The Franciscan Embrace of ‘the Other’

Describing the early experience of St. Francis as his former friends struggled to understand the change in him, Henri d’Avranches describes his outreach to the lepers:

What spread his good name in the first place was his patience

In virtue of which he is given the care of the lepers, no one

Was more zealous than he in looking after them, even if

At one time he could not bear to watch their houses even

At a distance. Now he makes beds, wipes away venom, soothes ulcers,

Touches mouths, washes feet, strokes corroding,
rotten limbs,

And forces to the task his fugitive feelings.

—The Versified Life of St. Francis, by Henri d’Avranches, 125, 126 (see p. 456 in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Volume 1)

It is easy for us to romanticize this early experience of Francis—his first embrace of a leper. We speak of it often as emblematic

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Examine the Crucified Christ: Franciscan ZOOM Lecture

Between the 12th and 13th centuries, the depiction of Christ crucified underwent a significant change, from that of the crucified Christ with open eyes to that of the crucified Christ with closed eyes. Francis and Clare of Assisi were shaped in their life and ministry by looking into the open eyes of the crucified Christ (for example, the San Damiano cross and others). By looking into the open eyes of Christ crucified, Francis and Clare learned how to look at the world with open eyes.

Fr. Michael Blastic, OFM, distinguished professor of Franciscan Studies at the Franciscan School of Theology, will examine the significance of this artistic change and its implications for Minorite and Clarian life and ministry today during a 40-minute FREE Zoom lecture hosted by the Franciscan School of Theology on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at 7:00 PM PDT.

Michael Blastic staffFr. Michael Blastic, OFM, distinguished professor of

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Saint Clare of Assisi: Words of Wisdom

Through her writings, St. Clare offers us a guide to a stronger faith life.

When I traveled to Assisi for pilgrimage almost 10 years ago, I thought I was going mostly to immerse myself in the life of St. Francis. I knew we would also be learning about St. Clare, his companion, but I didn’t feel as drawn to her. At the time, I knew very little of her story, other than she was connected to St. Francis.

Once I arrived, though, and began to also walk in Clare’s footsteps, I found myself drawn to her. I saw a strong woman who held fast in her beliefs, despite the many challenges she faced along her journey. Her resilience inspired me.

Living tucked away at San Damiano, Clare was able to reach people outside the walls of her monastery and still does to this day. She couldn’t spread her message through traveling

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Blessed Frédéric Janssoone: "God’s peddler"

On August 5, Franciscans and many Canadian Catholics remember Blessed Frédéric Janssoone (1838–1916), a Franciscan friar noted as “God’s pedlar (peddler),” a missionary evangelizer and pastoral organizer.

Natural talent for meeting people, selling a product

Frédéric was born in Ghyvelde, in French Flanders, the youngest child in a prosperous farming family. His father died when Frédéric was nine. As a teenager, he began studies to prepare for the priesthood but had to leave school in 1855 to help support his family. He worked as a traveling salesman for a textile merchant, discovering he had a natural talent for meeting people and selling a product. After his mother’s death in 1861, he was able to resume his studies and entered the Franciscan friars at Amiens in 1864. He was ordained in 1870 and served first as a military chaplain.

Serving the Custody of the Holy Land

In 1876 Frédéric volunteered to

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Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Drawing from Franciscan Sources
Observers often note how much Pope Francis, a Jesuit, has highlighted the person of St. Francis and emphasized characteristic Franciscan themes in his messsqe. Indeed, his two key encyclicals, on care for the natural environment and on fraternity and social friendship, "Laudato Si" and "Fratelli Tutti," begin with quotations from the writings of St. Francis.

 

This resonance is nothing new. As the church celebrates the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola and his distinctive charism on July 31, it is interesting to hear this talk by Dr. Franco Mormando of Boston College illustrating just how much Ignatius himself drew from Franciscan sources. This talk was given in November 2019 at the Center for Ignatian Spirituality in Boston. Dr. Mormando himself is known to Franciscan audiences for his masterful study on the sermons of Bernardino of Siena:

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Saint Mary Magdalene: Beloved Disciple and Apostle of the Apostles

As Christians celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22, we want to announce a new study by Fr. Steven J. McMichael, OFM Conv., STD, that examines the key role she played in medieval Franciscan spirituality and art: Mary Magdalene in Medieval Franciscan Spirituality: Beloved Disciple and Apostle of the Apostles.

