10 November 2023

Daily prayers in the Kingdom Season
with USPG: (6) 10 November 2023

The Church of Saint Francis in Sorrento is near Villa Comunale park and Piazza Tasso, and dates from the eighth century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In this time between All Saints’ Day and Advent Sunday, we are in the Kingdom Season in the Calendar of the Church of England, and the week began with the Fourth Sunday before Advent (5 November 2023).

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (10 November) remembers Leo the Great (461), Bishop of Rome, Teacher of the Faith.

Before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

In recent prayer diaries on this blog, my reflections have already looked at a number of Italian cathedrals, including the cathedrals in Amalfi, Florence, Lucca, Noto, Pisa, Ravenna, Saint Peter’s Basilica and Saint John Lateran, Rome, Siena, Sorrento, Syracuse, Taormina, Torcello and Venice.

So, this week, my reflections look at some more Italian cathedrals, basilicas and churches in Bologna, San Marino, Pistoia, San Gimignano, Mestre, Sorrento and Ravello.

Throughout this week, my reflections each morning are following this pattern:

1, A reflection on an Italian cathedral or basilica;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside the Church of Saint Francis in Sorrento, often a venue for classical musical concerts (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Chiesa e Chiostro di San Francesco, Sorrento:

Sorrento on high cliffs above the Tyrrhenian Sea is a popular tourist destination overlooking the Bay of Naples in southern Italy. It is within easy reach of Naples, Pompei, Vesuvius, the Isle of Capri and the Amalfi Coast.

In the mythology, according to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, Sorrento was founded by Liparus, son of Ausonus, who was king of the Ausoni and the son of Ulysses and Circe. In classical times, there were temples of Athena and of the Sirens. This was the only temple of the Sirens in the Greek world, and may explain the origins of the town’s name.

During the War of Italian Unification, Sorrento was officially annexed to the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861. It became one of the most renowned tourist destinations in Italy, and famous visitors in the past have included Byron, Keats, Goethe, Nietzsche, Ibsen and Walter Scott.

The Chiesa di San Francesco is near Villa Comunale park, and just a five-minute walk from Piazza Tasso. The white stucco and modern-looking façade masks the building’s ancient history. It dates back to the eighth century, when an oratory was built on the site by Saint Antonino, the patron saint of Sorrento, who dedicated the small church to Saint Martin of Tours (feastday, 11 November).

The Franciscans transformed the place into a much larger church in the 14th century and dedicated it to Saint Francis of Assisi. To mark the seventh centenary of the death of San Francis, the church façade was updated in 1926 with a marble finish, but the beautifully carved 16th-century wooden door was retained.

Four steps lead up to the recently-restored 16th-century main door. Inside, the church has a single aisle, and there are three chapels along each side, dedicated to Saint Rita da Cascia, Mary Immaculate, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Anthony of Padua, and other saints. The painting above the High Altar shows Saint Francis receiving the stigmata and dates from 1735.

Other works of art in the church including paintings and a wooden statue of Saint Francis and the crucified Christ. The vaulted ceiling of the nave has Baroque stucco decorations. A magnificent painting In the friars’ reception room, dating from 1500 and attributed to Friar Joannes Baptista, depicts the Madonna with the Christ Child between Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint John the Baptist.

Mass on Saturday evenings is usually in English and the church is often a venue for classical musical concerts.

The municipal seat was located in the church in the late 1400s and early 1500s, and it was the venue for several meetings of the city council. The town seal and municipal documents were kept in the sacristy in the 14th century in a box that could only be opened with four different keys.

Beside the church, the Franciscan convent has cloisters with columns and arches that have a hybrid mixture of architectural styles, from the fourth to the 16th century, with Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Arabic influences.

These tranquil, secluded cloisters, with overhanging bougainvillea, colourful summer flowers and tree-shaded corners, have a quiet, contemplative environment, where trees and plants curl around the interlaced arches and snake up the stone pillars.,

The cloisters are considered to be one of Sorrento’s finest historical attractions and are often the venue for weddings, art exhibitions and concerts.

The Public Gardens of Sorrento nearby offer splendid views of the Gulf of Naples.

A statue of Saint Francis of Assisi in the cloister gardens beside the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 16: 13-19 (NRSVA):

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14 And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15 He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17 And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

The cloisters are one of Sorrento’s finest historical attractions and often the venue for weddings, art exhibitions and concerts (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Friday 10 November 2023):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Community Health Programmes’. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (10 November 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for community health programmes, both in Bangladesh and across the Anglican Communion. For the healing and care they provide.

The cloisters have columns and arches with a hybrid mixture of architectural styles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

God our Father,
who made your servant Leo strong in the defence of the faith:
fill your Church with the spirit of truth
that, guided by humility and governed by love,
she may prevail against the powers of evil;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with Leo to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The Piazza Tasso is at the heart of life for most tourists in Sorrento (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Sorrento sits on high cliffs above the Tyrrhenian Sea and is a popular tourist destination overlooking the Bay of Naples (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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