Tag Archives: Franciscan saints and blesseds

Saint Bonaventure

San Bonaventura da BagnoregioToday’s feast of the great Franciscan friar, theologian, bishop and Doctor of the Church, Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1221-1274), ought to be key on anyone’s radar screen is styles him or herself as well-read in theology. Famously he was cured of illness through the intercession of Saint Francis of Assisi. He was well-educated at the University of Paris where he became a popular preacher and teacher of theology and Scripture. For 17 years he guided the Franciscan fraternity and is known as a “second founder” of the Franciscans.

The pope nominated Bonaventure a bishop which he declined only to accept the papal honor of cardinal-bishop of Albano.

Dale M. Coulter wrote a very good appreciative of essay on Bonaventure: “On the Feast Day of St Bonaventure” (First Things online, July 15, 2014). I recommend it if you are serious about the study of sacred theology.

Saint Anthony of Padua

St Anthony UrbinelliThe text is an excerpt of a sermon by Saint Anthony of Padua — “Actions speak louder than words” — which is quite appropriate for us in the Octave of Pentecost.

In 2010 Pope Benedict spoke on Saint Anthony that after re-reading earlier today, I can only recommend it to you again. It is essential reading.

The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. Gregory says: “A law is laid upon the preacher to practice what he preaches.” It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.

But the apostles “spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.” Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! […]

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 fulfillment, 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.

Saint Anthony of Padua

The Church liturgically honors Saint Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan priest, renown preacher, miracle-worker and Doctor of the Church (1195-1231). Saint Anthony is clearly a pivotal figure in the hearts of many Catholics. His biography is very intriguing. Here is the Blessing of Lilies for the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua.

Sant'Antonio di PadovaBorn in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195, Fernando de Bouillon was of a noble family related to the famous Godefroy de Bouillon, founder and first sovereign of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, who at the close of the Crusade of 1099 had refused to wear a crown, there where Christ had worn one of thorns.

Favored by nature and grace, Fernand resolved at the age of fifteen to leave the world and consecrate himself to God in the Order of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine. No flattery, threat or caress of his relatives could persuade him to leave that holy refuge. He asked to be transferred to another convent to avoid the family’s solicitations, and was sent to Coimbra. Still young, his sanctity became evident through miracles; he cured a poor religious whom the devil was obsessing, by covering him with his cloak.

When this young monk decided, after witnessing the return of the martyred remains of five Franciscans who had gone to Africa, to join that Order so favored with the graces of martyrdom, the Augustinians were desolate but could not prevent his departure, for Saint Francis himself appeared to him in a vision in July 1220, and commanded him to leave. He was then sent by the Franciscans to Africa, but two years later was obliged to return to Italy because of sickness; thus he was deprived of the martyr’s crown he would have been happy to receive.

In 1222 Anthony, as he was now called, went with other Brothers and some Dominican friars to be ordained at Forli. There Fra Antonio rose under obedience to preach for the first time to the religious, and took for his theme the text of Saint Paul: Christ chose for our sake to become obedient unto death. As the discourse proceeded, the Hammer of Heretics, the Ark of the Testament, the eldest son of Saint Francis, stood revealed in all his sanctity, learning, and eloquence before his rapt and astonished brethren. He had been serving in the humblest offices of his community; now he was summoned to emerge from this obscurity. And then for nine years France, Italy, and Sicily heard his voice and saw his miracles, whose numbers can scarcely be counted. A crowd to which he was preaching outdoors one day, when the church was too small to hold all who came to hear him, amidst thunder and lightning felt not one drop of water fall upon them, while all around them the rain poured down. And men’s hearts turned to God.

We may wonder why we always see Saint Anthony with the Child Jesus in his arms. The account of this heavenly visitation was told only after his death, at the official process concerning his virtues and miracles. It was narrated by the man who witnessed the marvel in question; the Saint himself had never spoken of it. Saint Anthony was in the region of Limoges in France, and was offered hospitality, rest and silence by this businessman of the region, in his country manor. He was given a room apart, to permit him to pray in peace; but during the night his host looked toward his lighted window and saw in the brilliance a little Infant of marvelous beauty in the arms of the Saint, with His own around the Friar’s neck. The witness trembled at the sight, and in the morning Saint Anthony, to whom it had been revealed that his host had seen the visitation, called him and enjoined him not to tell it as long as he was alive. The town near Limoges where this occurred remains unknown; the original account of the inquiry does not name it, but says that the man in question narrated it, with tears, after Saint Anthony’s death.

After a number of years of teaching of theology, unceasing preaching and writing, Saint Anthony, whose health was never strong, was spending a short time of retreat in a hermitage near Padua. He was overcome one day with a sudden weakness, which prevented him from walking. It progressed so rapidly that it was evident his last days had arrived. He died at the age of thirty-six, after ten years with the Canons Regular and eleven with the Friars Minor, on June 13, 1231. The voices of children were heard crying in the streets of Padua, Our father, Saint Anthony, is dead. The following year, the church bells of Lisbon rang without ringers, while in Rome one of its sons was inscribed among the Saints of God.

Reflection. Let us love to pray and labor unseen, and cherish in the secret of our hearts the graces of God and the growth of our immortal souls. Like Saint Anthony, let us attend to this first of all and leave the rest to God.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 6; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

Blessed John Duns Scotus

The memory of one of the great Franciscan theologians is venerated today, Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266 – 1308). His bones rest in Cologne but he hails from the Scotland. Known to the theological world as the Doctor Subtilis, one of his claims to fame was his advocacy of the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Pope Pius IX used Scotus’ theology in helping to frame what we believed in terms of  the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854.

One of the Scholastics, John taught in the school of thought of the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition, who also had a rich appreciation for the works of Aquinas, Aristotle and the Muslim philosophers.

Church clearly thinks well of Scotus and his Franciscan heritage of dependance on the goodness and beauty of God, the value of learning and the reverence for mystery. As the Preface for the Mass offered in his name, the Church prays to God the Father that Scotus be “… acclaimed [as teaching] the universal primacy of your Son, the masterpiece and perfect manifestation of your eternal love enfleshed in Christ the New Adam, the King of all creation” that in his teaching we learn “… to praise Mary, conceived without sin, untarnished and resplendent in her immaculate beauty, your intended Model for creating us in dignity and goodness.”

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

O God, who filled the Priest and Martyr Saint Maximilian Kolbe with a burning love for the Immaculate Virgin Mary and with zeal for souls and love of neighbor, graciously grant, through his intercession, that striving for your glory by eagerly serving others, we may be conformed, even until death, to your Son.

I think the first canonization of a saint, in this case a martyr, that I first encountered as a child was Kolbe’s. It was a brilliant move of John Paul II. This Conventual Franciscan’s ability to love another to the point of sacrificing his life portrays the theodrama of the Paschal Mystery in great proportions. When I went to the death camp where he met his Lord and Savior I was filled with peace and love. But I was also aware that only a Christian’s love like Kolbe’s could rightly interpret the experience.

“No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.”

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]yahoo.com.
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