoid casualties not only to allied airmen but even to Milosevic's officials, thereby inoculating the Serbs against fear of bombing while mobilizing Serbian nationalist passions in support of the Belgrade dictator.
Also noteworthy is that, paradoxically, the strategic bombardment of Serbian assets has been conducted as if its goal were the attrition of the Serbian army in preparation for a NATO ground campaign. But President Clinton ruled out the latter, and even into the third week of the bombing he continued to reassure Milosevic that the U.S. had no intention of engaging in ground combat. One cannot avoid the suspicion that political expediency was at work here, at a time when genuine leadership was needed. This self-denying posture has given Milosevic every incentive to hunker down and absorb the punishment from the skies, while completing his cleansing of Kosovo.
Admittedly, a ground campaign cannot be launched instantly. It requires careful and deliberate deployment of forces, and (in democracies) a strong base of public support. But if the air campaign does not produce the required political success, ground combat will become necessary. So why not prepare for it now? And why, in the present circumstances, give Milosevic a greater sense of confidence that he need not worry about it? It just makes no sense for the president and his advisors to be proclaiming that NATO forces will enter Kosovo only with Milosevic's permission.
GUIDELINES FOR ACTION What then must be done? Given the stakes involved, the United States, as the recognized leader of the alliance, must pursue a no-holds-barred approach to winning. The American leadership must project principled courage and not be guided by a political compass. Belgrade's ruling elite must be convinced--by NATO's military actions as well as its political posture--that Milosevic's crimes and obduracy portend for it a collective ruin. To that end, the following guidelines should shape policy:
(1) The Rambouillet formula for Kosovo's autonomy within Serbia is dead. It was killed by Milosevic's crimes against humanity. For several years to come, Kosovo's formal status will have to remain indeterminate, under NATO's direct protection.
(2) It follows that there cannot be any negotiations with Milosevic himself, except in order to implement the modalities of Serbian withdrawal following the imposition of NATO's terms. The alliance should reject the temptation to accept any deal contrived by Russia that would grant Milosevic an easing of NATO's original terms. To do so would mark the bombing as a tragically pointless failure, would reward Milosevic for his ethnic cleansing, and would represent a great political success for the Kremlin's anti-NATO posture. That has to be made crystal clear.
(3) The air campaign should be intensified if it is either to destroy Milosevic's military power or to compel him to accept NATO's terms. The current targeting restrictions have seriously limited the bombing's military as well as political impact.
(4) Major deployments should now be initiated in preparation for a possible NATO ground operation, presumably out of Albania and Macedonia. Once the bombing has effectively isolated the Serbian forces currently in Kosovo from Serbia proper, they will become vulnerable--especially when out of fuel and ammunition--to a sweep by NATO ground forces. In any case, a mopping-up operation will become necessary if Milosevic refuses to capitulate even with his army seriously weakened by systematic attrition from the air.
(5) The victims of Kosovo have a moral right to self-defense. Hence weapons should be provided to those who resist. And such aid would further signal to Belgrade that its strategy of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo will fail.
(6) Yugoslavia's foreign assets should be subject to seizure in all NATO countries, both to exert pressure on Belgrade and as a prelude to eventual reparations for the damage inflicted on Kosovo by Milosevic's forces.
(7) Without waiting for the hostilities to end, the United States and the European Union should jointly announce their intention to formulate a comprehensive plan for the resettlement, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Kosovo. A strong commitment to that end, buttressed by a stated determination to return all refugees to Kosovo, would greatly enhance the credibility of the ongoing bombing campaign, stripping Belgrade of any residual hopes for the retention of Kosovo or some part of it.
(8) The program suggested in (7) should also contain a provision holding out the hope that a democratic, post-Milosevic Serbia will be included in a wider Balkan-reconstruction effort, involving Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro as well. That could encourage the more realistic Serbs to reconsider their current support for Milosevic's suicidal policies. In any case, both America and its NATO allies will now have to be engaged in a longer-term effort to ensure stability in the Balkans. Once the Kremlin sobers up, Russian peacekeeping involvement would also be desirable, as it has already proven in Bosnia.
