The First Leg of our Family Pilgrimage and 7 Quick Takes in Assisi

“Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face”.

~Muhammad Ali~

“God doesn’t always give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need.”

~Me and about 10,000 other people throughout history~

If you missed my post last week, you may not know that we recently returned from a family pilgrimage to Italy.  We had planned for months, and it only took the first leg of our trip to throw all of our plans out the window.

We had to sit on a runway in Detroit because of rain in Chicago– really O’Hare — because of rain?!  We were told we would have 15 minutes to run from one end of O’Hare to the other to catch our flight to Rome.  And oh boy, did we run! There we were — dodging suitcases and people, like 6 Forrest Gumps with a double stroller — only to find that the representative from the airlines was wrong and our flight to Rome had actually left an hour earlier! 🙁

This is where Muhammad Ali’s words really come to mind.  Yeah, that was the first punch in the face! Now what?  Now, we spend 2 hours on the line with representatives trying to arrange another flight for the entire family.  Finally, they told us we had one chance to get to Rome in the next two days — we had to run through O’Hare (again), take a metro to another terminal, and get through ticketing and security with another airline– all in under 30 minutes!  They actually held the plane for our family –thanks Finnair!

The little catch was that the 10 hour flight directly to Rome was going to turn into a 24 hour affair which included going to Finland and London before arriving into Rome –which meant we’d miss our train and our first day in Assisi.  No biggee! 🙁

Um, why exactly are we in Finland? I thought we were going to Rome.
Um, why exactly are we in Finland? I thought we were going to Rome.

I’d like to say that this was the moment that I said a quick prayer of thanksgiving for the many wonders God had worked.   But in reality this is where I began complaining to God, “Really Lord? — we’re only on the first leg of the trip, and I’m sweaty and exhausted and I don’t want to spend the next 24 hours on planes!  I’d rather be in Assisi! Why did you do this to us? Why???!!! Oh Why???  Sad, but true.

Maybe one day, I will be holy enough to find myself in these moments and pray prayers like, “Why Lord — why are you so good to me, even though I complain when things aren’t exactly the way I want them?  Why did you provide a way to get to Rome — albeit later and with much more inconvenience — but you made it possible — Why?  Why am I such an ungrateful person?!!”

Yes, there is  a part of me that wishes my prayers were more like this — but I know God loves me right where I am and He doesn’t mind my little tantrums too terribly much.  At least my complaining helps to keep me humbly aware of my many shortcomings 🙁

When we finally reached Italy, we had two choices:  stay at an airport hotel and miss Assisi or pay a $500 cab fee to get to Assisi.  Knowing that my oldest daughter chose Clare as her Confirmation Saint and that our youngest son was born on the Feast of St. Francis pushed the scales in favor of throwing off the seemingly prudent answer for the right one!  To heck with saving money, kids– we’re going to Assisi!

Best $500 ever spent! Yes, there would be a few less meals out during our trip, but Assisi was worth it!  Arriving at our quaint little hotel was like coming home.  We could feel the peace in these streets and we knew that we had made the right choice.  We slept about 4 hours that night and woke up to see Assisi in all it’s lovely, peaceful glory!

There's the beautiful upper Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi...I was feeling just like the guy on the horse in this picture!
There’s the beautiful upper Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi! I was feeling a lot like the statue of St. Francis in the picture!  We had made it, but barely. 🙂

It was a cool, refreshing morning in Assisi — little did we realize that this would be a welcome reprieve from the heat that lay ahead of us.  We sat down to a huge, delicious breakfast — so wonderful after having lived off of protein bars and bad airplane food for the last 24 hours!  The streets were almost empty as we began our trek up to the top of Assisi. We couldn’t help but stop every few moments to enjoy the quaint little nooks we found along the way.

Oh I miss these quaint little streets!
Oh I miss those quaint little streets!

The overwhelming feeling while we were there?  Gratitude!  We were grateful we had made it to Assisi — albeit minus our luggage 🙁 .  We were grateful for the blue sky, the feel of the air, and beauty peeking around each corner –we were just grateful, grateful, grateful!  And the peace of this city:  I just can’t put my finger on it, but there is a palpable peace there.

