he tourists hate them. The Italians hate them. I was afraid of them, until one day, coming from the bank with barely enough money to live on from a far too small pension (and angry about Anglican bishops stealing millions of pounds, while saying I could not have a penny, while loaning a mere thousand pounds to my other Sisters of our own money, while shutting down our convent and selling off its buildings to benefit themselves), I saw a small child, a girl, with her hand in my bag. In my anger and fear I spoke in English, not Italian, 'That was bad!', so relieved the next moment I had condemned the sin, not the sinner. She hadn't yet taken anything. Looking into her eyes, I realized that she was my sister.

Coming home I wrote about this experience on the Thomas Merton discussion list and Chesko, a former Trappist hermit, wrote back, saying he was glad I had been kind to his sister, adding she would have been beaten had she gone back to the camp without anything. And that he was gypsy, coming from China to America at twenty. That he knew his people steal.

One day, I saw a child sleeping in the loggia of the Ospedale degli Innocenti. I saw the same child, day after day, there. Shocked and worried, I asked at the UNICEF office for help for her. They only gave some candy for her. I went to the Ospedale degli Innocenti. Next, its Director and I found, not one, but two children, sleeping under blankets there. Waking them up, we asked their names. Samantha and Marianne, they told us. We took them to a bar for warm milk and brioche, Marianne asking, too, for a sandwich. They were then taken to the Mayer Clinic where they were found to have heroin. Samantha, at ten, was sleeping in the streets, her parents in prison. Within the day, the two girls, now dressed in modern ugly clothes, instead of their own beautiful garments, escaped.

I stopped giving money to gypsy mothers begging with their babies, explaining about Samantha and drugs, but offering, instead, clothes, food, and, what I found is most loved by the Roma, postcards of Fra Angelico paintings. I remembered the tale we tell in England, of gypsies stealing even the nails from the cross and thus alleviating Christ's pain and so being forgiven for their thieving. The gypsies kiss the postcards of Giotto's Christ or Fra Angelico's, exclaim over their beauty, and children run after me in the streets for more, their fathers approving. They can never enter the museums to see the originals.

Along with postcards I sometimes give alphabet and number cards, thinking these children are under-stimulated, lacking schooling, lacking toys, something to chase away boredom, while sitting in the streets, and to be of use later in their lives.

On one side:





On the other:

1 . 6 ......
2 .. 7.......
3 ... 8........
4 .... 9.........
5 ..... 10..........

You, too, can copy these, six to a page at a time, double-sided, printing them and cutting them, to give to children, any children. But especially children in need of them. Gypsy men tell me of reading the Bible. But, with tears in their eyes, of their difficulty in believing in God because of the treatment they receive in the world. I have seen them turned away from Christ's altar.

To one young gypsy outside the Badia, begging, I gave blessed bread. And then she started coming to Mass, to the Mass for the Poor, and bringing with her other gypsy women, her friends. Soon they filled rows at the Mass. Hedera is from Romania. I held her newborn baby Robert in my arms, begged clothes for him and was given them from the Ospedale degli Innocenti. The baby is now with her mother-in-law in Romania and she is with child again, there also being an older child, Nadia, whom she longs to bring together under one roof. She is not even living in the Rom camps, these she says being exclusively for the Hungarian and Albanian gypsies, but in the streets, - no place for a child. Surprisingly, these gypsies, for all their street living, are clean, do not smell. And their taste is lovely, combining beautiful colours and fabrics, celebrating life, not choosing our blacks and greys, unless they are widowed.

Which many are, they tell me, from the genocide of Kosovo. Earlier, they were holocausted with the Jews.

When I speak to Florentines about the gypsies they tell me of the beggar by the Duomo who pretends she is an old woman, garbed in black, stooped over a stick, but who is young, play-acting. I laugh and say she's chosen that rather than prostitute herself. The Muslim gypsy women, out of self-respect, always have scarves on their heads. They respect, too, my nun's veil. The Romanian Orthodox gypsy women do not wear head scarves, except in church. Both with long full skirts of bright colours. Indeed, my spiritual director suggests we become the Order of the Flight into Egypt, our habits, gay gypsy skirts!

I talked about the gypsies on Godfriends. And soon parcels began arriving from all around the world, especially large ones from far-flung Alaska, containing even garments by North West Native Americans. And these are all so much appreciated here. Money, too from Alaska, from Iceland. The need is so great. And the thanks so clearly expressed. Recently, gaudy necklaces from the New Orleans Mardi Gras were given, too, and these we learned were a mistake. One mother of seven had delighted in her skeins of gaudy plastic beads for she was having a wedding in the family. The following week she tearfully said they had all been stolen. Others wore them carefully hidden under their clothes, fearing jealousy, begging for more. I see the Rom benefit least from the candy, the coins, the drugs, the gauds, and most from the simple lovely postcards, from blessed bread (they are visibly hungry), from clothing, from blankets. Above all else, from kindness, from respect. They are our 'Other', who is ourself.

