Franciscans in China

Ideograms for Rabban Bar SaumaServant of God – John of Montecorvino
Franciscan and first Bishop of Beijing

Today is a day in which we Franciscans remember John of Montecorvino. To which most people – even most Franciscans – will say “who?” Brother John was the first Catholic missionary to China, centuries before the efforts of other Catholic religious orders. It is a compelling story.  If you would like to read an interesting and accessible account of the travel within the context of an art historian comparing 13th century Italian and Chinese art, read Lauren Arnold’s: Princely Gifts & Papal Treasures: The Franciscan Mission to China & Its Influence on the Art of the West, 1250-1350 – fascinating book.

Beginning with the pontificate of Innocent IV (1243–1254), the popes and Mongol khans began to communicate and exchange gifts in a diplomatic effort to see if there was a basis upon which to effectively bind and subdue their common enemy, the Muslim Empire.  The two most famous envoys were the Franciscans John of Plano Carpini and William of Rubruck. Their journeys, remarkable and daring, were not specifically missionary but were more as political emissaries. Carpini traveled in the years 1245–1247 while Rubruck’s mission was 1253–1255. Although Rubruck was sent by Louis XI of France to enlist the aid of the khan against Islam, Rubruck also attempted to convert the Mongols (also known as Tartars) by converting the Great Khan.  William’s Itinera is a masterful travel account  that also includes observations about the Saracens and Nestorian Christians found in the Mongol territories. On Pentecost 1255 William met with the Great Khan who received William but nothing more came of the meeting. Continue reading

Land of the Rising Sun

Ike Ndolo’s chorus is an unabashed proclamation that he belongs to God and to heaven

“Grace is huge because you haven’t even asked for it but it’s available … Nobody is beyond Grace. God is always near. We are not abandoned, that to me is encouraging and beautiful. Even in the midst of our own brokenness in a broken world, a very broken world, we are not abandoned.” – Ike Ndolo

A little-known saint

Duns Scotus1November 8th is the feast day of Blessed John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan friar from Scotland noted for his theological and philosophical work in the high-middle ages (late 13th and early 14th centuries). Scotus’ work was in the generation that followed Thomas of Aquinas and Bonaventure. His work was complex and nuanced, and he is generally considered to be one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of his time. He was given the medieval accolade Doctor Subtilis (Subtle Doctor) for his penetrating and subtle manner of thought. Continue reading

Words

I finds words fascinating and surprising. Especially the connection between words that, in English, we would not give a second thought to connecting. I am of an older generation that during high school was required to take Latin, so from time to time, I see connections in the Latin roots. But words retain the ability to surprise. Continue reading

Doing what is ours to do

I remember the first time I had to speak to the parish, as pastor, and make a “pitch” for money. It was the 2012 Annual Pastoral Appeal. I think I remarked something akin to: “When I realized I had to make an appeal for money, I knew I had a choice. I could poke my eye out with a flaming stick, or I could make the pitch. It’s not a clear-cut choice.” I really do not like to talk about money or ask for it. Continue reading

Feast of St. Bonaventure

StBonaventureToday marks the Feast Day of one of the great figures in Franciscan history – St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio – as well as the 14th anniversary of our Franciscan presence in this historic downtown parish.  St. Bonaventure is a good model of what it means to be a Franciscan while at the same time being a priest in leadership positions in a parish.  Bonaventure reminded the friars of his day that our first vocation is as “brother.”  At the core of our charism, we are a fraternity in mission to the People of God striving to continue our Order’s 800-year-old mission:  bringing the Gospel into the everyday experience of men and women through our life in fraternity and compassionate service to all. Continue reading

St. Anthony of Padua

StAnthonyPaduaWhen 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

What Kind of People Worship Here?

MLKjrOn Monday, we as a nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I thought it would be good that we, again, listen to the words of Dr. King from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” This excerpt, found in the later part of that marvelous and challenging letter, asks a simple but profound question: “What kind of people worship here?”  Are we a people of the Gospel that comforts the afflicted? Are we a Gospel people who stand with those on the margins? Are we a full Gospel people? Continue reading