Assisi Pilgrimage

Assisi Pilgrimage

I recently had the incredible privilege of going on a pilgrimage to the land of St. Francis and St. Clare, Assisi, Italy. I’m intentional about using the word pilgrimage. The journey was not a vacation, and I was not a tourist. The journey was in a physical movement signifying a spiritual movement. I was traveling outwardly, and inwardly, on a quest to discover the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare.

I began my journey alone, flying from the U.S. to Rome. While on the flight, I spoke to numerous fellow travelers. An elderly Italian man and his American wife making a journey to reconnect with his roots. A Chinese software engineer taking a week to tour the country and discover the sights, sounds and tastes of Italy. There were others, all traveling for various reasons. But I met none who expressed what I was about on the journey. A journey to discover two saints who lived 800 years ago. While I attempted to explain this to my new travel friends, they did not seem to understand.

Upon arriving in Rome, I met up with a group of others who were also given the same opportunity as I to go on pilgrimage. Here I found more common ground, as I met my companions who shared to one degree or another the sense that this was a journey that was a little more than typical tourist fare.

Arriving in Assisi, and experiencing 7 days in the land of Francis and Clare, I sought with my heart and with my feet. It was really not very difficult to discover and encounter the spirit I sought. I found my quest rather easy, like looking for something as “plain as the nose of my face.” Francis and Clare were everywhere.

Stepping off the bus that carried us from Rome to Assisi and onto the ground of that holy place I experienced what must have been the genesis of Francis’ love for creation. The beauty of Assisi is in it’s simple way, a reflection of things above. There is a sense of peace and good there. It seems to emanate from the place.

Going through the week with my companions and our guides, seeing in person the square where Francis gave himself to God, the Portiuncula Chapel which he rebuilt with his own hands, the leper colony where he embraced the poor, the Chapel and home at San Damiano where Clare built the foundations of the Poor Clares, the caves of Mt. Subasio and the Cathedral of nature that Francis enjoyed, these all individually and collectively helped me draw closer to the spirit of Francis and Clare.

I found myself touching the stones that made up the buildings where significant events occurred in the life of Francis and Clare. My spiritual, inward pilgrimage was merging with my physical exterior experience, I was walking with Francis and Clare in a very concrete way. In a way that I could not do, apart from this special place.

Unexpectedly, I was at one point transported to a deeper place than I had been in prayer for quite some time. We were just concluding mass at the crypt where the remains of St. Francis are laid. I approached the place where Francis’ casket lay and knelt down for a

Overlooking Assisi

Overlooking Assisi

quick moment to remember the people I had pledged to pray for on my journey. As my knees hit the kneeler I sensed the presence of God. I liken it to a sense of connectedness, a communion if you will. I was there, God was there, Francis and Clare were there. I lost track of the space I was in and time for that brief period. I don’t know exactly how long I stayed there, but when I opened my eyes I saw my companions had gone. I stood up and I realized I had at that moment reached a destination on my pilgrimage. Days before I had arrived at Assisi and reached a physical destination. At that moment, I had reached a spiritual destination, an encounter with Francis and Clare, and God.


About the Author

Matt is the manager of the Media Production Department at Franciscan Media. He serves as executive producer on all audio and video products produced.
  • Sandy

    Having taken the pilgrimage myself in the year 2000, you are absolutely right, Matt, it was a journey inside and out! Ah, what a journey…one I would readily return to if given the opportunity. I am glad you had the opportunity to experience it. And I like that you, too, recognize what a privilege it was to have been selected to go.

  • Dorothy J.

    I toured Italy this past September and had the pleasure of visiting Assisi. Unfortunately we only had a few hours there on our way from Rome to our hotel in Montecattini. We did have a tour guide showing us through the Cathedral but it was a tour not a pilgrimage. I did not get to experience Mass as you did. I did find it exciting to look at your photos and recognize the scenes. St. Francis is one of my favorite saints and I say his prayer, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace… several times a day. I know it by heart. I also attended a lecture on St. Francis and St. Claire at my daughter’s parish in Cherry Hill NJ. I’m so happy I got the opportunity to visit his city as well as Sienna and the Vatican.