Popular image of Mary Magdalene 

In his new study, Dr. McMichael shows how the popular image of Mary Magdalene in the Middle Ages was a conflation of three different New Testament women into the same person, a process that originated in a sermon of Pope Gregory the Great in the late 500s: Mary of Magdala, a woman Jesus healed who became his faithful supporter and companion; an unnamed sinful woman in Luke’s Gospel (7:36-50) whom Jesus forgives; and Mary of Bethany.

Mary Magdalene, paradigm of authentic penance

Thus, Franciscans focused on Mary Magdalene in their preaching

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Saint Bonaventure: Offering Us Light and Comfort

St. Bonaventure has been a saint that I’ve admired for a long time. I went to St. Bonaventure University, and I was baptized at a parish named after him as well.

But it’s only within the last few years that I’ve come to appreciate, respect, and pray with the Seraphic Doctor on a more profound level. While July 15 has always been a special day for me and for Franciscans the world over, reflecting on Bonaventure recently has been particularly meaningful.

We live in a very fractious world. It’s not hard to look around us and be discouraged by the seemingly irreconcilable tensions, the lack of constructive dialogue, the outright violence (both in word and in deed) that is wrought in our society. The Church, too, seems to be divided into warring camps over politics, the liturgy, and our very identity.

It’s perhaps helpful to remind ourselves that these dynamics

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Saint Anthony of Padua: Drawn to a Life with God

On June 13, countless people celebrate the memory of one of the most popular Franciscan saints, Anthony of Padua (1191/5–1231). 

Drawn to a life with God

Despite his common association with an Italian city, Anthony was actually a native of Portugal. He was baptized Fernando Martins de Bulhões and came from a prominent family of knights in Lisbon, then on the frontiers between Christian and Muslim cultures. His wealthy family arranged for him to be educated at the cathedral school. Drawn to a life with God, he entered the canons regular of the Holy Cross at the abbey of St. Vincent in Lisbon as a young man. Seeking greater solitude, he asked to be transferred to the motherhouse of the congregation, the abbey of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, where he received an excellent education in the Scriptures.

St Anthony of Padua Abbey of the Canons Coimbra Portugal 700x1000pxlsThis is the Abbey of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross (Santa

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Dedication of the Basilica of San Francisco in Assisi

On May 24, the Franciscan Family celebrates the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi.

Launching cause for canonization of Saint Francis

Francis died in October 1226. His friend and protector, Cardinal Hugolino, was elected Pope Gregory IX in March 1227 and quickly launched a process for Francis’s canonization.

Constructing a pilgrimage house for Francis’s remains

Meanwhile, Gregory made plans to construct a pilgrimage church to house Francis’s remains. The commune of Assisi donated land, and at the end of April 1228, the Pope sent out an appeal to the Christian people requesting funds for the project. On July 17, 1228, the day after Francis’s canonization, Gregory laid the cornerstone of the church.

Construction progresses rapidly

Among the chief benefactors of the work was Lady Jacopa di Settisoli, a prominent Roman noblewoman and lay penitent, who was a close friend of Francis. Supervision of the

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Saint Margaret of Cortona: Lay Franciscan Penitent

On May 16, the Franciscan family celebrates the life of a lay Franciscan penitent, St. Margaret of Cortona (1247–1297).

Escaping home

Margaret was born into a farming family in the small village of Laviano in the diocese of Chiusi, Italy. Her mother died when Margaret was seven and her father remarried; the relationship between Margaret and her stepmother was not good, so Margaret, a beautiful, high-spirited girl, ran off when she was 18, and went to work for a nobleman who lived near Montepulciano. They entered into a relationship and had a son.

St Margaret of Cortona full dossal 700pxlsA dossal of Margaret, painted the year after her death, similar to the dossal of Saint Clare in Assisi, with scenes from her life surrounding the central figure.

Forced with her child to leave her home

Nine years later, when she was 27, her partner’s faithful dog came home alone, went directly to Margaret’s room, and began

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Saint Paschal Baylón: Devoted to the Eucharist

On May 17, Franciscans celebrate the memory of St. Paschal (Pasqual) Baylón (1540–1592), a friar known for his devotion to the Eucharist.

