Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022: An Observance with Franciscan Roots

Tuesday, January 18, 2022, begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an observance with Franciscan roots. The 2022 theme for the Week is inspired by Matthew 2:2—“We saw the star in the east, and we came to worship him.”

Living St Francis’s vision of corporate poverty

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was the initiative of Fr. Paul Wattson (1863–1940) and Mother Lurana White (1870–1935), founders of the Society of the Atonement. In 1895, Lurana, then a young religious in the Episcopal Church, was looking for an Anglican congregation that lived St. Francis's vision of corporate poverty, and she turned to Fr. Paul for assistance. Finding none, the duo founded the Society of the Atonement in 1898 at Graymoor, in Garrison, NY.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Mother Lurana White 700pxlsMother Lurana White (1870–1935), cofounder of the Society of the Atonement

Founding the Society of Atonement

For the name of the new congregation, Fr. Paul was

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Blessed Odoric of Pordenone: Prominent Missionary of the Middle Ages

On January 14, Franciscans honor the memory of Blessed Odoric of Pordenone (c. 1286–1331), one of the most prominent missionaries of the later Middle Ages.

Devoted to prayer, missionary life

A native of the town of Pordenone in the Friuli region of Northern Italy, Odoric joined the Friars Minor about 1302. He devoted his early life to eremitical prayer and preaching but then went to evangelize in other lands, first in the Balkans and then among non-Christian peoples in Southern Russia. After returning home for a time, he left Venice c. 1317/18 as a missionary to Asia. He would be gone for over a dozen years on a remarkable journey.

Bl Odoric of Pordenone preaching Chinese 700pxlsModern Chinese depiction (c. 1930s) of Odoric preaching

Evangelizing in Asia, Middle East

Traveling first to Constantinople, he spent some time at Franciscan houses in what is now Armenia and Iran. Sailing down the Persian Gulf, Odoric arrived in India

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Saint Thomas of Cori: Devoted to Prayer, Simple Life

On January 11, Franciscans honor the memory of Saint Thomas of Cori (1655–1729), a Franciscan who is not well known outside the region of Rome; he was only canonized in 1999.

Exhibiting deep spiritual discernment at an early age

Thomas was born Francesco Placidi into a family of poor shepherds in Cori, a town in the Lazio region of Italy. A quiet, gentle boy, he was orphaned by age 14 and worked to support his sisters; once they were married, he sold his flocks and entered the Friars Minor. Thomas’s deep spiritual discernment was evident at an early age; his first assignment after ordination was to assist with the formation of novices.

Asking to join a house of prayer

Very soon, though, Thomas asked to join one of the houses of prayer then springing up in the Order attempting to revive a life according to Francis’s Rule for Hermitages. In

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Saint Charles of Sezze: A Life of Humble Service

On January 7, Franciscans in the United States celebrate Saint Angela of Foligno [see reflection for January 4], but Franciscans in the rest of the world also recall the memory of a Friar Minor known for his deep spiritual life: Saint Charles of Sezze (1613–1670).

Born to a devout farming family

He was born Giancarlo Marchioni to a devout farming family of modest means in Sezze, about 40 miles south of Rome. As a young man he helped with tasks on the farm, tending to the livestock and ploughing. His parents hoped he would eventually study for the priesthood, but he was a poor student, so that avenue was closed.

St Charles of Sezze Sezze Italy 700pxlsThe town of Sezze, Italy, birthplace of Saint Charles

Content with a life of humble service

When he was 20, he fell seriously ill and made a vow to become a Franciscan if he recovered. He joined the Reformed Friars

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Saint Angela of Foligno: Franciscan Mystic

On January 4, Franciscans, especially the Third Order, both Secular and Regular, celebrate the memory of the great mystic, Saint Angela of Foligno (c. 1248–1309). In the USA, she is remembered on January 7.

Early life comfortable, carefree

Angela was born into a well-to-do family in the town of Foligno, Umbria, Italy, only a short distance from Assisi, and was married as a young woman. Her early life was comfortable, indeed carefree and superficial; in fact, she dismissed people who were seriously committed to religious activities.

Vision of Francis spurs Angela to redirect her life

When she was in her late 30s, however, she had a vision of St. Francis that caused her to start examining her life. Especially after the death of her family in a plague in 1288, she totally redirected her life, formally joining the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (Franciscan Third Order) in 1291.

St Angela of Foligno Church of San Francesco Foligno 700pxlsChurch of

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Holy Name of Jesus: The Franciscan Connection

On January 3, we observe the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, a devotion especially dear to Franciscans. 

“Jesus” means “the Lord saves”

Luke’s Gospel tells us: “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (2:21). The name Jesus means “the Lord saves,” and it encapsulates Jesus’s very identity: the manifestation of God’s saving love in the world.

Popularizing devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus

Devotion to the name of Jesus has taken many forms in the history of Christianity, but it was the Franciscan Bernardine of Siena who in the 15th century especially popularized devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, carrying about a large monogram of the Holy Name (see main image) on his preaching tours.

The name Jesus in Christian art

For

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Christmas: A Special Feast for Franciscans

Christmas was such a special feast for Saint Francis because it reveals so vividly the deepest mystery of God: that our God totally empties self in the person of Jesus to share our frail humanity.