(9) Congress should pass a joint resolution endorsing the political aims of NATO's campaign and pledge U.S. resolve to attain them by all the necessary means. Given the stakes involved, America's commitment must be unambiguous and enduring. Such a strategy would require much more determination and ethical motivation from the Oval Office and from the top Republican congressional leadership than we have seen so far. In these circumstances, it is up to those legislators who had the instinctive courage to take a stand-notably Senators McCain, Lugar, Hagel, Biden, Lieberman--to fill the strategic void.
THE BALKAN ACTION COUNCIL P.O. Box
27392 Washington, DC 20038-7392 Tel: (202) 737-7720 Fax: (202)
737-7721 email@example.com www.balkanaction.org --- end
At 15.01 23/04/99 PDT, you wrote:
Father Dragan is contacted, we will meet next week and talk. And I have chances of connections with the Kosovo Comittee, maybe a phone call tonight will make that clearer. Dear Julia, pray that I'll find the right channels and get some splendid ideas about how to do this. I really haven't got that many clues!
Much much love, Catharina
You already shouldered the burden, and splendidly, by telling us of the Göteborg discotheque fire, and then taking the leaves, for what happened there was a microcosm of this here. Let us pray God we are doing His will in this. Blessings upon Father Dragan. And upon you!
At 13.02 24/04/99, you wrote:
Dearworthy Leonid in Moscow,
Is it possible to translate this into Russian and the other languages so it can be sent and perhaps understood?
Of course I'll do my best to translate the text you sent me into Russian. I think that the Russian version of it could be sent to Yugoslavian governors and to President Eltsin. Unfortunately I don't know anybody who could translate it into Serbian or Albanese. To tell the truth, I can't understand exactly the meaning of some fragments of this text:
From Monday afternoon to Friday morning I'll be in Rome. It would be great to meet there you or Benedetta. Is it possible?
Sorry about my unclear writing. Nairobi in Kenya, Africa, was where a huge bomb exploded near the American Embassy, injuring few Americans but many Africans. Many died. Isabelle who works for the Anglican Cathedral, and who is Irish but with German ancestry, I think, and a Polish surname, had to arrange an ecumenical service of reconciliation following it, for which I sent blessed olive leaves from the Comunita` dei figli di Dio. The cathedral was not large enough for the crowds, so the service was held outdoors on a mountain, like the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. Lucy, African, had worked in the Embassy and the bomb blew off her head and her funeral was in the cathedral at the same time as this service on the mountain. Julia, African, was on the street, was blinded and crippled when the bomb exploded. A week later a friend gave her one of the olive leaves and she insisted on getting out of bed, for the first time since the bomb explosion, and then later on to the bus and coming to tell the people in the cathedral about this, where everyone was crying and laughing with her as she told them her story! Göteborg, Sweden, was where there was a fire in a discotheque at which were many schoolchildren, Muslim Albanian refugees, Orthodox Serbian refugees, again many dying, others terribly burned, and their contact lenses melting on their eyes blinding them. Catharina took the blessed olive leaves I sent her from the Comunita` dei figli di Dio to the Catholic priest, to the Serbian Orthodox priest and to the Swedish Roman Catholic woman named Gun who helps the Muslim children with their schooling, and these people gave the olive leaves to the families where children had died or been injured.
Last phrase does not need to be with translation.
We have been finding that it means so much to people to be given something religious, something simple, something real, when something terrible has happened, meaning that other people from far away care for them, people from a different country, a different religion. It seems to help them heal and to forgive. Something to hold in their hand like the Eucharist. To have God's love nearby. Much better than violence.
