VATICAN CITY — On the feast of St. Francis of Assisi tomorrow, Pope Francis will be visiting the birthplace of his namesake and following in the saint’s footsteps.
For those who want to follow the all-day event Oct. 4 online, the papal schedule is below. The official liturgical booklet hasn’t been posted yet, but if it is, we’ll have it for you here.
Here is a general rundown of the pope’s rather packed itinerary:
7 a.m. (Rome time; 1 a.m. EDT) — Pope leaves the Vatican by helicopter.
7:45 a.m. — He lands in Assisi.
8 a.m. — Pope Francis meets with young people with severe disabilities at their church-run residence, “Serafico Institute.” He will deliver a short address.
9 a.m. — He will visit the Church of St. Damian in Assisi. This is the spot where the 13th-century Francis was praying in a crumbling church and heard Jesus speaking from the cross, telling him to repair the church. The saint carried out the work with his own hands. Pope Benedict XVI once said that “the ruinous state of that church was a symbol of the dramatic, disturbing situation of the entire church of that age with its superficial faith that did not form and transform people’s lives and with a clergy that was not zealous.”
9:30 a.m. — At the archbishop’s residence, the pope will meet with people receiving assistance from the local Caritas and give a speech. This meeting will be held in the famous room where St. Francis had removed all of his fine clothes, rejecting all material possessions and proclaiming he would follow only Christ.
10 a.m. — The pope will visit the Church of St. Mary Major.
10:20 a.m. — He will visit the Upper Basilica of St. Francis and the Crypt where he will venerate the tomb where the saint is buried.
11 a.m. — He will celebrate Mass in the square outside the Basilica of St. Francis and give the homily. Mass will be followed by a ceremony in the square offering oil for the votive lamp of St. Francis, patron saint of Italy.
1 p.m. — The pope will have lunch at the local Caritas soup kitchen with the city’s poor.
2:30 p.m. — He will visit the hillside Hermitage of the Prisons where the saint and his followers used to pray and meditate. The pope will pray in St. Francis’ cell.
3:15 p.m. — The pope will visit the “San Rufino” Cathedral, where Sts. Francis and Clare were baptized, to meet with clergy, religious men and women, and other representatives of the diocese. He will also make a speech.
4:15 p.m. — He will visit the Basilica of St. Clare and venerate her tomb, pray before the Crucifix of St. Damian, greet the cloistered nuns there and deliver a speech.
St. Clare was a companion of St. Francis and founder of the contemplative Poor Clares. Blessed John Paul II once said that the contemplation St. Clare practiced and invoked for the women who followed her did not lead to isolation but was focused on service, sharing, love and peace.
“It is an alternative proposal to the dissatisfaction and superficiality of the modern world, which often seems to have lost its identity because it no longer recognizes that it was created by the love of God,” the late pope had said.
5:30 p.m. — Pope Francis will pray at the Porziuncola, the stone chapel built by St. Francis of Assisi and his early followers more than 800 years ago.
5:45 p.m. — The pope will meet with young people from the region in the square in front of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. He will answer questions asked by four young people.
6:45 p.m. — He will visit the Sanctuary of Rivotorto, where St. Francis and his early followers first lived and visit St. Francis’ hovel, the “Turgurio.”
7:15 p.m. — The pope will leave by helicopter from Rivotorto for the Vatican.
8 p.m. — The pope arrives back at the Vatican.
What’s one thing we can expect from the pope’s visit? Well, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi said he invited Pope Francis to visit the city and his residence where St. Francis removed all his material possessions to free himself for God.
The bishop said he told the pope that it would be nice if he could be there and recite the “Our Father” as St. Francis had done eight centuries ago. The pope reportedly replied:
“The Our Father? But I want to talk about how the church should undress and somehow repeat that gesture Francis made and the values inherent in this gesture.”
If you want more background on why the pope chose the name Francis and how often some of his predecessors visited Assisi, this story tells you more. A total of 18 popes have visited Assisi since 1228.
Also, what did Pope Benedict think of St. Francis? Read our 2009 story about his visit to remember.