Ciao! From Italy!!

By Friar Don Bassana, OFM Conv.

Ciao! From Italy!! I am blessed to spend a week prior to making my solemn vow retreat in Italy and wanted to share some experiences.

Lake Garda
Lake Garda

I spent my first two days in Italy at a little Commune called Torri del Benaco that hugs one side of Lake Garda. The lake was beautiful, surrounded by tall mountains, and I was shoulder deep in the cool water and could see my feet just as clear as day. I reflected how in preparing for the retreat, spiritually speaking, this was like a cleansing baptism in nature surrounded in one of God’s many cathedrals.

The remainder of my days I have been here in Padua at our friary attached to the Basilica of Saint Anthony. I spent time in preparation by prayer, fasting, sacramental oil and salt, recollection, spiritual readings, and just received the sacrament of reconciliation as well. I reflected how his time was more like a clearing out of sorts – clearing the weeds and tilling the soil of my soul in preparations for the spiritual seeds the Holy Spirit will give us during our retreat. I went outside the friary only once to mail off postcards and was pleasantly surprised to find a gelato shop two doors down. God is good.

Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua
Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua

One very prominent, recurring thought during my preparations for the solemn vow retreat has been space. I am blessed to have this time to make space for the Holy Spirit. I have a daily prayer as I put on each part of my full habit; a prayer for the habit, the cord, and the capuche. For the cord, I kiss it and pray “gird me O Lord with the censure of purity, extinguish within me the flames of concupiscence, that the virtues of countenance and charity may abide in me.”

I pondered how this girding of our minds is an essential part of making space during our everyday busy lives. Even if we can only connect with the Holy Spirit for a short period because of time constraints, this will undoubtedly bear good fruit.

St. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Br. Don at the tomb of St. Anthony
Br. Don at the tomb of St. Anthony

This peace of God is the spiritual recharge our busy lives so desperately need. Without this time and space for contemplation, we can become fixated on our own problems and even overwhelmed to extremes.

I pondered how spiritually this space we create is likened to the tabernacle in our chapel at San Damiano Friary in San Antonio, Texas. I often go to the chapel in the early morning hours when it is still dark outside. The perpetual burning candle is there to guide me into a closer space near Christ who is present, waiting in the tabernacle.

The only begotten Son of our heavenly Father patiently waits for us to make the space to come and visit Him, not only in the chapel tabernacle but in the space we can make for Him in our hearts where we may visit Him daily if we only make space.

Pace e Bene