Pilgrimage – A Journey Toward the Face of God, Pt. 7

Pt. 7: Among the Lions of Assisi

A lamb among lions on the steps of San Pietro, Assisi Photo: Patricia Enk
A lamb among lions on the steps of San Pietro, Assisi
Photo: Patricia Enk
Assisi, Photo: Patricia Enk

The peacefulness and beauty of the city of Assisi is legendary.  Around every corner there is an idyllic walkway, filled with flowers, ancient arches, and charming vignettes to beguile the pilgrim.  But there is danger beneath this serene facade. Assisi is filled with lions!  They are everywhere; in fountains, as sentries by stone walls, crouching at doorways.  The medieval city that was known to St. Francis and St. Clare, was built on pagan Roman ruins. Pagan temples and ruins are beneath the feet of pilgrims as they enter churches such as Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and San Rufino. But, the lions are out in the open, a symbol of the strength and power of ancient Rome and a silent reminder today of the persecution of Christians and the many martyrs who chose death rather than deny their faith.

Lion and Martyr, Church of San Rufino, Assisi Photo: Patricia Enk
Lion and Martyr, Church of San Rufino, Assisi
Photo: Patricia Enk

Before entering the Holy Door of San Rufino Church, one can’t help but to contemplate the lions at the center door; one is eating a lamb, the other gnawing on the face of a Christian–a graphic reminder of the ultimate blasphemy and goal of the evil one, which is to attempt to destroy the image of the Face of God in souls.

San Rufino, the first bishop of Assisi, was also a martyr, who died for the faith in 296.  Martyrdom is not, however, something from the distant past; it is tragically present in our world today in ever-increasing numbers. We were reminded of this fact as we stood in the long security line to enter St. Francis’s Basilica and other holy sites.  Armed soldiers were ever present, automatic weapons in hand, to try to maintain a peace; to protect the lambs from the lions.

Security in Assisi Photo: Patricia Enk
Security in Assisi
Photo: Patricia Enk

I have read many statistics on the number of Christians martyred: Seventy million since the time of Christ, most of them in the past century, an estimated “one every five minutes” according to a 2015 report by Christian Freedom International.  I don’t know how these statistics are gathered, but one need only turn on the evening news to see a new report of Christians being killed in the world.

In the face of so much suffering and persecution some may ask the question, “Where is your God?” Take another look at the photo at the top of the baby between the lions.  Although the baby and the viewer are perhaps unaware; the father’s loving presence is there–seen only in shadow.  We too, are often unaware of the Father’s loving presence and concern.  He has sent us, just as He sent His only Son, as a lamb among lions.


(to be continued in Rome: Pt. 8)

8 thoughts on “Pilgrimage – A Journey Toward the Face of God, Pt. 7

  1. Sarah September 6, 2016 / 10:54 am

    Wonderful post, Patricia.
    I’m so happy. I’m just about to fill out the registration form for my first pilgrimage. We’re primarily going to Lisieux. But I’m mentioning it here, in connection with your post, because we’ll also be going to Rouen, near where Father Jacques Hamel was recently martyred. Also, did you know that about 20 Orthodox Christians were killed in that terrible attack in Nice? They were all parishioners of the Russian cathedral there. There is a lot of Christian blood being spilled in France these days. It makes the threat that those lion statues represent seem far too close for comfort. It’s a good job we don’t go on pilgrimage to be comfortable. 🙂


    • patriciaenk September 6, 2016 / 11:14 am

      Thank you, Sarah. How wonderful to be going to Lisieux and also Rouen! I did not know that 20 Orthodox Christians were among those killed in Nice. I’ve often thought that if it is true that the blood of the martyrs are the seeds of Christianity, that many countries, like France, are due for a new awakening of the faith. I can’t wait to read about your pilgrimage when you go…like St. Therese, trusting in the Father’s Love, I wish you many blessings along the way!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sarah September 6, 2016 / 9:55 pm

        Thank you Patricia. I really appreciate your kind wishes.
        I don’t know whether I’m just more aware of these things now because I’ve only come into the Church recently but the Year of Mercy seems to have been much more dangerous for Christians than in recent decades. What do you think? Do you think there has been a genuine increase in violence against Christians or am I just more aware of the problem?


      • patriciaenk September 7, 2016 / 6:16 am

        Welcome, Sarah, into the Church. What a blessing for us to have such a talented new member! Yes, I would agree from the sources that I have read that persecution is increasing. There are not accurate statistics for countries in which persecution, imprisonment, enslavement and murder are the worst and have become the norm, however. Open Doors World Watch List has information on persecution for 2016 thus far, which are truly shocking. We actually receive news of a small percentage of incidents compared to the scope of what is going on worldwide. We’ll keep those brothers and sisters in Christ before His Holy Face in prayer. God bless you!


      • Sarah September 7, 2016 / 9:25 am

        Thanks for pointing me towards the Open Doors list. I’d never heard of it before. It’s eye-opening, thank you. I thought the Church suffered bad persecution in China but I suppose it’s more of an access/state control problem than threat to life. I was surprised to see that countries like India and Pakistan are much higher on the list. Very interesting. I will certainly be keeping the persecuted Church in my prayers.
        May God bless you also Patricia. Thank you for kind words.


  2. Lois Pilkenton September 6, 2016 / 11:56 am

    So interesting!  Did you notice the “dove” over the Dad & little boy?  Photos are really great!  


    • patriciaenk September 24, 2016 / 4:16 am

      Thank you, Sarah! I enjoyed the article very much and especially the photos of details that I missed when I was there. So many wonders to take in!

      Liked by 1 person

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