Monday, June 19, 2017

Pilgrimage Day 5 -- Arriverderci Roma -- It's time for us to part

Aw! Italy! Bellissimo! The beauty of Italy on an early morning drive through the fields and mountains, the lush green groves of olive trees, sheep grazing, vineyards -- all seen as we made our way to Assisi (about 3 hours drive on a motorcoach), the birth and burial place of St. Francis of Assisi who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208. Francis was born into wealth and means, but abandoned all for a life devoted to Christianity after having a dream to rebuild the church of God. He thought God meant a physical structure but soon realized he was to build God's church through building God's people He was a simple, humble man, known for his peaceful and loving presona, helping and giving to the poor and downcast, and who had a love for God's creation in nature and animals. No wonder Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was named the 266th pope of the Catholic Church, chose Pope "Francis" as his title.

We couldn't take photos inside the Basilica of St. Francis, but there was no doubt the presence of God was there as we saw the enormous fresco paintings that told the story of St. Francis' life and ministry. We were humbled to see the tomb where he was buried. Tradition tells that Francis, in humility, wanted to be buried in a common criminal burial place, and so he was. But later, as a saint, his body was moved and placed inside a column for protection because relics were a big business and they were afraid his body would be stolen.

I've continued to be on the look-out for daily messages from God on this pilgrimage. Humility was a powerful word from yesterday's journey to Assisi. St. Francis' prayer resonated within me: If only we all would daily pray this prayer, perhaps we too could become instruments of God's peace, like St. Francis.

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

A photo below is Rev. Paul Felix by one of the beautiful olive trees. Father Paul has been the host of our pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Lands. I never knew him before, but I'm so pleased to say I do now. He is such a humble, kind and endearing man, and his strong faith and servitude to God's people speaks volumes about him. Though he has physical issues and often requires a wheelchair for getting through crowds, you'll never hear him complain. I've seen him walk for miles with us using his cane for support, and climb what seemed to be hundreds of stairs in ancient holy places of worship, climb the many steps of the Colleseum and other rocky and unlevel paths and hilly locations. Along the way, we've encountered a few inconveniences and if someone had a personal issue of concern, he'd reply "Offer it up"! He has a special gift of imparting his spiritual wisdom in a way that only the best spiritual leaders can. What he means is, rather than complain, offer up a praise or thanksgiving, or prayers for someone in worse situations (There's always someone worse off than you!). His humility and words of wisdom are leading us to these holy places that draws us all in a closer walk with our Father.

Yesterday, I heard, loud and clear, from a saint and a priest through their on example of humility: James 4:10 "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up."

Stay tuned.....this morning we fly to Tel Aviv.....embarking on our Holy Lands pilgrimage. No doubt....God is with us, leading the way!!