On March 20, the Church celebrates the solemnity of St.  Joseph, transferred because his usual feast day (March 19) fell on Sunday this year.  We’d just like to draw your attention to the important role that the Franciscan family played in popularizing devotion to Joseph. Here we Franciscans played a large part in the renewed focus on the humanity of Jesus that spread in the Middle Ages. As people followed Francis’s example at Greccio and contemplated the scene of Jesus’s humble birth, they began giving more attention to this silent figure who played such an important role in the life of Jesus.

On March 2, the Franciscan family and the people of the Czech Republic honor the memory of St. Agnes of Bohemia (Agnes of Prague). Born in 1211, she was the daughter of Ottokar II, King of Bohemia. Her mother was a Hungarian princess, and so Agnes was a first cousin of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. As a princess, it seemed that Agnes' life would be programmed for her to marry a foreign monarch for the benefit of her country; however, after two attempts to arrange such a marriage failed, Agnes refused to be a political pawn any longer but to follow her own path in life. Franciscan friars came to Prague in 1232, and Agnes was soon attracted to their preaching and values. Supported by her brother, King Wenceslaus, she built a church and friary, and then a hospital that she endowed with her dowry. She also invited Poor Clare sisters from Italy to establish a monastery in Prague, which she herself entered in 1234.

St. Francis

Francis began his Testament to his brothers with these words: “The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance. . .” And Clare told her sisters: “After the Most High Heavenly Father saw fit by His grace to enlighten my heart to do penance. . .” And the early name for the lay people inspired by their example was the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. All early Franciscans thus saw themselves as part of the great penitential movement of their times: men and women who heard the Gospel afresh and turned their hearts to the Gospel in a deeper way.  Therefore, the liturgical season of Lent, dedicated to a deeper conversion of mind and heart, always occupied a special place in their lives.

The Commission for the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition (CFIT) held its annual meeting on Jan. 20 and 21 in Denver, Colorado. Dominic Monti, OFM, who is stationed at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, is chair of the commission. Fifteen other members of the Commission from around the US participated in the meeting and enjoyed two days of fruitful discussion and strategizing about future activities. Sr. Dorothy McCormack, OSF, executive secretary of CFIT, was responsible for organizing logistics for the meeting.

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