How you can be a part of this trip:
When I walked the pilgrimage route in Spain in 2002, I carried index cards with the intentions of my friends and family written on them. I will be carrying intentions on this trip as well. If you have a special prayer request, please send it to me and I will travel with it into the holiest Franciscan sites in Assisi, remembering you and your family in prayer while I am there.
Perhaps you’d like to purchase the book I worked on. Buy one through PayPal (cheaper than using Amazon) and I can put that money toward some of these expenses.
Stay tuned to the Franciscan Passages facebook page where I will be sharing pictures from Assisi. You can participate long distance that way.
Think about 2017. Do you want to go to Assisi with me in 2017? Let’s make it happen if so.
Some logistics of traveling to Assisi, Italy
In September, I will take an 8 hour flight to Rome. From there, I will board a train to Assisi, walk a few blocks, take an outdoor escalator up a hillside, then walk a few more blocks uphill toward the guesthouse. Within about 15 hours of closing my St. Francis Booth at the Charlotte, NC Eucharistic Congress, I will be in my room at an Assisi guesthouse.
Why I’m going there
If you ask me why I am going to Assisi for 2 weeks, I will tell you that I am going there for language school and to get to know Assisi so well that I can draw a map of it from memory, able to describe to you what you will find on every street within the city. However, I know that there are things that will happen that I cannot even imagine right now: wonderful things. Since I reserved my rooms, it has been announced that the Pope is going to Assisi while I’m there, accompanied by the world leaders of world religions. It will be an especially interesting time to be there.
Language Study in Assisi, Italy
I have been studying the Italian language since January. I first enrolled in a weekly small group class in my town for 12 weeks. This was a good introduction to the language and the instructor was skillful. Next, I met an Italian woman with whom I did an English-Italian exchange a few times. Since then, I’ve been using a free App on my phone for 20 minutes-1 hour per day for the past 3 months. According to the App, I’ve been working with about 1200 Italian words at this point. I believe that vocabulary is the most important component of learning a language. [Pro Tip: A good way to avoid having to conjugate verbs a million ways is to learn how to structure sentences so you only have to use the infinitive of the verb]. Before I decided to study Italian in Assisi, I spent a few weeks figuring out how I could cobble together an immersive Italian language experience in the U.S. During my search, I found a school in Vermont (summers-only) and plenty of language schools (which meet once per week in various cities) but could not find exactly what I was looking for. I teach ESL and I know that full immersion is an efficient way to learn a language so I decided to go to a place where I could be immersed in it. to attend a language school in Italy. I’ve enrolled in a reputable language school in Assisi where I will be taking small group classes every morning for two weeks, followed by one-on-one lessons every afternoon. I’m using the internet to find some women in Assisi who are interested in an English-Italian exchange with me. I want to avoid speaking English while I’m there, with the exception of daily calls home. I also want to post daily photos to Youtube so people can follow along virtually.
Why I’m learning Italian now
I teach ESL. One year ago, we befriended a family I met through ESL. The husband spoke little English at the time but now, he could be a translator for the United Nations! Okay, that might not be a good idea yet, but I am inspired by how much he has learned in a year. He’s also in his 40s so I thought that maybe I had it in me to learn their language, too. I am not someone who picks up hobbies here and there. I’m not really someone who gets really into one thing for a while then drops it, so this interest I have in Italian is unique to me. I am very enthusiastic about studying it every day. I know that I am supposed to learn Italian right now. I can honestly say that I feel compelled to learn it. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to studying it this year and it has paid off. I think that I will be able to use my Italian skills to help people experience St. Francis and St. Clare in a meaningful way. I don’t know what this means yet, but I know it will reveal itself in due time. Also, Italian is a useful, modern language with immediate applications but it will also help me feel my way around the Latin in the early writings pertaining to Saints Francis and Clare. No, I don’t know medieval Latin (yet) but at this time, I think there is more use for Italian (supplemented by my current Spanish skills). The bottom line is that I believe I am meant to learn Italian right now so that I can put it to the service of others, teaching them about Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi.
