The adventure if a lifetime - Day 5 in Assisi and Loreto Italy

 

Getting up at 5.00 a.m. for a 5.45 a.m. departure to Assisi was not anticipated to be easy especially after three demanding, physically active and intense days with our Italian brothers.  Far too often we as leaders can underestimate our timber wolves and explorers as to their resolve and determination. The wake-up invitation was passed on to the boys at exactly 5.00 a.m.  and by 5.20 a.m. they had used the washroom facilities, packed their bags and got into their uniforms.  By 5.25 we departed the building that we are staying at and commenced our walk to the bus that would soon arrive at the main entrance of the seminary. The walk out was orderly, all in one line with all present at the pick-up point 10 minutes early awaiting the arrival of the bus. The temperature was 15 degrees C with a full moon present as we hiked out, very comfortable indeed. As the bus pulled up we got up from our sitting position by the edge of the sidewalk to load the bus both with boys and gear.  We had not been on the bus for more than one minute when the water auto system sprang into life spraying water everywhere.  A 60-second delay would have meant many wet people!  A good sign as to what awaited us this day.

Once we loaded the morning’s breakfast the bus pulled away as the sun started to peak out of the horizon.  There was little talking on the bus as we headed for Assisi a two-and-a-half-hour drive as most of the boys and leaders went back to sleep.

We started to climb the mountains and soon enough Assisi came into view, a stunning sight on a perfect warm spring day with the lush rolling green valleys down below some of them still covered in pockets of ground fog.

At last the Basilica of St. Francis came into view in the distance.  It was stunning and so very beautiful. The bus weaved it’s way through the narrow stone lined streets to get us as close to the Basilica as possible.  We arrived at 8.30 a.m. right on schedule, so we felt that we had extra time to get to the church for Holy Mass at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi! That was a mistake as the Italian military was present to screen every tourist wishing to enter the facility.  We all had our backpacks opened and searched while also carefully screening every one of our boys. Yet local Italian people showed up waiting in line for a few minutes before deciding that the wait would be too long so they bypassed our line and inserted themselves to the front of the line for a cursory look at their handbag before being let in. O well, patience is a virtue. It took us better than 45 minutes to all be screened with Akela / Grey Wolf being the last one.

We hustled ourselves into the church and made our way promptly to the tomb of St. Francis for our own private Mass. We quickly filled the chapel and prepared ourselves for Holy Mass as we started to realize that we are at the tomb of one of the most powerful and well-known Saints in the history of our church.

Several boys openly confessed to their brothers later in the day that they felt that this Mass would be just like any other, but this would truly not be the case for many of us.  The boys prayed from their heart, sang songs, served, and undertook the readings of the day.  Some of us wept at various points during the Mass while others felt a presence and others as if they were being loved and others who could feel for a brief moment the love of Jesus and the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi.

Father Thomas homily striated of be sharing the story of St. Francis as to how the Lord worked in his life to get Francis to move away from his worldly riches and fame to help him become the extraordinary saint that he would become.  The Lord had a great plan for Francis, just like he has a great plan for each and everyone in the chapel that morning.  Father Thomas asked the question, do you think that it was you and your choice to bring you here to Assisi?  No, you are here on this Pilgrimage because the Lord has a plan for you, a plan and a life far more rewarding and fulfilling than what we can possibly envision.  Francis was radical, he gave up everything even his clothes to follow our Lord and do his will. 

Are you prepared to be radical to listen to what the Lord is calling you to do, to cooperate in his will for you or will you just be part of the masses wandering aimlessly looking for worldly goods and status that will never leave you fulfilled and truly happy? 

Mass was a very beautiful one and a solid foundation for us to commence our Pilgrimage this very day and very moment.  Mass was intense, personal, so very spiritually powerful that for many of us we will not forget this mass in this place and time.

After Mass, we made our way through the balance of this marvelous Basilica to learn more about the great life of St. Francis of Assisi. We would not be disappointed.

The Pilgrimages of old would include a lot of walking from one Pilgrimage site to another, well on this day, and in this place, we too will embark on a lot of walking… a great experience for our timber wolves, explorers, leaders and dads.

