Otis & Friends 3I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

Guess what, everyone, this squirrel doesn’t just hang around one tree, he travels when he has a hankern’ for Italian acorns … and boy, oh, boy are they tasty! Humans aren’t the only ones with ancestors from across the pond — this squirrel is half I-talian!!

My friend Emy Sautter and I recently traveled as pilgrims to Rome, Greccio and Assisi — what an adventure! We visited many beautiful places that had special meaning to my beloved friends, St. Francis and St. Clare. We stopped by the Vatican to say hello to Pope Francesco (love that guy!), kissed the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, and admired the faces of the putti, the cherub angels that adorn the great cathedrals.

Then we stopped in the cutest little town of Greccio and had a Christmas pranza (lunch) … goodness was I stuffed after that! St. Francis popularized the Christmas crèche after visiting the town of Greccio. After that we traveled to the beautiful medieval holy city of Assisi where St. Francis and St. Clare lived. The olive trees, the oak trees … bella vita … I was in squirrel heaven!

While in Assisi we traveled to the caves that Francis and the brothers spent time in for prayer and solitude, the Carceri Hermitage. There were some beautiful trees there that I asked Emy to take a picture of. That afternoon we had a day of silence and solitude and we walked along many steep, narrow streets in Assisi, eventually making our way to Rocca, the arsenal above Assisi. There I visited with a small lizard and we became fast friends. He opened his home to me (such Franciscan hospitality!), and as I sat in silence he shared his thoughts with me … the importance of being hospitable and facing our fears in life. (He was a teeny lizard after all, and I, a mighty squirrel.) And I do believe I saw God in those lovely eyes of his.

Emy and I and our fellow pilgrims celebrated mass each day, and we visited a most tiny chapel, the Porziuncola (meaning little portion), a favorite meeting spot for Clare and Francis. We visited the resting places and basilicas of Francis and Clare as well.

What a pilgrimage — praying with your feet is what one of our leaders called it, and it sure was! This little squirrel’s mind is packed full of wonderful history about St. Francis, St. Clare and so many holy places that they visited, and my body is fit for climbing the tallest trees after hiking up those hilly streets! My belly is full from all that pistachio gelato too! Most importantly my spirit and my heart are full of the Goodness of God, goodness that was so beautifully reflected in the lives of Sister Clare and Brother Francis who gave us Franciscan values to live by … in loving relationship with God, our fellow squirrels (and humans) and the whole of creation.

Pax et Bonum! Ciao!
Otis and Emy

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