Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Assisi Pilgrimage: Endings and Beginnings

ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G4MqMe7Luc

Prayer of Saint Francis

So that was last year, an incredible pilgrimage to the birth of the Franciscan Movement. My record of those days fails to pay them justice. I sound like a travelogue and my words have not captured the simple and yet profound experiences of the journey.

Our days were filled with readings, singing our thanksgiving, wonderful food and even more wonderful guides. We had great fellowship and yet also had times of solitude. I spent every morning by myself, exploring, praying, communing with the saints, lighting candles for my family back home, and soaking up the atmosphere.

We were blessed with a wonderful group of fellow travelers. Walter (SBU class of 1954!) and I witnessed a wedding at San Stefano. The Fords celebrated their anniversary. We participated in services and ceremonies. One night we all learned about the history of yodeling on a rooftop garden in Assisi. Ruta shared her knowledge of art and good humor with us. The Crowley’s brought a special joy to the trip. Their daughter was especially gracious as she learned to adjust to traveling with a group of old fogies and in fact added a whole new dimension to the group dynamic.

Perhaps best of all I got to know my fellow USF faculty members better and discovered they are very easy to like. We all shared coffees, gelato and wine in the piazza. We climbed, and climbed and climbed some more. Every morning, before breakfast, as I was walking out of a cathedral there was Sister Mary walking in, always smiling. Every lunch there was Sister Marilyn, always laughing. I value the friendship I developed with Ron and Lil.

I am not a sociable person, I value my time alone. And yet these fellow pilgrims added tremendously to the journey. I cannot think of them without smiling and I miss them.

So, what have I taken from this journey? How has it changed me? I believe we are all pilgrims however, now I am an intentional pilgrim. What kind of pilgrim will I be? I live in Indiana. The Mountain Spirituality of the early Franciscans or the Desert Spirituality of the 4th century will not serve me. I am drawn to the walking pilgrimage style of The Way of the Pilgrim. That may actually fit in with my Midwest worldview. I am from the flatlands, the plains. So I suppose I could develop a Plains Spirituality. I live near Amish country so possibly I could develop a “Plain and Simple Spirituality”, just kidding. What I do know is that I am now able to turn ordinary time into sacred time. I am able to connect with creation. I am able to see the bounty, the Bonem of this world. I am ready to explore a more Franciscan life.

In a world of competing religions and angry gods I value the joyful and loving Triune God of the Franciscans. I value Francis, a simple Fool for God who believed Jesus life and words were worth emulating. I believe the model of servanthood, the counter-cultural teachings of embracing poverty and embracing the leper are inspiring and worthy of my consideration. I have learned to enjoy the unfolding of this continued journey.

And now I await the return of our newest pilgrims. I suspect they will first talk about the beautiful sights and the wonderful food. In time they will put together what the pilgrimage really meant for them and begin to glimpse how it has changed them. I look forward to hearing about their unfolding journey.

Peace and all good,
Carl

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