Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Feast of Our Lady of the Angels and the Portiuncula Indulgence

This is a special feast to me and I'm sure to many around the world. A big congratulations (though they will not see this) to the postulants of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal who will be invested today! Oh happy day!

A little bit about the Portiuncula...
The Portiuncola is the place where Franciscanism developed, and where Saint Francis lived and died.

The chapel, of antique construction and venerated for the apparition of Angels within it, belonged to the Benedictine monks of Subasio. It was on a piece of land called "Portiuncula" and later, the name of the land passed to the little church itself.

It was abandoned for a long time and was restored by Saint Francis. It was here that he understood his vocation clearly and here that he founded the Order of the Friars Minor (1209) "establishing here his home", St. Bonaventure tells us, "because of his reverence for the angels, and of his great love of the Mother of Christ" to whom the little church was dedicated. The land and the Chapel were gifted to him by the Benedictines for making it the centre of his new religious family.

On 28 March, 1211 Clare, daughter of Favarone di Offreduccio received her religious habit here from the hands of Saint Francis and so initiated the Order of the Poor Clares.

In 1216, in a vision, St Francis obtained from Jesus himself the Indulgence of the Pardon of Assisi that was approved by Pope Honorius III. This plenary indulgence may ordinarily be gained on August 2 and 15; pilgrims may gain it once a year on any day of the year.

At the Porziuncola, that was and is the centre of the Franciscan Order, St Francis assembled all the Friars in the Chapter every year to discuss the Rule and to renew their dedication to the Gospel Life. (In 1909 St. Pius X elevated it to the rank of Patriarchal Basilica with Papal Chapel, likewise confirming its title of Head and Mother of the Whole Order of Friars Minor.) The Chapter of Mats (Stuoie) in 1221 was attended by more than 5000 friars.

Here he began and grew in his religious life; here he founded the Franciscan Order; here he manifested his love and great devotion to the Mother of God. When Francis knew he was dying, he requested to be brought to the Portiuncula to end his earthly life.

The Porziuncola is situated now inside the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in the town of the same name around 5 km from Assisi.

As we honor Our Lady of the Angels, may we find inspiration for our own growth and development in the Gospel way of life that Saint Francis embraced and lived so completly.

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Portiuncula Indulgence

The first written document we have regarding this indulgence is dated October 31, 1277, some sixty years after the indulgence is said to have been granted. As a result, many different accounts have come down to us purporting to relate the vision of St. Francis and the way in which the Pope consented to grant this indulgence.

One time when Francis was kneeling in prayer before the image of Our Lady, he seemed to behold men and women from every corner of the world converging upon this obscure little chapel in the Umbrian forest. He had been praying for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind when suddenly the dark interior seemed illumined by the light of a million candles. Jesus and Mary appeared in the midst of a dazzling cloud of angels, and he heard a voice that fell like music on his soul, "What do you wish me to do to help poor sinners?" Francis hardly knew how to answer, but suddenly the words came tumbling out and he asked the Lord to grant a full pardon to all who came to visit the church of Portiuncula and made a good confession. It then seemed that Jesus was in favor of this. He turned smilingly to His Mother and she, in turn, nodded to St. Francis and smiled.

Typical of the saint's impetuosity and generosity of soul, he marched off to see the Pope and beg from him the coveted indulgence. The reigning Holy Father, Honorius III, was literally dumbfounded at the request to grant such a generous indulgence. At that time, the summer of 1216, plenary indulgences were rarely granted by the Church. The plenary indulgences that had been granted were given to those fighting men who took up the cross and the sword and went as crusaders to the Holy Land. Later, this hard won indulgence was extended to those who remained at home but helped the Crusaders in supplying men and alms.

Francis, however, was not to be refused. The Lord Himself had promised him, and the Roman Curia was bound to relent! The Pope finally yielded and left it to the astonished cardinals to limit the application of the new indulgence. The date set was from vespers of the first of August until sundown on the second. It is said that Francis chose this date because the feast of the Chains of St. Peter (his release from prison) is celebrated on the first of August, and Francis felt that sinners should also be freed from the chains of their sins on the day following this great feast. Furthermore, this date was the anniversary of the consecration of the Portiuncula chapel.

As Francis took his leave of the Holy Father, after obtaining the unprecedented privilege, the Pope is said to have asked if he did not wish some document to prove that his request had been officially granted. With characteristic Franciscan lightheartedness came the saint's reply: "I need nothing more than your word. Our Lady is the parchment, Christ the notary, and the angels our witnesses!"

When the first great August first arrived, seven bishops gathered in the little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels to dedicate it as "Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncula." And St. Francis, overjoyed, cried out to the crowd that overflowed the narrow building, "I want to make all of you go to heaven!"

But at the time there seemed something almost scandalous in this indulgence, and conservative prelates did little to make it known. In St. Francis' own lifetime the Portiuncula Indulgence was enjoyed by comparatively few Christians. Travel and communications were slow, and not even such good news as a plenary indulgence could travel swiftly over the mud-choked trails that passed for roads in thirteenth-century Europe. Later, of course, the indulgence was extended to all Franciscan churches on August first and second.

