A two-hour drive from Rome, Assisi offers a quiet, pastoral respite amid the fun chaos of Rome. Assisi is, of course, most known as the home of Saints Francis and Clare, and pilgrims will have the opportunity to visit each of their tombs. The cost of the Assisi option is just $95.
Upon arrival, Bishop Sheridan and Msgr. Jaeger will concelebrate Mass at the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Degli Angeli, built over the site of St. Francis’s death. After Mass, pilgrims can stroll the beautiful squares and narrow streets for lunch and shopping, or just relax on the basilica grounds that overlook the rolling hills where St. Francis and St. Clare worked and prayed.
"Assisi is just this beautiful hillside town outside of Rome," said Select International’s Chris Moore, a longtime travel guide who will be on the pilgrimage. "It’s a serene place where you can get away from the city, and this time of year (September), it will be very nice to go. You can just reflect in silence and see this hillside town where there are sheep wandering. You can reflect on the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare, who themselves were people of great mercy."
St. Francis was initially famous in his day for giving up the lifestyle of his wealthy family to radically and joyfully serve the poor. St. Clare was one of the first followers of St. Francis and established what became known as the religious order of Poor Clares. Her remains are interred at the Basilica of St. Clare, which is a 20-30 minute walk from Santa Maria.
Shortly after his election, Pope Francis was asked by the media why he chose the name of St. Francis. He responded that, when it became certain that he was going to be elected, his friend Cardinal Hummes leaned to him and said, "Don’t forget the poor!"
"Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of St. Francis of Assisi," the Holy Father continued. "Then I thought of all the wars . . . Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation . . . How I would like a Church that is poor and for the poor!"
A pilgrimage through Italy requires a lot of walking, and Assisi will be the most challenging day on the itinerary, as the cobblestone streets are quite hilly. The views are most certainly worth it, but pilgrims who may have issues with the somewhat strenuous walking required in Assisi would be wise to start walking for 30 or 60 minutes a day for a month or two leading up to the pilgrimage.
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There are still several spaces available for Bishop Sheridan’s Year of Mercy pilgrimage, which is limited to one bus. The cost of the pilgrimage, including round-trip airfare between Denver and Rome, is $3,375. The full brochure, with registration form and instructions, is available online through the pilgrimage button on the home page of www.coloradocatholicherald.com. For questions not answered on the brochure or to join the pilgrim formation email list, send a note to mercypilgrimageCS@gmail.com.
For those pilgrims who want to explore the faith, history and arts of Italy outside of Rome and Assisi, Select is also offering a four-day extension to Florence and Venice. Anyone interested can make a direct inquiry to Select by calling 800-842-4842 or emailing Susan@select-intl.com or Heather@select-intl.com.
NEXT ISSUE: Testimonies from pilgrims on Bishop Sheridan’s Year of Faith Pilgrimage to Italy.
(This is the 10th of a series of articles that will explore the itinerary and other highlights of Bishop Sheridan’s upcoming 2016 Year of Mercy pilgrimage to Italy. All past articles are archived on the pilgrimage page at www.coloradocatholicherald.com.)