Category Archives: Franciscan saints & blesseds

Saint Clare of Assisi continues to inspire countless

St Clare SMartini.jpg

The world’s Catholics -not merely the Franciscans–are celebrating “Clarian Year,” to observe the eighth centenary of the conversion and consecration of Saint Clare of Assisi (1193-1253) which tradition tells us took place on Palm Sunday 1211 or 1212. Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino to express his own affection for the continued witness of Saint Clare.

Saint Clare’s history “also speaks to our generation, and has a particular fascination for the young. All Christian life, and thus also consecrated life is the fruit of the Paschal Mystery and of our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. In the Palm Sunday liturgy pain and glory come together, a theme which will be developed over the following days through the dark night of the Passion up to the ultimate light of Easter. With her choice Clare relived this mystery.

At its most profound level, Clare’s ‘conversion’ is a conversion of love. No longer would she have the refined dress of the Assisan aristocracy, but an elegance of soul expressed  in praise of God and giving of self. Day by day a fraternity came into being within the confines of the monastery of San Damiano, at the school of the Eucharistic Christ, … a fraternity regulated by love of God and prayer, by concern for others and service. It was in this context of profound faith and great humanity that Clare came to interpret the Franciscan ideal, imploring the ‘privilege’ of poverty and renouncing even the shared possession of material goods, something which left even the Supreme Pontiff perplexed, until in the end he too surrendered to the heroism of her sanctity.

How can we not present St. Clare, and St. Francis, to the young people of today? The time dividing us from these two saints has not lessened their allure. Quite the contrary, their contemporary importance is evident in the face of the illusions and delusions which often mark the life of modern youth. Never has a time caused the young to dream so much, with the multiple attractions of a life in which everything seems possible and permissible. And yet, how much dissatisfaction exists, how many times the search for happiness and self realisation follows paths which lead to artificial paradises such as those of drugs and unbridled sensuality. And the current situation, with the difficulty of finding dignified work and forming a united and happy family, adds further clouds to the horizon.

Yet there is no lack of young people who, even in our own times, accept the invitation to entrust themselves to Christ and to face the journey of life courageously, responsibly and hopefully, choosing even to leave everything to follow Him and serve their brethren. The story of Clare, with that of Francis, is an invitation to reflect upon the meaning of life and to seek the secret of true joy in God. It is concrete proof that those who accomplish the will of God and trust in Him not only lose nothing, but discover the real treasure which gives meaning to everything.

Palm Sunday was not an ordinary day for Clare. The founder of the Poor Clares followed Saint Francis’ advice that she attend Palm Sunday Mass dressed in all her finery. Having received the palm from the hands of the bishop as a pledge of her being united to Christ crucified, she then ran from her parents’ house goint to the Porziuncola where Francis and the other friars were waiting. At that point Clare renounced the world, cut her hair and she adopted the black veil and sandals. This became the first habit of the Poor Clares.

Saint Paul Miki and companions

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O God, strength of all the Saints, who through the Cross were pleased to call the Martyrs Saint Paul Miki and companions to life, grant, we pray, that by their intercession we may hold with courage even until death to the faith that we profess.

The question of who was Saint Paul Miki is dealt with on Rome Reports today. The video gives a brief intro the life of the martyr and his companions.

From the cross, Paul said: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from
the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true
Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the
doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God
it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before
I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask
Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I
forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and
I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”

The 2011 post on Saint Paul Miki and his companions

The 2010 post on Nagasaki martyrs Paul Mike, et al.

Saint Seraphin of Montegranaro

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More of the simple lay friars were made saints than the Capuchin priest friars. I wonder why? But a snippet from a biography on Saint Seraphin may be helpful to get a sense of the man:

In 1556, Felix repeated his request to the provincial minister who admitted him to the novitiate at Jesi, where Felix received the name, Seraphin. Upon his reception into the Order, Seraphin remarked, “I have nothing‹just a crucifix and a rosary‹but with these I hope to benefit the friars and become a saint.”

