31 August 2013

Two Gifts in Assisi

Through the course of human history there arose the custom of leaving a token of gratitude or of love at the graves of loved ones.  In much of the western world, it has been customary to leave a bouquet of flowers, though the custom of leaving small statues of various creatures and even wind chimes has recently been introduced.

Such a custom of leaving gifts likewise arose around the tombs of the Saints and particular places associated with their lives (and with their deaths), especially in response to answered prayers or as signs of particular devotion.

A couple of years ago I adopted the Hawaiian custom of leaving a lei - a token of respect and love, of aloha - at the grave of my loved ones.  Naturally enough, I have left a lei at the grave of Father Damien on a couple of occasions and have also left one at the grave of the Father Tolton:

and at the graves of my parents:

Early Tuesday morning, I went down to the tomb of Saint Francis to pray before the arrival of the tourists and pilgrims and I left the gift of a lei for The Poverello at his tomb:

Two days later it seems Saint Francis found a way to give a gift to me.

Over the course of this past week, I have taken my meals at a table next to a very nice couple from Sienna, who, to my great surprise, knew of and have visited the shrine of Saint Galgano (it's just a short distance from Sienna), which I very much want to visit.

Wednesday evening, after spending some time chatting about the saint, and about other things medieval, ancient, and architectural, and a shared love of books, I told them about my recent experience in the Cathedral of San Rufino.  They asked when I would be celebrating Mass and became excited when I told them I would be celebrating Mass this Sunday in the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, until I told them it was the "English" Mass; apparently they meant Mass celebrated in Italian.

I told them that I was not yet comfortable enough with my command of Italian to celebrate the Mass publicly in Italian, so instead they asked if I would pray the rosary with them with Italian.  I gladly agreed and we arranged to meet in the chapel Thursday morning before breakfast.

Fumbling back and forth with my Italian prayer book in one hand and my rosary in the other, we meditated together on the mysteries of the life of the Savior through the eyes of his mother.

That evening at dinner, the couple presented me with a small gift, a token of their friendship and appreciation.  Noting how difficult it was to use my prayer book and my large-ish rosary at the same time, they found a small and simple rosary for me:

It may be a simple token, but it touched my heart.  The couple has now departed Assisi to return to their home.  Over the next several years we intend to stay in contact and I certainly plan to visit them when I make a little pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Galgano.

Assisi has an odd way of bringing people together and of helping to form friendships based on a mutual love of the faith of Jesus Christ.  Truly, it is good to be here!


  1. Sweet! It seems like your time in Assisi has been more than language learning. It's a retreat, in a way. I hope it has blessed you.