Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Darn. 

Ah, but that’s the way it goes. After all my agonizing about how long to stay in Ferrara, and finally letting the palio sway me into this extra day….

….it poured.

Yup. It was cloudy at the start of the day, and the forecast definitely called for rain just at the time the palio festivities would begin – 3/4 o’clock. But I had hope, which I carried with us through the first part of the day.

Which began – about 11:30 – with Mass at the Cathedral.

There is, of course, no paucity of churches in this city, even not counting the closed ones. But there is also, as far as I know, no masstimes.org that’s maintains a Ferrara data base, so I just took the easy way out, popped by the Cathedral on my early morning walk, checked the Mass times, and decided we would do the 11:30.

(As I mentioned before, there is a church around the corner, but, as I figured out this morning, it has been given to some variety of Eastern Catholics. I peaked in on orthros (morning prayer), and Divine Liturgy would have been great, but it was a tiny congregation and I wasn’t up to that level of engagement, as in…why are the Americans from Alabama here??? Not they wouldn’t have been lovely, I’m sure, I was just not up to it. )

So to the Cathedral it was, into which, as is the case with most historic churches, tourists continued to stream during Mass. Which is fine, because it’s evangelization, and indeed many people did pause and listen to the homily and observe various others goings-on during the Mass.

And believe me, they had plenty of time to check in and out of that homily. It was, I am not kidding you, as long as the rest of Mass put together, as Lina LaMont would say.

So, we’ll backtrack.

Celebrant was a 40-ish, energetic priest. He was assisted by a deacon and a religious sister who helped with Communion. No servers. An organ played at entrance and recessional, but no hymns. Just instrumental. The only sung parts of the Mass were the Alleluia and the Sanctus (in Italian). The sequence was recited by the congregation. Roman Canon, which I believe is mandated for Corpus Christi. The priest spoke for a few minutes before Mass, preached for thirty minutes, and then spoke for five minutes at least at the end of Mass.

Now, I don’t speak Italian, but if I know the context of the speech, I can usually pick up the gist, and especially so with Catholic-talk. So I discerned that this priest, who preached very energetically, was emphasizing the importance of the Eucharist. He probably did a great job! But what struck me was this: as I mentioned, his homily was as long as the rest of Mass. His manner of celebration was on the way-casual end of “say the black and do the red.” That is, he seemed to do everything he was supposed to, and there was nothing odd or off, but the ritual outside the homily was informal and hurried – and little of it sung.

So, despite a religious culture that can still put on a bang-up and lovely, moving Corpus Domini procession, it seems to me that if understanding the importance of the Eucharist is a priority, letting your own voice dominate the liturgy and celebrating in a casual way is  counter-productive. The ritual itself sends a message. That does not mean stuffy and distant. It means letting the ritual itself communicate Who is among us via reverence, care and MUSIC. Thnx.

Then after Mass, the priest pointed to a small display to the side and explained things. What there was, in a frame, was a piece of cloth, apparently associated with the young man pictured beside it. Those who chose reverenced the relic. We did, with no understanding of who or what this was all about except, well, saints! Blesseds! Prayers! Always good.

I took photos and when we got back, figured out who this was and then immediately wished I had known at the moment. It was Rolando Rivi, a young (very young – 14 years old) seminarian killed by communists in 1945. NCR(egister) has the story:

In June 1944, Nazis troops occupied the seminary, and so all the seminarians were sent home. Rivi returned to his hometown of San Valentino, carrying his books with him to continue his studies there.

In San Valentino, the young seminarian never stopped wearing his cassock, despite the rising climate of violence. When his parents suggested he refrain from wearing it for his own safety, Rivi reportedly replied: “I study to be a priest, and these vestments are the sign that I belong to Jesus.”

The situation grew more difficult: Four priests were killed by the communist partisan brigades, and Father Olinto Marzocchini, San Valentino’s parish priest and Rivi’s spiritual father, was attacked and subsequently transferred to a more secure place.

