My apologies for taking so long to post. Friday and Saturday were very packed days and each night I got back too late to post. I am presently back in Rome and at St. Isidore Friary where the three of us traveling together just went to Mass at the American church, Santa Suzanna. It was nice to celebrate in English and to be able to understand the homily without having to translate as you go.
As I mentioned in the last post, Friday was a day of prayer and fasting in Assisi. The morning began with us being bussed up to Santa Chiara for morning prayer and an address by the Poor Clare Abbess of Santa Lucia Monastery in Foligno. (Sorry about the quality of the pictures. As you can see, I was in a crowd and didn't have much opportunity to focus.) After the prayer service I spent my time before the original San Damiano crucifix at Santa Chiara, the tomb of Saint Clare, and at San Damiano Friary which, by the way, is down a very steep hill from Assisi. The walk down is OK but coming up is a beast.
We all returned to the Portiuncula in the afternoon to begin a procession back up to Assisi to the tomb of Saint Francis. We all gathered in the piazza for a brief prayer service and then began the two hour walk up the hill culminating in a visit to the tomb of Saint Francis at which the Ministers General of the three First Orders greeted us and gave us copies of the Rule of Saint Francis.
The procession was very impressive. As we walked we sang and listened to sections of the Rule of Saint Francis read in four languages. There were times when others along the way joined us and prayed with us. We took a leisurely path but there was still the final climb up a steep slope into the city. After receiving the Rule we gathered in the piazza outside the lower basilica for a celebration of the Eucharist. (The picture on the right was taken just before the Mass began.) By the time we returned to our lodgings and had supper, it was far too late to go to the building where I had internet access to post a blog.
Saturday morning we were up very early to catch buses to Castel Gandolfo where we celebrated the Eucharist at the Mariapoli Centre run by the Focolare. Our Minister General, Fr. Jose, was the celebrant and gave an inspiring homily which I was able to follow in Italian with my knowledge of Spanish. (At least I got the main drift of what he said.)
We were under the impression that the Mass and the audience with the Pope was just for the Friars. However, we were joined at both by about 3000 Secular Franciscans. This made the audience very, very, very crowded. In all, about 4000 people were crowded into the piazza at the Papal Palace. I felt like a sardine in a can. People were pushing and shoving and saying in Italian "excuse me" which meant they wanted to get through. Finally we figured out that you just had to say "no" and hold your ground or get shoved out of the way.
Once the ceremony began, Fr. Jose addressed the Pope in our names. The Pope then addressed us and the three General Ministers renewed their vows in the name of all of us. They did this because we were celebrating the 800th anniversary of Saint Francis going to Pope Innocent III and getting verbal approval of our way of life.
After the audience we returned to our buses and ate our boxed lunches on the way back into Rome. We were left off at the Termini (the main train station) and the three of us staying at San Isidro took the Metro back to the friary. We were suppose to meet the other six friars from our province for supper, but we got lost and never hooked up with them. So the three of us had a delightful supper on our own in a little back-alley restaurant near the Trevi Fountain.
Tomorrow I'll try to post some reflections of this whole adventure. This afternoon I will spend some time just processing what happened. We have seen and done much in four days. I'm not sure I have yet realized what all we did.