The Franciscan Sources say that one night in 1216, Saint Francis was immersed in prayer at the Porziuncola, when suddenly a brilliant light illuminated the church and he saw Christ and his Holy Mother on the altar, surrounded by a multitude of angels.
They asked him what he wished for the salvation of souls. Francis answered immediately: “I beg you that whoever comes to this church, after having confessed and shown contrition for his sins, may obtain ample and generous forgiveness, with a complete remission of all his sins”.
“What you ask for, Brother Francis, is great – the Lord said – but you are worthy of even greater things and more you shall yet receive. I therefore accept your prayer, provided you ask my Vicar on earth, the Pope, on my behalf, to grant you this indulgence.”
Francis went immediately to Pope Honorius III, who listened to him attentively and approved his request. Then the Pope asked, “Francis, for how many years do you want this indulgence?” Francis answered: “Holy Father, I am not asking for years, but for souls”. Francis departed happily. On August, 2, 1216, together with the Bishops of Umbria, he announced to the people present at the Porziuncola: “My brothers, I want to send you all to Heaven”!
Initially the indulgence was reserved exclusively for the church of the Porziuncola, in the course of time; it was extended, first to all Franciscan churches and subsequently to all parish churches. In any case, the date has always remained the same.
According to the Manual of Indulgences of the Catholic Church, to obtain the plenary indulgence, the faithful, completely detached from venial sin, must:
– confess, to obtain the forgiveness of sins;
– receive Holy Communion, to be spiritually united with Christ;
– pray for the intentions of the Pope, to strengthen the bond with the Church, reciting at least the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be to the Father;
– recite the Creed and the Our Father;
– visit a Franciscan church or oratory or, alternatively, any parish church.
Confession and communion can also be made a few days before or after the scheduled date (within one or two weeks).
The visit and the offering of prayers should take place on the same day.
The plenary indulgence may be requested, once a day, for oneself or for the dead.