The Pathways of Francis and Clare

On Wednesday, October 21, I am leaving for a 17-day Franciscan Pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome.
There will be 25 of us making this Pilgrimage, under the leadership of Fr. John Petrikovic, OFM Cap, and Sr. Ann Kenyon, OSF. This is one of the many similar journeys organized by Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs. If you’re going to visit Assisi (or the Holy Land, or the California Missions, for that matter), I don’t think you could do better than traveling with the Franciscans. They know the territory like no one else.

I am looking forward to two things. One is actually being there and being immersed in this experience of St. Francis and the tradition of his spirituality with my fellow Pilgrims, including three friends traveling with me from the Los Angeles area. The other is sharing as much of the Pilgrimage as I can with you, in the many dimensions possible through the wonders of the internet.

This will not be merely a travelogue or a bunch of “wish-you-were-here” pictures. A Pilgrimage is not a tour or a vacation, although it may have elements of them. Nor is it simply a “spiritual” experience as we often think a retreat should be. Spirituality has lots of meanings, and certainly most people go on a Pilgrimage for reasons they might call spiritual, but not necessarily formally religious. I’ll explore my understanding of some of the dimensions of “Pilgrimage” in another post.

If you want to make this Pilgrimage along with me “virtually,” just keep visiting this website. You can subscribe to it and be notified of each post that I’ll make. I also invite you to subscribe to my newsletter. That way you won’t miss a thing.

And please share this with your friends. I’d like to make this wonderful opportunity as widely available as possible.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be posting some things that I have found useful to prepare for this Pilgrimage. Right now, two books and several websites.

A really great and simple introduction to the life of St. Francis, one that had a profound effect on me, is God’s Fool: The Life and Times of Francis of Assisi, by French-American author, Julien Green. The great British journalist and social critic Malcolm Muggeridge, whose life was something of a Pilgrimage in itself, had nothing but praise for Green’s book, calling it

“beatifully written, well researched, and altogether a masterpiece. Readers of it have the privilege not just of learning all about St. Francis, but of seeming to participate in his sublimely crazy ministry. To say that it si finely done is not enough; it is enchanting.”

It was written in 1983 in French, and the English translation was published in 1987.  It is still in print but a lot of used copies can be purchased through Amazon.com for one-cent plus shipping. A not-to be missed bargain.

The other indispensable book is In the Footsteps of Francis and Clare, by Roch Niemier, O.F.M. As long-standing past president of Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, he helped design and lead the Pilgrimage we will be taking. It has the format of a guidebook, with each chapter devoted to a particular location. But once we are in the chapter, we find not so much a description of the site as a meditation on how God is working as embodied in the spirit of the place and the events that took place there in the lives of Francis and Clare. Murray Bodo, O.F.M., himself a prolific author on Francis and Clare and their spirituality, calls this book

“a practical guide to inner transformation. In the ancient tradition of pilgrimage, Roch Niemier leads us into the sacred places of Saint Francis and shows how we can be transformed by contemplating the supernatural events that happened there and allowing ourselves to draw upon and put into practice the deep spirituality these Franciscan places hold for us.”

This book was designed to be a companion for our Pilgrimage, and I suspect our guides will use

it with us. However, it has already enabled me to travel “in spirit” to each of places we will visit in person in a few weeks, and I think it can be wonderful companion for you as you follow virtually on this journey.

Click on the above image for a full-size map.

A couple of web resources to get you started for now. (More will come.) First, the website of Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs itself.  It’s quite extensive, and fairly easy to navigate. Notice that they run a rather extensive program of Pilgrimages, including the Holy Land and the California Missions.

Secondly, the basic itinerary of our Pilgrimage, which I expanded for us who are traveling from LA – we are spending a few extra days at both ends. I’ve included links to many of the sites we will visit, and they can be fun to explore.  I’m also going to plan in a bit more detail the extra days in Rome. So keep checking back for new stuff I’ll be adding.

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Author: tomwelbers

I have been a Catholic priest for nearly fifty years, most of that time serving in parish and college campus ministry. I also have professional degrees in theology and liturgy, as well as institutional management, and continue avidly to explore pastoral theology, Scripture, liturgy, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and spiritual direction. I have a passion for sharing insight into our Christian heritage through teaching, writing, and leading pilgrimages, especially to Early Christian World sites in Turkey. Now actively retired from parish ministry, I live at Nazareth House in Los Angeles.

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