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Assisi Scholars Pilgrimage

Our ninth cohort of Assisi Scholars recently returned home from Italy. Please see below for a recap of their all-expenses paid pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome.

Day 1 – Welcome to Pilgrimage

  • Arrive in Rome – Travel by bus to Assisi
  • La Rocca Maggiore – Welcome to Assisi and Peace Ritual.
    • The students participated in a Prayer for Peace ritual at the site.
    • Towering over the city of Assisi stands the imperial fortress called the Rocca Maggiore. This structure, built in its present form between the 14th and 16th centuries, was the seat of imperial power for the Holy Roman Empire in the vicinity during Francis’ and Clare’s early years.

Day 2 – Called to Holiness

  • Chiesa Nuova and Pietro’s Workshop
    • Students toured the church built on the site of Francis’ family home where Francis spent his first 25 years. After Francis returned from the war against Perugia and his year as a prisoner of war, his father (Pietro Bernardone) imprisoned him here for selling his father’s goods. Lady Pica, his mother, set him free. His father’s workshop was where Francis encountered a beggar.
  • Cathedral of San Rufino
    • The students participated in a Baptism ritual at the baptismal font where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized. Also baptized here were several of his first companions, including Leo, Bernardo, Giles, Elias, Peter Catanii, Sylvester and Ruffino.
    • Students made a special visit to the Oratory of St. Francis – a spot not open to the general public where St. Francis would pray and prepare his sermons.

  • Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore
    • The students participated in the Renunciation Ritual in the sala of the Archbishop of Assisi. Francis was brought here before Bishop Guido to settle a dispute with his father. Francis stripped naked and renounced his father.
    • The Archbishop of Assisi, Domenico Sorrentino, met the students and took them on a private tour of an archeological dig underneath the current residence of the archbishop to stand in the actual square and touch the front door of the bishop’s residence where Francis met with Bishop Guido. Archbishop Sorrentino talked with the students and left them with a special blessing.
    • Students prayed before the tomb of Carlo Acutis. At age 15, Carlo was diagnosed with an untreatable leukemia. Carlo died from his illness on October 12, 2006. He was noted for his cheerfulness, computer skills, and deep devotion to the Eucharist, which became a core theme of his life. He was beatified by Pope Francis on October 10, 2020.
  • San Damiano
    • Students participated in Mass at a chapel in San Damiano and afterward took a tour of the grounds where several significant events in the lives of Francis and Clare took place.
      • Francis prayed before the crucifix in this dilapidated wayside church and heard the Lord speaking to him from the cross, saying: “Francis, go, rebuild My house.”
      • Francis restored this church in 1206, begging stones on the streets of Assisi.
      • In 1212, Francis brought Clare to San Damiano. She lived at San Damiano along with her sisters for nearly forty years.
      • Clare turned the Saracens away by holding the little bx of the Eucharist in full sight of the invading troops.
      • Francis composed the Canticle of the Creatures here in 1226.
      • Clare wrote her Rule here in consultation with her sisters – the first woman to have a Rule approved by the Church.
      • Clare died here in 1253.
  • Basilica of St. Chiara (Clare)
    • Students prayed before the original San Damiano crucifix. The basilica houses the original San Damiano crucifix.
    • Students toured the tomb of St. Clare and saw relics of both Clare and Francis. The basilica surrounds the remains of San Giorgio, the little parish church where Francis received his elementary education and was introduced to the basic teachings of the faith. Clare was buried initially at San Giorgio and later in her crypt within the basilica when it was completed in 1260.Francis
    • Tomb of St. Clare
  • “Clare Walk”
    • Beginning at the Piazza San Rufino and ending at the Porta Moiano gate leading out of the city into the valley below, students recreated the route that St. Clare took on her journey to join St. Francis.

Day 3 – Brothers & Sisters All

  • Porziuncola
    • Students toured the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels (Basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli) which houses the Porziuncola. Francis rebuilt this tiny chapel which became the center of Francis’ movement. Francis lived in small huts around the chapel. It was here that Francis received St. Clare in 1212. Francis died here on October 3, 1226.
    • Students celebrated mass in the Chapel of San Sebastian in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels.

  • The Chapels of San Rufino d’Arce and La Maddalena
    • Students visited the chapels of San Rufino d’Arce and La Maddalena. These two chapels are all that remain of six leprosaria that existed outside of Assisi providing care for lepers isolated from the city centers.

