Franciscan Intellectual Tradition Blog

Latest News and Seasonal Reflections from CFIT

John of Capestrano

On October 23, the Church remembers St. John Capistran, a Franciscan who had a prominent and multi-faceted ministry as a preacher and reformer in 15th century Europe.

Several years ago, Fr. Steve Grunow accurately described him: “John was a Franciscan friar and priest, but not of the good-natured variety of Franciscans that holds the popular imagination. To describe John as zealous would be an understatement. He walked the fine line between zeal and fanaticism, allowing God to write straight with the crooked lines he drew throughout his life.” 

Born in 1386 in Capestrano in the Abruzzo region of Italy, his youth was scarred by violence. His father, a knight, and all his brothers were killed in one of the bloody civil conflicts so common in Italy at the time. He later spoke of the thirst for revenge that he felt as a young man. He studied law at the

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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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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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