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 detrmining 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.

The 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death, Part II

Well,the flu has kept me from finishing the sequel to my post about Shakespeare yesterday. I'm not sure if I'm up to finishing it today. But let me continue to talk about at least a couple of things. On Sunday, at the time I wrote the first part, I had watched the first part of Michael Wood's documentary The Search for Shakespeare and part of the second (the two best parts, I think). It is absorbing all the way through, and he spends a lot of time with the documents, which I love, but he often doesn't go deeply into the plays; he especially doesn't do much with the sonnets (he has a fairly conventional view that they are baldly literal and autobiographical, but doesn't really support his opinion on that very well). One thing I had forgotten about the second part is how Wood suggests that in 1587, Will joined a group of traveling players called The Queen's Men when they came to Stratford and definitively left home and family behind. The group was strongly pro-Elizabeth and anti-Catholic. Wood admits that this would have been strange for a young man from so fiercely Catholic a family, but adds, "he was young, he didn't have to live in his father's world." How true was this? Did Shakespeare leave his family's Catholicism behind when he went to work in the theater? Wood does find evidence of Shakespeare's Catholicism later in his life, but seems to indicate for a good part of his theater career, he perhaps didn't openly practice or kept his opinions hidden. He also talks about how early in his theater career, around 1592, while he was getting to know the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece, Shakespeare came to know Southampton's confessor, and his own distant cousin, the Jesuit poet, Fr. Robert Southwell, who was in England ministering to Catholics against Elizabeth's decree. Most intriguing, the dedication of Southwell's own collection of poems bears the title "To my Worthy Good Cosen, Maister W. S." In it, he says that poets "abuse their talents" by writing only about love, and calls Will to something higher. A few months afterwards, Fr. Southwell was arrested, tortured and eventually executed in 1595. You have to wonder what effect this had on Shakespeare's writing; Wood doesn't seem to think it that important. Others think that it had a deep influence on him. No time for more tonight, but check out the documentary; all four parts are available on YouTube. There is even more about Shakespeare's Catholic connection in Joseph Pearce's audio series The Quest for Shakespeare on EWTN a few years back. He also has a book of the same name.    

I Celebrated The 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death . . .

. . . by re-watching this gem of a documentary: In Search of Shakespeare, written and presented on-camera by Michael Wood, and first aired by the BBC in 2003. It's in four hour-long parts. The first installment traces Shakespeare's youth in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England, where he was baptized on April 26, 1564 and died on April 23, 1616. There is no nonsense here about finding someone else to write Will's plays for him. Wood points out in the very beginning that the plays are full of words peculiar to the Warwickshire dialect, including the names for plants, flowers and other objects that would have been known to a country boy like Will. This is typical of Wood's attention to detail. We also get to visit Will's primary school in Stratford, which is still in operation after some 450 years, and watch the students perform an Elizabethan play, something young Shakespeare also may have done.

A possible portrait of Shakespeare at age 24? (Wood discusses this in the film's 2nd installment)

Wood also does something else unusual in giving full attention not just to the political and social background of Shakespeare's life, but to the religious ferment as well. It has become more and more recognized in recent years that Shakespeare belonged to a Catholic, in fact to a very ardently Catholic, family, in an England that Queen Elizabeth had made Protestant by law. William's father, John Shakespeare, was a dissenter, or recusant Catholic. He had a copy written out for him of a Catholic confession of faith -- one brought to England by Jesuit missionaries from the continent -- to make sure he would be known as a Catholic and receive the sacraments at his death. This paper was found around 300 years ago, as Wood points out, hidden in the rafters of the Shakespeare family home. Other early sources (some not mentioned by Wood), show that he was fined for not attending the required Anglican services, as was William's daughter Susanna. And what about William himself and his faith? Well, that comes in the next installment. It seems to me that between now and April 26, the date of Shakespeare's Christian baptism, I should go a bit more into this subject if I can. And oh, yes, April 23, the day of Shakespeare's death, is also the feast of St. George, England's patron saint. And it also happens to be the saint's name day of Pope Francis, (Jorge Bergoglio). So happy feast, day, Papa! To be continued.