Even the pigeons are peaceful in Assisi.
Even the pigeons are peaceful in Assisi.

Pilgrim lesson #1:

“God doesn’t always give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need.”

This was an important lesson to learn.  You know, we have our plans in life, we have a picture in our mind of what something should be — but that’s not really life, is it?  I mean, our lives rarely compare to the neat little boxes we try so desperately to put them in.  And the harder we try to fit our lives into those little boxes, the more closed off we become to actually living!

So, I had to let go of some things that I thought should be with us in Assisi and see what God had for me instead.  I know — easier said than done –but it was in the letting go that I really began to get into that pilgrim spirit of accepting what God was giving and giving what He would take on this trip.

At the end of the day –yeah, He took a few things from me– but what He gave me in return was so much better than I could have imagined.  We only had about 6 waking hours in Assisi, but we felt like time stood still for us!  Not only did we visit every major site that we wanted to see, but we also had the opportunity to walk through the Jubilee Doors, to attend Mass with a group of German pilgrims, to go to the most amazing confession maybe ever, and to pick up a few holy items before we left.

I also had the opportunity to request Masses to be said for our family at the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Clare before we left, so I have no idea the graces that have flowed from and will continue to flow from those Masses.  Honestly, we were marveling at what we experienced in such a short time.  It was amazing and exactly what we all needed to begin this pilgrimage!  We all left Assisi feeling perfectly content and happy to continue our pilgrimage.

So, because I’m linking up with Kelly, I thought I’d end with the 7 Best Moments in Assisi:

1.This was the first site we visited in Assisi…the Basilica of San Ruffino.  This church holds the baptismal font where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized.  Such a lovely, peaceful Church.

Basilica of San Ruffino - this would have been the place the young Francis and Clare spent time in prayer.
Basilica of San Ruffino – this would probably have been a place the young Francis and Clare spent time in prayer.

2. Looking out at this beautiful scene after one of the most amazingly beautiful confessions I have ever experienced.  I swear that priest was Jesus talking to me.  Oh the words he spoke to me — I need to share them in a post one day.

This was what I looked out on after having walked through Jubilee Doors, Mass, and Confession...Amazing!
This was what I looked out on after having walked through Jubilee Doors, Mass, and Confession…Amazing! Right outside of Basilica of St. Clare

3. Actually seeing the San Damiano cross in real life and praying in front of it.   To sit and pray in front of this cross and ask Jesus how I could help Him rebuild His Church?  That was a special moment for me.

Jesus actually came off of this cross and told Francis to rebuild his Church.
Jesus actually came off of this cross and told Francis to rebuild his Church.  

4. This is the moment the bells began to ring from the Basilica of St. Francis.  It was absolutely magical.  I can’t explain how it lifted the soul to hear them.



5.  Seeing the peaceful affect that Assisi had on our children.

Believe me, this is peaceful for them. :)
Believe me, this is peaceful for them. 🙂

6.  The Gelaterias!  Move over Baskin Robbins – Italy has a thing or two to teach you about ice cream shops.

You want the ice cream? You can't handle the ice cream.
You want the ice cream? You can’t handle the ice cream.

7. Saying Goodbye for now, but I have a feeling we’ll be back.

Goodbye Assisi, I have a feeling we'll be back one day!
Goodbye Assisi, I hope to be back one day!

Thanks for visiting!  Hope your weekend is blessed!


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3 thoughts on “The First Leg of our Family Pilgrimage and 7 Quick Takes in Assisi

  1. Oh, Moira! The pictures are beautiful!

    Through a series of fortunate events, my husband and I were able to go to Assisi on our honeymoon 10 years ago. We’ve talked about wanting to return even before we left for home. Thanks for the little taste of Assisi (and the gelato!).

    1. Alicia,
      Oh what a perfect place to begin your married life together! Yes, the gelato…so wonderful…how to find gelato here like they make in Italy…the eternal question. 🙂

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