Back home, and no real time to write. I will have to get caught up later. But I have managed to solve the spam problem — I hope — with the introduction of a filter that will require potential posters to type the letters from an image of a word before they can post, something that “spambots” can’t do. It’s been tested for a few days and seems to work just fine.
In the meantime, here is a corrected version of a letter I sent to my friends at Act One a couple of weeks ago.
My family and I just returned, filled with joy and gratitude, from two unforgettable weeks in Rome, which included successful shooting of a total of seven interviews for a documentary on St. Elizabeth of Hungary. In fact, the shooting went so miraculously well that I can only attribute it to the direct heavenly supervision of a quite wonderful lady, St. Elizabeth herself, and not least to the prayers offered up by Act One members. Thanks so much, all of you!
A few more details that I didn’t have time for before. A little over a year ago, I was asked by the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular to speak on St. Elizabeth at a historical conference they were organizing to take place in Rome in February 2007 for the eighth centenary of her birth. I began planning my talk a whole year in advance. Then they asked me to translate the sources for Elizabeth’s life for her centenary, as well as revise my dissertation on her, a work in which I was aided by a grant from the friars. Then I was asked to go to Rome last September, to help write a formation program for the centenary for the Secular Franciscans, the order to which I belong. Then I returned to Rome on November 17 for the kickoff of the centenary year (the actual anniversary of Elizabeth’s birth is November 17, 2007).
The friars had also graciously offered my family their guest appartment at the basilica and convent of Sts. Cosmas and Damian for two weeks at the time of the actual conference on February 23. My mother, two sisters and my brother Nick and his wife and daughter, were excited about joining me. Then, as if I didn’t have enough to do already, I decided to try to realize my dream of a documentary on Elizabeth; I knew it was the opportunity I’d been waiting for because my brother is a professional videographer. When I asked him to participate, he was very excited. He managed to get a very good rental deal on an HDV video camera. We went over there with little more than a month’s preparation, and money for the camera raised by donations.
I wanted the documentary to be a chronicle of the centenary as well as a look at Elizabeth’s life. We began by interviewing members of the International Secular Franciscan Council from all over the world, who were having their chapter meeting in Rome that same week. These members from Canada, Venezuela and the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, are men and women living in he world who are devoted to realizing the ideals of St. Francis in their daily lives.
In the interviews we shot on the grounds of the convent belonging to the Angeline Franciscan sisters, they told us how they were inspired by St. Elizabeth, one of the earliest Franciscan penitents, who was herself a wife and mother living in the world, and who became known as the “mother of the poor” in the Thuringian territory in Germany where her husband ruled. After his death, Elizabeth put on the religious habit and made her life a holocaust of service to the sick, poor and lepers, until she died in 1231. Amazingly, she was only twenty-four years old at the time of her death. Our interviewees spoke of the example of Elizabeth’s marriage and her commitment to social justice; they proved beyond a doubt that her example is still vital in today’s world.
My brother also shot video of the historical conference. (I only wish he could have missed the moment when I tripped and almost fell off the podium at the end of my talk). The day after the conference was the inauguration of a traveling art exhibit on St. Elizabeth at the basilica.
On that Saturday and the following days, the friars generously closed the basilica to visitors and allowed us to film our interviews with the scholars inside. When I say basilica, I mean a fifteen-hundred year-old church built from the ruins of a first-century A.D. Roman temple with a magnificent sixth-century mosaic of Cosmas and Damian with Christ and the Apostles in the apse. We also shot one interview in the sacristy, against a wall that once belonged to the Roman Forum. Talk about a colorful background!
We interviewed Matthias Werner, Professor of the University of Jena, near Eisenach, where Elizabeth lived, who has written a number of studies on her life. We also interviewed Fr. Salvador Cabot, TOR from Spain; Fr. Fernando Scocca, TOR, who helped organize the conference, and Fr. Lino Temperini, TOR, who teaches at the Franciscan University in Rome, the Antonianum. They told us how Elizabeth inspired them and discussed the historical controversies surrounding her life. Later, we also taped some of the visitors to the art exhibit, and some other footage inside and outside the basilica.
No time to tell you about the rest of our wonderful two weeks: about the sightseeing we did, our delicious meals at the trattorie on the Via Cavour; our visit to St. Peter’s basilica for one of the Pope’s Wednesday audiences; or my first visit to the catacombs and my re-acquaintance with their inspiring story of faith. But you can be sure we had a wonderful time.
I can’t wait to have the footage edited into a teaser trailer so we can continue our fundraising and put together the material on
Elizabeth’s life. I will continue to give updates, and once again, please remember us in your prayers.