Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Porziuncola

"When the Lord saw him coming over to look more closely, God called out to him from the bush, 'Moses! Moses!' He answered, 'Here I am.' God said, 'Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.'" (Exodus 3: 4-5)

If today had not been a Sunday, Franciscans would be celebrating the feast of the Porziuncola. It is the short name given to a chapel St. Francis of Assisi repaired back in 1208, "St. Mary of the Angels of the Little Portion. For Franciscans throughout the world, it is sacred space, it is "holy ground." In the early days of the Friars Minor, the chapel was rented to them by the Benedictines of Monte Subasio monastery. The friars, including Francis, built simple huts around the chapel, and prayed there daily. As the Order expanded throughout Europe, Francis called the friars back to the Porziuncola once a year for a meeting, a Chapter, during the Feast of Pentecost.

Every worshiping community needs its' sacred space, a place where they can come together in prayer, to experience together a sense of the divine. For Christians, many, if not most, find their sacred space in churches. Some find it in simple parish churches, or in grand cathedrals and basilicas. We must remember though, why we are gathering in a particular place, at a particular time. Our Lord said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." It is the coming together in His Name, that makes that space sacred, that ground holy!

I would go even farther. Francis said that when a friar is on the road, he carries his cell with him, in his body; and it is in that cell that the friar prays, and opens his heart to God. Anytime that we open our hearts to the Father, we open ourselves to the opportunity to experience the divine, to experience His Presence, to know that we are standing on "holy ground."

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