Day Two - The Pilgrim’S Path
After breakfast at the hostel, arranged by the Italian Youth Team, the youth proceeded to Casa Del Divino. The day began with Yoga and Meditation led by an Italian youth, Marianna Di Gregorio. It was held outside, in the partial shade of Mount Subasio where St. Francis had wondered just as the saints and mystics who preceded him.
A light, fruit snack was shared before Sister Giovanna addressed the youth. As always, her delicate and joyful style captured our hearts and minds as she explained simply that we are casa del divino (the house of God) within ourselves.
'Never forget, the centre of the call is that we are pilgrims and strangers in this world' – St. Clare
Sister Giovanna warned against false humility, explaining that true humility was a product of truth and simplicity. She explained that ‘you are sure to be humble, when you feel grateful.’ Sister Giovanna went on to speak about the nature of holiness and fraternity, narrating her own introduction to God by her mother that sparked a lifelong love and companionship with Him. Her homework for us was an exhortation: ‘try to go on as pilgrims’, nobody on top, like the Knights of the Round Table, in true fraternity; quoting ‘sisters, never forget the centre of the call is that we are pilgrims and strangers in this world.’ Sister Giovanna remarked that to be a pilgrim is to learn to receive, to see that everything is a gift. She concluded on surrender - that the final step was surrender.
Murali Vullaganti from the US followed, speaking about Sai Rudram. He first introduced himself and narrated how having the desire to visit Assisi on a scheduled visit to Rome for a conference organised by the Pope on Impact Investment, he reached out to Salvatore. He was amazed to find out that his visit coincided with the Youth Meet and happily joined us.
Brother Murali shared with the youth how Sai Rudram which the Youth had learned to chant for Swami at the recent Youth Meet in Rome, had come to him. He had been seated in the Ati Rudra Maha Yagna in Prasanthi Nilayam in 2006, when the verses of the Sai Rudram came to him. It caught him by surprise as he had no knowledge of Sanskrit and only knew a few slokas typically learned as a child.
Brother Murali narrated the internal dialogue with Swami that had brought out the Sai Rudram: the Namakam reflected various aspects of Swami including His Divinity, His human attributes that one should emulate, the uplifting of Dharma and restoration of culture, materialisations and miracles. The Chamakam reflected what one should ask Swami for - the values and qualities with which one can reach Him. At the close of the talk, the youth joined Brother Murali in chanting Sai Rudram in its entirety!
A hearty lunch prepared the youth for their visit to the spiritual homes of St. Francis and St. Clare in the little town of Assisi. First they reached the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels enclosing the church that St. Francis and his brothers first worshipped in - the Porziuncola or ‘small portion of land’. Fra Mauro Botti, a Franciscan Brother, guided them round the Church as he narrated the journey of St. Francis.
He told a very human story of a young man with the expectations of his mother to be a holy man and his father to be a successful merchant. His ambition however, was to be a successful, popular Knight - just as young men today would want to emulate Cristiano Ronaldo, the footballer. He was a man who had blood on his hands from war, failed in his quest for fame and wealth and was imprisoned until his father paid for his release. In the days of suffering that followed where he questioned his existence, a change occurred, and he was blessed to see himself in the eyes of a leper.
This transformation prompted the formation of the order of lesser brothers who vowed poverty, obedience and chastity. St. Francis remained humble until the end of his days, stepping down from leadership of the Brothers when he saw that times had changed, but remained amongst them, and died with no possessions of his own but God. Brother Mauro asked the youth to consider the following as they prayed in the Porziuncola and continued on to the Basilica of St. Clare: ‘what are my dreams and what is the pain or bitterness in my life that I want resolved finally?’
So the youth did and continued on to the Church of St. Clare, where they remained in quiet contemplation during the mass. Sitting under the Cross of St Damiano, where St. Francis received his first command from God in the subtle. The youth listened to the hymns of the nuns before entering the crypt of St. Clare to receive her blessings. They travelled back to Casa del Divino in the evening, where they were welcomed with a beautiful meal.
After dinner, Brother Murali addressed the youth again, but this time on the programmes of econocare initiated by Bhagawan. He spoke about RuralShores and PeopleShores, explaining how Swami guided Him to set up RuralShores, an impact sources enterprise, with the support of David Moxam. The business aimed to create jobs for youth in rural areas of India, preventing migration to cities that separated families and perpetuated poverty.
Over the last nine years, eighteen centres have been created across India, and 10,000 rural youth have walked through its doors, often growing their careers beyond RuralShores. This project has received worldwide acclaim and two years ago, Brother Murali was told by Swami to do the same in the US.
People Shores aims to develop the careers of disenfranchised youth in inner cities. Established first in San Jose, the centre targets youth who would otherwise have no access to a career in technology due to homelessness and poor educational prospects. PeopleShores aims to train and educate youth by giving them skills to walk into jobs in technology that can enhance their careers.
Brother Murali spoke of his joy at watching Swami interact with the employees of PeopleShores during His Visit this June and Swami instructed him to set up a PeopleShores Centre and Health Clinic in Mississippi before he is sent to replicate this model globally - in Africa, Latin America and Europe.
The evening closed with a showing of the video of Swami’s Discourse in Assisi this year where He spoke of the examples of St. Francis, St. Clare and Padre Pio and advised us on why and how we should come to Assisi. Finally, the youth enjoyed Bhajans and Arati and they returned back to the hostel to rest after a long but beautiful day.