Thus the fear stopped. And the friendship began. The most beautiful thing I experience in all of Florence's loveliness is seeing a Rom's smile, hearing a Rom's 'grazie'. To one I gave my best silk paisley skirt, that I wore at my sons' weddings and to dinner parties with the Consul, before I became a nun. Two months later she ran up to me at the station to show she was still wearing it, that she loved it, though it was now in rags, and she thanked me for it! I never got a word of thanks from my millionaire bishops! But there is work to do. Above all else, housing for refugee families. A problem the European Community should address, rather than overstraining a small city like Florence and fostering racist tensions.

A friend took me to the gypsy camps, peopled mostly by Kosovo refugees, in Florence. Outside is seeming disorder, but within, beauty, rooms filled with people, barefoot, sitting on the floor, but no furniture, apart from a cradle, carpets that are constantly being washed, and one niche filled with a few symetrically placed objects. The cradles are ancestral ones, handed down from generation to generation, and during the whole day we spent in the camps I heard no babies cry, because they were always nursed or rocked. Knowing Hedera would soon give birth, I made such a cradle for her child.


Cradle in Florence       Cradle in Romania

Then better ones.

I had already written the above but the story continues, combining words and lives. As Hedera came closer to giving birth I begged her to seek help from Assistenza Sociale or to come and stay with me. She was afraid of Assistenza Sociale because they help the mother and baby for six months, then take away the baby. She was afraid of where I lived, a cemetery. Twice she came to its gate but would not enter, the first time just before Leonardo was born, where we sat on the steps eating lunch, the cradle I had made for her at her feet, all Florentine traffic swirling past us. She and Andrea kept looking at this cradle and smiling. She came again from hospital, the three-day-old baby in her arms, but would not enter, going instead to a friend living in an abandoned factory in the country side. Four days later her husband telephoned. Hedera was on the steps of the Badia and 'molto male'. The police and carabinieri had come, on the day of San Lorenzo, it was pouring with rain non-stop, torrential downpours, and they had sent the mothers and babies out into the open. So again we walked from the Badia, where Hedera goes to the Mass for the Poor each Sunday, to my cemetery. And once again she was afraid to enter. Not until the child was baptized. We stood under umbrellas in the downpour. Too wet to sit. Would I baptize Leonardo?

So that evening at Vespers I baptized the little Leonardo, with water from St Bridget's Well in Kilcullen, Kildare, and water from San Lorenzo, whose day it was, above relics of St Cuthbert and Padre Pio and the Fatima children which somehow have found their way to my small prayer altar in my cell. By candlelight our eyes were all filling with tears of joy, Leonardo becoming even more beautiful and calm as he was baptized, all swaddled as he was, like Christ. The family now sleeps in my cell with its altar and I sleep in the library. Everything is kept spotless. My landlord has given permission for them to be here for a week. And we are clubbing together to buy them a bus in which they can live. Have almost raised the two thousand euro it costs.

Hedera and Andre are Romanian Orthodox and deeply pious. The day after Leonardo's baptism, on our way to Mass at the Badia, I took her with me to the Santissima and bought the largest candle for a prayer for Leonardo to the Madonna of the Annunciation, the painting above the altar said to be begun by a Servite, ended by an angel. She keeps a beautiful silk scarf with poppies on her baby. This time it came off and she put it on her head, giving me Leonardo to hold, went down on her knees with the lighted candle, and crossed herself three times, deep in prayer, I kneeling beside her. Then we rose and back went the scarf on the swaddled calm baby and the baby back into her sling, another lovely paisley scarf, as she exited the door. Yesterday morning, Friday, as I poured her warm milk she said 'No'. Even an Orthodox mother who is nursing on Friday does not drink milk. Nor use soap on that day, despite their love of cleanliness.

We have much to learn from Rom culture, in particular, mothering and fathering. Leonardo is swaddled, and constantly nursed, consequently he is calm. Our culture has us keep babies at arm's length, in cribs, away from ourselves, only feeding them at four-hour intervals, meaning they become filled with rage at deprivation and neglect, fine for a warrior culture, like the Spartans, an elite minority, who bred their children into cruelty to keep down their majority Helot slaves. But not right for children in a Christian democracy. We have to go to school to mothers like Hedera to learn peaceableness and happiness. These days of calm for Leonardo, of such a Florentine name, will give him the deep inner happiness for all his life that I already see in his parents' smiles and caring for him. And in the smiles of other gypsies thanking me for postcards, for blessed bread.

Andre had to leave school at sixteen, his parents too poor to continue paying what it cost. Everything costs in Romania, schools, hospitals, and everyone is so poor. I explained to him that I, too, had left school at sixteen, then got my doctorate with three small children to raise on my own. That all things are possible. And told him of our dream, of this cemetery as a Free University, with its library and its workshop, the way Berea College used to be. I explained about this website and the computer, able to reach the ends of the earth for free. And that it is to be particularly dedicated to those groups who are usually excluded, to share cultures. And told him never to give up his Rom culture but to keep it side by side with ours. And told him of a Rom who is professor of Rom culture at the University of Trieste in Italy. Pray that these seeds flourish and grow . . .

