Fr. Harold Snider

Welcome to the website of The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi and its beautiful Porziuncola Nuova. This complex is not only located in the heart of San Francisco, where Chinatown and North Beach meet, it is "The Heart of San Francisco" where, in a very real way, Heaven and Earth meet like no other place in The 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 it all 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." This 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 heard the voice of Jesus Christ, and St. Mary of the Angels of the Little Portion-the Porziuncola.

I hope that, through your online visit to The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, you will experience something of the reverence and tranquility and blessings that people find here when they enter our doors. I invite you to take the virtual tours, light a candle, ask for our prayers, and to return to this site often. Allow "The Heart of San Francisco" to become someplace where your own heart can find a haven of rest. Yes, leave your heart in San Francisco!

I 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. But even if you cannot give anything at this time, know that you are always welcome to visit us and to support our work with your prayers. We thank you for your generosity of spirit.

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Saint Francis of Assisi

"Statues of St. Francis surrounded by birds and other creatures represent only one dimension of Franciscan spirituality; humility is a central virtue of Franciscan spirituality. Francis did not see himself as better or above other people, other creatures, or even the elements; he saw himself as one with them. His affinity for the natural world comes from this humble understanding. Francis spent a third to one-half of each year praying in nature and the wilderness, living in hermitages or on mountainsides, and he interspersed this with preaching. The experience of being intimately related to creation helped him grow more fully into the mystery of God. That's what we are desperately in need of today. The notion of brotherhood with all of God's creation was expressed by Francis in multiple ways. The Canticle of the Creatures, alternately called the Canticle of the Sun or Canticle of St. Francis, was the first literary work produced in the Italian language. And it playfully praises God for the blessings of things like Sister Moon and Brother Wind. And the first time it was sung in its entirety was by Francis (along with two of his original companions) while he was on his deathbed…the final verse praising Sister Death. He's not using fancy, theological terms, he's singing a song, and it's a summation of an inclusive world view that defines Franciscan spirituality.

In the Franciscan tradition, you can't get left out. It's all connected: human life, animal life, plants, water, air – even death and sorrow. The spiritual disconnect is our failure to recognize that we are co-creatures with all of God's creation, not just some parts of it. Hypocrisy is saying that God's creation is good, but then treating some of it poorly. Franciscan spirituality causes no tension between loving God and loving all things made by God, and the idea that God and nature are separated is a modern and largely American idea. When Pope John Paul II asked Catholics to discover their ecological vocations in his message for World Peace Day in 1990, he was trying to show that there are aspects of the Catholic faith that have a practical application in a modern world. Environmentalism isn't what John Paul II, Benedict XVI after him and, now, Pope Francis are after as much as a change of heart through encounter. Encounter opens the eyes and the heart, and we allow ourselves to be changed."

Warner told the story about Francis, who "really did love birds," leaving his companions to run over to a flock and preach at them. What's important is not what Francis said to the birds, he said, but that an occasion of conversion happened for him. Something in the birds touched him to realize the connection to God. "Our fundamental task is not to fix something out there, but to become aware of God's creations through encounter."

In the last two years of his life in 1224, (before he died at the age of 44), Saint Francis composed a song that praised God for the joys of the natural world and expresses the kinship with planets, elements and animals he is linked with today. It is a joyful expression of Franciscan spirituality, and is also believed to be among the first works of literature written in the Italian vernacular.

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

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A Quiet Place from Three Bridges West on Vimeo.

A Quiet Place ~ In San Francisco, among the cafes and restaurants of North Beach, there is a special spiritual refuge. The National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, which welcomes all people, provides a place of beauty, peace and reflection in a hectic city. For an additional Video about the the shrine, visit our "Pilgrimage Page".



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 St. 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.