The Incarnation occupied Francis’s memory

That was the Jesus whose teaching and footsteps Francis wished to follow. As his first biographer, Thomas of Celano, recalls, “Indeed, so thoroughly did the humility of the Incarnation and the charity of the Passion occupy his memory that he scarcely wanted to think of anything else.”

Francis shared his wonder at the humility of the Incarnation

Francis shared his wonder at the “humility of the incarnation” that we celebrate at Christmas in his Letter to All the Faithful: “The Word of the Father—so worthy, so holy and glorious—came down into the womb of the Virgin Mary, from which he received the flesh of our humanity and our frailty. Though

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Christmas: A Special Feast for Franciscans

Christmas was such a special feast for Saint Francis because it reveals so vividly the deepest mystery of God: that our God totally empties self in the person of Jesus to share our frail humanity.

The Incarnation occupied Francis’s memory

That was the Jesus whose teaching and footsteps Francis wished to follow. As his first biographer, Thomas of Celano, recalls, “Indeed, so thoroughly did the humility of the Incarnation and the charity of the Passion occupy his memory that he scarcely wanted to think of anything else.”

Francis shared his wonder at the humility of the Incarnation

Francis shared his wonder at the “humility of the incarnation” that we celebrate at Christmas in his Letter to All the Faithful: “The Word of the Father—so worthy, so holy and glorious—came down into the womb of the Virgin Mary, from which he received the flesh of our humanity and our frailty. Though

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Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth: The Franciscan Connection

These final days of Advent are marked in the liturgy by the great “O Antiphons,” with their sense of joyful expectation. Today (December 19), the church prays: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

Francis held the Nativity of the Lord in great reverence

Francis’s early biographers tell us that “he held the Nativity of the Lord in greater reverence than any other of the Lord’s solemnities, saying: “After the Lord was born for us, it was certain that we would be saved,’” (Mirror of Perfection, 114). For Francis, the decision of God’s eternal Word to empty self, humbly entering creation as one of us, sharing our poverty and fragility, demonstrated—even without Jesus’s suffering and death—that God

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Blessed Mary Frances Schervier: Foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor

On December 15, Franciscans, especially Secular Franciscans and Third Order Regular congregations, honor the memory of Blessed Mary Frances Schervier (1819–1876).

A woman deeply affected by the needs of poor people

Born to a wealthy factory owner in Aachen, Germany, Maria Franziska lost her mother when she was 13; her two older sisters also died the following year, leaving her to manage the household for her father and younger siblings. She became deeply affected by the needs of poor people caught in the deplorable conditions caused by the Industrial Revolution. In her parish she began going out to nurse poor, sick people in their own homes and assisting in a soup kitchen, to which her father was initially opposed as he feared her bringing disease back to the home.

Blessed Mary Frances Schervier Aachen Germany 700pxlsAachen, Germany, the home of Blessed Mary Frances Schervier

Forming a sisterhood devoted to serving the sick poor

He relented, however,

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Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Franciscan Connection

On December 12, Catholics in the Americas celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Franciscans were there at the beginning of this story.

Franciscans and Our Lady of Guadalupe go hand in hand

As the late Dr. Gary Francisco Keller, for years Director of the Hispanic Research Center of Arizona State University, explains, “The Franciscans and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe go together hand in hand. Franciscans were the first missionaries to come to Nueva España, beginning with Pedro de Gante in 1523 and, in 1524, the Twelve Franciscan Apostles of New Spain. . .The work of these Franciscans marked the beginning of the systematic evangelization of the indigenous peoples of Mexico.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe image old basilica Mexico City 700pxlsThe old basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico, constructed between 1695–1709 (photo by J. D. Garcia)

Apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego

The Hispanic Research Center at ASU has available on its website an

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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: The Franciscan Connection

On December 8, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially significant for Franciscans, as under this title we honor Mary as patroness of our Order. Mary is also venerated under this title as patroness of the United States of America, the Philippines, and a number of other countries.

Basilica of National Shrine of Immaculate Conception Washington DC 700pxlsBasilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC. In 1846 the bishops of the United States unanimously voted to proclaim Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, as patroness of the United States, and this was approved by Pope Pius IX in 1847. Construction on this national shine began in 1920, and the upper church was completed in 1959. Work still continues on the interior.

Francis sees Mary as God’s grace in the world

Francis himself was especially devoted to Mary, seeing in her the prime manifestation of the working

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Saint Francis Anthony Fasani: Serving All with Compassion

On November 27, Franciscans remember Saint Francis Anthony Fasani (1681–1742), a Conventual friar who dedicated his life to the ministry of education and pastoral service. 

Drawn to the Franciscan Order

Giovanniello Fasani was born in the city of Lucera in Apulia, Italy, of working-class parents. His father, a farm laborer, died when Giovanniello was ten, but his stepfather assured that the boy received a good education with the Conventual Friars Minor in Lucera. Giovanniello soon felt drawn to join the Order and, at age 15, in 1695, was received into the novitiate with the name Francesco Antonio.

St Francis Anthony Fasani street scene Lucera 700pxlsThis street scene of Lucera shows the Church of San Francesco in the background.

