In the valley below the walled town of Assisi there is a huge church. But within this monstrous church there is a small chapel, La Porziuncula, the Little Portion.
It originally belonged to the Benedictines who had an abbey on Mount Subasio above Assisi, but they gave it to Francis and his brothers for a few fish each year.
It is one of the chapels that St. Francis of Assisi rebuilt and it became the center of his fraternity. His companions, the lesser brothers, went out from here to bring the good news to the world. They would come back and gather occasionally.
Several years there were major gatherings of all the brothers for a Pentecost chapter.
Here Francis died – stripped of his habit, lying on the ground.
The chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels.
The chapel is now adorned with frescos, within and without, but it is a small intimate place, where one might visualize Francis praying. It still preserves the peace and simplicity of the Poor One of Assisi.
I prayed there in February and went to confession to a compassionate Franciscan priest from Bangla Desh.
But I cannot help think about this little chapel, so sacred to Francis, enclosed in a huge basilica. The mystery of simplicity and of the poverty of Jesus and Francis are so often obscured by our desires to be “great” and to show off our treasures – even if the treasure is Our Lady of the Angels.
And so today I think of the treasure we have of the poverty of Christ, who became poor for our sake.
May I strip away all that hides that mystery as I seek to live amidst a poor people.