Post 18 – July 4, 2018. The Camino de Assisi. It’s intimidating isn’t it?

The Camino de Assisi. 
The Way of St Francis.
Italy: From Florence to Assisi, then on to Rome. Trek For A Dream.  
Post 18: July 4, 2018, Wednesday.  Made it to Trevi; hard treks and very hot! 
In Trevi. Gone 24 days.  Day 22 on The Way.
It’s intimidating isn’t it?  

The monks seem to get it.  I’m not on a long hike.  I’m not on a long trek.  I’m definitely not on vacation or holiday–no way!  And the more I read about St. Francis, the more . . . let me think for a second . . . . Francis said that he really took one particular verse in the Bible really seriously and literally, Luke 9:3-5: “Take nothing for your journey . . . ” Jesus instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes.”  Suddenly my backpack feels like a five room house.  Which is just one little reason I keep abandoning things along The Way.  So, on Sunday in Assisi at 9:00 a.m. I went to the English service in the main Basilica. By now, I’ve been to a couple dozen Masses in Italian, so it was nice to go to one in English.  So afterwards, I went up to speak to the monk/priest who said the Mass.  And, as I walked up to him, he caught my eye, and I stopped in front of him with my whole get-up, backpack included and all my stuff (to survive), and he looked me over . . . and smiled and said:  “It’s a bit intimidating, isn’t it?”  We talked for a long time.  He knew I was doing the Camino, and how overwhelmed I was, by so many churches, so many people influenced by a man (St. Francis) and a woman (St. Clare) in such a short period of time 800 years ago, by how hard the walking and trekking is, by how bedraggled I looked, how hot it is, and there again, in those moments, someone can speak something into your life that assures you . . . you are on the right Path that you were called to be on, so be on it and enjoy it step by step, just like Brother Francis and Sister Clare did.  And still, it seems that everything lasting you learn on The Camino is something you can’t put into words.  Deepening understanding is just that.

So, when I eventually trekked out of Assisi I still took my five room house with me (my backpack Clare; see Post 10) and some water, but no food . . . thinking I’m some type of ascetic.  And mercy! I had no idea how hard the trek would be from Assisi to Spello, taking the hardest route which would take me to Eremo dello Carceri, which is just amazing and worth the trek, but . . . the worst was yet to come. Pilgrims talk about how The Way, the Camino, strenghtens us: Physically, Mentally, and Spiritually.  So, first I’m happy to report that physically, I’ve crossed over to something really strong.  My legs, ankles, feet, feel incredibly strong.  No signs of injuries, feet and legs are strong, blisters healed, steep mountains are manageable, so . . . I’m doing great, physically,  But that trek to Spello was all mental. 

I spent quite a while at Eremo dello Carceri because it is so beautiful and I wanted to see the place where Francis and his disciples would go for a retreat. And, of course, I spent some time with the monks, especially Pietro.  I asked him if I could stay at the monastery, but he told me I had to be a priest or a monk.  I said I’m a lawyer–that didn’t help.  He said I have a lot of praying to do, but I couldn’t stay.  So, if you practically crawl down some passages you can get to the cave where Francis did most of his praying. I had to take my backpack off and drag it behind me through the narrow passages.  And I also made it to the easier access chapel where I laid out the Prayer Cards.  And, again, as usual, a few others in the chapel were inspired by the Prayer Cards and so much faith in writing down prayer requests and dreams.  I especially spent some time with Kamile and John from Rome.  They were flooded with ideas thanks to the Prayer Cards and they invited me to stay with them at a monastery in Rome when I get there.  And they were amazed . . . that I’m walking from Florence to Rome.  Yes, some of us do that.  So, they wrote down a ton of information to contact them when I get to Rome and after some more prayers, I trekked . . . onward.  And, well, do you all know those times when . . . well, you feel smacked in your face because of your, well, stupidity.  There’s a little snack shop outside the gate at Eremo dello Carceri, but all they had was water (thank God), which I didn’t take enough of, and chocolate (monk chocolate) and . . . oh man, I don’t want to say it–Pringles.  Really, you got to be kidding me?  Pringles — why?  Because they are so toxic and preserved they’ll last 800 years?  But, I trekked on with not enough water, chocolate and Pringles.  Geeesh!  Francis’ Camino is his, mine is mine, and I should have brought provisions from Assisi.  But no, I’m an ascetic.  That lasted a few hours or so.  And lunch later was water, chocolate and Pringles.  How embarrasing for this . . . lone trekker.

So, really?  The Sandy Brown guidebook I’m using says the trek from Assisi to Spello is “hard” and will take five hours and thirty minutes. You’ve got to be kidding me?  I’m sending this post to him.  It took me more than ten hours.  And, yes, I stopped here and there, but, come on.  This was “HARD” and it was blazing hot, and steep steep steep up up up and steep steep steep down down down.  Extremely hard.  And, I ran out of everything, certainly water.  But–there again, I ran into a pilgrim from Australia who assessed my bedraggled look and gave me a lot of water, and admonished me with stories of deaths back in the bush in Australia by people that didn’t take enough . . . water.  Okay.  Okay.  I’m writing this, so I’m alive.  I’m writing, therefore I live.  And, can we also add to the trek the mileage it takes leaving a town and entering a town, and retracing your steps.  I mean, really, I walked three miles to get to the monastery I stayed at: The Convento Piccolo San Damiano, which having totally given up trying to find, an Italian lady and her family stopped in their car, asked me what my problem was, finally assessed it speaking no English, and insisted I hop in their car with family, a baby, a teenager and stuff, and drove me about another mile to the monastery where a sister was waiting for me at the door because the nice lady driver made a telephone call and the nun and, yes, her eight cats, 8!!!, where waiting for me and I went straight to the nun dinner with eight other nuns and two pilgrims . . . and there were just way too many lessons for me packed into one day, that all I could do was . . . feel . . . blessed and protected, but not in the most comfortable way I may have preferred.  I finally said:

Amen, amen.

My day is over.  Amen.

Indeed, it is intimidating.  I’m so happy to be here.

I love you all.

Tom

 

Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi.

The walk up to the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi.

It makes you wonder.

Eremo dello Carceri.  Narrow passages to prayer chambers.  And some of us want a prayer closet?

Pietro gave me a lot of wisdom for the trek.  But would not let me stay at the monastery, Eremo delle Carceri.

St. Francis’ prayer chamber in a cave.

The chapel at Eremo delle Carceri with the Prayer Cards on the altar.

See the Prayer Cards?

The nice part of the path from Assisi to Spello.

The sun has burned out the signs to Spello.  And, yes, I can understand why.  I too was burned out.  You can’t read one word on these signs.

The sister and her eight cats took care of me at Convento Piccolo San Damiano in Spello.

The Convent in the morning.

Another abandonment ceremony.  I left my shoes behind, having acquired monk sandles in Assisi.  Another pilgrim will need them at a later time.

Yes, I hand wash my clothes.  And, yes, my custom made quick-drying Dream Center shirts are holding up well.

And, my cat CJ, who has texted me to tell me that my cat/house sitter Hope, is still taking to her training really well.  CJ is quite the disciplinarian.