The Festival of St. Francis in Assisi

5 Oct

Assisi, Italy

This week Mitch and I got to go to Assisi for a mini-vaca with my Uncle Bobby! He planned this trip for the Festival of St. Francis and because it is only about 30K away we decided it would be a great place to meet up. I knew I wanted to visit Assisi for years now because as a child the choir of St. Joseph in Canton, Ohio where my dad’s family attends was invited to do a tour of Italy singing in various holy centers. My grandpa and aunt were both in the choir at the time so it turned into a mini family vacation. In Assisi the mass was given by Rev. Msgr. Carfagna, the priest from St. Joseph’s and they sang in the tomb of St. Francis. Because of the acoustics it apparently sounded like angels singing and was a magical evening. I am so happy to say that I have now been to the place where my family sang like angels in the tomb of the patron saint of Italy. Although we were only there for two days, it was both tiring (the hills in Assisi are RELENTLESS) and rewarding. As many of us aren’t Catholic and may not be familiar with St. Francis, let me give you all a bit of a run down.

San Damiano, the church he rebuilt and wrote The Canticles

As I mentioned, St. Francis is the patron saint of Italy, but also of animals and ecology. St Francis is such a cool guy because he actually practiced what he preached and believed in sister mother earth and peace. He is actually a great person to emulate regardless of religious orientation. He was a lover of nature and took the gospel literally, following exactly what Jesus said, “Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff” (see Luke 9:1-3) He grew up in a wealthy merchant family, living a life of opulence, a life he would later consider pure sin. On his way to fight in battle he had a vision that lead him back to Assisi to give up his worldly possessions and live in poverty. In layman’s terms, we have the son of a very wealthy cloth merchant begging throughout his hometown. On top of this he was begging old party buddies… and oh yea, he was naked. Everyone thought he had lost it! He finally put on a burlap bag and his persistence in this lifestyle proved he was serious about his change of heart. He developed a following that eventually turned into the Franciscan Order, the women of the Order of St. Clare and the Third Order of St. Francis. Believing that nature was the mirror of God, St Francis wrote “The Canticle of the Creatures”. In this beautiful prayer he refers to brothers sun and fire and sisters moon and water.

“All praise be yours, my Lord, through our SisterMother Earth, who sustains us and governs us,and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs”

I just love this! And in his “A Simple Prayer” he makes such humble requests as joy where there is sadness and love where there is hatred (now this is my kind of Catholic!) I could go on and on! If interested be sure to look up about the shewolf he tamed that is the only animal buried in any Catholic church in the world and learn about the “St. Francis cross” or the Hebrew letter Tau. So, here we are in a United Nation’s World Heritage Site taking in such treats as the Basilica, San Damiano, Santa Chiara and Piazza del Comune.

Basilica di San Francisco where St. Francis is buried

We went to mass on October 3rd, the eve of the festival celebrating the anniversary of his death. Even though we couldn’t understand anything, the choir sang beautifully and the energy of St. Francis was everywhere. It was quite the experience for Mitch’s first Catholic mass! After mass we planned on walking up to the Piazza del Comune where we had seen people dressed in medieval garb earlier to grab some dinner. Wow were we surprised! Just as we got there we heard drumming and in came a processional of drummers, dancers, medieval royals, archers and a flag corps. We had stumbled upon a celebration we didn’t even know was happening! With free wine, food and entertainment we ended up standing there for hours and loved every second of it! All Petittis know Uncle Bobby is a self-proclaimed wino and can appreciate just how very thrilled he was at discovering the free wine station 🙂 There were drumming, dancing and flag corps performances as well as an archery competition. The culmination ending with fire-breathing men on stilts performing a show that would put even Cirque du Soleil to shame. Amazing!

The morning of October 4th we went to the celebration mass in the morning and touristy stuff in the afternoon, enjoying gelato and limoncello along the way. It was a great two days. We aren’t what most would call very religious, but enjoyed learning so much about this very loyal and (what I would call) chill saint. Aside from the religious aspect, Assisi is a beautiful city sitting high above Umbria with views for miles. With Friar Tuck style monks and nuns walking around everywhere it is a really unique place to visit. Architecture from Roman and Etruscan times, the city looks celestial from below. Being there on such a big day, there were thousands of tourists and religious pilgrims, but everyone was kind and fun and brought a nice,warm feeling. Needless to say, spending time with Uncle Bobby was great! I love meeting new people, but it is always nice to talk and laugh with someone who shares your memories and jokes. We had a fabulous experience in Assisi, I highly recommend at least a day visit for anyone touring Italy. If anyone has any cool St. Francis knowledge, please share in the comments! Thanks!

Happy family 🙂

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3 Responses to “The Festival of St. Francis in Assisi”

  1. Beth October 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    I am really enjoying your blogs. Thanks for sharing! St. Francis of Assisi has always been one of my favorites.

  2. Mom October 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Love hearing about your trips and this one sounds amazing!! So glad you got to spend time with Uncle Bob, and what a place for Mitch to attend his first Mass!!

  3. Rana October 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    What a great story. I learned so much and appreciate the St Francis knowledge! So glad you spent time with Bob, smooches!

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