In just a few hours, I’ll be en route to Italy with Peter-George, Pius, and Etsy to visit our friend Mario, who’s a seminarian at the NAC. I’ve known these four friends for ten years, and since high school we’ve had a tradition of celebrating New Year’s together. Since Mario missed last year’s festivities and can’t make it home for the party this year either, we’re taking the party to him! We’ve been calling this trip a vacation – which it is, of course – but I can’t visit all those holy places without feeling like it’s something of a pilgrimage as well.
I saw Rome and Assisi for the first time on a school trip with Mom when I was sixteen. All in all, we had a lovely time – but at that point in my life, I wasn’t prepared to take in the full spiritual significance of what I was seeing. There were a few meaningful moments – like the time I took to sit and pray before the tomb of St. Clare (my first real experience of the Communion of Saints!) – but the whole trip felt so rushed that I just kept thinking: “I have to come back; I have to come back and give myself time to soak it all in!”
Several years ago, I began praying for the opportunity to return to Assisi before my consecration to thank Clare and Francis for all they’ve done for me as my patron saints (my middle name’s Claire – spelled as the French variant to honor my heritage), particularly in regard to helping me discover my vocation. Our World Youth Day pilgrimage this August was originally supposed to include a day trip to Assisi, which got my hopes up – but then plans changed, and needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. It was wonderful to spend those few days in Rome, but I still wished I could have paid a visit to Clare and Francis.
Then Peter-George decided to make this trip a reality (we’d been daydreaming about it for a year!), and the good Lord arranged not only for me to make the trip, but to travel with four of my dearest friends and make an overnight visit to Assisi. What a beautiful Christmas gift! Our good God is never outdone in generosity.
Please say a prayer for Peter-George, Pius, Etsy, Mario and me – that this time spent together would be blessed and fruitful, that in our prayer we could each gain a greater clarity regarding God’s will for our lives, and that this Christmas season would refresh our souls and draw us all closer to the loving Hearts of Jesus and Mary.