I am sitting in my hotel room in Firenze, watching the BBC News, and having had a takeout salad for supper. This whirlwind day has this wanderer weary. I am catching up on news missed and updates on the Ebola outbreak and other items.
The day began well aware of the fact that it was a special feast day. I awoke early but remained in bed reviewing the amazing elements of the trip thus far. I have been running at a crazy pace, trying to take in as much as I can. My body is feeling it tonight.
So because of this and a fast internet link I decided to come back and write a blog post. As I journeyed up the hill to Assisi this morning, I began my prayers for those who I have been holding in my heart on this mini pilgrimage. When I arrived at the Basilica of St. Francis, I learned I had an hour before mass began in the upper church. I went into the lower church to decide what to do and heard a mass being said in English. The liturgy of the word was over and the Eucharist just beginning. I settled, thinking I would have dessert first, though the way was barricaded so I was not sure if I could partake in the meal or not. When it came time, I turned around and saw another woman trying to figure out how to get around the blockades. Suddenly a security guard appeared and smiled as he ushered us in. How wonderful!
From there I went upstairs for the proclamation of the Word. The upper sanctuary was soon packed. Today is a national holiday in Italy because of this feast honouring the Virgin Mary. I sat near the back so I could slip out and head back to my hotel in order to catch my train on time.
As I journeyed I thought about one of the triple blessings today: May you who have devoutly gathered on this day, carry away with you the gifts of spiritual joys and heavenly rewards. I think my bag is heavy with these gifts. I have yet to unpack it all but do marvel at the journey itself. I am not sure what the final destination will be. The other thought that came to me as I flipped through my photos on the train was something Francis heard God say, when he asked the question, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”: “Go back to your city and you will be told what you must do.” Francis we are told is convicted to do only the will of God.
As I read this, something stirred inside of me and I felt myself release the quest for answers now. I will live into them as I return home. I have no doubt of this now. The photo above is of Elizabeth and Mary greeting one another–one of the paintings on the ceiling of the Basilica. Neither woman knew exactly what God was asking, but each stepped out in faith. I have always loved the image of these two dear cousins welcoming each other’s mystery and rejoicing in it. Each of us is given a sacred life that is meant to be shared and celebrated.
As I have journeyed I have had my lonely moments on this trip. It would have been amazing to share this experience at times with someone although I have shared it with you dear readers and my Facebook friends. Last night over supper I watched couples not really sharing a meal together and was puzzled. They seemed to be as alone as I was. One couple hardly spoke to each other the whole time. One of the other men was on his mobile phone for a majority of the meal. I wondered about the sacredness of breaking bread together and how we miss the moment sometimes.
Spiritual joys are offered every minute. My little pilgrimage has shown me that if I have eyes to see there is much beauty to embrace. The Holy whispers continuously if we have but ears to hear. I don’t mean real ears either. My first morning in Rome I took a tour bus and a couple was not sitting together and not using their earphones . I quickly noticed the excitement of the woman as she turned towards her husband and yes, there it was–a language I did not recognize per se but I signed without thinking–are you Deaf? Her joy at whatever she had glimpsed turned into a new excitement. This unexpected encounter with a Deaf couple from France brought joy to my heart as we attempted to communicate. The woman in particular seemed to have an infectious joy about her. As they got off at the first stop and I continued on I smiled at how God arranges encounters and sometimes we can miss them. I was glad I had met these folks.
I have had no favourites this trip. Every time I think this is it, I am surprised to discover a new joy, a different wonder. God is so incredibly generous. I am humbled by the holy ground I have walked on here. Early on, I began to take my shoes off at various sites so as to absorb the footprints of the great cloud of witnesses that have trod on the earth prior to me. I would let the coolness of the ground infuse my feet as I closed my eyes and breathed in the sacredness of the moment that lasts an eternity. Clare, Francis, Br. Roger, St. Catherine of Laboure, and the many nameless saints that have gone before me, welcome me as I acknowledge them. The earth itself knows the holiness present. Can we too seek it out? Can I remember to do that when I return to daily routine?
Pax and bonum-goodness and blessings await. Will you embrace the moment when you can?