Nevertheless, Rivi’s days were spent between service in his parish and his studies. On the morning of April 10, 1945, after serving Mass, the 14-year-old took his books and went to the nearby woods, where he was accustomed to studying. Yet this time, he never returned. At noon, his parents, worried because Rivi had not come back for lunch; they went to the woods and found his books on the ground and a sheet of paper, where the following words were written: “Do not search for him. He just came with us partisans for a while.”

Kidnapped and stripped of his cassock, Rivi was imprisoned and tortured by partisans for three days. Some of the partisans proposed to let him go, since he was only a young boy. But the majority sentenced him to death, in order to have “one less future priest.”

On April 13, Rivi was taken to a forest in the surroundings of Modena. The partisans dug a grave and had Rivi kneel on its edge. While he was praying, the young seminarian was killed by gunshots to the heart and head. His cassock was rolled into a ball, kicked around and then hung as a war trophy in the front door of a house.

 

Reconciling With History

After the Second World War, the official history of the so-called “Italian Resistance” exalted the partisan resistance to Nazi fascism and hid the crimes brought on in the name of this resistance.

This is exactly the reason why the “feast of faith” of Rivi’s beatification is such a blessed day for Italy, and it even can be considered a high point in the process of reconciliation in the so-called triangle of death.

After the Second World War, Rivi’s death was immediately described as a “private crime.” Yet journalist and historian Emilio Bonicelli gave great impetus to the cause of beatification. He read about the story of an English child who was miraculously healed of leukemia thanks to Rivi’s intercession, and this story brought wider recognition of the young martyr.

“This is how I met Rolando,” recounted Bonicelli, “and from then on, I fought to shed light on his story. In the forest where Rolando was killed, it seemed that hate won and that Rolando had been extinguished from history. But the Lord taught us there is no great evil that cannot lead to a greater good.”

 

I don’t know if the relic we reverenced was part of the cassock he was wearing when he was captured. I don’t think I will have a chance to get over to the Cathedral tomorrow to see, which is really too bad.

*****

Clouds starting building after Mass, and I started obsessively checking the palio Facebook page. They said an official announcement of the status of the day’s events would come at 2. So we attesnapchat-7320893137772186505.jpgmpted lunch, and every restaurant was full and not available for walk-ins. It was raining for real now, so we didn’t feel like hunting down an open restaurant any longer..
.so…McDonald’s it was. Which is why American fast food has a niche in Europe. When many restaurants operate mostly on reservations and only serve through part of the afternoon, the all-day American-style convenience…helps. (Image via Snapchat – download and add me at amywelborn2)

 

By the end of lunch, the announcement had been made that the show would go on, but sadly without the parade from the piazza in front of the Cathedral to the piazza where the race would occur. We walked up (about a km) to buy tickets, and then walked back to the apartment to change out of church clothes and take a little break. Then back over to the venue where after about ten minutes…it started raining. Hard. I heard English being spoken behind me, and I turned to the red-headed woman and asked if she knew what was going on. No more than I, so as we waited we chatted. She was Canadian, having come over from Tuscany/Rome on her way to Venice – sort of the reverse of our route, without the Venice part. She was hysterical talking about the trip over – for her even longer because she was from Vancouver. “It was horrible. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought – I can’t go on. I am going to die.” 

(Because of the discomfort of economy class. Yup, it’s cramped, made even more painful when you shuffle past The Royal High Class or whatever British Airways calls it, with their recliners in cubicles. And the fact that for the sake of helping us be more comfortable by giving lots of electronic gear plus the ability to charge our own at our seats, every seat now has a chunky metal box underneath, giving even less leg/foot space. I’m short and not tiny, but still smallish and I cannot imagine how bigger, taller people deal with these flights. But hey! I usually don’t complain because…I’m going to be in Europe in six hours. It’s still kind of Magically Weird to me.)

