Thursday, March 27, 2014

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage: Day Five

Today the students leave Rome and begin an intense focus on the lives and impact of Francis and Clare. They begin, not in Assisi but in Greccio. Greccio is a mountain hermitage outside the village of Greccio in Tuscany. In this little town, in 1223, Francis recreated a living Nativity scene. Francis was a concrete thinker. This concrete thinking appears to function as his launch into activity. In this case it was a way for Francis to demonstrate to others the humility of the creator joining His creations by becoming a helpless infant to a poor family. His demonstration must have been effective because 800 years later living nativity scenes are still popular!

The Christmas Crib of Greccio

The pilgrims will spend time in this mountain hermitage. They will spend time in the places Francis visited and prayed at. They will see displays of crèches made today by the village people of Greccio. The crèches are not of Bethlehem 2000 years ago but of the world today. They demonstrate that Jesus is with us now.

The pilgrims will celebrate Eucharist at Greccio. This is appropriate since Francis was able to get the pope’s permission to have Eucharist celebrated on that Dec. 24th 800 years ago.

The Rieti Valley has a number of Franciscan hermitages. The valley was not always a valley. The ancient Romans came across a large lake. They drained the lake to make a staging area for the Imperial Army. I cannot even comprehend how that is possible. The pilgrims will have a traditional Italian Christian lunch at La Foresta. They will then take a bus ride south to Assisi.

When they arrive in Assisi they will walk past most of the important sites they will get to know over the coming days. They will get their room assignments at Casa Papa Giovani, their pensione. They will then have their first of many meals at Casa Papa’s. They will learn to look forward to the food and the prayers that are song.


After dinner they will have a brief orientation and then they will join the city in welcoming in the New Year. They will go to the piazza commune, the town center. This piazza, with its fountain,. Roman Temple, cobblestone and city walls will prove to be the anchor of many of their excursions in the coming days. After the celebrations they will join the New Year in the chapel with Adoration and Praise.