Veterans of the Military

Dear Friends,

St. Francis of Assisi knew from his experience that re-entering society after living in a life-threatening place is a most difficult journey for a human to make. St. Francis had to learn this painful lesson in his own life.

“In violence and where life is threatened” one can easily fall into “a culture of death” that questions God, goodness and the meaning of life.   Francis was a passionate soldier who fought against the army of Perugia and was captured and imprisoned. Yet through God’s grace he found life and goodness - God’s light scattered all of the darkness of his heart filling him with a great capacity to love and show compassion.

We think that the journeys of St. Francis and St. Clare through their own life threatening experiences may help you and your loved ones in trying to make sense out of all the good and bad that you have witnessed and felt while in the military. We invite you to walk with us for a while.  Together, we can experience God’s love, a healing of memories and a life in peace.

Fr. John Cella, OFM, Director Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs

A Note from Major Greg Masiello, PhD

I’ve always been enamored with St. Francis of Assisi.  In fact, I once wrote a screenplay of a playboy reporter who has a run-in with Francis, leading him to Assisi in search of the saint.  Of course, he doesn’t find the man there but, rather, is transformed by the lifestyle St. Francis embraced and by those who continue on in his tradition.

They say if you’re going to write about something, it should be something you’re passionate about.  I suppose there is a life-lesson there although it was ultimately my intrigue of St. Francis that led me down that path.  You can imagine then how thrilled I was to be included in the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program for Veterans.  The fact that St. Francis himself was a soldier of war who likely suffered from the effects of PTSD adds to his mystique.  There is something about his struggles in war, seeing man’s inhumanity to man; spending time as a prisoner; ailing; and then, afterwards, searching for God in our world that brings him more to life for me.  There’s not much difference between his struggles then and the struggle of veterans today.   Although it is tough to imagine going to war with a neighboring city, remnants of war remain the same.  The fact that St. Francis traveled to the Middle East to broker peace for the crusades underscores these parallels if not highlights the paradox.  Many Christians and Muslims are still at odds with each other.  Even a fool for Christ, as Francis called himself, wasn’t able to stop this.  More striking were his other failings such as to have the order he founded rebel against him.  Even his eyesight and body eventually gave out on him.  Yet he emerged through the ashes of his life larger than life.  There is a life lesson in there somewhere—perhaps we should all strive to be so successful in our failings.  For that reason alone I take solace in the fact that my screenplay has only sat on a shelf all these years.

Click Video Above to Listen to Veterans talk about their upcoming pilgrimage to Assisi

Sample Pilgrimage Program

The actual program schedule varies according to length of the pilgrimage and days of the week. (E.g.; A Papal Audience is possible only on Wednesdays). This example is provided to give the pilgrim a general idea of the pilgrimage content. Your program will have differences.

Day 1 Leave USA for Rome

Day 2 Arrive Rome

  • 11:00 AM Arrival at Fiumicino Airport (Rome)
  • 2:00 PM Pranzo (Midday Meal)  Riposo (Rest)
  • 4:00 PM Orientation to Rome and Pilgrimage in the Hotel Chapel
  • 5:00 PM Meet in the lobby to begin a walking tour of Rome
  • 7:00 PM Cena (Evening meal) out at your own expense

Day 3

  • 6:30 AM Eucharist in Chapel
  • 7:00 Colazione (Breakfast)  
  • 7:45 Meet in lobby to proceed to St. Peter’s Square
  • 9:30 General Audience with Pope Francis Free time Pranzo out at personal expense
  • 1:00 PM Meet at the obelisk in St. Peter's Square and proceed to the Tiber Island
  • 2:00 Basilica of Saint Bartholomew on the Tiber Island Visit to the shrine of the contemporary martyrs
  • 3:00 Depart for Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood
  • 4:00 Historical visit of the Church of San Francesco a Ripa Taxis back to the hotel  
  • 7:30 Cena

