08 April 2008

Basilica of St. Francis

Visit Assisi, then die in peace! I've lost count of how many times I've been to this wonderful place. Although I've singled out the Basilica of St. Francis as a "favorite church," there are lots of other churches in Assisi which would qualify to be on the list.

We've had many parish pilgrimages which have included Assisi, and we take groups of our academy students there regularly.

Construction on the basilica began almost before St. Francis had drawn his last breath. Well, not really. He died in 1226, was canonized in 1228, and in that very same year the cornerstone was laid by Pope Gregory IX. The land was known originally as Collo d'Inferno (Hill of Hell) because it was the place where criminals were executed. After the basilica was started it became known as the Hill of Paradise.

The Lower Basilica was completed in 1230, and the body of St. Francis was interred there. Immediately it became a major destination for pilgrimages.

I've had the privilege of offering Mass on three different occasions at the tomb of St. Francis in the Crypt Chapel. At other times we've celebrated Mass in the Lower Basilica, or in other chapels. But each time it's a spiritual treat, allowing us to draw closer to the Little Poor Man through the one Sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.