Potentially the best trip ever….

….begins in Assisi.
Seriously, guys. Assisi was like a dream. but not the horrid nightmare kind. Like, the kind where everything is wonderful and perfect and you can’t even believe it’s true.  In the words of a darling lit major “Words cannot describe.” There is so much going through my head, and so many amazing things I’ve seen and experienced in the mere WEEK that I’ve been here…I can’t even begin to tell you (or even remember it!) I guess I’ll just have to go with whatever stuck with me and hope that it means something to you also!
First, as a kind of side note, I have been consistently amazed by the people I’m here with – they are just so wonderful, sweet, friendly, positive, loving, and hilarious.  God has given me a much greater appreciation for life as a means, rather than an end, and as my companions as true sisters and brothers.  People tend so often to use each other, sitting upon our high thrones and pretending to know everything about those around us.  How frequently are we entirely wrong?  God knows our hearts, and He has determined, in ineffable love, that each of us is worth the price of His Blood.  When My Love loves those around me enough to pour out His entire Life for them, who am I to say or think that they deserve any less than the best service I can offer them? “For it is in giving that we receive and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”  As we so often hear, men do not become fully themselves until they give fully of themselves.  Look to the Cross – the reason for which Christ came to earth – it is in utter self-denial, pain and death that we come to see what men were meant to be and join in the Resurrection.
The beauty of pain, penance, and sacrifice is that it frees us from attachment to the world.  Since The Fall, it has been far too easy for men to become attached to the world and fail to see Him Who makes it all good.
“For the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6 – cool side-note: I had a marker in that spot already ^_^ thank you, Dr. Dentino!)
Just like a good father who leads his son to those things which don’t harm him, God sometimes allows us to suffer in order that we may come to see that which He knows is better.  (granted, sometimes the answer isn’t apparent, but He knows when waiting is the best option, also :D)
Along the spiritual vein, this weekend was honestly life-changing (nearly everything over here is!).  Learning more about St. Francis, St. Clare and their followers was amazing.  The amount of courage and humility these men and women had is truly astounding and inspiring.  I appreciate much better their devotion and love (not just as those nice poor people who love animals) after seeing the houses they lived in and hearing their stories placed in contrast to the customs of the times.  In the early 1200’s, those in the Church were very accustomed to a comfortable and perhaps decadent lifestyle.  When the crucifix at San Damiano (I SAW BOTH OF THESE! O_O) spoke to St. Francis and told him to rebuild the Church which was falling into ruins, St. Francis (after some trial and error) established a way of life which followed the Gospel values more closely through poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Something which I may have mentioned before is that the Italians value art, beauty, and finery.  Understandably, the churches are decorated wonderfully, with beautiful art which engages both the senses and intellect in portraying theological truths.  When St. Francis, a holy man, renounced the finery of his contemporaries, it was shocking.  As Corinne put it, “What are these holy men doing dressing like bums?” Typically holy men dressed well because they served God and He deserves the best and most beautiful, but St. Francis had a different understanding.  He fearlessly imitated the poverty of Jesus in the Gospels, despite the concerns of well-intentioned and well-respected people.  Also, St. Clare, an 18 year old coming from a noble family, ran away from home to live with the brothers in this radical lifestyle and eventually established her own order.  Her dedication, courage, persistence, and sacrifice are wonderfully inspiring.  We were able to see some amazing relics, such as the cloaks St. Francis and St. Clare first wore when they renounced their previous lives, some of St. Clare’s hair, both of their tombs, the places they lived and died, their rules, their handiwork – I was entirely surrounded by holiness, miracles, the Eucharist, AND the cutest Italian town ever.
I didn’t really believe Karen when she told me that I would love it and that it was so quaint and peaceful and quiet, but she was totally right.  I am extremely blessed to have spent an entire weekend there.
Aaaaand, now my attention span is running out, but I’ll post pictures with little comments and let you all know some more about what we did.  But overall, this pilgrimage was the best way to begin a semester abroad.
Theme song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0_rr1APv6M

P.S.
If you have time, I put comments on the pictures explaining them more ^_^ sorry this post is so long, but the weekend was amazing and super full!

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