Saturday, October 13, 2007

Montecasale: Overhanging Rock

Peace and Good! Francis liked not only places with water, but places with caves or grottoes. Many of the hermitages he frequented began as simple caves where hermits and others seeking God could shelter while they prayed and fasted. Today there are often structures built around the nucleus of such caves, as at Greccio or Le Celle in Cortona. The overhanging rock (sasso spicco) at Montecasale has escaped this fate, thank the Lord. I say that, because it is one of the few places in Italy you can go and stand in a place where St. Francis stood and see pretty much what he would have seen. The sasso spicco at Montecasale is a place in the side of the mountain where a massive rock hangs out over a shelf in the hillside, cut out by water, wind, and perhaps visitors like Francis, Anthony of Padua, and Bonaventure.
To get to this spot, you have to leave the friary and walk down a trail, sometimes pretty steep. Walking there is a contemplative experience in itself, as you enter the rough forested hillside, filled in the summer with the rhythmic trill of the cicadas and the warm dust raised by your feet. You come upon the rock ledge from above, and see a long, shaded area. If you descend onto this ledge, you come to the spot where the stream coming down from the hillside pours over the rock’s edge (although, 2007 was the first year in memory in which there wasn’t enough water in the stream to flow over the rock!) Standing at that spot, you feel the firm rock beneath your feet and looming above you, and look out on the green hillsides closing the area all around. In such a place you feel at once your own smallness, and yet your place in the midst of creation.
(Here is the view from Sasso Spicco)
I would think it was in places like this that Francis started to receive the inspired thoughts that would lead later on in his life to the composition of the Canticle of the Creatures. Sun, stars, water, earth are all here, praising the Lord by being what they were made to be. And as you sit under this overhanging rock, you are led to ask the question: what am I made to be?
God bless you!

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