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Il Santuario della Verna
September 2017

PROLOGUE

At San Leo in 1213, personal decisions were made that would impact many lives for generations to come, decisions that would alter the course of our lives as well.

During one of his many journeys in Italy, St. Francis, when he learned that the lord of that town was about to be knighted at his castle, said to his companions, “Let us go there also, and let us combat the devil with all our might, who never fails in these rejoicings to lay his snares into which many fall; for it is our duty to labour everywhere and in all places for the salvation of souls.” Upon reaching the town and in a fervour of spirit he climbed onto a low wall and began to preach to the assembled nobility.

Among the noblemen, Count Orlando was particularly touched to the heart by God through the marvelous preaching of St. Francis, and he decided to have a talk with him. He approached St. Francis and said, "Brother Francis, I would like to speak to you about the salvation of my soul." St. Francis, answered: "I am glad. After dinner we will talk together as much as you wish."

In the evening, Count Orlando returned to St. Francis and had a long talk with him. At the end he said, "Brother Francis, I have a mountain in Tuscany which is very solitary and wild and perfectly suited for someone who wants to do penance in a place far from people or who wants to live a solitary life. It is called Mount La Verna. If that mountain should please you and your companions, I would gladly give it to you for the salvation of my soul.

St. Francis was greatly pleased by this gift of the mountain. He thanked first God and then Count Orlando, and he promised that when he should return to the Porziuncola he would send some of the Brothers to Count Orlando, at his castle in Chiusi della Verna. So began the story of Santuario della Verna.

For 800 years, pilgrims seeking a place for quiet contemplation have come to La Verna. Today, members of the Order of Friars Minor reside there and some Franciscan Sisters as well. Under the altar of the Chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Count Orlando and his wife are buried.

All this came about because St. Francis made the decision to climb the steep trail to San Leo to speak to the assembled nobility, and Count Orlando, after hearing what St. Francis had to say, made the decision to speak to him about the salvation of his soul and offer him the gift of La Verna. 

SOUNDTRACK: Antiphon: A mundi domina - O queen of the world  (Anonymous 4)

LA VERNA ORIENTATION

ROUTES to SANTUARIO DELLA VERNA 

Today, most visitors to la Verna travel by car from Assisi, a journey of 114 km that takes about an hour and a half.  One may also take a private train from Arezzo to Bibbiena. From there a bus goes to Chiusi della Verna. Those choosing this option must then climb a steep 2 km trail to the Santuario or take a taxi. 

GUEST SERVICES

In the dining room, tables for four are shared by two couples that are often meeting for the first time. Connecting with couples from Italy and the United States contributed to our growing sense of connection to the La Verna community during our nine-day stay.

THE INDOOR WALK TO THE CHAPEL OF SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGELI

Construction of the Chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli began in 1216. Count Orlando helped finance the project and St. Francis himself participated in its construction. St. Francis named this chapel after the Chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli (also known as the Porziuncola) near Assisi. In terms of size and shape, the two chapels are essentially the same. The Chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli is open 24 hours a day to overnight guests at La Verna who are seeking a quiet place for private prayer and contemplation.

THE BASILICA & CAMPANILE OF LA VERNA

The basilica is relatively small in size, particularly with regard to space available for pews. This creates a sense of intimacy within the basilica.  

La Verna Orientation Photo Group 1

THE SASSO SPICCO

About 100 metres west of the basilica, steps lead down to an impressive set of piled rock on which grow beech trees. At the bottom of another set of stairs one sees a massive rock formation protruding several feet above a rock floor. It was here that St. Francis meditated on the Passion of Christ. Here, where his gaze rested on splits in massive rocks, St. Francis was reminded of the crucifixion of his beloved Jesus, when, according to the gospels, powerful earthquakes shook the earth.

THE BED OF SAINT FRANCIS

Mid-way down the Corridor of the Stigmata, a door provides access to a view ahead of a dramatic cleft in the rock. Turning right one goes down some stairs to a cave formed by large boulders, one of which is covered by an iron grate protecting, "the bed of St. Francis”. Here in this place, St. Francis spent many hours in night prayer.

La Verna Orientation Photo Group 2

THE CORRIDOR OF THE STIGMATA & THE CHAPEL OF THE STIGMATA

Twice daily, the friars living at La Verna go in solemn procession along the Corridor of the Stigmata from the Basilica to the Chapel of the Stigmata, the heart of the sanctuary. On the floor of the Chapel there is a triangular glass frame indicating the exact place where St. Francis received the Stigmata. 

La Verna Orientation Photo Group 3

RELIGIOUS CELEBRATIONS

Most of the photos used in the videos of the religious celebrations within the Basilica were downloaded from Cardinal O’Malley’s blog (http://www.cardinalseansblog.org) or the Order of Friars Minor website (https://ofm.org). All the religious celebrations were conducted in Italian.

SOUNDTRACK
• Ait Dominus - Antiphon (The Monks of Norcia)
• Antiphon: A mundi domina - O queen of the world (Anonymous 4)
• Father, We Thank Thee (Richard Proulx & The Cathedral Singers)

1. On Thursday evening, September 14th, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Capuchin, celebrated THE FEAST OF THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS, which was attended by many Capuchin bishops. Reverence of a relic of St. Francis, a blood soaked bandage, was deeply moving. The relic was present at all four of the major religious celebrations that took place from September 14th to the 17th.

On Saturday evening, September 16th, the Minister General of the OFM, Father Michael Perry, celebrated THE VIGIL OF THE SOLEMNITY.

On Sunday morning, September 17th, the Minister General of the OFM, Father Michael Perry, celebrated THE FEAST OF THE STIGMATA. The Feast of the Stigmata is formally celebrated on September 17th to avoid a conflict with the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the date St. Francis received the Stigmata.

On Sunday afternoon, September 17, the daily PROCESSION TO & FROM THE CHAPEL OF THE STIGMATA took place. Towards the end of the procession, at the quadrangle viewpoint, the relic of St. Francis was lifted high to bless the city of Florence.

THE TRAIL TO THE SUMMIT OF MONTE PENNA

One great joy remained to Francis almost until the end, the joy of being out of doors. His love for a life under the sky, his love for birds and flowers, for long journeys through the river valleys or among the high mountains, never left him.

The trail leading to the summit of Mt. Penna, a route that would have been familiar to St. Francis. This journey is an experience that opens one’s mind and heart to the beauty of God’s creation and gives one peace within. “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.”

Photos of the Trail to the Summit of Monte Penna

PROCESSIONS

Processions may be defined and perceived in different ways.

SOUNDTRACK: Reiputa - Whale Rider (Lisa Gerrard)