The rain has stopped and today is a most cloudy day. But I can see the sun setting over the foothills of the Alps on the west horizon. What a joy to behold!!! I’m back in Novara after being in Turin all day yesterday.
I left Novara yesterday at 6:30 a.m. with Giorgio who drove me to Turin as we had our first speaking engagement at 8:30 a.m. at a Salesian school. The Salesians were founded by St. Don Bosco who is from Turin. Spoke to about 100 students. There were many many questions ranging from why does America keep the death penalty, what I thought about the assassination of Bin Laden, what we should do with Nazi War Criminals and how do we really practice mercy, compassion and forgiveness with respect to people who kill. As it was the anniversary of Dorothy Day’s death, I invoked her name and unwavering commitment to Gospel nonviolence. As Dorothy said: “The only solution is love!” I also spoke about how nonviolence is the only way to break the cycle of violence and how we should pursue a path of restorative justice as a model to address people who commit violent acts. I shared that if we kill, or support killing those who kill, we become that which we deplore and further the cycle of violence. I also spoke about the model of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that came out of South Africa as a model to deal with systemic and state sanctioned violence. Students and teachers alike were very very receptive.
Across town, I spoke to another group of about 50 students at a different school. Again there were good questions and interest by the students in the work of Sant’Egidio. I ended up speaking to about 150 students at the two schools. I want to make special mention here that at each talk I have given I have had exceptional translators. I am very grateful to all of them.
Had a short amount of time in the afternoon to see the central plaza of Turin which, once upon a time, was the former capital of Italy and place where the royal family lived. It is also the place known for having the burial shroud that many speculate to be the linen that covered Jesus as he lay in the tomb. It’s definitely a mystery to behold. See more about Turin below. Two friends and I went to the church where the original shroud is kept and, as grace would have it, a tour guide gave us short yet concise explanation of the shroud. We were able to look at an exact replica of the original–the original can only be seen when the pope declares that there be a public display. (see below more info about Turin)
In the evening there was a special prayer hosted by the CSE to remember prisoners worldwide, including the nearly 19,000 prisoners on death row worldwide and people different countries who have been executed. I was asked to give a reflection at this prayer which was attended by about 60 people. I included in my reflection some inspiring hope-filled words from Troy Davis that he wrote shortly before he was murdered by the state of Georgia. Toward the end of the service, people lit candles to remember the dead prisoners as everyone sang Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy).
Today is the special CSE sponsored “Cities for Life Day,” where events are being held in 1,600 cities worldwide to abolish the death penalty. Here in Novara, I gave two talks this morning and early afternoon to about 270 students at one high school. Had great heartfelt sharing with students in both sessions. One student told me that she now knows what she wants to do with her life. Deo Gratias! Truly the work of the Holy Spirit!
At mid-afternoon, I had another talk with about 30 students who came to the CSE center after school. To my amazement, this talk was organized by a committee of students from different schools who called for this event. Another great sharing and enthusiastic response. I have been, and continue to be, very moved by the questions and dialogue with these students. These young people are such beautiful signs of hope for the future! The night ended with a talk to about 30 people from the CSE movement of ‘Peace People.’ Most of these people are immigrants who are attending a CSE sponsored language school to learn Italian. It was a very inspiring evening.
Tomorrow I leave early to give two talks at high schools in Savona, which is 200 Km from Novara. I then return in the late afternoon to Novara for another talk.
Thinking of fellow Catholic Worker and friend, Brian Terrell, and giving thanks for his life-giving witness as he begins his six month prison sentence for nonviolently resisting the killer Drones.
Keeping you all in my prayers. And thank you for yours.
With love and gratitude,