Spending long hours in prayer

Paschal was born in 1540 to a family of poor shepherds in Torrehermosa, in the province of Zaragosa, Aragon, Spain; he received his name from the fact he was born on Pentecost Sunday (in Spanish, the “Pasch of the Holy Spirit”). He began working as a shepherd at the age of seven; his work made it possible for him to spend long times at prayer; in the pastures he would listen for the bell of the church marking the consecration of Mass and would pause to pray devoutly. He also used his long hours alone to teach himself how to read. He became known as a man of transparent goodness.

St Paschal Baylon birthplace 700pxlsVillage of Torrehermosa, Spain, birthplace of Saint Paschal (Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA)

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Saint Felix of Cantalice: Humble Servant

On May 18, the Franciscan family celebrates the memory of St. Felix of Cantalice (1515–1587), a Capuchin friar known for his life of humble service.

Devoted to prayer during work

Born in the village of Cantalice near Rieti, Italy, to a peasant family, Felix Porri worked as shepherd and then a ploughman. He was known to be devoted to prayer in the midst of his work. One day, while he was breaking in a team of young oxen, the animals were suddenly spooked and trampled on Felix, pulling the plow over his body. He survived, but this narrow escape caused him to rethink his life, and in 1543 he sought admission to the Capuchin friars in Cittaducale as a lay brother.

St Felix Cantalice.Italy 700pxlsThe village of Cantalice, near Rieti, birthplace of St. Felix. The church on top of the hill, dedicated to him, was built on the site of his humble family

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Saint Bernardine of Siena: The Apostle of Italy

On May 20, the Church celebrates the feast of Bernardino (Bernardine) of Siena (1380–1444), a Franciscan friar and celebrated preacher called "The Apostle of Italy.”

Learning the liberal arts and law

Bernardino was born on September 8, 1380, in the Tuscan town of Massa Marittima, where his father, a member of the noble Albizzeschi family of Siena, was governor. Orphaned by the age of 6, Bernardino was raised by two devout aunts; as a youth he received an excellent education in liberal arts and law.

Serving the sick at a hospital

In 1397, he joined the lay confraternity attached to the largest hospital in Siena. When, in 1400, a severe plague descended upon the city, Bernardine, with some companions, took charge of the hospital for several months. He then cared for an aunt in her last illness. A few years later, he joined the Franciscans of the new Observant reform

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Saint Catherine of Bologna: Spiritual Leader, Woman of Arts

On May 9, the Franciscan family celebrates the memory of St. Catherine of Bologna (1413–1463), a Poor Clare celebrated for her devotion and learning.

Excelling in the arts

Caterina Vigri was born into a prominent family of Bologna. Her father brought the family to the city of Ferrera where he served as ambassador. There Catherine was raised at court as a lady-in-waiting. Ferrera was a center of culture at the time, and Catherine received an excellent education in letters, music (she played the viola), and art.

St Catherine of Bologna her Madonna and Child 700pxlsThis Madonna and Child is traditionally ascribed to Saint Catherine of Bologna.

Leading others in the Franciscan tradition

When Catherine reached the marriageable age of 14, however, she chose to abandon court life to join the convent of Corpus Domini in Ferrara, a community of laywomen living a religious life without formal vows. Shortly after she entered, the community became divided about the path

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Saint Leopold Mandić: Dedicated to Sacrament of Reconciliation

On May 12, Franciscans celebrate the memory of St. Leopold Mandić of Castelnuovo (1866–1942), a Capuchin friar famous for his dedicated ministry in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Born to large Croatian family

Bogdan Mandić was the twelfth child born to a Croatian couple in the town of Herceg Novi (Castelnuovo) in what is now Montenegro, on the Dalmatian coast of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Italian Capuchins had staffed a church in his hometown since the 1600s when the area was ruled by the Venetian Republic.

