October 25 — SUNDAY
Assisi: Home and the Beginnings of Our Story
After a simple continental breakfast, we gathered at the rooftop of the Casa for a morning prayer overlooking the city and the valley below.
Here we reflected on our role as pilgrims, not just “touring” to see and do new things, but to encounter the “spirit” (meaning) of St. Francis in the places and events that happened here, and through this encounter, to let God encounter us. We think of Francis as a man of peace and poverty, but he began as a man of war, experiencing killing and survival and imprisonment intimately, followed by two years of post-traumatic depression and emotional/psychological recovery, seeking to find purpose in a world driven by violence and greed. (Can we translate that into our own times?) That’s the context out of what Francis came and into which he perceived a call/mission to embody the Christ who in poverty alone can identify with and bring compassion to a suffering humanity.
Francis was also raised in a dysfunctional family, a child of an abusive father. In tracing his life, we can see patterns relevant in our own lives and world.
After breakfast, prayer, and a talk, we’ll walk to the Piazza del Comune. (Here’s a wonderful 360-degree view of this, the “Town Square” of Assisi.)
The “New Church”(Chiesa Nuova), was built over his family house. Legend has it that his mother’s labor would not end until she was moved to the stable next door, now the little chapel called the Oratorio di San Francesco Piccolino.
We concluded the day with a visit to the Cathedral of San Rufino, which has the baptismal font where Francis and Clare were both baptized.
Clare’s family were nobility who lived near the top of the city, right next to this cathedral. Francis’ family were merchants who were wealthy through trade rather than inherited power, and lived considerably downhill. “Upper class” meant not only greater prestige, but greater security (closer to the fortified castle in case of invasion) and better living conditions (i.e., sanitation: don’t forget water – and sewage – flow downhill!).
More on the Cathedral here.
As I’m preparing for bed on this evening of this second day of our pilgrimage immersion into the life and spirit of St. Francis, I read these wonderful words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Every word, every thought of his speaks deeply to me, and I believe authentically echoes the way of Christ for each of us individually as followers of Christ, and for the Church as a whole community.