The International Chapter of Mats opened yesterday afternoon in a tent that is over 400 feet long and about 50 feet wide. There are several big screens inside the tent so that those in the back can see those who are speaking on the raised platform in front. (The sign above the entrance says, "International Chapter of Mats.")
"Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found," we sang in Latin (Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est) for the opening ceremony at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
We are approximately 1,800 friars from 65 countries and all continents. Friars are meeting old friends and making new ones.There are nine of us from the Cincinnati province and all of us are in the Hotel Stuoie near the main tent. "Stuoie" is the Italian word for "mats," the reeds out of which approximately 5,000 friars wove shelters when they gathered in Assisi for a chapter in 1221. As far as we know, this is the largest event in Assisi, involving the whole Franciscan family since that date.
A Capuchin and a Conventual from the U.S. recognized my name from "St. Anthony Messenger" and extended their compliments for our magazine and the work of St. Anthony Messenger Press.
After the customary welcomes from the organizers, the OFM minister general in the name of all four ministers general and a greeting from the mayor of Assisi, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap (preacher of the papal household) gave a conference about observing the Rule of Life that we have promised. He emphasized the need for friars to be "charismatic itinerants," seeking not to look back at Francis but rather to look at Christ with the eyes of Francis.
More of this in my next post