Point of View – Raised Catholic 129

Our view at lunch in Assisi from Le Terrazzo di Properzio

The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic Podcast episode.

To listen to the episode, click here.

Today is episode 129: Point of View

Hi friends. We’re continuing our summer series just trying to put some words to the spiritual epiphanies I received while in Rome, and today it is all about the view. Oh friend, I have never in my life eaten a meal with a better view than the one we had while eating lunch in Assisi. Between the six of us at the table, we had fried artichokes, burrata, pancetta, a bright and sweet melon, crispy fried potato tart, a stunning house-made pasta with sausage in a cream sauce, perfectly crisp white wine, and so much more. All of it was delicious, but the company and the view made this lunch a truly spectacular one. We had already climbed quite a way to get to St. Francis Basilica earlier that morning and we climbed even higher to get to lunch and as we got settled into our seats outside on the restaurant patio that day, the breathtaking, heavenly view made all of that climbing so very worth it. 

A pilgrimage is work and it is work worth doing. Sometimes we humans need to take a detour from everyday life, and even invest resources like time and energy to get enough distance to see something in a whole new way. Well, the work that it took to get to this extraordinary lunch was just a microcosm of what can happen when we invest our resources in finding a different view. What a pilgrimage can teach us is really the whole point of view.

As I said, earlier that day, we had visited St. Francis Basilica, where the college choir we were with got to sing for daily mass. I spoke in last week’s episode about just how moving it was to see the diversity of our church displayed there, all of the people from every part of the world who had visited there over the centuries, who had celebrated mass together in so many languages, and all of that had me thinking about how God weaves our stories together in time. The experience of time – past, present, and future in relation to our church will be something I’ll explore in another episode this summer, but there was something about this church that really centered me in on the present moment, and just how important it really is.

Now let me say, friend, that we were not allowed to take pictures in St. Francis Basilica, but I did take one, and I’ll tell you why. But first, apologies in advance for sharing that photo in the transcript of this episode, but I really want you to see exactly what I saw that day. This is a beautiful space, of course, but the thing I was truly struck by was the painting of red curtains on the plaster that ringed the top and both sides of the sanctuary. Something about those curtains and the light kind of made that holy space look to me like a stage. 

There is so much that happens at mass. I used to tell my little second grade CCD students that what makes the Eucharist so special is that God who is SO BIG would make Himself small enough to fit into a little piece of bread, just to get close to us. And if that miracle weren’t enough, there are saints and angels who draw close during the consecration (I so often feel my dear ones who art in Heaven during those Eucharistic prayers, and I wonder if you do, too).  But when you think of just the human history of all that’s happened in that sanctuary before we ever stepped foot there: all the masses, the music, the languages, the stories, the prayers, tears like the ones that I was silently crying there in that pew, everything that had happened in that space over the centuries, it’s too much to imagine but something about those red curtains reminded me that this was our timein that place, and that as we live out our human lives, it is our time on the stage of history, and our time matters. Being at St. Francis Basilica was already enlarging my view, and not for the last time on this trip.

Now, the idea that our time is limited and that our time matters is not a new idea, I know. From the time humans could think and communicate, we’ve been reflecting on the meaning of our existence as it relates to time. Poets, philosophers, and just regular discussions and gatherings around everyday tables, it’s the urgency of our limited time on Earth that drives us toward living a life that is meaningful, and we humans love thinking and talking about that. In or around the year 1600, William Shakespeare wrote that:

“All the world’s a stage, 

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts” 

Shakespeare goes on to describe seven ‘ages’ that a person moves through, and he describes them as ‘acts’ in a play – from infancy to childhood and on and on until 

“Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

Well, it’s kind of a grim view of a human life, isn’t’ it? The Broadway show Rent asks the question, “How do you measure a year?” and if you’re a musical kind of person like I am, you may already be singing 525,600 minutes, but anyway,

if you were born and raised Catholic, you just might understand the span of your life as a test or even as a series of tests, from a God who expects us to live out our short lives perfectly, but friend, no one does that. St. Francis, who I am now obsessed with learning more about, heard from Jesus directly to ‘rebuild my church’ but even Francis didn’t get it right. He physically rebuilt quite a few church buildings before realizing that it was restoration to the Gospel message that Jesus was talking about for His Church, but it was Francis’s view – his decision to lock eyes with Jesus and his openness to hearing from God, that helped Francis to use his time on the stage well, and this is why he is such a compelling figure for us today, centuries later.

