When a pilgrim goes to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, he is given a pamphlet which reads, “An Encounter with St. Francis in Assisi.” This is what we will attempt to do in this chapter, introduce you to, and pray you experience such an encounter with the Poverello of Jesus, your heart will burn to learn more about him. There is so much to know about St. Francis that it’s impossible in this short chapter to tell it all. In addition, Francis touches everyone in a different way, as does Jesus. We believe that Francis was the closest human being on earth to mirror Jesus. Francis draws you like a magnet. That’s how he got to us. On our first pilgrimage to Europe and the Holy Land, a side trip was included to Assisi from Rome. It was our first time in Rome, we had only one day to spend there. We didn’t want to leave Rome; there was too much we hadn’t seen. So when our guide told us that the next morning, we would leave bright and early for Assisi, Penny and I thought to ourselves, in your dreams; we weren’t going. We would explore Rome on our own. But the morning came, and we found ourselves boarding a bus for the three and a half hour drive to Assisi.We only spent four hours in Assisi, and an hour and a half of that was lunch. So for all intents, we had two and a half hours in Assisi. There’s no way you can even begin to experience Assisi in that period of time. When the bus was ready to go back to Rome, we begged for more time. We didn’t want to leave! But we had to leave. On our way back to Rome, we vowed that if we ever got back to Assisi, we’d spend a day and a half there. As it turned out, we returned the following year. Our planned day and a half extended to a week, and still we didn’t want to leave. From that time, 1977, to this, we have visited Italy at least once a year, but for the most part, three or four times a year. We have never gone there and not spent at least two nights in Assisi, to bask in the illumination of St. Francis.We’ve been asked many times, and even began asking ourselves, “Why do you keep going back to Assisi?” Is it because of the beauty of the town, and its surrounding area, including Santa Maria degli Angeli, the home of the Portiuncola? There’s no question that it is truly God’s country, but there are many little towns in Europe that are beautiful. We believed then, and we do now, there is an air of Francis about Assisi, which has never left. His presence blankets the town. You can feel him everywhere you go, in the streets, in the churches, among the people, everywhere. And for a few years, we were content with that explanation, because it is true. But it’s only part of the reason. About ten years ago, while we were doing research on this unique Saint, we came across the reason we keep going back to Assisi. Francis instructed the brothers, “Come back to the Portiuncola at least once a year. The Spirit of Jesus and Mary are very strong here.” Yes, then we understood. The same Spirit and power that made Francis the exceptional Saint he is, has never left Assisi. That’s what we felt in the air, the blanket that covers this holy ground. It is the Spirit, Jesus and Mary. Praise the Lord.