Post 24 – July 20 and 21, 2018. The Camino de Assisi. These are my best days.

The Camino de Assisi. 
The Way of St Francis.
Italy: From Florence to Assisi, then on to Rome. Trek For A Dream.  
Post 24: July 20 and 21, 2018, Friday and Saturday.  The walk from Monte Sacro to Vatican City and then on to where I stayed: Spedale della Divina Provvidenza in Rome.  Stage 28 (last stage) of the guidebook.    
Made it to Monte Sacro, Italy. Gone 40 and 41 days.  Day 40 to Rome and 41 in Rome on The Way.
These are my best days!

I made it to Rome on Friday, July 20, late afternoon, the 40th day of my journey.  Which was poetic, and Biblical to me.  . . . But firstOn Saturday morning, July 21, at 6:00 a.m. I woke up, sort of, came out of a coma type of exhausted painful hot no-sleep sleep-thing, sticky, sweating, and really groggy.  And a nice lady in the bed across from me looked at me kind of sad, and asked in Italian/English: Are you doing okay?  And my immediate answer:  “Yes!  These are my best days.” . . .  And I knew it was true.   And that became one of the main discussions at the pilgrims’ breakfast about an hour later.   

Mercy!  The Holy Spirit has really worked on me over the last 40 days. It’s nice to know what you’re supposed to do.  And, it’s okay to know that . . . it won’t be easy.  These are my best days.  I’m thinking about an article I enjoyed by Dr. David Jeremiah, “Some Say the Greatest Question in Life is ‘Does God Exist?’ I Say it’s This One.”  Yes, I agree, a better question is: “Do I know the God who does exist? Do I know about Him, and do I know Him personally?”  A Camino, like the Camino de Assisi, will help you with those questions.  But, you don’t have to do a Camino.  Just ask for Guidance.  I find God quite easy to get ahold of.  It’s me that’s the problem at times.

I suppose I was surprised that those words sprung out of me when the lady asked the question because the day before had been so hard, and yet with so much accomplished, and sleeping had been terrible assuming I was hoping to sleep.  The night was blazing hot, and the room I was in was filled with bunkbeds and about, I’d say, maybe 15 pilgrims, male and female.  I wasn’t able to take a shower before going to bed, I had no sleep sack, nothing, so I just laid on a bundbed . . . and stayed awake, sort of, and then fell asleep a little.  Yesterday, when I made it to Rome, and after all that had happened (discussed below), I finally made it to where my Sandy Brown guidebook suggested I stay:  “The delightful Spedale della Divina Provvidenza,” payment by donation only with the necessary pilgrim Credential and proof.  After a very long day, I made it there, and just in time for a ceremonial feet washing and blessing and a pilgrim dinner with what appeared to be a pretty hardened set of pilgrims who, like me, had toughed it out and just somehow got there, to Rome, and then to this monastery.   

On Friday morning, July 20, I started my walk from Monte Sacro to Rome.  The first part, in my opinion, was in so-so areas of town, lots of graffiti, messy, until I finally walked to Ponte Milvio bridge.  Yes, the bridge famous for many things, and mostly the locks where people bind their love and throw away the key.  I read the long history of the bridge.  Lately, it’s mostly functioning as a . . . bridge.  And at that point I headed down to the walkway along the Tiber River for another long very very hot, very lonely, no-one-in-sight walk.  That’s what the guidebook said to do, so I did it.  And, I don’t want to get lost.  After the walk along the Tiber, I stopped and had lunch when I figured I was getting close to St. Peter’s Square, and I was lucky to sit next to a guy from Holland who spoke good English and gave me the lay of the land to at least get postured so I could get into the square.  I was dying of thirst, and hungry, need I say.  Anyway, from there, one form of security or another first took my poles, then my Camino knife, then finally my backpack (with Prayer Cards), to return later after my visit to Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square, and St. Peter’s Basilica.  . . . And then, suddenly, I was there.  Standing in the huge St. Peter’s Square.  . . .  And, I started to feel like my long trek from Florence to Assisi and then on to here, Rome, could be over in a matter of hours–but first, I had to get my last stamp, and I had to get my Testimonium from the Vatican officials, confirming that I indeed did it, The Way of St. Francis.  And it took me 40 days.  

