Last week (November 3rd through November 10th), a group of faithful and faith-filled pilgrims traveled with us to Assisi in order to literally walk in the footsteps of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. For the tenth consecutive year, our pilgrims prayed at some of the holiest pilgrimage sites in Christendom: the Basilica of Saint Francis, the Basilica of Saint Clare, the Sanctuary at San Damiano (where Christ spoke to Francis and hastened his conversion), and the Sanctuary at La Verna (where Francis received the stigmata). Our pilgrims also prayed and celebrated Mass in the Porziuncola or “Little Portion.” This little church, dedicated to Our Lady of Angels, was among the churches repaired by Francis and served as the first permanent home of the Order of Friars Minor. More than eight hundred years later, the Porziuncola is considered the home church of the worldwide Franciscan movement.
The Porziuncola was much loved by Saint Francis and his first followers. Although Francis traveled the known world to preach and give witness to the Gospel, he returned often to this little chapel for prayer and renewal. During his lifetime, the Porziuncola was situated in a dense forest, approximately three miles below Assisi in the Spoleto Valley. It was peaceful, quiet, and far removed from the business and bustle of the walled city. Its floor was pounded dirt. Its roof may have been thatched. Its stone walls were unfinished and unadorned by sacred art. Its doors, left open to allow in the light also allowed in the elements of the seasons. Nevertheless, Francis and his brothers found inspiration within its walls and they shared that inspiration with believers throughout the world.
These days, it is difficult to imagine the Porziuncola as Francis knew it. For several centuries after the death and canonization of Saint Francis, the chapel was enlarged to accommodate growing numbers of both friars and pilgrims. But during the late sixteenth century, those additions were removed by Pope Pius V, who ordered the construction of a new papal basilica to house and protect the little chapel. The Porziuncola is now placed within the cavernous Basilica of Our Lady of Angels. This basilica was first consecrated in 1679, combines various forms of architecture (Baroque, Mannerist, and Neo-classical), and now features numerous side altars, chapels, and points of interest for pilgrims.
Given this grand environment, one can forget the simplicity of the Little Portion that Francis first rented from the Benedictines for an annual bucket of fish. But once one walks into the little chapel, squeezes into a choir stall, or is blessed enough to be invited into the sanctuary, it is possible to appreciate how much Francis loved this little church. One can imagine the peace, the quiet, and the sound of breezes rustling through the leaves outside. One can imagine Francis and his first followers kneeling in prayer on the dirt floor. One can imagine their heads bowed and their arms raised high toward the heavens. One can imagine their voices singing the Lord’s praises and begging for the intercession of Our Lady of Angels. It is in this spirit that we invite you to pray with us for our families, friends, and fellow parishioners, for the Church throughout the world, and for peace in our troubled times.
Prayer to Our Lady of Angels
O Virgin of Angels,
who has for centuries has established
your throne of mercy at the Porziuncola,
hear the prayer of your children
who trust in you.
From this truly holy place,
so dear to the heart of Saint Francis,
you have always invited all people to love.
Your tender eyes assure us
of a never failing motherly help
and a promise of divine help to all people
who humbly have returned to your throne;
or who from afar turn to you and ask for help.
You are indeed our sweet Queen and our hope.
O Lady of Angels,
obtain for us,
through the intercession of Saint Francis,
pardon for our sins.
Help us to avoid sin and indifference,
so that we will be worthy
of calling you our mother forever.
Bless our homes, our work, and our rest,
by giving us the same serenity
that Saint Francis experienced
within the walls of the Porziuncola,
where guilt, hate, and tears
turn into the songs of joy once sung by angels
and by our seraphic father Francis.
Help those who are in need and hungry,
those who are in danger of body and soul,
those who are sad and downhearted,
those who are sick and dying.
Bless us, your beloved children,
and bless also those who are innocent,
together with those who are guilty;
those who are faithful,
together with those who have gone astray;
and those who believe,
together with those who doubt.
Bless all of humanity,
so that all people,
acknowledging that they are God’s children,
would find through love
real peace and real good.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit that seeks to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Our mission is to serve the Church and to give witness to the Good News of Christ through formation and prayer, pilgrimage and retreat, and educating others about our way of life. In 2017, in celebration of our 10th anniversary year, we will lead our annual fall pilgrimage to Assisi; meet monthly for Mass, faith formation, and faith sharing; and offer adults several opportunities to experience a Franciscan days of prayer and reflection. For more information about the Assisi Project and upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. May the Lord give you peace!
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