The Franciscan Spirit of St. Louis

Here we are, the members of the Tau Cross Region at the 19th Secular Franciscan Quinquennial Conference in St. Louis.

20160701_102445600 Secular Franciscans from all over the U.S., along with international representatives of the order met at the Renaissance Hotel on June 30-July 3 for four days of spiritual teaching and fellowship. We all had a wonderful time!

We also learned something about how Secular Franciscans can use social media – by, among other things, posting this photo of our session to Facebook!

13592645In between sessions, I was at the Tau Cross Books and Media table, meeting customers, selling and signing books.

I also sold copies of two new books I published last month that are available on the Tau Cross books website: The Voice of a Medieval Woman: St. Elizabeth of Hungary and A Tuscan Penitent: The Life and Legend of St. Margaret of Cortona.

Check them out!

Mary Magdalen, “Apostle to the Apostles”

Fra_Angelico_039Pope Francis has indeed been working to raise the image of women in the Church. Last week the Vatican announced that the Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene on July 22 has been raised to a Feast. Her liturgical celebration is now equivalent in rank to those of the Apostles. In fact, in line with Church tradition, she is marked out in the accompanying texts as Apostola apostolorum,” the Apostle to the Apostles”,  because she took news of the Resurrection to the apostles.

Robert Cardinal Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the sacraments, writes in his decree announcing this change:

Given that in our time the Church is called to reflect in a more profound way on the dignity of Woman, on the New Evangelization and on the greatness of the Mystery of Divine Mercy, it seemed right that the example of Saint Mary Magdalene might also fittingly be proposed to the faithful. In fact this woman, known as the one who loved Christ and who was greatly loved by Christ, and was called a “witness of Divine Mercy” by Saint Gregory the Great and an “apostle of the apostles” by Saint Thomas Aquinas, can now rightly be taken by the faithful as a model of women’s role in the Church.”

Msgr. Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation, wrote an accompanying letter, in which he explained how we should understand the saint, clearing up the still prevalent confusion about her identity:

Certainly Christian tradition in the West, especially after St. Gregory the Great, identifies Mary Magdalene, the woman who poured perfume in the house of Simon the Pharisee, and the sister of Lazarus and Martha, as the same person. This interpretation continued and had influence in the Western ecclesiastical authors, in Christian art and liturgical texts related to the saint. The Bollandists amply exposed the problem of identification of the three women and prepared the way for the liturgical reform of the Roman calendar.

Though he doesn’t say so directly, this makes it clear that Mary Magdalen is not to be identified as a repentant prostitute as she has so often in Christian tradition and art. Much more emphasis is laid on Mary Magdalen’s actions in the Gospel than on these speculations. Msgr. Roche goes on:

Therefore it is just that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same level of feast given to the celebration of the Apostles in the General Roman Calendar and that it underscore the special mission of this woman, who is an example and model for every woman in the Church.

Mary Magdalen’s feast day now has its own liturgical preface — and a beautiful one.

Truly is it worthy and just, advantageous and helpful toward salvation, that in all things we proclaim You, Father Almighty, whose mercy is not less than Your power, through Christ our Lord – Who, manifest, appeared in the garden to Mary Magdalene, for indeed she loved Him while he was living, saw Him dying on the Cross, sought Him lying in the sepulcher, and was the first to adore Him when he rose from the dead, and He honored her with the duty of apostleship in the presence of the apostles, so that the good news of new life would reach the ends of the earth. Therefore we too profess to you, O Lord, with Angels and Saints, saying in exultation: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts…. (Source)

Some more traditional Catholics are already talking as this will be an incentive to a new push for women priests (I certainly will have more to say about this in a later post). In reality, this is not an innovation. In the period before the Council, Mary Magdalen’s Mass and Office was treated more like a feast, with obligatory reading, and the Creed was said at her Mass, as on Sundays and feast days (this was dropped in the 1962 reform of the missal by John XXIII).

I am in the middle of preparing a new book for publication, so the rest will have to wait.

Atheists, the Bible and Abortion

The news has provided so many things to write about lately — and me with so little time to write about them! Donald Trump’s candidacy and the harm it is doing to the pro-life movement. Pope Francis setting up a commission to study women deacons — I’m definitely going to write about this, but am still studying it myself — and so on.