My neighbour Maria - she's the daughter of a Sardinian shepherd and could not go to school as a child from needing to look after the other children in her family - and I have been talking. She asked me to share this conversation we have had with you.
We have been talking of this war near at hand, and that terrible five sided pentagonal table far away from us in America. She spoke of St Francis saying the richer one is, the more power one has, the more one destroys. I had just walked from Mass at San Sergio, where padre, too, had preached on nearness to God as simplicity.
We talked of the Italy I remembered in the 60s when the only televisions were in the bars, not the homes, and the children had no toys but knew so many games, singing games, circle games, games they played together, that cost nothing and gave joy. We talked of the unhappiness of today's children, brought up in front of the television, the teenagers given motorinos and telefoninos and sent out on the streets by their parents where they smoke and do drugs, and whose rooms are glutted with toys, that break easily, TOYS'RUS now a world chain, but who have not learned the skills the elderly once had, can only have pride in what they have, not what they do, what they make, what they know, who no longer listen to the old tell stories, only the television. I talked of how they had joyously brought me olive branches for Ireland, then lapsed back into their misery, from nothing being done with those olive leaves. Some nights ago I heard them crying, and trying to comfort each other; crying like the children Catharina saw in Göteborg after the fire. They are so unhappy. They so want a dream. I told of teaching in a nursery school where a father, a psychiatrist, had carefully given his two sons identical rooms with identical toys, and his sons could not play with others, in the school every toy had to be theirs alone and no one else's. 'He who dies with the most toys wins'. Tears, tantrums, it was impossible.
We talked of perhaps an evening school for these young people, the old teaching the young their skills, carpentry, embroidery, story-telling, studying Dante. And we talked of the working conditions of the Third World making these toys for the First World. A hidden slave-ownership. Bringing neither slave nor master joy.
We talked of Australia, that now has become so rich, but where the suicide rate and abortion rate are fabulously high. The children speaking English only, consumers, not producers, and the sadness of their parents and grandparents at being unable to hand down to them their culture of spirituality, their culture of skill.
We talked of the need for religion, the kind the Australian Aborigines write about, on the order of Melchisadek, the indigenous priest/ king (melek) of righteousness (zadok), who comes with the gift of bread and wine to the nomad stranger, Abraham; the Samaritan woman sharing water with Christ; rather than of Joshua's conquering and slaughtering. How can we drop peace upon Yugoslavia and Albania, come with carpenters to rebuild homes, with doctors to heal wounds? All this is far cheaper than jets and bombs and helicopters and soldiers, perpetuating cycles of trauma and violence, where Serbs and Albanians with memories of massacres are massacred and massacre. For the Peoples of the Book to come together and to share peace. Melchisadek in Genesis and Hebrews is of all the Peoples of the Book and beyond.
The greatest possessions we have are skills that create, not things that destroy; not things we buy, but what we grow and make and build and share.
When hungry and thirsty, real bread, the kind we have here, made by hand and needing to be cut in slices by hand, without preservatives, without salt even, but which lasts forever, and water or wine are enough. Though I have added to that zucchini from the vegetable garden and a sprig of rosemary, olive oil from the groves, sheep's cheese and an apple. I share this with you.
At 23.45 27/04/99 +0300, you wrote:
Dearworthiest Sister Julia and Godfriends,
Sitting in Nairobi in my tiny study... even untidier since returning from Belgium, Ireland, Germany and Japan... baggage not properly unpacked, items strewn here and there... work running so fast that a semblance of order may take some time to restore and my desk may stay submerged...
Outside, it is dark, and the waxing moon hidden under clouds. A wonderful mix of sunshine and rain, helping the seeds of maize, beans, millet and soya distributed last week. Donor funded seeds - after our fifth crop failure in a row, due to a succession of drought, dreadful flooding, and drought again. We are praying that this season, at last, may bring normal weather patterns, so that, in a few months' time, we shall be thanking God for having given us our own basic foodstuffs again...