Next stop -the Basilica of St. Rufinus where St. Francis of Assisi had his encounter with his father and the local Bishop of the day.  Here St. Francis gave back to his father all that he owed including money that he had taken from his father to help rebuild the church including the very clothes that he was wearing on his back in front of hundreds of onlookers.  The bishop took a cloak that he used to cover St. Francis after he removed his clothing.  From then on St. Francis wore on old cloak as part of his daily living.

Next, on deck, we walked to the Basilica of St. Clair of Assisi another massive church.  Here we went to visit the tomb of St. Clair of Assisi who was in a glass casket as her body was totally incorrupt. She looked very beautiful even in death more than 800 years later!

Lunch time was upon us under a blazing sun, no clouds in the sky and a comfortable 23 degrees C day. Each six or patrol was given a set amount of money and they set out to find a food outlet of their choice to have lunch at.  Choices varied but in every case, a local Italian restaurant with local food dishes was selected.  We enjoyed sitting in a roadside café enjoying our lunch much to the delight of the locals.

Our walking Pilgrimage continued as we hiked down a beautiful and very steep hill to San Damiano where St. Clair of Assisi and her order of the “Poor Claires” lived.  Here we say where St. Clair brought a Monstrance to the gates of this convent when an invading army arrived to enter and slaughter the sisters.  When the army saw Jesus in the monstrance they quickly fled leaving the sisters safe along with the people of Assisi.  A great miracle showing the power of our Lord through the holiest sacrament of the altar, the Eucharist!

Now the hike down was enjoyable but the hike up at about a 45-degree angle of incline was anything but easy under the blazing sun.  Yet the boys did not complain, some fathers had a particular tough time making the climb.  Yet this simple walk, this simple struggle would later become one of the most profound spiritually awaking to the suffering of our Lord and to the utter determination of St. Francis who made this walk every day even in his weakened state as he grew sicker and sicker towards the end of his life. Jesus suffered so much for us, and we complain about this little suffering?  How can we? Jesus , ou love us so much that you suffered many more times than I undertaking this walk?  Others reported calling out to God for help, one reported problems with his ankles, yet once asking for help the apin from walking this steep incline was overcome!

Now off to our last stop of the day!  A visit to another beautiful church – St. Mary of the Angels. We made the stop there to see one of the churches that St. Francis rebuilt, so a church in a church.  This is also where St. Francis gave the famous homily about “Take nothing with you”.

As we visited the main church several of the boys discovered a side Eucharistic Adoration chapel, once discovered a good number of them flooded in to quickly take their seats to be in front of our Lord.  Their prayers and attention to our Lord was so very focused, deep and sincere that it was quite something to see.  Unfortunately, we are not allowed to take any photos to show you what we observed.  When the time came to load the bus to depart for Loreto several of the boys begged Akela for another 10 minutes as they had not yet finished talking to Jesus or simply wanted more time to be in his presence. 

Lastly a visit to St. Mary of the Angels allows one to earn a preliminary indulgence for the remission of all sins and the purification process in Purgatory by visiting this church, going to confession, receiving the Eucharist, praying for the pope and being detached from all sin.  Thanks, be to God.

The bus departed a little late from St. Mary of the Angels due to our boys wanting to stay a little longer in the Eucharistic chapel.

The bus ride to Loreto was lively with the boys often breaking into joyful song, chants and chatter as we made our way to Loreto to our designated hotel.

Upon arrival, the boys were assigned to their rooms before flooding into the dining room for dinner.  Dinner was awesome, pasta appetizer followed by Chicken and potatoes and salad and wine (don’t worry parents, the wine was only for the adults).

Some 16 Italian Explorers and Wayfarers who live in Loreto came to join us for dinner. Dinner was joyful and festive especially given that one of the Timber Wolves – Clement was celebrating his 12th birthday.  We had a giant cake plus a signed card, a gift and a presentation of the visiting FSE group of their group neckerchief to present to Clement.  Clement was so happy that he shed tears of joy and gave Akela a huf of thanks.  A very joyful experience for us all!

After dinner we gathered together for personal testimonies as to our experiences and hopes for this pilgrimage.  The testimonies were so very powerful and inspiring indeed, with several boys, leaders and dads in tears from time to time.

We wish to share with you some of their reflections, very powerful and from the heart! 

