Monday, November 14, 2011

A Franciscan Pilgrimage: Sister Moon.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
you formed them in the sky,
bright, and precious, and beautiful.

The streets were quiet, and the footsteps of my hiking shoes made a slow, reflective rhythm with the tup-tup-tup of my cane.  Moonlight mingled with streetlight and lined the old stone walls of the crooked streets.  It was a lovely night to get lost.  This city was old and romantic, exactly as one whose imagination was fed by Hollywood and informed by fantasy would hope it would be.

The taste of chocolate lingered on my tongue.  My first day in Assisi had begun with adversity and finished in friendship.  Margherita and Mariella, Armando and Giovanni and I communed over cigarettes and ice cream after vespers.  The song of the friars at San Damiano stayed with me, and I found myself humming a familiar tune with Italian words half remembered.  Grace had overwhelmed me, and thankfulness was a light to my path.  That, and the aforementioned street lights.

A song came wandering through the old streets.  I stopped, strained to hear, and followed it.  Turning a corner here, stopping to listen there, and rounding another turn I finally came to the source.  Old doors stood in arched stone.  A window, propped open and filled with light, poured forth music.  I stood and listened to the sound of angels at rehearsal.  A chorus of men and women stopped and started a song I’d never heard as I took a seat on the stone steps on the opposite side of the street.  I laid my new cane across my knees.  The old streets, the ancient bricks, the night sky.  All of these things infused this disembodied song with a kind of mysterious joy, and I couldn’t help but be delighted.

As the chorus went on rehearsing, I wondered how old the steps were on which I was seated.  A block of stone set in the bricks of the wall behind me bore an inscription, and I craned my neck and squinted my eyes to see what it said.  “ ‘HIC… Franciscvm… something something… Bernardvs… Qvintavillus… something… extasim vidit.’  Well, something happened here.  That’s cool, I guess.”

This was a good time to smoke.  I retrieved it from my trusty bag, and thoughtfully packed my pipe as the singers sang on.  Shielding the pipe from the breeze, I tipped Bic to briar, and soon had a nicely burning bowl.  I watched the smoke rise to the moon and was reminded of how the Natives back home see tobacco.  It is sacred, because it is born of the earth, and as it is shared it ascends to the heavens.  Here on these historic steps, with these holy voices, the smoke did seem sacred, and my prayers rose as it twirled toward the moon and stars.

A long time later, with the taste of tobacco still on my tongue, the scent of smoke in my beard, I took up my cane and walked on.  It was only a few steps and another moment later that the night began to sing another song to me.  It drew stronger as I drew closer.  I looked up to the source.  It came from an ancient upper window, and filled the cobblestone street with its simple anthem:  

Here I am.  Rock me like a hurricane.

Amen, Lord.  Amen.

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