Oh, okay. The palio. Damn it, cancelled. Postponed til next Sunday. It’s certainly disappointing, but we did get to catch a bit of the spirit of the event as we watched the neighborhoods gather and cheer and just absorbed the moment. Theoretically we could come back and see it, but theoretically, there are more things on the other side of Italy that will probably take priority.

But you never know. Because…hahahahaha. still  have made no plans past next Friday morning, when we check out of the Rome apartment. Can you believe it? This is a record, even for me, queen of the last-minute Big Trip. We’ll talk about it tomorrow on the train or tomorrow night. The way things are going – which are fine, by the way – I am thinking that what we need is running room. By “we” I mean not me, by the way.

So, tomorrow it’s…bus to train station, train to Bologna, train to Rome, taxi to the apartment and then yup, say hello to Rome once again.

DSCN0227

A palio is a competition between neighborhoods. The most well-known is that of Siena, but other Italian cities have them as well. These images represent the various neighborhoods.

DSCN0224

Colors.

DSCN0223

Before the rains. This was a section for one of the neighborhoods. There was to be two footraces, a donkey race and then the horses. What I could never figure out is where the animals were being kept. 

DSCN0222

Instagram (amy_welborn) or Snapchat (amywelborn2)

 

Read Full Post »

It’s coming this next Sunday. For help in preparing the kids, let’s go to one of my favorite sources – this wonderful  old Catholic religion textbook.

"amy welborn"

The short chapter on Pentecost is lovely and helpful.

"amy welborn"

EPSON MFP image

 

This volume is for 7th graders.

What I’m struck by here is the assumption that the young people being addressed are responsible and capable in their spiritual journey. They are not clients or customers who need to be anxiously served or catered to lest they run away and shop somewhere else.

What is said to these 12 and 13-year olds is not much different from what would have been said to their parents or grandparents. God created you for life with him. During your life on earth there are strong, attractive temptations to shut him out and find lasting joy in temporal things. It’s your responsibility to do your best to stay close to Christ and let that grace live within you, the grace that will strengthen you to love and serve more, the grace that will lead you to rest peacefully and joyfully in Christ.

Read Full Post »

Over the past couple of days I re-read Francois Mauriac’s Woman of the Pharisees.

It was on the shelf downstairs in the basement, it had been a decade or more since I had read it, and I admit that I was looking for a smaller book I could keep in my purse to pull out in those moments in which I might otherwise Take Out the Phone.

(Studying the Phone is not a huge problem for me. I don’t have a deep urge to check feeds and such at all times. But as I wrote a few weeks ago, the sight of everyone in a waiting room or even a restaurant, eyes glued to a phone, fingers scrolling, has really started to get to me. I don’t want to be a part of that, partly because I don’t want to model that for my kids, but also because I want to be attentive to my surroundings, and, if the surroundings are boring, engaged with something other than a screen. Even if the screen has a book or an academic article in its glow. Short version: I don’t grow any wiser from spending that ten minutes scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. But I do grow wiser, even just a little bit, from spending ten minutes with Francois Mauriac.)

Okay. So Woman of the Pharisees is an intense exploration of religious hypocrisy. Brigitte Pian is the woman in question, the narrator’s stepmother. She is an externally devout woman who sees her duty in life to guide others to and on the correct spiritual path – in other words, to dominate and exert control through prideful spiritual manipulation.

What interested me about Mauriac’s treatment of this whole situation is its subtelty and  allowance for nuance. That is, there are no caricatures and no cartoon villains or heroes. Brigitte is monstrous and hurts many people – but she actually does engage in generous works of charity, daily. When she finally is humbled and turns from her arrogance, her "amy welborn"subsequent life moves in a rather pathetic, even slightly ridiculous direction. Those she has harmed have their own deep flaws and there is a sense that perhaps Brigitte Pian was not completely off-base in her assessments of their situations.

The question being, then,  in a world of screw-ups, of which we are one, how can  we balance the trick of letting God work through us and staying out of His way?