CONDITIONS TO OBTAIN
THE PLENARY INDULGENCE
OF THE FORGIVENESS OF ASSISI
(for oneself or for a departed soul)

* Sacramental Confession to be in God's grace
(during the eight days before or after);
* Participation in the Holy Mass and Eucharist.
* Visit to a Catholic Church, followed by PROFESSION OF FAITH, in order to reaffirm one's own Christian identity;
* Say the OUR FATHER, in order to reaffirm the dignity as child of God that one received in Baptism;
* A prayer for the Pope's intention, in order to reaffirm one's membership in the Church, of which the Roman Pontiff is the foundation and sign of visible unity.


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The following is an excerpt from: the Major Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure.
"The Portiuncula was an old church dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God which was abandoned . Francis had great devotion to the Queen of the world and when he saw that the church was deserted, he began to live there constantly in order to repair it. He heard that the Angels often visited it, so that it was called Saint Mary of the Angels, and he decided to stay there permanently out of reverence for the angels and love for the Mother of Christ.

He loved this spot more than any other in the world. It was here he began his religious life in a very small way; it is here he came to a happy end. When he was dying, he commended this spot above all others to the friars, because it was most dear to the Blessed Virgin.

This was the place where Saint Francis founded his Order by divine inspiration and it was divine providence which led him to repair three churches before he founded the Order and began to preach the Gospel.

This meant that he progressed from material things to more spiritual achievements, from lesser to greater, in due order, and it gave a prophetic indication of what he would accomplish later.

As he was living there by the church of Our Lady, Francis prayed to her who had conceived the Word, full of grace and truth, begging her insistently and with tears to become his advocate. Then he was granted the true spirit of the Gospel by the intercession of the Mother of mercy and he brought it to fruition.

He embraced the Mother of Our Lord Jesus with indescribable love because, as he said, it was she who made the Lord of majesty our brother, and through her we found mercy. After Christ, he put all his trust in her and took her as his patroness for himself and his friars."

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Our Lady Queen of Angels
By: William Adolphe Bougereau

Prayer to Our Lady of the Angels

You are fair, O Mary,
And the stain of original sin is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem;
You are the joy of Israel;
You are the honor of our people;
You are the advocate of sinners, O Mary

Our Lady of the Angels,
Virgin most prudent,
Mother Most loving,
Pray for us,
Intercede for us with Jesus Christ our Lord.
(mention your request)
AMEN.


Prayer for Faith, Grace and the Intercession
of Our Lady of the Angels

Heavenly Father, you filled the heart
of St. Francis with a special love
for the Mother of Your Son, Jesus,
and for the Portiuncula.

In this hallowed place you nourished
his spiritual life and inspired him
to found the Franciscan Order.

Through the intercession of Our Lady
of the Angels may we be steadfast
in our faith and remain true to You.

Grant us the faith and grace always to do Your will.
Grant this through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
AMEN.


Salutation Of The Blessed Virgin
(by Saint Francis of Assisi)

Hail Holy Lady most holy Queen,
Mary Mother of God.
Chosen by the Father in heaven
consecrated by Him.
With His most beloved Son and
Holy Spirit comforter,
On you descended and still remains
fullness of grace
And every good.

Hail His palace and His robe,
Mary Mother of God.
Hail His handmaid lowely and pure,
Loving servant of the Lord.
Hail holy virtues given by God
to all the faithful in the world,
So that no longer we faithless be,
And may become the
servants of the Lord.
AMEN.


Mary We Turn To You For Protection

We turn to you for protection,
holy Mother of God.

Listen to our prayers
and help us in our needs.
(mention your special request)
Save us from every danger,
glorious and blessed Virgin.
AMEN.


One more prayer...
O Virgin of the Angels, who has for centuries
established your throne of mercy at the
Porziuncula, hear the prayer of your children,
who trust in you. From this truly holy place and
the habitation of the Lord, so dear to the heart
of saint Francis, you have always invited all men
to love.

Your tender eyes assure us of a never failing
motherly help and a promise of divine help to
all those who humbly have recourse to your th-
rone, or who from afar, turn to you to ask for
help.

You are, indeed, our sweet Queen and our
only hope.

O Lady of the Angels, obtain for us, through
the intercession of blessed Francis, pardon for
our sins, help us to keep away from sin and indifference,
so that we shall be worthy of calling you our Mother for evermore.

Bless our homes, our toil and our rest, by
giving us that same serenity we experience
within the walls of the Porziuncula, where hate,
guilt and tears turn into a song of joy like that
once was sung by the Angels and the seraphic 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 most beloved children, and, we
pray you, bless also with the same motherly
gesture, all those who are innocent, together
with those are guilty; those who are faithful,
together with those who have gone astray;
those who believe, together with those who are
in doubt. Bless all humanity, so that all men
acknowledging that they are God's children,
would find through love, real Peace and real Good.

Amen.

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