Saturday, June 20, 2009

Please Don't Ruin My Picture!

Yesterday I said that when travelling it is important to have a sense of the place you are to visit before arriving. With regard to the practical, this is true, but after thinking about my statement, I believe that it needs a few caveats.

I have been reading the writings of St. Francis himself as well as the words that others have written about him for nearly vtwenty years. I have seen many images of this saint in icons, book illustrations, stained glass, various forms of art, even comics. Many descriptions of the sites of Assisi are also present in these readings and artistic representations. From these various portrayals, I had created for myself the St. Francis and the city of Assisi with which I was comfortable and comforted. This somewhat subconscious process is much like what we do when we read a good book; we make the hero or heroine be whom and what we want them to be - what they look like, what they talk like, their gestures, and so on. I must admit that I was a bit reluctant to give up my image of the roads that Francis walked for the real thing. What if I was disappointed? What if the places that were so filled with God's presence in Francis' time were cold and empty? Returning to my book comparison, I didn't want to feel the kind of disappointment I felt when the image that I had of Terabithia from Katherine Patterson't wonderful Newberry award winning children's was completely destroyed by its reality when the book was moved to the big screen. In many ways, this trip was a huge emotional risk - personally and spiritually.

This is my first glimpse of Assisi as we literally stepped off of the train.

I am happy to say that everything about this trip far exceeded my expectations. My imagination and my faith were not capable of expanding big enough to have even foreseen a glimpse of what transpired during that week in March.