04 October 2012
What Most Tourists Don't See
I can't let the Feast of St. Francis slip away without a look at one of my favorite places in his home town.
This is Santa Maria Maddalena outside the city of Assisi. It's a little chapel, definitely not on the tourist track. If you're on the bus between Rome and Florence, you make a three-hour stop in Assisi. You don't get to see much beyond the Basilica of St. Francis. Most people never see the Basilica of St. Clare at the opposite end of town. And it's the rare person who comes to this little place.
But in Francis' day, this was a place where lepers were cared for. One of the stories about this Italian playboy's conversion tells of his meeting a leper and kissing him. That encounter, among others, changed his life.
There's nothing fancy to see here. No gift shop. But the memory of fragile people spills out of the stones.
This chapel reminds me of the county jail in downtown Seattle. In its day, the Ick Factor was strong. Who'd want to go to this place and be around those people? And yet, grace and peace and healing abound.
You can read more about it here.