Meanwhile, going to meet them in Santa Maria Novella Piazza, the Albanian gypsy women call me over. 'I have no money', I tell them. 'Then let us share this cake with you', they reply. It's a gorgeous chocolate cake and I'm hungry. But I say 'No' and 'Thank you', explaining, like Hedera, it is Friday. 'But we're Muslim and we don't fast today', they reply! And thank me for my kindness to Christian Hedera.

And again, later.

If the van they have bought to live in is not insured the police will break it. So Hedera, her two brothers and her husband, and one of her brothers' wives, came here to work to earn the insurance money. A great retaining wall in the cemetery had broken and the tombs are leaning dangerously as a result. Quickly these small people cleared away the rocks, dug into the bank, then replaced the rocks into the now perfect wall, sometimes throwing the stones to each other to catch to move them swiftly and with momentum over the distance, the women, taking turns holding the baby, or working too, saying where the rocks should best be, all working together. In the midst of this we received a phone call. The work not allowed because no permit by the Belle Arti. So we couldn't finish the final part of the wall. All the rest had been done within two hours. But we could pay them. Hearing this our family immediately decided they must do other work for us to earn the money, rather than just taking it, and smoothed and raked the paths, gathered and bagged the broken tree branches and dead fallen leaves, while the women cooked a fabulous meal of chicken and soup that we then shared together, - all in between holding Leonardo. At table it was like eating with princes, no one's voice raised egoistically, each speaking of concerns for the others, especially for their mother in Romania, caring for their other children. Then Beniamino played his accordion for us, waltzes, Romanian folk tunes, foot-tapping music, filled with loveliness, sadness and joy mixed. Hedera had bought the food with her begging. We are grateful for the wall, the meal, they for the insurance, Hedera for having housing for her baby. I miss them in the house. It was like having the Holy Family sheltering beneath our roof.

Then, later, they had to flee from Italy like the Family of Nazareth. Nor could they get the insurance, Andre having no codice fiscale, no legal financial existence in Italy. The police confiscated the van in Florence, then, after Hedera paid for its release, in Milan. The Badia's Mass for the Poor is emptied of its Rom. The colour has gone out of it.

From: Council of Europe <>
To: 'Julia Bolton Holloway' <>
Date: Mon, 7 Oct 2002 15:27:31 +0200
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2656.59)

Dear Julia,

Thank you for this information you have sent us concerning this family.

We are working hard here at the Council of Europe, together with the
European Union, to try to do something for Roma families such as the one you

There is nothing we can directly do to help this family but we are setting
up programmes in various countries and are particularly concentraing on
health, education, housing and employment.

I hope one day very soon a family such as the one you know will feel the
benefits of our work.

Many thanks for keeping us informed.

Judith Butler
DG III - Migration and Roma/Gypsies Division
67075 Council of Europe Cedex
Tel: +33 3 88 41 29 91

-----Original Message-----
From: Julia Bolton Holloway []
Sent: Sunday 6 October 2002 07:50

I am writing in connection with a Rom family who have spent time in
Florence, then were forced to leave Italy and journey back to Romania with
a new-born baby. We came to love this family greatly and were attempting to
employ the father legally for they worked hard, are skilled and
intelligent, and the mother, though illiterate unlike her husband, is
equally intelligent and a gifted mother. We bought them a van in which to
live and travel but the police twice confiscated it, in Florence and in
Milan, and told them to leave the country, threatening them in Romanian
with prison camps in the mountains if they did not.

Can there be a European Community project where families or organizations
can adopt families with needed help? We have pledged to send this family
assistance each month. The mother's mother, who is ill, is looking after
eleven children in a 'barracca'. We see the need for richer countries to
help poorer countries in this one-on-one way, plus assistance from the
European Community. In Romania they must pay for schooling and
hospitalization and these families are too poor for that. At the very least
to see that health and education is provided.

Two babies were born here in Florence to this family and these two children
thus surely are deserving of European Community assistance? It would have
been possible for the mother to have sought help from Italian Assistenza
Sociale but she was afraid they would take her babies from her at six
months. She is a splendid mother, the best I have ever seen. We found them,
when they stayed with us, to be scrupulously clean, civilized, courteous,
skilled, hard-working, generous, never stealing, never drinking.

Another difficulty is the high cost for documents, the Romanian government
charging EUR300 for the stamp on the mother's passport for her baby. (I
checked this with our Romanian Consul in Florence and it is true.) She also
has to wait a month for this document. Her husband's passport had been
stolen and he had been too afraid to go to the police to report the theft.
They have now had to flee back to Romania. We hope they will be able to
cross the frontiers.

