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pellegrinaggio 01Preserving the relicsUnder the standard, Go to the land I will show you (Gen. 12, 1), more than 100,000 pilgrims came to the Aachen Cathedral to venerate the sacred relics kept there since the time of Charlemagne. History has it that Charlemagne was given the relics as a present from Jerusalem and these relics are removed from the golden Marienschrein in Aachen Cathedral once every seven years for a period of ten days. The relics, old cloth materials, are: Mary’s robe from the night on which Jesus was born, Christ’s swaddling clothes, the cloth in which John the Baptist's head was kept after he was beheaded, and the loin cloth Jesus wore on the cross.

The theme of pilgrimage was particularly fitting for my sabbatical: 10 years ago, I accepted the invitation to leave my country to go to a land which was unknown to me. Now I find myself setting out on a path towards a country that I certainly know, but which I want to rediscover through new eyes.

I arrived in Aachen with a pilgrim's heart, not questioning the scientific truth of the relics. I was grateful to the Congregation for the opportunity to be there, and to Sr. Katharina Maria for the invitation. She -- and all the other Sisters -- gave me a warm, thoughtful and fraternal welcome. The days I spent in Aachen were very intense and rich in supernatural presence. At every religious function, beginning at 7 am with Morning Prayer and ending at 10:00pm with Compline, all the pilgrims had an opportunity to venerate, touch, ask for favors, and receive blessings through these holy relics. How can we not think about the healing energy of Christ? How can we not feel the brilliant presence of Mother Frances who prayed before these relics in her lifetime?

pellegrinaggio 02Crowd of pilgrims in piazza Katschhof pellegrinaggio 03Mary's robe pellegrinaggio 044. Christ's swaddling clothes, the cloth in which John the Baptist's head was kept after he was beheaded and Jesus's loin cloth

All the external appearances: the solemnity of the celebration, the majesty of the music and songs, the beauty of flowers and art, were only a shadow of what actually happened in important these days: thousands of people came to Aachen, moved by a profound sense of faith and in need of healing were able to touch these concrete signs of our tradition. Aachen, along with Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago di Compostela, was considered in medieval times to be an important destination for pilgrims. This historic component added another dimension of holiness and created a common bond between us all.

The most precious times for me were the moments I spent with Mother Frances, sharing with her our intentions, an anointing I received almost by pellegrinaggio 05Assistance for pilgrimschance in the cathedral of St. Cornelius, and the exceptional opportunity on the last night to be one of 8 Sisters from various Congregations who attended to the preservation of relics in the Sacristy.

We shared many beautiful moments among the Sisters, such as a celebration of the 106th birthday of Sr. Gottburga, lunch at the Provincial House, a visit to Haus Damiano and another to museums that were celebrating 1200 years since the death of Charlemagne.

At the end of my time in Aachen, I can only say thank you for the opportunity to walk with so many who have made the Love of God, the ‘precious pearl’ of their own pilgrimage.


Sr. Tiziana Merletti, sfp

Published: September 22, 2014