THE INDULGENCE OF PORZIUNCULA, “THE MOST SACRED PLACE OF FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALITY”

The Franciscans and Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi announced today, July 4 that Pope Francis will visit the Umbrian village on Thursday August 4. During the afternoon visit to the Porziuncola inside the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, the Pope will officially mark the 8th centenary of the event known as the Pardon of Assisi.”According to Vatican Radio, the papal trip to Assisi is being described as a private pilgrimage to the tiny chapel which St Francis built and where he founded the Franciscan order at the beginning of the 13th century.

The following is a story I did about the Porziuncula and the Pardon after a visit to Assisi.

THE INDULGENCE OF PORZIUNCULA, “THE MOST SACRED PLACE OF FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALITY”

The story of the “Pardon of Assisi” and the Indulgence of Porziuncula is a wonderful story, all the more so if you have a great love for the saint of Assisi or bear his name – Francis (my middle name is Frances).

That Porziuncula website tells us that a small abandoned chapel, situated in an area known in Latin as “Portiuncula” – which means “small piece of land” – was given by Benedictine monks to St. Francis who, having promised the abbot to make it the mother house of his new order, promptly restored it with his own hands.

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It was here that he came to understand his vocation clearly and here he founded the Order of the Friars Minor in 1209, entrusting it to the protection of the Virgin Mother of Christ, to whom the little church is dedicated.

One night in 1216, while Francis was immersed in prayer, a radiant light spread through the little church and he saw above the altar Christ and his Holy Mother, surrounded by a multitude of Angels. They asked him what he wanted for the salvation of souls. Francis’ reply was immediate; “I ask that all those persons who have repented and confessed their sins who will come to this church, may obtain a full and generous pardon, and a complete remission of all their faults.”

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“What you ask is very for is a very great favor,” the Lord said to him, “but of greater things you are worthy and greater things you shall have. I accept your prayer therefore on condition that you ask my vicar on earth, on my behalf, for this indulgence.” Francis immediately presented himself before Pope Honorius III who listened attentively to him and gave his approval. To the question “Francis, for how many years do you wish this indulgence?” the saint replied, “Holy Father, I am not asking for years but for souls.” On August 2, 1216, together with the bishops of Umbria, he happily announced to the people gathered at the Porziuncola, “My brothers and sisters, I want to send all of you to Paradise.”

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The great basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Holy Mary of the Angels), was constructed between 1569 and 1679 in accordance with the wishes of Pope St. Pius V, (1566-72), in order to contain the chapels of the Porziuncola, the original cell where Francis lived and died, the Rose Garden, and the Passing, as well as other places sacred to the memory of St. Francis, and to welcome the visitors from all around the world who came to visit them.

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The powerful earthquakes that struck Umbria in 1832 caused serious damage to the basilica. At the end of a long and complex restoration, directed by the architect, Luigi Poletti, it was reopened for religious celebrations on September 8, 1840. The façade was radically restructured by Cesare Bazzani, with the intention of conferring a majesty worthy of the importance of the Shrine. It was officially inaugurated on June 8, 1930 and an imposing gilded bronze statue of the Virgin Mary was placed on top of it.

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Upon entering the Porziuncola, one is immediately struck by the light and the colors of the Altar Screen of Prete Ilario da Viterbo (1393). The story of the Indulgence of Assisi is recounted in a series of five paintings: Francis throws himself amongst the thorns in order to overcome temptation; he is accompanied by two angels while going towards the Porziuncula;  he contemplates the apparition of Jesus and the Virgin and asks for the plenary indulgence; he asks for confirmation of this from the Pope and finally declares to all the great gift received from Christ and the Church.

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Millions of souls have crossed the threshold of the Porziuncula chapel’s “door to eternal life” and have knelt here in order to rediscover the peace and forgiveness of the great Indulgence. On the threshold of this little church are written the words “hic locus sanctus est,” this is a holy place, because God descended here to meet Francis and whoever enters here in faith.

The Chapel of the Passing is a simple stone building that served as the infirmary for the first friary. St. Francis passed the last days of his life here, and being placed naked on the bare earth, died here on the evening of October 3, 1226, after having composed the final verses of his Canticle of the Creatures:

“Praised be you my Lord, for our Sister Bodily Death from whom no living man can escape: woe to those who die in mortal sin; blessed are those whom she finds doing Your Most Holy Will, because the Second Death will do them no harm.”

