For the second consecutive year, the feast of the General Custody of the Sacred Convent of St. Francis in Italy (Assisi) was celebrated in tandem with the Feast of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
At 11:00 a.m. on Monday, May 24, 2021, a solemn Mass in the Upper Basilica was presided over by the General Custos, Friar Marco MORONI. Those attending included members of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS), members of the men’s and women’s religious communities of the Franciscan Families present in Assisi, and representatives from various institutions of the Seraphica Civitas [City of Assisi].
History tells us that immediately after St. Francis’ canonization, on July 16, 1228, Pope Gregory IX ordered that a magnificent church be erected in Assisi to honor the Seraphic Father St. Francis and preserve his mortal remains. The Pontiff himself blessed the cornerstone and in 1230, commanded that the body of the Saint be transported from the Church of San Giorgio to the new Basilica. He named the Basilica the “Head and Mother” of the Order of Friars Minor. In 1253, Pope Innocent IV solemnly consecrated both churches of the Basilica. In 1754, Benedict XIV elevated the Basilica to a Patriarchal Basilica and Papal Chapel.
In his homily, the Custos said “One of the elements I find fascinating about this Basilica is the fact that the tomb of St. Francis is located deep inside a sort of pillar, at the base of the whole building. The tomb of the “alter Christus” has become a corner stone, select and precious. Innocent III once dreamed of Francis supporting the Lateran Basilica upon his slender shoulders. Actually, for the last eight hundred years Francis’ fragile bones have symbolically supported the grandiose bulk of this entire complex. Even more, they have supported the paths of myriads of men and women who have embraced Francis’ way of life, his smallness, the charm of his simple preaching and his generous and passionate witness, yesterday as well as today”.
Friar Marco MORONI then invited the confreres to be docile to the action of the Holy Spirit and to make the presence of Jesus Christ visible in the world. Finally, he entrusted the path of the Custody to St. Francis and to Mary, Mother of the Church. Pope Francis has made the Dedication of the Basilica an obligatory feast day for the whole Church. It falls on the Monday after Pentecost, which happens to be today.
After the celebration, in observation of the anti-pandemic regulations, only the friars belonging to the Custody’s three communities stayed on to share a festive lunch in the refectory.
Friar Mario CISOTTO, Custodial Secretary