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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Saints in Assisi

I went to Assisi in the Umbrian area of Italy because Wayne Dyer said so. He says in the book There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem that certain cities and places exist at a higher energy level, because they are places of peace and prayer. He listed Sedona, Arizona and Machu Piccu in addition to Assisi. Since Assisi is the one within a days travel, that is where I went. Also, I just needed to get away and had back up for the weekend and RyanAir was on my side. So that is why I went to Assisi, I’m not Catholic or considering converting, I just flipped open a book and it said, “Assisi, Italy.”

Assisi is where the Order of the Lower Brothers was founded in the 1200 by St. Francis, obviously when he founded the order he was just Brother Francis and later Father Francis. He believed very much in poverty bringing them closer to God and that poverty allowed the men to focus truly on the Love of God. St. Claire, who was obviously just Claire or Sister Claire and probably Mother Claire, was a woman who believed the same as St. Francis and started the Order of nuns in the same system. Her first miracle was being to heavy to be moved when her family came to take her back home. She was a slight, mideavel woman who suddenly was glued to the floor and could not be removed. Assisi had the stigmata and both helped grow the order exponentially.

Assisi is now home to countless churches and holy places. St. Chaira (St. Claire) holds her tomb and her relics (and some of his) and St. Francis’ Basilica holds his tomb and his relics. I prefered St. Chiara on the North side (or what I decided was North, I have no idea to be honest) of Assisi, because it was massive, but fit into the city. Facing St. Chiara, you are in the middle of a plaza with a small fountain. The church is make from pink and white granite and is striped in 3 foot high bricks. To the left are three gigantic flying butresses that connect the church to a series of 3 pools and then the street. Inside is a very famous, in Assisi terms, gothic cross. It is a painted wooded cross that is suspended from the ceiling above the altar. You can buy copies at every gift store in Assisi and as tempting as it was, I went with images of St. Chiara and St. Francis, a few medallions, a few copies of his two main prayers, and a book We Were With St. Francis.

I spent a night reading We Were With St. Francis which are short accounts by his three main companions about miracles and stories that show his character. They were written for the Pope to be added to his record to be considered for sainthood. Also, they were written in plain latin, because they assumed that other, more qualified writers, would put them into proper prose and context. The order may or may not be right and there is no chronology. Imagine if three of your friends and co-workers had to sit down the year after your death and write vingettes about defining moments in your life. It would be a rather chaotic mix of stories, wouldn’t it? That’s what this book is.

Needless to say, I was sucked into his life and was full of all sorts of questions you aren’t allowed to ask. Like does it hurt to have the stigmata? Since it is a sign from God, I think it would be painless, but confusing. I also wondered if you would need a blood transfusion or since it is a holy sign, would your blood be rejuvanated? Would you feel faint? Can you wash it off? What if you just woke up with the stigmata, what then? That’s one miracle down, only two more and then you can be considered for sainthood. And why aren’t there modern saints or do we medicate away sainthood? If St. Francis and St. Chiara were alive today, wouldn’t they be sent to the psychiatrist and seperated? Her parents would place a restraining order on him and take her to a specialist to be un-brainwashed. When I get back to Chicago, I’ll have to find a Monk with a good sense of humor to answer these questions for me.

Then I went to sleep and slept fitfully and dreamt about St. Francis. I don’t remember what the interaction was, but I was definitely with him and he was definitely telling me something–possibly answering the above litany of impossible questions that only a 5 year old should ask. I woke up trembling and my shutters were banging against the building from a storm. I went back to sleep and didn’t have the dream again. The next night I slept peacefully, with no dreams or visits from saints.

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