Have you ever dreamed of doing an impossible thing? Here is a story to inspire you to take a first step.
On a recent trip to San Francisco to deliver a program, I “lived” for four days in the North Beach area of the City, the neighborhood of the Italians.
Down the block from the Café Puccini where I was able to indulge my morning ritual of cappuccino and journaling, I decided to pay a visit to the Shrine of St. Francis for the second time, to light a candle for a friend recovering from an illness.
I noticed a gate open on the side that had been closed the first time. I passed through the gate and glass doors into a vaulted, light-filled space with a Chapel that looked like it had somehow flown through space and landed there. As I was to find out, this was pretty much what happened.
Caretaker Susan warmly greeted me and over the next thirty minutes, she regaled me with the story of Porziuncola – the replica of the chapel St. Francis built in Assisi, following God’s instructions to “build my church.” (Porziuncola means “little corner of the world.”)
Opened in 2008, the dream of replicating the Chapel was a long one, held by Angela Alioto, the daughter of the well-known Mayor of San Francisco, the late Honorable Joe Alioto. She made trips to Assisi with her fellow women devotees of St. Francis, to measure, take photos and persuade the Friars of Assisi to grant her permission – it was a long time coming, but her persistence and prayers paid off.
Some of the stones on the chapel were collected by these ladies on Mount Sebasio, the same place St. Francis climbed, placing them in his burlap sacks. (One of his chapel stones was given as a gift and lies, illuminated in this lantern on the altar).
Sixteen Italian artisans from Assisi arrived to paint the cycle of frescoes, using a method called pictography that involved transferring digital images onto wet plaster and then hand painted – a painstaking but genuine method Michelangelo would have admired. Chief fresco artist, Stefano Lazzari said, “The presence of St. Francis is here. I feel it in this place.”
My favorite story of all was, of course, about the marble! Susan said that they wished the floor to be an exact replica as well. Alas, they were told that the rose marble had been finished off in the quarries 100 years ago.
A month after this discouraging news was delivered, the ladies received their miracle. Rose marble had been discovered under the floor of a church outside of Assisi that was to be torn down. “I think this is your marble!” declared the jubilant but disbelieving stone mason.
A team of those craftsmen with the fine Italian hands arrived to place the stone that flew from Umbria to San Francisco.
Starting out by doing what is necessary to achieve a dream is followed by doing what is possible and as St. Francis said, “Suddenly, you are doing the impossible.”
What do you dream of that could become true by starting out with acting on what is possible – what is that first step for you?
For me, it was writing that first story – the first step towards my dream of preserving my family heritage – a daunting task. I did what was necessary – writing something!
If you would have told me that this small act would have led me to writing a book, living part-time in Italy and bringing groups with me to share my beloved homeland – I would have said “that’s probably not possible.”
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Wolfgang von Goethe
Sunday, September 10th
“The First Italians: The Etruscans in Tuscany” - presented by Carol Faenzi
Nora Library, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Refreshments Served - Sponsored by The Italian Heritage Society of Indiana - Free, Open to the Public
Friday, September 29th
Olive Oil Tasting – presented by Carol Faenzi
The Nestle Inn – 637 East Street – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Learn how to taste, buy and reap the health benefits of authentic olive oil. Register here. - Space is limited.