    Day 4 Bags in lobby before going down to breakfast

    • 6:30 AM Colazione
    • 7:00 AM Bus leaves for Poggio Bustone
    • 9:00 Arrival at Poggio Bustone
    • 8:40 Piazza del Comune : Brief orientation to the city Proceed to the Cathedral of San Rufino
    • 12:00 Noon Prayer Ritual in the modern chapel Bus leaves for the town of Greccio Pranzo di Natalie (Christmas dinner) at Il Belvedere
    • 2:30 Bus leaves for Assisi
    • 4:00 Arrival in Assisi’s Piazza Matteotti Luggage transferred by taxi; proceed on foot to our Assisi home: Casa Papa Giiovanni
    • 6:00 Orientation to Assisi in Conference Rooom
    • 6:45 Meet in lobby to proceed to the Piazza Superiore di San Francesco
    • 7:30 PM Cena
    • 8:15 PM Rooftop discussion

    Day 5

  • 7:00 AM Morning Prayer on the Rooftop Garden
  • 7:30 Colazione
  • 8:30 Meet in front lobby to depart for Piazza del Comune
  • 9:30 Historical visit and Renewal of baptismal promises
  • 10:00 Proceed to the Chiesa Nuova / Historical visit. Proceed to the Basilica of St. Clare Prayer in the Chapel of the Crucifix and at the tomb of St. Clare
  • 1:00 PM Pranzo
  • 3:00 Depart for Santa Maria Maggiore Historical visit
  • 3:30 Eucharist with the Renunciation Ritual
  • 7:30 PM Cena
  • 8:15 PM Rooftop discussion
  • Day 6

    • 6:30 AM Colazione
    • 7:15 Taxis depart for the Porziuncola
    • 8:30 Eucharist in the Porziuncola Chapel.
    • 9:30 Historical visit of the Basilica and early convent
    • 11:30 Proceed to the grounds of Domus Pacis for your picnic lunch
    • 1:00 PM Proceed by public bus to the Shrine of Rivo Torto
    • 2:00 Prayer at the WWII Cemetery
    • 2:30 Taxis take the group to the Shrine of San Damiano. Historical visit with Healing Ritual. Return to Assisi Free time. Cena out at personal expense

    Day 7

  • 6:45 AM Colazione
  • 7:20 Depart for Parcheggio (Parking Lot) B
    Depart for St. John Lateran
  • 7:45 Bus leave for La Verna Arrival, Break Visit to the Sanctuary of the Stigmatal
    Walk to Coliseum
  • 11:30 Eucharist in the Chapel of St. Lawrence
    Personal time
  • 12:30 PM Pranzo in the Pilgrims’ Dining Room
  • 3:30 Bus leaves for return trip to Assisi
  • 07:30 Cena
  • 8:30 Rooftop discussions.
  • Day 8

    • 6:45 AM Colazione
    • 7:30 Depart for the Basilica of St. Francis
    • 8:00 Eucharist at the Tomb of St. Francis
    • 9:00 Historical visit to the Upper and Lower Basilicas
    • 1:00 PM Pranzo festivo
    • 2:00 Evaluation and Feedback, Free time, Cena out at personal expense

    Day 9

    • 5:00 AM Luggage in the front lobby, “Grab ‘n Go” breakfast, Proceed to Parcheggio B
    • 5:30 Bus leaves for Fiumicino Airport
    2019 May 23 - 31 - Nine Days
    Per person from USA. Includes airfare from New York City or Chicago (connecting flights not included) and all expenses except for a few meals. $2000 Although the cost of the pilgrimage is $3900 per person, we ask $1900 from veterans. Scholarships are available for Veterans only.
    Single Room +$350
    Spouse $3900

    The terrain in Assisi and Rome is uneven, making it difficult for handicapped mobility. "Barrier free" is not a description of Italy. People with physical handicaps will find the pilgrimage too difficult because of lack of accessibility.