Today the original Porziuncola Chapel rests in the center of a much larger structure, the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, built hundreds of years after the death of Saint Francis. The chapel is well preserved so that visitors can experience this place much like Francis did in the early thirteenth century. The setting of the original chapel in the large basilica is a center that reflects one’s soul, wherein one finds beauty and truth, peace and forgiveness. It is as if the very core of one’s being is exposed for all to see and experience, a space within that has no boundaries or restrictions so that the spirit may soar. It is the place we call “heart.” The very setting of this chapel cannot but help us image a center. We know we can make any number of idols our center: our work, our value system or a relationship.
When we are physically within the chapel itself, it is like entering the heart of the gospel that calls us again to clarify our center, to realize that Jesus alone is the true center of life and that he is the one who gives meaning to the way we relate to all the other facets: work, values, people. When Francis understood his vocation at the Porziuncola as he listened to the Gospel in February, 1208, he cried out, “This is what I wish; this is what I seek; this is what I long to do with all my heart.” Go to St. Mary of the Angels, the Porziuncola. Upon entering the huge basilica one is drawn to the little chapel. One’s heart senses the invitation to come in and dwell awhile. Feel the stones, pick up the spiritual energy present here and once more understand the importance of having a heart, a center.
— from the book In the Footsteps of Francis and Clare
by Roch Niemier, OFM