I love the movie Brother Sun Sister Moon, about St. Francis.  I was so tired when I got to St. Peter’s Square, that eventually I just sat at one of the pillars, remembering that St. Francis basically did the same thing (in the movie).  I wanted to do what the Sandy Brown guidebook said.  The guidebook said to visit the Basilica first and then go through this big rigmarole to get my Testimonium, but the the line to get into the Basilica was two hours long and . . . stringing through the square in the blazing sun.  Really??  But, two tour guide women saw me, figured I was one of “them,” a pilgrim, and told me exactly what to do, where to go, and how to get in without the line, and before I knew it, with their help, but without my backpack (now with security) I was in the Basilica, amazed, awe struck, etc. etc. etc., but still, all I wanted to do was get to the . . . SACRESTIA.  –I knew that would be the moment that I crossed the line and finished the race.  So, I took directions and found the roped off door to the Sacrestia, and about a dozen guards halted me.  And then I showed them my two Credenziale del Pellegrinos, two of them with all the stamps from Florence all the way to Assisi, then on to Rome, they said all kinds of things in Italian and their whole composure changed and I was ushered past all the ropes and all the closed doors to the Sacrestia . . . and I was in the inner chambers, and mercy did it feel cool.  Yes, actually temperature cool, but also really cool to be with the priests, some monks, and lots and lots of Polizia and security . . . and they wanted to scrutinize my Credenziales.  I was a little nervous, (but I’m always nervous), life is nerveracking to me anyway, . . . where was I?  Anyway, there was some official that read my two pilgrim’s passports very closely, and then one of the police officers did, and then they all starting talking and speaking all kinds of Italian that I didn’t understand, but I could tell they were happy, and somewhat happy for me, and impressed, and one police officer started the process of signing off on my Testimonium.  He filled it all in, I asked for some pictures, we took some pictures, and then I just . . . stood there and watched all that was going on realizing that a mass was about to take place and the priests were lining up to go into the Basilia and it just may be time for me to move on . . . . 

So, when the signed Testimonium was handed to me by the police officer and the official, that was the moment I finished the race.  Technically, even according to the guidebook, the Camino is over.  It took me 40 days to walk, trek, hike, sweat, grovel, get lots of help, kneel, and . . . pray my way from Florence all the way to Assisi (where I got another Testimonium), and then all the way to Rome. . . . And so, now, the transition to the . . . Camino of Life had to begin.  It was late in the day. I retrieved my backpack, but not my poles or my knife, because three different security checks had each item.  (There was lots of security.)  I still needed a place to stay.  So, I headed off to: “The delightful Spedale della Divina Provvidenza,” which was hard to find, of course, and I’m still fighting exhaustion, and when I got there it looked like Fort Knox. Just one big metal and very locked set of doors.  So, I rang the bell, and rang the bell.  And sat down.  Nothing happened.  Finally a man opened the door and yelled at me in Italian (it somehow often sounds like yelling to me), anyway he was basically saying no, no, no, and I didn’t know what to do, until I knew exactly what to do . . . and I pulled out my two Credenziales and my newly signed Testimonium, and bam, I was welcomed in quickly and the door was slammed behind me and I was in . . . . and led to a table where the man, again scrutinized all my documents, and there, I ran into Michael John, a career pilgrim who spoke a dozen or so languages and after lots of interpretation, I felt quite invited in. Mostly because Michael John had seen me at different places along the Camino, especially in one of the churches in Piediluco where he saw me place the Prayer Cards on the altar, and that was it, I was vouched for.  Whew!  . . . . and I was given a bunk bed and told to get ready for the ceremonial pilgrim foot-washing.  Whoa, who would touch these feet?  And then, there would be a pilgrim dinner.  And I was home.   

Well, so I better not go on anymore with this post, because I have so much to process, and I’m just ready to get some rest, and . . . well, tomorrow I have some ideas about the Prayer Cards, which carry some amazing Weight for me.  But I need some time.  And I’m hoping my feet, legs, and bug bites and scars heal a little.  And, how, oh how will I ever, ever, ever top this amazing journey.  And, a pilgrim just told me that the Pope will make an appearance tomorrow in St. Peter’s Square . . . Really?

tom . . .  


The bridge: Ponte Milvio. 

Lovers still find a place to place a padlock.

I don’t do selfies, but, in a really crowded Rome, no one was in the blazing sun of the walkway along the Tiber river.

As I got close to Vatican City, I needed water and some late lunch and this man really helped me get the lay of the land.

I just had to sit down.  I was exhausted from the trek from Monte Sacro to Vatican City.  I still had my backpack, but security would be taking it soon.

I was very thankful for these two girls that helped a forlorned pilgrim figure out where to go. They didn’t ask for anything.  They just helped me.

St. Peter’s Basilica.  But–where’s the Sacrestia?

One of the officials that scrutinized my two pilgrim’s passports, my two Credenziale del Pellgrinos.

The Police officer in the Sacrestia that signed off on me.  And, gave me my Testimonium.  July 20, 2018.

The Sacrestia.  Lots of security.

Antonio.  Mercy, this guy also scrutinized my pilgrim passports, and my American passport to sign me in at Spedale della Divina Provvidenza.  July 20, 2018.  Friday.  Not sure what time.  The battery was long ago dead on my watch and phone.  They were usually dead.  They did not hold up well on the long treks.

The pilgrims’ dinner. And the hardened pilgrims at Spedale della Divina Provvidenza.

My room with the other pilgrims.

Just another picture of the Spedale della Divina.

I tried to always sign the books where I stayed which turned out to be a big blessing on occasion, but that’s another story.

Saturday morning with one of our hosts, Katia, at the Spedale della Divina.

This is it. My last pilgrim’s bed on the Camino de Assisi. Pretty much NO earthly comfort whatsoever.  But Definitely another type of comfort and Grace.

Michael John.  He told me he read a lot of my entries in the church logs along The Way of St. Francis.  I was glad to run into him again at Spedale della Divina.

And so, this is it.  Saturday morning, July 21, 2018.  I’m leaving Spedale della Divina, and I wanted a record of my last pilgrim stop.  . . . .  Hmmm.