Written October 2022
I walked into the Romanesque Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi this morning and was instantly transfixed by the low arched ceilings, the predominate blue and gold colors, and the intricate beauty of the Biblical scenes depicted on the ceiling and walls. Signs read, “Silencio, Grazie” as we entered so there were only hushed voices and the shuffling of feet as visitors walked slowly from one section to the other, intently taking in this ancient church built in the 1200s. I imagined St. Francis there among his followers and sensed a sacredness to the space.
I then went down a flight of stairs that led to the Crypt of St. Francis and I felt even more of a sense of holiness. As I neared where St. Francis’s body is entombed, I choked back tears. Sitting in a wooden pew on one side of the altar, I knelt in prayer. Guide me, Father, as you would have me go. Help me to open my heart to do what you would have me do, just as your servant St. Francis has done. I sat another moment and then rejoined the group of people who had felt compelled to make this same pilgrimage today. I understood there were many reasons people were here in this ancient place, but I also sensed a commonality of purpose. We all felt a need to observe the commemoration of a man who gave his life in extraordinary service to his fellow humans.
My daughter Rachael found me later in the gift store in deep contemplation over whether or not to buy a rosary that had caught my eye. “Mama, I’ll buy that for you,” she said. “It is, after all, only 3 Euros.” I smiled. I appreciated so much that she understood how much I would value her sweet gift. Now I have my rosary to remind me of that lovely experience in Assisi, where I felt such a deep sense of connection with beloved St. Francis.