The Plenary Indulgence of the Portiuncula, or, Our Lady of the Angels

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.

Praise the Lord

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The Holy Mass Signifying Christ’s Eternal Sacrifice: Part IV

This Sunday’s reflection is the fourth in a series of meditations on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with specific references to the Ancient Rite of the Mass, the Usus Antiquior. There are many books in circulation that illustrate the theological and spiritual cohesion of the Ancient Rite of the Mass. It is the Rite that sustained and nourished the spiritual life of countless saints and which gave birth to Christian culture. It is my hope that these meditations may help us to appreciate and to understand that the ultimate purpose of the sacred liturgy is to form our souls in the beauty of holiness; so that we in our time, like those who have gone before us may be ‘the aroma of Christ to God…a fragrance from life to life’ (2 Cor. 2:15-16) for God’s greater glory and the salvation of souls. ⧾        

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (Jn. 6:33).

As we listen to Our Lord’s Eucharistic discourse, He Himself teaches us about the Eucharist, the Sacrament prefigured not only in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish but also in the life and worship of the Jewish people, specifically in the worship given to God in the Temple in Jerusalem. In our meditations on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, last Sunday we considered the function of the Offertory and specifically the Offertory prayers as a preparation for the Eucharistic Prayer or Canon of the Mass. This is the priestly prayer which brings about the re-presentation of Our Lord’s Passion and Death on the Cross. It is called the Canon – which means rule, because it is the unchangeable heart of the Mass. In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass this is literally true because the Roman Canon, as it is also sometimes called, is the only Eucharistic prayer. Before we do so, let us be mindful that the sacred liturgy in all its varied aspects but most especially in the reception of God’s Incarnate Word in the Holy Eucharist is truly nourishment for our human nature: our mind, our heart and soul. Hence Our Lord’s declaration: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (Jn. 6: 35).

Praise the Lord

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Recapturing Reverence for the Eucharist

The most vital characteristic of our Catholic faith is not its external organization that has of late, thanks to Pope Francis, attracted the attention of the media. What makes us flourish, if flourish we do, is our vivid consciousness of the presence of Jesus with us in the Eucharist, what we call “the real presence.” It has been the subject of countless sermons and commentaries over the centuries simply because it is central to the faith. It so functions because it continues in a wonderful way what began with the coming of the Son of God in the Flesh. In him we find together the transcendent and the immanent, the supernatural and the natural, the spiritual and the physical. For to encounter the man Jesus was truly to encounter God. Similarly, in the Eucharist we have the physical presence of Jesus—“This is my body”—that ensures that He is fully the presence of the God-man.

There is a further grandeur to the Blessed Sacrament that Jesus enunciated in His farewell discourse at the Last Supper: His own presence within us when we receive Communion ensures that of the Father as well, for Jesus said, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.”[1] And, inseparable from the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit: “I shall pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you forever.”[2] You see, then, that an immediate consequence of our recognition of the real presence is an awareness of the dignity of the Christian as the dwelling place of the Holy Trinity.

Scripture uses several metaphors to express these sublime tenets of our faith: the vine and the branches in Saint John, The Pauline doctrine of the (mystical) body, Saint Peter’s description of the temple made of living stones. The first two – the vine and the branches or the body and its parts — are universal, in that they refer to what Saint Paul termed the whole Christ, head and members.[3] The image of the temple—the “spiritual house” of 1 Peter 2.5—however, can signify the individual believer as well as the Church as a whole, for Saint Paul states categorically, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwell in you?”[4]

Praise the Lord

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