Known as “Padre Maestro”

Francesco went on for studies in various places, especially Assisi, where he was ordained a priest in 1705. When he completed his studies in 1707, he was assigned to his hometown of Lucera, where he

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Saint Leonard of Port Maurice: Preacher of Parish Missions

On November 26, Franciscans around the world honor the memory of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (1676–1751), famous preacher of parish missions.

Discerning a religious vocation

Leonard was born in the town of Porto Maurizio on the Italian Riviera, then in the Republic of Genoa, where his father was a ship captain. At age 13, he was sent to live with an uncle in Rome where he attended the Jesuit college and the Gregorian University to prepare himself for a career in medicine. He discerned a religious vocation, however, and entered the Reformed Friars Minor of the Strict Observance in Rome in 1697.

St Leonard of Port Maurice Church of San Bonaventura Rome 700pxlsThe small Church of San Bonaventura on the Palatine Hill in Rome is where Leonard entered the Order and where he died.

St Leonard of Port Maurice interior Church of San Bonaventura Rome 700pxlsThe interior of the Church of St. Bonaventure whose intimate venue makes it a popular venue for Roman weddings.

Devoting his life to ministry of

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Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe: The Franciscan Connection

This Sunday (November 21), Catholics, along with many other Christians, conclude the 2021 liturgical year with the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Christ the King church in Cincinnati 700pxlsThe first Catholic Church in the world dedicated to the new title for our Lord was Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1926 (photo by Amber Dawson). 

Goal of all creation

This celebration was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the rise of modern totalitarian states and growing secularism in society. Instead, he called Christians to keep our eyes focused on the goal of all creation: the Reign of God come to full completion in and through Christ, as Paul writes the Colossians: “God has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son. . . He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for

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Saint Elizabeth of Hungary: Patroness of Secular Franciscans

On November 17, we celebrate the memory of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary or Thuringia (1207–1231), a Franciscan laywoman who is venerated today as patroness of Secular Franciscans and of the many congregations of women and men following the Franciscan Third Order Regular Rule.

Born in Hungary, raised in Germany

Elizabeth was born in Hungary in 1207, probably in the castle of Sárospatak, a daughter of King Andrew II. She did not see much of her native land because she was sent away at age four to be raised with her future husband, the heir to the sovereign county of Thuringia, at the Wartburg Castle, near Eisenach, Germany. Their marriage was celebrated in 1221 when Elizabeth was 14.

St Elizabeth of Hungary Wartburg Castle 800pxlsThe Wartburg Castle outside Eisenach, Germany, where Elizabeth spent most of her life., later became famous as the place where, at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther translated the New Testament

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Basilica of St. John Lateran: The Franciscan Connection

On November 9, Franciscans, along with the rest of the Catholic Church, celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

The Pope’s cathedral

As the Pope’s cathedral as Bishop of Rome, the Lateran played an important role in early Franciscan history, as it was the seat of government of the Church at that time. There Francis and his first brothers traveled in 1209 to seek the approval of Pope Innocent III for their way of life.

Basilica St John Lateran interior 700pxlsInterior of Basilica of St. John Lateran

Approving the Franciscan Rule

A story was told in Franciscan circles about Francis’s visit to a hesitant Pope Innocent:

On hearing [Francis’s response to his questions], the pope was greatly amazed, especially since, before blessed Francis’s arrival, he had seen in a vision the church of St. John Lateran threatening to collapse, and a religious, small and of shabby appearance, supporting it

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Saint Didacus of Alcalá: “Blue-Collar” Franciscan

On November 7, Franciscans in the United States remember Saint Didacus (Diego) of Alcalá (c.1400–1463), known for his life of charity and prayer, and as Patron of San Diego, California (in other countries his feast is celebrated on November 13).

A wandering penitent hermit

Little is known about Diego's early years. He was born about 1400 into a poor family in the town of San Nicolás del Puerto in the Andalusia region of Spain. He spent some years as a wandering penitent hermit before joining the Observant Franciscan friars near Córdoba.

Supporting brotherhood through manual labor

As a friar he worked at various manual trades to support the brotherhood. In 1441 he went to the Canary Islands as one of the first missionaries. Although lacking formal education, his good sense and zeal led him to be selected as guardian of the friary in Fuerteventura, where he defended the rights of

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Blessed John Duns Scotus: Franciscan Theologian

On November 8, Franciscans honor the memory of Blessed John Duns Scotus (c.1266-1308), one of the greatest of medieval theologians.

Early life of John Duns Scotus

His name describes his origins: John was a Scot, born in the town of Duns, Berwickshire. We do not know many details of Scotus's life. He apparently was from a leading family of Duns and entered the Friars Minor as a young man; we know he was ordained to the priesthood in March, 1291, so it seems he was born in Duns about 1266 and entered the Order around 1280.

Blessed John Duns Scotus Duns Scotland 700pxlsJohn's native town, Duns, Scotland, today.

Devoted to ministry of study, teaching

John’s life as a Franciscan was devoted to the ministry of study and teaching; he was educated at Oxford in the 1280s and early 1290s, and then began teaching at the Franciscan Schools in the late 1290s at the University of Oxford

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Saint John of Capestrano: Franciscan Preacher, Reformer

On October 23, the Church remembers Saint John of Capestrano [John Capistran] (1386-1456), a Franciscan friar who had a prominent and multifaceted ministry as a preacher and reformer in 15th-century Europe.

