Friday, August 1, 2014

Happy Feast of the Portiuncula--St. Francis' "Little Portion"

The Portiuncola Chapel, Santa Maria degli Ange...

"One day the gospel was being read in that church about how the Lord sent out his disciples to preach. The holy man of God, who was attending there, in order to understand the words of the gospel, humbly begged the priest after celebrating the solemnities of the Mass to explain the gospel to him. The priest explained it all to him thoroughly line by line. when e heard that Christ's disciples should not possess gold or silver or money, or carry on their journey a wallet or a sack, nor bread nor a staff, nor have shoes nor two tunics, but that they should preach the kingdom of God and penance, the holy man, Francis, immediately exulted in the spirit of God. "This is what I want," he said, "this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart."

It was also to the Portiuncula that Francis asked to be taken when he knew that his death was near. Thomas of Celano also records those events. "...For he wanted to give back his soul to God in that place where, as noted above, he first came to know perfectly the way of truth....After he had rested a few days in that place he so longed for, knowing the time of his death was close at hand, he called to him two brothers, his special sons, and told them to sing The Praises of the Lord with a loud voice and joyful spirit, rejoicing at his approaching death, or rather at the life that was so near."

Today the little chapel of Portiuncula is housed within a huge basilica. I've had the privilege of visiting there many years ago. It was an awesome experience to sit within this little chapel that seemed dwarfed within the massive structure of the basilica and to know that I was there--at this spot--that was the cradle of the Franciscan order! 

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