The small Church of St. Francesco, around which was raised the Basilica of St. Maria degli Angeli near Assisi.
“hic locus sanctus est”
The little church Porziuncola was the reference point throughout the life of Francis and his fraternity. When the saint came here in early 1200, the church dedicated to the Virgin was surrounded by a forest of oaks and lay in a state of total abandonment. Francis fled with his hands. It was in this chapel that went down in his heart burning with youthful enthusiasm, still restless and searching, that word on fire of Christ that finally pulled him out from the world and things before, pushing him bravely and enthusiastically to the way of the Gospel. It was February 24, 1208, when at Francis happened what in the third century had already happened to St. Anthony of Egypt: he heard, during a liturgical celebration, the Gospel of the Twelve called by the Lord, who entrusted them with the task of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and to begin on journey to this end, without worldly possessions and securities (Matthew 10,5-15). Francis initially did not understand at all that text, the priest explained it and then he had the revelation of his future mission and took out the ultimate life choice. Here clearly understood his vocation and founded the Order of Friars Minor (1209), “setting his home here – says St. Bonaventure in the “Major Key” – which had to bow to the angels and the great love of the Mother Christ “(Leg. Maj. III, 1), where the church was dedicated. He put down his shoes and rich garments, put on a robe roughest shaped as a cross, and began to proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God and repentance. Everyone began to unravel in words burning the precious treasure that was finally discovered and that was filling the heart of an unknown and uncontainable joy: Christ the Lord!
Around him gathered gradually companions who, like the Twelve, began to turn to go from place to place and to proclaim the Gospel that, to them, like for Francis, it meant joy for that new beginning, joy for the change that had occurred in their lives, for the courage of penance. In 1209 obtained by the Benedictine monks of St. Benedict of Subasio – owners of that place – the use of the surrounding area still forested and uncultivated, together with the chapel. The saint had indeed addressed the monks Subasio driven by finding a small church and a small and humble abode for his companions whose number was growing day by day. Was still in this holy place, on the night of Sunday of Palm tree,s between 27 and 28 March 1211, Clare of Assisi, the noble damsel Favarone of Offreduccio, fled from his father’s house, received from the Saint the Holy habit and beginning the female branch of the religious Order (Order of Poor Clares), called to give inner support to the Gospel task through prayer. Here, in a night of grace and light of July 1216, in a vision, Francis obtained from Jesus himself the indulgence of the “Forgiveness of Assisi”, which was approved by Pope Honorius III and obtainable by the faithfuls every day throughout the year. At the Porziuncola, Francis parade every year his brothers in Chapters (general assemblies), to discuss the Rule and it turns back at new fervour. Famous is the “Chapter of Mats” in which took part more than five thousand monks (1221), from all parts of Europe. It was from here that he spread throughout his brothers as missionaries of peace to people of all the earth, for the spiritual conquest of the world; was here that he wanted to be reported, when he felt close to death, in the last days, of September 1226, “where at beginning had received the spirit of grace, there had also rendered to God the spirit of life” . Also here, finally, piously Francis died, lying on the bare earth, at sunset on October 3, 1226, upholding the death singing. After the death of Francis, the spiritual value of the Porziuncola became even more intense. By him referred to as a primary source of inspiration and model for all followers, the Porziuncola remained the most authentic witness of life and message of Francis. The Porziuncola becomes a privileged place of the Franciscan memories as to protect life and history of the Saint of Assisi, making it alive and present the message of faith.
As was neglected the Porziuncola, such was the state of the Church of San Damiano, where the Poor at the beginning of its cycle of spiritual change, entered. Viewing the Church placed in the gently sloping hill of Assisi, wanted to enter and pray. In front the crucifix began his prayer to the Lord. Gushed from the mouth of Christ these words: “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is in ruins”. He obeyed, thinking of restoring the neglected church. Later he will understand that the Lord entrusted him a task much higher regarding the universal Church.
The Rose garden
In a table placed upon the altar of the Porziuncola is painted St. Francis kneeling amid a tangle of thorns. Here the Holy rolled to overcome doubt and temptation. According to tradition, the brambles changed into roses without thorns, giving rise to the “Rose Dog Assisiensis”, which still continues to flourish in the Porziuncola and is the only example of rose dog not have thorns. Near the Church of the Basilica of St. Maria degli Angeli, in fact, there is the Rose Garden. This area of the sanctuary is what remains of the forest where the brothers dwelt.
