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Memories of an encounter with Saint Francis

The 4th of October, when the passing of our dear Saint Francis of Assisi is celebrated, is also the birthday of my dear Sonia, therefore a reason for my double connection with this great figure of Christianity.

Today (which is also my birthday), with this remaining Franciscan energy that surrounds the month of October, I want to talk a little about Father Francis of Assisi, who has been such an inspiring and important figure on my spiritual path.  And also to share a story that happened to me- if I am not mistaken, in 1998- on a trip to Assisi and which was indelibly recorded in my memory.


Since I was young, and especially at the beginning of my spiritual journey, I have always developed a great admiration for Saint Francis, which later became a sincere devotion. I confess that I was never an enthusiast of this cult of devotion to the saints, especially when the Church stopped honoring the first martyrs and hermits of early Christianity and extended this cult to their mortal remains in an even slightly necrophilic way, driven by ecclesiastical and political interests. 

Certainly, many of these men and women deserved this halo of Holiness, as they paid with their lives for their testimony of faith during the great persecutions of the Roman Empire that occurred until the beginning of the fourth century of our era. But it is also true that the Church, over the course of the following centuries, had introduced many figures into its official compendium of saints who were not necessarily good examples of the Imitation of Christ, so that they could deserve to join this heavenly battalion...

It is precisely for this reason that the figure of Francis stands out, as he was perhaps the one who came closest to this ideal. In such a passionate and radical way that, maybe given the values of our current world, he would be suspected of some psychiatric disorder. Which only proves how the project of the Kingdom of God proclaimed by our Master has continued to be something so difficult to achieve until today. Because the victory over attachment, selfishness, the practice of compassion, the love for the excluded continue to be goals fully achieved only by a few "madmen of God", like Francis and his first companions.

Therefore, after touring Europe I visited Assisi for the first time, at the invitation of my dear sorella Tizziana. I had set aside three days before starting our work and meeting schedule to make a small pilgrimage to the city of Assisi, which I was visiting for the first time. Her house, the seat of our Regina della Pace Church, was a beautiful estate, an old renovated monastery dating from the 18th century and located on the path that Father Francis always took from the Hermitage of Santa Maria del Angelle to the convent of Saint Damiano, where his beloved Clara lived.

On my first night, from my bedroom window, I had an illuminated view of the golden domes of the great Basilica that had been built around the old little church of the Portiuncula, where Francis began his ministry. I was overcome with great emotion and spent the night in an atmosphere of great spiritual fervor, remembering passages from the Legends about the life of Saint Francis, written shortly after his passage by Friar Tomas of Celano.

At dawn the next day, with a small bottle of a very special 3x1 Santo Daime, I began my pilgrimage to the little church of Portiuncula. Like everything in the history of the Catholic Church, we have to understand this mixture of a wonderful history of faith, love and compassion, with some more obscure passages that unfortunately grew from its officialization as a State religion. I speak particularly of the pomp and luxury of the Papacy during the Middle Ages. It was precisely this that Francis fought most against and it is truly sad to see how he suffered at the end of his life when he understood that his Bull and his charisma had merely been co-opted by the ecclesiastical machinery.

Feeling this mixture of amazement and a certain discomfort, I saw that immense and sumptuous Basilica built around a rustic stone church in the center of that sea of marble and surrounded by works of art - a sensation identical to what I also felt in the other Basilicas dedicated to Francis shortly after his death, full of frescoes by Giotto, where his crypt is located.

And so the days passed, alternating walks, visits, meditations and “mirações” at the various Franciscan sites spread across the city. On the last day of my “vacation”, after drinking almost all of my 3 x 1 bottle, I went up to Eremo del Carcere, a forest where Francisco and his early followers lived in caves for some periods of meditation. There we still have the tree where tradition says Francis preached to the birds.

It was on this trip that one of those events that Saint Francis has surprised me with (there are several!) happened and that I would like to share with you. The Ermo is a beautiful place, covered in centuries-old vegetation, from where several trails leave, with many signs referring to different passages in the life of the Saint and his companions. An ideal place, therefore, for a good walking meditation, which I enjoy so much. At a certain point, we consecrated a dose of Santo Daime and the group that accompanied me, Tiziana and other members of the church split, so that each one could look for a corner to meditate. I wandered along those paths, went down to the cave where friar Leone (the saint's great companion) lived and with whom I also identify a lot, went up again to the main path, until I found a very steep trail that went down and from where it was possible to see a kind of fissure on this side of Monte Subásio. I saw that there were two signs: one that I didn't read and another that warned that the path was closed for construction.

The place was isolated and attractive, the “miração” was coming in a strong way and I said to myself: “-I’m going to settle down here!” It was just time to descend to a kind of plateau further down. I was immediately drawn to a rock that had a beautiful view of the mountain crevice and the landscape below, in the valley.

Finally, the “miração” arrived and I became inebriated, feeling that spiritual energy that I rarely found in other places where I made this type of entheogenic pilgrimage. The birds sang and a gentle breeze, which occasionally became stronger, brought a freshness to the air and invited the “miração” to visit the Akashic memory of that place. When the force eased a little, I pulled out of my backpack the copy of the Legend of the Saint that I had taken with me. I randomly opened a page and I remember that it was a section talking of some passage between Francis and the Wind and the Nature. I then looked for the Canticle of Creatures and stopped at the following stanza:

 “Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind /
and through the air, cloudy and serene / and every kind of weather / through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.”

What a wonderful experience! What an incredible coincidence! I came to think: “-He must have felt one day, somewhere nearby, this deep connection with Brother Wind to inspire him!” For me, I think I could spend the whole day there with this inexplicable feeling of joy. But I had agreed to join the group again. I climbed the trail back to the main path. And when I got to the top, what was my surprise when I noticed another sign that was half hidden and that I hadn't read on the way down. It said: “Sentiero Frate Vento (Path of Brother Wind)!”

I was very impressed with this synchronicity. On the evening of that same day, we opened our first spiritual work in the Church. It was a very strong Mesa Branca work. At the end, still under the “miração”, I left the church to a courtyard further down, where there was a beautiful view of the walls of the ancient city of Assisi, tucked into the slope of Subásio. It was a beautiful full moon night. In the vision, it became a golden crown, it was as if it represented the crown of sainthood of Saint Francis, a jewel pontificating that scenario as a heritage of Eternity. At that moment I began to receive the Hymn: “In the moon over Assisi/ I see His countenance/ His Holy Poverty/ Shines like a diamond”


October 11, 2023.

Alex Polari de Alverga



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