John of Montecovino: Franciscans in China

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

Writing earlier about St. Francis Xavier, I was reminded about a Franciscan missioner, John of Montecorvino, whose feast was November 29. Mention John of Montecorvino and most people – even most Franciscans – will say “who?” 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.

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Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

The Lateran Basilica in Rome is not the oldest church in Rome – that honor seems to belong to Santi Quattro Coronati (314); but then that depends on what sources you believe. Old St. Peter’s, the original church on the spot where the current St. Peter’s stands dates to 324, the same year as St. Lorenzo and St. John Lateran. Did you know that the Lateran Basilica is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome – the place from where the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, leads his diocese even as he leads the church universal. Continue reading

The Subtle Doctor

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

On this day in history…Oct 25th

On this day in 1415, (Saint Crispin’s Day) the English army, led by Henry V, scored a decisive victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War. There had been several decades of relative peace, when the English resumed the war in 1415 amid the failure of negotiations with the French. Henry V of England was a claimant to the throne of France. Henry’s claim was through his great-grandfather Edward III of England, although in practice the English kings were generally prepared to renounce this claim if the French would acknowledge the English claim on Aquitaine and other French lands as outlined in an earlier treaty. Continue reading

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened…

The Franciscan Order arose in the 13th century around the person of Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, better known to us as Saint Francis of Assisi.  The Franciscan Order was established by the verbal command of Pope Innocent the mission statement given was to follow Christ and preach penance – and the second part was a surprise to Francis. What started as an informal fraternity of Francis and three followers before his death some 20 years later grew to some 3,000 friars. The first wave of friars were formed by simply watching the example of Francis. By Francis’s death most friars had not ever met Francis – they knew stories, but had no personal experience of him. In such a milieu, it is not surprising that differences would arise “about what Francis intended” for this fraternity of religious men. Continue reading

Buona Festa!!

Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Many blessings to all Franciscans and all those of a Franciscan heart.

The Lord bless you and keep you.
May He show His face to you and have mercy.
May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace.
The Lord bless you!

Happy Feast Day!

This day in history

In the early afternoon of September 26, 1997 a sequence of earthquakes hit the Italian province of Umbria. The two main quakes, with a magnitude of 5.6-5.8, were followed by a series of aftershocks – one aftershock was so strong that it caused the partial collapse of the damaged roof of the basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. This dramatic event was filmed, which helped to evaluate the damage sustained by the historic frescos of the ceiling. Continue reading

Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Today is the Feast day of St. Pius of Pietrelcina. The saint began life as Francesco Forgione, born in May 1887 in Pietrelcina, a town and comune in the province of Benevento in the Campania region of southern Italy. He was the son of Grazio Mario Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio, one of five children. His family was pious, attending Mass daily, praying the rosary and fasting with great regularity in honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. By age five, young Francesco stated that his life would be dedicated to God. He was a dutiful son, tending sheep, but also seemed to suffer from illnesses including typhoid fever. Around the age of 10 he told his family that he was beginning to experience visions. He soon became interested in becoming a Capuchin Franciscan. Continue reading