Franciscan Intellectual Tradition Blog

Latest News and Seasonal Reflections from CFIT

St. Pius of Pietrelcina

On September 23, Catholics celebrate the memory of St. Pius of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), the Capuchin Franciscan friar still best known simply as "Padre Pio," who has become one of the most popular saints in the Church.

He was born of poor but devout parents, Grazio and Maria Forgione, in the province of Benevento in Southern Italy, and baprtized Francesco. At an early age, he wanted to enter the Capuchin friars, but lacked the educational background.  His father Grazio came to the  United States to find work in order to pay for schooling, and Francesco entered the novitiate in 1903 and given the name Pio.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1910. 

Padre Pio was plagued with ill health in his early years. In 1916 he was assigned to the small friary of Our Lady of Grace in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo in Apulia where he spent almost

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Our Lady of Sorrows

As the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15), it is good to know the important role that Franciscans played in promoting this image of Mary and why.

The Cross of Christ was central to Francis and Clare, as we know from the impact of the image of San Damiano and from Francis’s prayer, “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all your churches throughout the whole world and we bless you, because my your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”  In their preaching of penance, Franciscans promoted devotion to the suffering humanity of Jesus to draw people to conversion. It was important for them not simply that people should understand with their minds that Christ died on the cross for their sins, but that they convert their lives as a result. Therefore, Franciscan preachers wanted to touch peoples’ affections so that their hearts might

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Rose of Viterbo

On September 4, the Franciscan family celebrates the memory of St. Rose of Viterbo (c. 1233-1251), an audacious young Secular Franciscan woman who challenged her contemporaries as a public preacher.

Born in the city of Viterbo to a working-class family, Rose was captivated by the Franciscan friars who had established a church there. She began dressing up in their habit and devoted herself to prayer and ascetical practices in her home. She also experienced visions and gained a reputation of being able to foretell the future.  To the consternation of her parents, people flocked to their home to hear Rose speak. In time, they allowed her to join the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (the Franciscan “Third Order”). Although still in early adolescence, Rose began preaching publically, girt in a Franciscan cord, leading her followers through the streets, urging people to do penance and turn their lives to God. The

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Maximilian Kolbe

76 years ago, August 14, 1941, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe OFM. Conv., was killed with a phenol injection inside a starvation cell of Block 11 of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Kolbe was born in 1894 at Zdunska Wola near Lodz, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) to a devout but poor family. As a teenager, he determined to become a Franciscan and so illegally crossed the border into the Austro-Hungarian Empire where he studied at the Conventual minor seminary in Lvov and entered the Order in 1910. Friar Maximilian was a brilliant student who excelled in what we would call today STEM subjects; after his profession, he was sent on for studies in Rome, where he earned doctorates in both philosophy and theology.

 Kolbes RoomDuring his years in Italy, he witnessed violent anti-clerical demonstrations and became convinced of the need to mobilize Catholics to profess their faith in

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Feast of St. Clare

On August 11, the Franciscan family celebrates the feast of St. Clare of Assisi (1193/94-1253), the first woman to join Francis and his brothers in their new Gospel way of life. 

Clare was born into one of the feudal land-owning families of Assisi, spending some years in the neighboring city of Perugia due to class warfare in Assisi. Several years after her family's return to Assisi, she determined to embark on a life of penance in her family home, but, inspired by conversations she had with Francis, she decided to abandon her family and social status, and in 1211 or 1212 became part of the new movement of a "life according to the Holy Gospel" at the Portiuncula. She and several other women who soon joined her quickly settled at the church of San Damiano. Francis told them:

"Since by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the

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 Benedict the African

On April 3, the Franciscan family honors the memory of St. Benedict the Black or Benedict the African (1526-1589). He was referred to in Italian as “il Moro” (dark-skinned), and this was often translated into English as “the Moor.”

Benedict was born at San Fratello, a small town near Palermo, Sicily, to an African slave couple. Due to their good service, their son was declared free at birth. Benedict became a hard- working shepherd, devoted to prayer; he never went to school due to his poverty and remained illiterate all his life. When he was 21, a nobleman witnessed his patient attitude when insulted because of his race, and invited him to come with him and form an independent group of lay Franciscan hermits; there Benedict became the cook, and eventually became head of the group.