The slum dwellers with whom we work, were resettled eight years ago at the very edge of Nairobi, on semi-arid land rezoned for housing development -- tiny plots totally devoid of anything except dry grass, snakes and the odd mosquito-infested stagnant pool after the rainy season. No roads, no sewerage, no sanitation, no water supplies, no houses, no shops, no schools -- but each member of the community received a little plot and a temporary title deed, lifting her or him straight away above the normal type of slum dweller who will for ever be at the mercy of a land owner. And as bits of an abandoned sisal plantation remained vacant for the time being, the people quickly planted staple crops for their food. That is, until the current spate of extreme weather patterns struck in 1996... let us pray that 1999 will see us emerging from these, so that we can return to proper development work.
And welcome back, Sister Julia, from Australia! Reading some of your notes, it is clear that your journey was a blessed and rewarding one -- indeed, fruitful too, and inspiring.
The same thing may be said about mine. Belgium and Ireland were parish visits, donor visits, discussions and plans for the future of our work (we are drafting a new three-year plan for the period October 1999 to September 2002, with a much greater vision for the next ten years), teaching in schools, informing parish groups and others by means of slide shows, demonstrating and selling crafts made by our communities, and meeting so many individuals who have been wonderful in supporting our work on an ongoing basis.
It is a good thing that my parental home is in the very centre of Ireland, since the visits involved travelling here and there, driving many hours daily to reach my destinations, and returning late most nights, finding my mother already in bed, and often leaving early again without having seen her... The weather was cold, but not too wintery, except on a few occasions, when morning roads were dangerous with ice or snow. God brought me a travel companion, a good friend who kept me company during a particularly gruelling week, and even excelled in selling crafts and addressing children in one of the churches!
Travelled to Omagh early one Sunday morning across the mountains in the driving snow, so beautiful that I had to stop and take photographs of sheep and gorse bushes and of my own virgin shoeprints on the roadside.
Found a major town, still suffering from the bomb. The young curate of the parish was still on extended sick leave. When the bomb exploded, the Rector of St Columba's and his wife were on holidays abroad and could not get an early return flight, so the Curate handled the immediate aftermath on her own. She worked wonderfully, handled problems she had never encountered before, worked with extreme competence and sympathy for others, leaving everyone full of praise. But a few weeks later, she suffered a complete breakdown. She had found the problems just overwhelming, and they brought back more from her own past too... So, I commit to your prayers the young Curate from Omagh, still traumatised by the bomb.
The parish runs quite a few events and groups, and it is their prayer that the people might become more committed to the church - not just as Sunday morning Christians, but as people for whom Christian life is important every day. They ask for prayer support in this, and they thank God that, as a result of the bomb, co-operation between the different Christian churches in Omagh is excellent and moving forward.
The Rector made a special effort to show me the olive leaves, which you, Sister Julia, had sent to them via Declan in Dublin and Juliet Turner of Omagh. These leaves have been used by the children of Omagh to make beautiful pictures for presentation in a special ceremony to the families of the dead.
Let me try and describe for you how this was done. It has become a custom, particularly since the death of the Princess of Wales, to make a gesture bringing flowers to the site where those who have died violently are being remembered. In Omagh too, after the bomb, huge quantities of flowers were offered as symbols of grief and sympathy and comfort to the bereaved. After the funerals, the people of Omagh debated what was to be done with the flowers, and the Churches were centrally involved in this debate. It was eventually decided that an artist would be commissioned to work with the children of Omagh to use the flowers in a creative and commemorative way. The artist and children together pulped and dyed the flowers into a red mass still visibly consisting of flowers. Some particularly fine stems were preserved intact - as were your olive leaves.