What Mauriac excels at is exploring the motivation for religious faith and action, as well as how human beings react to authentic spirituality when they encounter it: mostly, they are repelled and fight hard against it.

Just a couple of quotes, not necessarily related to what I’ve discussed above, but just passages I liked:

Here Brigitte reassures herself about her spiritual progress:

There had been a time when she was worried by the spiritual aridity that marked her relations with her God; but since then she had read somewhere that it is as a rule the beginners on whom the tangible marks of Grace are showered, since it is only in that way that they can be extricated from the slough of this world and set upon the right path. The kind of insensitiveness that afflicted her was, she gathered, a sign that she had long ago emerged from those lower regions of the spiritual life where fervor is usually suspect. In this way her frigid soul was led on to glory in its own lack of warmth.

A priest – Calou –  is a major character in the novel, having been given charge of a difficult boy, a classmate of the narrator’s. The boy tries to shock the priest by saying he doesn’t believe in any of those “old wives’ tales,” and asks the priest if he is surprised by his lack of faith. The priest responds:

Why should it?….The really surprising this is that a man should believe….The really surprising thing is that what we believe should be true. The really surprising thing is that the truth should really exist, that it should have taken on flesh, that I can keep it a prisoner here beneath these old vaults that don’t interest you, thanks to the strength in these great hands of mine which your uncle Adhemar admires so much. Yes, you little oddity, I can never get over feeling how absurd, how utterly mad, it is that what we believe should be precisely and literally true!”

The conversation continues as the boy reveals that despite his unbelief, back at school, he goes to Confession, as required, just making things up, and, again, as required, receives Communion.

But what did it matter whether one believed or not? It didn’t make the slightest difference.

He had expected an outburst, but it did not come.

You really think so?” asked Monsieur Calou.

Jean presented an insolent face to his gaze. But he felt shamed by its gentle sadness.

Every Saturday and every Sunday, for Heaven knows how long….two years at least, O Lord!”

Monsieur Calou looked at the handsome face, at the unsullied brow beneath the mop of dakr hair in which one lighter lock shone like a flame. He could say no more than: “Lie down a little before dinner my boy.” Then he hurried off towards the church without looking back. His gent shoulders made him seem less than his real height.

Finally, very briefly…the narrator sees Brigitte Pian years after the main events of the novel when she is old, frail and not the woman she once was:

When I alluded to past events, she talked of them quite openly. But I could feel that she had become detached from even the consciousness of her faults, and that she had decided to lay everything at the throne of the Great Compassion…..

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, the 11-year old and I made the overdue trip over to Atlanta.

(A bit over 2 hours from Birmingham, straight I-20 all the way)

The purpose: to trade with my oldest son. I had something of his that he had included in a gift shipped here to save postage, and he had all my Rome guidebooks.

So after I dropped the high schooler off, we headed over.

We met, did the exchange, spent some time talking, and then…what?

We had a couple of hours. We’re done with the Aquarium – we’ve been several times, it’s expensive and seems to shrink every time we go. We’ve visited the Zoo fairly recently. Fernbank is in the wrong direction and there’s not a lot to it. The temporary exhibits currently at the High Museum of Art don’t interest us. I’d like to go to the Atlanta History Center at some point, but not without the high schooler.

So…how about the Botanical Gardens?

We’d never been, mostly because admission is charged, and we are spoiled by our lovely, no-admission Birmingham Botanical Gardens (and our sweet no-admission Birmingham Museum of Art). But they tempted me with a special exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass sculptures – it seemed like a decent way to spend a couple of hours, so why not?

The sculptures are fine, although really not that intriguing, except from the “how did they pack them up and get them here without breaking everything” perspective.

amy-Welborn4

No, what struck me on this visit was this:

These glass tubes, no matter how delicate and ingeniously wrought, were amateur hour when compared to this:

"amy welborn"

The leaves of these plants in the conservatory looked as if they had been painted by hand.

