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The Island of San Michele

I was so overwhelmed by the Camino experience in 2010 that, until recently, I forgot
about the few wonderful days I spent in Venice before returning to the States. I stayed
with a good friend in a ‘non touriste’ section of Venice and on two occasions visited the
Island of San Michele.

This Island, now the main cemetery for the City of Venice, was once a Camaldolese
Monastery and Church. On my second visit I met the Monsignor responsible for the
Church and received permission to wander around the Cloister, Church and the Choir and
ended up celebrating Eucharist under the gentle gaze of a huge marble statue of S.

Sitting in the Choir with beautifully inlaid wooded designs in each stall of Saints
Michael, Benedict, Romuald and Peter Damien as well as the Camaldolese chest of the
chalice and the peacocks, obviously not used or inhabited for probably hundreds of years
given the dust and mustiness, I felt the roots of belonging, arriving and homing.

The monks may have gone centuries ago but their prayer and life, caught in beauty and
craftsmanship, lingers and whispers "It's not what its how".

In the quiet of the Choir the words of one of Rilke' s "Book of Hours" came to mind;
"This is the ferment I grew out of.
More I don't know, because my branches
Rest in deep silence, stirred only by the wind.
(1,3. Book of Hours.)

In fact it may be worth quoting the complete poem.

I have many brothers in the South
who move, handsome in their vestments,
through cloister gardens.
The Madonnas they make are so human,
and I dream often of their Titians,
where God becomes an ardent flame.
But when I lean over the chasm of myselfit
my God is dark
and like a web: a hundred roots
silently drinking.
This is the ferment I grow out of.
More I don't know, because my branches
rest in deep silence, stirred only by the wind .