Two of my colleagues are leaving in a few days to participate in the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program to Rome and Assisi. It’s been four years since I had my own pilgrimage, and the experience has never left me.
I can remember, as our pilgrimage group exited the bus in Assisi, feeling the breeze from the Umbrian fields below. I knew the days ahead would galvanize my senses and deepen my faith. I was smitten with the endless cobblestone streets of Assisi where the great saint was born and raised. I was moved by La Verna, the holy hillside where he received the stigmata. I was jolted and captivated by the streets of Rome where Francis sought approval for his beloved Order. The essence and the importance of the Franciscan movement struck a chord within me, and it has not quieted.
When you break bread with Franciscans, share workdays with them, and listen to their stories of community, sacrifice, and care for the poor, you can see the legacy of Francis in motion.
My understanding of Francis has deepened. Prior to my work at Franciscan Media, I would have said Francis started a religious order, talked to a few birds, wore rags, and died. I knew that he was revered, but I didn’t fully know why. Now I think of Francis as a holy revolutionary—one who started a religious order, of course, radiated holiness, gave himself wholly to God, and, in his quiet way, changed the world—not to mention the faith lives of countless people.
Here’s hoping my colleagues have as powerful an experience as I did. They deserve it. Perhaps every seeker does.
Images: Christopher Heffron