Yours sincerely,

Julia Bolton Holloway, Ph.D., Professor Emerita
Director, Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei
'English Cemetery', Piazzale Donatello, 38
50132 Florence, Italy

Hedera was able to return to Romania with the stamp on her passport for her baby. But Andre, journeying separately, did not arrive. The family kept meeting every bus. Hedera, desperate, came back to Italy, showing 500 euro at the border for a 'permesso di soggiorno', having left her new-born with her mother. Andre had been taken off the bus in Austria and imprisoned, next beaten so badly he was in the hospital, his family not informed, for no crime apart from having been in Italy without the 'permesso di soggiorno'. Hedera found him and they came to us for help. This time, the Romanian Embassy advised, Andre should fly back to Romania and not risk the bus. We bought him the ticket and he rejoined his family, taking up the care of the babies, while his mother-in-law was in hospital. There is no work in Romania and these people must pay for schooling for their children, why Hedera had never gone to school, so never learned to read or write, and they must pay for medical and hospital care. Hedera chose to stay to try to earn money to send back to her family, in particular for buying a house instead of the shack in the camp. We agreed to help. She has now returned to her family, and each month we send euros by courier. They have already been able to move into one room of this house, the parents, Andre and Hedera, the three children, seven people in all, and when the full amount is paid will have all its three rooms and its garden for raising potatoes and onions and chickens.

Hedera's writing of the Lord's Prayer in Italian

Now long ago, Giannozzo Pucci shared with me this story from Francesca Alexander's illustrated collection that he had loved as a child:



D io ti salvi bella signora,
e ti dia buona ventura.
Benvenuto vecchierello
con questo bambino bello.

G od be with thee, Lady dear,
Give thee comfort, give thee cheer!
Welcome, good old man, to thee,
With thy Child so fair to see!

B en trovata, sorella mia.
La sua grazia Dio ti dia,
ti perdoni i tuoi peccati
l'infinita sua bontade.

S ister, in this lonely place
Glad I am to see thy face!
God forgive thee all thy sin,
Plant His grace thy soul within.

S iete stanchi e meschini
credo, poveri pellegrini,
che cercate d'alloggiare
vuoi, Signora, scavalcare.

B y your looks I understand
You are strangers in the land,
Seeking shelter for the night:
Lady, will thou please alight?

T u che sei sorella mia,
tutta piena di cortesia,
Dio ti renda la carità
l'infinita sua bontà.

O h my sister! that kind word
Is the first that we have heard!
God reward thee from above,
For thy courtesy and love!

O h scavalca, signora mia.
Hai una faccia di una dia.
Ch'io terrò la creatura
che sto cuore m'innamora.

O h alight, dear Lady mine!
Something in thee seems divine!
Let me - for I long to - bear
In my arms thy infant fair!

N oi veniamo da Nazaretto,
semo senza alcun ricetto;
arrivati alla strania
stanchi e lassi dalla via.

W e have come from Nazareth here,
All the way in haste and fear:
Weary, lost, on foreign ground,
We no shelter yet have found.

S ono donna zingarella;
benché sono poverella,
t'offerisco la casa mia
benché non è casa per tia.

T hough a gypsy poor am I,
Yet to help you I would try:
This my house I offer fre,
Though 'tis not a place for thee.

O r sia da me Dio lodato
e da tutti ringraziato.
Sorella le tue parole
mi consolano al cuore.

G od be praised without end
For the comfort He doth send!
Sister, kind indeed thou art,
And thy words console my heart.

S e non è come meritate
signoruccia perdonate;
come posso io meschina,
accettar una regina?

I f 'tis not as you deserve,
Still I hope that it may serve;
How can I, so poor and mean,
Fitly entertain a queen

A ggio qua una stallicella,
buona per la somarella;
paglia e fieno se ne getto;
che per tutto lo ricetto.

H ere I have a little shed
Where the donkey can be led:
Straw there is; I'll bring some hay;
All can safely rest till day.

E tu, vecchierello, siedi
sei venuto sempre a piedi.
Avete fatto, o bella figlia,
trecento e tante miglia

F ather, thou must weary be;
Thou hast come on foot, I see;
Thou hast walked the country o'er,
Full three hundred miles and more.

Oh che bello sto figliarello
che par fatto col pennello.
Non ci so dare assomiglio,
bella madre e bello figlio.

L ovely is this Child to view,
More than artist ever drew.
Nothing with you may compare,
Babe and Mother, both so fair.

E sei stata a Bettelemme
signoruccia, ancor teme?
Non avere più paura
sei arrivata alla buon ora.

T hou has now from Bethlehem fled;
Still I see thee pale with dread.
Lady, there's no cause for fear;
Herod cannot reach thee here.

Se ti piace o gran signora,
t'indovino la ventura
Noi signora così fino
facciam sempre l'indovino

L ady, it would please me well
If I might thy fortune tell:
Ever since the days of old,
All my race have fortunes told.

Ma quel che dirò a te,
tu lo sai meglio di me.
Alla tua bella presenza,
mostri assai di sapienza

Y et, with all my art can do,
I may tell thee nothing new;
For in thy sweet face doth shine
Wisdom greater far than mine . . . .

Esco pazza d'allegrezza,
piena son di contentezza.
Che da quanto io discerno
fosti eletta tu ab eterno.

A h! this joy is all to great!
Scarce my heart can bear the weight.
Wondrous things mine eyes behold . . . .
God hath chosen thee of old!

Fosti sempre da Dio amata,
pura, santa, immacolata;
tu sei quella di Dio madre,
che ha in cielo suo Padre.

G od hath cause thee to endure,
Ever holy, spotless, pure.
And on earth hath granted thee,
Mother of the Lord to be.

Anna chiamavasi la tua madre
e Gioacchino il tuo padre.
Ti chiamerò, signora mia,
col bel nome di Maria.

