Rome Assisi 2012

Day Seven/Eight, April 17th/18th

Day 7
Day 7 was a free day where people chose from different options. Jeff went to Florence with a group of 10 pilgrims, while a bus of pilgrims headed to Pompeii with Emily and several others stayed in Rome with Fr. Walsh.
Excursion to Pompeii
As we drove south along the Highway of the Sun, it became foggy and was a downpour by the time we reached Pompeii. It is one of the most important archeological sites in the world. Pompeii was completely buried in the year 79 AD by one of the most disastrous volcanic eruptions of all times by Mount Vesuvius. It was only in the 18th Century that systematic excavations began. Undaunted by the rain and with umbrellas in hand, we toured the streets of this well preserved city. From there we drove around the Bay of Naples to Sorrento for lunch which consisted of three delicious Neapolitan courses. The ride back to Rome was much clearer and we enjoyed the lovely scenery and abundant orange and lemon tree gardens.
Excursion to Florence
We will arrive in the heart of the city of Florence to visit the Galleria dell’ Accademia, where the original David by Michelangelo is kept, Next we visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with the magnificent dome projected by Brunelleschi. After lunch, we went to Piazza Santa Croce.that has the graves of Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini, Machiavelli.
Day 8
We started the day with mass at Santo Spirito in Sassia, a church near St. Peter’s Square. The church has a chapel with relics of St. Faustina and a chapel dedicated to Blessed John Paul II. From there it was a quick walk to the Papal Audience. We were blessed to be on the front row where we waited in anticipation for Pope Benedict XVI to make his entrance through the crowd on his pope mobile. We all were able to be within 10 feet of His Holiness! After his brief address in several languages he blessed us all.
Next we visited the Catacombs, the most famous Christian cemeteries along the Old Appian Way. It was in use from the 2nd  to 5th century AD. The decorations of the catacombs (carvings or paintings of symbolic motifs) are precious examples of early Christian art. Jeff gave a teaching on the mystery of suffering after the tour of the catacombs.
Lastly we visited the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Wall, one of Rome’s largest Churches. St. Paul’s was built on the spot where St. Paul was buried after his martyrdom in 67 AD.
We ended our wonderful pilgrimage with a farewell dinner at our hotel where we said our goodbyes.


Day Six, April 16th

We were very blessed with the opportunity to have mass right in front of St. Peter’s tomb in the Grotto area of St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world. The Basilica stands on the site of Nero’s circus where many Christians were martyred including St. Peter. Next we visited the Vatican Museums and saw its many treasures including countless marble sculptures, massive tapestries of scenes from the Bible and Church history and finally a long look at the Sistine Chapel, which was built in the 15th century as a private chapel for the Popes. There we viewed Michelangelo’s impressive frescoed ceiling and the fresco of the Last Judgment. We returned again to St. Peter’s Basilica to visit the famous white marble Pietà carved by Michelangelo at the age of twenty-five, We had a few moments to pray before the tomb of Blessed John Paul II. We ended the visit to St. Peter’s Square with a teaching by Jeff. Using the illustration of the Egyptian Obelisk of Augustus in the center of the Square, he contrasted the reign of Augustus to the Reign of Christ. Who do people come to worship in this place now? Caesar or Jesus Christ? The rest of the day was free for everyone to shop, relax or find a piazza or church to visit.


Day Five, April 15th

Today, on Divine Mercy Sunday, we were able to have mass at St. Mary of the Angels, a church designed by Michelangelo using the abandoned ruins of the Baths of Diocletian and transforming it into an amazing place for Christian worship. From there we began our walking tour through some of Rome’s most famous sights like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona which in antiquity was a stadium built by Domitian where many Christians were martyred. There is a statue of St. Agnes there. In the center of the piazza is the magnificent Fountain of Four Rivers sculpted by Bernini.

We ended up at St. Peter’s Square for a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI from his apartment window. After a break for lunch, we finished the afternoon with a trip to the Holy Staircase where we prayerfully ascended the stairs on our knees like millions of pilgrims before us. The Holy Staircase was brought to Rome from Jerusalem by St. Helena as it was understood to be the stairs upon which Jesus ascended when he was condemned to death by Pilate. It was a moving experience for many of us.

Day Four, April 14th

The day started early with a quick breakfast before boarding the bus to St. Mary Major, one of the four major Basilicas of Rome. There we celebrated mass. Christen Favorite, our cantor for the pilgrimage, sang the Ave Marie after communion. The acoustics of the church made her rendition spectacular. Next we visited another major basilica, St John’s in Lateran which has magnificent statues of the 12 Apostles.  At the church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, we saw the display of the fragments of the Holy Cross found in Jerusalem by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine.

We visited another amazing church, St. Praxedes, which houses the remains of many of the Christian martyrs of the early centuries.

