The Little Portion

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. Continue reading

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St. Francis, the Sultan and the President

I wrote the following essay some weeks ago, but never found time to edit and post it.  Since today is the feast of the Protomartyrs of the Franciscan Order, St. Berard and Companions, I thought it would be an auspicious time to bring this to light.

While I realize the historical figure of St. Francis lends itself to romanticizing and mythologizing because of the singularly extraordinary nature of his person, as a Franciscan it irritates me to see his life used as a political tool.  Paul Moses on the CNN Opinion website, does precisely this as he attempts to have St. Francis sucked into vortex of Obama-mania.  In addition to being the author of the CNN article entitled “Is Religion about War—or Peace?” Mr. Moses is the author of a new book called The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace. Mr. Moses is at pains to state that he does not “mean to liken Obama to Francis,” but, goes on to do precisely that and, in the process of expressing his admiration for Mr. Obama, he historically misrepresents the Seraphic Saint. Continue reading