Both St. Francis and St. Clare ministered to leper outcasts at these sites. La Maddalena, formally called San Lazzaro d’Arce, remains a place of prayer and devotion for the local residents of the area.

Day 4 – Who am I, Lord?

  • La Verna
    • Count Orlando of Chiusi gave La Verna to Francis on May 8, 1213 as a retreat especially favorable for contemplation. La Verna is located on Mount Penna, an isolated mountain (4,209 ft high) situated in the center of the Tuscan Apennines rising above the valley of the Casentino, central Italy.
    • Francis came to Mount Penna six times for solitude (1213, 1216, 1218, 1220, 1223 and 1224). In September 1224, on his last visit, Francis received the grace of the Stigmata.
    • Students visited the Sanctuary of La Verna. The sanctuary is home to numerous chapels and places of prayer and meditation. In August 1921 Pope Benedict XV elevated the church to the status of minor basilica. The visit included:
      • Mass in the Chapel of the Stigmata
      • A visit to the Basilica of the Santuario del La Verna (built in 1509), the glazed terracotta carvings from the famous Della Robbia family from the 15th century, and relics of St. Francis.
      • A hike to the top of Mount Penna

Day 5 – Action and Contemplation

  • Basilica of St. Francis
    • The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

o The Franciscan friary (Sacro Convento) and the Lower and Upper Basilicas of St. Francis were begun in honor of this saint immediately after his canonization in 1228. On Pentecost 25 May 1230, the remains of St. Francis were moved to the Lower Basilica from its temporary burial place in the church of San Giorgio (St. George), now the Basilica of Saint Clare.

o On 27 October 1986 and January 2002, Pope John Paul II gathered in Assisi with more than 120 representatives of different religions and Christian denominations for a World Day of Prayer for Peace.

  • Students celebrated mass in the Franciscan friary in the Chapel of St. Bonaventure, prayed before the tomb of St. Francis, and toured both the upper and lower basilicas.

o Mount Subasio is a mountain of the Apennine mountains, in the province of Perugia, Umbria, central Italy. On its slopes are located the ancient towns of Assisi and Spello. The mountain stands about 1290 meters above sea level. Its pink colored stones were used for many Franciscan buildings at the World Heritage site of Assisi.

  • Students visited the summit and took in the incredible views of Assisi and the Umbrian valley.

Students visited the Hermitage of Carceri, saw the cave where St. Francis stayed and were able to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the mountain.

Day 6 – God is Love

  • Greccio
    • The Hermitage of Greccio Sanctuary is one of the four shrines erected by St. Francis in the Rieti Valley. It is located near the town of Greccio, a medieval village with views of the wide Rieti Valley.
    • St Francis first came to Greccio in 1209. On the night of December 24, 1223, St. Francis presented the first living Nativity scene in history and triggered a tradition that has continued to this day.
    • The visited included:
      • A tour of the sanctuary including a hike in the mountains above the site
      • Prayer at the site of the first Nativity scene
      • A visit to the town of Greccio which included a “Christmas feast” at il Passeggero.

  • Arrival in Rome
    • Students celebrated Mass at the chapel in Casa Tra Noi with pilgrims from Australia.
    • The night concluded with a walk to Vatican City to see the Basilica of St. Peter and the accompanying area at night.

Day 7 – The Heart of the Church

  • Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City
    • Francis came to Rome on pilgrimage in order to visit and pray at the Tomb of St. Peter.
    • Students visited the Basilica of St. Peter, which included:
      • Mass in the Chapel of Our Lady of Lithuania
      • Tour of the basilica
      • A “climb” to the dome of the basilica

  • St. John Lateran
    • Students toured the church - the oldest and highest ranking of the four major papal basilicas as well as one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, holding the unique title of "archbasilica." Founded in 324, it is the oldest public church in the city of Rome, and the oldest basilica of the Western world.
    • In 1209, Francis and his eleven companions came to Rome and had a papal audience with Pope Innocent III to seek approval of their way of life. Pope Innocent gave verbal approval to the brothers’ way of life, commissioned them to preach penance, and tonsured the twelve at Lateran.
  • Walking Tour of Rome
    • Students took a walking tour of Rome and saw, among other things, the Coliseum, ruins of the Senate of Imperial Rome, and the Trevi Fountain.