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.


by Catherine Doherty

Long ago and far away the disciple John, an ordinary man, laid his head on the breast of Jesus, his Lord, and listened to his heartbeat. Jesus and John ("the one whom Jesus loved") and the other disciples were preparing to eat their last supper together. Who can venture to guess what John felt as he heard the beat of Jesus' mighty heart? None of us can ever be in his place, but all of us can hear, if we will but listen, the heartbeats of God, the song of love he sings to us. For he has loved us all so much!

If we love him back we can learn from everything and from every creature the answering song of love that should swell in our hearts.

If we stop to listen to nature, to its rhythm and its songs of obedience to the laws of its Creator, we can hear and learn how to sing our love song back to the Creator as well.

If we listen to the songs of the city, to the noises that sometimes irritate us, we can realize that even they, in their own way, praise God. If we keep machines in their place — as our servants and instruments of love and not our masters — their songs praise God also. Yes, even machines can teach us how to return the love of Jesus' Sacred Heart.

If we ponder deeply the themes of the Scriptures and Prayer of the Church, we will distinctly hear the loving, powerful, immense heartbeat of God. In fact, we will hear his heart speaking to us.

If we meditate on the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist we will not only hear his heartbeat, we will hear our hearts beating in unison with his; we will be in communion with our Lord and our God.

So let us enter the great silence of our own souls. Let us pray there humbly, lovingly, plunging into the riches of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Then we shall know God in a way that no book can tell us or teach us. Then we will love him so passionately, so tremendously, so utterly and completely, that it will become simple for us to be the kind of Christians we must be. We will not have to say very much. We will only have to walk upright, crying the gospel with our lives, reflecting our Lover in our faces.

Every person is on a pilgrimage, seeking to encounter others like himself. The greatest need of all is the need to be loved. But we pass by one another without noticing, without stopping, without the slightest sign of recognition. This is why modern man daily comes closer and closer to despair, and why he frantically continues to search for the one who will love him.

Everyone's search is for God. But God isn't easily found if he isn't reflected in the eyes of men. It is time that Christians began to take notice of each person they meet. Each person is a brother or sister in Christ, who must be "recognized". Each person must be given a token of friendship and love, be it only a smile, a nod of the head. Sometimes it may require the total availability of one person to another if they are to fulfil a particular person's hunger for God. Such love and recognition must always be given with deep reverence, irrespective of the status of the person encountered.

What the world needs most today is the hospitality of the heart. The hospitality of the heart means accepting all others as they are, allowing them to make themselves at home in our heart.

For human beings, the heart has in many cultures been a symbol of love. So to be at home in another person's heart is to touch love, the love of a brother or sister in Christ. And to touch the love of another means to begin to recognize the love of God. For it is by being loved by another — our neighbour — that we can begin to understand that God loves us.

This is especially necessary in this modern age because of the strange technological loneliness that has separated us so thoroughly not only from our neighbours, but from our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, in short, from all our relations. Our technological age has begotten a terrible loneliness!

We have to shed our "stiff upper lips." We have to be open to one another, share with one another, express our love for one another. We can only do this if we open the doors of our hearts now, before they are frozen shut by our technological achievements!

Yes, we must open the doors of our hearts. We must open the doors of our homes. We must accept people as they are. We must serve them, and we must show them the wounds of our love. Love is always wounded because love and pain are inseparable.

The Lord said we must love our enemies. Until we do we cannot show Christ to others. We must go further: We must lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. By emptying ourselves, according to his commandment of love, and with his grace, we can allow God to love in us.

The world needs the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The world needs human hearts united to his Sacred Heart. The world needs human hearts united to each other through their communion in his heart. Without love the world is very dark. Let us arise and resurrect the world by bringing love to it and it to God.

We must begin to give the hospitality of the heart. We must open ourselves to a sharing of friendship that is rooted in the very heart of Christ whom we call our friend.

Adapted from The Gospel Without Compromise by Catherine Doherty

Catherine Doherty (1896-1985), born in Russia, was foundress of Madonna House and a prolific writer and teacher. Her passionate zeal impelled her to pass on her faith in God, and she is now being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church.

Copyright: Madonna House Publications – With Permission under a Creative Commons License.

Church-Hall Revonation Photos