The artist then prepared 27 large sheets of fine thick white paper, on which the intact stems were stuck, together with olive leaves on each sheet of paper, and the mass of red pulp was spread like a frame around the central stems and leaves. Once dry, each paper was framed in a simple and beautiful wooden frame. At the civic ceremony which was scheduled for March (I think), each bereaved family was to receive one of these pictures (flowers, olive leaves, red pulp and all, on beautiful white paper, framed in wood) as a symbol of commemoration for the person who had died in the bomb.
I was very moved and touched by the trouble to which the community of Omagh, and particularly its churches and children, had gone to create symbols of grief and respect for those who had lost their lives - and things of great beauty too... You will feel very happy, Sister Julia and Godfriends, about the respect and the care with which your leaves have been treated and used to offer consolation, remembrance and beauty to the survivors.
And let me add a footnote about the Nairobi olive leaves too : even now, we are still finding new bomb survivors arriving at the Cathedral, looking for help. One lady, Christine, came last week, sobbing as she told us her story. She is dreadfully needy, with terrible financial problems, which were aggravated by the bomb and her inability to cope. She missed all the deadlines for claiming assistance from the National Disaster Fund and came to us with huge unpaid bills, medical and educational (which, thanks to the continuing generosity of donors and churches, we have been able to meet to a large extent). As she left our office, I gave her an olive leaf with your greetings and prayers -- and when she returned, some days later, she told me that she had placed it inside her pillow and that it helped her to sleep at night...
Julia, your very dear namesake, is meanwhile walking much more steadily. She had a major operation while I was away, with more glass retrieved from the deep scars in her face... she remained hospitalised for a week. Continues to have problems with her eyes and her legs... but her teeth have been operated upon too, and she is now wearing a brace in the hope that they may be steadied in their positions. She is, as always, radiant in love and hope -- would that we could all follow Christ in the footsteps that she is setting for us!
So, dearworthiest Sister Julia and Godfriends, I know it has taken me time to catch up with you again since my travels -- but be assured that your goodness is felt in various corners of the world where you have sent your tangible signs of healing and peace.
God be with you all,
Thank you. I shall be able to tell the youngsters in this village about all this tonight! They are their oliveleaves! And we'll translate this for the village newspaper. I was noticing that our young people don't even know how to grow things, the way the older generations do. Perhaps we could have some of the older ones teach the younger ones, while talking about the difficulties in Nairobi? The children have been good at putting on jumble sales, but haven't done one lately, even for Kosovo. My love to Julia and Olive, prayers for the courageous curate, and do you need more olive leaves? For both Nairobi and for Ireland, particularly for sending one to this curate with our love. Who knows, they may be coming from the children in my village, if all goes well tonight. Pray that it does. For the giving of olive leaves heals almost more than the receiving.
Then Catherina shared with us the laying to rest of her own ancestral harm.
Subject: Boathouse Mass, Date: Tue, 04 May 99 10:43:47 PDT
Dearest Julia, Godfriends,
May I share a story with you? I feel like a child coming home and bursting to tell. And there are even olive leaves involved.
Sunday afternoon I went to my house by the sea with two friends, one of them my parish priest. We stayed overnight and I put Father Göran up in the boathouse. A little chilly perhaps but rather special to fall asleep listening to the water lapping beneath the floor.
The house was built by my great great grandfather in 1820 or so and was my father's birthplace. The surroundings are magnificent, beautiful but difficult to survive in. Bare islets, long horizon, dramatic mountains, a barren landscape. With barren people living in little white fishermen's cottages. The sea took many many lives.
This part of the west coast was in the late 1800's dominated by a very stern, sectarian movement within the state church, named after Henric Schartau. He was probably sincere, but his disciples took it too far and created a life-denying religion where nothing was allowed. No joy, only rules. Terribly strict ones. When the religious wave ebbed away and the demon vicars died, people were left with the rules but no faith. And schartauanism without love and faith is nothing but lethal. That's what was practised in my house. Name any form of abuse and I know it has taken place there. Except perhaps for murder. Certainly murder of souls though.
