Let Us Be Saints!
What a beautiful Saturday in Rome!   Mass at one of the station churches this morning, breakfast, a nap, studying, visiting the outdoor market, lunch with a friend (by far the best spaghetti carbonara I have EVER tasted), and skyping another friend.  God is so good!  It is sure nice to spend time at Bernardi and get caught up on many little tasks.  Such as blogging about my travels...

From March 11th-13th I traveled to Assisi with my dear friends Audrey and Naomi.  This was our first trip on our own, since our previous travels had been planned by others, and as such was quite an adventure and a great chance to "get our feet wet."  It turned out to be such a providential weekend.  So many things worked out beautifully and God poured out many blessings.

Getting there involved walking to the Termini Station (where the metro, buses, and trains all depart from in Rome), buying train tickets, validating these tickets at the little yellow box outside the train, and then hopping on.  No problems, except for finding ourselves in the 1st class train car when we had paid for a 2nd class ticket.  Oh well - we got to experience walking across several cars in a moving train, which proved to be quite the experience!  Train is definitely my preferred mode of transportation right now.  As Audrey reminded me, it is so ancient!  People have been doing this for many years.  It is so easy!  You just hop on and you don't have to worry about a thing except when to get off.  It is a great way to see the countryside and you don't have to stop for traffic.  I wish the U.S. had an established train system across the nation like here in Europe! 
We then figured out how to catch a bus up to the top of the hill (the train station is in the new part of Assisi but we would be staying in the old city at the top of the hill).  Immediately we fell in love with this quaint medieval town.  No wonder everyone raves about Assisi and name it their favorite place in Italy!  The streets are cobblestone and narrow with houses very close together.  It is built on a hill and there are staircases every which way and little nooks and crannies.  There were children running through the streets playing and parks and schools and it was quiet and the people were friendly.  From the very start we could sense the loveliness of this place and knew we were in for a treat. 

Our first evening entailed finding the Benedictine Monastery where we were going to stay, which wasn't difficult at all (Assisi is not very big).  We actually arrived at about 5:28 just to find that the sisters would be praying Vespers at 5:30!  It was quite beautiful to hear these nuns chant their prayers in Italian and we were given booklets to sing along!  We got settled in our room, a nice big space for the three of us, off of a gorgeous garden with a breathtaking view of the new city below.  The sisters were so gracious and friendly.  It was a very good opportunity for us to practice Italian (but they spoke a little English too!).  We then got dinner and stumbled upon a group from Franciscan University of Steubenville singing praise and worship music on the steps of a church in the town.  It was great to talk to them and I even got to see an acquaintance from Totus Tuus over the summer!  Small world!   We slept very well that night. 

The sisters provided breakfast each day.  Colazione for Italians is fairly simple - fruit, bread with jam or cheese, yogurt, and coffee.  One of the sisters asked each of us our name and when she came to Audrey, a name she had never heard before, she asked "Sei cinese?" ("Are you Chinese?") which I thought was quite hilarious!  Our first destination of the day was Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels) which was in the new city and involved a bus ride down the hill.  Even the name of this great church just takes your breath away!  It was a stunning baroque basilica which was unique because it was a church within a church!  Yes, within this magnificent structure was the small original chapel that St. Francis was given and used for his newly formed religious order.  He would receive new friars here and this is where Clare received her habit.  The cell where Francis spent his last moments and died was also in this church and praying by it was such a blessing.  Confession and Mass were highlights of this church as well. 

After eating some pizza in a piazza back up in the old city, we decided to make the trek up Mount Subasio to the Hermitage where St. Francis and his early companions came to meditate in the woods.  The hike was over an hour and quite trying at times, but we prayed rosaries to pass the time and made it!  The view was unbelievable and the peace of this natural place was insurmountable.  This brings me to explain the title of this entry: Pace and bene (peace and goodness) was a common saying of St. Francis.  Born to a noble family in the 1100s, Francis was a confident young man, the life of the party, who loved to sing and recite poetry.  Living during the High Middle Ages, a time of chivalry and adventure, he aspired to become a knight someday.  However later Francis renounced material possessions for a life of embracing the Gospel call to poverty and simplicity.  His path was that of the cross, something proven by his reception of the stigmata later in his life.  To pray in the cave where Francis used to come was a true blessing and the fresh air was so good for my lungs. 

After trekking back down the hill, we visited the Cathedral of San Rufino (patron saint of Assisi) where Sts. Francis and Clare were baptized.  Though hungry and seeking dinner, we decided to go see the Basilica of St. Francis lit up at night, since no restaurants were open yet (Italians don't dine until 7 or 8 pm).  This was a phenomenal decision and the lit church simply took our breath away.  After a delicious dinner in "La Boca del San Francesco" ("The Mouth of St. Francis") and a tasting of some of Umbria's (the region of Italy that Assisi is in) finest sweet treats, we turned in for the night. 

Our final day, Sunday, brought us to Convento di San Damiano to meet up with Fr. Carola and a group of Bernardians he had taken up for a day trip (this was a pleasant surprise for us after we had already planned the trip to hear that they were coming for a day!).  The rain didn't dampen our spirits as we spent the afternoon exploring the Basilicas of St. Clare and St. Francis.  We got to pray by the tomb of St. Clare, the beautiful companion of Francis, who founded the Poor Clares cloistered religious community, and see relics of both saints, including their tunics, the shoes that Francis wore to contain his stigmata, and even locks of Clare's beautiful blonde, curly hair!  This was quite magnificent.  The tomb of St. Francis was undergoing construction, unfortunately, but being in this magnificent church dedicated to him and seeing the thousands of frescoes and pieces of art depicting him throughout the church was truly phenomenal and viewing additional relics, such as his chalice and the handwritten original rule of the Franciscan order was incredible.  Seeing the family home of St. Francis at Chiesa Nuova was a final highlight of this fabulous trip. 

What a beautiful weekend...a chance to walk in the footsteps of two very holy saints...to bond as sisters in Christ...to relax and enjoy the serenity of nature and of this lovely town.  God blessed us with so many good things in Assisi and I am grateful for this trip.  Oh!  One more thing!  When we got back to Rome, Fr. Carola took us to a steakhouse for dinner!  It was so good to eat my BBQ ribs, since meat is often lacking in our diet over here!  They were well worth the

Mary :D
6/15/2011 09:26:17 am

The pictures are amazing!! It looks like so peaceful! Lucky!!! :)


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