ASSISI, Italy — Getting excited to get on a bus for three hours after flying all night over the Atlantic Ocean and having to do battle with a six-hour time differential might be hard on a less than perfect day, but May 3 proved to be a "buon giorno" (a good day) for the ad limina pilgrims from the Charlotte and Atlanta dioceses.
The group touched down in Rome after an all-nighter on a US Airways flight out of Philadelphia, and after a short (well sort of) wait in the baggage claim area, were off to catch the charter bus that would take them to Assisi, a little town that is a step back in time with its cobbled streets and medieval era buildings.
Assisi is like nothing we have in the U.S. and a great history lesson is just steps away, no matter what narrow street you turn down. You just have to make sure you stay out of the way of any kind of vehicle or motorcycle – they rule the streets no matter who is in the way.
After a breathtaking ride up the mountain and a hike up steep streets to reach the town, the pilgrims checked into the Hotel dei Priori and made a dash for the Church of Chiesa Nuova to celebrate Mass. The simple stone structure on the outside, which houses a gorgeous marble interior, did not disappoint anyone who had made the marathon trek in the previous 24 hours to visit the home where St. Francis once lived and where his father had locked him in a small cell.
Father Michael Silloway of the Archdiocese of Atlanta celebrated the first Mass of the pilgrimage, sharing a heartfelt homily which encouraged each pilgrim to live in the present moment and really take in all the graces that are flowing during this time of pilgrimage.
"In the light of our Gospel celebration of the Apostles Philip and James today, and in light of St. Francis of Assisi to begin now, as tired and wasted as we are, to open the spiritual eyes of our hearts in the next nine days we are together on this trip," said Father Silloway.
"Because it is through that spiritual eye and that spiritual sense that everything comes together and has its most profound meaning."
Several pilgrims commented at how moving the Mass was, how beautiful the little church is and that the interior is breathtaking in its art and architecture.
The group then had several hours to watch the annual festival that is being held in Assisi in the town square near the hotel and watch the parade of villagers pass by, all dressed in Medieval garb recalling a time long past.
Pilgrims also explored the shops, outside cafes and street entertainment to round out their afternoon before heading down the mountain for dinner at the Restorante Paradiso Le Terme. A seven-course Italian meal was the perfect way to end the long but rewarding day.
There were some tireless pilgrims who opted to take a stroll about the city after dinner too, taking in the sights and sounds of an Assisi evening under the moon and stars.
Tomorrow offers a Mass at the Basilica of St. Clare and a guided city tour which includes visiting the tomb of St. Francis, St. Mary of the Angels and San Damiano.
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy