Tag Archives: Franciscan saints and blesseds

St Francis of Assisi

Today, we remember an event that occurred 792 years ago, that began on October 3, 1226 –Francis of Assisi passed from this life. History tells us that Saint Francis passed away in the evening hours, it was, liturgically speaking, already October 4th.

The record of the events surrounding Francis’ transitus tells that his health had been sharply declining, he had asked to come home to Assisi. At the bishop’s residence in the city was being cared for and as he became 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.” The Poor Man of Assisi exhorted and consoled his companions saying, “he asked that the book of the Gospels be brought and the Gospel according to John be read from the place that begins ‘Before the Feast of Passover’ (Jn 13:1). He himself, insofar as he was able, broke out with the Psalm: ‘I have cried to the Lord with my voice’ (Ps. 142). . . At last, when all God’s mysteries were fulfilled in him, the blessed man fell asleep in the Lord.” (Bonaventure, Major Legend, 14.5-6).

Bonaventure continues: “Larks are birds that love the light. . . . but at the hour of the holy man’s passing, although it was twilight and night was to follow, they came in a great flock over the roof of the house and, whirling around for a long time with unusual joy, gave clear and evident testimony to the glory of the saint.”

May Saint Francis intercede for us before the Throne of Grace.

Stand in the blazing splendor of the saints: Anthony of Padua

Today’s liturgical memorial honors the famed Franciscan Anthony of Padua. In the the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours I found an incredibly striking line in the final paragraph of the sermon Saint Anthony. He said:

“We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfilment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God.”

The Saint notes to his hearers (and thus to us, too) that we are to make a request of the Holy Spirit for His gifts, the same gifts given on the original Pentecost. These gifts are promised to make perfect the senses we have in our bodies, and given as the Spirit sees fit to give. We are given what we need according to the Spirit’s discernment. But we are to ask, no beg, for the gifts of the Spirit. In the Divine Plan for man and woman is that our bodies are the locus of our divine revelation and the inner life of the Trinity.

Anthony notes that we are to be filled with “a keen sense of sorrow”: what could this mean? I take him to indicate that like his patrons Saint Francis and Saint Clare and a great spiritual tradition, we are to take up the work of conversion and to live humbly. In this manner, a life penance helps us to recognize  our human need for Christ, for THE Savior; According to Aquinas, “To act from need belongs only to an imperfect agent,” not to God (ST I, q. 44, a. 4, ad 1). Our imperfections are a source of sorrow.

A keen sense of sorrow for sins that wound and estrange us from the holiness of the Trinity and the communion we ought to share with one another.

The “fiery tongues for confessing the faith” is an apostolic mission: to preach the Gospel, Christ crucified and risen, like the great St Paul and the Church Fathers. Confessing the faith –giving witness– to the life offer to us by the Lord. Preaching, I am sure Anthony would agree, does not only mean preaching of competent clergy in Divine Services, but in the ordinary places of where we live and work and spend our leisure time. Today is the day of salvation.

But the beautiful line is “to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints”. Will you stand in this blazing splendor? I hope so…

Martyrs of Armenia

Those called the Martyrs of Armenia are understood today to be the forerunners of the WWI Armenian genocide by the Turks.

Between 1895–96, eight Franciscans martyed by invading Islamic Turks who tortured them, demanded their conversion to a false religion, and murdered them when they refused. They were:

• Baldji Oghlou Ohannes
• David Oghlou David
• Dimbalac Oghlou Wartavar
• Geremia Oghlou Boghos
• Khodianin Oghlou Kadir
• Kouradji Oghlou Tzeroum
• Salvatore Lilli
• Toros Oghlou David

“Martyrdom for the love of Christ thus became a great legacy of many generations of Armenians. The most valuable treasure that one generation could bequeath to the next was fidelity to the Gospel, so that, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the young would become as resolute as their ancestors in bearing witness to the Truth.

“The example of Christian Armenia testifies that faith in Christ brings hope to every human situation, no matter how difficult. We pray that the saving light of Christian faith may shine on both the weak and the strong, on both the developed and developing nations of this world. Particularly today, the complexities and challenges of the international situation require a choice between good and evil, darkness and light, humanity and inhumanity, truth and falsehood. Present issues of law, politics, science, and family life touch upon the very meaning of humanity and its vocation. They call today’s Christians – no less than the martyrs of other times – to bear witness to the Truth even at the risk of paying a high price.

“This witness will be all the more convincing if all of Christ’s disciples could profess together the one faith and heal the wounds of division among themselves. May the Holy Spirit guide Christians, and indeed all people of good will, on the path of reconciliation and brotherhood. Here at Holy Etchmiadzin we renew our solemn commitment to pray and work to hasten the day of communion among all the members of Christ’s faithful flock, with true regard for our respective sacred traditions.

“With God’s help, we shall do nothing against love, but “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, we shall lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and shall run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (cf. Heb 12:1)

(John Paul II and Karekin II, Holy Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001)

These eight Franciscans were beatified by John Paul II on 3 October 1982. May the holy friars intercede for before God.

St Francis of Assisi

Today is the feast of St Francis of Assisi.

One aspect of the saint’s life is his role a as a peacemaker. To illustrate this role is the story of Francis meeting the angry wolf in the town of Gubbio. According to the narrative the wolf terrorized animals and people alike.

According to the Fioretti, the principal collection of stories of the saint’s life,

“Francis placed his hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, master of all creatures. Protected neither by shield or helmet, only arming himself with the sign of the Cross, he bravely set out of the town with his companion, putting his faith in the Lord who makes those who believe in him walk without injury on an asp … and trample not merely on a wolf but even a lion and a dragon.”

Some local peasants followed the two brothers, keeping a safe distance. Finally the wolf saw Francis and came running as if to attack him. The story continues:

“The saint made the sign of the Cross, and the power of God . . . stopped the wolf, making it slow down and close its cruel mouth. Then Francis called to it, ‘Brother Wolf, in the name of Jesus Christ, I order you not to hurt me or anyone.”

The wolf then came close to Francis, lowered its head and then lay down at his feet as though it had become a lamb. Francis then censured the wolf for its former cruelties, especially for killing human beings made in the image of God, thus making a whole town into its deadly enemy.

“But, Brother Wolf, I want to make peace between you and them, so that they will not be harmed by you any more, and after they have forgiven you your past crimes, neither men nor dogs will pursue you anymore.”

The wolf responded with gestures of submission “showing that it willingly accepted what the saint had said and would observe it.”

Francis promised the wolf that the people of Gubbio would henceforth “give you food every day as long as you shall live, so that you will never again suffer hunger.” In return, the wolf had to give up attacking both animal and man. “And as Saint Francis held out his hand to receive the pledge, the wolf also raised its front paw and meekly and gently put it in Saint Francis’s hand as a sign that it had given its pledge.”

Francis led the wolf back into Gubbio, where the people of the town met them in the market square. Here Francis preached a sermon in which he said calamities were permitted by God because of our sins and that the fires of hell are far worse than the jaws of a wolf which can only kill the body. He called on the people to do penance in order to be “free from the wolf in this world and from the devouring fire of hell in the next world.” He assured them that the wolf standing at his side would now live in peace with them, but that they were now obliged to feed him every day. He pledged himself as “bondsman for Brother Wolf.”

After living peacefully within the walls of Gubbio for two years, “the wolf grew old and died, and the people were sorry, because whenever it went through the town, its peaceful kindness and patience reminded them of the virtues and holiness of Saint Francis.”

Is it possible that the story is true? Or is the wolf a storyteller’s metaphor for violent men? While the story works on both levels, there is reason to believe there was indeed a wolf of Gubbio. A Franciscan friend, Sister Rosemary Lynch, told me that during restoration work the bones of a wolf were found buried within the church in Gubbio.

Francis became, in a sense, the soldier he had dreamed of becoming as a boy; he was just as willing as the bravest soldier to lay down his life in defense of others. There was only this crucial difference. His purpose was not the defeat but the conversion of his adversary; this required refusing the use of weapons of war because no one has ever been converted by violence. He always regarded conversion as a realistic goal. After all, if God could convert Francis, anyone might be converted.

“They are truly peacemakers,” Saint Francis wrote in his Admonitions, “who are able to preserve their peace of mind and heart for love of our Lord Jesus Christ, despite all that they suffer in this world.”

— an extract from Ladder of the Beatitudes by Jim Forest

St Maximilian Kolbe

We liturgically honor one of the 20th century’s greatest saints, Maximilian Kolbe, who points out for the meaning of the “the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.”

“Father Maximilian voluntarily offered himself for death in the starvation bunker for a brother, and so won a spiritual victory like that of Christ himself. This brother still lives today in the land of Poland and is here with us” (John Paul II, June 7, 1979).

Saint Maximilian, pray for us.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT, follows the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and is an Oblate of Saint Benedict, works as a monastery farmer and a keeper of honey bees. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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