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March 6, Tuesday

Assisi Sites of St. Francis & St. Clare

On Tuesday, we had a magical (rainy!) day in Assisi. The Basilica of St. Francis

View of the Basilica from the piazza

Another view of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, perched above the Umbrian countryside.

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli has another small church, the famous Porciuncula, inside it.

Father Ryan celebrated Mass in the Lower Basilica, decorated with splendid frescoes
by Cimabue, Giotto, and others. Click here to read Father Ryan's homily for today.

What a beautiful celebration with the pilgrims in this breathtakingly beautiful, resonant, holy space.

The choir sings under the fresco fo the last judgment.

We were treated with wonderful hospitality at the Basilica. A huge thank you to Sister Sacristan and to all the kind priests and sisters who hosted us along the way.

The picturesque (rainy!) medieval streets of Assisi.

The Basilica of Santa Chiara, Saint Clare.

The sun began to break through as our day in Assisi drew to a close.

Pilgrimage Gear

At each of our pilgrimage events, you will have an opportunity to pick up your pilgrimage scarf and prayer book, our gifts to you and must-haves for the pilgrimage. Do try to come to at least one event!

 The Pilgrimage Scarf will keep us warm in the chilly March weather, but will also help us find each other! We'll all wear our red scarves at the General Audience with Pope Francis on March 7.

The Pilgrimage Prayer Book includes your order of celebration for each of the Masses on the pilgrimage. It also includes prayers for various occasions along the way.

If you cannot be at a Pilgrimage event, please contact Maria so she can make arrangements to get these items to you.   


Where we're praying: the Churches of Assisi

The Basilica of St. Francis was begun after Francis' death in 1228 and completed in 1253.  There is an upper church, where you can see a splendid series of frescoes by Giotto, telling the story of Francis' life. Many of the scenes depicted are taken from the Fioretti di San Francisco, or the Little Flowers of St. Francis, a 14th century text relating the life of Francis in 53 memorable stories.

We will celebrate Mass in the lower basilica, where Francis is buried along with several of his companions. The lower basilica is splendidly decorated with frescoes by Cimabue, Lorenzetti, and Martini.

Other churches to see in Assisi:

  • The Duomo di San Rufino is the Cathedral of Assisi. Here, you can see the font where both St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized. San Rufino is interred here, a third-century martyr.

  • San Damiano is a 12th-century church which was falling to ruin in Francis' day.  Kneeling in prayer in this church, Francis heard the crucifix speaking to him: "as he affixed his tearful eyes on the cross of the Lord, with the ears of his body he heard a voice descend to him from the cross and say three times Francis, go and repair my church which, as you see, is all in ruins!. On hearing that voice, Francis remained astonished and trembling, being in the church alone." St. Clare would build the first monastery of the Poor Clares adjoining this church. The cross hanging here is a replica of the original, which hangs in the Basilica of St. Clare.

  • The Basilica di Santa Chiara (St. Clare) is on the opposite side of town from the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Construction on this church was begun in 1257, four years after Clare's death. Here we will pray at the tomb of St. Clare. Also venerated here is the San Damiano crucifix which spoke to Francis of Assisi, as well as various relics of the two saints.

  • The Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli is a 16th-century domed church about 2 1/2 miles from the old town of Assisi. Inside this church is another, tiny church, the Porziuncula, where, according to legend, Francis and his companions founded the Franciscan order. It was near this spot that St. Francis died, October 3, 1226.

What we'll see: Giotto's life of St. Francis

 The upper basilica is graced by a splendid series of frescoes by Giotto, illustrating the life of Francis of Assisi. On September 25, 1997, a major earthquake struck and severely damaged the Basilica, and eleven people were killed. The basilica was restored and reopened in 1999.

 Francis preaches to the birds: "he raised his eyes and saw a few trees by the side of the road, on which there were an almost infinite multitude of birds; St. Francis marveled at that and said to his companions: 'You will wait for me here in the road, and I will go preach to my little sisters the birds.' And he went into the field and started to preach to the birds that were on the ground; and suddenly those that were on the trees came to him all together and stayed still, while St. Francis finished preaching, and even then they did not leave until he had given him his blessing." (from Little Flowers of St. Francis, Chap. 16)

Francis creates the first Christmas Crib at Greccio. "Now three years before his death it befell that he was minded, at the town of Greccio, to celebrate the memory of the Birth of the Child Jesus, with all the added solemnity that he might, for the kindling of devotion. [He] made ready a manger, and bade hay, together with an ox and an ass, be brought unto the spot. The Brethren were called together, the folk assembled, the wood echoed with their voices, and that august night was made radiant and solemn with many bright lights, and with tuneful and sonorous praises. The man of God, filled with tender love, stood before the manger, bathed in tears, and overflowing with joy. Solemn Masses were celebrated over the manger, Francis... chanting the Holy Gospel. Then he preached unto the folk standing round of the Birth of the King in poverty, calling Him, when he wished to name Him, the Child of Bethlehem, by reason of his tender love for Him. A certain knight, valorous and true... declared that he beheld a little Child right fair to see sleeping in that manger. Who seemed to be awakened from sleep when the blessed Father Francis embraced Him in both arms." (The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure)

Pope Francis on St. Francis of Assisi

Many people, when they think of Saint Francis, think of peace; very few people however go deeper. What is the peace which Francis received, experienced and lived, and which he passes on to us? It is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst (cf. Jn 20:19-20).

Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos... That is not Franciscan either! It is not Franciscan, but a notion that some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who "take up" their "yoke", namely, Christ's commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be "instruments of peace", of that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us.

Pope Francis, October 2013

Travel tips Some tips in preparation for the journey...

INTERNATIONAL ADAPTER  You'll want to be sure to bring an adapter (or two) to plug in your phone or other electronic devices in Italy. Here is advice from Rick Steves on the subject.  And here is a sample of one such adapter available on Amazon.com.

HOW MUCH STUFF SHOULD I BRING? Again, Rick Steves has a helpful list of dos and don'ts of packing. His recommended list of things to bring is here.



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