Soon after Francis of Assisi received his command to rebuild the Church, he decided to take a pilgrimage to Rome. He walked the 120+ miles from Assisi to Rome in modest clothing. He took no luxuries, he did not ride a steed. He walked the entire way, secure in the knowledge that his pilgrimage was not extravagant.
When he finally arrived at Rome, he did not do the usual sight-seeing as any other tourist. He didn't stay in a hotel, he didn't enjoy a nice meal at a quaint restaurant. He joined the other beggars in Rome as if they were his brothers, and lived amongst the poor his entire time. He had learned to find Christ in the poorest of poor and the most decrepit of lepers; he would not find Christ among the upper class visitors or the rich clergy.
He begged for his meals, sometimes eating the leftovers of some family's dinner. All the alms that he was given he gave to the church; it wasn't that the church needed his small coins from his change purse, but he no longer had a desire for money.
What kind of conversion does it take to go from a life of luxury to one of extreme poverty. Even if one only gives up ownership of needless possessions and luxuries, how does one go from having the world at his fingertips to deciding what is important and what is within his meager budget?
Scholars assume that Francis knew what he wanted to do before he left for Rome, but maybe that journey convinced him of how he was supposed to live his life? Perhaps the 6-7 days it took to walk those 120 miles gave him enough of an insight into himself that by the time he reached Rome, he knew exactly what God was asking of him. Maybe he wasn't even exactly sure; but maybe he had a good idea.
According to the Catholic Church, a pilgrimage is taken for one of three reasons:
- to make a trip to a place of great religious importance
- to make a trip for the purposes of healing, either physical or emotional
- to fulfill an obligation, such as a commandment from God.
I have 90 days left here in the "free world," however I'm already training for this big change in my life. I think I have something great left to do before I am a Postulant, something that I will remember for the rest of my life. And each night I pray that I have the strength to go through with this journey...