The Soul's Journey into God:
A Pilgrimage with the Franciscan Mystics
May 27-June 5, 2014
Led by Margaret Benefiel, Ph.D.
The pilgrimage is based in the beautiful Umbrian town of Assisi, hometown of Francis and Clare. With its cobblestone streets, sacred shrines, and rich tradition of culture, Assisi has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries. Days will afford ample opportunity to enjoy local cuisine, sample wines, and savor the beauty of landscape, art, and culture. From Assisi, participants will travel to other Franciscan sites in Umbria and Tuscany.
The trip will explore the life and thought of the thirteenth-century Italian mystics: Francis of Assisi, Clare of Assisi, Angela of Foligno, and Bonaventure, and the medieval culture and context that shaped them. Participants will stay in a convent of Franciscan sisters in the historic center of Assisi and travel to the places and shrines in the surrounding areas where these saints lived and ministered and where they have left a spiritual imprint upon the local cultures through their writings, art, architecture, and legends.
The pilgrimage will be held in conjunction with an Earlham School of Religion class taught by Carole Spencer, Ph. D. For many of our sessions, the two groups will be together.
Places we'll visit and sights we'll see:
Assisi and environs:
- San Damiano, where St. Francis received his call (later became St. Clare's convent)
- Basilica of St. Francis with art and relics
- Basilica of St. Clare with San Damiano cross
- St. Francis' hermitage, Mount Subasio
- Porziuncola (St. Francis' headquarters)
- Cathedral of San Rufino, including baptismal font where Francis and Clare were baptized as infants
Mount LaVerna Sanctuary, Tuscany:
- Chapel of the Stigmata
- Mountain walking
- Home of Blessed Angela of Foligno
- Church of San Francesco, where Blessed Angela is buried
Civita di Bagnoregio:
- Birthplace of Bonaventure
- Hilltop pedestrian-only city
- Ancient Etruscan caves
Medieval and Renaissance art:
- Giotto frescoes of the life of St. Francis
- Della Robbia terracottas
- Cimabue frescoes
This 10 day, 9 night itinerary includes visits to religious sites, beautiful countryside, and magnificent Medieval and Renaissance art.
Day One: Tuesday, May 27 ⁄ Beginnings and Endings
Our journey will begin with a walk through Assisi, located in Umbria, “the green heart of Italy.” Treasured as the birthplace of both St. Francis and St. Clare, Assisi instills a sense of peace and meaning in the many pilgrims who travel through its wonderfully preserved history. Flowering balconies and frescoes can be seen at nearly every turn. As we orient ourselves to the historic town, we will become immersed in the beauty of Assisi’s cobblestone lanes, immense gates, and medieval architecture.
Our evening will end with a group dinner at the retreat center.
Day Two: Wednesday, May 28 ⁄ Masculine and Feminine
On our second day, our pilgrimage will take us to Chiesa Nuova, a seventeenth-century, Renaissance-style church in Assisi. With its high dome and frescoes, this church was built on the grounds where St. Francis was born. Next, we will visit San Damiano, the church where St. Francis heard God’s call and where St. Clare created her religious community.
After personal reflective time, we will gather for an evening prayer service with the Poor Clares, the contemplative order of nuns founded by St. Clare.
Day Three: Thursday, May 29 ⁄ Stripping and Adorning
On our third day, we will focus on the life of St. Francis as depicted in Giotto’s frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francis. We will walk to the famous scene where St. Francis renounced his family inheritance, stripping off his clothes. We will also view the church of Santa Maria Maggiore with its garden, crypt, and many frescoes.
Day Four: Friday, May 30 ⁄ Big and Small
On the fourth day, we will visit Rivotorto, a stream at the foot of Mount Subasio where St. Francis and his followers lived in an abandoned hovel. We will then travel to the Porziuncula and the church of St. Mary of the Angels, headquarters of St. Francis and his brothers, and the place to which St. Clare ran away from her family to embrace her call to serve God.
Day Five: Saturday, May 31 ⁄ Contemplation and Action
On our fifth day, our journey will take us to the Temple of Minerva, built over two thousand years ago and later dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the 16th century. With its vaulted ceiling, angelic statues, and altar, the impressive temple rests in the town center of Assisi.
Next, we will tour the Cathedral of San Rufino, dedicated to the patron saint of Assisi. Embellished with lions and griffins, the cathedral façade holds a rose window encircled by symbols of the four evangelists. Inside the cathedral, we will view the font where St. Francis, St. Clare, and Emperor Frederick II were each baptized.
Finally, we will see the Basilica of St. Clare. Home to many relics, paintings, frescoes, and a crucifix, the 13th century church also contains the tomb of Saint Clare.
Day Six: Sunday, June 1 ⁄ Solitude and Community (Day of Silence)
(Mount Subasio. Photo credit: Gruenemann, flickr)
Our sixth day will bring us to the forest gorge and isolated caves of Mount Subasio. Here St. Francis and his followers found a quiet home in the hermitage of Carceri. Surrounded by a thicket, the hermitage provides a secluded place for prayer and meditation, and Saint Francis returned here often throughout his life. Following in the saint’s footsteps, we will take time to enjoy silence and solitude, returning to the convent at our own pace.
Day Seven: Monday, June 2 ⁄ Life and Death
We will travel together to La Verna, enclosed in a forest on Mounte Penna in Tuscany where we will view the Chapel of the Stigmata, built upon the sacred ground where St. Francis received the stigmata during forty days of fasting. We will also visit Santa Maria degli Angeli and Basilica Maggiore to view their art and relics.