Finding Accommodation while in Assisi for Language School
I’m using a website which serves as the middle man between the customer and monasteries/religious houses which rent out rooms. It takes a few days to get each booking confirmed. I indicate my top several choices since my first choice might not be available. Despite these delays, it is a great service and enables me to find housing where I could not have arranged it on my own. For one week, I will be staying at a guesthouse recommended to me by many people I know. I chose this one because I knew it would be comfortable and I wanted to be able to jump right in to my studies that first week rather than worrying about any problems with accommodation. For my second week, I will be staying at a monastery of French Franciscan nuns. I hope that I am forced to use Italian (or my 50 words of French) to get by there. I chose to find my own accommodations rather than set them up through the language school since that is the cheaper option. Plus, I have lived with my fair share of roommates over the course of my life and am no longer interested in adapting to the idiosyncrasies of strangers. I look forward to waking up in these guest houses, with their stone floors and views of the countryside, typical Italian breakfasts and strong coffee. It will be a good experience
My previous times in Italy
I have been to Italy 2 times before. One time, I went as a participant in Youth toward Assisi, an international gathering sponsored by the Conventual Franciscan Friars. The
men I served with as a campus minister for 11 years are Conventual Franciscans. At Youth toward Assisi (which occurs every few years), there were about 500 of us there from all over the world. For 5-6 days, We listened to speakers, got to go behind the scenes at a lot of holy sites and camped in a beautiful, cheap huge campground just up the hill from Assisi. Youth toward Assisi is geared toward youth (18-25) . I was there to accompany our students and was 31 at the time. When I myself was a youth (18-25), I had many wonderful experiences hanging out with other young people from all over the world. My first job out of college was to work at an International hostel, then I visited Taize (which is a gathering place for youth in France) at age 25, I knew that those days were behind me. I could tell that something had shifted in me as I was no longer needing to stay up at all hours of the night getting to know the other 499 people there. We were only in Assisi for a few days and I wanted to make the most of my time there. So, on the morning of my 32nd birthday, I discerned that my day would be better spent exploring Assisi rather than joining the bumbling crowd on 30 slow buses on a field trip that day. I got up after my tent mates left, literally just started walking and ended up, much to my delight, at the Carceri atop Mount Subasio. This is a friary/church built on the side of the mountain where the caves are. St. Francis of Assisi went to these caves to be in solitude, to pray and discern his next steps along the way. As I walked up the road, I joined up with an elderly French lady who was walking it as well. Neither of us spoke the other language, but we managed it [Pro Tip: most words that end in -ation in English are the same in Romance languages] so we had a conversation for the entire trip up the hill to the Carceri. I loved having time to be in those woods, chat with other people and to enjoy my birthday lunch of salami and bread while in the woods St. Francis loved so much. In 2012, I went to Italy again, at Easterto meet up with Dr. Alison More, my master’s thesis advisor and my roommates from graduate school. Alison was living in the Netherlands at the time. Her own PhD advisor joined us from Germany and the Felician sisters from New Mexico who were my roommates at St. Bonaventure University were there with their novices. Together, we were 4 generations of women, all within a few years’ of each other. What I mean by four generations is that one had taught the other who had taught the 3 of us who taught others so that makes for four generations of women teaching women. It was cool to be with such smart women in Assisi. Highlights include being in a small crowd of about 40 people, just feet away from the lighting of the Easter candle outside St. Mary of the Angels, where it was freezing cold outside but strangers pressing together helped preserve enough warmth. Another highlight of that trip was processing through the darkened streets of Assisi with candles in a tradition older than St. Francis himself. Another day, Alison and I took an unexpected walk (in too-cute boots) through an unexpected rain for several miles from San Damiano to St. Mary of the Angels. It was that night, uncomfortable and wet, that I discovered truffles for the first time. They are native to the area and affordable in pasta dishes. They are like mushrooms, pungent and earthy, times 1000. Yum. I had never eaten anything so good in my life. They are prohibitively expensive here so the best I can do once in a while is get truffle oil which is basic olive oil infused with truffle oil. Still yummy and pungent but not as good as the real deal. If you are reading this and find yourself getting jealous, assuming this trip cost thousands of dollars and thinking this is way beyond your reach, you should call me right now. The trip cost hundreds, not thousands of dollars (the flight was the biggest expense) and it is a heck of a lot cheaper than what you paid for cable TV last year.
Previous times in Rome
I’ve been to Rome on four separate overnights, to and from Assisi. Coincidentally, my various hosts took me to the same church each time so I’ve seen one church multiple times. On one trip, we stayed at an AirB&B apartment which was safe, clean and cheap. Of course, I have visited the Vatican as well. St. Peter’s is a sight to behold. The variety of languages and ethnicities of people in the square is awesome. t. I hope Rome reveals some delights on this trip. One of my favorite parts about visiting the Vatican was the worldwide swath of humanity represented among the other people poking around the square, touching St. Peter’s foot (statue), marveling at the sights, praying, looking and whispering. I have been given this experience in many parts of the world, where I get to look around and see that all of these people, with their varying skin tones, linguistic tones, moods, hats, shoes, education levels, attitudes, disabilities and families, were also Catholic Christians. It is truly the most universal gathering on earth.