It is always fascinating to wander up and down the streets of Assisi, retracing the steps and life of Francis, a saint beloved by countless people because of the simplicity and radicality with which he lived the Gospel.
It was even more significant to visit this little Umbrian town as a part of our Interchapter itinerary because every year Francis called his brothers to the Portiuncula (a small church in the nearby hamlet of Santa Maria degli Angeli) to participate in what we would today call a Chapter: a time in which the brethren discussed their Rule of Life and rekindled their fervor. So we all thought it was wonderful that the Lord inspired our General Government to have us take a break in our work schedule by making a pilgrimage to Assisi–a day that was colored by intense spirituality and fraternity.
Fr. Luigi Marioli, the Franciscan priest who celebrated the Eucharist for us at the foot of the tomb of St. Francis, said in his homily that Francis and Paul have many things in common: their identification with the crucified Christ, their missionary spirit, their universal horizons and their practice of writing letters to individuals and communities–correspondence that reveals their extraordinary faith and apostolic dynamism, and at the same time the deep human warmth of their relationships.
Fr. Alberione himself made diverse references to St. Francis, pointing out his resemblance to St. Paul. On one occasion he said:
“St. Paul emerged from the solitude of the Arabian desert and began to travel the world, urged on by the love of Christ. Festus said he was a madman. St. Francis was also called mad. Both saints passionately loved God and souls. A time comes when others no longer understand us….”
Our day at Assisi helped us come to a more profound grasp of our urgent need to be a vibrant presence of God–that is to say: “a sign that communicates”–in the Church and world through our specific mission, in imitation of both Paul and Francis.
Our pilgrimage will now be prolonged in a day-and-a-half of retreat guided by Fr. Giacomo Perego, ssp, and centered on the theme: You are a letter of Christ, written by the Spirit of the Living God.
We continue to count on your prayers, sisters, and we assure you of our constant remembrance of you in ours.