My father was raised in all this and became a good and much loved teacher but was lousy at family relations and an alcoholic. The abuse never ends, it is being passed on through generations until someone has the strength to break it and knows a way to do it. When my father died in 1990 and I returned to this house which I had sworn I would never ever set my foot in again, things immediately started changing, I found I loved the place and wanted to turn things around. It has been like a mission, to make a clean break with dear old family traditions and to have people feeling good there for once.
We live at the end of the road, the big green space with the little red cottage is where I grow my onions and struggle to cut the grass every free weekend. The cottage used to be my grandmother's sheephouse. The house where we live, not very clear on the picture, is opposite the black-roofed boathouse to the right and our boathouse is the big red one second from left. Use the arrows to the right both below and above to see all the picture.
What happened yesterday was sort of the climax of that re-programming. In the boathouse, among my father's and my grandfather's and his father's things, fishing gear, tools, all rusty and crooked and much too large in number, we celebrated Mass. As altar served a big wooden barrel filled with green and brown glass balls, earlier used as floats for nets. On the altar I had put three olive leaves, one for us three living and present, one for my dead ancestors, one for the place itself. Göran read a text my father had marked in his Bible, and just seeing Göran, my 'padre', holding my dad's 'schartauanian' Bible in his hands made my heart and my eyes overflow. Outside the afternoon sun did shiny things with the water and there were joyous dancing reflections on the darkened board walls inside. Silence. The lapping of the waves. And through allowing the miracle to happen, the transformation, the sharing of bread and wine: a quiet reconciliation of a childhood. Of all our childhoods, we who were hurt by each other through the evil and the inability that this place has housed. And I may not be ready to forgive all of them fully, the wrongdoings remain and it may take a lifetime to forgive, but this is a start, and I wanted to invite all of the broken souls of my family to participate, as an act of reconciliation.
And after the Eucharist, just after the last 'Lord, we thank you', there was a sound on the first floor, beneath us. A bump, something falling. When we came down there was a wooden fishing float, quite big and heavy, lying on the floor. Coming from where? It had my grandfather's initials carved into it, J N L. I interpreted it as an approval from him, like he said 'Amen', and wanted to thank us for finally bringing some healing and peace to this place of abuse.
Then Father Göran took some water, salt water from the sea, put the three olive leaves in it, said the blessing prayer over it and went around the boathouse, the old sheephouse, even the herbal patch, and finally the main house, blessing every corner, every spot, me telling and pointing out, "especially that corner", him praying to God to wash away the evil and the hurt and to protect the place from further evil.
We gazed at the blue blue sky, this longed-for spring clear blue sky and the warming sun, and we saw the strangest thing. Two spots of rainbow, one on each side of the sun, like it was there but in hiding, like an enormous halo around the sun.
And I smiled. I smiled and smiled through the tears. It was the greatest feeling. And through the oliveleaves, in a way you were all there too.
At 08.53 28/04/99 EDT, you wrote:
Dear Julia and Godfriends,
The tragedy at Littleton has had a huge
affect on all of the U.S. -the shock of such surprising violence
in an American High School has the press and communities reeling
with fear and disbelief. Although, from my perspective, the loss
of faith in God - the steady diet of a lot of teenagers (and
adults) of violent media and video games coupled with a loss of
family stability and loving, male mentoring (fathers or other
caring, involved men) especially of adolescent boys has
contributed to such sadness. I was discussing some of this with
my 14-year-old son who prays with me that somehow God can bring
healing and a greater understanding of the gospel and eternal
things for our nation and communities out of this. We are
hearing more frequently on the news of the stories of these
young men asking the victims if they believed in God and then,
with an affirmation shooting to kill in some cases.
