By Sister Rosellyn Humbert
It is August! What mysteries do we find in this eighth month of the year?
Franciscans all over the world celebrated the Feast of the Portiuncula on August 2. On this day, all who visit a Franciscan shrine are graced by God. The Sylvania Franciscan Sisters are blessed with our own Portiuncula (Little Portion) Chapel on our campus. Mother Adelaide (our Foundress) filled it with unusual lamps and an artist painted a beautiful Our Lady of the Angels mural behind the tabernacle. Smaller than the one in Assisi, Italy, this little chapel has become a beautiful place for private prayer for many who visit our campus. It is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The Portiuncula Chapel, located on the plain below Assisi, was one of the first Francis rebuilt when he took the call of Christ to “Rebuild my Church” quite literally. The original chapel, enlarged in the time of Francis, is now enclosed by the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. Francis called it the birthplace of the Franciscan Order. He asked to be taken there to die. It was one of his favorite places.
I can recount many favorite places for prayer and reflection here on our Sylvania campus and in the places I have visited. San Damiano in Assisi was the home of the “Poor Ladies” founded by St. Clare and is a beautiful and simple reminder of her spirit of humility. Her bed was in the dormitory with all the other sisters. She never asked to be special. Another special place for me is the Basilica of St. Clare, also in Assisi. In this beautiful Basilica near the Square of Assisi, I have prayed in the chapel where the beautiful San Damiano Cross is venerated. This is the iconic Cross through which Jesus spoke asking Francis to “Rebuild my Church.”
I once made a retreat near Idyllwild, California. The beauty of the mountains remain in my memory as a special place of prayer. The chapels in various places of retreat over my many years as a Sylvania Franciscan were also special, although some grow dim with the passing of time. During a visit to the Trappist Monastery in Kentucky, I visited the memorial built to remember the young people murdered during the civil rights movement of the sixties. The memorial consists of a group of statues representing the Agony in the Garden before the Crucifixion of Jesus. The artist shows the sleeping apostles and Jesus kneeling upright with his hands over his eyes. It is a powerful work of art. I find my heart going to that place when I hear of racist happenings in our world.
I am sure each of us has some special “prayer places.” I invite you to reflect on them today.