This morning, I was reminded of our journey, when I noticed that today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. It is also Yom Kippur.
If you have not visited Assisi, know that it is a beautiful medieval town, overlooking a peaceful valley of green fields with groves of fig, walnut, and olive trees. In the distance, Assisi appears golden in the afternoon light, and the walls enclosing its perimeters glisten white. It is magical and beckoning.
We traveled by bus to the town and followed groups of devotees through its arched gate, to the cobbled streets leading to small shops and wall shrines. Our boardinghouse was centrally located. We climbed the worn stone staircase to our room and met our proprietor, a soft-spoken lady who became family over the next few days.
My daughter and I arose early each morning and walked for miles, retracing the steps of St. Francis—from the country church of San Damiano to the tiny chapel of Porziuncola. Perhaps our most memorable hike was a three mile climb to the saint’s cave retreat at the Eremo delle Carceri, a small hermitage in a forest gorge. Francis slept there on a stone bed carved into its rock walls. He had no pillows, or mattress, or other comforts.
It was at the cave retreat that St. Francis reportedly preached to the birds and other wildlife. He was a humble man—in love with all of creation.
Francis lived what he preached, and therefore remains an example for all of us. And, on this holy day of Yom Kippur, I’m reminded of his message: “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
And so it is that I join my Jewish sisters and brothers—in reflecting on the ways I have not been faithful--to myself, to truth, to creation….to love. Perhaps we all need to pause to consider, has our walking been our preaching?