Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Child's View of Assisi

Children have a particular perspective and experience of Assisi.  Each time I come with children I discover something new and amazing!  Follow along seeing this beloved place through a child’s eyes.
First is the story of St. Francis, the patron saint of Italy, best told walking down the path at San Damiano beside the bronze statue of this humble saint gazing across the Valle Umbra.

The birds are singing in the branches of the olive groves lining the path and we arrive at the little Chapel of San Damiano, that Francis rebuilt with his own hands.  It is just exactly like in his life.
We explore the courtyard surrounding the convent where Francis' beloved friend, Clare spent her cloistered life.
We climb the very small stone steps worn smooth by millions of visitors to see Saint Clare’s tiny garden and the room where she slept with her sisters on bare straw mats and wonder what it would be like to live inside for our whole life like they did.
Next, we go almost up to the top of Mount Subasio, winding our way up the steep mountain road, to Eremo dei Carceri, perched beside a chasm, where Francis loved to sleep on a rock buried deep within a grotto.  The monastery has tiny stairs and doorways just our size!
Walking in the footsteps of St. Francis along the forest path we children delight in watching for small animals darting about in the branches above and crevices of the stone wall.
We wander the paths and see where Francis preached to the animals in a forest amphitheater now filled with offering of handmade crosses.
We all want to make their own little offering out of small twigs tied together with grass.

We stop to savor the quiet tranquillity of this place and read Francis’ lyrical poem “Canticle to the Creatures”, his celebration of the natural world and all its creatures. We really are walking in the footsteps of this saint.
Now, it will be time for a gelato, so into Assisi, passing shops filled with toys! How many Pinocchio puppets can you count?

Oh, and just take a look at all these pastries, giant meringues and candy!  But we just had a gelato.
Now we can climb on the fountain at the Piazza del Comune and visit Roman Minerva’s Temple.
Just how old is this temple? Try more than two thousand years!

Along the way to the Basilica we might hear a woodworker singing opera and we can watch him carve a big window frame with intricate flowers and birds of wood.
The woodcarver tells us that he learned how to do this when he was just our age from his grandfather!
After all those stairs to see where Francis was buried deep within the Basicilia where no one could find him for many years, it must be time for a playground before we go home!
What a great day this has been in Assisi! 


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