Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easing Into Assisi

All of my posts lately seem to begin with “it has been awhile since I last posted.” Every time I write those words I vow not to have to do it again. So far this year, I have not managed to live up to those promises. Several people have asked me when I am going to post pictures and comments from our trip to Italy. There are several reasons that it has taken me so long to do this.

We arrived home from Italy at 10 pm on Sunday the 22nd of March and had to be back at school and ready to educate the youth of America at 8 am Monday morning. Needless to say, there was a definite change of mindset needed in those ten hours from Sunday night to Monday morning. I had given midterm exams the week before we left and in an effort to pack lightly, did not take them along to grade on the plane. So, I spent the week after we got home playing catch up with four classes of tests that had to be graded. From that point, there were things at home that needed to be taken care of (laundry, bills that needed to be paid, and so on.) And then it was Holy Week – seven services in five days and somewhere in there was a weekend trip to Austin. And, this week I have jury

duty. Though life happening was a big part of my not having posted here, it is probably not the real reason that it has taken me so long to collect my thoughts and render them into words. To say that our trip to Assisi was awesome, that it was amazing, that it was incredible, are all true, but none of this comes close to capturing the experience. In those hills of Umbria, my life was changed, both personally and spiritually, forever.

As we boarded the plane in Dallas, I had no expectations other than to go to Assisi and see what there was to see, to be in the midst of all those places that I have read about and imagined as I have studied the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare. I did not expect to have a “mountaintop experience” or to see visions or to find myself in some other kind of mystical moment; I simply wanted to go to Assisi and be in the presence of the powerful spirit of the beloved saints that remains to this day.

Having too many expectations is the road to disappointment. Having no real expectations paves the way for the Holy Spirit to work wonders. I did have several intimate encounters with the Holy in those seven days in Italy. It has taken me this long to even begin to process these experiences such that I have any hope of writing about them in a way that even begins to convey what really happened. I will do my best to share with you in my next several posts the most amazing seven days of my life.

First, I think it is helpful to share a few general pictures of Assisi. Even if you have no acquaintance with Saint Francis or St. Clare, one cannot help but be taken aback by the absolute beauty of the Italian countryside and the charm of the medieval town itself.
This is one of those obligatory tourist pictures. It does capture the green-ness of this city in the last few days of winter.
This is the sight that you are greeted with as you step off the train in Assisi, the roca maggiore, a fortress that sits high above the city.

On our first morning walking the narrow cobblestone streets, I was fortunate to turn at just the right moment to capture this woman greeting the day. The baskets of flowers framing the entrance to her stone villa was the norm for residences in Assisi.

The cobblestone roads were built for horses, not cars. They are very narrow, accommodating Smart cars at best. For those of us that are used to American highways that are littered with SUV's, the cars in Assisi looked like matchbox cars. Even the police cars were Smart cars.

The old city sits up on a hill. This is a view looking down on the more modern part of Assisi that rest in the valley below.

On first appearance when looking from the train station, the roca maggiore seems way far away. Even when standing in the middle of the city's plaza one still feels like it looms high above. However, with a relatively short walk up a fairly steep road, a sharp left turn, and a lot, but not too many, stone steps, you are standing at the edge of this magnificent structure. I do have close up pictures of the roca maggiore that I will share later. The above image is looking down on Assisi from the roca. The church in the fore front is the Santa Chiara, the church of St. Clare.

These pictures represent the big picture of Assisi. There is more to come depicting the quiet corners found in this place.and the holy moments experiences