Testimonials 

 

Mathew

Fr T. spoke without the use of mic and we can still hear him. God speak to us, we have to listen.

Akela Paul

When Matthew announced that he found the adoration chapel, I run and asked Jesus to love me more not less.

No matter how much you put, it is always hard and difficult. Love without limit.

Jesus help me. Ask for help from Jesus. 

Anthony

Fr T said that St Francis used to walk up and down the hill but how can I compare myself with the saint. Then I think about Jesus, how they spit on him, insult, torture and continue to carry the cross even knowing that he will die. I was encouraged by this to climb the hill.

Paul, Polar Bear

It was in the seminary, after dinner that evening where I remembered that I was here 12 years ago, full of seminaries. I felt the gashing over me. Reminds me what I felt and the spiritual high.

Bo

This is my 2nd trip to Italy. The pilgrimage is not only for my sons, but also about myself, During the mass at the tomb of St Francis, I asked Jesus to love more about my family. I felt more connection with my family.

 

Ho Jun

Happened yesterday, the chapel in seminary, everyone is a brother trying to become a priest.

 

God is calling us in little signs.


Father T homily – God gave Francis a purpose, he was entrusted to re-build the church. God is calling all of us to do great things for the church.

 

 

Ethan

When I was praying, I felt like someone is watching over me.

God is listening to me. Answering my prayer, 

Daniel

On the way up from supposedly a wash room, I wanted to relax/rest.

I heard Fr T. talked about St Francis being rich and how he went each day in hill.

Climbing the hill towards the bus , I felt happy.

Kelvin

This is my 2nd time to Italy. 1st thing that to come to mind is the evening at the seminary, in the chapel praying with the seminarians. Very encouraging to see that a lot men are wanted to become a priest.

 

2nd – the trip in Assisi, spending art, basilicas, great saints. The church reflecting the same way, attracting pilgrims. To become more humble and closer to God.

Vince

After communion at the tomb of St Francis, I pray and learn that to go to heaven, improve my daily prayers; not to be attached to be attached to material things such as electronic devices, etc.

Andy

1st time I came here is when I was in grade 2 and received my 1st communion at St Francis tomb.  This time I asked for strength.

 

FNE is our family, our protection.

Bryan

St Clare is a great example of great faith, believe in Jesus. While walking up the hill, it keeps me going.

Mang Noel

1st time in Rome. Tunic of St Francis reminded to me live a simple life. How we are blessed with material possessions such as electronics, clothes, shoes. I will encourage my family to live a simple life.

2nd – going up to hill, I carry 2 bags which are heavy. Offered it like my cross and not to give up. I was encouraged by A. Paul, brothers, Timberwolves, the youngest in the group.

Samuel

With many churches, lots of time to pray for my mom and brother. 

Michael

At the tomb of St Francis, felt his presence.

During the climb, I was tired, hot – gave us strength.

Benjamin

Grow and share devotion to St Francis, In adoration, I was praying for strength and felt protection I can always expect from St Francis and St Clair

Andrew

While walking up the hill, hot and weak, can it be any worse? The remember how Jesus carry the cross while me complaining about hot.

Shawn

Felt that someone is watching over me. I realized Jesus is watching me. Walking up the hill, tired and exhausted – I almost give up but I I was determined.

Jameel

At the tomb of St Francis, surrounding with paintings about him, I was inspired. Father T story about him boost how I pray.

Richard

I felt a strong connection. 1st at St Francis painting about final judgement, the representation of hell – it was scary. It reinforces my faith. 2nd. Lots of confessional, lots of chances to get forgiveness.

Michael

In adoration, kneeling and thinking, 1st major prayer session about myself, love  me and love my family. Let me think about the people I know.

 

I pray that the trip is smooth as possible

Simon

I can talk for an hour, 30 mins.  1st prayer in front of the cross and remember the words “until you truly love”.  2nd – St Francis married to lady poverty. Not only worry about wealth, everyday life. Love Jesus unconditionally. 3rd The walk – many more opportunities and days to go.

Akela Cris

A great opportunity  to walk the same place St Francis walk.

Simon

With basilicas, beautiful places, I am not very close to God. Not ready to get close to Jesus. I realize how I missed the experience with God, Jesus touched my heart. At St Francis, I offer every single step with Jesus.

