On Monday 2 August 2021 the universal Church celebrates what is called The Pardon of Assisi. This great feast, which ranks as a solemnity within the Franciscan festivities, is another great sign of the immense good the Lord himself performs to his Church and the world through the Franciscan movement.
But what the Pardon of Assisi is all about? What is its important significance? What does it stand for? What is the message it is trying to convey? This feast is another visible way of God’s salvation salvation to his people, which resides in the forgiveness of their sins (Luke 1:77). Obviously, this most supreme act of God’s goodness by itself shows the tender mercy of our God (Luke 1:78), who even in our times still keeps remembering his holy covenant of mercy and comes to meet us where we are (Luke 1:72). Today, our God, who is Our Father, is still leaving the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it (Luke 15:4). And when he does so he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ (Luke 15:5-6). This, and only this, is the unchanging mystery of this great feast of the Pardon of Assisi.
But mercy never happens ethereally, in the clouds and far removed from our earthly context. On the contrary, mercy is historically contextualised and rooted in order to produce abundant good fruit which only God’s mercy can ever give us, sinful humanity. This tradition, in fact, goes back to the year 1216. On the first day of August of that year, Saint Francis underwent a life-changing experience thanks to an apparition he had of Christ, Our Lady and the angels at the location of Saint Mary of the Angels – or ‘Our Lady of the Angels‘, an abandoned church not far from Assisi, dating back perhaps to the fourth century, left to rack and ruin, which Francis set himself to rebuilding. As this experience went on, Francis deeply felt to ask the Lord to grant the plenary indulgence to each and every pilgrim who makes the journey to this very important church for the Franciscan Order, dedicated to Our Lady. The story goes that the Lord granted his wish.