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Reflections on a Pilgrimage Trip

By Rodney Esperanza
Admin. Assistant at the Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi
From October 29th to November 10th, yours truly was blessed to travel to Europe with the purpose of seeing the various events and visiting specific sites related to the Year of Mercy. I had been to the continent several times before but never during a Jubilee period, so I was determined that this vacation trip would enhance my spirituality as well as broaden my exposure to the world of the Franciscans by seeing the locations associated with Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
After a time in Berlin, Germany I made a day’s rail trip to Lourdes, France where I explored the Sanctuary and the Grotto of the apparition. The high season for tourists was past so these settings were very much conducive to quiet and meditation. It was my first time at this Marian shrine, and opportunities presented themselves that I was able to enter the baths twice. A personal exercise of mine was to frame in prayer the Lady of the Immaculate Conception’s message of “penance” within the theme of Mercy which Pope Francis called us to.
I spent two days in Assisi, Italy and wandered the Basilicas of Francis, of Clare, and of Sta. Maria degli Angeli which contains the very Porziuncola that was beloved to Francis. The preservation of the town’s character and its elevation above a bucolic plain definitely aids the visitor’s mind to picture the medieval period in which these two beloved saints lived. The humble church of San Damiano sat below the town proper, down a steep footpath where in my mind I envisioned those first friars and Poor Clare sisters walking and joyfully proclaiming the Gospel.
Things became busier in Rome for the concluding days of my pilgrimage. There was a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, a museum for the Order of Capuchins, and entering the Holy Doors of the four major basilicas—Saint Peter’s, St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore, and St. Paul Outside the Walls (pictured). On the my last day in Rome I was present in St. Peter’s Square for the Holy Father’s General Audience, about which his talk was, “To visit the sick and imprisoned.” I was personally heartened by his words, as I bring the Blessed Sacrament to homebound seniors and chronically ill. The feeling I sensed from the Italians I interacted with is a refreshed view of the position of the Pope, as Francis speaks with more a personal candor and forthrightness in line with what our American media is reporting. In all, my pilgrimage was a great benefit to my faith and invaluable to expanding my worldview. Praise be to God! Thank you, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception!


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