J oachim and Anne his wife,
Were thy parents in this life.
Thee, my Lady, I will call
MARY, sweetest name of all.

E cresciuta ti presentaro
ed al tempio ti portaro.
Là mangiavi, là dormivi,
là insegnavi là leggevi.

T o the Temple did they bear
Thee, a child, and left thee there;
Where thou didst, for many a day,
Eat, and sleep, and read, and pray.

Poi ti dettero questo sposo,
puro, santo e grazioso.
Per miracolo di Dio,
la sua verga lì fiorio.

T ill for thee a mate they find,
Joseph, holy, pure, and kind:
By a miracle of GOD,
Flowers did blossom on his rod.

Concepisti sto bambino
per lo Spirito Divino.
Questo figlio è vero tuo,
ma sto sposo non è padre suo.

B ut this Infant's birth had place,
By the Holy Spirit's grace;
Thou art Mother . . . But I know,
He not father hath below.

Tu sapesti il che, il come,
avea Dio da farsi uomo.
Ti dotò di tante dote,
nella tua concezione.

T hou didst know that God one day
Would put on our mortal clay;
Unto thee, in Earth or Heaven,
Only, such a grace was given.

Dio mandò l'ambasciatore,
Gabrielle con splendore:
eri in camera serrata,
quando fece l'imbasciata.

G od to thee His angel sent,
Gabriel with the message went,
Thou wast in thy room alone,
When he made his errand known.

E di grazia ti disse piena,
sei del ciel fatta regina.
Il Signore già è con tia
Dio ti salvi a te Maria

F ull of grace! did Gabriel say,
Queen of Heaven thou art to-day!
God shall ever with thee be;
Blessed Mary, hail to thee!

Nel vederti salutata,
nel interno eri turbata.
Maria levati ogni pianto;
ciò è per opera dello Spirito Santo.

A s his speech did thus begin,
Troubled was thy soul within.
Mary, cast away thy fear,
God it is who sent me here.

Tu sarai vergine e madre,
per la tua grande umilitate.
Benedetto ne sia il frutto,
redentor del mondo tutto.

V irgin Mother shalt thou be,
For thy great humility:
To a Son thou shalt give birth,
Who will ransom all the earth.

Allor subito umiliata,
acconsentisti all'imbasciata.
Son l'ancella del Signore;
venga, venga il Redentore.

T hou in humble worship bent,
To the message didst consent.
I, God's handmaid, wait His will:
Let Him all thy words fulfil.

Di là a tempo tu partisti,
collo sposo te ne gisti;
camminando a Bettelemme
e passaste tante pene.

W hen the destined time had come,
Lady, thou didst leave thy home;
Thou and Joseph, with much pain,
Did the town of Bethlehem gain.

Non poteste allor trovar,
da potervi alloggiare,
che una grotta alla strania . . .
come facesti signora mia?

T here no shelter couldst thou find,
House, or roof of any kind:
To a cave thou didst repair . . .
Lady dear, what didst thou there?

Oh che povero ricetto.
Senza fuoco, senza letto.
Credo ancora che la grotta
era bagnata e poco asciutta.

W hat a place to pass the night!
Without bed, or fire, or light.
On the ground thou didst abide;
Damp it was, and cold beside.

A mezza notte partoristi;
senza dolore lo facisti,
questo figlio inzuccherato
tanto al mondo desiato.

I n this lodging so forlorn,
Just at midnight He was born;
This sweet child, whose wondrous birth,
Long was waited for on earth.

Riverente l'adorasti,
ed in panni l'infasciasti.
Lo mettesti, signora, poi
in mezzo l'asino e lo buoi .

T hou didst worship, while thy hands
Wrapped Him in those linen bands:
Then didst place Him on the hay,
'Twixt the ox and ass He lay.

Una sola mangiatoia . . .
n'è lo ver, bella signora?
Oh che notte d'allegrezza;
tutto gaudio e contentezza.

I n the manger! . . . Lady fair,
Was it not as I declare?
Such a night of joy serene.
Ne'er before on earth was seen.

Fu la notte risplendente
che stupì tutta la gente.
Nacque Cristo in sulla terra,
mise pace e levò guerra.

F or at midnight shone such light,
All men wondered at the sight.
Christ is born, and war departs,
Peace he gives to all our hearts.

Li pastori l'adorarono
li presenti gli portarono;
e dicevan per la via,
è già nato il gran Messia.

S hepherds, hastening to adore,
While their humble gifts they bore,
Said to all along the way,
Christ the Lord is born to-day.

Ora tu, signora mia,
che sei piena di cortesia,
mostramelo per favore,
lo tuo figlio, il Redentore.

N ow, Lady, kind of heart . . .
Full of courtesy thou art . . .
Pray thee, let me look upon
My Redeemer, thy dear Son.

Datemi, oh caro sposo,
lo mio Figlio grazioso;
quando vide sta meschina
zingarella ch'indovina.

P ray thee, husband, give me here,
From thine arms my infant dear;
When the gypsy shall him view,
She may tell his fortune too.