In the afternoon we toured Imperial Rome, visiting the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. Emily taught on the connections between the two Holy Cities, Rome and Jerusalem. The tour concluded with a visit to the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Chains, where we saw one of the masterpieces of Michelangelo, the famous statues of Moses. Jeff had the special opportunity to meet with his longtime friend, Cardinal Burk, who lives in Rome. Cardinal Burke has always been an inspiration to Jeff.


Day Three, April 13th

This morning we left Assisi after breakfast and some cappuchino. We drove a few hours through Tuscany to Siena. Jeff and Father Walsh each had a time of teaching on the buses along the way. In Siena, Fr. Walsh taught about St. Catherine of Siena at St. Dominic's Church, where we had mass at the main altar. Next we had free time to get a bite to eat before taking a walking tour of Siena. We saw the amazing Gothic Cathedral on the highest point of the city and spent quite a bit of time gazing at the many paintings, sculptures and high ceilings. The Cathedral took 100 years to build but 500 years to decorate it inside and out. Next we walked to the main city square where twice a year they hold a horse race called the Palio.
We departed Siena and drove to Rome, arriving at our hotel for a late dinner.


Day Two, April 12

After a restful night’s sleep (for most of the pilgrims) and breakfast, we walked the short distance from our hotel to the Basilica of St. Mary of Angels for mass. Inside this huge church is the Porziuncola (a small church that was the headquarters for St. Francis and his order). Also located nearby within the large church is the Cappella del Transito where he died in 1226.

After mass, Jeff spoke about simplicity, explaining that it is not achieved by organizing our outer world, rather it comes by developing an inward relationship with Christ.

Next we walked through the picturesque old city of Assisi, visiting the Church of St. Clare, the main square and then to the Basilica of St. Francis, another huge church. This one is two levels, with the remains of St. Francis in a crypt below the church. The frescos on the walls depict the life of St. Francis and also the parallels between his life and Christ’s. After lunch and a bit of shopping, we visited the Hermitage, where St. Francis and his followers retreated to pray in solitude on the slopes of Mt. Subiaso. The main complex is built around the cave of St. Francis and was quite an experience for us to squeeze through the tiny doorways. We strolled through the woods along a path to a place where we stopped to meditate before returning to the hotel for dinner.

Day One, Arrival Day

Everyone landed safely in Rome where we boarded two buses headed for Orvieto, a town high on a hill that we reached by cable car. After lunch and wandering through the midaeval style streets, we experienced a wonderful mass at the Duomo, a magnificent Cathedral that houses the very first Eucahristic Miracle. The Blessed Sacrament is kept in a special chapel for veneration where we spent some time reflecting upon the real presence of Christ.

Mass was held below the chapel in a crypt that contains the bones of St. Felix, a martyr of the 3rd century.  From there we drove to Assisi for dinner and overnight. 

Join Us for Rome/Assisi Pilgrimage!

Details are now ready for our pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, April 10-19, 2012! We are looking forward to an amazing time on this pilgrimage, with time to reflect on the simplicity of the life of St. Francis and then to explore the roots of our Catholic faith in Rome. Fuller details can be found on the brochure itinerary.

Hightlights will include:
* daily mass
* on-site teachings by Jeff, Emily and Fr. Walsh 
* Pope Benedict XVI Papal Audience in St. Peter's Square
* reflection time in Assisi
* tour the catacombs, amazing churches, and historic Rome with optional travel to either Florence or Pompeii. 

Pricing and full details can be found on the registration form and the brochure. To reserve your spot, send your $500 deposit per person and regstration form along with a copy of your passport face page to Golden Eagle Travel & Tours, 21250 Excelsior Blvd, Excelsior, MN 55331.

Our spiritual director for this pilgrimage is Fr. Chris Walsh, who has accompanied us to the Holy Land last January. Fr. Walsh has a gift of communication, spiritual sensitivity and a servant's heart, reflecting the humility of St. Francis. He has been on several pilgrimages around the world as well, so we look forward to his assistance.


 We hope that you will be able to join us. Please feel free to call with any questions -- Emily at 763-420-1074 or email us at


God Bless--Jeff and Emily Cavins




Rome/Assisi in April of 2012


We are putting together the details for a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi the week after Easter in the spring of 2012. Dates will be finalized soon! We will post the brochure and registration form here when details are ready. We will be using Bonnie Lane of Golden Eagle Travel and our spiritual director will be Fr. Chris Walsh from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who also accompanied us to the Holy Land in January 2011. He has traveled to Rome several times and is a joy to be around.

The focus for this pilgrimage is on the simplicity of St. Francis and we will spend two nights in Assisi and of course be in Rome for the papal audience. We will have daily mass, teachings by Jeff and insights into history and archaeology by the guides and by Emily who just finished her degree from the University of Minnesota in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology (and that includes Rome!)

We will also send out an email blast to those on our previous pilgrimage lists. If you wish to be included on the mailing, send your name and email address to