Welcome to Monday’s loaf of bread where I exercise my unbridled joy in writing about whatever tickles my fancy. I then curb my enthusiasm over the rest of the week, dishing out things one slice at a time. Given that I’m in Assisi–one of my favorite places on the face of the earth–I’ll make today’s loaf a little smaller than usual. However, you can count on getting some rather thick slices over the week. This place oozes with good things to write home about.
This is my seventh year coming to Assisi. I usually come here with the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program for Military Veterans, showing some of the finest people on earth the homeland of Saints Francis and Claire of Assisi. This year, I’ll be helping out with a pilgrimage group from Australia instead of my usual fare. No worries from this end; any opportunity to come here is a truly a gift.
Most people don’t realize it, but St. Francis of Assisi was a prisoner of war before he underwent a very profound conversion experience. The man who became an icon of peace went on an arduous path through life before he laid claim to his legacy. Many of veterans who have traveled on pilgrimage have said that they found a sense of peace in Assisi for the first time in many years.
There is one very important lesson I learned in Assisi; the road to peace of mind–I mean true peaceful contenance which draws others to us–is a lot more difficult to achieve in this life than we realize. Moreover, the one thing that often stands in our way is ourselves. Allow me to illustrate my point.
Invariably, some of the people who come on pilgrimage here will have their luggage get lost by the airlines. It’s interesting to see how people handle such mishaps, especially when it’s six or seven days later before their luggage arrives. I think we all try to take little mishaps and inconviences like these in stride, but we invariably reach our limits too. Now, when we reach our limits, do we just brush off the ordeals as dumb luck, unfortunate circumstances, or coincidental happenings? Alternatively, could the handiwork of God be behind some misfortunes?
I think it’s easier to see the former than the latter. That is, I think we are all prone to just chalk up mishandled luggage to dumb luck. However, there’s irony that beckons us to at least take a closer look at things. I’m not one to dismiss the Divine in the subtleties of lost luggage. Saints Claire and Francis lived their lives in radical poverty, swearing off all the personal attachments we could ever possibly squeeze in a suitcase. Isn’t there at least the possibility that the lost luggage is an invitation to spend time in Assisi–or anywhere for that matter–more authentically to the peace-filled ways of these remarkable saints?
Please don’t misunderstand my perspective as a lack of sympathy for those who have had their luggage lost or the myriad of other frustrations we encounter in our travels nowadays. Moreover, I’m not immune to such misfortunes either. In fact, my flight was cancelled on Saturday by the airlines after I had already waited through 2 hour delay at the airport. Next, I waited in line for 4 more hours only to be told that I would have to handle any changes myself. I then spent the night in another airport. All of this was just to get to an intermediary destination before my trip to Assisi.
In less then 24 hours from my sleepover at the airport, I went to take my seat on a plane that would take me to Rome so I could finally get to Assisi. With over 200 seats on the plane, this is the one that was waiting for me:
(Photo: My Defective Plane Seat)
I’ve always said, especially to those who have had their luggage lost, you should pay particular attention to the things that happen to you along the way to Assisi. God is sending you a message. I’ve come up with a list of possible messages for me:
A. Time to get your ass in order.
B. (Spoken with a thick Italian accent) You want a-sympathy, than you Assisi.
C. Something in your life needs serious fixing.
D. See dumb luck for what it is–dumb luck!