Our Reflections on Assisi

We spent Saturday Jan. 22 in Assisi. I celebrated Mass at the Basilica, and we toured the major churches related to Saints Francis and Clare. It was very cold, and began to snow, making all the outdoor Franciscan Nativity scenes even more beautiful. Had lots of good pastries, cappucinos; but thankfully our “pray walk” and the extraordinary presence of Sister Sue meant so much to each of us. And of course, we went downhill to the very site of San Damiano, and uphill on that very steep terrain — well, let’s say —  the effort burnt off a few of those calories!  Father Sal R

In the Basilica of Saint Clare,we prayed before the very crucifix which long-ago spoke to Francis: “Go, Francis, and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.”

Our prayful meditation: “Most high, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me, Lord, right faith, firm hope, perfect charity and profound humility, with wisdom and perception, so that I may carry out what is truly your holy will. Amen                                                                                                              

Father Mike R

We pray that as our group of students travel to the town of Assisi, may the grace open our hearts to imitate and follow the virtues of Saint Francis. May this day allow our pilgrim hearts to appreciate the simple joys of life and the revealing earth of sister sun and moon, and  reflect the imagination of the Almighty Creator. 
Matt Fontan
Assisi is a very serene and blessed place.
Our entire class woke up extremely early at around four or five in the morning to hop on the bus. The drive was around three hours.
Our day was filled with so many things but my most memorable site in Assisi was the tomb of St. Francis.
It was amazing to be able to pray by his tomb and reflect.
I find St. Francis to be a fascinating saint who has touched the lives of many individuals.
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see the city of Assisi where St. Francis roamed the streets from his youth.
While we were visiting Assisi it was extremely cold however something magical happened it started to snow!
It was snowing very lightly and perfectly shaped snowflakes began to fall from the sky.
I found that  the snow added to the majestic feeling of Assisi.
I learned a great deal about the life of St. Francis and St. Clare and feel very blessed to have traveled to this sacred place.
Camille Guido 

My experience at Assisi was a special one.  After visiting the church of St. Francis, the class met with Sister Sue, a sister for Poor Clare’s, for a wonderful lunch. Sister Sue happened to sit our table and we all started to talk. She had the biggest smile on her face with all the thing everyone said. But, when I told her my name was Claire, she was so excited. Never thought someone would get so excited about a name. Then she asked questions and she was so excited that my middle name is Agnes and that I was one of five.

Apparently St. Clare was one of five as well and she had a sister by the name of Agnes. How amazing!

 Sister Sue Nugent is from Canada but has been to a lot of different places all around the world in support of the the Poor Clare’s, and helping those in need.

She mentioned that she once worked in the San JoaquinValley of CA. I got so excited and asked where in the valley because I am from Bakersfield. She then started to laugh and put on that great big smile of hers. Sister Sue asked if I knew of a Father Craig Harrison. Well he is the priest at St. Francis of Assisi Parish and Mddle School, a great friend of my family’s and especially good friends with my aunt.

Sister Sue and Father Craig worked together in Merced, and are very good friends. What are the odds that you meet someone who knows one of your own priests… thousands of miles away? It’s definitely a small world after all.

Claire Freeman 

Assisi, the Tuscan hill town of St. Francis and St. Claire, and the site of San Damiano, is where I found the most peace on my pilgrimage.  Assisi was one of the places that I was looking forward to. And as soon as I arrived there I knew why.      

I grew up at Mission San Luis Rey, which is run by the Franciscan Friars, so I was familiar with the Franciscan way of life, and for the longest time, I actually thought Franciscans’ were the only order of priests and brothers. The Franciscans have helped define my way of looking at religion and the church. 

Frankly, I was not aware of the struggles that St. Francis went through until we viewed the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon. In this film about St. Francis and his forming the Franciscans gave me a deeper understanding of religious life. 

When I stepped foot off the bus in Assisi, I was speechless.  With its amazing panoramic view of the countryside everywhere in sight — it was absolutely beautiful. 

The buildings in the town are vast in size, and the roads so steep that they hug the hills. Within the town, there were individual stores selling authentic hand-made goods that cannot be found in a commercial city or a shopping mall. Trust me, I’ve looked. Restaurants,and small bakeries, called “pasticcerias,” were everywhere you turn and eager to feed hungry pilgrims. 

I found so much peace within myself and with nature. 

Visiting San Damiano was my peak experience in Assisi because I was able to see why St. Francis was so passionate about his mission to the poor, and I could see first-hand the hard work he put into this church. This was very church that needed him — to give all his strength and courage to rebuild. 

On our trip, we experienced snow flurries – a wonderful way to top off this remarkable day. I feel so blessed that I was able to share my experience with my friends, this Saint Mary’s family that we have become.

Brianna Ortiz

This Saturday in Rome, we woke up super early, like 4:30 early, to make our departure time of 5:30 AM. We were on our way to Assisi. Why? Assisi is the place that honors the holy memory of Saint Francis.

He was a man that gave up his old life, renouncing his father’s wealth to live a much simpler life – one filled with abstinence and service to the poor – this was his search of a greater spirituality and God.

The Basilica, built in the 13th century and in his honor, is huge. It is able to be seen from a few miles away.  This church actually has two levels. The lower church is where the Francis is buried. His tomb is directly under the upper church’s’ altar.

On this trip, I came come to find out that many churches in Italy have the remains of holy women and men below the main altar.

When we arrived in Assisi, with its magnificent view, is truly beautiful with small houses, majestic trees, and the grassy areas covering the hillsides.

Once in the lower church, we were able to have a short mass in the side chapel. Father Sal told us about our own vocation and how you never know what God has in store for us throughout life.

After our tour around the upper and lower churches, we went to go eat at a local trattoria, whose menu included the most amazing plate of lasagna, followed by a second plate of sausage, pork and potatoes. It was superb! 

After our lunch we followed Sister Sue, who showed us the Cathedral church in honor of Saint Clare, the long-time friend of St. Francis; and then down a very steep hill to the sacred place where Saint Francis first heard his a calling from God – the small monastery and church of San Damiano.

This was the amazing place for me, where I was really able to focus on myself and my faith, and how I think God is planning for me to serve. I loved this trip! 

Camila Castaneda

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About Mike Russo

Mike Russo teaches political communication and the news of religion at Saint Mary's College of California. He is the writer and editor of the blog "The Francis Factor," which forwards his media ministry; and currently prepares for the Pope's 2015 Visit to the United States

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