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Monday, October 26, 2020

Indoor Travels ... Assisi, Italy :)

 With two more weeks until I'll be cleared from my foot fracture to indoor cycle again, I'm confined to doing chair aerobics - but I still watch my travel videos, while exercising, of places I'd like to visit once COVID is over, someday :)

This past week, I've "been" to Italy - Tuscany and Umbria.  Along the way, I've learned how to cure proscuitto, age cheese appropriately and make wine in 400-year-old barrels (not that I'll ever find these skills necessary, or become skilled at them, living in Kentucky, USA) lol. 

I also "visited" the site of birth and death of St. Francis of Assisi - the town of Assisi, in Umbria, Italy :)



The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi -  Assisi, Umbria, Italy


In addition to being an architecture fan - often exemplified in cathedrals, over the ages - I'm fascinated with St. Francis, his ability to win the church over, despite his criticism of it.  It was highly unusual, and should've landed him with a "heretic" label and death along with others  - but it didn't - and I think his life and teachings are more relevant than ever today :)

I was thinking about writing about him on All Saints Day, but instead will write a little blurb here, in between St. Francis Day (October 4th) and All Saints Day because it's timely - and I think perhaps we all need a refresher course in St. Francis - now more than ever :) 


I'm not Catholic, I'm Episcopal - but we still love the saints! 

(It's just that we have a few of our own, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa, and believe that anyone who is a believer becomes a saint after death.  We don't appeal to passed-on relatives and other saints to pray for us, no - but some of us do believe they can draw nigh to us, at times, for comfort :)





The oldest surviving fresco of St. Francis, circa 1288 AD


Long story short, St. Francis was a man born to a wealthy merchant in the late 12th century, who initially became an knight.  During war, he was taken captive and caught in illness, which caused him to re-evaluate his life.  



Statue of St. Francis as a weary knight, renouncing wealth and violence, and turning to Christ - Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi.



He became sick not just physically, but mentally and in spirit - and felt it was God's will that he leave the war, renounce wealth, war, and violence, and live and preach a life of poverty, peace, adoration of creation, and giving to, and speaking for, the poor, sick, and oppressed, as Christ did and instructed.

His wealthy father, of course, denounced him, and in fact, had him beaten and stripped of everything, including his clothing - and for a time, he lived the life of a beggar.  

And in fact, during a time of particularly Roman church extravagance, Francis challenged the church's wealth and need for power and support of politics and war, openly criticizing the church for being in stark contrast to Christ's message, including there should be no "deserving poor," as Christ himself did not distinguish.  

If you were in need, Christ gave it and encouraged us to do the same - even if it challenged the church itself or political ideals of the day. 

However, instead of being accused of heresy, Pope Innocent III took an interest in him and his ability to gather a following, and agreed to a blessing only after a time of observation - eventually granting him land and originally a small church in Assisi, establishing the Franciscan order of Catholicism.

In fact, the original little chapel that Francis was given by the church, the Portuincola/Porziuncola, can be seen inside the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, also in Assisi, which was the basilica in Assisi prior to the Basilica of St. Francis, in Francis' time ...








Portiuncola/Porziuncola of St. Francis, Basilica of St. Mary and the Angels, Assisi, Italy


Additionally, St. Francis traveled to Egypt during the 5th crusade, not to fight, but to preach :)

And although he preached to Muslims (Christian enemy, at the time), this did not result in conversion - but Francis was nevertheless welcomed by them and considered a friend, due to his preaching and practice of peace and treating all human life with dignity -  and in fact, he was granted free travel passage without harm to Jerusalem and other holy sites, even allowed preaching, by Sultan the Egypt, Al-Kamil himself :)


In addition to his belief in peace/renouncing violence - as well as that the the church and Christians should give to, and speak for, the poor, sick, and oppressed, as Christ did and instructed - he preached that we should protect God's creation and the environment, believing it to be God's gift to mankind, that was now also in desperate need of redemption and protection, because of our human abuse of the environment and our sins or war upon it.   




Thus, on October 4th, both the Catholic and Episcopal churches celebrate St. Francis Day - which is a time not only to pray for and meditate on peach, but where the clergy bless your pets in remembrance of St. Francis dedication to God's creation :)

This, combined with his earlier suffering - with a few supposed miracles along the way - resulted in St. Francis being canonized into Pope Gregory IX into sainthood in July of 1228 :)




We really could use a St. Francis-type Christian leader, today, couldn't we?

However, if in fact there was a St. Francis today, I'm quite sure he would be demonized and smear-campaigned as "CINO (Christian in name only)" and false prophet, and a RINO (Republican in name only - though no political faction should stake claim on Christ- for criticizing modern politics and "Gospel of Prosperity" Christianity.

Considering his writings, and his criticism of the church back then, I suspect his criticism of modern Christianity and doern churches today, would be similar to mine ...


1) Glorifying wealth as "proof of God's blessing on the deserving," rather than what it really is - advocating greed for what is often ill-gotten, inherited or increased-opportunity gain, and then war-mongering over it out of paranoid, unjustified "protection" of it.


2) Obsession/preoccupation with reproductive issues as sin - and the only sins that most modern Christians appear to care about.


3) Demonizing the poor and sick as being undeserving as excuse not to help them.


4) Mocking those wanting to spend government funding on the poor and sick, as well as to protect God's creation.


5) Bearing false witness on all of the above for personal/selfish and political power/gain.


In fact, considering all of those things are in direct contrast to the direct words of Christ - I daresay those advocating for that version of Christianity, especially over political gain, are actually the ones who are false prophets, not us - but it's our master, who will decide, in the end - who worked iniquity in his name and/or were thieves in his house - not us servants and merciless servants ;)

Regardless, back to my travels - I have "been" to Assisi, Italy this past week - and let me share a few more of those photos with you today :)


Just some photos I found 'round the net of the little town of Assisi itself ...








And a few more views of the Basilica of St. Francis.

I'm not sure St. Francis would've been a fun of its add-ons and extravagance, but nevertheless, here's the basilica in his honor ...















The Basilica of St. Clare ...





... and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels ...




... which includes the original little chapel of St. Francis, the Porziuncola, inside it ... 





.. and a bonus of Pope Francis himself, Francis' namesake, sitting and kneeling inside it, praying :)






Are we getting a more sense of who and what Christ's message and Christianity actually were, as  opposed to what it's become, Boys and Girls?

Good - have a blessed day :)







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