Questo, sorella, è lo tuo Dio,
ch'è lo cuore e lo stato mio,
Guarda bene sto bel viso;
allegrezza di paradiso.

H ere thy GOD, my sister, see:
Heart and soul, and life to me!
Look on this sweet face with care;
All of Heaven's joy lies there.

Figlio è dell'Eterno Padre
come Dio di maestade
e come uomo e figlio mio
per sua mera cortesia.

G od His Father is, and He
Like to God in majesty.
Yet like man, and child of mine,
By his courtesy divine.

Ecco sorella il Redentore;
venne qua pel peccator.
Pate Lui, pato io,
e sto caro sposo mio.

T he Redeemer from above
Come to earth for sinners' love!
Much to suffer here, and we
Shall with Him afflicted be.

Oh che figlio inzuccherato.
Il mio cuore ha innamorato,
signora ed imperatrice,
benché sono peccatrice.

O h, but what a babe divine!
Lady, all this heart of mine
Burns with love as Him I see:
Sinful creature though I be!

Il suo nome è Gesù;
chi non l'ama non sa più.
Vi domando perdonanza:
peccator quest'è l'usanza.

J esus is His name; their lot
Darkness is, who love Him not.
At his feet shall sinners bow,
Evermore, as I do now.

Buona sorte fu la mia,
d'incontrarvi per la via.
Mi parlava ognor il cuore,
mi diceva esci fuori.

H appy fate was mine to-day
Thus to meet Thee in the way!
Go! the heart said in my breast:
Go out! And I could not rest.

Già che Dio così destina
ch'io faccia l'indovina,
fammi grazia signorino
dammi qua lo tuo manino.

S ince the good God destined me
Fortune teller thus to be,
Do not, Lord, my prayer decline,
Lay thy little hand in mine.

Io non faccio ste parole,
me le pico dallo cuore:
bella madre di clemenza,
preparatevi a penitenza.

N aught do I invent or make,
From my heart the words I take.
Oh, prepare thee, Mother dear,
Sad and fearful things to hear!

Passati alcuni anni,
Gesù dirà a San Giovanni,
voglio essere nel Giordano,
battezzato di tua mano.

W hen some years have passed away,
Jesus to Saint John will say,
In the Jordan's stream, by thee,
Will I now baptized be.

A fter that, for many a day,
In the desert He will stay.
Fasting, in that place of dread,
Tasting neither wine nor bread.

S atan there will Him persuade,
Stones he would to bread were made.
But will shortly, by GOD's might,
Be confused and put to flight.

C hrist shall enter through the gate
Of Jerusalem in state.
Boughs of palm His followers bring,
Hymns and psalms of praise they sing.

L ater, He, the Lord of all,
Will the twelve apostles call,
All for lover and mercy's sake,
His last supper to partake.

A nd, while all in reverence wait,
He the bread shall consecrate.
This, shall say the Lord of Heaven,
Is My body, for you given.

B y a word of power, the wine
Will be changed to Blood divine.
Ne'er did earth such wonders view,
As his mighty love shall do!

W hen the Sacrament is past,
(Of His earthly acts the last,)
Love will Him constrain, to give
All His life, that man may live.

R ising, thence He makes His way
To a garden, there to pray:
Bowed with grief, from all apart,
With great anguish in His heart.

O n that night of sore dismay,
Judas shall His Lord betray;
And of silver shall but win
Thirty pieces for such sin!

T hen the Jews shall Him surround;
They, alas! will lead Him bound,
To tribunals more than one,
As though evil He had done!

B y unwilling Pilate, He
Sentenced, at the last, shall be:
To content the Jews, who cry,
Let Him bear His cross and die!

T his sweet Babe, all prayers in vain,
Must before thine eyes be slain,
On a cross thou shalt Him see . . .
Oh dear Child! and must this be?

T ill that day of torment past,
Dead and white and still at last,
In thy arms, with tears and pain,
They will lay thy Child again.

W ith what tears and bitter sighs,
Thou shalt hide Him from thine eyes,
In a tomb which one shall lend . . .
And with this thy woes shall end.

L isten, Mother, full of grief,
Pray for our poor souls' relief!
God thy Father was, and thou
Of His Son art Mother now.

T hou the Holy Spirit's bride,
O'er all creatures glorified.
And thou wast so glorious made,
For our comfort and our aid.

'T is enough, thou weary art,
Lady, but before we part,
Unto this poor gypsy, pray
Give an alms, if ask I may.

S ilver ask I not, not gold;
Though all wealth thy hand doth hold
Star of light! For on thy breast
Christ, th'omnipotent, doth rest.

G rant me, by thy prayers, to win
True repentence for my sin:
That my soul may, soon or late,
Enter through the heavenly gate.



Tradução literal e irretocável de Marciano da Fonseca Machado

A cigana:
Deus seja contigo, querida senhora,
te dê conforto, te dê ânimo!
Bem-vindo a ti bom velhinho,
com tua criança, tão linda de ver!

Nossa Senhora:
Irmã, neste lugar solitário,
alegre estou de ver teu rosto!
Deus perdoa todo o teu pecado,
E planta sua graça dentro de tua alma.