Walking line between zeal and fanaticism

Several years ago, Fr. Steve Grunow accurately described him: “John was a Franciscan friar and priest, but not of the good-natured variety of Franciscans that holds the popular imagination. To describe John as zealous would be an understatement. He walked the fine line between zeal and fanaticism, allowing God to write straight with the crooked lines he drew throughout his life."

Young life scarred by violence

Born in 1386 in Capestrano in the Abruzzo region of Italy, John lived a young life scarred by violence. His father, a knight, and all his brothers were killed in one of the bloody civil conflicts so common in Italy at the time. He later spoke of

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Saint Peter of Alcántara: Franciscan Reformer

On October 22, Franciscans in the USA celebrate the memory of Saint Peter of Alcántara, a famous reformer of Franciscan life (in most of the world, his feast is observed on October 19).

Effective preacher, spiritual leader

Peter was born in 1499 in the town of Alcántara in the Extremadura region of Spain. He was sent to the University of Salamanca to study law, but at age 16, he decided to join the small Discalced reform movement of the Franciscans. In 1519, most of these friars joined the Franciscans of the Regular Observance, but forming their own province of San Gabriel in Extremadura. Peter was ordained in 1524, and even as a young friar gained the reputation of being an effective preacher and spiritual leader.

St Peter of Alcantara friary he founded 700pxlsFriary of El Palancar, Pedroso de Acim, Spain, founded by Peter in 1557.

Extremely austere lifestyle

Elected provincial minister of San Gabriel in 1538, Peter

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Blessed Contardo Ferrini: Legal Scholar and Secular Franciscan

On October 20, Franciscans celebrate the memory of Blessed Contardo Ferrini (1859-1902), a brilliant Italian legal scholar and professor and fervent Secular Franciscan.

Intellectually curious

Ferrini was born into a professional family in Milan. He was a precocious child who developed a deep intellectual curiosity and an equally strong religious devotion. Several scholarly priests were influential in his formation, including the prefect of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, who encouraged him to learn to read the Bible in the original languages.

Active in charitable organizations

In 1876 he began the study of law in Pavia. A brilliant student, he was not popular with his fellows because of his serious nature. Graduating in 1880, Ferrini won a government scholarship that enabled him to study Roman law at the University of Berlin. There he also became active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other charitable organizations.

Blessed Contardo Ferrini School of Law Pavia 700pxlsContardo Ferrini attended the

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Pope Saint John XXIII: Secular Franciscan

On October 11, the Catholic Church celebrates the memory of Pope St. John XXIII (1881-1963), a Secular Franciscan.

Influenced by Franciscan spirituality

He was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in the diocese of Bergamo, Italy, the fourth of 13 children of a family of poor sharecroppers. While in the diocesan seminary, he joined the Secular Franciscan Order in 1896. At the time of John's canonization in 2014, Fr. Andre Cirino, OFM, wrote a very nice article on the influence of Franciscan spirituality in Pope John's life, "Saint John XXIII, Secular Franciscan."

Pope John XXIII birthplace 700pxlsBirthplace of Angelo Roncalli, Sotto il Monte, province of Bergamo, Italy. Several families lived in this large house.

Broad experience of the world

John was ordained in 1904, and after serving in his diocese in various positions, he entered the Vatican diplomatic corps, where he had a long and varied career, giving him a broad experience of the world. Click

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Saint Francis: The “Poor Man of Assisi”

"Alleluia, Alleluia, Francis,

poor and humble, enters heaven rich

and is welcomed with celestial hymns. Alleluia."

Around the world people celebrate Francis

On October 4, Franciscan men and women, with all Christians, many religious people of other faiths, and countless people of goodwill throughout the world honor the inspiring memory of Francis of Assisi, “the Poverello.”

St Francis weds Lady Poverty fresco Giotto 700pxlsSaint Francis desired to follow Christ in his self-emptying and so “weds” Lady Poverty. Detail from fresco in the lower basilica of San Francesco in Assisi (Giotto, c. 1320).

Francis renounced wealth, status

Francis died on this date in 1226, as his first biographer tells us, “having completed twenty years since his conversion,” when he renounced wealth and status before the bishop of Assisi to follow the poor and humble Christ. The chief highlights of his life, as well as some of his more important writings and prayers are available at https://ofm.org/about/st-francis/ (scroll down

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Transitus of Saint Francis: Welcoming Sister Death

795 years ago this evening, October 3, 1226, Francis of Assisi passed from this life into the fullness of the Divine.

Yielding up the spirit of life

His health had been sharply declining, and several months earlier, he had asked to come home to Assisi. According to St. Bonaventure’s account, Francis was being nursed in the bishop’s residence in the city, but aware that his death was imminent, “he asked to be carried to St. Mary of the Portiuncula so that he might yield up the spirit of life where he had received the spirit of grace.”

St Clare nursing St Francis statue 700pxlsSaint Clare nursing Saint Francis and seeing the wounds of the Stigmata. Historically speaking, this moving image depicts something that "might have happened"—we know that when Francis was very ill and depressed, he went to San Damiano where he was nursed by the Poor Sisters, but we also know that he always took

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Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael: The Franciscan Connection

The feast of the great archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael (Sept. 29) should not go by without recalling the deep devotion Saint Francis had to these heavenly protectors of Christians.