Herceq Novi.Montenegro birthplace St Leopold of Mandic 700pxlsThe town of Herceg Novi, Montenegro, birthplace of Saint Leopold

Gifted with keen mind, inner resiience

At age 16 the young Bogdan left home to study at their minor seminary in Udine, Italy. He was received into the Order in 1884 and given the name Leopold. Despite many physical handicaps—he was only 4’5” tall, walked with a limp, and spoke with a stammer—he was gifted

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Saint Pedro Regalado: Devoted to Prayer and Contemplation

On May 13, Franciscans celebrate the memory of a lesser-known Spanish friar saint, Pedro Regalado (Peter Regulatus) (1390–1456), who devoted his life to prayer and contemplation.

Finding what he longed for among Franciscans

Peter was born in Valladolid, Castile, to a noble family of Jewish origin that had converted to Christianity. His father died when he was an infant, and his devout mother allowed him to enter the Franciscan friary in his native city when he was only thirteen. In 1404 he was inspired by a friar, Pedro de Villacreces, who was trying to revive the eremitical dimension of the life of the early friars, and he joined him at the remote rural friary of La Aguilera near Burgos. There Peter found the solitude, prayer, and poverty he longed for.

St Peter Regulatus hermitage at La Aguilera 700pxlsThe hermitage of La Aguilera, near Burgos, Spain

Leading a simple, lifestyle

The friars in this reform movement led a

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Five Franciscan Martyrs: Loyal to the Catholic Faith

On May 4, Franciscans recall the witness of five friars—Blesseds Thomas Bullaker, Henry Heath, Arthur Bell, John Woodcock, and Charles Meehan—who were executed in England and Wales in the 17th century because of their loyalty to the Catholic faith.

Founding English Franciscan friary at Douai

During the reign of Henry VIII, the Observant Franciscans had been staunch defenders of the king’s marriage to Queen Catherine and papal supremacy, and so were the first religious order in England to be suppressed in 1534. The friars met imprisonment, death or were scattered to the continent. During the late 16th century, a number of English Catholics came to Europe to join the Order, and in 1618 they founded an English Franciscan friary at the University of Douai, then in the Spanish Netherlands (English Catholic women also founded a Poor Clare monastery in nearby Gravelines).

Risking life to minister to underground Catholics

Four of

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Easter: Saint Bonaventure Reflects on the Resurrection

On this Easter Sunday, let us meditate on the powerful image of the Resurrection in the lower basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, reflecting on this passage from “The Tree of Life” by Saint Bonaventure:

When the third day dawned of the Lord’s sacred rest in the tomb, which in the cycle of the week is both the eighth and the first, Christ, “the power and wisdom of God,” with the author of death now lying prostate, conquered even death itself and opened to us access to eternity, when he raised himself from the dead by his divine power in order “to make known to us the paths of life.”

Then “there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, with raiment like snow and his countenance like lightening.” He appeared attractive to the devout and severe to the wicked; for he terrified the

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Good Friday: Francis Marks the Hour of Jesus’s Death

On Good Friday, you might like to join in the Psalm Francis composed for his Office of the Passion to mark the hour of Jesus’s death. It is a collage of Biblical passages, mainly from the Psalms, phrases from the liturgy, and his own reflections.

Pray in union with all who suffer in Christ’s name

We pray today especially in union with all the members of Christ’s Body who suffer in his name, particularly those who are innocent victims of war and violence or cannot see a way out of their suffering:

O you who pass along this way

look and see if there is a sorrow like mine.

For a pack of dogs has surrounded me

a gang of evildoers has closed in on me.


Yes, they have stared at me and gloated;

they have divided my clothes among them

and have cast lots for my tunic.

They have

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Holy Thursday: Christ’s Giving Himself to Others Appeals Especially to Francis and Clare

Holy Thursday begins the Paschal Triduum, also known as the Easter Triduum. During these special days we recall Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising—the events that reveal the full depths of God’s love for our broken humanity.

Holy Thursday is central thrust of the Good News

This is the central thrust of the Good News that Saint Francis above all wanted to share with others. As he wrote in the Letter to the Faithful:

As His Passion was near, Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples and, taking bread, gave thanks, blessed and broke it, saying: Take and eat: This is My Body. And taking the cup He said: This is My Blood of the New Covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Then He prayed to His Father, saying: Father, if it can be done, let this cup pass from me.

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Palm Sunday: Francis Welcomes the Messianic King

Christians begin Holy Week on Palm Sunday, which is beautifully depicted in a fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti in the lower Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi (c. 1315–20).

