Heather in Rome

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. - St. Augustine

Monday, October 10

Six Days in Assisi

From Oct. 1 to Oct. 6 we were in Assisi. It was the official beginning of the school year and we were there for an openning retreat. Oct. 4 is the Feast of St. Francis and being in his home town, we celebrated that special occassion with the rest of the pilgrims. By the way, I heard a definition of "pilgrim" that is really good. A pilgrim is someone who leaves her home to seek out God. This is definitely a pilgrim year.

Anyway, let me describe Assisi. The retreat center where we were sits overlooking the valley below and a grove of olive trees were immediately below our buildings. Some days we would gather among the olive trees to pray, sing, or walk around. The retreat center is outside the city walls, for Assisi is a walled city to protect it from the enemies of old. Once inside the city walls the streets are narrow and some are made of brick or cobblestone. The buildings are 2 or 3 stories tall, the windows have open shutters, and flower boxes hang from balconies or windows. There is a castle at the top of the mountain/hill and there is a great view of the city from there. Everything feels very old, but in a good way. It feels like stepping back in history, perhaps all the way to St. Francis' time of 1200.

The churches are full of history. The most meaningful for me was San Damiano, the run down church where St. Francis heard Jesus speak to him from the cross. Jesus told him, "Rebuild my church." St. Francis thought He meant that actual church, but it was later that we realize St. Francis had a call to rebuild the entire Church. We also visited the Basilica of St. Francis where his body is buried, the Basilica of St. Clare where her incorrupt body is displayed, and the Basilica of St. Maria delgi Angeli which protects the Porziuncola, the small church where St. Francis and his Friars lived and where St. Francis died.

We spent one rain-free day hiking 3.5 miles up to Eremo delle Carceri, now the site of a hermitage, but it once was where St. Francis and his friends would go to pray. It is near the top of the mountain in a beautifully wooded area and it is very peaceful. While hiking up we were asked to mediate on Jesus walking to Jerusalem, to his death. The hike was steep and sweaty and I thought it and the imagery were very appropriate to begin the year. This year will likely be a death to self, a death to my will to open myself up to God's will like St. Francis did. For it is only after suffering with Christ on his way to Calvary that we can experience the joy of the resurrection, the joy of new life. This year will have its difficult times, its sufferings, but I look forward to the new life that will be formed in me. I will still be me, but I will be a fuller, more joyful version of me. I will be closer to the person God wants me to be.

Well, there are some thoughts on what Assisi was like. I really like St. Francis after growing up in a Franciscan-led parish and it was wonderful to experience the city. He really lived a radical lifestyle, complete trust in God to provide for his needs. Wow!


  • At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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  • At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am jealous (in a good way) I'd love to go there just for a little while...but I don't know about the hike!! You know me and hikes!!! Love you, Barbara

  • At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Heather. Wow! Sounds like the year is getting off to a fabulous start. I like what you said about becoming you more fully realized as God wants you to be. Love ya lots!
    Mary and Andrew


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