August 2nd is the Feast of the Portiuncula. This is an important feast day for all Franciscans and holds a special place in the hearts of the friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province. St. Mary of the Angels (known to us as Our Lady of the Angels) was very dear to St. Francis. It was referred to as Portiucula (or the Little Portion) and it is considered the cradle of the Franciscan Order. Once the quarters of Rivo Torto became too small for the newly forming religious family, St. Francis obtained from the Benedictines the use of the Portiuncula, for which he paid a basket of fish. The church and the surrounding small parcel of land were is disrepair. Just as he did at San Damiano, St. Francis rebuilt it, adding small huts (cells), enclosing it all in a protective hedge. It was there that St. Francis gained a more vivid understanding of his own vocation, the annual meetings of the friars (Chapters) were held, and where he desired to spend his final earthly moments, dying in his nearby cell. The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli that covers the Portiuncula chapel was begun in 1569 (completed in 1684) by decree of Pius V. It was meant to accommodate the huge crowds of pilgrims who came on August 2nd for Il Perdono (Portiuncula Indulgence)
St. Francis felt that the Portiuncula was a place filled with God’s grace. He asked the Holy Father to grant special privilege (plenary indulgence – a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins) to those who visit the chapel. Although limited to August 2nd, the privilege continues to be granted to this day, not only to those who visit the Portiuncula, but to anyone who visits any church where the friars live and minister. To receive this privilege, in addition to the visit, one must go to confession within several weeks of the feast, receive the Eucharist, recite the Our Father and Apostles Creed, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.
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