In the Footsteps of St. Francis:
A Pilgrimage Retreat

July 9th - 16th 2006
A week to get to know St. Francis of Assisi through slides and talks, reading, visits to Assisi and other sacred places where he spent time. Includes walking and climbing and time for contemplation.

Retreat Guide: Lucinda Vardey

Can $1690
US $1590
UK £820

Arrival first day at Migliara approx. 5 p.m.
Bus pick-up at Arezzo Station 3 p.m.

The Retreat

Monday. Getting to know Francis, his life and times through slides and film.

Tuesday. Visiting Assisi - his family home, the places of major events in his life, the Basilica where he is buried, and the original church he restored.

Wednesday. Rivotorto (his first shelter), and the little monastery of San Damiano where St Clare spent all of her Franciscan days. A picnic on Mount Subasio and a visit to the ancient Benedictine monastery on the mountain where Francis first found solace.

Thursday. We will walk up the local mountain in Sansepolcro to the ancient hermitage of Montecasale, where we will have silent time and a view of the relics - including Francis' bed and the cells of St Bonaventure and St Anthony. We will climb down to the grotto and waterfalls where St Francis prayed. In the afternoon, there will be personal time for contemplation.

Friday. Visiting the mountain and monastery of La Verna. It was here in the latter part of Francis' life that Christ appeared to him in the woods and he received the stigmata (the wounds of the crucifixion in his hands and feet). We will climb to the highest point of the mountain to view the setting sun.

Saturday. Depart Migliara.

St. Francis (1182-1226)

Everybody loves St. Francis as do the animals, the birds of the air, the wolves of the woods. He is the patron saint of ecology, the first to write a prayer in Christendom where he refers to the earth as Mother, a lover of all of God's creatures, the patron of Italy and more than all of this, one of the greatest lovers of God the world has ever known.

Born in Assisi the son of a wealthy silk merchant and his French wife, he was a popular young man who loved to sing and to socialize and his ambition was to successfuly defend Assisi against the surrounding cities and warring states. His father expected him to join him in the family business but God had a different plan.

During a battle with Perugia, Francis was injured and imprisoned there and on return to Assisi became a different man. While convalescing he spent time in the countryside around Assisi and frequently visited the little churches and chapels which were spotted around the plains. It was while praying in the chapel of the monastery of San Damiano, that Christ on the large crucifix over the altar spoke to him. He instructed him to restore His church. Francis took this to mean the chapel itself, which he began almost immediately to restore brick by brick.

His family believed him to be crazy , and with no support but his faith, he gave away his horse, his belongings and stripped himself of his clothes outside the Bishop's house. He began to live a life of a pauper, begging for his food, and living simply in small stone shelters. He believed that God loved him and would protect him like the birds of the air, who are provided for daily. And through this act he assumed the simplicity and love in the teachings of Christ.

Shortly thereafter a band of his old friends joined him, took up his way of life and began to experience the joy and happiness which had alluded them in their lives. They took care of the poor and the lepers, and began by their actions and later their words to preach. As more and more men joined them - and their first woman, the young and beautiful St. Clare - they were offered small hermitages and monasteries (mostly by the Benedictine monks) to enable them to expand their work. He died with over 4000 monks, an established Franciscan Order, a changed world, and a more vital church due to his restoration of the principles of the gospel over the power and corruption so prevalent in the Church at the time.

St. Francis' life and example is as poignant and as necessary today as it was in his time: although it is possibly more vital now. He is a teacher who has given us all the necessary elements for a joyful, spiritual life, of respect for our environment and of all people - whatever their beliefs - and all creatures. He practised humility and trust and love of God and of the embracing of all as one.

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"This place is magical in its healing powers."

"Each stone a prayer."

"A tranquil place with hidden treasures. "