The juxtaposition of tiny round succulunt leaves with their protective spikes was arresting.

"amy welborn"

Masterpiece after masterpiece.

amy-Welborn6

Over and over, beauty, down to the levels we cannot see, to the levels that sustain us every day, the stuff of ourselves that we cannot see and can never make with our own limited minds and clumsy hands.

amy-Welborn7

Read Full Post »

Quick! Have you gotten anything yet?!

Well, you can still grab this – perhaps your local Catholic bookstore has it (if they don’t…demand it!), but you can for sure order it online.

I have a few copies here, and if you contact me at amywelborn60 – at – gmail.com  we can talk about non-media mail shipping.

It’s a 365 day daily devotional for Catholic women. Because it was written to be used beyond a single year, the daily devotionals couldn’t be tied to a specific season, except for most feasts (except Easter).  But I did my best to be as reasonably seasonal as possible – so the entries from February-March tend towards themes of penitence, April-May, Eastery-themes and December, Adventish.

It’s also written for women of any state in life. It doesn’t presume that the woman reading and praying along has children, is of a certain age, is married, works outside the home, is a stay-at-home mom, and for sure does not presume that all women are into shopping or shoes. That sort of thing.

So check it out!

 

And don’t forget…First Communion and Graduation! 

 

Read Full Post »

We’ll start with the more confusing one – James. As is the case with (in English) “Mary” – there are a lot of “James” in the New Testament narratives, so sorting them out is a challenge. And perhaps not even really possible.

Today’s feast celebrates James “the Lesser” – as opposed to James the Greater, brother of John, one of the first four apostles called by Jesus, present at the Transfiguration, feast June 25, etc.

This James, son of Alphaeus, is often identified with the James who was head of the Church in Jerusalem and the author of the New Testament letter.  That’s what Pope Benedict went with in his 2007 General Audience talk: 

Thus, St James’ Letter shows us a very concrete and practical Christianity. Faith must be fulfilled in life, above all, in love of neighbour and especially in dedication to the poor. It is against this background that the famous sentence must be read: “As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead” (Jas 2: 26).

At times, this declaration by St James has been considered as opposed to the affirmations of Paul, who claims that we are justified by God not by virtue of our actions but through our faith "amy welborn"(cf. Gal 2: 16; Rom 3: 28). However, if the two apparently contradictory sentences with their different perspectives are correctly interpreted, they actually complete each other.

St Paul is opposed to the pride of man who thinks he does not need the love of God that precedes us; he is opposed to the pride of self-justification without grace, simply given and undeserved.

St James, instead, talks about works as the normal fruit of faith: “Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit”, the Lord says (Mt 7: 17). And St James repeats it and says it to us.

Lastly, the Letter of James urges us to abandon ourselves in the hands of God in all that we do: “If the Lord wills” (Jas 4: 15). Thus, he teaches us not to presume to plan our lives autonomously and with self interest, but to make room for the inscrutable will of God, who knows what is truly good for us.

Now, Philip. I think this GA talk really highlight’s B16’s catechetical skills. We don’t know that much about Philip, but Benedict takes what we do know, and hones it down in the most practical…pastoral way:

The Fourth Gospel recounts that after being called by Jesus, Philip meets Nathanael and tells him: “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn 1: 45). Philip does not give way to Nathanael’s somewhat sceptical answer (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”) and firmly retorts: “Come and see!” (Jn 1: 46).

In his dry but clear response, Philip displays the characteristics of a true witness: he is not satisfied with presenting the proclamation theoretically, but directly challenges the person addressing him by suggesting he have a personal experience of what he has been told.

The same two verbs are used by Jesus when two disciples of John the Baptist approach him to ask him where he is staying. Jesus answers: “Come and see” (cf. Jn 1: 38-39).