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The Rose garden area of the Sanctuary is what remains of the old forest where the friars lived. Here the rose garden is situated amongst whose thorns Francis rolled himself one night in order to overcome doubt and temptation. According to a tradition, already attested to in the thirteenth century, the briars on contact with the Poor Man’s body turned into roses without thorns, and this is the origin of the “Rosa Canina Assisiensis,” which continues to flower only at the Porziuncola.

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TO OBTAIN THE INDULGENCE:

1) Visit the Sanctuary and say an Our Father and the Creed; 2) Make a sacramental Confession and receive Communion at Mass; 3) Say a prayer for the intentions of the Pope.

 

AWAITING THE PARDON OF ASSISI

AWAITING THE PARDON OF ASSISI

Just a few miles down the hill from Assisi, within the magnificent basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, is the famous Porziuncola, the very small church where St. Francis perceived his vocation in 1209. At the time, of course, only this little chapel, Porziuncola – meaning “little piece of land” – existed.

A side view of the Porziuncola.

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The basilica of Holy Mary of the Angels was built between 1569 and 1679 according to instructions of Pope St. Pius V who wanted the chapel of the Porziuncola, the Rose Garden, and the Chapel of the Passing where Francis died to be available to the faithful under one roof, one magnificent roof, that of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

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August 2 is one of the most important days of the year for the Porziuncola as it commemorates the famous Pardon of Assisi, also known as the Indulgence of Porziuncola that Francis received from Our Lord.

There is a three-day preparatory period of prayer that starts July 29.

But let’s first look back at the history of this miniature church. Legend says that hermits from the Valley of Josaphat in the Holy Land brought relics from the grave of the Blessed Virgin to Pope Liberius in the 4th century who then had this chapel erected to hold those relics. We are also told that this chapel became the property of St. Benedict in 516 and was called Our Lady of the Valley of Josaphat or of the Angels.

The chapel, after time, fell into disuse but eventually Francis restored it, having misunderstood the Lord when He spoke to him from the celebrated Cross of St. Damian and told him to “repair my Church.” Francis soon learned that the Lord meant to repair the Church from within, not physically restore it.

The Porziuncula – external and internal.

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Having prayed and meditated and discovered his vocation here in 1209, St. Francis founded the Friars Minor and eventually obtained the chapel from the Benedictines as a gift to be the center of his new Order.

Here, on March 28, 1211, Clare, the daughter of one Favarone di Offreduccio received the habit of the Poor Clares from Francis, thus instituting that Order.

And now we come to 1216 when St.Francis, in a vision, obtained what is know as the Pardon of Assisi or Indulgence of the Porziuncola (also written Portiuncula), approved by Pope Honorius III. This special day runs from Vespers on August 1 to sundown of August 2.

According to the official Porziuncola website, one night in 1216 Francis was immersed in prayer when suddenly the chapel was filled with a powerful light, and he saw Christ and His Holy Mother above the altar, surrounded by a multitude of angels.

They asked him what he wanted to be able to save souls and Francis’ answer was immediate: “I ask that all those who, having repented and confessed, will come to visit this church will obtain full and generous pardon with a complete remission of guilt.”

The Lord then said to Francis: “What you ask, Brother Francis, is great but you are worthy of greater things and greater things you will have. I thus accept your prayer, but on the understanding that you ask my vicar on earth, in my name, for this indulgence.”

Francis immediately went to Pope Honorius who listened attentively and gave his approval. To the question, “Francis, for how many years do you wish this indulgence?” the saint replied: “Holy Father, I do not ask for years, but for souls.”

And thus, on August 2, 1216, together with the bishops of Umbria, he announced to the people gathered at the Porziuncula: “My brothers, I want to send all of you to Heaven.”

Francis gathered his brother Franciscans here every year in a general chapter to discuss the Rule of the Order, to be renewed in their work and to awaken in themselves a new fervor in bringing the Gospel to the world.

Click here and you will see whatever the current live video is at Santa Maria degli Angeli or the basilica of St. Francis. Commentary and prayers in Italian: http://www.porziuncola.org/web-font-color=-c0a584-tv-font–4-1.html