The vulnerability of Jesus

The artist has captured the vulnerability of Jesus entering this fateful week—his disciples follow but seem uncomprehending; the crowds, although jubilant, seem unsure of what awaits this triumphant Hero. Jesus is leaving behind the years of teaching and healing and entering Jerusalem, days that would quickly bring betrayal and suffering.

The Paschal Mystery accomplishes humanity’s redemption

Knowing that the Pascal mystery would accomplish the redemption of humanity, Francis joyfully welcomes the humble Messianic King on Palm Sunday in his “Office of the Passion”:

All the earth, shout joyfully to the Lord,

Chant a psalm to his name

give glory to his praise.

Say to God: ‘How awesome are your deeds, O Lord,

confronted with the vastness of your

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Saint Maria Crescentia Höss: Known for a Deep Love of Prayer

On April 5, Franciscans remember Saint Maria Crescentia Höss, a cloistered sister of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis known for her deep life of prayer.

A devout child

Anna Höss (Hoess) was born in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, in 1682, the daughter of poor wool-weavers. A devout child, she was allowed to receive her first Communion before the usual age. She used to pray privately at the chapel of a local Franciscan convent where she and her family hoped she might enter, but since the community was relatively poor, applicants were told they needed to bring a dowry with them, and her family could not afford this.

Received into the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

When she was 21, the Protestant mayor of the town, impressed by Anna’s transparent goodness, asked the monastery to admit her to the community in return for a significant favor; she was received in

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Saint Benedict of Palermo: Spiritual Guide and Healer

On April 4, the Franciscan family honors the memory of Saint Benedict of Palermo, sometimes called Benedict the African or the Black (1526-1589). In Italian he is referred to as “il Moro” (dark-skinned), and this was often translated into English as “the Moor.”

Hard-working peasant devoted to prayer

Benedict was born at San Fratello, a village near Messina, Sicily, to an African couple brought there as slaves. They eventually became Christians; in reward for their good service, their son was given his freedom. Benedict became a hard-working peasant, devoted to prayer; he never went to school due to his poverty and remained illiterate all his life.

St Benedict of Palermo Santa Maria di Gesu 700pxlsSt Benedict of Palermo Santa Maria di Gesu

Experiencing racial prejudice

Benedict sometimes experienced prejudice due to his race and the fact that his parents were slaves. When he was around 21, a nobleman witnessed his patient attitude when he was being taunted by

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Saint Joseph: Franciscans Spread Devotion to This Popular Saint

On March 19, as the Church celebrates the solemnity of Saint Joseph, it is interesting to note the important role the Franciscan family played in spreading devotion to him.

The silent figure in Jesus’s life

Popular devotion to Saint Joseph became a product of the renewed focus on the humanity of Jesus during the High Middle Ages, which Franciscans had a major role in emphasizing through their preaching and writing. 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 Jesus’s life.

Drawing attention to Joseph

Franciscan works such as the very popular Meditations on the Life of Christ, long attributed to Saint Bonaventure, but most likely by the friar John “de Caulibus” of San Gimignano in the early 1300s, were significant in the process of drawing attention to Joseph.

Extending devotion to Saint

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Saint Salvador of Horta: Franciscan Healer

On March 18, Franciscans commemorate Saint Salvador of Horta (1520–1567), a Catalan friar known in his lifetime for his humility, intense prayer life, and healing powers.

A shoemaker called to religious life

Salvador Pladevall was born in Santa Coloma de Farners in the province of Girona, Catalonia, where his parents worked as servants in the local hospital. Orphaned at the age of 14, he moved with his sister to Barcelona, where he worked as a shoemaker. After his sister had married, Salvador felt free to pursue a calling to religious life.

Seeking a simple life with Observant Friars Minor

He originally entered the famous Benedictine monastery of Montserrat, but desiring a simpler life, joined the Observant Friars Minor in Barcelona in 1541. After his profession in 1542, he was assigned to the friary in Tortosa as cook and seeker of daily alms for the community. As he went out begging,

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Franciscans and the Disciplines of Lent

We are now in the midst of the sacred season of Lent.

