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12 October 2012

by Jonathan Boardman


Feline family

"ROUQUEMOUTTE": apparently in French it means "ginger" - the colour, not the spice. Attentive readers to my previous diary pieces will not be surprised to learn that, inspired by Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell, I have added felines to my household - the aforementioned ginger tom, and a pretty black female with luminous amber eyes, "Tilda, the Empress of Trash".

They came as tiny, big-eared bundles of fluff, intriguing rather than scaring the dogs (Deo gratias), and rapidly establishing themselves as the life and soul of the animal party which seems destined to be continually hosted chez Boardman.

They also echo the psalmist's plangent thought that "Lions do lack and suffer hunger"; I have never wit­nessed creatures with such exagger­ated appetites. Half the size of the dogs, they were finishing entire bowlfuls of biscuits, cat mousse, meat or fish scraps, or indeed any­thing left out on worktops, within hours of staking their claims.

I had thought that I would have no favourites, but I have to admit that it's Rouque (aka Red, Rufus, or Roscet) who has stolen my heart. A "good boy" myself, I have always had a soft spot for the naughty ones, and he is beginning to live up to the classification. I will try to control the number of funny stories originating from the zoo, as I know there is no story more boring than that con­cerning the antics of other people's children/pets. But sometimes I will simply have to indulge myself. Beware.

Petrine celebration

PETER HUGHES is the still-quite-new Prior of San Gregorio Magno - now the Camaldolese church and convent in Rome, but most famous as the religious house founded by St Gregory the Great. I have known Peter for the 13 years I have lived here, and most of the time he has resided at the mother house of this reformed Benedictinism, high in the Tuscan Appenines.

And, for most of those 13 years, he has been a member of the order without being reordained, not wishing in any way to compromise his belief that, after ordination in the  Anglican Church of Australia, he was already a priest.

He has always worked hard to in­clude All Saints' congregation, choir, and clergy in the life of the com­munity, recalling the historic links between this convent and the See of Canterbury. It was from here (even if 1000 years before the arrival of the Camaldolese) that St August­ine set out for the court of Kent.

It was Peter's election by his con­frères as Prior of San Gregorio that led him prayerfully to the decision to accept Roman Catholic reordina­tion. Subsequently, this took place on 29 February this year, a date that, Peter was quick to note, could not easily be kept as a new an­niversary.

The graciousness of the celebra­tion was particularly inclusive of Anglicans, and thus it was with joy that he was able to welcome the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury to the house in March of this year, when they celebrated a joint liturgy. And it has been at Peter's invitation that a real, practical, ecumenical project has been established between the convent and All Saints'.

Nearer God's heart

THE components of Peter's vision - the almost superhuman organisa­tional skills of our curate, the Revd Dana English, and the advice of Beth Blosser, a regular worshipper at All Saints' and professional gardener - have created the Ecumenical Garden Project.

Already, on a Saturday afternoon in mid-September, nearly 20 mainly Anglican volunteers gathered to clear the jungle that the resident com­munity of three monks had long ago given up the idea of controlling. Now the invitation has spilled out to the churches that make up Churches Together in Rome. The appoint­ment will be for most Saturday morn­ings until the good weather ends.

Pope Benedict XVI and Dr Williams inaugurated a small chapel in San Gregorio as a focus for ecu­men­­­ical pilgrimage; and the garden will manifest this intention in flowers, fruit, and a place of medi­tation.

Pet project

IT WAS while they were sitting in this former wilderness, during their pre-ordination retreat, that those who were ordained deacon in the diocese in Europe this year (includ­ing Dana, already mentioned) dreamed of simple ways to create beautiful, welcoming ecumenical spaces. Peter dreamed along with them.

We all know that the one story that is more boring than stories about other people's children/pets is the story of someone else's dreams. Remember the tediousness of Mr Pooter in the Grossmiths' Diary of a Nobody? Fortunately, this is no dream: it is a reality. I might just take Rouquemoutte, Tilda, Gaston, Ger­trude, and Sally to play there - prom­ising, of course, to clean up after­wards.

The Ven. Jonathan Boardman is the Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, and Chaplain of All Saints', Rome.

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