Monday, February 20, 2017

Sunday in Assisi

   "Buona Domenica!" ("Happy Sunday!")---- That's how the Bridgentine Sisters greeted us early this morning when we came down for the "breakfast" part of the "Bed and Breakfast" Residence they operate.   And that was what we heard many people say to one another as they passed on the streets of Assisi in the early hours of Sunday morning as we approached the Basilica of St.Francis for Mass.  What a wonderful way to help us realize that Sunday is not just another day in a succession of 7 days of busier and busier weeks; it is truly a special day, the Day that the Lord has made---a Day that we should rejoice and be glad in it. 

Bed and Breakfast operated by Brigentine Sisters in Assisi

   Having had a wonderful and restful night, we enjoyed the delicious Breakfast the Sisters had prepared for us before we checked out to begin our day of praising God in all his creation here in the city where Francis saw all creation as his brothers and sisters.  Since the Sisters of St. Bridget's Bed and Breakfast is half way up the hill, we were very happy that Giuseppe was with us to drive us up the hill to the Basilica of St. Francis where we were scheduled to celebrate Mass at 8:00 a.m in the Chapel of Peace, near (on the other side of the wall of) the Tomb of St. Francis.  My Mass intention was "Pro Populo"/"For all the People" of the Diocese of Kalamazoo.  (I realize now that I failed to indicate that my Mass intention at yesterday's Mass in the Basilica of St. Catherine of. Siena was for our families who are so important to us.). Msgr. Osborn did the honors of preaching a beautiful homily on the powerful Scripture Readings for today's Mass, and making very nice applications to this amazing Saint Francis of Assisi, a true "fool for Christ" as St. Paul invited us to be in today's Second Reading. 

   Following Mass, we had a very leisurely and prayerful tour of this great Basilica, most especially as we were able to spend some quality time in prayer at the tomb of St. Francis.  During this time, of course, I remembered all my special intentions for our Diocese, priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, faithful, family and friends. 
   As you probably know, there are 3 levels to this enormous Basilica that dates back to the days shortly after St. Francis lived.  There is the Crypt, where St. Francis is buried; there is the lower level, which is beautiful, and there is the upper level, equally beautiful and inspiring in so many ways. 
   As we left the Basilica, it was a perfect time to stop for coffee/cappucino and, of course, bombas!  Delicioso!

   Now more refreshed and reinvigorated, our next stop was the Basilica of St. Clare.  We spent  prayerful time in the Chapel where St. Francis heard the Voice of Jesus speak to him from the San Damiano Crucifix, asking him to "rebuild My Church".  And of course we visited the crypt where the body of St. Clare is preserved and where we spent more quality time in prayerful remembrance of all those who have asked us to pray for them.

   It is both interesting and worthy of note that both St. Francis and St. Clare came from wealthy backgrounds and families, but felt compelled to turn their backs on wealth and fame for the sake of following God's call to be "foolish" in the eyes of the world but in the eyes of. God, to be "truly wise".  Both their families resisted their efforts to live Religious Life in the Church, and in fact, initially disowned them; yet they both persevered in following God's call.  St. Francis became the founder of several different religious communities, including the religious community for women of Poor Clares, with St. Clare as the first Superior. 
   After some other sightseeing at the Old section of Assisi at the top of the Hill, we drove to the bottom of the Hill to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels, which houses the Portinicula, where St. Francis died.  This Basilica is also magnificent in size and glorious in beauty.  A parish Mass was being celebrated when we arrived so we were unable to see much in detail within the Basilica, so we visited the remainder of the grounds and beautiful images of St. Francis' early religious life up until his death. We also got to visit and spend some time in the great Gift Shop there. 
   I should say a word here about how recent terroristic attacks in various parts of the world have impacted all the churches and basilicas that we have been visiting, both in Rome and in Assisi.  Even as recently as my last visit in 2015, people could approach any of the churches and basilicas with little or no security checking.  Now, in light of recent events and ongoing threats, there are armed troops at every major church/Basilica, and gated barricades around the perimeters of each church/Basilica.  At both St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Walls, we had to go through security measures similar to the airport, with x-ray screening of personal objects, etc.  It was less so here in Assisi, but the barricades are everywhere now.  What a sad commentary on the circumstances of our day/time; on the other hand, it is much better to take appropriate precautions.
   It was now time for pronzo and we chose a restaurant named "La Basilica".  We had a delicious meal, and speaking for myself, that involved my 7th bowl of pasta in these 7 days.  After lunch, it was time to leave this beautiful City of Peace and return to Rome, the Eternal City.  It was only took about a 2 1/2 hours to drive back to Rome, but I think the pasta had gotten to most everyone since the car was very quiet for much of that time. 

   Upon our arrival back at the North American College, Max and Jeff departed to get themselves ready for a busy week as their new semester of classes starts tomorrow morning, while Msgr. Osborn and I are enjoying a relaxing evening catching up on a number of things.

   This truly has been a "good Sunday" for many different reasons.  I pray that for all of you as well it has been a "Buono Domenica"!

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