Before I went to Rome, I had a particular thought about all of the art that I knew I would see there, all the statues and paintings and gold and marble that exists in the Vatican and all the Basilicas, and I would describe that feeling as uneasy. I didn’t like that my church was holding on to so much wealth when these objects could be sold to serve the poor, but I would say that my view on this has changed somewhat. St. Francis and St. Clare, Paul and Peter and the 140 saints and martyrs whose statues ring St. Peter’s Square – none of these people lived out their lives believing that, centuries later, people would cross oceans and wait in lines to look at statues of them. None of them could have understood that people would read books and pay guides to hear more about the stories from their time on the stage. How could they have known any of that? We never know the value of our work or the value of our lives as we’re living them. It’s only with a backward view that we begin to glimpse the weight of it all.

While in Rome and Assisi and Pompeii, we saw so many memorials, sarcophagi, markers, and other art dedicated to the lives of the people who had lived centuries before us. Some of them were names that you would know but many were not, just ordinary people who were remembered by their dear ones with carvings on coffins or urns, some even providing places for food offerings to sustain their loved ones in the afterlife, and while that is not a belief to which I subscribe personally, I did find it tremendously touching because it is a sign of our strong connection to our people when we serve each other, even after our death. My Mom has been gone to Heaven for over ten years now, but I still feel her helping me and mine, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t ask God to fill her with even more light, even more love, as much as she can hold and more, in the name of Jesus, amen.

Come to think of it, friend, that prayer that I pray literally every day now makes a ton of sense when I consider the very biggest of my epiphanies from our trip to Rome. I’ll tell you all about that one soon enough.

On a Vatican Scavi tour of the excavations below St. Peter’s, we saw so many testimonies to the lives that had been lived before us. In the place where Peter himself was likely buried, there was found, centuries after his death, a remnant of plaster with Greek writing on it, and the writing is interpreted to say, “Peter was here.”

We humans make art of all forms – documentaries, books, visual art, music and so much more to point to and to learn from the past, and also, to raise our eyes up, to expand and enlarge and direct our view of the future. All of this helps those of us who are currently on the stage of history to be intentional about the choices that we make in our own stories and the capital B Big Story, too.

There was a thought that first percolated in me when I saw those red curtains at St. Francis Basilica, and that same idea followed me around to all of those places in which ordinary people lived and died and were remembered, and that is that I want to live my time on the stage, my life, in some small way that someone someday might say that I was here, too.

And so, friend, how about you?

Thanks so much for being with me today. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend.  That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

God, you are writing our stories and weaving them together in time. In this current moment, help us to live well by living in us and through us for the good of your people and the glory of your name, that more might know just how kind you are. Make me a channel of your peace today, Lord. In the name of Jesus, wrapped in the mantle of our mother Mary, and alongside our friend, Francis, we pray, amen.

Thanks for listening today, friend. I’ll see you next time.

Show Notes

This week continues a summer series on a bunch of spiritual takeaways and epiphanies I experienced while on pilgrimage in Rome. I hope this one about the meaning of a heavenly view is a meaningful one for you. 

If you’d like to connect with me, ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠find me on Instagram⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ or ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠at my website⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠.  If you’d like to ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠help support this podcast financially⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠on my page at buymeacoffee.com⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!

Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.

Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:

1. Song: ⁠Seasons of Love⁠, from Rent

2. Book: ⁠Light of Assisi: The Story of St. Clare⁠, by Margaret Corney, OSF

3. Article: ⁠St. Francis Basilica basics⁠ from Wikipedia

4. Book: ⁠St. Francis of Assisi: A Biography⁠, by Omer Englebert

5. Video: ⁠Short video guide to St. Francis Basilica⁠ from Rick Steves

6. Article: ⁠A Pilgrimage Can Change Your Life⁠, by Will Peterson

7. Song: ⁠Found⁠, by Amanda Cook

8. Our perfect Assisi lunch restaurant, ⁠Le Terrazze di Properzio⁠

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