The first day of my pilgrimage to Assisi was dawning and I wanted to get the lay of the land and reorient my spiritual GPS after three hectic days of sightseeing in Rome. No one stirred, not even a stray cat or dog in search of bounty from a trash can, as I passed the majestic Basilica di San Francesco, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the abbey of San Pietro, and the Basilica di Santa Chiara. Too early even for morning mass, I walked the cobblestones and heard sounds of a new day dawning. As I gazed at the verdant Umbrian countryside in the distance, my imagination went back to a simpler time. I visualized the hilltop village eight centuries ago, without lights or power, phones or internet, insular and isolated, a place where most of its citizens lived and died without traveling more than day’s walk from their Umbrian birthplace. In the still, crisp morning, I experienced the simplicity of a time before climate change, global travel, the novel coronavirus, and the 24/7 news cycle. For a split second, I forgot the machinations of political leaders and the spirit of unrest that has enveloped the globe as I pondered the journey of another pilgrim like myself, trying to make sense of his own inner stirrings and the challenges of his own time and place and looking for a way of life that would nurture his spirit and serve the world. I was looking for a world-affirming way to become a mystic activist for our time.
—from the book Walking with Francis of Assisi: From Privilege to Activism
by Bruce Epperly