The students of Gaming campus have been resting up and relaxing after a packed 10-day trip to Rome and Assisi. I can now personally testify that Rome is just as incredible as people claim it to be. Going into this trip, the professors and staff stressed that this week should be not only an adventure but a pilgrimage as well.
Over the course of our pilgrimage, we witnessed over a dozen churches, each more magnificent than the last, including the four major basilicas of Rome. We visited tombs of the saints and prayed before countless relics. Some of us chose to go on the Scavi Tours, going beneath St. Peter’s Basilica all the way to the tomb of St. Peter. We even had the opportunity to go up the Holy Stairs, stairs that Jesus walked up to get to Pontius Pilate, on our knees. The stairs can only be taken on one’s knees, and it became one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had. It is impossible not to be overwhelmed and humbled by the significance of Rome.
Though Rome in all of its glory was an unforgettable experience, what those who have been to Austria will tell you is that Assisi is perhaps even more amazing. I remember hearing this right before I left for Austria, but not quite understanding. “Rome is great, but Assisi is spectacular,” they would say. And though I absolutely loved the Trevi Fountain, gelato and monuments of Rome, I would have to agree that there is something special about Assisi.
Before we arrived in Assisi, Father Matt informed the group that there was a “palpable peace” about this city, a definite sense of comfort that one gets while there. And oh, how peaceful it was!
Assisi is a perfect, little, quaint town, built into the side of a mountain. We began in lower Assisi at Mary Queen of the Angels Church, where the original Portiuncula is located. After visiting the Port on main campus so many times, seeing the real version, built by the hands of St. Francis, was such a unique experience.
Perhaps most amazing of all was a statue of St. Francis located in one of the hallways of the church. Perched on this statue were two white doves, just sitting on the shoulder of Francis. According to the story, the doves fly in every day when the doors open and travel down the corridors to be by the statue of St. Francis, the man who preached to the birds.
Walking through Assisi, it feels as if you have gone back in time, back to a time where streets are cobblestone and everything is homemade. Students spent hours upon hours in the little shops, exploring the leather shop and watching a man carve wooden statues by hand.
Another special aspect of Assisi was getting to visit several of the places St. Francis used to go and pray. One of these, just outside of Assisi, was a walk up to the Hermitage where he would go to be alone. Several students decided to literally follow in the footsteps of St. Francis by making the journey up to the Hermitage bare-footed, just like St. Francis used to do. We also had the opportunity to make the trip down to San Damiano where Jesus once spoke to Francis from the cross, giving him the message to rebuild his church. Most impressive of all, though, was just experiencing these significant places places, in both Rome and Assisi, where Catholicism began. It was definitely a trip to remember.