In 1564, Pope Pius V ordered groups of lay hermits to join an established

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As we approach the days of Passion of Christ, let us remember Franciscan Sister Maria Restituta Kafka, sentenced to death by a Nazi Court, March 30, 1943. She wrote from prison: "It does not matter how far we are separated from everything, no matter what is taken from us: the faith that we carry in our hearts is something no one can take from us. In this way we build an altar in our own hearts." Read More
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St. Joseph

On March 20, the Church celebrates the solemnity of St.  Joseph, transferred because his usual feast day (March 19) fell on Sunday this year.  We’d just like to draw your attention to the important role that the Franciscan family played in popularizing devotion to Joseph. Here we Franciscans played a large part in the renewed focus on the humanity of Jesus that spread in the Middle Ages. 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 the life of Jesus. Works such as the very popular Meditations on the Life of Christ, long attributed to St Bonaventure, but probably by the friar John “de Caulibus” of San Gimignano in the early 1300s, were very important in this process.  Franciscan influence was especially important for extending devotion to

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On March 2, the Franciscan family and the people of the Czech Republic honor the memory of St. Agnes of Bohemia (Agnes of Prague). Born in 1211, she was the daughter of Ottokar II, King of Bohemia. Her mother was a Hungarian princess, and so Agnes was a first cousin of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. As a princess, it seemed that Agnes' life would be programmed for her to marry a foreign monarch for the benefit of her country; however, after two attempts to arrange such a marriage failed, Agnes refused to be a political pawn any longer but to follow her own path in life. Franciscan friars came to Prague in 1232, and Agnes was soon attracted to their preaching and values. Supported by her brother, King Wenceslaus, she built a church and friary, and then a hospital that she endowed with her dowry. She also invited Poor Clare

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In this book of prayers, letters, poetry, rules of life, and testaments, Francis and Clare express their vision of the Gospel life. Included are numerous themes extremely appropriate for the Lenten and Easter seasons: penance, conversion, self-sacrifice, service, embracing the cross, the humility and charity of Christ, joy, new life, and mission. Through these daily meditations, Scriptural readings, and spiritual exercises, we follow two of the most influential figures in Church history. Learn more

 

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Francis began his Testament to his brothers with these words: “The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance. . .” And Clare told her sisters: “After the Most High Heavenly Father saw fit by His grace to enlighten my heart to do penance. . .” And the early name for the lay people inspired by their example was the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. All early Franciscans thus saw themselves as part of the great penitential movement of their times: men and women who heard the Gospel afresh and turned their hearts to the Gospel in a deeper way.  Therefore, the liturgical season of Lent, dedicated to a deeper conversion of mind and heart, always occupied a special place in their lives.

 

greccio
We know that Francis almost always retired for the season of Lent with a few brothers in a hermitage – his favorites were La
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The Commission for the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition (CFIT) held its annual meeting on Jan. 20 and 21 in Denver, Colorado. Dominic Monti, OFM, who is stationed at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, is chair of the commission. Fifteen other members of the Commission from around the US participated in the meeting and enjoyed two days of fruitful discussion and strategizing about future activities. Sr. Dorothy McCormack, OSF, executive secretary of CFIT, was responsible for organizing logistics for the meeting.

This spring, CFIT will publish a new Franciscan Heritage volume through Franciscan Institute Publications, the first in that series to appear in more than four years. This will be a new volume by Sr. Mary Beth Ingham titled Understanding John Duns Scotus.“This book will be somewhat longer than the earlier Heritage volumes, as it will take major elements of Scotus’ thought and contrast them against the

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The recently-released film Silence by Martin Scorsese, based upon a 1966 historical novel by Shūsaku Endō, has drawn attention to the beginnings of Christianity in Japan. On February 6 we celebrate the memory of the first Japanese martyrs - 26 Franciscans and Jesuits crucified at Nagasaki in 1597. Although in the larger Church they are honored under the name of one of the Jesuits as St. Paul Miki and Companions, 23 of these martyrs were Franciscans. As you can see in the painting, six were Franciscan friar missionaries, headed by the Spaniard, Peter Baptist; besides three other friars from Spain, the group included a friar from Mexico, Felipe de Jesus, and one from India, Gonsalo Garcia. The other Franciscans were 17 native Japanese Secular Franciscans, including two young boys (12 and 13 years of age). In the universal liturgical calendar, this feast singles out Paul Miki, who as a

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On January 30, Franciscans honor the memory of St. Hyacintha Mariscotti (1585-1640), a sister of the Third Order Regular. Hyacintha entered the convent as a young woman, but her path to deep, authentic religious conversion was hardly typical.

Born Clarice Mariscotti to a noble family near Viterbo, Italy, she was educated at a Franciscan convent there. Returning to her family, Clarice had her heart set on marrying a Roman marquis, but he married a younger sister instead; her resentment due to this rejection made her impossible to live with, and so her parents more or less forced her into the convent where she had been educated -- the only socially acceptable alternative to marriage at the time for an unmarried noblewoman.

Now Sister Hyacintha, she participated regularly in the liturgical life of the community, but continued to enjoy the comforts of high society: luxurious clothes, her own kitchen, and freedom

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On January 27th, the Church celebrates the memory of St. Angela Merici (1474-1540), a native of the small town of Desanzano on the shore of Lake Garda in Lombardy. Although today she is honored as the foundress of the Ursuline nuns, her vision began as a Franciscan. Orphaned at an early age, she was raised by relatives. As a young woman, she was determined to follow Christ through the service of others, committing herself to a celibate life to do so, and joined the Franciscan “Third Order.”

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. She also began organizing support groups for unmarried women. Eventually, on November 25, 1535, 12 other women banded together with her, calling themselves the “Company of St. Ursula,” after

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January 18th begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year prayer for unity among Christians is particularly significant, as 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The theme is: "Reconciliation: The Love of Christ Compels Us".  

We should remember that this observance has Franciscan roots, being 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 Anglican (Episcopal) Church, was looking for an Anglican congregation that lived St. Francis' vision of corporate poverty and turned to Fr Paul for assistance. Finding none, they founded the Society of the Atonement in 1898 at Graymoor, in Garrison, N.Y.

For the name of the new congregation, Fr. Paul was inspired by a passage in St. Paul's Letter to the Romans: "we also joy in God through

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On January 7th, Franciscans in the United States, especially members of the Third Order tradition, both Secular and Regular, celebrate the memory of St. Angela of Foligno (c. 1248-1309). [In other countries, her feast is January 4th].

St. Angela of FolignoAngela was born into a well-to-do family in the city of Foligno, only a short distance from Assisi. She was married as a young woman and her early life was rather carefree and superficial; she dismissed people who were seriously committed to religious activities. However, when she was in her late 30s, 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 radically converted her life, formally joining the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (the Franciscan “Third Order”) about 1291. In the years that followed, her friar spiritual director began to write down what Angela

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On January 14, Franciscans honor the memory of Blessed Odoric of Pordenone (c. 1274-1331), one of the most prominent missionaries of the later Middle Ages. A native of the Friuli region of Northern Italy, Odoric spent most of his friar life as missionary. He ministered in both the Balkans and among the Mongols in Southern Russia.Odoric 2

He is most famous, however, for a long missionary journey he made to Asia, when, as he tells us: “according to my wish, I crossed the sea and visited the countries of the unbelievers in order to win some harvest of souls.” Leaving Venice about 1318, he spent some years traveling through what is now Armenia and Iran, and arrived in India in 1322. Afer a short time there, He travelled east, passing though Sumatra and Vietnam to China, where he spent three years (1324-27).

His companion for at least part of his travels

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On January 11, Franciscans honor the memory of St. Thomas of Cori (1655-1729), one of the more recently canonized Franciscan saints, who is not well known outside the region of Rome. Thomas was born into a family of poor shepherds; orphaned at the age of 14, he worked to support his sisters until their marriages, and then entered the Friars Minor. His deep spiritual discernment was evident at an early age; his first assignment after his ordination was to help with the formation of the novices. Very soon, though, Thomas asked to join one of the houses of prayer then springing up in the Order, which were attempting to revive a life according to Francis's Rule for Hermitages. In 1684, he went to the hermitage of Civitella (Bellegra), in the rugged mountainous area around Subiaco, where he spent almost all the rest of his life.

Thomas reminds us of the

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On Christmas Eve we recall with Thomas of Celano, St. Francis's first biographer, that “his highest intention was to observe the holy Gospel in all things and . . . ‘to follow the teaching and the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ The humility of the incarnation and the love of the passion occupied his memory particularly.

What he did on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ near the little town called Greccio in the third year before his glorious death (1223) should be noted and recalled with reverent memory. . . He told his friend John, 'Go with haste and diligently prepare what I tell you. For I wish to do something that will call to memory the little Child who was born in Bethlehem and set before our bodily eyes in some way the hardships of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, how, with

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"After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb" (Lk 2:21 ). As part of the Christmas celebration of the mystery of God-become-human, on January 3rd the Church reflects on the Holy Name of Jesus. Throughout Christian history, the name Jesus - meaning "God saves" - was invoked by Christians in prayer to verbalize all they had experienced through Jesus, their saving Lord: "Therefore God gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend. . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:9-11).

Already in the sixth century, the meditative "Jesus prayer" developed in the Eastern Churches as a way of dwelling in the reality of Jesus's

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Friar WritingWelcome to our new blog! This blog will enable us to bring items of current interest to you with a bit more depth than is possible in a simple notice We envision this blog as a means of sharing insights provided by new books on our Franciscan spiritual and intellectual tradition, and of alerting you to significant Franciscan events and developments. There are many things happening that prove our Franciscan tradition is alive and engaging for people today, and we hope this blog will provide us with a way of bringing some of these to you.
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