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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The Message from Rome: Slow the Hell Down

I first walked into Ibiz leather shop in 1989 as a college student, and I walked out with the nicest belt I’d ever owned. I walked back in yesterday, took the belt off my waist, and handed it to the daughter of the man who’d sold it to me years before. Her parents opened the shop on an alley in the ancient city in 1972. They still work there, as does she, these many years later. She cleaned my belt, punched another hole in it (alas!), and we talked about the many and various items that I’ve bought from her over the years.

It’s a bit cliché to talk about the slower pace of life in the Mediterranean countries, especially in Italy, but it’s also accurate, and apt. All is not bright in this country — they’re on their 50-something government since WWII, the government is rife with corruption and in-fighting, and the weakness of the Italian economy may be the thing that brings down the Euro.

A lot has also been made about the recent report that Italy is losing population. It’s one of the few countries in the world that is getting smaller. It won’t be able to compete in the global economy, some fear, without a higher birthrate and more, more, more.

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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!

Made It Legal

Here are just a few of the pics from yesterday, the day in which Rachel & Ratchet and Tony & Courtney got married, Jay Bakker witnessed, and Caroline Yang shot photos. Also, it was 23 degrees.

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