 

“watch you head daddy” my son says while walking down the stairs. I was harsh, push him hard but now I realize that I needed to help him more.

Jacob

When we were waking in the sun, I remember the comfort at home, the air condition then I realize to give up something to God.

Justine

At tomb of St Francis, I felt he’s watching me. Felt strength.

Samuel

I think about suffering, Physical, mental suffering. During the movement from one church to another, I had temptations of bad thoughts, use of bad language. I am not taking mass seriously. Now found out it is helping me from learning valuable lesson. Church protect us from eternal punishment.

 

Michael

Help me improve my own faith.

Think about my action.

Ian / Landen ?

I feel it is cool, cross spoke like a human. Body of St Claire fascinating. I felt the connection with St Francis because of the story in the square.

Matthew

During adoration, I want to stay longer, visiting God.

Justine

Try hard to get to heaven. How easy it is to go to hell.

Jose

On the picture of final judgement, I am afraid that if I don’t change I’ll go to hell. I want to be better, lead my patrol better and lead my patrol to heaven.

Christopher

While at mass at St Francis tomb, I felt like someone is watching me. God sent St Francis to watch over me.

One

Morn at the tomb of St Francis. After communion, overwhelmed with great sense of sorrow. I wept for the people I Egypt and for Michael homesickness is overwhelming.

Juno

While everyone on their 1st step, I felt pai on my right calf. I don’t want to give up.

Michael

Anxiety of the trip. Maybe this is the cross I need to bear.

Luke

Fr. T spoke to us about the strength of St. Francis because like him, I can’t give up.

Aaron

St Francis calling me during the mass.

Rylan

Mass at the tomb of St Francis is not an ordinary mass, it’s a special place. Someone is watching me, I need to concentrate in the mass.

Clement

The picture of the final judgement look scary – if we are going to heaven or hell. Too much suffering in purgatory.

 

The hill is uncomfortable, Jesus carry the cross, beaten up.

Justine

Walking up the hill, extremely tired. If St Francis walk every day and Jesus carry the cross, can’t compared. Much less painful.

Diego

The homily by Fr T at St Francis tomb. Each one of us have a purpose like St Francis. Many people condemned to hell.

 

We are privilege in FNE to have a pilgrimage in Rome. Try what God is calling you. 

Bert

1st pilgrimage. Strength of St Francis whom we should emulate. Need strength to love our family; commitment to our study and work; continuous improvement.

Francis

Unusual for me not to be able to prepare for the trip, too much occupied with work.  I will work on being more patient and more obedient. Though painful at times, I should be more obedient with my faith.

Ray

Anxiety of paying the bills for the trip. We should acknowledge fathers who are willing to come but can’t due to a particular limitations or circumstances. I felt that the open mass with the Italian brothers is the most memorable so far because I was very close to the altar. The altar that is simple, the chalice, the open field – a sign of poverty for me. I am here today for a reason and that is to be able spend time with my son.

 

Upon return to the seminary the timber wolves and explorers could choose a rousing time in the large indoor pool or go outside to play basketball.  Despite a long day the boys still had lots of energy to run or swim full out.  O if only us older leaders could tap into their energy!

Then just before dinner Mr. Martin Hafner the Federal Commissioner of our larger FSE family came to visit us.  The timber wolves and explorers shared their opening ceremonies and promise songs and the leaders and dads gave their own testimony as to their thoughts and experiences with the FNE program with the Federal Commissioner.

Their reflections were truly profound and moving. We tool a break for dinner (pizza and salad) that was quickly consumed by our hungry boys.

After dinner, we resumed the larger group discussion where our youth leaders as Patrol Chief’s and Sixers shared their thoughts and experiences.  Parents, you can be really proud of your sons!

The Federal Commissioner then shared his experience first as a 10 year old timber wolf and later as an Akela, Troop Leader, Group Chief, Deputy General Commissioner, General Commissioner for Germany and then as the Federal Commissioner responsible for all 21 countries.  The timber wolves and explorers had a number of questions for Martin before we broke for a few games in the games room.  Then we gathered together for evening prayers before heading off to bed as we have to get up at 5.50 am to get ready for our audience with Pope Francis tomorrow morning.  Another exciting day awaits us!

 

 

 

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