The Portiuncola, Assisi
The Portiuncola (PORZIONCULA, PORTIUNCULA, or PORZIUNCOLA)
According to a legend, the existence of which can be traced back with certainty only to 1645, the little chapel of the Portiuncola was erected under Pope Liberius (352-66) by hermits from the Valley of Josaphat, who had brought thither relics from the grave of the Blessed Virgin. The same legend relates that the chapel passed into the possession of St. Benedict in 516. It was known as Our Lady of the Valley of Josaphat or of the Angels — the latter title referring, according to some, to Our Lady’s ascent into heaven accompanied by angels on the Solemnity of the Assumption. However, a better founded opinion attributes the name to the singing of angels which had been frequently heard there.
The Portiuncola today is in the “frazione” of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the city of Assisi, located about three-quarters of a mile from the center of the city. The frazione, numbering about 2000 inhabitants, has grown up around the basilica of Our Lady of the Angels and the adjoining Franciscan monastery.
In the early 1200’s, when St. Francis was repairing the small Portiuncola chapel, the basilica which now encloses the chapel was non-existent. The humble Portiuncola was surrounded by the dense woods which covered the plain of Assisi.
FRANCIS’S CONNECTION WITH THE CHAPEL
Francis, who had previously repaired the chapels of San Damiano and San Pietro della Spina, was enraptured by the Portiuncola, a nick name which means “the little portion.” He loved its formal name–Santa Maria degli Angeli (Our Lady of the Angels), its poverty reflective in its nick name, its isolation and silence, and its proximity to the leper hospitals where he tended the pitiable residents.
On February 24, 1208, the Feast of St. Matthias, while hearing Mass at the Portiuncola, St. Francis of Assisi recognized his vocation in the day’s Gospel. Preach the Gospel. Take nothing for the journey. Stay with those who are worthy in the towns you visit.
Francis made the Portiuncola the headquarters of his Order while refusing to accept ownership of it from the Benedictines. Francis settled on presenting the Benedictines a yearly rent of a basket of fish, thereby feeling comfortable about using the chapel and the huts the friars built around it.
On October 3, 1226, after blessing his friars and asking to be laid naked on the ground so as to come to the Father in utter destitution, Francis died at the Portiuncola after recommending the chapel to the faithful protection and care of his brethren.
THE PORTIUNCOLA INDULGENCE
The Portiuncola Indulgence is a special favor granted by the Pope to St. Francis at his request.
One night in 1216, Francis awoke and felt a strong impulse to enter the chapel of the Portiuncola and pray. While at prayer, Our Lord and Our Lady appeared to Francis and asked him what he desired. Thinking of others and recognizing his own sinfulness, Francis spoke. “0 God, although I am a great sinner, I beseech You to grant a full pardon of all sins to all who, having repented and confessed their sins, shall visit this church.”
Our Lord answered, “Francis, you ask much, but you are worthy of greater things, and greater things you shall have.”
The Lord granted the Indulgence and Pope Honorius III ratified it. Originally the Indulgence was attached only to the Porticuncola. However, subsequent Popes expanded the churches in which the Indulgence can be gained.
THE PORTIUNCOLA INDULGENCE TODAY
The Indulgence, if the person gaining it is free from every sin including venial sin, remits all the temporal punishment due to sin and may be applied to the person himself or herself or to a soul in Purgatory. If there is any adherence to sin in the person gaining the Indulgence, the Indulgence becomes partial.
The Indulgence may now be gained in any basilica, cathedral, or parish church on August 2. The person wishing to gain the Indulgence must fulfill the following requirements:
a. Intend to gain the Indulgence
b. Be detached from all sin
c. While in the church pray one Our Father, one Apostle’s Creed, and one other prayer of the individual’s choice
d. Pray for the intentions of the Pope (prayerfully saying an Our Father and a Hail Mary will suffice although other prayers may be said)
e. Receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist within one week either before or after August 2.
May we all take advantage of the graces afforded by this Indulgence.