Saint Michael present at the hour of death

Like most medieval Christians, Francis was very conscious that the journey of faith was a perilous one, with many temptations and dangers that threatened to divert believers from their heavenly goal. Especially he believed Saint Michael was at hand to defend them and was present in a special way at the hour of their passing from this life.

Francis felt unworthy to stand where Michael had stood

Francis in fact made a pilgrimage to the great shrine of Saint Michael at Monte Gargano in Apulia (as had Saint Clare's mother Ortolana). According to tradition, Francis climbed a dangerous section of rocky steps but did not enter the grotto itself. The chronicles say

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Saint Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio): Bearing the Stigmata, Suffering with Christ

On September 23, Catholics celebrate the memory of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), the Capuchin Franciscan friar still best known simply as "Padre Pio," who has become one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church.

Fascinated by Capuchin friar

He was born of poor but devout parents, Grazio and Maria Forgione, in the town of Pietrelcina, province of Benevento, in southern Italy, and baptized Francesco. At an early age, he was fascinated by a barefoot Capuchin who came around seeking alms, and Francesco grew up wanting to become a friar but lacked the educational background. His father, Grazio, came to the United States to find work in order to pay for the necessary schooling, and so Francesco entered the novitiate in 1903 and was given the name Pio.

Padre Pio street scene Pietrelcina 700pxlsStreet scene in Pietrelcina, birthplace of Padre Pio

Plagued with ill health

Brother Pio was ordained to the priesthood in

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Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis

On September 17, Franciscans celebrate the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis, to recall Francis's body being marked with the wounds of Christ.

What happened in LaVerna?

A modern biographer, Andre Vauchez, says: "What happened on La Verna on an undetermined day in September 1224?. . . It is difficult to say with any precision, as Francis [himself] did not mention it in his writings, and he forbade from speaking about it those rare persons who came to observe the traces of the wounds. It is thus only after his death and before his burial that a certain number of witnesses were able to actually see them on his flesh."

Stigmata El Greco 700pxlsSt. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, El Greco (1586-1600, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. El Greco was a Secular Franciscan and the Stigmata one of his favorite subjects.

Francis identifies with the suffering Christ

Whatever the source of the physical wounds,

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Saint Joseph of Cupertino: The “Flying Friar”

On September 18, the Franciscan family celebrates the memory of St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663), a Conventual Franciscan friar popularly known for the paranormal phenomena that marked his life.

Prone to trances

Joseph was born to poor but devout parents, Felix and Francesca Desi, in the town of Copertino, province of Lecce, in Apulia. As a child he was prone to “space out” of conversations and fall into a trance. Even his widowed mother berated him for being a lazy good-for-nothing.

Exemplifies Franciscan virtues

This reputation hindered him in realizing his desire to become a Franciscan. He finally gained acceptance into the Conventual friars; although a notoriously poor student, he exemplified Franciscan virtues of prayer, humility, and dedicated service in the community. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1628 (the ordaining bishop had given the first candidates a thorough examination but was so impressed by them, he waived the

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Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows: The Franciscan Connection

As the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15), it is good to know the important role that Franciscans played in promoting this particular image of Mary and why.

Cross of Christ central to Saints Francis and Clare

The Cross of Christ was central to Francis and Clare, as we know from the place the cross of San Damiano played in their lives and from Francis’s early prayer, “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all your churches throughout the whole world and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Crucifixion frescoe Lorenzetti 700pxlsCrucifixion frescoe by Pietro Lorenzetti (c. 1315-1320) in the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi

Promoting the suffering humanity of Jesus

But by the 1220s this emphasis took a new turn: in their preaching of penance, Franciscans promoted devotion to the suffering humanity of Jesus to draw people to conversion.

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Saint Rose of Viterbo: Audacious Secular Franciscan

On September 4, the Franciscan family celebrates the memory of Saint Rose of Viterbo (c. 1233-1251), an audacious young Secular Franciscan woman who challenged her contemporaries as a public preacher.

Captivated by Franciscan friars

Born in the city of Viterbo, about 50 miles from Rome, to a working-class family, Rose was captivated by the Franciscan friars who had established a church there. She began dressing in their habit and devoted herself to prayer and ascetical practices in her home.

Gained reputation of foretelling future

She also experienced visions and gained a reputation of being able to foretell the future. To the consternation of her parents, people flocked to their home to hear Rose speak. In time, they allowed her to join the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (the Franciscan “Third Order”).

St Rose of Viterbo window LaCrosse WI 700pxlsThis window in La Crosse, Wisconsin, depicts Saint Rose.

Preached publicly to urge people to turn their lives to

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Blesseds John Francis Burté, Apollinaris Morel, and Severin Girault: Franciscans Massacred During the French Revolution

On Sept. 2, Franciscans honor the memory of Blesseds John Francis Burté, Apollinaris Morel, and Severin Girault—Franciscan friars who were among the 116 priests and seminarians massacred on this date in 1792 at the Carmelite church and friary in Paris during the French Revolution.

