03 Aug Assisi welcomes pilgrims for the Feast of the Pardon
2 August, the day of the Pardon of Assisi, is the feast of joy and reconciliation every year that reaches the whole world from the city of Assisi. From the early morning hours, hundreds of people have been arriving at the Portiuncula to approach the sacrament of reconciliation and then cross in prayer the small church so loved by St Francis to receive the plenary indulgence. “To cross the little door of the Portiuncula and let ourselves be regenerated by divine mercy is to take a step towards Heaven,” said Card. Angelo Bagnasco who presided over the morning Mass at Santa Maria degli Angeli. It is a step that asks for the daily steps of our duties, of our vocation: steps of lightness even when they cost blood, joyful steps even when the heart is heavy, even serious steps but with our eyes turned upwards, where we are both gazed upon and awaited. Let us then allow ourselves to be gazed upon by Christ”.
The feast of the Pardon of Assisi was celebrated in communion with all the Franciscan and Poor Clare nuns of the world. Sister Chiara Cristiana, president of the Federation of the Poor Clares of Umbria (with twenty-two monasteries, numbering about three hundred sisters), said, from the Poor Clares Monastery of Gubbio, where she resides, that she celebrated this feast together with the sisters, in a simple way: “Living it from afar forces us to deepen it more,” she explained, “We do not see the celebrations concretely, but we feel them in another way, because of the communion that there is with the friars. The Poor Clares are present in the life and work of the friars and their vocation in a mysterious way, as is the life of the enclosure. Cloistered life has this particular trait: it is a not being there to be there in a deeper way,” said Sister Chiara Cristiana. “It is about living this forgiveness of God to humanity in the life of each one of us as if it were a fountain. According to the Mother Abbess, the fountain sends out water without anyone noticing, as in the system of communicating vessels. In addition to the communion of prayer, the sisters also animated a meaningful celebration in the monastery church. There were symbols that spoke of forgiveness and the lighting of lamps under the statue of the Virgin as a gesture of surrender to Her. “Beyond the great celebrations, the feast of the Pardon is decided in the heart,” said Sister Chiara Cristiana. “Even just one young person, among all those who are entering the Portiuncula, who decides to let this river enter his heart, it is enough. Even one life changed is enough”.
Br Rosario, in charge of the Franciscan Family March, summed up the joy and fatigue of marching to Assisi in a group of 155 people, comprising 72 children and 80 adults, including friars and sisters. “Seeing so many families on their way to Assisi for the Feast of the Pardon touches people; it speaks more than many words,” he said. “The first night, the presence of the children made itself felt, and we did not sleep. Then we got used to it. This noise is beautiful, and it made us experience life, joy”. Also participating in the march were Amerigo and Giulia, married for twelve years, walking with Chiara, Teresa and Irene, their little girls. “When I think of the infinitely good, the theme of the march, I am reminded of all the good that I have received in life,” Amerigo explained. “This march is not just a walk with my family, but a listening and a listening to each other. This infinitely good has taken on a different light along the way”.
“We are also marching here with our three children on earth and with our youngest, whom we had the privilege of accompanying to the gate of Heaven,” explained Marica. “From a difficult time, we found all the time we could not find for retreats and moments of reflection, as well as for this march, for which I can only give thanks.
Among the young people marching to Assisi was Nicola, a 23-year-old from Sardinia. “It was a beautiful experience of sharing,” he said. “Sharing friendship, sharing the experience of God with friends, the pain, the fatigue, the happiness of being together, of sharing a question to take to the Portiuncula”. Diletta spoke of the emotions of participating in the Franciscan march: “I experienced God’s love, through the friars and nuns, the support workers and fellow walkers”.
Among the volunteers who have walked the march in the past was Silvia: “I came back because there is never an end to giving back what we have received, walking towards the Portiuncula, and receiving the Pardon, is a grace that I would like to relive every year. What I would like to relive is precisely to enjoy the joy of the other”. Sister Sara, a Franciscan nun who lives in Santa Maria degli Angeli, served with the young people of the Umbria and Sardinia group march: “Every pilgrimage is always a walking encounter with the face of God, of the Father, of Christ, and it is a struggle to let go of so many masks, and my heart needed to get to the encounter with the Father. Therefore, I am happy and excited for the young people we accompany on their arrival in Assisi”.
The first group to arrive in the square in front of the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli was that of Umbria and Sardinia, which then welcomed all the other groups arriving in the Portiuncula for a total of over one thousand five hundred young people. Then, with their banners aloft, the fatigues and joys of the march on their shoulders, the young people, friars and sisters made their entrance into the square in front of the basilica. Amidst songs of joy and the words of the Portiuncula friars, the marchers kissed the ground in gratitude. They then entered the Portiuncula in procession to receive the Pardon of Assisi. Then, amidst tears of emotion, the gift of forgiveness and peace arrived for them too.