Atum suggested that we each buy a bracelet. It should be a symbol of moments that deeply touch you, moments that add to the depth of the soul. He recounted a beautiful myth from the Zoroastrian tradition of an encounter with the soul after death. The soul observes “I was beautiful but you made me more beautiful.” This then was the role of the bracelet, to help recall moments of soul and heart connections. I chose mine with care; I did not want too many beads; I wanted each bead to remind me of a specific event. I found one with precisely ten beads and a cross of St. Francis in the middle that conveniently looks like my first initial.
The first bead represents my encounter with a statue of St. Francis that stands outside the basilica where he was buried. He is on horseback having just returned from war. He looks despondent, dejected and defeated. It is the low point of his life. Yet behind him is the magnificent church that bears his name, a promise of all that emerged from this moment where he could see no hope. What a wonderful archetypal image! All of us have moments in our lives like that. At the time it is hard to comprehend that the moment of despair can be the start of something magnificent to come.
The second bead represents the experience of kneeling at the same cross where the young Francesco prayed the exquisite prayer for guidance “Give me right faith, firm hope, perfect charity, and profound humility with wisdom and perception O Lord so that I may do what is truly your holy will.” In response he heard the words “Restore my church.” My insight was less radical “Shine your light” but it has become a wonderful focus for me to discover what it means.
My third bead is for my friend Gudrun. Just after I had been judging the simplicity and ease of my task as not serious or hard enough, she approached me and said: ‘I just have to tell you what a shining light you are.” It was a moment of amazing synchronicity and inspired me to renewed exploration of what shining my light could mean.
The fourth bead is for St. Chiara and her courage as a young woman who defied convention, her family and the town’s leading citizens by refusing to approach the Bishop in the church of St Ruffino. She knew she was going to follow Francis and felt it would be an act of betrayal. I sat in the same church, tears wetting my cheek both sharing and reliving her experience as the myth breaker in her family, a role I had also assumed in mine.
The fifth bead is for my dear friend and fellow pilgrim Sonja who turned a remarkable time into one that was truly unforgettable. She is blonde, beautiful and spiritual with an amazingly inquiring mind. I was instantly drawn to her and despite my best intentions or perhaps because of them, we shared a deepening relationship. She opened my heart in a sweet, innocent yet endearing way. She became my Chiara, brightening my journey.
The sixth bead is for the simple church at San Damiano that St Francis rebuilt and became the home of Chiara’s order. Here we encountered the sweet energy of father Rodriguez who shared the passion he felt to be a Franciscan brother.
The seventh bead is for the wonderful statue of St Francis meditating above the striking view into the Umbrian valley below and overlooking the Basilica built over the simple house where he died. This is the view that inspired him to write the Canticle of Creatures, “Be praised my Lord in all your creatures, especially for Brother Sun…”
The eighth bead is for moment we stood high above Assisi in the location where Francesco used to come and meditate in a cave. Atum suggested we name the people who had been the stepping-stones that may have brought each of us to this place. This stimulated an amazing reflection of the people and events, which had resulted in an atheist who ran an advertising agency twenty years earlier now treading in the footsteps of St. Francis.
The ninth bead was for the wonderful group of fellow pilgrims who shared the journey during the week in Assisi and who sang and chanted so beautifully “Oh Christ for ever living in my breath. Oh Christ forever living in my heart.
And finally the last bead is for the final morning as I walked down to San Damiano for one last visit with a heavy heart, which was immediately lightened when I bumped unexpectedly into Sonja and her lovely mother Olga who had the same idea. I have appreciated my journey with this bracelet identifying ten moments of the pilgrimage that forever will live in my heart and soul.
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