A violation of divine law

The French National Assembly in 1790 had abolished religious orders and passed a law called the Civil Constitution of the Clergy that totally reorganized the Catholic Church in France under government control, with only a nominal relationship to the pope. When the pope condemned the Constitution as a violation of divine law, the government demanded that clergy take an oath to obey it; on the other hand, the pope threatened excommunication for priests who did.

Arrested as enemies of the state

In November 1791, the government declared that any “non-juring” clergy were subject to arrest as enemies of the state. These

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Saint Louis IX of France: Co-Patron of Secular Franciscan Order

On August 25, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Louis IX of France (1214-1270), co-patron of the Secular Franciscan Order and of Third Order Regular men and women.

Raised with great sense of responsibility to others

Louis succeeded his father, Philip II, on the throne of France when he was only 12. He was raised strictly by his devout mother, Blanche of Castile, who instilled in him a great sense of responsibility. She told him: "I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should ever commit a mortal sin."

Quintessential Christian ruler

In his day, Louis was viewed as the quintessential Christian ruler. He fostered a uniform system of justice, attempting to quell private wars in his realm and being attentive to the rights of the poor (he outlawed

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Saint Louis of Toulouse: Renouncing Throne to Become a Franciscan

On August 19, the Franciscan family remembers Saint Louis of Toulouse (1274-1297). Although not well known today, Louis was a phenomenon in his own time, a prince who renounced a throne to become a Franciscan.

Great-nephew of two saints

Louis of Anjou was born in 1274 at Brignoles in Provence, the son of Charles II, future King of Naples and count of Provence. He was a great-nephew of both Saint Louis of France and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.

St Louis of Toulouse birthplace 700pxlsThis summer residence of the Counts of Toulouse at Brignoles was both the birthplace and deathplace of Saint Louis.

Educated by Friars Minor

In 1284, Louis's father, Charles, was captured in a struggle with the king of Aragon over the control of Sicily; Charles obtained his release in 1288 only by agreeing to send Louis and two other sons to Catalonia as hostages instead. And so, the youths spent seven years under

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, as we celebrate the feast day in honor of the Virgin Mary, at whose Assumption the Angels rejoice and praise the Son of God.

Mary’s privileged place

Franciscans, from the beginning of our movement, have celebrated the privileged place that Mary occupies in God’s design for human salvation. Saint Francis recited the following antiphon several times a day in his Office of the Passion:

Holy Virgin Mary,

among the women born into the world,

there is no one like you.

Daughter and servant

of the most high and supreme King

and of the Father in heaven,

Mother of our most holy Lord Jesus Christ,

Spouse of the Holy Spirit,

pray for us

with Saint Michael the Archangel,

all the powers of heaven

and all the saints,

at the side of your most holy beloved Son,

our Lord and Teacher.

Glory to the Father,

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Saint Roch: Provider of Loving Care to Humans and Animals

On August 16, the memory of Saint Roch, a Secular Franciscan, is celebrated in many places with great festivity.

Renouncing wealth, becoming Franciscan penitent

There is no contemporary life of Saint Roch, but according to popular tradition, he was born into a noble family in Montpellier, France. When he was around 20 years old, he renounced his wealth and became a lay Franciscan penitent, choosing the life of an itinerant pilgrim. As he made his path to Rome, he stopped in a number of towns where he would stay in hospices for a time, treating and sometimes healing victims of the bubonic plague, and then moving on.

Legend of being a plague victim

His legend tells us that Roch himself became a victim of the plague near Piacenza and collapsed in a forest but was helped back to health by a dog who brought him bread and licked his wounds.

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Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, OFM Conv: Martyr of Charity

Eighty years ago on August 14, 1941, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv., was killed with a phenol injection inside a starvation cell of Block 11 of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Determined to become a Franciscan

Saint Maxmilian was born Raymond Kolbe in 1894 at Zdunska Wola, an industrial town near Lodz, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire), to a devout but poor family. As a teenager, he determined to become a Franciscan and so illegally crossed the border into the Austro-Hungarian Empire where he studied at the Conventual Franciscans' minor seminary in Lvov and entered the Order in 1910.

Mobilizing Catholics to profess their faith

Friar Maximilian was a brilliant student who excelled in what we would call today STEM subjects; after his profession, he was sent for studies in Rome, where he earned doctorates in both philosophy and theology. During his years in Italy, he witnessed

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Saint Clare of Assisi: First Woman to Join Saint Francis

On August 11, the Franciscan family celebrates the feast of St. Clare of Assisi (1193-1253), the first woman to join Francis and his brothers in forging a new Gospel way of life.

Embarking on a life of penance

Clare was born into one of the feudal land-owning families of Assisi, spending some years in the neighboring city of Perugia due to class warfare in Assisi. Several years after her family's return to Assisi, she determined to embark on a life of penance in her family home.

Joining Francis and his brothers

Inspired by conversations she had with Francis, however, in 1211 (others say 1212) she courageously decided to abandon her family, possessions, and social status to join Francis and his brothers at the Portiuncula. Soon, she was joined by several other women, and they settled at the church of San Damiano. Francis composed a brief form of life for her

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Saint Clare: Light of Assisi

In 1253, Clare’s health began to deteriorate. With August’s scorching temperatures, she was closer and closer to the end. As always, the late summer heat drove the papal entourage from Rome to the refreshing heights of Perugia. It would not be long until these dignitaries heard the news echoing from hill to hill in the Valley of Spoleto: Madonna Chiara was dying. 

