On a lovely evening out in Rome, I encountered a group of students from an all-boys catholic school that were juggling & singing in the square. We stayed for a while, because their voices were magical & as a break in their juggling, they told their story. The boys, around our age, said that they felt stagnant & wanted to do something meaningful, so being inspired by St. Francis, they walked across Italy. They WALKED across Italy with nothing but their instruments & some clothes & bought their dinners off of the money that made performing. Props to them, props to their hearts.
The Way of St. Francis is a well known pilgrimage in which he walked from Florence to Rome, not a small feat. Makes my feet cry just thinking about it. The walking tour that people can take as a guided tour now-a-days is 550km & it takes around a month. What is so cool about this journey is not only that it stretches across a chunk of Italy, but the heart behind the trek. St. Francis was known for his deep passion for ALL living things, so on his journey, he walked with the homeless, he walked with the plants & animals, & he stopped & cared for people. One of the stories about his pilgrimage is the story of Gubbio. Gubbio was “haunted” by a flesh-eating wolf, so when the towns people found out that Francis would be in the vicinity, they begged him to help them. Obviously, because of his heart for all living creatures, he obliged & according to legend the wolf sat at his feet worked out a bargain with him. A church was dedicated in Gubbio in honor of this story. That church is located right on the St. Francis’ trail! What was so amazing to me about that story was that he didn’t kill the wolf, or chase it out, he worked something out, a bargain. The lesson from that story is so universal.
In an interview with a trail leader & author, Sandy Brown, he remarked that almost every resident has a different story about St. Francis, his pilgrimage or his impact over all. It’s a highly recommended hike & if I can get in shape anytime soon, I would really consider trying it out.
When we visited St. Francis’ Basilica in Assisi, I fell in love with who he was as a person (or who the tour guide told us he was, at least.) I was a little bit hesitant to believe that he was as self sacrificing as he was portrayed when I walked into this extravagant / EXPENSIVE church, but Marco, our tour guide, explained that beautiful spectacle was for the people who went on pilgrimages, the people who walked 550km, so that they didn’t dedicate such a significant amount of their lives to arrive in a concrete shell, but instead, a church that had time & heart poured into it. It made so much more sense to me as to why all of these cathedrals & basilicas were so extravagant when he explained that people went so incredibly out of their way to see them. This basilica would be worth walking for in my opinion. The frescos depicting different periods of art, as well as different moments in St. Francis’ life were breath-taking (granted the last thing you want to have happen to you is to have your breath taken when you’ve walked 550km for something, but still.)
The heart that St. Francis had for Jesus Christ & for the world was even more inspiring than the beautiful building depicting his life. The part of his life that stuck out most to me was the moment when he received Jesus’ wounds from the cross. However it happened, whether he received them from Heaven or created them himself, in my opinion, what matters most is the fact that he loved Christ so much that he wanted to share his literal wounds. That’s a message that struck my heart & continues to strike me every day.
Another fun fact we learned was that one of the reasons that the Pope was named Francesco (Francis) was because St. Francis lead in the reform of the church after it got a bad name partnered with corruption. In light of the recent corruption in the seat of the Pope, a St. Francis was needed.