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.
We 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. We 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!
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. 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.
GIANNA BERETTA OFFERED LIFE FOR HER CHILD
Mother's Self-Sacrificing Love
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta (Milan), Italy, on 4 October 1922, the 10th of 13 children. Already as a young girl she willingly accepted the gift of faith and the clearly Christian education that she received from her excellent parents. As a result, she experienced life as a marvellous gift from God, had a strong faith in Providence and was convinced of the necessity and effectivneess of prayer.
She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith in generous apostolic service among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. After earning degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and thereafter gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and the poor.
While working in the field of medicine–which she considered a "mission" and practiced as such–she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the "very young" and, at the same time, expressed her joie de vivre and love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected on her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself "to forming a truly Christian family."
She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on 24 September 1955 in St. Martin's Basilica in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi; in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.
In September 1961, towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.
A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child—I insist on it. Save the baby." On the morning of 21 April 1962 Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of 28 April, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you," the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The body of the new blessed lies in the cemetary of Mesero (4 km. from Magenta).
Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and officially canonized as a saint on May 16, 2004. Gianna's husband Pietro and their last child, Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony.
St. Gianna is a patron saint for mothers, physicians, and unborn children.
Weekly Edition in English
27 April 1994
Church-Hall Revonation Photos
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.