Last weekend a group from our parish returned from a pilgrimage to Italy. We visited Florence, Assisi, and Rome, with stops in Orvieto and Siena along the way. Assisi, of course, is native ground for our patron St. Francis and we had three days and four nights there. If you have been there, you know what it’s like, almost like a vision from a dream as you approach from the valley below, the city built into the side of a mountain and its pinkish stone reflecting the late-afternoon sunlight.
We celebrated mass at the tomb of St. Francis, we saw the frescoes by Giotto in the upper basilica of St. Francis (these frescoes are the originals of the ones we have in our gathering space in the church), we visited the caves that St. Francis used to pray in, we walked down into the valley to the Church of San Damiano (the place where Francis heard the call from the crucifix to “rebuild my church”), we saw the original cross that “spoke” to Francis in that church – all this among many other things, including frequent stops for gelato on the way (favorite combo: tiramisu and hazelnut, or “nocciola” in Italian).
There is something about these kinds of trips – being drawn close to these sites, hearing the stories, seeing places that Francis himself walked. We were reminded of the beauty of our tradition and of how St. Francis himself is still in so many ways present to us. Thanks especially to Richard Derrenbacher who organized the trip and kept everything moving. Thanks also to all the pilgrims for our time in these ancient and sacred places.
Blessings on your week!