Places to Pray | Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • Places to Pray

    "Heart Speaks to Heart"

    St. Paul instructs us to “pray always.” In prayer we speak to God and listen to what He says in return. That's what Venerable John Henry Newman meant by his motto, "Heart speaks to heart." Here at Franciscan University prayer animates daily life, so our campus encourages prayer.

    Our hilltop campus, tree-lined and secluded from the hum of the city, draws its spiritual life from the many Masses and activities in Christ the King Chapel, and features many quiet places to stop and pray.

    The Portiuncula

    Nestled in a grove of trees opposite Christ the King Chapel, the Portiuncula beckons students and visitors alike to “come and spend an hour with the Lord” in prayer.

    Built in 1987 through the efforts of Fr. Samuel Tiesi, TOR, the Portiuncula is a replica of an ancient chapel restored by St. Francis. It was in the Portiuncula that he founded the Friars Minor; there that he clothed Clare in the religious habit and began the Order of poor Clares; and there that Francis yearly gathered the Friars in Chapter to discuss the Rule, and renew their dedication to the Gospel Life.

    This small chapel, like St. Francis' original, has become a place of adoration, conversion, and prayer. The simple beauty of the small stone structure reverberates with the power of the Lord's presence. The stillness, imbued with the peace of the Lord's tender concern, draws you in and focuses your attention on the eucharistic Lord.

    "The Port" features continuous eucharistic adoration, 24/7, while school is in session. During breaks and over summer it is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    And now, by Vatican decree, visitors to the Portiuncula can obtain a plenary indulgence on five different days each year: the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiunucula, The Feast of St. Francis, the day of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unborn, on a single day of the visitor's choosing, or at the end of a "holy pilgrimage" to the Portiuncula. The indulgence is granted when the faithful prays for the intentions of the Holy Father--particularly the Our Father and Creed, and has met the "usual conditions" (an interior detachment from sin, a sincere confession, and reception of the Holy Eucharist within 7-10 days of the visit)

    Read more about the Portiuncula and the plenary indulgence available to pilgrims.

    Tomb of the Unborn Child

    On snowy January 22, 1987, the fourteenth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which summarily struck down all laws against abortion across the country, over 500 people processed from Christ the King Chapel to witness the entombment of two babies killed by abortion. They were given the names Francis and Clare. That tomb, one of the first in the country, stands as a monument to the sanctity of life. It challenges all who pray there to live their lives as a witness to the Gospel of life.

    Since that day an eternal flame has been added and five more children killed by abortion have joined Francis and Clare.

    The annual pro-life memorial service, held every January 21 prior to the departure of students and faculty for the March for Life in Washington, D.C., features a procession to the tomb, regardless of how inhospitable the winter may be.


    Nearby the Portiuncula Chapel and the Tomb of the Unborn Child, stands a rough stone enclosure which houses a nearly life size manger scene.

    St. Francis emphasized three devotions: the crib, the cross, and the ciborium (Eucharist). He erected the first manger scene as a devotional reminder of the central mystery of the Incarnation. Mary, in her "yes” to God, became the gate through which salvation entered the world. “Be it done to me according to your word,” Mary said.

    The Infant Jesus lies in a crib hewn from a single rock, reminding us that Christ is the Rock of our Salvation. In that crib lies the Son of the God who "so loved the world that he sent His only Son;" he "emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men."

    But never far from the birth of Christ is the sobering reality of why He came into the world. "He was known to be of human estate, obediently accepting even death: death on a cross." Directly behind the crib, in front of the rough stone wall, stands a rugged cross--the throne upon which Christ reigns supreme, and the instrument of our Salvation. "When I am lifted up I shall draw all men to myself," He said.

    Next to the cross hangs an oxen yoke. The yoke symbolizes our freedom from the bonds of sin and death, and the Franciscan emphasis on penance and conversion. Before Christ died, all men were slaves to guilt and the consequences of sin. But Christ broke the chains of sin and death. In Him we become sons and daughters of the Father, able to live in freedom to love. He entreaties us still today, "Come to me all who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your shoulders, for my yoke is easy, and my burden, light."

    Two tables stand in the corners of the créche. On one a water pitcher and basin symbolize the waters of baptism through which we become sons and daughters of the Father, members of the mystical body of Christ. On the other table sit a loaf of bread and a cup to represent the Eucharist--the reality of the eternal covenant: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."

    So much is conveyed in the simple elements of wood, stone, bread, and water--indeed, the entire depth of the mystery of God's revelation and His tender, powerful love for all humanity. In this simple scene we witness his life poured out that we might have life everlasting.

    Stations of the Cross

    Since 1342 when Franciscan friars took custody of the holy sites in and around Jerusalem, the devotion of the stations of the cross has been closely associated with Franciscan spirituality. Like many Franciscan devotions the stations engage the whole person: body, mind, spirit. We walk along with them, pausing, seeing, genuflecting, praying, and meditating on the way of Calvary, entering into that day when the Lord of Glory "obediently accepted even death, death on a cross."

    Our large bronze outdoor stations, companions to those on Mount Krizevac in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, arrived in 1991 from Italy. A rugged path along the hillside beyond the Portiuncula takes the pilgrim past the Stations--a powerful experience for those hearty enough to make the trek down and back again along the hillside.

    Marian Grotto

    Following St. Francis' profound love for the Blessed Mother, a grotto shrine invites devotees to consider Mary's unique place in redemption history. She is the mother of the Lord, and the most complete exemplar of Christ through her poverty.

    Thomas of Celano tells us of St. Francis, "Toward the Mother of Jesus he was filled with an inexpressible love, because it was she who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. He sang special Praises to her, poured out prayers to her, and offered her his affections."

    In thanksgiving to Our Lady for her patronage of our campus and the graces God has showered upon us through her intercession, an original statue was commissioned to stand in our grotto. Her arms outstretched, she stands as though perpetually praising God with her great canticle of praise and thanksgiving, her Magnificat.

    Take a moment at the grotto and consider the example of Our Lady's humility, poverty, and love. Ask her to intercede for you before the throne of God. Let her wrap you in her mantle and carry you as a child to the throne of her Son.

    Residence Hall Chapels

    The Spirit moves us to prayer when and where He wills, at all hours of the day, in any and all places. Sometimes this means a deep compulsion to visit Our Lord midday, sometimes late at night. Nearly all of our residence halls have a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved so that our students can follow the Spirit's call and spend some time in quiet reflection before our eucharistic Savior whenever that call comes. Mass is celebrated monthly in each chapel. While the chapels are primarily for private, quiet prayer and reflection, groups may reserve these chapels for special events through the resident director. Request forms to reserve the chapel are also located outside of each residence hall chaplain's office.

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Steubenville, Ohio 43952

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