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Saturday: 3:15 pm

Feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Portiuncula


The word Portiuncula means “little portion”.  Among Franciscans throughout the world, this word Portiuncula refers to the humble chapel outside of the town of Assisi which Francis of Assisi considered the cradle of  the Franciscan Order.  The chapel dedicated to St. Mary of the Angels was a Benedictine chapel; they generously gave that “small portion” of land to Francis and his followers.  Hence, the Portiuncula!  There Francis gathered with the early few followers to foster Franciscanism.  Later in the 16th century the small Portiuncula chapel was enclosed in a massive basilica, known as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels to this very day.  Franciscans celebrate this date of August 2nd as the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Basilica.  Francis himself so loved this chapel that he asked that his dying body be brought there where he died at sunset on October 3rd, 1224.  While the feast of the dedication of the Portiuncula is not celebrated by all Catholics, Franciscans celebrate the feast both in their friaries and parishes.  Mass will be Wednesday, August 2nd at 8:00 a.m. followed by coffee and sweet rolls in Heritage Hall for our Secular Franciscans and all others who can be at Mass here at St. Augustine that day.


Some reflections on the Portiuncula from an early biographer of Francis of Assisi

“The servant of God, Francis, an unassuming humble person, a man of no importance in his own opinion, while dwelling on earth chose for himself and his followers a small place.  Without this small place he would not have been able to render service to Christ in this world.  It was not, however, without some knowledge of the Scriptures that the place long ago was named Small Portion (Portiuncula), a place destined for those who desire to own nothing whatever of this world.  A church had been erected here to the honor of the Virgin Mother who because of her marvelous humility, second only to her Son, merited to be the first of all saints.  In this church the Order of Friars Minor had its beginning, and as the numbers increased a noble structure arose based so to speak on this solid foundation.


The saint had a special love for this place.  He commanded his friars to show it special reverence and wanted it kept for all times as a shining example of religious life in humility and the highest poverty.  He retained for himself and his friars only its use leaving the ownership to others.  Here the strictest religious discipline was observed in all things, in silence and in work as well as in the rest of the Rule’s prescriptions.  Those dwelling in the place were busy day and night in praising God; they lived an angelic life spreading a marvelous fragrance.


Although Francis realized that the kingdom of heaven is found in every dwelling on earth, and though he believed that heaven’s graces are imparted everywhere to God’s chosen ones, he had learned nevertheless that the church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula was filled with more abundant grace and visited more frequently by heavenly spirits.  Consequently he used to say to his friars:

‘See to it, my sons, that you never leave this place.  If you are driven out by one door return by the other for this is truly a holy place of God’s dwelling.  Here when we were few the Most High increased our number; here he enlightened the hearts of his poor with the light of his own wisdom; here he inflamed our wills with the fire of his love.  He who prays here with devout heart will obtain his request, and he who offends here will be punished more severely.  Therefore, my sons, consider the place of God’s dwelling worthy of all honor and will all your hearts, with loud cries of joy and thanksgiving praise the Lord in this place.’”


from the writings of Thomas of Celano, OFM (1200-1255)


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