Pilgrimage – a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion; a journey of spiritual significance.
This being the definition of pilgrimage does capture in words what the past month was for me and yet only scratches the surface of the gift of my pilgrimage to Assisi. The journey was indeed a long one and within the long journey there were even more journeys that were long to locations but also into the depths of my heart and with my companions. The journey by plane, by bus, by car, by foot always brought me into an encounter with God, others and parts of myself that were yearning and still continue to yearn.
A friend of mine asked: “If this pilgrimage was a chapter in a book, what would it be called?” I laughed and said, “it can’t just be a chapter, it is probably a whole book, regardless I would call it “Yearning” as that seems to best describe the journey.” “Yearning? But wasn’t the pilgrimage to quench this yearning?” he asked in return. “Yes,” I replied, “but it opened me up to desires and awareness that can only be described as yearning.”
In the journey, in the sacred encounters, in the moments of prayer and seeking, the heart is opened even more and is exposed to grace, mercy, newness, hopes and even reality. This is why “Yearning” would be the title I give my pilgrimage experience. In all I encountered in the sacred, the ordinary, the funny, the mundane, the special, the personal and the shared my heart drew in the riches of these moments and expanded. The yearning is not about this pilgrimage not being fulfilling rather it is about what it did to me and my heart and now how I will live.
Now, how will I live in the encounters with God, with others, with creation?
Now, how will my vows be lived out in new ways
– in greater truth; in realities made known; in deeper joy?
Now, how will I walk with St. Francis and St. Clare
– knowing I have touched the ground they touched;
breathed the air they breathed; saw the valley they saw?
Now, how will I be Brother?
The answer for me comes in the yearning; this desire to keep my heart open, allow it grow and to continually beat in tune with Christ and allow grace to touch the journey – this pilgrimage of life – in new ways and sustaining ways.
My Assisi pilgrimage was life-giving, challenging, gift and beautiful. For these blessings and for the amazing brothers I journeyed with, the delicious food that sustained us, the holy places we encounter (even a gelato shop can be holy) and the opportunity to draw close to St. Francis and St. Clare I give thanks to God.
paths lead to you
for so many of us
who are brothers of Francis.
We have walked your streets
drank in your beauty
delighted in your goodness
discovered gifts and treasures.
We have pondered your peace
where Francis encountered Christ
where the gospel stirred new life
where fraternity grew stronger.
We have celebrated your connections
where Sister Clare joined fraternity
where the Brothers told the story
where places honor your legacy.
paths lead from you
leading us in new ways
as brothers to the world.
Pilgrimage and Retreat: 25 days
Number of Friars on Pilgrimage: 13
from India, Australia, Mexico, United States, Canada
4 OFM Friars, 2 OFM Conventual and 7 OFM Capuchins
(amazing group of brothers – I’m still in awe that this was our group)
Number of Friars as Guides: 4
Days spent in Rome and area: 4
Days spent in Greccio and area: 3
Days spent in Assisi and area: 10
Days spent in Rivo Torto: 8
In upcoming blogs, I will share further reflections, prayers and more photos of the pilgrimage.
I humbly ask for your continued prayers for the Friars of this pilgrimage, as many of us are preparing to celebrate our Solemn Vows (beginning next weekend for 3) and then moving into new ministries.
on your summer journey.
St. Francis and St. Clare pray for us.