Thursday, December 8
12:15 pm Mass in the Shrine Church

In teaching that Mary was conceived immaculate, the Catholic Church teaches that from the very moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from all stain of original sin. This simply means that from the beginning, she was in a state of grace, sharing in God's own life, and that she was free from the sinful inclinations which have beset human nature after the fall.

One passage in Scripture points us to this truth. We look at Genesis 3:15, in which we see the parallel between Mary and Eve of which the early Church Fathers already spoke: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." The Jews saw this passage as referring to the struggle between Christ and Satan, and so the Church sees in "the woman" a prophetic foreshadowing of the Virgin Mary (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, # 55). If there is to be complete enmity between the woman and the serpent, then she never should have been in any way subject to him even briefly. This implies an immaculate conception.

The dignity of being Mother of God is a quasi infinite dignity, explained Pope Pius XI when the Church defined this dogma of the Blessed Virgin in 1854. And yet, our Lord teaches us that the holiness coming from hearing the word of God and keeping it is something greater still. Mary's holiness must indeed be great--so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it."

Excerpted and adapted from Theology 523:
Our Lady in Doctrine and Devotion, by Father William G. Most.
Copyright (c) 1994 William G. Most.


By Rodney Esperanza
Admin. Assistant at the Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi

From October 29th to November 10th, yours truly was blessed to travel to Europe with the purpose of seeing the various events and visiting specific sites related to the Year of Mercy. I had been to the continent several times before but never during a Jubilee period, so I was determined that this vacation trip would enhance my spirituality as well as broaden my exposure to the world of the Franciscans by seeing the locations associated with Saint Francis and Saint Clare.

After a time in Berlin, Germany I made a day's rail trip to Lourdes, France where I explored the Sanctuary and the Grotto of the apparition. The high season for tourists was past so these settings were very much conducive to quiet and meditation. It was my first time at this Marian shrine, and opportunities presented themselves that I was able to enter the baths twice. A personal exercise of mine was to frame in prayer the Lady of the Immaculate Conception's message of "penance" within the theme of Mercy which Pope Francis called us to.

I spent two days in Assisi, Italy and wandered the Basilicas of Francis, of Clare, and of Sta. Maria degli Angeli which contains the very Porziuncola that was beloved to Francis. The preservation of the town's character and its elevation above a bucolic plain definitely aids the visitor's mind to picture the medieval period in which these two beloved saints lived. The humble church of San Damiano sat below the town proper, down a steep footpath where in my mind I envisioned those first friars and Poor Clare sisters walking and joyfully proclaiming the Gospel.

Things became busier in Rome for the concluding days of my pilgrimage. There was a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, a museum for the Order of Capuchins, and entering the Holy Doors of the four major basilicas—Saint Peter's, St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore, and St. Paul Outside the Walls. On the my last day in Rome I was present in St. Peter's Square for the Holy Father's General Audience, about which his talk was, "To visit the sick and imprisoned." I was personally heartened by his words, as I bring the Blessed Sacrament to homebound seniors and chronically ill. The feeling I sensed from the Italians I interacted with is a refreshed view of the position of the Pope, as Francis speaks with more a personal candor and forthrightness in line with what our American media is reporting. In all, my pilgrimage was a great benefit to my faith and invaluable to expanding my worldview. Praise be to God! Thank you, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception!

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.