August 2: Portiuncula Indulgence – a plenary indulgence
The Portiuncula Indulgence can be received on August 2, the Franciscan Feast of Our Lady of the Angels. This Feast commemorates the dedication of the tiny Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels (aka the Portiuncula or the Little Portion) in Assisi. It was in this anointed place that St. Francis began the Order of Friars Minor, inaugurated the Order of Poor Clares, and ended his earthly sojourn.
One night, in 1216, St.Francis awoke from sleep with a great desire to go to the Portiuncula. As he prayed there Our Lord and His Mother appeared to Francis and told him to ask for that which he desired most. What was his response? “O God, although I am a great sinner, I beseech You to grant a full pardon of all sins to all who, having repented and confessed their sins, shall visit this church.” Our Lord then granted Francis’ appeal, sending him to the Roman Pontiff for ratification of the indulgence.
To Pope Honorius III, Francis begged for the necessary permission for the indulgence, asking that “all those who after confession shall visit the Portiuncula with contrite hearts may obtain the full remission of the punishment due to the sins of their whole lives from the day of Baptism to the day they enter this church.” After some hesitation, permission was granted. Francis then returned to Assisi and proclaimed: “I want to send you all to Heaven!”
Over the course of history the conditions to gain the indulgence have been modified. While it used to be mandatory that the faithful visit the actual Portiuncula in Assisi, now it suffices to visit any parish church on August 2 to gain the indulgence. Thus the faithful who devoutly visit a parish church on August 2 may obtain a plenary indulgence, under the normal conditions (Holy Communion preferably on the day or close to it, Sacramental Confession about 20 days before or after, and prayers for the Holy Father on the day). According to Church Law, “this visit is to include the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed.” It seems St. Francis was busy working in Heaven to obtain this expansion of the indulgence desiring that all faithful around the world experience the fruits of his request!
…excerpt from Mother Angelica’s EWTN Family Newsletter, 2003