Tuesday morning after breakfast I got a taxi to take me to the Carceri, the hermitage that St. Francis often used, about three miles up the mountain from Assisi.
What an oasis of peace!
I spent some time in the chapel, praying and beginning to read Carlo Carretto's I, Francis. It was providential that I had brought this book with me.
It was cold there, with ice and snow on some parts of the grounds. But I walked and read Carretto as I prayed at the site of Francis' cave.
Toward the end of my walking I found the caves of Brothers Rufino and Masseo up from the church. It was tricky getting down to Brother Masseo's cave, the descent was rocky and icy to the cave perched at the end of an abyss. As I walked to the back of the cave, I experienced a sense of peace. I looked out at the stream and hillside in front of me and felt grateful for the beauty of this place.
To get warm, I went back to the chapel and found a spot where the sun could warm me. Two groups came and went. Even though each group had someone speaking with them in Italian, the chapel was still a place of peace. I read some more and I wrote.
I left about 12:30. I had been there for more than three hours.
I walked back down to Assisi and ate lunch.
After a short rest, I went to the lower town to the basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. The small church, the Porziuncula, where St. Francis lived and died, is under the dome of this immense church. It's rather incongruous but I prayed there and later found a priest from Bangladesh who spoke English hearing confessions.
After confessing he spoke with me and asked me about the situation in Honduras. I started to tell him about the poverty, the instability, and especially my concern about the consequences of the poor coffee harvest. As I shared my fears of every hunger a few months from now, I found myself on the verge of tears. Obviously the people I try to serve have a special place in my heart.
That night, to celebrate Mardi Gras, I had a larger dinner than usual and went to bed content and full of peace.