The servant of God Francis, a person small in stature, humble in mind, a minor by profession, while yet in the world chose out of the world for himself and his followers a little portion, in as much as he could not serve Christ without having something of the world. For it was not without the foreknowledge of a divine disposition that from ancient times that place was called the Portiuncula which was to fall to the lot of those who wished to have nothing whatsoever of the world.
—Thomas of Celano, c. 1244
The beautiful Feast of Our Lady of the Angels, commemorates the dedication of the little chapel known as the Portiuncula (Little Portion) or Our Lady of the Angels. It was the third Church St. Francis rebuilt after Our Lord spoke to him from the Cross and ordered him to “rebuild the Church.” St. Bonaventure says that the three churches prefigured the three orders he later founded: First Order (the friars); Second Order (the Poor Clares); Third Order (the secular participants in the life of the Order). Thomas of Celano, the first biographer of St. Francis, quoted above, also writes:
For there had also been built in that place a church of the Virgin Mother who merited by Her singular humility to be, after Her son, the head of al the saints. In this church the Order of Friars Minor had its beginning, there, as on a firm foundation, when their number had grown, the noble fabric of the order arose. The holy man loved this place above all others; this place he commanded his brothers to venerate with a special reverence; this place he willed to be preserved as a model of humility and highest poverty for their order, reserving the ownership of it to others, and keeping only the use of it for himself and his brothers.
The Feast is special to the Order, not only because it commemorates the dedication of this most loved church, but also because St. Francis obtained an extraordinary indulgence, the “Portiuncula Indulgnence,” attached to the pilgrimage to the chapel. You can obtain this indulgence today, without having to go to Assisi.
Franciscans, who are to desire nothing of this world, choose the little portion of the poverty and humility of “Our Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy Mother.” This attachment to the humility and self-emptying of Christ, by His becoming the Child of Mary, translates also into a devoted and uncompromising attachment to the Holy Roman Church. This is the way in which we rebuild the Church.
In the Holy Rule St Francis writes:
Friar Francis promises obedience and reverence to Pope Honorius and his canonically elected successors, and to the Roman Catholic Church. All the friars must obey friar Francis and his successors (chapter 1).
Furthermore, I command the Ministers under holy obedience to request of the Pope one of the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church who shall be the governor, protector and corrector of the Order. Thus by being always subject and submissive to the Holy Roman Church and steadfast in the Catholic Faith, we may observe, as we have sturdily promised, poverty, humility, and the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (chapter 12).
The precept to be obedient to the Church, and especially to the person of the Holy Father begin and end the Rule. There can be no authentic Franciscan life apart from this. For this reason, after the example of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we “vow unconditional reverence and obedience” to Pope Francis.
I am leaving on a previously scheduled retreat today. Because of the nature of many of the comments which have been posted on this blog, I am turning comment moderation on until I return next Friday. No comments will be approved until then. I pray in a particular way for all those who have treated Pope Francis so contemptuously.
Please also remember the mother of New Catholic at Rorate Caeli, who recently passed away, and for New Catholic himself in his time of grief. May perpetual light shine upon her, and through the mercy of God may she rest in peace. I have offered the Holy Sacrifice for the repose of her soul.