From Saint Francis to Pope Francis

“What are ten friars doing on the Via Flaminia, all lined-up behind some strange, tau-shaped wooden crozier, making their way down the road with cars and trucks heedlessly whizzing by?”

Perhaps this was the question many drivers asked themselves who saw us during our long days of walking from Assisi to Vatican City, from St. Francis to Pope Francis, from the gusts of icy wind in the Spoletan Valley to the comfortable caress of an early spring sun along the bends of the Tiber.

We started from the Tomb of the Seraphic Father on the Hill of Paradise on Friday, March 6, 2015. After stopping at the Portiuncula, a place of grace and mercy, we headed out, energized by the blessing and embrace of both Custodies. Our first destination was Foligno, then Spoleto, Terni, Otricoli, Rignano Flaminio, Prima Porta, arriving finally in St. Peter’s square seven days later.

There were many reasons that inspired us to organize and undertake this pilgrimage to Rome on foot: Lent, the Year of Consecrated Life, the desire to reaffirm our loyalty to Pope Francis on the occasion of the second anniversary of his election, the memory of St. Francis of Assisi’s journey to the center of Christendom with his early friars, etc.

But all this came together in the idea of creating a kind of “preview”” of the upcoming journey that will bring Franciscan friars of different Orders together in Assisi. This event will be developed based on significant moments of our communion, the 800th anniversary of the granting of the indulgence of the Porziuncola, the 500 years that have passed since the events which signaled the division of the Order.

As we walked, we each carried with us little symbols of faith and hope: our cords—relics recalling the company of Francis (and the only thing that unifies us visually), our Franciscan habits, with their different shapes and colors, our smiles and greetings, our prayers and blessings, our effort and tenacity, etc.

We found joyful hospitality and warm welcome in the religious communities, parishes and families who hosted us. And we received many requests for prayer, which we symbolically combined with grains of incense collected mainly during the waking moments we shared with the communities. The prayers and grains of incense were put into the hands of the Most Reverend J. Rodriguez Carballo, former Minister General of the OFM, now Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, so that they might be delivered to the Pope, to whom we also left a letter. May they become a pleasing scent and offering to God during some future papal celebration.

So much effort went into the journey, but so many faces, stories and memories came out of it! The beauty of walking together allowed us to get to know each other, to tell our stories, to grow in fraternity, to learn how to help each other and give each other the time needed to find common rhythms.

We hope this experience doesn’t just stay a memory, but opens the door to new ways of fraternity, in the name of St. Francis of Assisi.

Friar Angelo Gatto, OFM Cap.
Friar Carlos Acacio Gonçalves Ferreira, OFM Cap.
Friar Daniele Maria Parilla, OFM
Friar Danilo Cruciani, OFM
Friar Edward Sturaro, OFM
Friar Janez Šamperl, OFM Conv.
Friar Jorge Fernandez, OFM Conv.
Friar Marco Moroni, OFM Conv.
Friar Pio Amran Sugiarto Purba, OFM Conv.
Friar Ryszard Stefaniuk, OFM Conv.