Day Eight: Tuesday, June 3 ⁄ Everything and Nothing
The day will begin with a discussion about the Assisi Underground during World War II. We will then walk to the Assisi town museum, to the breathtaking Basilica of St. Francis, and to Hotel Subasio with its historic architecture and views of the valley. Finally, we will visit the church and abbey of San Pietro.
Day Nine: Wednesday, June 4 ⁄ The Soul’s Journey into God
(Civita di Bagnoregio. Photo credit: Rome Cabs, flickr)
After learning about St. Bonaventure and Angela of Foligno, we will travel to Angela’s hometown of Foligno, where she is buried in the Church of Saint Francis. We will then travel to Bonaventure’s birthplace, Civita di Bagnoregio, an ancient hilltop pedestrian-only city.
Day Ten: Thursday, June 5 ⁄ Endings and Beginnings
We will end our final day together with contemplative practice, closing reflections, and midday meal, as we prepare to integrate the wisdom we have gained into our everyday lives.
Costs and Conditions:
Cost: $1900 per person for double room, $2200 per person for single room. Cost includes room and breakfast and lunch daily, plus dinner on three nights, and all land travel and entrance fees during the pilgrimage. Participants are responsible for their own travel arrangements and costs to Assisi. Trip insurance is not included, and participants are encouraged to acquire their own. Trains and buses run regularly from Rome. (See ItaliaRail for more details).
Until January 31, 2014, registration will be limited to ESR alumni/ae and their traveling companions. On February 1, 2014, registration will open to others. The pilgrimage is limited to 12 participants.
*A $750 non-refundable deposit will save your spot in the pilgrimage.
Checks should be written out to Earlham School of Religion and mailed to the following address:
Earlham School of Religion
228 College Ave.
Richmond, IN 47374
Other payments are due to Tracy Crowe as follows:
For more information on Assisi, visit: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/assisi
To see photos from the 2013 pilgrimage to Assisi, click here.
About Margaret Benefiel:
Margaret Benefiel, Ph.D., has led or co-led four previous pilgrimages to Italy. As a Quaker and a spiritual director, she finds great inspiration from Saints Francis and Clare. Dr. Benefiel is also a consultant and retreat leader and has served in various leadership roles in Spiritual Directors International and as Chair of the Academy of Management's Management, Spirituality, and Religion Group. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston and a visiting lecturer at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland. For the 2003–2004 academic year, she held the O'Donnell Chair of Spirituality at the Milltown Institute in Dublin. Dr. Benefiel is the author of Soul at Work (Seabury, 2005) and The Soul of a Leader (Crossroad, 2008), and co-editor of The Soul of Supervision (Morehouse, 2010). She has also written for The Leadership Quarterly, Management Communication Quarterly, Managerial Finance, Journal of Organizational Change Management, Organization, Personal Excellence, America, Presence, The Way, Studies in Spirituality, Radical Grace, and Faith at Work.
About Carole Spencer:
Carole Dale Spencer, PhD., is Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Earlham School of Religion. Before coming to ESR in 2010 she taught Christian history and spiritual formation at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and was director of the Friends Center at the seminary. She is the author of Holiness: The Soul of Quakerism (Wipf & Stock Pub, 2007) and many articles on Quaker history, theology, and spiritually. She recently wrote a chapter, “Quakers in Theological Context” for the Oxford Handbook of Quaker Studies. She is a recorded minister in Northwest Yearly Meeting of the Friends Church in Newberg, Oregon. She has led retreats and workshops, and has taught numerous seminary classes on the Christian mystics. Of all the Christian spiritual traditions she finds the Franciscan tradition to be most akin to Quaker spirituality and most relevant in addressing needs and concerns in our contemporary world.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What time should I arrive on the first day of the pilgrimage?
The pilgrimage will begin at 4 PM on May 27. You may arrive earlier to settle into your room if you would like.
How physically active will we be?
We will be walking each day. Assisi is quite hilly, so you need to be comfortable walking up and down hills. You should be in relatively good health.
Do I need to read anything in advance?
If you would like to read something in advance, we provide a suggested reading list. No reading is required, and no prior knowledge of the saints is required.
What should I know about train travel?
You can purchase a train ticket from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to Assisi ahead of time through ItaliaRail, or you can buy your train ticket after arriving. Getting through immigration and customs at the airport can sometimes take an hour or more, so be sure to allow enough time to get to your train if you purchase a ticket in advance. Either way, you must validate your train ticket at the machines on the train platform before boarding the train or you could get a hefty fine when the conductor comes through the train to collect tickets.
If you purchase your ticket online, most routes will take you to the main train station in Rome (Termini) and then out to Assisi. If you buy your ticket at the airport, you can bypass the main train station in Rome. From Assisi, you can take a cab ride or city bus to the convent where we will be staying.
What is the easiest way to access money while in Italy?
The best way to access cash in Italy is to use ATM's. Travelers' checks are less convenient because they must be cashed through banks, and bank hours are irregular.
Please note: Your bank may want to know the dates you will be in Italy, so that they know it is you using your ATM card, and not someone else.
Can I use my mobile phone in Italy?
If you want to use a mobile phone while in Italy, you should check with your service provider to arrange a plan that works in Italy.
What should I wear?
Dress is casual, although pilgrims are asked to not wear shorts at sacred sites. Sleeveless tops are also discouraged unless covered by a shawl. Bring supportive walking shoes if you would like them for our longer walks.
Average weather conditions can be found through Trip Advisor.
What should I bring?
Feel free to bring a musical instrument, art supplies, a journal, and/or anything else that nurtures your soul. Our pilgrimage will have a contemplative pace: we will have reflective time at the convent where we are staying, time to visit sites, and individual time for you to use as you wish.
How else can I prepare?
Please bring any medical information you would like doctors to know in case of emergency.
If you have questions or comments, please contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org