St. Francis: “I Know What the Fox Says”

The Hermitage of St. Francis (c) Courtney Perry

We’re in Assisi, home of St. Francis. Today Courtney and I hiked up the mountain outside of town to Francis’s hermitage. Built into the side of the mountain, it’s an amazing complex of cells and chapels and doorways I could barely squeeze through. I’m guessing that Francis was a small man — most Umbrians are.

Like Mother Teresa, Francis was recognized as a very special and holy person during his own lifetime. Only two years after his death, he was canonized, and the basilica in his honor was started in Assisi. That basilica, which we also visited today, is breathtaking, with frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue, and others. In the crypt below the lower basilica, Francis is buried in a simple stone sarcophagus. Fronted by a small chapel, about a dozen pilgrims sat today in the presence of the saints tomb. Several openly wept.

There’s more myth than fact about Francis’s life. Some scholars think that he didn’t actually write the “Canticle to the Sun,” and all agree that he didn’t compose the “Prayer of St. Francis.” Nevertheless, the life — and myth — of St. Francis still moves people to tears. Nikos Kazantzankis addresses this wonderfully in the prologue to his historical novel, Saint Francis:

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What Is It about Rome?

Sunset over the Roman Forum (c) Courtney Perry

Yesterday morning, Courtney and I arrived in Rome for our honeymoon. By my count, this is my 13th trip to caput mundi. I first came to Rome in 1989 as a senior in college, and the trip changed my life. I came because my beloved professor, Edward Bradley, nearly shouted at me, “Dammit, man, you must come to Rome with me. We’ll walk in the footsteps of the saints!” (Read about it here (PDF).)

I’ve come back many times since. A couple times with Edward, a couple times with friends, a couple times leading tours, and now with my beloved Courtney. Yesterday, we wandered. We saw the Forum, we drank Campari, we saw the Campo dei Fiori, we drank cappuccino, we saw the Piazza di Spagna, we drank Limoncello. We also drank wine and Cynar and Prosecco. You get the picture.

Sometimes you hear people who’ve been to Italy complain that Rome is the least favorite of the cities they visited. It’s too dirty, they complain, and too noisy. Florence is more their speed, where everyone speaks English, and all the restaurant menus are, too. Well, they can have Florence. I’ll take urbs sacra. Last night we went, on a recommendation from our dear friend Annie of scooteroma, to a small hosteria tucked in a back alley off the Via del Corso. The waiters spoke little English, the owner spoke none. The menu was only in Italian. And it was, quite possible, the best carbonara I’ve ever tasted.

What will we do today? See more churches, eat more amazing food, drink some more as well.

Ciao!

What Heresy Is (A Post for Rachel Held Evans)

This blogger called Rachel a heretic. But he’s wrong.

Yesterday, I accused C. Michael Patton of holding a heretical view of the Trinity. He does. He thinks that the Trinity is a “functional hierarchy,” which contravenes the historic creedal belief that the persons of the Trinity are co-equal in all respects. It probably also makes him a modalist, or at least a dynamic monarchianist, since he overemphasizes the role of each member of the Trinity, and thus emphasizes the oneness over the threeness of the Godhead. (I imagine that he would disagree with me on the modalism charge.)

My friend, Rachel Held Evans, saw the post, and liked it. But she also tweeted,

I guess “heretical” is what you’d call a “trigger word” for Rachel.

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Coming Soon: A Tour of Rome

In May, 2014, I will be leading a tour of Rome. I’m calling the tour, From Pagans to Christians – The Art, Architecture, and Proto-Theology of the Earliest Christians. My co-leader will be Professor Edward Bradley, my intellectual mentor and a professor of classics at Dartmouth College for over 40 years.

Here is an early draft of my description of the trip:

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