Just catching up after a life altering journey to the World Peace Gathering in Assisi, Italy. What an amazing trip, with wonderful people, trekking many miles over the mountains in all kinds of weather, sometimes losing sight of the valley below as we rose above the clouds and soared with the birds!
The highlight for me, and for many of us I imagine, was making the final assent to the gates of Assisi, with most taking turns in groups of about eight at a time to push the wheelchair of our dear wounded pilgrim (who had broken her leg) up the steep incline. At times out of breath and for sure weary after the ten day hike, all the while we chanted a beautiful song and moved as a collective whole. As we made our way through the streets and down to the pilgrim marker – the touchstone for all pilgrims - the bells of the basilica pealed and tears of joy and triumph spilled over every face.
And no wonder the feeling of joy and triumph! For most of us, the journey was not what we had expected when we signed on. We initially experienced disappointment when we found out that the Pope would not allow religious leaders to say their respective prayers, but in the end the prayers were delivered times ten by some 40 passionate souls. We gathered with fervor each brisk morning to recite the prayers of 12 faiths from the 1986 gathering. Did it really matter after all is said and done, how the prayers made their way into the ethers? Are we not one body, one mind, one heart?
There were a few mishaps in the first days – a broken leg, twisted knee, and my own broken arm ,(yes, indeedy-do…it was a “trip”) yet spirits remained high and joy abundant. As I geared up for the walk each day, with a wounded arm and heavy cast in tow, I found myself carried along easily with the energy and enthusiasm of the others. When more energetic walkers paced alongside me for a time, I felt stronger, graced with more stamina. Each day we were greeted with a blessing from our fellow pilgrim who was unable to walk on his strained knee. Undaunted, it was such an inspiration to see him stand in prayer as we each passed by at the start of each day. Our hearts carried his spirit and that of the third of the wounded, the woman whose leg was broken, who met us with a glowing smile at various stops along the way. We left no one behind, even when their bodies could not participate. Under sometimes extremely trying conditions and a somewhat truncated peace gathering, the group sustained a wonderful microcosm of peace (our intention & focus) with so much caring, joy, compassion, understanding, and unconditional love.
Clearly we can affect those in our midst in profound ways, depending on our attitude about the events around us. Upon my return to the U.S., I could not return home due to an unusually early snowstorm & power outage. This kept me in the company of my friend Dina & her family for 3 days and when I was finally able to return home, my friend Kristin moved in for the week, until her power came back on. Both incidents were a blessing in disguise, that I was graced with much needed assistance as I adjust to doing without the use of my dominant hand. Similarly, I heard several stories of people helping each other out without a thought of inconvenience; opening their homes, sharing food and warmth, literally and figuratively.
Our journey here on earth is not always what we expect or hope for. I have a silly pair of heart-shaped sunglasses with rose-tinted lenses that remind me to choose a positive way to view my world…to find the blessing in every day, even in the most trying circumstance. Yes, sometimes I cry…God’s relief valve. Yet as the last of the tears are drying, a rainbow glows in my heart and I am grateful to be alive.
The greatest thing that came out of the trip and prior preparation was the idea of carrying peace within and the importance of cohesive community in any situation. May your walk in life continue to open you to the grace and blessings that are so plentiful. I send my love and hugs to you all! GROUP HUG! I arise each day through the strength of heaven…of which YOU are made…
“I arise each day through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun, radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire, speed of lightening,
Swiftness of wind, depth of sea,
Stability of earth, firmness of rock.”
--ADAPTED FROM EARLY IRISH SONG ATTRIBUTED TO SAINT PATRICK
Love and many Blessings,