Today I decided to take the morning off. The Mass here at the friary was to be an anniversary Mass for a deceased lady who had been a friend of the friars, and her family was coming. A local friar was specifically assigned to offer the Mass and pray with them, and when I looked at the Mass-scheduling book, there was no intention assigned to me. Given such freedom, plus the fact that Morning Prayer tends to be pretty sparse here on Sundays what with most of the friars going off to various parish churches and chapels, I decided that I would get up late (it turned out to be seven o'clock) and 'go out to church.'
I went out of the friary around eight and took the short walk down to the basilica of St. Francis. The early Mass was just finishing up as I made my way to the stairs that go down to the tomb. It was early enough to still be pretty quiet and empty down there. A conventual friar was saying his breviary. A sister whom I remembered seeing on the bus yesterday was praying quietly.
I sat down and opened my breviary. Clerici faciant divinum officium secundum ordinem sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae. Invitatory. Signore, apri le mie labbra/e la mia bocca proclami la tua lode. Office of Readings, then Morning Prayer. O Dio, vieni a salvarmi/Signore, vieni presto in mio aiuto. At the end of the intercessions, I try to pray for everyone who arrives in my thoughts: the friar and the sister and all of the pilgrims who will visit the tomb today, the American Capuchins here in Assisi on the perpetual profession pilgrimage, the new priests and deacons at home, the friars at home preparing for temporary profession and the postulants looking forward to investiture, the other students at the Italian school, and all those who have suffered on account of my sins and negligence. Officium dicebamus secundum alios clericos...et eramus idiotae et subditi omnibus. Most High and Glorious God, I give you my heart to make me so by whatever means you will. Holy Father Francis, pray for me.
After those prayers I went up to the lower basilica and found a spot for Mass. I know that it's probably wrong for a priest to attend Mass in such 'morally absent' fashion, but once in a while it's just so nice to just 'go to church;' to not have to worry about anything but your prayer and the sacrifice that you bring to the altar, to simply hear a simple homily, to respond to the pastoral smile of the cantor and sing with the people, and especially to have again the joy of kneeling at the consecration. Here in Italy they kneel according to the norm of the Roman rite, from the epiclesis to the memorial acclamation, rather than in the extended fashion we practice in the United States, but it's enough for my joy. I find that I don't yet know by heart the prayer before Holy Communion in Italian, and I draw a blank as I try to remember it in English. So quietly I pray, Domine, non sum dignus...
God Most High, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, of all things visible and invisible, through the sublime humility of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, gives himself to me under the little form of bread. And yet I know that the Body of Christ I receive is the broken and sacrificed Christ crucified. Receiving him into my own created body and my own created soul, I confess to God the desire for that same humility, a desire that he himself has worked in me in his mercy. And I pray for the willingness to become simple and subject to all.