Clare fresco 2 Friedman 700pxlsA fresco of Clare and her sisters can be found at San Damiano near the dormitory. Photo by Greg Friedman, OFM. 

Pope Innocent IV understood the meaning of the moment. His nephew, Cardinal Rainaldo, accompanied him on the journey to the little cloister. This pope, whose attempt at a Rule for the women had been politely rejected by San Damiano’s sisters, arrived to see its famous abbess. She received him with utter respect and humble gratitude. 

How wonderful was this? The successor of St. Peter was under her

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Saint John Vianney: Patron of Parish Priests

On August 4, the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie (John) Vianney (1786-1859), the most noted of the many diocesan priests who have been attracted to Franciscan values and joined the Secular Franciscan Order.

Maintaining faith amid revolution

Born in Dardilly, France, John was part of a poor farming family that valiantly maintained their faith amid the anti-religious policies of the French Revolutionary government.

Ministering entirely in Ars, France

John’s desire to be a priest was hampered by his lack of prior education and so he struggled with studies. Finally, he was ordained at age 30. He was assigned to the village of Ars (about 300 inhabitants) near Lyon, where he spent his entire priestly life.

St John Vianney rectory in Ars 700pxlsSaint John Vianney lived very simply for over four decades in the humble rectory in Ars.

Living authentic manner of life

In the beginning, John had to overcome an apathetic attitude toward religious

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Feast of the Dedication of the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi

On August 2, the Franciscan family celebrates the dedication of the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi.

Home base for Franciscans

Located down in the valley about two and half miles below the city of Assisi, this chapel, the beloved "Portiuncula" or "Little Portion," was restored by Francis in the first years of his conversion. It became the place where he and the first brothers made their home base about 1210. It is also where Francis received Clare into his movement a few years later and where he died in 1226. This shrine to Mary remains the spiritual “motherhouse” of the Order of Friars Minor.

Portiuncula wooden panel Assisi 700pxls In the interior of the chapel, the central scene on the wooden panel over the altar depicts the Annunciation, surrounded by the story of the granting of the Portiuncula Indulgence. In the top scene Francis kneels before Christ and Mary enthroned in

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Blessed Solanus Casey: Holy Priest, Friend of the Poor

On July 30, US Franciscans especially celebrate the feast day of Blessed Solanus Casey (1870-1957), a Capuchin friar noted for his deep prayer, compassion for the sick, and outreach to the poor.

Witnessing violence led to priestly vocation

Solanus was born Bernard (“Barney”) Casey to Irish immigrants Bernard and Ellen Casey on November 25, 1870, on a farm outside Oak Grove, Wisconsin, the sixth child of ten boys and six girls. He contracted diptheria as a child which permanently weakened his voice. At 16, Barney left the farm and worked at a series of jobs: lumberjack, hospital orderly, prison guard, and street car operator. While at work one evening, he witnessed a brutal murder. This caused him to re-evaluate his life, and in 1891 he decided to study for the priesthood.

Blessed Solanus Casey family photo 700pxlsBernard and Elllen Casey at their 50th wedding anniversary in 1913 with their 14 living children. Fr Solanus is

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Saint Lawrence of Brindisi: The Capuchins’ Renaissance Man

On July 21, the Franciscan family, with the rest of the Church, celebrates the memory of St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619), who was been described as "the Capuchins' Renaissance man."

Given an excellent education

Lawrence was born Giulio Cesare Russo in 1559 in Brindisi, Italy, where his father, a Venetian, was a prosperous merchant. He lost his parents at an early age and was raised by an uncle in Venice and given an excellent education.

Gifted with facility for languages

He entered the Capuchin reform of the Franciscan friars in Venice at age 16 and given the name Lawrence. Gifted with a remarkable facility for languages, Lawrence devoted himself to the study of Scripture. Besides mastering Greek, he was one of the few scholars of his age to be totally fluent in Hebrew (so much so that rabbis thought he must have been a Jew who had converted to Christianity).

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Saint Bonaventure: Theologian and Doctor of the Church

On July 15, the entire Church joins Franciscans in celebrating the memory of St. Bonaventure (1217/21-1274), Doctor of the Church.

Student of theology

A native of the Italian town of Bagnoregio, about 90 miles from Rome, Bonaventure was educated at the University of Paris, where he joined the Friars Minor in 1243 as a young master of arts. There he studied under Alexander of Hales, one of the principal masters of theology at the University who had joined the Friars Minor in 1236, founding the Franciscan School of Theology.

St Bonaventure Bagnoregio 700pxlsCivita di Bagnoregio, ancient city on rocks in Italy.

Effective guide for his Franciscan brothers

Bonaventure himself continued in Paris, teaching at the Franciscan School from 1248-1257, where he became regent master. Here he became one of the leading Scholastic theologians of the day. His eloquence and writings defending the friars' way of life caused him to be elected General Minister

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Blessed Angelina of Montegiove: Medieval Franciscan Leader / Blessed Emmanuel Ruiz and Companion Martyrs: Victims of Religious and Ethnic Violence

On July 13, Franciscans honor a medieval Franciscan woman leader and a group of 19th-century Franciscan martyrs.

