Eight hundred years ago, St. Francis obtained the Portiuncula Indulgence from Pope Honorius III, fulfilling the saint’s desire that all people might obtain forgiveness and salvation.
Last week, in a first-of-its-kind effort, more than 50 Franciscan communities in the United States, including Holy Name Province, issued a message for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, coinciding with the 800th anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi as well as the Feast of the Portiuncula.
During a meeting with the OFM friars participating in their General Chapter last May, Pope Francis encouraged Franciscans to embrace minority, which “calls us to be and to feel small before God, relying totally on his infinite mercy. … It is important [for the friars] to recover a consciousness of being carriers of mercy, carriers of reconciliation and carriers of peace.”
In response to the pope’s call, Franciscan communities across the United States stated that: “In the more than eight centuries of our Franciscan tradition, the daughters and sons of Francis and Clare have grown into a diverse family of men and women, of lay, cleric and secular. But, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we hope to speak with one unified voice. And so, we joyfully heed the call of our Holy Father Pope Francis and pledge to renew that vocation to be carriers of mercy, reconciliation and peace as a united Franciscan family today.”
The Franciscans continued: “We pledge with the same fervor and generosity of our founder to be the men and women who echo the words of the famous prayer often attributed to St. Francis. Where there is hatred, we pledge to be agents of love. Where there is injury, we pledge to be agents of pardon and mercy. Where there is doubt, we pledge to be agents of faith. Where there is despair, we pledge to be agents of hope. Where there is darkness, we pledge to be agents of light. Where there is sadness, we pledge to be agents of joy.”
The Franciscans’ full statement is available on the website of the English-speaking Conference.
On the local level, friars and ministries around the Province commemorated the 800th anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi on Aug. 2. Many offered a festive Mass in honor of the feast. Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, celebrated the liturgy that took place at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.
In Silver Spring, Md., the friars and laity of St. Camillus Parish offered “An Evening of Peace and Atonement” in English, Spanish and French, the principal languages of the community. During the liturgy, more than 200 candles were lit on the altar steps, representing the number of people killed by violence in the United States in 2016. A screen in front of the church showed a still video of the Portiuncula in Assisi.
“To say that the event was inspiring would greatly understate its impact,” said Joseph Nangle, OFM. “A plea for God’s mercy in the face of this inhumanity opened the prayer, followed by the stories of seven victims of this year’s atrocities, whose photos were projected on two large screens.”
The homily offered by Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, guardian of St. Camillus Friary, reflected on the Gospel text Matthew 26:47-48, and Jesus’s statement that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword,” according to Joe. An “open mic” session for friars and parishioners to offer their own short reflections was followed by Pope Francis’s “Prayer for Our Earth” from Laudato Si’, and a little-used rendition of the Peace Prayer was sung in three languages.
Outside Albany, N.Y., Siena College marked the feast by giving community members an opportunity to ask for peace and healing in the world and in their own lives. Lawrence Anderson, OFM, college chaplain, celebrated a Mass on Aug. 2 and provided a blessing for those in attendance.
Siena president F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, spoke about The Story of the Wolf of Gubbio, a traditional St. Francis account. “Through this excerpt, Br. Ed presented a challenge to those in attendance to think about how to deal with the difficulties in life and decide on the values that will guide them through these difficult times,” according to information distributed by Siena that includes photos. At the end of Mass, medallions with the image of St. Francis and the wolf were given to attendees.
On Long Island, N.Y., Ministry of the Word friar Kevin Cronin, OFM, celebrated a Mass for an active Secular Franciscan group at St. Ignatius Martyr Parish, where he is filling in for the pastor for the month. Following the Mass, he led a presentation about the feast.
“This 800th anniversary of the Feast of the Pardon had to be celebrated, especially during the Year of Mercy,” Kevin said. “St. Ignatius Martyr was a Franciscan church on Aug. 2.”
Two days after the Franciscans marked the 800th anniversary of The Pardon of Assisi, Pope Francis arrived at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels on Aug. 4 to pray inside the little chapel of the Porziuncola and speak to the Franciscans and laity there. His full remarks are available here.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.