Saturday, May 9, 2009

La Dolce Vita

Last week I was in Florence for the weekend. I did a lot of touring the sites,with Richard Quaintance and Peter Casparian balanced with some much needed time for conversation with a dear friend, Barbara Crafton. Barbara is the interim rector at St. James Episcopal Church in Florence, which is why I went to Florence in the first place. She has been a friend for a long time (she preached at my installation as Minister General).

All the brothers of the Province of the Americas have received a form from our Minister asking that we find somebody to talk to about our life in SSF. He gave us some specific questions to wrestle with. Barbara and I sat in the rectory of St. James (built by J. Pierpont Morgan in the 20's). "Would you do it all again?" she asked, reading from the list. Yes, absolutely. Of course I wonder what another path might have led me to in my life, but judging by the sense of joy I feel, I am not really committed to searching out another path.

Perhaps it would be nice to abridge the journey and go from height to height, skipping the messy, painful bits.

I returned to Assisi with the idea of my life journey very much on my mind. I got a chance to think about it even more when I was invited to go along the Franciscan pilgrimage route with Sr. Maureen, CSF, who has been in Assisi on a long planned two week visit. We have taken two incredibly long walks: on Tuesday from Valfabbrica to Assisi (about 14 kilometers, I think) and then a whopping long walk Friday from Spello to Assisi (24 Kilometers). Tuesday evening we joined other pilgrims for a blessing at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels inside the tiny original Little Portion. After that we joined the guiding light of the Franciscan pilgrimage route, Angela Maria Seracchioli, in a community meal. She cooks huge dinners every night for the pilgrims staying in the hostel. We were Americans, English, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish. My life journey has brought me into company with a great diversity of people and presented me with challenges and great blessings.

I highly recommend the walks. Angela has written a book called "Di qui passo Francesco." Neither Maureen nor I read Italian, but we used the maps and made guesses about the information in the text. We didn't really need the book. The scenery was amazing, and we were like two big bumble bees going from flower to flower, exclaiming over the beauty of all the species we saw, stopping to listen to the birds, and in-between telling long rambling stories about our life in community. Tired and footsore when we got home each day, we asked the question: "Want to do it again?" Definitely. It was easy to imagine Francis walking along these paths, looking for somewhere to be alone and pray, or talking with Br. Leo, fretting about what was going on in the brotherhood.

Assisi is in the grip of its annual May Festival called the Festa di Calendimaggio. It is a chance to wear medieval costumes, dance and sing in competition with other groups in town. It is very colorful. People of every age participate. It is an interesting blend of old and new: colorful costumes, trumpets and archery, Ray Bann sunglasses and cell phones, cigarettes and motorcycles. I really like Italy!

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