Today we said “arreverdci“ to St. Claire and St. Francis and their town of Assisi, and headed to Cascia to learn more about St. Rita. St. Rita was an Augustinian nun who experienced the stigmata. Numerous miracles are attributed to her and she is the patron saint of impossible situations as well as a patron for troubled marriages and estranged families.
As we traveled through the Umbrian mountains, my pilgrimage co-hosts Kelly Wahlquist, Joan Lewis, and I couldn’t help but notice once again, as we have for the majority of this trip, the sound of lovely chatter taking place on the bus. It was a joyful noise and a sign of the Holy Spirit at work.
While every pilgrimage is different in terms of the itinerary, one thing remains constant; if pilgrims are open, God will show up, believers’ faith will be strengthened, and new friendships will be formed. This is a pilgrimage and not a tour after all. We’re on a journey to discover more about God and His saints. What surprises many is what they learn about each other and themselves.
I am sure for example, that sweet Julie from Ohio, never expected to share her story about how God carried her through a painful divorce. But she did. And not just once on my radio show on Monday, but also on the bus as we left Cascia and headed to Rome.
As a result, the 30 women on this journey through Italy, as well as hundreds of thousands of radio listeners, know that they’re not alone when it comes to suffering. They’ve been reminded and re-assured that there is joy in midst of the bumps, twists, and turns; as well as friends that join us as we do our best to put one foot in front of the other.
Kelly, Joan, and I have also noticed how the women are helping each other. Whether it’s extending a hand to a fellow pilgrim as we trek up yet one more hill or flight of stairs, or loaning someone a few euros so they can try the pistachio Gelato, or covering someone in prayer as they share some of their struggles, they’re there for each other.
We’re only half way through our trip, with the next stop being Rome, and already the ladies are reminding us the need to share contact information so they can be in touch long after we fly home on Sunday.
There has been one “frozen moment” after another; special times that are meant to be savored and drawn upon when life gets a bit crazy as it so often does. As you can see from the photos, the inspiration also comes from the incredible beauty and the lives of incredible saints, all of whom became pillars of faith through suffering and perseverance. But they never lost their joy. And along the path, they were comforted by friends and probably had a few glasses of wine and some fun along the way as well. No doubt St Claire, St. Francis, St. Benedict, St. Scholastica, and St. Rita would be proud, and are smiling down on us as we head to the Eternal City.