The promise to St. Francisin the book by Luigi Antonio Greco a testimony of faith and hope
A true and current story. Of suffering and faith. That touches hearts deeply and opens them to hope. Luigi Antonio Greco wrote it in the book “The Promise to St. Francis”. It is the diary of a pilgrimage on the way of the Saint of Assisi, undertaken by grace received, which transforms into a spiritual, almost mystical change, with the conquest of inner harmony and deeper horizons of faith.
Rome, November 2020. Luigi Antonio Greco, 43, a carabiniere, discovers he is positive for Covid. He fears not for himself: he is young, healthy and will recover quickly. He fears for his children and above all for his wife Caterina, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. The whole family is infected. Caterina gets worse and is hospitalized. These are dramatic days. The husband, isolated at home with his children, is in the throes of despair, guilt and the most fatal thoughts. Italy is in lockdown, Covid is an unknown factor and having news of loved ones in the hospital is almost impossible. Luigi Antonio, a practicing Catholic, clings to prayer.
“It was my way of saying that God would be there – she writes – that he would take care of everything and that, even if I wasn’t physically in the hospital, he was there, next to her”. One day, while he is preparing a bag for his wife in the hospital, he finds an image of St. Francis in a drawer. It is a small slab carved in the shape of a parchment, coming from Assisi. “I took the image in my hand, turned it over, and asked Saint Francis to protect my wife and heal her. I also made him a vow: if Caterina returned home and was well, I would make a pilgrimage to thank and honor him. Then, I put the small image in the hospital bag”. After almost a month of treatment, Caterina returns home healed. For Luigi Antonio it is time to keep his promise.
It is a question of covering the 296 km that separate Assisi from Rome on foot, walking through the impervious paths of the Umbrian and Lazio Apennines, in the midst of wild and uncontaminated nature, in all weather and climatic conditions, retracing the path taken by St. centuries ago to go to Pope Innocent III. The venture requires meticulous preparation and planning.
Luigi Antonio’s physical, mental and spiritual preparation lasted almost a year. During which he has to overcome the aftermath of Covid, surgery and say goodbye to his father, who passed away while he is still recovering. He trains his body every day, with physical activity. And the spirit, with readings, prayers and meditations. He dedicates a lot of care to the selection of equipment: the choice of what to put in the backpack is in itself the metaphor of a spiritual journey that asks you to strip yourself of the superfluous, lighten your soul from the dross of everyday life and focus on the essential. Just like the poor man of Assisi.
Luigi Antonio leaves on 1 May 2022 by train for Assisi. From there, from the Upper Basilica, he will return to Rome on May 10, after traveling ten stages between historic villages and breathtaking landscapes, immersed in the solitude and silence of nature, with the sun or in the rain, sleeping and refreshed for a few hours a day in refuges, hostels and convents. On the way, small events, chance encounters and tests to be overcome lead the pilgrim along an itinerary of Franciscan spirituality, to meditate and reflect on the peace of peoples, on attention towards those who live in solitude, on the need for a new, more respectful of others and of Nature. When Luigi returns home he is a different person, with a new awareness of life, at peace with himself and with others, ready to bear witness to faith and hope in everyday life. And this too, after all, is a small great miracle.
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