The «Forgiveness of Assisi», A Story That Has Lasted 800 Years
An important event for the Catholic faithful and always current
Send everyone to Heaven: was the intent of St. Francis of Assisi, when in 1216 he asked and got from Pope Honorius III the plenary indulgence for all the faithful who visited the little church of the Porziuncola. This is a small sacred building in Assisi, which Francesco had finished restoring, and which today is inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Thus was born the “Forgiveness of Assisi” or the “Indulgence of the Porziuncula”, a very important moment appreciated by the Catholic faithful.
Over time, the rules for getting this spiritual benefit have changed, up to the current modality: from noon of August 1st to midnight on August 2nd, the faithful will have to visit a Franciscan church (a cathedral or parish church is also fine) and do the Sacramental confession, with “exclusion of any affection even from venial sin”; Eucharistic Communion; a prayer according to the Pope’s intentions or at least once recite the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary; the recitation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer during the visit to the church. The indulgence occurs every day of the year only visiting the Porziuncola, with same conditions. All rules are established in the Manual of Indulgences (Enchiridion indulgentiarum), edited by the Apostolic Penitentiary.
But what is the indulgence?
The Catholic faithful not always fully understood the value of indulgence, they underestimate it. In these modern times — of relativism — people don’t like discourses on guilt and punishment for sins.
To better understand this matter, just consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1472):
«…It is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain».
For our salvation we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).
«The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the “old man” and to put on the “new man”», the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (n. 1473).
Keeping these concepts in mind, it is easy to understand the greatness of St. Francis’s request to Pope Honorius III: to bring God’s mercy to most people. This happened over 800 years ago, and today after so long another Francis (the Pope) often remembers the greatness of God’s love for man expressed in his mercy.