The Little Portion

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From the writings of Friar Thomas of Celano

The servant of God, Francis, an unassuming humble person, a man of no importance in his own opinion, while dwelling on earth chose for himself and his followers a small place.  Without this small place he would not have been able to render service to Christ in this world.  It was not, however, without some knowledge of the Scriptures that the place long ago was named Small Portion (Portiuncula), a place destined for those who desired to own nothing whatever of this world.  A church had been erected here to the honor of the Virgin Mother who because of her marvelous humility, second only to her Son, merited to be the first of all saints.  In this church the Order of Friars Minor had its beginning and as their numbers increased a noble structure arose based so to speak on this solid foundation.

The saint had a special love for this place.  He commanded his friars to show it special reverence and wanted it kept for all times as a shining example of religious life in humility and the highest poverty.  He retained for himself and his friars only its use leaving the ownership to others.  Here the strictest religious discipline was observed in all things, in silence and in work as well as in the rest of the Rule’s prescriptions.  Those dwelling in the place were busy day and night in praising God; they lived an angelic life spreading a marvelous fragrance.

Although Francis realized that the kingdom of heaven is found in every dwelling on earth, and though he believed that heaven’s graces are imparted everywhere to God’s chosen ones, he had learned nevertheless that the church of Saint Mary at Portiuncula was filled with more abundant grace and visited more frequently by heavenly spirits.  Consequently he used to say to his friars:

“See to it, my sons, that you never leave this place.  If you are driven out by one door return by the other for this is truly a holy place and God’s dwelling.  Here when we were few the Most High increased our number; here he enlightened the hearts of his poor with the light of his own wisdom; here he inflamed our wills with the fire of his love.  He who prays here with devout heart will obtain his request, and he who offends here will be punished more severely.  Therefore, my sons, consider the place of God’s dwelling worthy of all honor and with all your hearts, with loud cries of joy and thanksgiving praise the Lord in this place.”

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