Pilgrims from archdiocese overcome by visit to Assisi
Emily Chavez said that as soon as she got to the Ròseo Hotel in Assisi she laid on the bed, and as she stood in silence in a state of contemplation, tears betrayed her and started exiting from the corner of her eyes.
"I couldn´t believe I was at the town where St. Francis was born!" exclaimed the St. Frances de Sales parishioner who is visiting Europe for the first time with her husband Paul. They are part of a group of 52 pilgrims on a pilgrimage sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to witness the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.
Anne Doud echoed Chavez´s feelings as she was sitting on a pew of the Capella S. Caterina (St. Caterine Chapel), inside the Basilica of St. Francis, one of the main point of interest for people in pilgrimage in Assisi. Millions visit the large church that houses the body of the saint, a simple man depicted on the frescos throughout the historic church as a simple man who revolutionized the world and still continues to do.
"This is so beautiful, incredible," Doud, a parishioner at St. Bede the Venerable, told The Tidings. "I want to cry, it generates many emotions," she choked, while her hands moved incircles over her chest like something was revolving inside.
"We dedicate this Mass to all your petitions and especially to Frances Mercado´s daughter who passed away on Palm Sunday, and in honor to her grandson," said the pilgrimage spiritual adviser Msgr. Antonio Cacciapuoti, pastor of St. Bede the Venerable in La Canada Flinthridge, as he started the welcoming Mass to the pilgrims at St. Caterine Chapel inside the pictoric Basilica.
"Halleluiah, halleluiah, this is the day the Lord has made," read lecturer Jerri Nicol, a pilgrim joining from St. Bede the Venerable, a parish she started attending with her family in 1952 and where she is currently the communications coordinator.
The readings offered wise words for pilgrim Frances Mercado, a former parishioner of Christ the King (church that Msgr. Cacciapuoti used to pastor), and now an Oceanside resident. She lost her middle age daughter due to heart complications and she said she is taking the pilgrimage as a way to grieve and begin her healing process. A few years back she almost lost a grandson who was born prematurely, but she believes her prayers to Pope John Paul II were answered. Her grandson is now a healthy six year old kid.
Comforting to her were also Father Michael Barrett´s message during the homily. "He (St. Francis) was asked by God to rebuild the Church, the Church of living stones. He changed the world and that´s why we´re here for. Coming to Assisi perhaps help us to be evangelizers," he said.
With the poor and outcast
The Basilica of St. Francis is located on what it used to be called the ¨Hill of Hell" (La Collina del Inferno), a place for execution of what society considered "bad people," such as thiefs, prisoners, prostitutes, with whom Francis felt connected and desired to serve, explained Conventual Franciscan Friar Rolando, a guide inside the Basilica. Five years after the saint´s death a Franciscan friar brought the saint´s body and was buried beneath the main Sanctuary, where it remained for the next 600 years, and the hill changed its name to Colina del Paradiso (The Hill of Paradise).
In 1820 the body was removed to another place where it remains today, in a chapel on a floor underneath the main Sanctuary, prayed over by millions of faithful, Catholics and non-Catholics.
The Basilica features 12,000 square meters of (affreschi) or frescos depicting the main message of St. Francis: love for others expressed in life for nature.
In some frescos, such as the one titled Francis and Jesus of Bethlehem, Francis is depicted as the simple short man with dark skin dressed in his brown robe, with deformed hands showing the stigmata. On other frescos the Saint looks healthy and taller and is dressed with a robe wore by kings and is surrounded by healthy angels. "This is how God views him in Paradise," explained the tour guide.
The Basilica´s upper floor tell 28 stories of the life of Francis and those in the Old and New Testaments.