Easter Message from the Rector

I want to stay!

I'm at my desk writing this letter with the Gospel reading from Mark for the second Sunday of Lent fresh in my mind. I'm always taken by St. Peter's exclamation at the Transfiguration: "Rabbi, it is good that we are here".

I'm confident that at some time in our life of faith we have all had that type of moment where we could "taste" the sweetness of God's blessing and the awesomeness of the Lord's loving presence.

Choice moments at the crossroads of our "Pilgrim Way" - encountering each other and being surprised by God.

This time last year, I had a wonderful encounter. On a Friday of Lent, as I prepared for the first of several Masses and devotions, I met a young Chinese woman as she entered the Shrine church. With a slight bow of the head and with a big smile she greeted me. It soon became apparent that she did not speak a word of English, but it was also apparent that she was eager to share with me something. Her face was radiating a joy and serenity that engaged me with a growing desire to know what was on her mind (& heart). Soon, she pulled out her iPhone and began to type feverishly with a dexterity of thumbs that could rival Fred Astaire with his feet. Now she spoke into her phone and I heard it begin to "Speak" to me in English: "I'M CATHOLIC!." "I ENTERED THE CATHOLIC CHURCH 9 MONTHS AGO." *(She was visiting San Francisco briefly with a tour group from China.)

My friends that began a beautiful visit of prayer, faith sharing, and fellowship. Using the young woman's iPhone Audio Translate we were able to communicate - going back and forth talking into the phone. I was greatly humbled and edified by the genuine joy and devotion the-young-woman exhibited as she spent the-afternoon-and evening attending Mass, assisted with the Stations of the Cross and held reverent vigil before the Lord during Exposition.

As the evening drew to a close and I began to prepare for closing, I approached the young woman as she sat quietly in a pew. She turned to me for a moment then she raised her phone speaking a few words slowly and thoughtfully. I soon heard her phone say: "IT IS GOOD TO BE HERE - I WANT TO STAY." She smiled once again, gently made the sign of the cross, and went on her way.

My good sisters and brothers, I wanted to give you a glimpse of what unfolds almost daily at the Shrine. Many people, from across our City and across our world, pass through our doors and enter the beautiful sanctuary of the Nat'l. Shrine - adorned with an elegant simplicity of art and stained glass but more profoundly imbued with the charism of the "little poor man" Francis. Many times, I have visitors admit to feeling compelled to witness to the effect St. Francis has on their lives of faith.

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Welcome to the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi and the namesake of our city, San Francisco. The National Shrine is the property of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and it consists of our historic Church built in 1849 and our beautiful Chapel (La Porziuncola Nuova, or Little Portion) built in 2008.

The National Shrine is not only located in the heart of San Francisco where Italian North Beach and Chinatown meet, it is "The Heart of San Francisco" in a singular way where Heaven and Earth meet like no other place in our city.

One of the reasons this Shrine is unique is its very urban location in the second most densely populated city in the country. But in the midst of an often rowdy, noisy, bawdy, and chaotic neighborhood (a bronze marker in the sidewalk reminds us that this was once "The Barbary Coast"), the Shrine's Church and the Porziuncola offer an oasis of peace, quiet, serenity, and refreshment to the thirsty spirit.

Saint Francis was very aware that all of God's creation is holy and that it reflects his beauty, truth, and goodness. But Francis appreciated churches, especially, because he knew that in these sacred spaces people could find and recognize the presence of God's spirit more easily than "in the world." That is why the Little Poor Man of Assisi dedicated a good portion of his life to rebuilding old abandoned churches, like San Damiano (where he had heard the voice of Jesus Christ) and Saint Mary of the Angels Porziuncola (or Little Portion).

We hope during your online visit to The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi you will experience something of the reverence, tranquility, and blessings people find when they enter our actual doors. Thus, we invite you to take the virtual tours, light a candle, ask for our prayers, and to return to this site as often as you like, while allowing "The Heart of San Francisco" to become a place where your own heart can find a haven of rest. Yes, leave your heart in San Francisco!

We also invite you to take the opportunity to participate in the mission of The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi by sharing with us your financial support, either by making a donation or by shopping at our online store. But even if you're unable to give anything at this time, please know that you are always welcome to visit us and to support our work with your prayers. We sincerely appreciate and thank you for your generosity of spirit.

St. Francis of Assisi Mission

The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, as with The Archdiocese of San Francisco, has a mission that is rooted in the Gospels and the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Central to that teaching is the inherent dignity and sacredness of each human being.

We educate and advocate on this dignity in relation to the unborn child, the prisoner on death row, the homeless and hungry person on our streets, the elderly, the ill and disabled faced with the threat of assisted suicide, the stranger in our midst, and the poor and marginalized in our society and throughout the world. We are neither right nor left, Republican nor Democrat, but we formulate our agenda by the standard of human dignity that is reflected in our faith tradition.

  1. It is the purpose of the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi to provide more abundant means of salvation, through the rich liturgical and devotional life of the Roman Catholic Church for the Christian faithful, including those who come as pilgrims from around the world to the City of San Francisco and the greater San Francisco Bay Area, who seek to encounter the living God through religious worship and special devotion to St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan saints.
  2. It is the further purpose of the National Shrine to welcome, share and extend this same spiritual experience and devotion to St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan saints to pilgrims and visitors of all faiths, religions, denominations, and nationalities.
  3. The Capuchin Franciscan Friars (OFM Cap.) and Staff of the National Shrine, therefore, provide a pastoral (i.e., welcoming and prayerful) environment with the hope that in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, spiritual nourishment healing and reconciliation will be found by all who visit the Shrine.