Earlier, in one of these copy-catting school shoot-outs, the child had said if he had been taught God he would not have done it.What we know in the literature on trauma and healing and what we are hearing from Dunblane and from Omagh is that there needs to be so much done to help victims, little things, tangible things, about ordinary people caring about each other, building back God. Do you remember St Benedict's vision narrated by St Gregory, about how in the presence of God the Creator, all Creation seems little, and yet it is loved by him, Julian repeating this in the hazel nut held in the palm of her hand as all that is made, and yet loved by God. If we can teach our children this . . .
Published in our Village Newspaper
Carissimi ragazzi di Montebeni,
lo scorso anno voi mi avete dato delle foglie d'ulivo per portarle in Irlanda dopo l'esplosione della bomba nella citta` di Omagh. Padre Patrizio le ha benedette ed hanno viaggiato con me sistemate in una grandissima sacca fino a Dublino in Irlanda. Mi e` dispiaciuto molto non sapere come fossero state utilizzate queste foglie fino a due settimane fa.
Infine, Isabelle Prondzynski mi ha scritto raccontandomi del suo viaggio da Nairobi in Irlanda quest'inverno e della sua visita ad Omagh coperta di neve. Il sacerdote di Omagh le ha mostrato dei bellissimi quadri creati con le vostre foglie da donare alle 27 famiglie delle vittime della strage. Quadri realizzati da una artista insieme ai ragazzi di Omagh.
Ringrazio per la vostra generosita`, la vostra spontaneita`, il vostro aiuto. Voi siete bravissimi!
This is such a tangled web we weave across the face of our small and beloved blue marble! I needed to give a blessed olive leaf to one most greatly in need, a young woman aborting her child fathered by a priest and suicidal in consequence, all our trauma focussed as if in a burning glass. Pray for the child, the father, the mother, for their souls even more than their minds, for their minds even more than their bodies. And I told that tale in Australia at an anti-abortion vigil.
Next I had to give them to a priest who had been in a relationship with two young men, one beginning when the youth was eleven. A priest who expressed such self-pity. I gave him three blessed olive sprigs, one each for both them, one for himself, to heal them all. Prayers for them all.
And Jeannine Coallier of Mustard Seed, like Fioretta Mazzei in Florence, has died peaceably of cancer, as Ken Lott is now doing. But may there be olive leaves and mustard seeds becoming bountiful trees, like the Kingdom of Heaven, forever in their memories. And we remember with the greatest sorrow the grandmother, the mother, heavily pregnant with twins, and her little daughter, all killed in Omagh, to whose family our olive leaves have been given in a framed collage. But I pray there come a day when we can give olive leaves to the living to give to each other in peace, across all boundaries, ending bloodshed and death. The Dove of the Holy Spirit with a sprig of olive in its beak returning to the Ark in the Third Millenium.
Earth Seen From Space
Hello from Australia.
Julia, we met when you came to Australia several months ago and we all went to Helpers of God's Precious Infants' Vigil Mass. You were here in Australia with Don Benedetto of the Comunita` dei figli di Dio. We spoke at length about post-abortion trauma and my involvement in this field as a post-abortion grief counsellor. We also spoke about the blessed olive leaves. Well, I've got some blessed olive leaves and have looked up the appropriate scripture passages and now I am slowly giving these blessed leaves to people who are suffering. There appears to be a hunger for spiritual healing and God's mercy.
Blessed olive leaves from Italy, olive
from Kenya, William Morris olive and oak leaves
print from England
It was most lovely meeting and sharing our faith and hopes.
Blessed olives leaves to all of you
reading this, for its lawful magic seems to work for single
persons and for the whole globe, in microcosm and in macrocosm.
Their cost is only God's mercy, God's forgiveness, which they
seem to give to both receiver and to giver, and they are for the
healing of the nations. Shalom.
It is early in the morning. I open my breviary to read the Office of Readings. It is Psalm 51 (52):
'But I am like a growing olive tree *
in the house of God.
I trust in the goodness of God * for ever and ever.'
It is a sign, a blessing.
God's Lamb with
Tree and Water of Life
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Blessed Olive Branch, Kenyan olive-
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