We can imagine that Philip is also addressing us with those two verbs that imply personal involvement. He is also saying to us what he said to Nathanael: “Come and see”. The Apostle engages us to become closely acquainted with Jesus.

In fact, friendship, true knowledge of the other person, needs closeness and indeed, to a certain extent, lives on it. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that according to what Mark writes, Jesus chose the Twelve primarily “to be with him” (Mk 3: 14); that is, to share in his life and learn directly from him not only the style of his behaviour, but above all who he really was.

Indeed, only in this way, taking part in his life, could they get to know him and subsequently, proclaim him."amy welborn"

Later, in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, one would read that what is important is to “learn Christ” (4: 20): therefore, not only and not so much to listen to his teachings and words as rather to know him in person, that is, his humanity and his divinity, his mystery and his beauty. In fact, he is not only a Teacher but a Friend, indeed, a Brother.

How will we be able to get to know him properly by being distant? Closeness, familiarity and habit make us discover the true identity of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Philip reminds us precisely of this. And thus he invites us to “come” and “see”, that is, to enter into contact by listening, responding and communion of life with Jesus, day by day.

Then, on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves, he received a request from Jesus as precise as it was surprising: that is, where could they buy bread to satisfy the hunger of all the people who were following him (cf. Jn 6: 5). Then Philip very realistically answered: “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little” (Jn 6: 7).

Here one can see the practicality and realism of the Apostle who can judge the effective implications of a situation.

We then know how things went. We know that Jesus took the loaves and after giving thanks, distributed them. Thus, he brought about the multiplication of the loaves.

It is interesting, however, that it was to Philip himself that Jesus turned for some preliminary help with solving the problem: this is an obvious sign that he belonged to the close group that surrounded Jesus.

On another occasion very important for future history, before the Passion some Greeks who had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover “came to Philip… and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus’. Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus” (cf. Jn 12: 20-22).

Once again, we have an indication of his special prestige within the Apostolic College. In this case, Philip acts above all as an intermediary between the request of some Greeks – he probably spoke Greek and could serve as an interpreter – and Jesus; even if he joined Andrew, the other Apostle with a Greek name, he was in any case the one whom the foreigners addressed.

This teaches us always to be ready to accept questions and requests, wherever they come from, and to direct them to the Lord, the only one who can fully satisfy them. Indeed, it is important to know that the prayers of those who approach us are not ultimately addressed to us, but to the Lord: it is to him that we must direct anyone in need. So it is that each one of us must be an open road towards him!

There is then another very particular occasion when Philip makes his entrance. During the Last Supper, after Jesus affirmed that to know him was also to know the Father (cf. Jn 14: 7), Philip quite ingenuously asks him: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied” (Jn 14: 8). Jesus answered with a gentle rebuke: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father: how can you say, “Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?… Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me” (Jn 14: 9-11).

These words are among the most exalted in John’s Gospel. They contain a true and proper revelation. At the end of the Prologue to his Gospel, John says: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (Jn 1: 18).

Well, that declaration which is made by the Evangelist is taken up and confirmed by Jesus himself, but with a fresh nuance. In fact, whereas John’s Prologue speaks of an explanatory intervention by Jesus through the words of his teaching, in his answer to Philip Jesus refers to his own Person as such, letting it be understood that it is possible to understand him not only through his words but rather, simply through what he is.

To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In his Face we truly see who God is and what he looks like!

The Evangelist does not tell us whether Philip grasped the full meaning of Jesus’ sentence. There is no doubt that he dedicated his whole life entirely to him. According to certain later accounts (Acts of Philip and others), our Apostle is said to have evangelized first Greece and then Frisia, where he is supposed to have died, in Hierapolis, by a torture described variously as crucifixion or stoning.

Let us conclude our reflection by recalling the aim to which our whole life must aspire: to encounter Jesus as Philip encountered him, seeking to perceive in him God himself, the heavenly Father. If this commitment were lacking, we would be reflected back to ourselves as in a mirror and become more and more lonely! Philip teaches us instead to let ourselves be won over by Jesus, to be with him and also to invite others to share in this indispensable company; and in seeing, finding God, to find true life.

