I have recently returned from a Franciscan pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome where I was able to walk in the footsteps of Sts. Francis and Clare, and participate in daily prayer, Eucharistic celebrations, and historical visits.
Some people find occasions like this to be an epiphanic moment in their spiritual lives. So, along this pilgrimage journey, I was hoping for the same, or at least I was searching for a meaningful moment that would offer me strength, hope, or a sort of gateway to making a positive change in my life.
Nothing was resonating until about a week into the trip when we visited the Basilica of St. Francis. Although the basilica itself is massive, the chapel at the tomb of St. Francis is somewhat small and intimate. Our small group of 21 pilgrims was privileged to celebrate Mass in that very spot.
With St. Francis’ remains just yards away, I was slightly leaning on the rugged marble column next to me and touching it in an effort to feel the spirit of St. Francis penetrating it, all the while praying to him during Mass for his intercession for myself and my family and friends. And for healing in ways I may not even be aware of.
Shortly after Mass had begun, one of our leaders realized she had forgotten to assign a Eucharistic Minister, so she approached my friend, Susan, and I to solicit our help. Although we were both uncomfortable to do so, I reluctantly accepted the request.
Throughout the remainder of Mass I prayed for strength to be able to fulfill my commitment. I initially struggled accepting this task because of an incident in my past roughly five years ago when I stood on the altar in my home parish preparing to distribute holy Communion. Right then and there, I experienced my very first panic attack . It was such a scary occurrence for me that I immediately gave up that ministry I so dearly loved.
And so our beautiful Mass at the tomb of St. Francis continued. And through the grace of God and the intercession of St. Francis, I managed to perform this awesome responsibility without incident. I didn’t even have to look toward Susan for moral support (whom I had instructed to make funny faces if I looked at her).
Something as simple as serving as Eucharistic minister again had seemed unattainable to me. But during this journey I was privileged to serve as a vessel to my fellow companions in bringing Jesus to them through the Holy Eucharist.
And I was able to accomplish this feat in not just one, but two of the most awesome and spiritual places in the world! Not just in the Basilica of St. Francis, but again in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome on our very last day. This time I volunteered!
I’m not quite sure that qualifies as an epiphany for me. But I certainly couldn’t have asked for a more phenomenal experience than that!