Kermit Gosnell: An American Tragedy

3801LancasterI recently got a chance to screen 3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy, a new hour-long documentary, just out on DVD, about serial-killer abortionist Kermit Gosnell. In May 2013, Gosnell was convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of three babies born alive, who he killed by "snipping" their spinal cords. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a woman who died after an abortion at his West Philadelphia clinic. Gosnell was also convicted of 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortion. The three babies were among the many he is believed to have killed after they were born alive. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. This is a gripping film. Through interviews with Gosnell's friends and colleagues, women who had abortions at his clinics, and exclusive interviews with Gosnell himself, by phone from prison, it offers a convincing tragic portrait of Gosnell as a respected physician who worked tirelessly for the poor, but who went bad -- very bad -- when he got into abortion. The film also details how Pennsylvania's pro-choice governor, Tom Ridge, refused to have any inspections of abortion clinics in the state for 10 years, and how officials looked the other way, because of fear many clinics would close if they were inspected. In other words, abortions must always be available, even if that means substandard medical care for women, and their death, maiming and loss of fertility, not to mention the lives of thousands of babies. The Grand Jury report, quoted in the film, summed it up: “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.” Gosnell himself shows no remorse in his interviews; indeed he believes he is completely in the right. He says he is a Christian and shares his Bible-based belief that a baby is not alive until drawing his or her first breath, hence his abortions were perfectly moral. This doesn't explain the babies he killed after they drew their first breath. Gosnell nevertheless claims that he never "snipped" babies outside the womb, or alternatively, if he did, they were already dead. The film concludes with a look into some other abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood, which have schockingly similar poor standards of care. Some things I think are missing: While the women who were interviewed about their abortions offer candid and moving statements of what the decision and the experience are like, there is little in them about their contact with Gosnell. There was also surprisingly little about Karnamaya Mongar and her death. On the other hand, some of the most gripping footage shot by filmmakers is not in the finished film (though available on the film's website, It is a heartbreaking interview with Rep. Margo Davidson, about the death of her cousin, Semika Shaw, after an abortion at Gosnell's clinic. Though at only an hour, it isn't complete by any mean, everyone interested in the reality of abortion should see this film. I hope the extra footage will be on the DVD. Director: David Altrogge Producer: Jen Brown Cinematographer Michael Hartnett: To buy the video ($14.99 plus shipping), go to

Archbishop Vigano Retires and Pope Francis Re-iterates: Denial of Conscientious Objection is “Persecution”

Pope Francis has just answered the critics of Archbishop Vigano in spades. Yesterday, April 12, the day that the Archbishop's retirement was officially announced, and as the secular press again went wild over how Francis supposedly "fired" him over the Kim Davis affair, the Pope reiterated in a homily in no uncertain terms, that the right to conscientious objection is sacrosanct, and condemned the "polite" persecution of Christians seen in the West. You can't tell me that was a coincidence! santamartaRobert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican thinks as I do. Yesterday, he wrote a bulletin in which he not only published the Pope's remarks, but connected them to his meeting with Davis. He also stressed that it was him, not Davis' lawyers, or anyone else, who first broke this story of the meeting. He had contact with sources who knew the truth, he insists. And the truth is that Vigano did not "blindside" Pope Francis, but that the Archbishop arranged the meeting with the full knowledge of "his superiors" in Rome. I found this translation of the Pope's homily at Mass at Santa Marta on the Inside the Vatican site, and I like it better than the one that's been seen here and there. Unfortunately, the Vatican website has it only in Italian. In his talk, Pope Francis mourned the deaths of the Christian faithful in Pakistan on Easter Sunday, as a result of a Muslim extremist attack.
"There is another kind of persecution that is not often spoken about,” Francis noted. The first form of persecution “is due to confessing the name of Christ” and it is thus “a clear, explicit type of persecution.” The other kind of persecution is “disguised as culture, disguised as modernity, disguised as progress: it is a kind of — I would say somewhat ironically — polite persecution.” You can recognize “when someone is persecuted not for confessing Christ’s name, but for wanting to demonstrate the values of the Son of God.” Thus, it is a kind of “persecution against God the Creator in the person of his children.” In this way “we see every day that the powerful make laws that force people to take this path, and a nation that does not follow this modern collection of laws, or at least that does not want to have them in its legislation, is accused, is politely persecuted.” This is a form of “persecution that takes away man’s freedom,” and even the right to “conscientious objection! God made us free, but this kind of persecution takes away freedom!” Thus, “if you don’t do this, you will be punished: you’ll lose your job and many things or you’ll be set aside.” “This is the persecution of the world,” the pontiff continued. And “this persecution even has a leader.” In the persecution of Stephen, “the leaders were the scribes, doctors of the law, the high priests.” On the other hand, “Jesus named the leader of polite persecution: the prince of this world.”
In Pope Francis' talk, you can see the persecution of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the attempt to export abortion, same-sex marriage and other evils to Third-World countries, and conscientious objection all rolled into one. Do read Moynihan's whole story here.