A pilgrimage within a pilgrimage: Assisi

| January 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

Today, we took a pilgrimage within our pilgrimage, visiting Assisi, the home of Sts. Francis, Clare, and Agnes.

We bussed two and a half hours north of Rome, first stopping at the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli. Within this church is another church, Porzioncula. When the Lord spoke to St. Francis through the cross, asking him to “rebuild (his) Church,” St. Francis took this literally. Unable to attain the permission or funds to rebuild the main church, he focused on this small church. We prayed here, as at all of our stops, but in particular, for an indulgence associated with visiting this holy site.

Just up the hill in Assisi proper, we celebrated Mass at the Basilica di Santa Chiara (St. Clare). There, we also reverenced the tomb of St. Clare and prayed before the same cross through which the Lord spoke, asking St. Francis to rebuild his Church.

Annie Colling in Assisi. Courtesy Annie Colling

It was beautiful for me to meditate upon this cross and the event associated with it, especially with our group of 25 young adults accompanying the bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota on their ad limina trip to Rome. In this time of our lives, there are so many vocational questions, and, hopefully, a true desire to live the Lord’s will for us. I often wish I could hear the Lord’s voice clearly, as St. Francis did before the cross 800 years ago. Here, I asked the Lord to open my ears and my heart to his will. I also prayed intentionally for many friends back home who are discerning their own vocations and God’s will for their lives. How powerful to do so before the cross which spoke so clearly to this inspiring saint!

The cobblestone pathways wound us through historical sites of the life of St. Francis, shops, churches, and hotels, all stacked upon each other. We ran into a couple of Franciscan Friars, including Br. Damian, who lives in Ireland but was originally from our archdiocese. Several in our group knew him. The brothers joined us for a delicious lunch (the main meal in Italy) at a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the valley.

Narrowly escaping our demise, we dodged the mopeds and cars zipping by us on the way to the Papal Basilica of Santa Francesco. A Franciscan Friar led us through the crypt, the lower basilica, and the upper basilica of this old building coated in frescoes. After praying at St. Francis’s tomb, we walked through the life of St. Francis, reflecting on 26 frescoes. This gave me a far deeper appreciation for this holy man, often simply recognized as a friend of animals. This Christ-like man started three orders, met with a Muslim sultan during wartime which allows the Franciscans to be in the Middle East even today, and received the stigmata, among many other things.

All of us pilgrims gathered in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and reconciliation as the sun began to set. This ancient basilica used to be a temple to the goddess Minerva, and its new name means “St. Mary above Minerva.” It is difficult to imagine this hub of Christianity was once pagan. I look forward to learning more about pre-Christian Rome on our tour with Dr. Elizabeth Lev tomorrow, which will be our third day out of nine days in our pilgrimage to Rome.

Annie Colling

St. John the Baptist, Jordan

(Editor’s note: Annie is among young adults blogging their experiences for The Catholic Spirit while in Rome. Find additional posts and stories in our Ad Limina Blog special section.)

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