Friday, October 4, 2013

así es Assisi

Marian street shrine, Assisi, 2000

During the Jubilee Year of 2000, our family had the unique opportunity to travel to Europe for several months—beginning our Jubilee pilgrimage in Italy and ending in England, where Michael taught in the university’s summer program for five weeks.

With our four children ranging in age from 11 to 17, we were aware, even during the planning stages, that this would be the trip of a lifetime. Carrying backpacks and traveling by train over several weeks, we visited cathedrals and shrines in small towns and large cities, from Rome to Salzburg, Köln, Paris, Siena, and Lourdes.

One of my favorite memories is the image of our family as we filed in at every church, looked around for the Jubilee year banner, and dropped on our knees to say a prayer together.

In the hometown of St. Francis of Assisi, we were startled when we heard people speaking English and realized that a Mass was just beginning in one of the chapels of the centuries-old cathedral at the top of the hill. What beautiful hymns we enjoyed that morning, sung by an American high school choir that was also on pilgrimage!

After Mass, our family divided into three sets of two to stand in one of the lines for the sacrament of reconciliation—in the language of our choice. Getting to choose a language for confession quickly became our recurring inside joke!

To this day, Assisi remains a cherished place in my heart—and a favorite memory for our family.

Francis of Assisi (d.1226) is patron of all kinds of things: peace, animals in general, the environment, ecology, even zoos! Francis was, indeed, a lover of animals and nature, and you often find him as a garden figure or bird feeder in yards.

But he was so much more than that!

Hundreds of years after his death, his spirit of peace permeates Assisi. But also evident and tangible is his radical and profound love for God.

One of my favorite quotes is attributed –whether literally or in spirit—to Saint Francis of Assisi:
“Go out and preach the gospel. Use words if you have to.”

What a revolutionary idea! Let our lives, not our words, proclaim what we profess to believe.

the girls, walking the streets in Assisi, 2000