I first visited Assisi on a Franciscan study pilgrimage in the summer of 1982. As our bus was pulling into the city, one of the group leaders said to all of us, "Welcome home!" Most of us had never been to Assisi, but immediately we felt that we were at home. In the next two weeks, we felt that even more strongly.
As I prepare to leave the United States on Monday for a celebration that begins on Wednesday, I feel that I am leaving home in one sense and returning home in another. Assisi is home to the Franciscan family, which had a friar in China within 70 years of Francis' death!
P.S. The photo above was shot after this message was posted. The church is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels; it houses the Portiuncula chapter which St. Francis had rebuilt by 1209. In a sense, it is the birthplace of the Order of Friars Minor. Inside this basilica is a second small chapel, built over the place where St. Francis died after sundown on October 3, 1226.