St. Francis Portiuncula Indulgence

portiuncula

The medieval town of Assisi sits on the top of a hill in Umbria, Italy. In the town square, young St. Francis removed his rich garments and embraced his life of Christ-like poverty.

On the plain at the bottom of the hill sits an ancient chapel. It honors Our Lady of the Angels. Was originally dedicated on August 2, shortly before Assumption Day. It was eight hundred years old at the time of St. Francis, eight hundred years ago.

The chapel languished in disrepair then. The Lord inspired St. Francis: “Repair My house!” So Francis and his companions renovated the little chapel and made it their home.

stfrancisAnyone been there? My dear mom, my late aunt, and I visited on November 16, 2008, along with a group of pilgrims. That was my third visit.

The Portiuncula now sits inside a large basilica. And they built replica portiunculas at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, and in downtown San Francisco, CA.

The Lord promised St. Francis that anyone who wants to honor Our Lady of the Angels and visits the Portiuncula—or visits any parish church, on the anniversary of the dedication of the Portiuncula—can gain a plenary indulgence.

You just have to recite the Creed, pray the Our Father, pray for the pope’s intentions, renounce all attachment to sin, and confess and receive Holy Communion sometime within the same fortnight.

A plenary indulgence helps a soul get to heaven. Either my own soul, or a soul in purgatory.

As Luther pointed out, selling indulgences involves the grave sin of simony. But obtaining an indulgence by praying and renouncing sin? Good to do.

Words of St. Francis

st_francis_receiving_stigmata-400

St. Francis’ brief Rule of Life contains sage advice:

I admonish and exhort the brothers that, in their preaching, their words be well chosen and chaste…speaking to the people of vices and virtues, punishment and glory in a discourse that is brief, because it was in a few words that the Lord preached when on earth.

Speaking of the Lord’s words: He sent out his 72 missionaries. The Rule of St. Francis quotes liberally from Christ’s missionary instructions. Since the Way of St. Francis consists simply in following them. Sell what you have, give it to the poor. And come follow Me.

“Carry no money bag.” “Wherever they welcome you, say ‘Peace to this household,’ and eat what is set before you.” Have nothing, except the Gospel. Live as heirs to the Kingdom of heaven.

St. Francis died 794 years ago yesterday. Among his dying words:

Above everything else, I want the most holy Sacrament to be honored and venerated.

Scenes from St. Louis’ City

The Mississippi rides high. Here’s the plaza in front of the great Arch:

Mississippi high at the Arch

Before they built the Arch, a statue of the patron saint represented the town, like in this old postcard:

Old StL postcard with King Louis statue

Here’s a closeup:

closeup of King Louis statue

The patron must be watching over the city. If he weren’t, I’m sure it would be even more ramshackle than it is.

(The locals here seem to find it impossible to believe that someone would visit their city, on purpose, during a vacation, without having to.)

…In the art museum they have a St. Francis memento mori (my favorite genre). Zurbaran painted it as part of a large altarpiece, but it makes quite an impression all by itself.

…Twenty-five years ago I had no time for pop art, or the sculptor Claes Oldenberg.

But now the everyday objects that he depicted in his sculptures don’t necessarily appear in everyday life anymore.

His three-way plug sculpture in Forest Park took me back to simpler days, and the house I grew up in, and the world before the internet (see below).

Speaking of which, the raging rivers I have seen on this drive reminded me of these lines, written by a St.-Louis native, T.S. Eliot:

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.

(from “The Dry Salvages” in Four Quartets)

Claes Oldenburg plug

The Holy Nation

The Virginia State Capitol, near VCU

Moses asked the people of Israel a question: “What great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”

When Moses asked this question, it was rhetorical. The Israelites knew the answer: “There is no such nation! The Lord has chosen us and made us a light to the Gentiles!”

Moses asked this rhetorical question some three and a half millennia ago. What would we say, if he posed the same question to us now?

What would we say if Moses asked us Catholics of Franklin County, Virginia, or the Catholics of whatever city or county: “What nation has so just a law as the Sacred Tradition entrusted to the Catholic Church?”

