Friday, July 16, 2010

Heart of a saint

Nestled in the heart of our little community is a monastery run by the Order of St. Camillus. When I was a child, it was a boy’s boarding school. During the summer holidays all us children of the parish could use the swimming pool. That is where I learned to swim. (Up to 80 lengths…in case you forgot!) It is now a nursing home where they do fabulous work looking after the sick.
There was great excitement in the area as for only the third time in 400 years the Vatican was allowing the heart of St. Camillus to leave Rome and it was coming to Killucan for four days.
St. Camillus was born in Italy in 1550. His early life was spent as a mercenery soldier who was also an inveterate gambler.
I like a saint who has a bit of experience of real life!
One day he converted to God and decided to enter the Franciscan Order. Some years later, while in hospital due to illness, he was appalled at the way the sick were treated. So he founded a new order of like-minded men, and became renowned for his hands-on charity towards the sick. He is now the patron saint of the sick, health care workers....and gamblers.
A very full portfolio, even for a saint!
His heart never decayed, and can now be seen enshroud in a glass and gold case, which was now in Killucan.This event was carried on the national news, where we had a game of “spot the local” on the tv! Everyone from far and wide was coming to see it….everyone, that is, except me!

One difficulty I have with the Catholic Church is its obsession with suffering, death and body parts! When you stop and think about it, we believe that when we receive the Eucharist, we are actually eating the flesh and blood of a person (albeit, its Jesus, but still….) And then we wonder why early Christians were persecuted by the Romans, who feared this new cannibalistic cult that was starting up? Would the same thing not happen today?
Anyway, despite the fact that I am skeptical about going to see someone’s heart, I have every respect for people who do find comfort and hope in it. And I’m sure that if I was in dire need, I would do and believe in anything to remedy it.
I met my sister Geraldine for lunch. She was saying that she had gone the previous evening and had found the whole occasion very moving. One of the main reasons for this is because of the church in which it was displayed. My Dad built this church several years ago and he was so proud of it.

Of course, he didn't build it by himself! He was the contractor...but it was still his pride and joy.
The steeple is made of glass, which leaves the whole building bright,airy and very calming. I remember the day the cross was being placed on the top. It went through a pane of glass and the whole lot had to be repaired. I'm sure Dad uttered several prayers over it that had no place in a church! This is the place where I feel closest to Dad. When I want to talk to him I don't go to his grave, I go to "his" church.
So on the way home I decided to call in for a visit. I couldn't believe the crowds that were there. I heard later that an average of 4000 people visited it everyday over the four days. As our little parish only has a population of less than 1000, people had obviously travelled from far and near.
I had to park away from the monastery and walk in the rain. When I got to the church, the queue was out the door and down the hill. I was grumbling away to myself.

My feet are all wet. I'll catch my death of cold. Bah, humbug!

Just then, a woman about my age, asked if she could pass through the queue, as she was wearing a full back brace and was unable to stand for any length of time. Boy did I not feel like a complete bitch?

It was fascinating listening to all the stories of the people around me. They were all experiencing pain and suffering, but all had great faith in St. Camillus. The chat stopped when we reached the door of the church and peace descended. Only for it to be shattered by.....the ringing of my mobile phone:( I nearly got sick on the spot as I rummaged around in my bag to switch it off. It reminded me of Father Ted where Fr.Ted and Fr. Dougal keep ringing that priest at the most inopportune times, like when he is skiiing down the black slope or being the target in a knife-throwing event. I eventually got the dam thing turned off. I apologise profusely to anyone who was there. It certainly wasn't done on purpose.
I continued on my winding way up to the altar. I had no idea what the protocol was for venerating a heart so I just followed everyone else's example. When I reached the case, I touched it, blessed myself and filtered out.

I can't say that seeing the heart had any major effect on me. But seeing the devotion and beliefthat everyone else had in it, certainly did. I left the monastery determined to change my ways and to stop being such a spoilt, selfish self-centered cow and that in itself is a miracle!!

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