Lent occupies a special place in Franciscan life

Early Franciscans saw themselves as part of the great penitential movement of their times: men and women who were hearing the Gospel afresh and turning their hearts to the coming of God’s Kingdom in a deeper way. Therefore, the liturgical season of Lent, dedicated as it is to a profound conversion of mind and heart, naturally occupied a special place in their lives.

Fasting becomes a prominent discipline

And so, Lenten practices occupy a place in the early Franciscan rules (Friars Minor, Poor Clares, and lay penitents). Prominent here is the discipline of fasting, which at the time entailed the communal solidarity of abstaining from meat, meat fats, and dairy products for the Lenten period.

Francis retires to hermitage during Lent

We know that Francis himself almost always retired for

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Saint John Joseph of the Cross: “The Friar of a Hundred Pieces”

On March 5, Franciscans remember St. John Joseph of the Cross (1654–1734), a friar, preacher, and spiritual guide.

Joining the friars of the Discalced Franciscan Reform

John was born Carlo Gaetano Calosinto in 1654 on the volcanic island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples to an aristocratic and devout family (five of the seven sons in the family became priests). At age 16, Carlo surprised his family by his choice to join the friars of the strict Discalced Franciscan Reform associated with Saint Peter of Alcantara, who had recently been introduced into Naples from Spain.

St John Joseph of the Cross Castello Aragonese 700pxlsA small chapel in the Castello Aragonese adjacent to Ischia is dedicated to Saint John Joseph. (lpsphoto,us)

Committing to an austere, contemplative, penitential way of life

Receiving the name John Joseph of the Cross, Carlo thoroughly committed himself to their extremely austere way of life and became noted for his deep contemplative prayer, penitential

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Saint Agnes of Bohemia: Determined to Follow the Franciscan Life

On March 2, the Franciscan family and the people of the Czech Republic honor the memory of Saint Agnes of Bohemia (Agnes of Prague).

Devoting her life to Christ

Born in 1211, Agnes was the daughter of Ottokar I, King of Bohemia. Her mother was a Hungarian princess, making Agnes a first cousin of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. As a princess, it seemed that Agnes would be destined to marry a foreign prince for the benefit of her country; however, after two failed attempts to arrange such a marriage, Agnes refused to be a political pawn any longer, and she felt determined to follow her own path. She turned down a marriage proposal from the Emperor Frederick II to devote her life to Christ.

Establishing a monastery

The Franciscan friars arrived in Prague in 1232, and Agnes was soon attracted to their preaching and values. Supported by her brother, King

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Blessed Sebastian de Aparicio: Devout Layman and Franciscan Friar

On February 25, Franciscans remember Blessed Sebastian de Aparicio (1502–1600) who lived a highly unusual life on two continents, first as a devout layman and then as a Franciscan friar.

Finding a new life in “New Spain”

Born into a poor family in the town of A Gudiña in the Galician region of northwest Spain, Sebastian left home to find work as a migrant agricultural laborer to provide dowries for his sisters. He eventually decided to find a new life across the ocean in “New Spain” and arrived in Mexico in 1533, settling in the recently founded town of Puebla. He became an agricultural laborer and then raised cattle. Struck by the lack of good roads, he then embarked on a career as a road builder to connect regions of Mexico, most famously a road linking the mining city of Zacatecas with Mexico City.

Blessed Sebastian de Aparicio church in A Gudina Spain 800pxlsBlessed Sebastian de Aparicio was baptized

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Saint Conrad of Piacenza: Lay Penitent Hermit

On February 19, Franciscans celebrate the memory of Saint Conrad of Piacenza (c. 1290–1351), a lay penitent hermit known for his life of contemplative prayer.

A hunting incident changes Conrad's life

Conrad was born into the noble family of the Confalonieri in the town of Calendasco, Italy, a few miles from the commune of Piacenza. He married a noblewoman named Ephrosyne when they were quite young. One day he and his wife, with other companions, were out hunting; Conrad had his servants set fire to some brushwood to flush out game which had taken refuge there. Unfortunately, with heavy winds, the flames spread, destroying some villages, fields, and forests. Meanwhile, Conrad and his party had returned home. A peasant in the area was accused of being the one responsible and sentenced to death. As the man was being led to execution, Conrad came forward and admitted his guilt.

