Category Archives: Franciscan saints & blesseds

Getting to know Blessed Junipero Serra

Junipero SerraThe Holy Father will be in the USA next week and one of the significant parts of the pilgrimage in  Washington will be the canonization of Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784 ). Serra is our latest saint in the Church, and in the USA yet he is little-known. The Academy of American Franciscan history has prepared a video to introduce the life and work of this Franciscan friar.

Watch at:

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

KolbeToday is the feast day of one of the great saints of the 20th Century, the Conventual Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe. I can remember hearing his name for the first time and his canonization by Saint John Paul. Years later I visited the cell in which he lived his last days at the concentration camp. A rather moving and unforgettable experience.

Saint Maximilian is known for his great devotion to our Blessed Mother in devotion to her Immaculate Heart. There is no coincidence that Kolbe’s feast day comes before Mary’s Assumption (Dormition) -the glorification of her body and soul, assumed into heaven. We know that “Hail Mary!” were the last words on the lips of Saint Maximilian, as he offered his arm to the executioner for the injection. He has taught us what is meant by the words we pray to  Immaculate Mary when we say “now and at the hour of our death.”

Kolbe and others were accused by the powers of Nazi Germany of promoting anti-Nazi causes and housing Jews; he was severely mistreated for being a Catholic priest and remaining steadfast to the Faith: Christ was everything, not just some abstract priority. Kolbe regularly celebrated the Holy Sacrifice in secret and heard confessions of fellow prisoners. In 1941, the time came for him to make a sacrifice of his own life, in place of a married prisoner who was father to young children. Kolbe was executed by lethal injection after three weeks of starvation and dehydration. A horrible death.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

Saint Clare of Assisi

St ClareToday, August 11, the Church liturgically honors the memory of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-1253).

As you know from Church history, Clare was born of a noble family of Assisi, and a serious disciple of Jesus by the time she met the famous Francis. The Franciscan tradition indicates that she had already decided as a young woman to embark on a life of penance when she spoke with Francis in 1212; she joined Francis’s new movement at the Portiuncula.

A witness that attracts

Clare was followed by other women who joined her at the Church of San Damiano. There Clare and her sisters lived simply and prayerfully for over 40 years, supporting themselves by the work of their hands. Religious life was bursting forth with new forms when Clare and Francis founded the Friars and Sisters Minor. It is noted in the tradition that Clare had to fight to maintain her distinctive vision of religious life waiting for her Rule to be approved by the Pope shortly before her death in 1253.

Let’s recall an excerpt of a letter Saint Clare sent to Saint Agnes of Prague: “As you know, i am sure, that the kingdom of heaven is promised by the Lord only to the poor, for the one who loves temporal things loses the fruit of love. . . What a great and laudable exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed and eternal life!”

Let us pray for the women who follow the Rule of Saint Clare.

Saint Bonaventure

St Bonaventure cardSaint Bonaventure, today’s saint, is not as known among Catholics as his contemporary Aquinas is. Yet, he is a theologian and Doctor of the Church of some consequence. A Franciscan, priest and cardinal of the Roman Church, Bonaventure requires our attention. Below is a paragraph from the Divine Office today.

The saint taught:

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: “My soul chose hanging and my bones death.” Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: “No man can look upon me and live.”

Saint Anthony of Padua

St Anthony El GrecoGod has given us a saint that is more important merely a person who finds loss items. Saint Anthony of Padua is really the model of being pure of heart. A rare virtue these days.

The liturgical memory of Saint Anthony of Padua (1191/5-1231), recalls for us that one of the most renowned Franciscans of history can be real, humble and call all to greater freedom in Christ. No one was immune to the preaching of Anthony: even the fish were converted to the Lord. The record gives us:

Historically, he was baptized Ferdinand into a family of knights in Lisbon, Portugal, then on the frontiers between the Christian and Muslim cultures, he entered the canons regular of St. Augustine as a young man, first stationed in Lisbon and then in Coimbra, where he received an excellent education in the Scriptures. The Friars Minor arrived in Portugal in 1217, and Ferdinand, inspired by five friars who were martyred in Morocco in 1220, joined them, taking the name Anthony after the small Franciscan hermitage outside Coimbra. He ended up in Italy, and within a few years, became a noted preacher in Northern Italy and in Southern France. Given permission by Saint Francis to teach theology to the friars, in 1227 he became provincial minister of Northern Italy and developed a strong association with the city of Padua. His preaching made a strong link between conversion to the Gospel and social justice. He died on this day in 1231 and was canonized the following year. 

 A thought from Saint Anthony’s homily for the Fifth Sunday after Easter. “Brothers and sisters, let us pray that the Lord Jesus Christ pour his grace into us by means of which we ask for and receive the fullness of true joy. May he ask the Father for us; may he grant us true religion so that we may merit to come to the kingdom of eternal life.”

For a more detailed popular biography click on this link.

If you look at the picture you’ll notice that Saint Anthony holds the lily, the  symbol of purity of heart. The presence of the Christ child in the saint’s scripture book is meant to indicate that Saint Anthony discovered the living Christ in the pages of Scripture.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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