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.

Stay Awake!

by Fr. David May

Reading from the Gospel according to St. Mark: (chapter 13, verses 33-37)

[Jesus said] 'Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; is he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!'

In today's short gospel passage the obvious refrain is: Stay awake. Even in these few verses it's said four times: Stay awake! So let's look at what that might mean, because it seems to be the main theme for today's Gospel and today's liturgy.

In this story (the example that the Lord gives to illustrate what he means) a man travels abroad and he leaves his servants in charge, each with his own task. So that must be the first thing about staying awake: keeping at your task. Whatever the assigned task is, we should be doing it. It's a simple directive, and pretty clear. We say we have 'the duty of the moment'; we say, 'This is what your job is today'. This is what I'm called to do-as cook or as cleaner or as cheesemaker or whatever I'm called to do today. Of course, Ican be un-concentrated and dissipated; I can evade pouring myself into the task. But for the most part we're clear that we're to keep at our task, until he comes.

Another example of not being awake, of not keeping at the task, is worries. If I'm overly worried, I won't keep at my task because I'm worried. My attention is divided, and I'm not there. I'm not 'there', wherever the task is, because I'm 'there' where my worries are. So I'm not with the task; I'm with my worries. We all know that struggle. There's a rare Christian bird who doesn't worry. Most Christian believers are prone to worry, which is why the Lord said so many times: "Do not be afraid; do not be anxious about your life", and all that.

So that's the first and obvious meaning of staying awake: Keep at your task.

The second meaning also seems to be implied here: that there are not just servants who are doing their whatever; there's a doorkeeper. And apparently his task-it's a locked door, probably-his task is to be at the door for the return of the Master. He's on the alert.

I don't know which kind of doorkeeper he is. I figure there are two kinds, you know. There's a doorkeeper who loves his Master, so he's always on the alert for when He's going to come; it doesn't matter to him: cockcrow, midnight, dawn.

I knew a doorkeeper like that once. His name was Brother Ernest Gauthier; he was the doorman at the seminary in Ottawa, and he was at that post for 37 years, 24 hours a day. If there was a knock on the door or a telephone call, Brother Gauthier took it-except for his two week holiday every year, when he went to Notre Dame du Cap, the beautiful shrine in Quebec, where he worked as a doorkeeper for two weeks-to give the doorkeeper there some time off! So, that's one kind of doorkeeper. And he loved Christ in whoever came to the door or whoever called on the phone.

The other kind of doorkeeper is kind of in cahoots with the dissipated servants. You know, he'll give the warning: "He's coming! Get back to work!" He's not really looking forward to the return of the Master.

So there are a couple of kinds of doorkeepers, perhaps. But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. This is the kind of doorkeeper who loves his Master. In that sense he can be an example for us.

'Stay awake' means: Be on the alert. It means more than that; it means just praying, desiring his return-'Oh, if only He would come back! It's so much better here when He's come back. So much better here when the Master is in the house. The problems get settled a little more easily. And if somebody needs to talk, He'll listen. He's good that way. I wish He'd hurry up; oh, Come! Please come!'

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Church-Hall Revonation Photos

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.