St Conrad of Piacenza Calendasco Italy 700pxlsIn the

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Japanese Martyrs: 23 Franciscans Suffered for Being Christians

On February 6, Christians remember the first Japanese martyrs—26 Franciscans and Jesuits crucified at Nagasaki in 1597. This year their feast day fell on Sunday, so they were not commemorated liturgically, but their witness is a heroic one. 

Honored often as Saint Paul Miki and Companions

Although in the larger Church, they are honored under the name of one of the Jesuits as Saint Paul Miki and Companions, 23 of these martyrs were Franciscans. As you can see from the Japanese painting, six were Franciscan friar missionaries, headed by the Spaniard, Peter Baptist. Besides three other friars from Spain, the group included a native Mexican friar, Felipe de Jesus, and a native of India, Gonsalvo Garcia. The other Franciscans were 17 native Japanese Secular Franciscans, including two young boys (ages 12 and 13).

Japanese martyrs church Nagasaki Japan 700pxlsThe church of the Japanese martyrs in Nagasaki, Japan, was built in 1879.

Franciscans remember these martyrs

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Saint Colette: Leader of Franciscan Reform

On February 7, the Franciscan family celebrates the memory of Saint Colette (1381–1447), who led a major reform effort among Franciscans.

Born to a devout couple

Colette came from a comfortable working-class family in the Picardy region of France; her father was a carpenter at the Benedictine monastery of Corbie. He and his wife were a devout couple, devoted to the poor, but childless. Late in life, they prayed to Saint Nicholas and had a girl whom they named Nicolette after him. This was shortened to “Colette.”

St Colette church of monastery Corbie France 700pxlsThe church of the monastery of Corbie, France, where Colette's father worked

Wanting a life dedicated to God

By the time she was 17, Collette’s parents had died, leaving her to find her way in the world. Colette knew that she wished to dedicate her life to God but had a difficult time finding a place that expressed her ideals. She tried out

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Saint Angela Merici: Educator of Young Women

On January 27, the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Angela Merici (1474–1540), famous for her work as an educator of young women.

A Secular Franciscan of the Third Order

Although today Angela is honored as the foundress of the Ursuline nuns, she identified as a Franciscan. Angela was a native of the small town of Desanzano on the shore of Lake Garda in Lombardy, Italy. Orphaned at an early age, she was raised by relatives. As a young woman, she determined to follow Christ through the service of others, committing herself to a celibate life to do so, and found a spiritual home as a Secular Franciscan in the “Third Order.”

Foundress of Ursuline nuns

Convinced of the need for better education for young women and girls, she began teaching them in her own home. She was shortly invited to the city of Brescia to begin a similar school.

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Saint Marianne Cope: First American Franciscan Woman Canonized

On January 23, Franciscans honor the memory of St. Marianne Cope, the first American Franciscan woman to be canonized.

Emigrating from Germany to America

Barbara Cope was born in 1838 to Peter and Barbara Koob of Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany. Two years later the family emigrated to the United States and settled in Utica, New York, where the name was eventually Anglicized to Cope.

Joining Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis

When her father became an invalid, Barbara, 14, as the eldest child at home, went to work in a textile factory to support her family. Upon her father’s death in 1862 and the younger children now being old enough to work themselves, Barbara joined the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York, with the name Marianne.

St Marianne Cope shrine Syracuse NY 800pxlsSome of the exhibits at Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum in Syracuse, NY

A natural leader, educator

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Blessed Cosme Spessotto, OFM: Franciscan Martyr of El Salvador

On January 22, four Salvadorans murdered by death squads during the period of social unrest in the country several decades ago are to be officially recognized by the Church as “blessed” martyrs. Among them is a Franciscan friar, Fr. Cosme Spessotto, OFM.

Ambushed with Fr Rutilio Grande, SJ

The other three martyrs are better known from the 1989 film “Romero”: Fr. Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest and friend of St Óscar Romero; sacristan Manuel Solórzano; and teenage bell-ringer Nelson Lemus. The three were ambushed and brutally gunned down in their car by security forces in 1977. Friar Cosme’s story is less familiar to the wider public.

Called early to the priesthood

Friar Cosme was born Sante Spessotto in January 1923 to a humble farming couple, Vittorio Spessotto and Josefina Zamuner, in the village of Mansuè, province of Treviso, Italy. He experienced a call to the priesthood at an early age,

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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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