I guess we would say, “Well, we Catholics are proud, patriotic Americans. We thank God for the American rule of law, and we wouldn’t have things any other way.”

Fair answer. But: Is it enough for us Catholics just to blend in peacefully? Hasn’t the Lord given us something that no one else has–and aren’t we supposed to do something with it?

I don’t mean that we should be presumptuous. In many places, we are surrounded by good and gracious non-Catholic Christians who deserve our admiration. At Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount, we are no holier a motley crew of sinners than any other church community in these hills.

But, at the same time, we cannot deny our spiritual birthright. Our church is not one ‘denomination’ among many. Our parishes form tiny little branches of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, founded by Christ, governed by the successor of St. Peter, and endowed with a unique inheritance.

Our Catholic inheritance of spiritual, moral, intellectual, and artistic riches outstrips the patrimony of any other group of people on the face of the earth.

Franklin County has its proud heritage. Virginia has its proud heritage. Our Protestant brethren have their proud heritages. But: You could put Ben Franklin himself, with Jubal Early and Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, and Billy Graham—you could put them all together in the Virginia State House, or the front steps of Monticello, or in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, or in Westminster Abbey in London or Geneva or wherever—you could sit all those luminaries down in one grand room, and it would be a thoroughly impressive group.

But if St. Francis himself walked in, or St. Therese, or St. Thomas Aquinas, or Michelangelo, the whole group would be eclipsed. If St. Augustine walked in, or St. Paul, or St. Peter or John, or our Lady, all these luminaries would bow their heads in respect.

And then there is the Blessed Sacrament. Franklin County, Va., abounds with wonderful and beautiful things. But there is only one place between Roanoke and Martinsville where you can be in the same room as Jesus Christ Himself. There is only one tabernacle with a sanctuary lamp burning. Our non-Catholic neighbors, good as they are, would be better off if only they knew that Jesus is here with them in the Blessed Sacrament.

So…Are we Catholics humble sinners who presume to be no better than anyone else? Yes. But: If we take stock of all that the Lord has given to us, we have no choice but to shout out like the Israelites: “There is no nation on earth like ours!”

Pilgrims Slideshow

The computer gremlins have been conquered (for the time being). Here are a few snapshots from our trip…

In front of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi (Fr. White mommy on the far left)
In front of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi (Fr. White mommy on the far left)
With Archbishop Burke
With Archbishop Burke
In front of St. Peter's Basilica
In front of St. Peter's Basilica
In St. Peter's Basilica
In St. Peter's
On the roof of St. Peter's
On the roof of St. Peter's
Piazza Navona in Rome
Piazza Navona in Rome
At the Trevi Fountain
At the Trevi Fountain
The Intrepid Photographer
The Intrepid Photographer

Prayer Requests

Hotel Fontebella
Hotel Fontebella
Thank you for all the good wishes upon our arrival here. We have received the prayer requests. Count on our prayers.

This morning we had Holy Mass in the lower Basilica of St. Francis, just a few feet from his tomb.

Then we toured the upper and lower Basilicas, visiting St. Francis and admiring the beautiful frescoes, especially those by Giotto. We were guided by a local expert, with a son named Francesco.

We visited the nearby chapel of San Damiano, where St. Francis heard our Lord speak to him from the cross. Christ told St. Francis to “re-build my Church.” This is also the place where St. Clare lived her life as a nun and inaugurated the Poor Clare way of life. We visited the original Poor Clare convent.

paniniThen we visited the Basilica of St. Clare, where the saint rests in peaceful splendor, awaiting the resurrection. From there we walked to the town square, where there was an ancient Roman temple to the goddess of wisdom. Now the building is a church dedicated to our Lady.

Then it was time for a delicious Italian lunch.

Just to give you an idea of what a small world it truly is: By noon today (Assisi time, of course–six hours ahead of EST) I had already run into two priests I know.

Also, we all knew by breakfast about the unfortunate outcome yesterday evening in Washington. But we do not care, since we have bigger fish to fry. A pilgrimage can even put football into perspective.

…More to follow, hopefully with pictures.