Prayer. The key word in Assisi, over and beyond the admiration of the old walls and ancient paths and the secret to understanding why you were led here in the first place. For months I questioned why I could not finish my Camino Ignaciano as my spirit so desired, and I have a long list of valid reasons for not making it back to Zaragoza to continue where I left off. St. Ignatius, I believe, had other plans for me, and sent my Jesuit soul off to St. Francis for reasons that are only becoming clear to me now. I don’t remember which philosopher said it, but the words keep bouncing around in my mind: we live life forwards but learn the lessons backwards. The same applies to my spiritual journey and I know in the depths of my soul that I need to keep an open mind in order to understand the events unfolding in my life.
We found ourselves back in the Piazza Comunale, or the main market square, and I noticed a sharp increase of new arrivals in town, more Germans and Swiss this time, as compared to the wave of Spaniards, Italians and Chinese that had dominated the previous week. And I entered the one church that had caught my attention from the first day but avoided all along. Santa Maria Sopro Minerva, also referred to as Templo di Minerva, is a 16th century church built on top of a former Roman temple dedicated to Minerva constructed in 1 BC. The spectacular outer Roman facade is far more impressive than the interior, and I suspect most visitors, like me, are disappointed with the start contrast. I honestly don’t know what I expected, but definitely something less baroque and ornate.
In any case, I end my stay in Assisi with serenity, fortified and ready to return to the over-structured and mega-regulated life in Germany. I fulfilled a promise, received the gift of time, and celebrated life. I draw courage from Ignatius, my fighting Jesuit, but for inner peace he sent me to the contemplative Francis so I could resurface with a renewed fighting spirit.