St. Berard and Companions
Preaching the gospel is often dangerous work. Leaving one's homeland and adjusting to new cultures, governments and languages is difficult enough; but martyrdom caps all the other sacrifices.
In 1219 with the blessing of St. Francis, Berard left Italy with Peter, Adjute, Accurs, Odo and Vitalis to preach in Morocco. En route in Spain Vitalis became sick and commanded the other friars to continue their mission without him.
They tried preaching in Seville, then in Muslim hands, but made no converts. They went on to Morocco where they preached in the marketplace. The friars were immediately apprehended and ordered to leave the country; they refused. When they began preaching again, an exasperated sultan ordered them executed. After enduring severe beatings and declining various bribes to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, the friars were beheaded by the sultan himself on January 16, 1220.
These were the first Franciscan martyrs. When Francis heard of their deaths, he exclaimed, "Now I can truly say that I have five Friars Minor!" Their relics were brought to Portugal where they prompted a young Augustinian canon to join the Franciscans and set off for Morocco the next year. That young man was Anthony of Padua. These five martyrs were canonized in 1481.
The deaths of Berard and his companions sparked a missionary vocation in Anthony of Padua and others. There have been many, many Franciscans who have responded to Francis' challenge. Proclaiming the gospel can be fatal, but that has not stopped the Franciscan men and women who even today risk their lives in many countries throughout the world.
Before St. Francis, the Rules of religious orders made no mention of preaching to the Muslims. In the Rule of 1223, Francis wrote: "Those brothers who, by divine inspiration, desire to go among the Saracens and other nonbelievers should ask permission from their ministers provincial. But the ministers should not grant permission except to those whom they consider fit to be sent" (Chapter 12).
Saint of the Day
Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
Dear Jesus, I come to you today
By God's grace I was born to live in freedom.
At this moment Lord I turn my thoughts to You. I will leave aside my chores and preoccupations.
The Word of God
Sometimes I wonder what I might say if I were to meet you in person Lord. I think I might say "Thank You Lord" for always being there for me. I know with certainty there were times when you carried me, Lord, when it was through your strength I got through the dark times in my life.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
1st Week in Ordinary Time
If you wish, you can make me clean. (Mark 1:40)
Can you imagine one of your children coming to you with a problem that you could easily solve, but instead of helping, you tell him or her to "deal with it"? That's not the response of a loving parent. Our children come to us because they trust us and are confident that we can help them out. If we are so willing to respond to them, we can only imagine how much God wants to respond to us—especially when we consider how much bigger his heart is than ours!
The leper in today's Gospel believed this was true. He knew that no one in his village could help him. Even his friends and family had rejected him because they were frightened and repelled by his disease. Yet this man approached Jesus with complete trust and deep faith. "If you wish," he declared, "you can make me clean" (Mark 1:40).
How could Jesus refuse? Moved with pity, he touched someone that we would probably never touch—and that touch alone was enough to heal the man. In an instant, his life was changed forever!
Does Jesus love us today any less than he loved this man? Of course not! He always wants to help us, just as any good father wants to help his children. It may be hard for us to believe that, because his help does not always come in the form we'd prefer. He doesn't always cure our illnesses and take away our problems. Sometimes he walks through them with us so that we will come closer to him and draw strength from his presence.
No matter what his answer is, Jesus never treats us with indifference. He responds with what he knows to be best for us, even when we don't know what that is.
Never be afraid to take your needs to Jesus. It's one way you can develop the childlike kind of faith he wants all of us to have. After all, how can we know that we have a heavenly Father if we never step out in faith and place our trust in him?
"Lord, I praise you for your love and provision. I have nothing to fear, for as long as I seek your kingdom first, I know that you will take care of me!"
1 Samuel 4:1-11; Psalm 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25
"The difference", I said, in our co-worker bible study last night, "the difference falls on the will". What we have is a battle. We read of one thousands of years ago in the first Holy Scripture, and a very subtle one in the Holy Gospel. The first, a brutal battle, to which Israel had to defend itself, and turned to their last resort, a weapon they thought, the Ark, the presence of God, they would hurl it with all their other weapons. The only secret weapon the Philistines had was a sheer will. How often do I use God? Think about it. Pope Francis exhorted "our faith is not an ornament". But, we live a shallow faith and then try to get into the deep when we are in trouble. We should always live deeply in our faith. Every moment our eyes are opened and our hearts are beating should be a moment with God, not just when you are in trouble, or happen to remember to pray, or go to church. And that is another thing the book "Theology For Beginners" ended with. We don't just "go to church". That is a far cry from what it is truly. In a Holy Mass, there, we present our free will in its entirety. "We offer our lives, by our tithes, and our pleading for mercy and giving thanks" I said at our gathering last night. You don't just "go to church", you actually go to Heaven, because as I continued last night "you meet the larger community, with your little community", the Ultreya gathering. Families come together, the sheep are gathered. I read that public preaching is now restricted in about 38% of countries. Hostilities towards religious is growing steadily, a pew research shows that "christian martyr" killings doubled in 2013. It goes to prove that the last century has been the worst on persecution...of Christianity. Millions upon millions of unborn of Christians have been killed, and those are not counted in the tally. So who does count? Jesus counts everybody, the forgotten, the lepers, the sinners. He wants everybody in His fold. What we fail to grasp is the will of God. Israel threw the Ark, the presence of God into battle without even asking what He wanted. How often do I use God? I have a brother in Christ that has repeated his testimony several times, even last night, recalling the saddest moment of his life, as he lay there with needs in his veins, pouring drugs into his body and drinking a bottle of whiskey, laying in the bathtub, nobody had believed he was in drugs even though he told his parents, and as he lay there, he recalls his last words he remembers "God Help Me". Hours later he was found and saw his condition and finally took him to detox treatment. He knows God saved him. How many times do we ignore the signs? Persecution is all around. Even our democracy is leading to religious persecution "you are not truly catholic, you have no say in the matter" is the attitude with new laws coming. A democracy of lax faith leaves room for evil to grow. The world is being taken hostage and for no other reason than that of those who do not care. And when in trouble? How often do I use God? I say this because the most Holy Gospel recounts the story of a poor forgotten leper that asks for help as he always did, and this time Jesus said "I do will it. Be made Clean". He wills for us to be made clean. If today's readings serve us anything at all, it is that exact fact. He wills more. He cleans what is needed to be cleaned. That is all that fits in Heaven, purity, holiness, beauty in its every sense. I can not be haughty with my faith. I can only mean to do what is right. If I truly care, I will do something about it. If a loved one is in sin, I will tell them, if I truly care for their soul. I will indeed be accountable, which I recalled at the meeting last night "the brother that killed his brother was asked by God, 'where is your brother"? God knew what happened but the brother responded "Am I my brother's keeper?" The answer is yes. WE are indeed responsible for those around us, our world. I do not know why this has been an onslaught on the faith for going on 100 years. I do know there is a tremendous need for Jesus, Salvation, Healing in our world. People don't know what is really going on. We are entertained while the killings go on, the devil deceives with smoke and mirrors while attempting to enter your very soul. Let this be a lesson from Israel, let us not give into desperation. Let this be a lesson of a leper, go and ask to be healed and become an evangelist, a spreader of the Good News. What we have read, there is nothing more important in our lives, that of our will and our faith, and our Lord in our lives, because He is among us. So now the question is: How does God use me?