Monday, April 11, 2016

Day 15: Assisi and Lunch at an Umbrian Olive Farm

What a spiritually deep day -- I will be processing this day for a long time.

We started out meeting Roberto, who was our driver when we went to Siena a few days ago. Simone was with him as he is in training as a driver/guide. I apologize for the many pictures of lunch and not of what is (and was for me at the time and is now) truly important -- the lives of St Francis and St. Clear, but we were not allowed to take pictures in those places. So where I could take pictures, I did!

Our first stop was the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Portiuncula. 

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the Basilica (although some people did -- as usual I followed the rules). 

You walk into this Basilica and see the Portiuncula Chapel -- the little church that Francis rebuilt. It takes your breath away, this little church around which this giant Basilica is built. You can feel the presence of Francis and his followers -- and all the prayers that have been offered/said/pleaded in that small space. From the book we bought at the Basilica:
"A little church became the center of Francis' life and that of his brotherhood. The Saint and his first companions left from here to go on long journeys of evangelization. And they always returned here. At the beginning of the XII century, the little church of Portiuncula had fallen into ruin and it was Francis who wanted to rebuild it. In this place, the longing for paradise was reawakened in the Saint of Assisi. Everyone knew this. . . . Francis came to the locality called the Portinucula, where there was an ancient church in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, that was abandoned and neglected. Seeing it in such a ruined state, he was moved with compassion because he had a great devotion to the Mother of all good. The Saint took up his abode here and finished repairing the church in the third year of his conversion."

"The Portiuncula Chapel (from the X-XI century), although having been altered in various ways throughout the centuries, today still maintains its original appearance. The small size has remained untouched: about nine meters long and four meters wide. Some things have been changed (the three windows were chronologically different and the pointed barrel vaulted ceiling, which is rather accentuated in height, was most probably not the original); but, just the same, the little place holds the same fascination as it did eight centuries ago."

The Portiuncula Chapel was awe in spiriting, and then came the Transitus Chapel  -- again from the book we bought at the Basilica:
"The Transitus Chapel, instead, takes its name from the place in which St. Francis passed from his earthly life into eternal life. It was exactly here that he wanted to be placed to die 'naked on the bare earth'. The chapel was built to preserve the memory of the Poverello. It was the infirmary in which the Saint died. There have been numerous modifications throughout the centuries, which have mostly destroyed the original walls that embraced Francis while he was dying. The Friars, however, wanted to preserve one wall that is considered the most precious remembrance of the "Transitus". That wall, even though it has been tampered with many times and even covered over and hidden from sight, has always been cared for throughout the centuries, because it 'marks the exact place of th etransitus'."

To see where Francis died, and his cincture in that place -- it was powerful. There was more to come, but first -- lunch.

We were all more than a little pleased to end up at Casa Gola. It is a family owned olive farm owned by 2 attorneys. The wife, Luciana is a gourmet cook and a deep lover of olive oil. They produce their own olive oil and teach others how to cook amazing food using it. Here are pictures of the location and our lunch:

Fava beans -- with either pecorino cheese, or olive oil and salt -- you pick it which you like -- or all! Just  pull the beans out, put them on a plate and go to town -- I never ate them before, but I think I won't be able to get enough of them now!

On the far left a "peasant" dish of flour, olive oil, fresh herbs and veggies -- in this case spinach -- a "to die for" snack.

The kitchen is outside of the house, next to where we had our pre-lunch snacks, and here are a few pictures of the kitchen with our hostesses:

And one of our favorite pieces of art on the veranda:

Donna relaxing in the Umbrian sun:

Steve soaking in the environment. I had to stop him from putting a deposit on a piece of land nearby.

...and the magic, the olive trees:

And lunch in the house - Wow!

The place setting, including a small bottle of their olive oil:

And the lunch: spaghetti with wild asparagus that was gathered that morning from around the olive trees with tomatoes - and a bit of fresh olive oil drizzled on top:

Pork cooked with olive oil and herbs, with AMAZING potatoes with fresh herbs:

Salad gathered from around the property:

And homemade cookies which contain, of course, olive oil:

....and check out the lamp -- Campari anyone?

I didn't think we'd ever get out of there -- Steve and Mike were in heaven! Okay, we ALL were! We bought a few items, including some dish towels and bread baskets (made of Umbrian fabric). Beautiful!

Then we headed back to Assisi -- and up the hill.

And that's when the spiritual side of the day hit again -- even greater than before. 

We first went to the Basilica of St. Francis, where we saw not only beautiful mosaics, but the tomb of the Saint. Once again we were not allowed to take pictures (which, of course, I didn't). It once again didn't stop others (why does that bother me so -- oh yeah. Rule follower). 

To say I was not profoundly moved to be near the tomb of St. Francis would be an understatement. I only which I could have taken pictures. Then again, I fully understood why in this place and in the place where he died and rebuilt a church I understood -- you need to be present -- you-- there -- not behind a lens. If you have a camera in front of your face you can't SEE it, you can't experience it first hand. I now treasure these "no picture" moments.

Here are a few pictures from outside the Basilica:

Assisi, it turns out, is an amazing clean city and beautiful-- why, because, according to Roberto our driver, the Vatican has put money into it. And it shows.

After we toured the upper and lower Basilica and the tomb of St. Francis, we went over to the Basilica of St. Clare. Again, no photos inside, and we were able to see the Saint's tomb. Moving! Profoundly moving -- in the image above her tomb she is without shoes - descalced -- as the Poor Clares were. A deeply moving moment. I remember my first Sunday at St. Clement's when I was used to hardwood floors at Messiah Santa Ana -- I couldn't walk by the start of the 3rd service that day on the shoes I always wore on Sunday's at Messiah -- there is a HUGE difference between hardwood floors and tile floors  -- I was descalced that day at that service -- thankfully they were okay with that. Wow. That's a memory! Had to throw those shoes away and get new ones that worked on tile for the next Sunday. This is not the reason that Clare did it, but I felt close to her that day the first Sunday of June in 2000 -- as I did to her today.

A few pictures from the outside of her church:

And from outside and around Assisi:

We went on from St. Clare's to the Rocca Maggiore:

It is a stone fortress atop the city:

With again amazing views.

I didn't make 10,000 steps today -- just under. No wonder -- over 4 hours in a car, worth every minute. Funny, my knees are better the more they move -- after 20k steps yesterday my knees felt great. Today not so much. I need to tell my orthopedic surgeon about that.

For now, heading to bead with thoughts of St. Francis and St. Clare on my heart -- carrying them along with the prayers I am carrying for others.

If you'd like me to pray for you on this journey, please email me at:

I leave you with a prayer from St. Francis:
St. Francis was on La Verna, a mountain north of Assisi where he went to prepare for Christmas during Advent and for Easter during Lent for 40 days of fasting and prayer. He had just received the Stigmata of the Crucified Christ, the wounds of Chrsit on his hand,s feet and side, when he wrote these praises which are written of the other side of the Blessing of Brother Leo:

You are the Holy Lord God Who does wonderful things.
You are strong. You are great. You are the most high.
You are the almighty. You, holy Father,
King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one, the Lord God of gods;
You are the good, all good, the highest good,
Lord God living and true.
You are love and charity; You are wisdom,
You are humility, You are patience,
You are beauty, You are security, You are rest,
You are gladness and joy, You are our hope,
You are us justice and moderation,
You are all, our riches to sufficiency.
You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are protector, You are custodian and defender,
You are strength, You are refreshment.
You are our hope. You are our faith, 
You are our charity, You are all our sweetness,
You are our eternal life:
Great and wonderful Lord.
Almighty God, Merciful Savior.

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