Apologies to St. James, but this year we’re off to see St. Francis

Fresco by Giotto at Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

Fresco by Giotto at Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

Dear St. James (Santiago),

You’ve been a great friend over the past years, but this year I must apologize in advance — I’m following St. Francis. Will you forgive me?

I’d like to blame it on Sebastian and Jacqueline, but in truth I’m partly to blame myself. When the idea was proposed (by them) to walk from St. Francis’ town of Assisi to Rome, at first I wasn’t sure. I knew I’d miss you (um, and the wine and the tortilla and the menu del peregrino and the Cilantro), which would be sad. But I knew, too, that this walk from Assisi to Rome would be beautiful and meaningful and something of an adventure. Not many people are walking this way. There’s not even a guidebook for the walk in English.

Now, don’t get all “Santiago Matamoros” on me. I knew you’d be upset, but remember that St. Francis is a dear friend, too. You know how much I enjoyed Brother Sun, Sister Moon back in the sixties. It seemed like St. Francis was the best hippie of all time! Yes, the poverty and depravation didn’t seem all that fun, but he seemed so free and so close to the God and so simple and faithful. And St. Claire was so, well, gorgeous.

Our plan is that we will meet (the three of us from caminos 2011 and 2012) In Assisi and we will then walk through sites of St. Francis, through some of his favorite villages and towns, then on to Rome. In ten days the trip follows what must’ve been his itinerary when he travelled from Assisi to Rome to explain himself to Pope Innocent III. You know the story. The Pope, who had felt threatened by the popularity of this little, impoverished friar, had a dream after seeing St. Francis. He saw the pillars of his church tumbling to the ground, except that Francis was steadying them. The pope saw the dream as a message from God that St. Francis and his focus on the poor would help his church to change and survive.

Maybe Sebastian and Jacqueline and I will have a special dream as we walk, too. I don’t know, but maybe God has some kind of vision or purpose in drawing us toward Assisi and Rome this year. I know one thing will be accomplished: we three who’ve walked together in the past will have the joy of walking together again. Also, we’ll receive a special testimonium to commemorate our walk.

But St. James, I know I will miss you. For four of the last five years I’ve walked to Santiago de Compostela. I’ve looked for you in stained glass windows and sculptures. I’ve rejoiced when I hugged your statue in the cathedral there and I’ve prayed while I peered through the glass to your sarcophagus. I will miss that this year. St. Francis calls, though, and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

Oh, more bad news. I’m going to do my best to visit St. Peter in 2014. More details to follow. In case you think we’ve forgotten you: my sister is going to see you this year. She will send you my love and prayers, and please do look after her. You know how she gets blisters.

It gives me some comfort to know that you will have many pilgrims seeing you this coming year. Please give them safe travels and warm friendships and joyful memories as you do with all your pilgrims. I will be back. I promise.

Your devoted friend,

Sandy Brown (Caminoist)