WitchitaAdBut right now I’m going to tackle again atheist claims that the Bible condones abortion. Actually, this is a very easy subject to treat. Atheists are such sitting ducks for a good well-aimed argument. Their inane attempts to argue from the Bible clearly show not only that they have no conception of the view of God and humanity that lies behind Scripture — they simply cannot read with any kind of comprehension.

A couple of weeks ago, the Freedom from Religion released the ad at right, with a long list of Scriptural passages they say prove the Bible condones abortion, that human life, including life in the womb, is not sacred — even that God is an abortionist. None of the statements is an actual argument, so I can only guess how they are interpreting the text, but I have seen many of these before, and have some idea of what passes for argument with atheists and pro-choicers.

I don’t think there’s any way I can tackle all of these, but right now I will look at the first few, so you can understand the pattern of thought behind them. I may be able to get to some one the others later. (You can click on the picture to enlarge it and see the whole list). Keep in mind as you read that that other pro-choice people insist that there is no mention of abortion at all in the Bible. So somebody is clearly not reading right.

All right, here we go:

Life begins at birth — with the first breath (Gen 2:7)

“Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath [neshamat] of life, and the man became a living being [or living soul – nephesh chayyah].”

This is not an unusual claim for abortionists; in fact, it was the argument used by infamous late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell for his work. I have already spoken about this one, fleetingly, in my review of the Gosnell documentary 3801 Lancaster.  He said that he had never felt completely comfortable with what he was doing until he went to jail, when he began to read the Bible through. As a result of that he found he could justify his abortions. In short, a desperate seeking for justification after the fact. He said that he found what he was seeking in Genesis 2:7, which “expresses the breath of life as the beginning of life, that God breathed life, breathed breath into Adam. The Bible, to me, is very clear, that life does not happen until breath.” He is referring to the first breath of a baby exiting the womb. Problem is, the text in Genesis isn’t referring to that at all.

What Genesis is actually expressing here is that Adam isn’t a fetus or a baby, but a full-grown man, when he comes not from the womb, but inanimate clay. Nor is it Adam’s first breath that is being talked about, but the breath of God, which is life-giving, or soul-making, being infused into him. This much is so obvious at first glance that only a desperate abortionist could think differently.

The word for breath (neshamah) is often related to and paired with another Hebrew word ruach, meaning “breath, spirit” and at times refers to God’s Holy Spirit  (See Job 33:4 for some true Hebrew parallelism, using similes: “The Spirit (ruach) of God has made me, and the breath (neshamah) of the Almighty has given me life”). Because the breath that is given is God’s breath, the life that is given is God’s life.

Ultimately what the passage expresses is the same as what is said: Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” God is putting his divine life in Adam, because he is the creature in the universe most like God. God is not representing as breathing life into the animals; man is different, the crown of creation. The passage is not trying to give any indication that life happens when a fetus first breathes, since fetuses or born babies are not mentioned at all, and it is not physical breathing, but the divine life that is meant.

Fetuses are not persons (Ex 21:22-25)

This passage has always been somewhat obscure. Here is the way it is usually translated:

When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers a miscarriage, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him, and he shall pay in the presence of the judges. But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

This one is very frequently used not only by abortion supporters, but even by Jewish scholars and rabbis who support abortion, to argue that since a miscarriage entails only a fine, but injury to the woman a physical penalty, even death, the fetus is of less worth than a woman, or even not a person. But the Hebrew text does not bear this out. A while back, I found this on the Stand to Reason website by Greg Koukl, which gives a very detailed analysis of the passage:

The relevant phrase in the passage, “…she has a miscarriage…,” reads w’yase û ye ladêhâ in the Hebrew. It’s a combination of a Hebrew noun, yeled, and a verb, yasa, and literally means “the child comes forth.”

The verb is frequently used for live childbirth in the Old Testament: For instance:

Genesis 25:25-26 “Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. And afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob.”

In fact, the verb yasa is never used for a miscarriage in the Old Testament. It is only use for a stillbirth in one passage Numbers 12:12, where it is specifically stated the child is dead.

A second point: the word “further” before “injury is not in the original Hebrew, but has been added by some translators in an attempt to clarify the context. The passage in question should read:

“And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that the child comes forth, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life….”