LEGEND of Perugia, FF 1568
While Francis was staying at the place of the Porziuncola, was attacked for the sake of his spirit from a grave temptation. Inwardly and outwardly he was severely disturbed, so that sometimes escaped the company of brothers because, overwhelmed by the torture, he could not show them in his usual serenity. He mortified, abstained from food and conversation. Interned often to pray in the wood that lay near the church, to give vent to the anguish and the tears in the presence of the Lord, so God, that can do everything, it is worthy of heaven-sent his medicine at so violent suffering. And for over two years was tormented day and night from temptation.
It happened one day while praying in the church of Porziuncola, he was said in spirit the word of the Gospel: “If you had a great faith like a mustard seed, and say to that mountain of transport from one place to another, would be so”. Francesco asked: “And what is that mountain?”. He was told: “The mountain is your temptation”. Francesco replied: “Well, Lord, be done to me according to your word”. It was instantly released, so he thought he had never suffered that temptation.
THE PARDON OF ASSISI
“haec est porta vitae aeternae”
What made it known throughout the world Porziuncola is especially singular privilege of Indulgence, which goes by the name of “Pardon of Assisi,” and that more than seven centuries converges towards it hordes of pilgrims. Millions and millions of souls have passed through this “door of eternal life” and they prostrate here to find peace and forgiveness in the great indulgence of Porziuncola, whose feast is celebrated on August 2 (“Day of Pardon”).
The most important religious aspect of “Pardon of Assisi” is the great spiritual value for the faithfuls, encouraged to enjoy the benefits, for confession and Holy Communion. Confession, preceded and accompanied by contrition for sins committed and commitment to mend their evil for moving further to the state of evangelical life lived by Francis and Clare, status initiated by both at the Porziuncola. The event of Porziuncola Forgiveness is a manifestation of the infinite mercy of God and a sign of apostolic zeal of Francis of Assisi.
HOW SAN FRANCISCO ASKED AND OBTAINED THE INDULGENCE OF FORGIVENESS
One night of the year of Lord 1216, Francis was immersed in prayer and contemplation of the church in Portiuncula, when suddenly swept into the church a vivid light and Francis saw upon the altar Christ, dressed of light and at the right his Blessed Mother surrounded by a multitude of Angels. Francis worshiped in silence with his face to earth his Lord! Then they asked what his desire for the salvation of souls. The Francis response was immediate: “Holy Father, although I am wretched and sinful, I pray that all those whom, repented and confessed, will visit this church, give full and generous forgiveness, with a complete remission of all sins”. “What you ask, Brother Francis, is great – God said – but most things you are worthy and more shall have. I therefore admit your prayer, but only if you ask my vicar on earth from me this indulgence”. And Francis appeared to Pope Honorius III, who was in those days in Perugia and candidly told the vision he had. The Pope listened carefully and after some difficulty gave his approval. Then he said: “For how many years you want this indulgence?”. Francis clicking replied: “Holy Father, do not wonder years, but souls”. And happy he walked toward the door, but the Pope called him: “What, you do not want any documents?”. And Francis: “Holy Father, your word is enough for me! If this indulgence is the work of God, He will think to show his work, I do not need any document, paper must be the Blessed Virgin Mary, Christ notary and witnesses Angels”. And a few days later along with the Bishops of Umbria, the people agreed to Portiuncula, said through tears: “My brothers, I send you all in Heaven.”
(From “The Diploma Theobald, FF 3391-3397)
CONDITIONS FOR RECEIVING A PLENARY INDULGENCE OF FORGIVENESS OF ASSISI (FOR THEMSELVES OR FOR A DEFUNCT).
This indulgence is obtainable for himself or for the souls in Purgatory, by all the faithfuls every day, once a day, throughout all the year in that holy place and, for once, from noon to 1 August to midnight of the following day (or with the consent of the local Ordinary, the Sunday before or after, from noon Saturday until midnight Sunday), for who visit a Franciscan church or any other minor basilica or cathedral or parish church.
The conditions to receive forgiveness are those prescribed for all plenary indulgences, namely:
– Sacramental confession to be in the sake of God (in the eight days preceding or following);
– Attendance at Mass and Holy Communion;
– Visit the church Porziuncola (or another Franciscan church or Parish church), to recite some prayers. In particular:
– The Credo, to reaffirm own Christian identity;
– The Paternoster, to reassert own dignity as children of God, received in Baptism;
– a prayer for the Pope’s intentions (e.g. Paternoster, Hail Mary, Glory), to reaffirm own belonging to the Church, whose foundation and visible center of unity is the Roman Pontiff.
By will Francis