Franciscan Spirit Blog

Roamin’ Catholic: Sacred Silence in Santo Stefano

‘We sat for a long time in Santo Stefano, long enough for a concrete sense of the passage of time to dissipate.’

Making the pilgrimage to Assisi in the summer of 2017 was—and continues to be—a spiritually transformative experience. It was made even more special as my wife, Belinda, was able to be a part of the pilgrimage as well. All the holy sites and deep immersion into the world and spirituality of Francis and Clare not only strengthened our faith, but brought us closer together as a married couple.

One holy place in particular sticks out for both of us as especially impactful. The Santo Stefano (St. Stephen) Church in Assisi is easy to pass up, considering how small it is and the fact that the popular Basilicas of St. Francis and Clare are nearby. However, we had a block of time in the itinerary one day, which simply encouraged pilgrims to individually (or, our case, as couples) explore Assisi, find a place that spoke to our spirits, and sit and reflect for a time.

Having passed by Santo Stefano on an earlier walk, Belinda and I had noticed this humble, medieval church and wondered what it was like inside. So we picked that as our place to reflect, and after making the short walk from where we were staying, we entered through its old, wooden door and were transported back to the time of Francis.

One of the first things I noticed was the quiet of this church. Right outside was a bustling Italian community with tourists and pilgrims from all over the world and busy cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. But, in stepping into Santo Stefano, all the noise of the outside world was hushed, and I got the sense that I was in a place of profound spiritual resonance. One central aisle divides two sets of pews, only about 10 rows deep. There aren’t many sources of natural light, so the candles burning along the stone walls cast a warm, albeit dim, light.

There was only one other person in the church when we arrived, and he seemed deep in prayer. As quietly as we could, we took a seat in one of the back rows of pews, so as not to disturb the other visitor. We sat for a long time in this place, long enough for a concrete sense of the passage of time to dissipate. There was no rush, and there was no expectation to hear a voice respond from above as our silent, meandering prayers made their way heavenward.

With little intention on our part, aside from picking the church and walking through the door, we had accepted a very special invitation to simply sit and be present—with ourselves, each other, and God. And when it felt right to get up and walk out into the sun-splashed streets of Assisi, we did so, but with a new, deep, and abiding sense of peace in both our hearts. It’s a feeling I carry with me to this day.

For more on Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, click here or the image below!

Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs


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