Another point is that the payment of a fine does not indicate that the unborn child is not a person. The payment of a fine or even the judgment of no penalty in the ancient Jewish law rather than execution or another penalty is not an indication that the fault isn’t grave, but frequently depends on the degree of culpability of the perpetrator, or whether the injury is direct, or indirect. Exodus 25 has a number of these.

The natural conclusion here is that fine is for causing the (probably premature) birth; further punishment is for any resulting injury, which could be either to the mother or the child. Gleason Archer, professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, says:

There is no ambiguity here, whatever. What is required is that if there should be an injury either to the mother or to her children, the injury shall be avenged by a like injury to the assailant. If it involves the life (nepes) of the premature baby, then the assailant shall pay for it with his life. There is no second-class status attached to the fetus under this rule; he is avenged just as if he were a normally delivered child or an older person: life for life. (Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), p. 248).

The author of the article, Greg Koukl, adds:

Babies born prematurely require special care. Because their prenatal development has been interrupted, they are especially prone to difficulty. Pre-term babies often can’t breast feed, and there can be respiratory problems leading to permanent brain damage. The fine represents reimbursement for the expense of an untimely birth, and punitive damages for the serious trauma.

The whole article is excellent you can read it here.

I should add that while some Jewish biblical interpreters use this passage to argue for abortion, many Orthodox Jews are pro-life (including the Rabbis for Life I have seen at the march in Washington on January 22), and they would not interpret the passage this way.

Fetuses should be aborted as proof of adultery (Num 5:11-31)

I have already discussed this one here.

Shakespeare’s “Wooden O” . . . wasn’t really Round!

Continuing our Shakespeare theme, I read this article today — it has some really fascinating revelations from an archeological dig, which began in 2011, of the Curtain Theatre, where some of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed:

LONDON — London’s relentless building boom has dug up another chunk of the city’s history — one with a surprise for scholars of Shakespearean theater.

Archaeologists are excavating the remains of the Curtain, a 16th-century playhouse where some of the Bard’s plays were first staged, before a new apartment tower sprouts on the site. Unexpectedly, the dig has revealed that the venue wasn’t round, like most Elizabethan playhouses. It was rectangular.

That came as a surprise, because the best-known fact about the Curtain is that Shakespeare’s “Henry V” was first staged here — and the play’s prologue refers to the building as “this wooden O.”

“This is palpably not a circle,” Julian Bowsher, an expert on Elizabethan theaters, said during a tour of the site Tuesday. (Source)

Shakespeare’s prologue, spoken by a character called Chorus, invites the audience to use their imaginations to suspend their disbelief, and forget the narrow confines of the theater:

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

The Curtain was founded in 1577, just the second theater in London, and Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s men, was one of a number of troupes that performed there in the late 1590′s while waiting for their own theater, the Globe, to be built. Henry V actually premiered at the Curtain in 1599, and theater historians have always naturally supposed that the “wooden O” referred to the actual architecture of the theater in which it was played, which was always thought to have been round in construction, like other Elizabeth theaters. Now it turns out that the Curtain was actually rectangular! The article goes on:

The discovery has made Bowsher rethink some of his ideas about Tudor playhouses. He suspects that the Curtain — unlike the more famous Globe and Rose theaters — wasn’t built from scratch, but converted from an existing building.

“Out of the nine playhouses that we know in Tudor London, there are only two that have no reference to any construction,” he said — including the Curtain. “It’s beginning to make sense now.”

Where does that leave “Henry V”? Heather Knight, senior archaeologist at Museum of London Archaeology , said the play may still have premiered at the Curtain in 1599, but without the prologue.

“There’s a school of thought now that says prologues were actually a later addition,” she said.

You can get a good idea of how this Prologue may have actually been played in Shakespeare’s time from the opening scene of Laurence Olivier’s Henry V:

As you can see, Olivier set his performance in 1600 at the Globe (which actually was round), so even with the new discovery, it may still be accurate — perhaps the Prologue was specifically written for a performance at the Globe.

I’ve always loved the way Olivier filmed this, suggesting how the audience may have put their “imaginary forces” to work: it begins with onstage with all the conventions of the Elizabethan theater, and theatrical gestures, then gradually leaves the theater behind for outside, but still stylized location sets, then dissolving to 1415 and noble characters in costumes straight out of a medieval Book of Hours. By the time we get to the battle of Agincourt, we are in a fully realized naturalism. This makes sense, since most of Shakespeare’s groundlings would have seen medieval nobility only in those Books of Hours (if that), but were fully familiar with battles in real life.