Although he was not totally illiterate, Seraphin could speak about God more eloquently than any theologian. Even the bishop of Ascoli, the eminent theologian, Cardinal Bernerio, sought Seraphin’s advice in especially difficult cases. 

With himself, Seraphin was austere. Only once in his life did he accept a new habit, and then, only out of obedience. For 40 continuous years, all he ate was soup or salad. In keeping with the spirituality prevalent at the time, Seraphin had a personal devotion of serving as many eucharistic liturgies as possible.

Saint Francis of Assisi

St Francis of Assisi Andrea diVanni d'Andrea.jpgFrancis, the man of God, left his home behind, abandoned his inheritance and became poor and penniless, but the Lord raised him up.

O God, by whose gift Saint Francis was conformed to Christ in poverty and humility, grant that, by walking in Francis’ footsteps, we may follow your Son, and, through joyful charity, come to be united with you.

The mystery of the Cross is likely never made more evident in Christianity than through the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. The above prayer, in fact, the new collect for the Roman Missal brings this to bear on us. Francis’ life of charity and apostolic zeal effected God’s love for all.

The Pope offers a glimpse into the Poor Man of Assisi:

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Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

The question I am asking myself: is it possible to follow this man? Alternately, Can I even think that it is possible to be a man like Padre Pio, and seek after God without reservation? What Padre Pio has left us is a clear model of holiness and a path to walk. Holiness here is not meant to be an artificial , showy display of piety (beating the breast, hours of Adoration of Eucharistic adoration, days of fasting, no bathing, etc) but it is a way of life where we shed everything that is not ourselves, living in the manner that is coresponds to the way God the Father has educated us through His Son, Jesus (read the NT). Padre Pio’s ministerial life as a priest and as a professed Franciscan Capuchin focussed on the sanctification of souls. No greater work needed his attention and energy. The path given us to walk by Padre Pio is one that leads us back to God hearing the words of Jesus: I love you, I have mercy on you no matter what. Three tools to use on this path: prayer, confession and charity. Beauty and joy will shine through our conversation with God and by our love. If you really want to know more about the path Pio gives us, read what the Pope spoke in 2009 when he made a pilgrimage to the relics of Saint Pio:

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Some saints have lived intensely and personally this experience of Jesus. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is one of them. A simple man of humble origins, “seized by Christ” (Phil. 3:12) — as the Apostle Paul writes of himself — to make of him an instrument chosen by the perennial power of his cross: power of love for souls, of forgiveness and of reconciliation, of spiritual paternity, of effective solidarity with those who suffer. The stigmata, which marked his body, united him closely to the Crucified and Risen One. A true follower of St. Francis of Assisi, he made his own, like the Poverello, the experience of the Apostle Paul which he describes in his letters: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20), or: “in us death is at work, but in you life” (2 Cor 5, 12). This does not mean alienation, loss of personality: God never annuls that which is human, but he transforms it with his Spirit and he ordains it to the service of his plan of salvation. Padre Pio kept his natural gifts, and even his own temperament, but he offered everything to God, who has been able to freely use them to extend the work of Christ: to proclaim the Gospel, forgive sins and heal the sick in body and spirit.

As it was for Jesus, the real struggle, the radical combat Padre Pio had to sustain, was not against earthly enemies, but against the spirit of evil (cf. Ephesians 6, 12). The biggest “storms” that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, against which he defended himself with “the armor of God” with “the shield of faith” and “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11,16,17). Remaining united to Jesus, he always kept in mind the depths of the human drama, and because of this he offered himself and offered his many sufferings, and he knew how to spend himself in the care and relief of the sick, a privileged sign of God’s mercy, of his kingdom which is coming, indeed, which is already in the world, of the victory of love and life over sin and death. Guide souls and relieve suffering: thus we can sum up the mission of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, as the servant of God, Pope Paul VI said about him: “He was a man of prayer and suffering” (To the Capuchin Chapter Fathers, 20 February 1971).


Pope Benedict XVI

Homily during the 2009 visit to the Shrine of Saint Pio

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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