A cigana:
Pela sua aparência eu entendo
que sois estrangeiros nesta terra,
procurando abrigo para a noite,
senhora, não gostaria de apear?

Nossa Senhora:
Ó, minha irmã! Essa doce palavra
é a primeira que nós ouvimos!
Deus te recompensa lá do alto,
por tua cortesia e amor!

A cigana:
Ó, apeie minha querida Senhora!
Algo em ti parece divino!
Deixa-me  por um momento, pegar
em meus braços teu menino iluminado!

Nossa Senhora:
Nós viemos de Nazaré até aqui,
pelos caminhos, apressados e temerosos,
Cansados, perdidos em terra estranha,
ainda não encontramos abrigo.

A cigana:
Embora eu seja uma pobre cigana,
ainda assim, gostaria de ajudar,
esta minha casa eu te ofereço,
embora não seja um lugar para ti.

Nossa Senhora:
Deus seja louvado eternamente
pelo conforto que envia!
Irmã, tu és realmente bondosa,
e tuas palavras consolam meu coração.

A cigana:
Se não é como tu mereces,
ainda assim espero que possa servir;
como posso eu, tão pobre e mesquinha
tratar com zelo uma rainha?

Aqui eu tenho um estábulo
onde podes deixar o jumento:
Há palha, trarei algum feno;
todos podem, seguros, descansar até o dia.

Pai, tu deves estar muito cansado;
vejo que, apressado, vieste a pé;
andaste por todo país,
por longas trezentas milhas ou mais.

Encantadora é a criança, de ver,
mais que um artista poderia pintar.
Nada em ti pode se comparar,
mãe e filho, ambos tão belos.

Agora, tendo fugido de Belém;
ainda vejo-te pálida de temor e ansiedade.
Senhora, não há nada a temer;
Herodes não pode alcançá-los aqui.

Senhora, me agradaria muito
se pudesse ler tua sorte:
desde os dias mais remotos
minha raça advinha o futuro.

Contudo, com tudo que minha arte pode fazer,
não posso dizer-te nada de novo;
pois, em tua doce face brilha
sabedoria bem maior que a minha...

Ah! toda esta alegria é grandiosa!
Meu pobre coração carrega o peso.
Coisas maravilhosas meus olhos contemplam...
Deus te escolheu desde a eternidade!

Deus te escolheu para enfrentar tua missão.
Sempre santa, imaculada, pura.
E na terra te concedeu,
a graça de ser a Mãe de Deus.

Joaquim e Ana, sua esposa,
foram teus pais nesta vida.
Tu, minha senhora, eu chamarei
MARIA, o nome mais doce de todos!

Ao Templo eles te levaram,
uma criança e te deixaram lá;
onde tu, por mais de um dia,
comeste, dormiste, leste e rezaste.

Até que encontraram para ti um noivo,
José, santo, puro, e bom:
Que por milagre de Deus,
flores brotaram em seu cajado.

Mas o nascimento desta criança ocorreu,
pela graça do Espírito Santo;
tu és mãe... mas eu sei,
que aqui embaixo não tem pai.

Tu sabes que Deus um dia
poria em nossa argila mortal,
sobre ti, na Terra e no Céu,
somente tal graça foi dada.

Deus enviou a ti o seu anjo,
Gabriel, que veio com a mensagem,
tu estavas só em teu quarto,
quando ele cumpriu a missão.

“Cheia de graça”, disse Gabriel,
“Rainha do Céu, hoje tu és!
O Senhor estará sempre contigo,
abençoada Maria, salve!”

Assim que seu discurso começou,
tua alma ficou perturbada,
 Maria, lança fora teu receio,
Deus é que me enviou até aqui.

Tu serás uma virgem mãe,
por tua grande humildade,
darás á luz a um filho que,
libertará toda a terra.

Tu, em humilde adoração curvaste,
para o anjo deste consentimento.
 Eu sou uma serva do Senhor, aguardo sua vontade:
que eu cumpra todas as suas palavras.

Quando se cumpriu o tempo destinado,
Senhora, tu deixaste tua casa;
tu e José, com muita tristeza,
partiram para a cidade de Belém.

Lá não encontraste abrigo,
casa, ou teto de nenhuma espécie:
Reparaste numa gruta...
Senhora, amada, que fizeste lá?

Que lugar para passar a noite!
Sem leito, ou fogo, ou luz.
No chão tu deste a luz;
além disso era úmido e frio.

Nesse albergue tão incômodo,
à meia-noite ele nasceu;
essa doce criança, cujo nascimento maravilhoso,
há longo tempo era aguardado na terra.

Tu o adoraste, enquanto tuas mãos
o envolviam em faixas de linho.
Então o colocaste sobre o feno,
entre o boi e o jumento, deitado.

Na manjedoura!... bela Senhora,
não foi como eu declaro?
Em tal noite de alegria serena.
Nunca antes jamais vista na terra.

Pois à meia-noite refulgiu tal luz,
todos os homens se maravilharam ante tal visão
Cristo nasceu, e a guerra afasta
e ele traz a paz a todos corações.

