Blessed feast of Our Lady Queen of Angels! If you are ever in Assisi, you will be met with a peculiar sight upon entering the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, nestled at the foot of the hill upon which the old medieval town of Assisi stands. There is a little chapel inside the basilica, right in front of the sanctuary. At the base you can see that it is made of humble brick, but it is crowned with marvelous golden frescoes.
It is called the Porziuncola (Italian) or Portiuncula (Latin), meaning “little portion”. This was the third chapel which Saint Francis rebuilt with his own hands, after hearing God say, “Francis, rebuild My church which you see is falling into ruin.” It was an abandoned Benedictine chapel in the valley beneath Assisi, called the porciúncula because of the small plot of land connected to the chapel.
After Pope Innocent III gave Francis permission to form a religious order, the first order of friars in the world, Francis and the first Franciscan brothers took up residence at the porciúncula in 1209, reviving it as a place of prayer and meditation. The official name of the chapel was “Our Lady Queen of the Angels.” It is from this very chapel that the great city of Los Angeles obtained its name. The original name of the Franciscan mission around which the city grew was “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula” (“The City of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the little Portion”).
The Franciscans identify the Porziuncola as their spiritual home, because this is the place where their order was born. It was also here that Saint Clare professed her vows on Palm Sunday in 1212, and where St. Francis died on October 3, 1226. To the right, beyond the chapel, is the room where Il Poverello, the “Poor Man” of Assisi passed away after a life dedicated to rebuilding God’s Church in every human heart he touched.
According to Franciscan tradition, in 1216 St. Francis had a vision of Jesus and Mary, who granted that anyone who prayed in his little chapel on August 2 would be freed of the temporal punishment due to their sins. Francis petitioned Pope Honorius III to recognize this indulgence. Pope Sixtus IV expanded the indulgence to include any church administered by the Order of Friars Minor, and now the indulgence is offered to anyone who fulfills the obligations in any church.
Francis’ vision of Our Lord and Our Lady is commemorated in the fresco “The Pardon of Assisi” on the front of the Porziuncola, by German painter Johann Friedrich Overbeck. At the base of the altar depicted in this fresco are the Latin words Haec est porta vitae aeternae (“This is the gate to eternal life”).
A replica of the Porziuncola can be found in Massachusetts, where Cardinal Richard Cushing commissioned a stonemason trained in the Italian tradition.
To obtain the Portiuncula plenary indulgence, a person must visit the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels at Assisi, or a Franciscan sanctuary, or one’s parish church, with the intention of honoring Our Lady of the Angels. Then perform the work of reciting the Creed and Our Father and pray for the Pope’s designated intentions. You should be free, at least intentionally, of attachment to venial and mortal sin, and truly repentant. Make your sacramental confession 8 days before or after. Participate/assist at Mass and receive Holy Communion 8 days before or after.
~ Fr. Z’s Blog
Prayers to Our Lady by St. Francis of Assisi
Hail, Lady and Queen,
holy Mary, Mother of God,
Virgin who became the Church,
chosen by the Father in heaven,
consecrated by His beloved Son
and His Spirit, the Comforter:
in you was and remains,
the whole fullness of grace
and everything that is good.
Hail, His palace,
hail, His tabernacle,
hail, His dwelling,
hail, His robe,
hail, His handmaid,
hail, His mother!
O holy Mother,
sweet and fair to see,
for us beseech the King,
your dearest Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
to death for us delivered:
that in His pitying clemency,
and by virtue of His most holy incarnation
and bitter death,
He may pardon our sins.
Holy Virgin Mary,
among all the women of the world,
there is none like you.
You are the daughter and handmaid of the most high King,
Father of Heaven.
You are the mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ.
You are the bride of the Holy Spirit.
Pray for us, with St. Michael the Archangel,
and all the powers of Heaven
and all the saints,
to your most holy and beloved Son,
our Lord and Master, Amen.
O Virgin of the Angels,
who has for centuries established your throne of mercy at the Portiuncula,
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 throne,
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 Portiuncula,
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 who 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.
Featured image: Portiuncula in Santa Maria degli Angeli / PD-US.