All this really makes me want to see the film again! Here’s a 1944 review by James Agee.

Lady Jacoba and the Third Order — Part II

I think my promised discussion of the Church of San Francesco a Ripa will have to wait until next time, as I want to add some more from my continuing research on Jacoba as a member of the Third Order.Lady Jacoba

As I said last time, the early Franciscan writers and chroniclers don’t describe Lady Jacoba as a member of the Third Order. That had to wait for the work of the first real historian of the tertiaries, Mariano of Florence (1450-1523), a friar of the Observant reform. In addition to writing a treatise on the Third Order in 1521-22 – at the request of the tertiaries themselves -- Mariano compiled a long chronicle of the history of the Franciscan order, which he completed around 1516.[1] This work is now lost, but before then the autograph manuscript was used by the seventeenth-century Franciscan chronicler Fr Luke Wadding in his Annales Minorum. (More about Wadding’s work later).

However, Mariano also wrote a shorter chronicle, which still exists, called the Compendium Chronicam Ordinis Fratrum Minorum, which he completed in 1523, the year of his death.[2] In it, he writes that when St. Francis was in Rome in 1212, “he preached and received some people into penitence and religious life.” Among them, he says:

A certain very noble matron named Jacoba di Settesoli became his follower; she was a widow, who by the merits of Bl. Francis, arrived at such grace that, always full of tears and devotion for the love and affection of Christ, she seemed almost another Magdalen. Her body is buried with blessed Francis.[3]

Later, in describing the foundation of the Third Order in 1221, Fra Mariano says that Francis received a number of holy people into it. Among them “he also received Lady Jacoba di Settesoli, a most illustrious matron, who achieved worthy fruits of penance.”[4]

Mariano clearly believed that Lady Jacoba was a member of the Third Order. And he did an enormous amount of research on the tertiaries, so he perhaps had come across a source that reassured him on this point.

Wadding, writing in 1625, who used Mariano’s longer lost chronicle, seems to have reproduced it fairly exactly. It is full of very interesting detail:

Then there adhered to the holy man, drawn by the power of his preaching the illustrious and distinguished matron, Jacoba de Settesoli, a widow, the noblest and wealthiest among the women of Rome. . . Moved by the fame of the man, she wanted to hear his preaching; from the preaching arose an ardent desire to speak with him. At length she obtained this, and after she had very frequently been instructed by him in this way about heavenly things, as a result she despised all her earthly goods, nor did she care any longer for anything else but about purity of life, perfect continence and reforming of her conduct. Therefore, when she had transferred the care and solicitude for family matters to the two sons she had, who were one after another later Roman Senators, she wisely devoted her attention to her soul, and having accepted from heaven the gift of tears, she shed floods of them daily for her past life, which she had spent heedlessly.

She conceived a heartfelt devotion toward Francis and his companions; she used to always receive them with a hospitable welcome and with all charity, offered them kind services.[5]

It’s clear that Wadding, like Mariano, conceived of Lady Jacoba as a penitent, who had a true change of life, loved Jesus and strove after Gospel perfection. but unlike Mariano, neither here or elsewhere in his treatment of her, or in his treatment of the founding of the Third Order, does Wadding ever say definitively that she was a tertiary.

This raises some interesting questions. Did Mariano also describe Jacoba as a member of the Third Order in the chronicle Wadding used, but Wadding left it out because he thought it wrong? Or did Mariano not have anything about this in his earlier work? Could Mariano have included this this only in his later, 1523 chronicle, which Wadding may not have had? These are the types of questions historians often have to deal with. We can look a little closer, and perhaps find a hint of an answer.

Mariano’s iterest in the Third Order could have arisen from his ministry in the Observant reform. In addition to trying to recover the original poverty, humility and asceticism of the order, the friars of the reform engaged in popular preaching on a large scale. One of the earliest great preachers among the Observants was St. Bernardino of Siena, whose preaching set the laity of his time on fire. Naturally, the Observant friars were very attentive to find possible models of holiness for the laity among the saints of the Third Order. A recent biographer of St. Rose of Viterbo, Rosa Mincuzzi, finds that the Observant movement in the city of Viterbo, with the preaching of St. Bernardino there, may have been the impetus for beginning the second canonization process for St. Rose in 1457.[6]

