As the Italy: A Feast for Body and Soul food-faith pilgrimage gets closer, I thought I’d share some of my favorite books about Italy, and this one about Assisi is at the top of that list. If you’re planning to come on the trip — and even if you’re not — this is a wonderful book that will make you want to board the next plane for Italy.
For a long time The Sun & Moon Over Assisi: A Personal Encounter with Francis and Clare by Gerard Thomas Straub was perpetually on my nightstand, my kitchen table, my desk, my coffee table. I was almost never without it for weeks and weeks on end. I read it constantly — and over and over. It is not only the story of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi but the story of Straub’s own spiritual transformation. This book is so chock full of spiritual goodies I used it more like a prayer book, often reading a passage just before bed so I’d have something to ponder as I drifted off to sleep.
Interspersed with Straub’s personal history and the lives of the two great saints of Assisi are journal entries and personal reflections on the experiences in Italy that led Straub from atheism to faith, from a secular world view to a decidedly Franciscan perspective on life. I find his writing and his observations inspiring and deeply touching, as if he is peering into my own soul and reminding me of what I need to hear.
Scattered throughout the 6oo-plus page tome are quotes from so many of the spiritual greats — Thomas Merton, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, Henri Nouwen, John of the Cross, Mother Teresa, and, of course, Francis and Clare. I picked up this book in hopes of gleaning some new information about the saints from Assisi, and I certainly have done that, but, even more importantly, I continue to uncover insights and inspirations that are aiding me in my own faith journey.
It’s a great book to read or even just peruse in anticipation of the days we will spend in Assisi on pilgrimage in October. We will spend two days and two nights in Assisi. On our first day there, we will visit the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Portiuncula, Francis’ Church of the Little Portion, as well as the Hermitage of the Carceri, where Francis and his Friars retreated from the world to pray and fast.
Day two in Assisi will include morning Mass and a visit to the Basilica of St. Francis, including the tomb of St. Francis. We will continue with our walking tour of the village, including the famous Temple of Minerva in the Piazza del Comune, a visit to the Basilica of St. Clare to view the crucifix that spoke to St. Francis, and a wine tasting and light lunch in a local agriturismo.
Are you tempted yet? For more information about the Italy: A Feast for Body and Soul food-faith pilgrimage, click HERE.