Os pastores se apressaram em adorar
enquanto trazem humildes presentes
e diziam a todos ao longo do caminho:
Cristo, o senhor, hoje nasceu.

Agora, Senhora de bom coração...
tu és cheia de ternura...
Rogo-te, deixe-me admirar
meu redentor, teu filho querido.

Nossa Senhora:
Rogo a ti, caro esposo, dá-me aqui,
de teus braços, meu querido menino;
quando a cigana o puder ver,
ela lerá também sua sorte.

Este é teu Deus, minha irmã, vê:
coração e alma e vida para mim!
Olha sua doce face, com carinho;
toda alegria do céu está ali.

Deus é seu pai e ele é
semelhante a Deus em majestade.
Embora como homem e filho meu,
por sua cortesia divina.

O redentor vindo do alto,
veio à Terra por amor aos pecadores!
Para sofrer muito aqui, e nós
junto com ele ficaremos aflitos.

A cigana:
Oh!, que criança divina!
Senhora, todo meu coração
arde de amor ao vê-lo:
embora eu seja uma criatura pecadora!

Seu nome é Jesus, sorte
tenebrosa têm os que não o amam.
A seus pés se curvam os pecadores,
mais do que eu faço agora.

Feliz sorte hoje foi a minha
de encontrá-lo em meu caminho!
Vai! Meu coração gritou no peito:
saiam! E não pude descansar.

Desde que Deus me destinou
para ser leitora de sorte,
senhor, não recuse meu pedido,
põe tua mãozinha sobre a minha.

Nada eu invente ou faça,
das palavras que me diz o coração.
Ó, prepare-se, mãe querida,
para ouvir coisas tristes e trágicas!

Após alguns anos passados,
Jesus dirá a São João
 Nas águas do rio Jordão; por ti,
quero agora ser batizado.

Após isto, por mais um dia,
ele ficará no deserto.
Jejuando, nesse lugar tenebroso.
Não provando nem pão, nem vinho.

Satanás o tentará persuadir,
a transformar pedras em pão.
Mas, logo pelo poder de Deus,
será confundido e posto a correr.

Cristo entrará pelo portão
de Jerusalém, com pompas.
Ramos e palmas seus seguidores trazem
hinos e salmos de louvor eles cantam.

Mais tarde, Ele, o senhor de todos,
chamará seus doze apóstolos,
todos pelo amor e piedade,
a participar de sua última ceia.

E, enquanto todos aguardam, reverentes,
Ele consagrará o pão:
isto, dirá o Senhor do Céu:
é meu corpo, a vocês oferecido.

Por uma palavra de poder, o vinho
se transformará em sangue divino.
Nunca a Terra viu tais maravilhas,
como seu poderoso amor pode fazer!

Quando ao findar o sacramento
(de seus atos terrenos, o último)
o amor o obrigará a dar
toda a sua vida, para que o homem viva.

Subindo em seu caminho
para orar em um jardim,
curvado pelo sofrimento, de todos afastado,
com imensa angústia em seu peito.

Nessa noite de agonia,
Judas trairá o seu senhor;
por apenas trinta moedas de prata
pelo seu pecado grave.

Então os judeus o cercarão;
eles, que tristeza, o levarão amarrado.
Aos tribunais, mais de um,
como se ele tivesse feito algum mal!

Por um Pilatos relutante, Ele
será sentenciado, afinal,
para agradar aos judeus, que gritam,
que carregue sua cruz e morra!

Essa criança doce, todas as orações em vão,
deve morrer diante dos teus olhos,
numa cruz tu o verás...
Ó querida criança, por que deve ser assim?

Até que passe esse dia de tormento,
morto branco e parado enfim,
em teus braços, com lágrimas e dor,
eles irão depor teu filho de novo.

Com que lágrimas e soluços amargos
tu o ocultarás a teus olhos,
num túmulo que alguém emprestará...
e com isto, findarão teus sofrimentos.

Ouça mãe, cheia de dor,
ora para o alívio de nossas almas!
Deus foi teu Pai, e tu
de seu filho, és agora Mãe.

Tu és a esposa do Espírito Santo,
glorificada sobre todas as criaturas
e tu foste feita tão gloriosa,
para nosso consolo e nosso auxílio.

É bastante, tu estás cansada,
Senhora, mas antes que partamos
sobre esta pobre cigana, peço
dá uma esmola, se eu puder pedir-te.

Prata não pedirei, nem ouro;
embora toda riqueza tua mão retém
Estrela de Luz pois em teu peito
Cristo, o onipotente, repousa.

Concede-me por tuas preces,
ganhar o arrependimento para o meu pecado,
que minha alma possa em breve ou mais tarde
penetrar naquele portão celestial.


John Ruskin, Francesca Alexander's friend, William Morris, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, were all deeply inspired by Italian art and by its Catholicism, the Pre-Raphaelite Movement paralleling the Oxford Movement, where part of the Church of England sought to rejoin Protestantism back to Catholicism with Anglo-Catholicism . In Francesca Alexander's writings and drawings we witness all these strands working together at once, adding to them the dimension of women, peasants and gypsies, of their art, culture and wisdom.

See also /myriam, /hedera


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