In light of this, he has a very interesting statement in his Treatise on the Third Order. In regard to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, he writes:

Some people have wanted to say that she did not belong to the Third Order, because “in her legend we don’t find it expressly stated, for this reason we can only conclude that she didn’t belong to the Third Order.” And the same answer is given about St. Louis the king of France and St. Yves of Britanny and St. Elzear. There are two reasons why it is not expressly stated in their histories that they beonged to the Third Order. The first is because this Order, from its beginning up to the time of Pope Nicholas IV,[7] was not called an Order, but those who professed it were called brothers and sisters, and by some penitents . . . But then Nicholas IV in his bull that begins Supra montem catholice fede began to call it an Order, and it was entitled the Order of Penitents. The second reason is because the said saints in their legends are not called “of the Third Order” because the Order of Friars Minor did not intervene in their canonization, but they were canonized at the request of secular lords; and therefore since they weren’t proposed by the Third Order of St. Francis, they were not registered in the bulls of canonization [as being] of this Order, but indeed [were such] by their penitence and humble and abject dress, as is manifested by St. Louis, of whom his legend says that he did not wear scarlet or green, but humble dress. . . And St. Elizabeth also dressed in gray. . .[8]

Mariano then, might have had a different set of criteria than Wadding did for determining who was a member of the Third Order; his writing does suggest he may have studied the early sources enough to determine other criteria for himself, such as dress. His way of determining Third Order membership is similar to other texts of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries about St. Elizabeth as a penitent that I published in my dissertation.[9] It is interesting to note that in her 1457 process, supported by the Franciscans, Rose of Viterbo is presented for the first time explicitly as a saint of the Third Order, but in her case, there is very early evidence from primitive sources that she made a profession in a fraternity or confraternity that probably belonged to the Third Order,[10] though this was not discussed by those writing about her prior to that time. Examination or research similar to Mariano’s could have brought this out; it was not necessarily just wishful thinking.

I only recently came across this pertinent information from Mariano’s treatise on the Third Order again in the last couple of days; in fact, had forgotten about it. While I was in Rome for the celebration of the beginning of the seventh centenary of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in 2006, I found a copy of the treatise in a bookcase in the guest house of the friars of the TOR where I was staying. At the time, I was interested mainly in what Mariano said about St. Elizabeth, and so I copied some passages from that portion, but unfortunately I don’t recall whether he said anything about Jacoba! I will have to do further research in this text, which I think may show more about how he saw the penitents, perhaps including Lady Jacoba.

Next time I will delve into what Wadding and others say about the Church of San Francesco a Ripa in Rome and its connection with Lady Jacoba. Some new information has come out in connection with the recent excavations at the church and restoration of the cell of St. Francis that I think you’re going to be interested in.


[1] For a recent treatment of Mariano’s work, which gives the date for the chronicle, see Lezlie S. Knox, Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan identities in Later Medieval Italy. Boston: Brill, 2008, p. 144.

[2] For the date see “Un’opera sconosciuto di Mariano da Fiorenza.” Miscellanea Franciscana 10:4 (1906): 57-59.

[3] “Compendium Chronicarum Ordinis FF. Minorum,” ed. Teofilo Domenichelli in Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 2 (1909): 92. The translation from the Latin, here as elsewhere, is mine.

[4] Ibid., p. 98.

[5] Luke Wadding, Annales Minorum an. 1212, xxxiv (London: Claudius Landry, 1625), vol. 1, p. 98.

[6] Rosa Mincuzzi. Santa Rosa da Viterbo, penitente del XIII secolo, Estratto da Analecta TOR 31 /165 (2000), pp. 49, 91.

[7] Mariano wrote “Innocent” here, he but clearly ment “Nicholas,” as his conclusion shows.

[8] Mariano da Firenze, Il trattato del Terz'Ordine o vero "Libro come Santo Francesco istitui et ordinò el Tertio Ordine de Frati et Sore di Pentientia et dell dignità et perfectione o vero Sanctita Sua.” Ed. Massimo D. Pape (Roma: Ed. Analecta TOR, 1985), pp. 481-82.

[9] Lori Pieper, “St. Elizabeth of Hungary and the Franciscan Tradition,” (Doctoral dissertation, Fordham University, 2002).

[10] See Mincuzzi, Santa Rosa da Viterbo,pp. 47-55.