Encouraging young women to live celibate life

Blessed Angelina of Montegiove (1357-1435) was born to an aristocratic family near Orvieto, Italy. According to tradition, she was married to a nobleman in the Abruzzo who died soon after. She then joined the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (the "Third Order of St. Francis") and traveled about the region encouraging other young women to a dedicated celibate life.

Settling into life of prayer, simplicity, charity

About 1395, she settled in a small community of tertiary women, Sant' Anna, in Foligno, who were devoted to common prayer, a simple life, and works of charity.

Blessed Angelina of Montegiove courtyard monastery SantAnna 700pxlsInterior courtyard of monastery of Sant'Anna in Foligno, Italy.

Moving into leadership role

By the early 1400s, Angelina had moved into a leadership role in the community which gradually developed a more

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Saint Veronica Giuliani: A Foremost Catholic Mystic

On July 10, the Franciscan family celebrates the memory of Saint Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727), a Capuchin Poor Clare nun who is one of the foremost mystics in the Catholic tradition.

Setting her heart on religious life

Born Orsola Giuliani in 1660, the youngest of seven daughters born to devout upper-class parents in Mercatello in the diocese of Urbino, she set her heart on a religious life from childhood. Her father was adamantly opposed to this as two of her older sisters had already entered the convent, but he finally relented, and at age 17, she joined the austere Capuchin Poor Clares in the town of Città di Castello in Umbria. She took the name Veronica out of devotion to the Passion; her one desire was to become a "true icon" of the Crucified Christ.

St Veronica Giuliani Poor Clare monastery 700pxlsCapuchin Poor Clare monastery in Città di Castello, where Saint Veronica lived for over 50 years.

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Dutch Franciscan Martyrs: Remaining Faithful to Catholic Beliefs

On July 9, Franciscans celebrate the memory of Saints Nicholas Pieck (1534-1572), Willehad, and their 17 companions, martyred during the brutal religious wars that accompanied the Reformation in Europe.

Catholic beliefs challenged

In the Netherlands, at that time ruled by Spain, the population in some areas was increasingly drawn to Protestant beliefs, whereas in others, people tended to remain loyal to inherited Catholic practices. In the northern provinces, where Calvinists were in the majority, an armed resistance against harsh Spanish rule began in 1569, although there were pockets where Catholicism still remained strong.

Franciscans rounded up, imprisoned, abused

In April 1572, a motley armed band of Calvinists, known as the "Sea Beggars," seized the town of Brielle; from there, on June 26, they took the town of Gorkum (today, generally spelled as Gorinchem). There they rounded up the 11 friars of the local Franciscan community, headed by their guardian, Friar

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25 Franciscan Martyrs in China: Caught in the Crossfire of Political Currents

On July 8, the Franciscan family honors the memory of a group of 25 Franciscans, both European missionary friars and sisters and native Secular Franciscans, who were martyred in Shanxi province, China, this day in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion.

Martyred during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China

As has often been the case, Western missionaries who had come to a foreign country to bring the Gospel to native peoples became caught in the crossfire of wider political currents. In 1898 several European governments exacted significant financial and territorial concessions from the Chinese Empire, capping a process that had been going on since the 1840s. The imperial government also promulgated some liberal "reforms" bringing significant Western perspectives into the Chinese educational system.

Chinese martyrs 1200pxls Bishop Francesco Fogolla, OFM (seated with white beard), coadjutor to Bishop Gregory Grassi, with a group of friar missionaries and Chinese seminarians. Bishop Fogolla and some of the

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Saint Elizabeth of Portugal: The Great Peacemaker

On July 5, Franciscans in the USA honor the memory of Saint Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal, Secular Franciscan (1271-1336), known in her lifetime as a great peacemaker (elsewhere her feast is observed on July 4, Independence Day in the US).

A great beauty and highly intelligent

The daughter of King Peter III of Aragon, Elizabeth was named after her great-aunt, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Considered both a great beauty and highly intelligent, she was married in 1282 to King Denis of Portugal. Denis was a very able ruler but took his wife for granted and engaged in numerous affairs. Nevertheless, Isabel was devoted to him and bore his infidelities patiently.

St Elizabeth of Portugal portraitSaint Elizabeth, depicted by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) as a young woman in 17th-century court dress, some three centuries after her death.

Known for her kindness and generosity to the poor

Besides attending to her obligations at court, she joined

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Saint Junipero Serra: Apostle of California

On July 1, Catholics in the United States and Franciscans throughout the world celebrate the memory of Saint Junipero Serra (1713-1774), the "Apostle of California."

St Junipero Serra statue San Diego 700pxlsStatue of Serra in San Diego, California, his first mission in what is now the United States, founded in 1769.

Formed in austere penitential environment

Born Miguel Serra to humble farmers in the village of Petra on the island of Mallorca (Majorca), Spain, he grew up close to a Franciscan friary where he received his elementary education. He entered the Friars Minor at Palma de Majorca in 1730 and was given the name Junipero after one of the early companions of Saint Francis. There he was formed in an austere penitential environment.

Early ministry devoted to teaching student friars

Ordained in 1737, the young Serra was considered brilliant; his early ministry was devoted to educating student friars in philosophy and theology according to the teachings

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