AS A WEDDING GIFT our friend Lenore, a White Rock artist, presented my husband and me with a painting she did of a small statue of St. Francis in her garden.
Perhaps we were destined to visit Assisi years later as part of our recent trip to Italy. Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, a man who rejected his privileged life to risk ridicule before gaining worldwide recognition and respect.
Although it is said that St. Francis did not actually write the Prayer of St. Francis, there is little doubt that the words exemplify his outlook. He befriended not only the poor but animals as well. The prayer says:
O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light, and
Where there is sorrow, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved
as to love; for it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and
it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Born in 1182, Francis was in his 20s when he gave up luxury and the warring conflicts of the day. He dedicated his life to the deprived, cared for the sick and expressed reverence (perhaps unusual at the time) for the natural world. His Franciscan followers built a church on the beautiful hill of Assisi after he died. His tomb is in the crypt of the Basilica.
It was quite a trek up the walkway towards the church. Prior to its existence, in earlier medieval times, the area was apparently known as the "hill of hell" because of state executions that happened there.
From above, the valley is a picture of serenity perfectly framed by arcs.
We spied traditional stained glass among historic artifacts on the upper and lower floors. Donation boxes were scattered throughout. One could make a donation for a candle and then return that candle so it could be purchased over and over again. I suppose tourism and the selling of religious symbols play an important role in keeping the area available and financially afloat.
The atmosphere was cheerful and the monks looked content.
It was a steep slope to the gift stores wedged along the narrow pathways of the hilltop village.
I was surprised to see a hotel at the site.
There were many shops selling similar trinkets. Much too many shops, I thought, near what I imagine was intended to be a humble place of worship.
At every glance someone was selling something to tug at the heart in Assisi.
A storm was brewing. We were preparing to leave when dozens of birds suddenly fluttered into the sky like windswept bits of paper. The rush of their wings over the pristine valley made a heavenly sound. For a flickering moment, I wondered what Francis, committed to a life of poverty, would think of the plethora of products being sold in his name.
The word Saint showcases the letter "S". Visit ABC Wednesday to see how others showcase letters from A to Z.