Day 4: Assisi ‘brothers in the hood’

Pilgrims discovered that St Francis of Assisi and his order have much that is positive to answer for while visiting the saint’s birthplace.

Buses 15, 16 and 17 pilgrims attended an early morning mass in the lower Basilica of St Francis and learned more about his life during a tour of the Basilica, observing the works of artist Giotto, painted in the 1300’s.

But first came the history and fun facts.

That the Capuchin Order of St Francis (which Bus 16 Chaplain Fr Ben Johnson belongs to) was named for the hood on their brown, robed habit. That Capuche in Italian means hood. That the cappuccino was named because religious who offered spiritual support to soldiers thought the creamy brown color that came from mixing a dark coffee with milk resembled the colour of the Capuchins’ habit.


That St Francis was the son of a wealthy fabric merchant who had made his fortune in France trading fine silks and linens. That he was only half Italian (his mother was French) and was popular and a frequent party guest.

That he gave away his material wealth and took a vow of poverty, sleeping outside in only rough burlap robes for warmth. That he gave compassion to lepers and treated people equally, and nature as just as important as human life. Our guide through the Basilica, Marco, said St Francis was perhaps the original ecologist, linking his reasons for his stance to the words of the Bible.

Fr Ben’s homily at the day’s mass was well received.

“It was a highlight seeing how the pilgrims were able to engage with the life of St Francis, who I think really has something to say to them in our modern times with his own conversion from a materialistic and hedonistic youthfulness to a generosity and life lived in service of others,” he said.

Paintings in the Basilica highlight a popular belief that St Francis, because of his selflessness, was like Christ. Even German artists and Lutherans who were highly critical of the corruption of the Catholic Church at the time appeared to support this, looking upon Francis with great respect as other artworks in his church show. This may also explain why he was canonised as a saint in record time.

Others would know St Francis through his simple prayer below:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is discord, unity.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is error, truth.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is sadness, joy.

Where there is darkness, light.

O divine master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console,

To be understood, as to understand,

To be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving, that we receive.

It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.

It is in dying, that we are born to eternal life.

Pilgrims also visited the Basilica of St Clare, founder of the Order of Poor Clares, before lunch and free time in this beautiful, peaceful corner of the world.



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