 

Many years ago, I wrote a study guide for B16’s collected General Audience talks on the Apostles and other early Church figures. The study guide is available online in pdf form – so if you have a church discussion group and would like to use it, or even just for yourself  – there it is. 

Both images from St. John Lateran in Rome. 

Read Full Post »

Speaking of Siena..

(Which we were, on Friday. Right?)

Siena is in an area of Italy called Tuscany. Tuscany is north of Rome and includes, not only Siena, but Florence, Pisa, Lucca and dozens of charming towns, many of them atop hills.

Tuscany looks beautiful and interesting. Tuscany is very popular. A spate of books on the expats’ experience in Tuscany both reflects and exacerbates the popularity, which then leads to a certain packaging of the Tuscany experience.

 

Thanks to reader John for the reminder….

But Tuscany is also a large area (not as big as North Dakota, George. Sorry.) with a lot to see, and the challenge is that while it is about three hours from Rome up to Florence – and that doesn’t seem far – the geography of the area makes finding a central base for exploration challenging, and you for sure need a car.

So, after weeks of reading and thinking, I had to force myself to return to one of my basic philosophies I claim I hold and ask myself if I really indeed believed it and was willing to live by it:

You can’t do everything. Just do what you can, and do it well.

So no, we were not going to be able to see everything that we might find interesting. Choices would have to be made.

And I still haven’t made them.

Yup. Some people plan their vacations a year out. Me, I’m a few weeks away from a week in Tuscany, and I haven’t yet booked a single accommodation.

Right now, this is what I’m thinking – feel free to chime in.

We are done in Rome on a Friday. At that point, I’ll rent a car, and we’ll head out. I was thinking that for two or three days, we’d do the southern part of Tuscany, or Maremma. Orvieto (which is really Umbria), Pitigiliano, Sorano, Sovano, Saturnia – focusing on Etruscan stuff as well as the usual Catholic fun.

via-cave-tuscany

Etruscan Stuff and Catholic fun all in one – part of the Etruscan Via Cave with a later Christian addition – appropriate for today (May 1) – St. Joseph protecting those who venture onward. More here. 

Alternative: take the train to Orvieto, center there for a couple of days, rent car and use a car for the rest of the week.

Maybe.

Then there’s Siena.

And Florence.

And little towns around.

I would love to base in Siena, but, a couple of things…Siena accommodations are pretty expensive, it seems. Secondly, it’s a hike from Siena to Florence – over an hour, maybe more, I think. I’m leaning towards basing somewhere between Siena and Florence for the bulk of that week, but I just don’t know.

We end up in Pisa. We fly out of there on a Friday afternoon, so I figure we will take Thursday afternoon and evening to do Pisa and stay there Thursday night – I already have those hotel reservations.

Bottom line: I have no idea. No. That’s not true. I have ideas, but I’m torn and am having to resist, with all my strength, the temptation to dash around and See All The Tuscan Things. I know from experience that is miserable, and I know the way to actually benefit deeply from travel is to calm down, stay still, look and listen.

I think: I’ll be back. I can see more on some other trip.

But will I? I might drop dead, some other drama, tragedy or priority might make future travel of this sort impossible or ill-advised. There are many other places in the world I have my eye on. So no. Maybe I won’t be back.

And what does it matter anyway? There is no urgency or necessity about this, at all. If I don’t see some little Tuscan hill town that caught my eye…so what? If we don’t experience this ruin or Etruscan site that I think the boys will enjoy and appreciate…so what?

Whatever we are doing while not doing what we’re missing…will be worth doing.  

It’s all fascinating, all opportunities to learn, to see, to listen – all – beginning with my own neighborhood, my own town, first of all. Beginning today, here and now.

The only way to “miss” something important is to close myself off to the present – where ever it is I happen to be.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: