Things Franciscan

As we enter into the celebration of the Transitus and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, I thought it good to point the interested reader to a “page” of posts about St. Francis that were part of a series I did several years ago. You can find the complete list here.

There is also a series (from several years ago) on the Admonitions of St. Francis. The “lead” post can be found here. For the most part, you can use the “previous/next” arrows on the post to navigate.

Enjoy – and Happy Feast Day!


A Pattern of Life

In a 13th-century text called the Il Foretti (The Little Flowers), a story is told about St. Francis in which a brother friar came to him and asked, “Why after you? Why is the whole world coming after you, wanting to see you, to hear you, to follow you?” Some 800 years after the life of St. Francis, this question remains. What is it about this unpretentious figure from the early 13th century that continues to exert such a perennial fascination for Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and agnostics alike? What is it that has made Francis the subject of more books than any other saint? Why has he inspired artists, ecologists, peace activists, and advocates for the poor to claim him as a patron? Why has he inspired countless tens of thousands of men and women to follow his Rule of Life in religious and secular communities? Continue reading

St. Anthony of Padua – part 4

anthony-padua2Miracles and Traditions of St. Anthony. St. Anthony Bread is a term used for offerings made in thanksgiving to God for blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony. Sometimes the alms are given for the education of priests. In some places parents also make a gift for the poor after placing a newborn child under the protection of St. Anthony. It is a practice in some churches to bless small loaves of bread on the feast of St. Anthony and give them to those who want them.

Different legends or stories account for the donation of what is called St. Anthony Bread. By at least one account it goes back to 1263, when it is said a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony, which was still being built. His mother promised that if the child was restored to her she would give for the poor an amount of corn equal to the child’s weight. Her prayer and promise were rewarded with the boy’s return to life. Continue reading

St. Anthony of Padua – part 3

tn_anthony-padua1Public Preacher, Franciscan Teacher. Anthony’s superior, St. Francis, was cautious about education such as his protégé possessed. He had seen too many theologians taking pride in their sophisticated knowledge leading to an abandonment of their commitment to a life of real poverty. In Anthony, however, he found a kindred spirit for his vision, who was also able to provide the teaching needed by young members of the order who might seek ordination. Francis wrote in 1224, “It pleases me that you should teach the friars sacred theology, provided that in such studies they do not destroy the spirit of holy prayer and devotedness, as contained in the Rule.” He thereby entrusted the pursuit of studies for any of his friars to the care of Brother Anthony. From then on his skills were used to the utmost by the Church. Occasionally he took another post, as a teacher, for instance, at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse in southern France, but it was as a preacher that Anthony revealed his supreme gift. Continue reading

St. Anthony of Padua – part 2

tn_anthony-padua1Before He Was Anthony of Padua.  Anthony of Padua was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões on August 15, 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal. His was in a very rich family of the nobility who wanted him to become educated, and they arranged for him to be instructed at the local cathedral school. Against the wishes of his family, however, at the age of 15 he entered the community of Canons Regular at the Abbey of St. Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. Monastery life was hardly peaceful for young Fernando, nor conducive to prayer and study, as his old friends came to visit frequently and engaged in vehement political discussions. Continue reading

St. Anthony of Padua – part 1

tn_anthony-padua1For more than 100 years, Sacred Heart Catholic Church (in downtown Tampa, FL) had been under the pastoral guidance of the Jesuits. When we Franciscans arrived at Sacred Heart in 2005, we were quite surprised to find that one of the clerestory windows (the ones up high in the nave vault) was Saint Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi.  In fact, we Franciscans still have a brief letter, in Francis’ own hand, written to Anthony. Most people know St. Anthony of Padua as the patron saint of lost and stolen articles, but have you ever wondered why he is that particular patron saint? Continue reading

God is love

Years ago, while a Franciscan novice, my fellow friars and I attended a gathering of all the Franciscan novices, men and women, who lived in the Eastern United States. During our week-long gathering, each group was responsible for leading morning or evening prayer, or animating the Eucharistic celebration. One morning, a group of Franciscan sisters was responsible for morning prayer. Just before we were to begin, the leader of prayer explained that we would not being using the traditional words associated with the sign of the Cross. Rather, we would say “In the Name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier.” She explained this was a way to remove the gender bias from the opening of prayer and so to make all feel welcomed. Continue reading

The Dance of Love

We have all kinds of solemnities, feast days, and other special days in the church year. We commemorate happenings in the life of Christ: Mary’s visit from Gabriel announcing the miraculous child she was to bring into the world. We celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings, the Baptism of our Lord, the Transfiguration when the glory of Christ is revealed, and on Palm Sunday, we celebrate Jesus riding triumphantly into Jerusalem amidst palms and cheers. We celebrate the empty tomb and Resurrection of Easter, the glorious Ascension, the explosive coming of God’s spirit to the church at Pentecost—and then we have Holy Trinity Sunday. And suddenly it is like we have moved from these great events in the life of Christ, and now— tadah!! We are celebrating a…a…a church doctrine. Continue reading

Not always what we want

Pentecost Sunday is a day on which we are reminded that the Holy Spirit was promised and has been given. We celebrate the fulfillment of a promise by Jesus that the Advocate, the Paraclete, the one sent by Jesus would come to remind us of all that Jesus taught, to be with us, and to bring to us the power of God. We celebrate this day with three readings – each one of which is filled with mention of the Spirit. The first reading is the account from Acts 2 so familiar to every Christian, 50 days after the Resurrection. We imagine it as a very public event in which the power of the Spirit came with the roar of a great wind, as though tongues of fire, and suddenly the disciples can speak in a way that people from everywhere can understand them. It is as though what happened at the Tower of Babel is undone and finally the world can be united. The Spirit-filled disciples are to be the agents that restore unity to the world. Continue reading