Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Student Franciscan Pilgrims: Day Eight and Nine

The students/pilgrims continue to get a real feel for how Francis lived. Francis danced between living a public life of servanthood and a quiet life of contemplation. This time alone, accompanied usually by two other friars, was a time for him to renew his mission, his energy. He did this by removing himself from the world and spending time with God.

Many of the most moving destinations of a Franciscan pilgrimage are to hermitages, places of solitude. One of these places is right outside of Assisi, just start walking up.

When I was in Assisi my friends and I ascended to the Carceri. It took us two hours to get to the top. Our student pilgrims will take a cab, it is after all winter. However, once up to the hermitage they will discover a different world. This is a world marked by grottoes, indentations in the earth, small caves. This is where the friars stayed while spending time with God.

Una visita all'Eremo delle Carceri in Assisi

The following day the students will walk down into the valley. They will visit the Santa Maria dgli Angeli. This enormous church was not known to Francis. However, inside this enormous structure is a tiny church, the Porziuncola. This was one of Francis’ favorite churches and one he rebuilt. This is the site of the gathering of friars. This was where Francis and his friars lived.

Santa Maria degli Angeli

The pilgrims will have quiet, reflective moments here. They will also be reminded that Assisi is an active earthquake zone. The last big earthquake required the evacuation of the city. Most of the inhabitants gathers on the plaza of this church. An aftershock made the statue of Mary on top of the dome wobble. Cranes immediately lowered her to the ground. By the time she touched the ground she was met by candles and flowers.
This site has meaning for us at USF. When we dedicated the opening of the John Paul II Center we had an interfaith prayer service. This was in memory of the three interfaith peace prayer services that Pope John Paul II hosted at this very site.

Assisi - La Porziuncola

Our pilgrims will continue to participate in their pilgrimage, not ours. So they will go to places we have not. That includes visiting where Francis worked with the lepers. They will participate in Vespers. They will pray with the Poor Clare Sisters. They will have a difficult time saying good bye to this holy cit.

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