Where It All Began


The feast of Transitus is the celebration of St. Francis’ entrance into eternal life. The place where St. Francis died, also known as the Transitus chapel, is housed within the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.

St. Mary of the Angels was also built to protect one of the little chapels that St. Francis rebuilt, the Porziuncola (“little portion”). The Porziuncola is the place where St. Francis started the Franciscan order and where St. Clare also entered.

One beautiful thing about visiting the Porziuncola is that everyone has the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence. St. Francis was overwhelmed with the desire for everyone to go to heaven and so he asked the Holy Father for a plenary indulgence for all people who visited this small chapel. The Holy Father granted permission for anyone who comes to pray at the Porziuncola to receive the indulgence of the pardon.

One of my favorite details about this history is that after Francis received permission from the Holy Father and he was leaving to go back to Assisi, the Holy Father asked if Francis wanted any documentation. St. Francis said: your words are enough Holy Father. Mary is the paper, the angels are the notary and Christ signed it.

And so for many years, pilgrims have come here to ask forgiveness for their sins. Even Pope Francis visited for the first time last year. On his visit to the Porziuncola, he said to a group of young people, “This is the way: preach the Gospel through the witness of your lives.”

It was particularly moving to kneel in this tiny chapel with my fellow pilgrims. Together we prayed a Creed, the Our Father, and prayed for the Holy Father’s intention. As I knelt in the simple chapel, I prayed to be like St. Francis—to know God’s will and always be ready to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

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