Pilgrim recalls the Pardon of Assisi


Reading about the upcoming celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the Pardon of Assisi, I was transported back to the streets of Assisi bustling with eager crowds, happy shoppers, and the sense of Francis’s care for his home town. Blessed with the gift of a pilgrimage in 2003 from the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, I enjoyed the opportunity to take part in the festivities from the opening brass fanfare of the Memorial of the Vota to the Liturgy and Procession of the Pilgrims for the Pardon of Assisi. No one celebrates special events like the people of Assisi, and the sounds of the street fair, evening concerts and speeding Vespas ricocheted in the narrow streets until the early hours of the morning.

The Feast of the Pardon of Assisi has been celebrated for 800 years from Vespers on Aug. 1 through sundown on Aug. 2. Tradition says that in 1216 St. Francis was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula and was visited by Christ, the Virgin Mary and surrounding angels. Francis asked them to grant a generous pardon, complete remission of all sins, to all those who entered the church having repented and confessed their sins. Returning to Assisi, Francis announced this special grace to the people and the moment is imprinted in a fresco by Tiberio of Assisi in the nearby Chapel of the Roses.

The original pardon confirmed by Pope Honorius was restricted to those who crossed the entrance of the Portiuncula but was eventually broadened to encompass all pilgrims in any Franciscan church who meet the conditions of Communion, Confession and praying for the Pope’s intentions.