I arrived on Sunday, Jan. 14, and was greeted at the airport by the Guardian of the Curia Friary, Rick Martignetti, from the Immaculate Conception Province.
Our meetings began on Monday morning at 7a.m. with morning prayer and the celebration of Mass. Most days we went from 7a.m. to 7p.m. We had evening prayer followed by dinner at 7:30 p.m. According to Italian custom, there was a siesta time in the afternoon,although there were some meetings scheduled during that time.
On Wednesday, we each had the opportunity to meet alone with the Minister General. He and I talked about several issues concerning our Province. I found our conversation to be frank and productive. The General has become quite proficient in the English language.
The agenda of the daily sessions included such topics as “On the Footsteps of the Order “( a reflection on the Order today ), “The Role of the Minister Provincial,” The Experience of the Lay Brother, the Fraternal Life plan, Accompanying Friars who are experiencing difficulties, and several presentations by the different Offices of the Curia.
On Saturday, we attended a special celebration at the Antonianum for the 800th anniversary of the Order. Sunday was a free day. A few of us spent the day in Assisi, where we concelebrated at the Portiuncula and visited several of the special sites in Assisi.
By coincidence, Sunday was the feast of St. Anthony the Abbot. This is the day in Assisi when they have the annual blessing of the animals (unlike those of us here in the U.S., who do it on the feast of Francis.) The Church was packed with people, as was the plaza outside. If you were allergic to dogs, it was not the place to be as there were several hundred of them present.
In general, the weather was quite nice the first week, though it turned considerably colder on Sunday. There were snow flurries in Assisi. All in all the week was a great opportunity to meet the friars who serve on the General Council (Definitorium) and the friars who work in the Curia offices. The spirit of fraternity and hospitality was excellent.
The week concluded with a festive meal on Monday evening (prepared by the friars , some really great Italian food!) and a closing Liturgy on Tuesday.