My New Initiative on Franciscan Saints

I’ve been absent from blogging so far this month, but only because I’ve been so busy elsewhere. I’ve been publicizing my two new books: A Passionate Adventure, and The canonization 2014Greatest of These is Love.

At the same time, I’ve been celebrating the Franciscan saints Pope Francis canonized on Sunday.

One is Fra Ludovico da Casoria, the “St. Francis of the nineteenth century,” who founded the Gray Sisters of St. Elizabeth in 1964, to care for orphaned children, including recently ransomed slaves.

padre_ludovico_da_casoriaThe Elizabeth he named them for is, of course, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Here is something I wrote about this, a press release for my book and film on Elizabeth. St. Ludovico’s life story is a pretty amazing one, though I had time for only a little of it.

The second Franciscan saint canonized is St. Amato Ronconi, a layman and Franciscan tertiary who died in 1292; he was a farm laborer who was famous for his hospitality to pilgrims and the poor., for whom he founded a hospice in his home town of Saludecio. I wrote about him already in this story from last year. I commented then that the local people had shown great initiative in pushing for his canonization. And it has only taken a little over a year since the Vatican recognized his heroic virtues for his sanctity to be confirmed by Sunday’s canonization.

beatoamato-isolabrescia-432x600St. Amato has also just become the second Franciscan saint I’ve written about in my new ongoing series on Franciscan Saints on Tau Cross Books and Media. My first was Pope John XXIII.  I am hoping this will attract more people to the site.

What I want to do here is to supply something more than the type of bare summaries of the saints’ lives, often copied and re-copied from website to website, that we see so often. I want to do some real scholarship on the life of the saint, or on some aspect of his or her life, as well as spiritual meditation on its significance, if possible.

I will try to post a new saint monthly. In time, I hope to complete a full Franciscan Saints Calendar. You can sign up to receive the monthly posts via e-mail here.

Happy reading – oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Brittany Maynard May be Changing her Mind about Suicide

You’ve all heard of her — the young woman with a brain tumor who wants to kill herself this Saturday, November 1.  She has been spending these past few weeks campaigning for the legalization of “death with dignity.” Now she may be changing her mind.

This is good news.Plenty of people have been praying for her and begging her to reconsider. Some of them have similar diagnoses. Here is a beautiful plea by Maggie Karner, who, like Brittany, has glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer.

My greatest hope is that Brittany will realize that her life still has value, that even her suffering has value. Like the lady in the video said, Brittany, don’t let that beast of a cancer beat you one second sooner that it has to!

I also hope that Brittany will realize that she is being used by ideological groups who don’t care about her as much as they do having a pawn to push for legalization of physician-assisted suicide/euthanasia. My feeling is that if she backpedals, they’ll drop her. Because for all the talk about “compassion and choices,” there is only one choice they care about — their choice. Just like the pro-abortion movement. If they continue to do with “choice” what Planned Parenthood has always done, they will expose themselves as what they are in the clear light of day, and I say good for them! I hope Brittany drops them before they drop her. Above all, I hope they don’t pressure her — but I suspect they will.

Seriously, this whole campaign with Brittany at the center is no accident, what with Obamacare really starting to roll out. This campaign and the recent article by Ezekiel Emmanuel (I blogged about it here) — are all tending toward the same end. All those free birth-control pills and abortions for the young are going to be paid for by taking health care from the elderly and those with debilitating or terminal illness. How much money we could save if they could all be persuaded to kill themselves! I’m desperately afraid of the way things are heading.

As for me, I don’t think life not worth living if I’m not getting all the gusto I can out of it. I think mainly what I am putting into my life. I worry that I won’t have time to finish all the work I want to complete, books I want to write, evangelization I need to do, and contributions I want to make to the world before God calls me. I wouldn’t dream of going one second before He does. But here as in all things, may His holy will be done.


What Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers Really Think

Once more with feeling.

The secular media’s interpretation of the Synod of Bishops on the Family as some sort of “revolution” in the Church being led by Pope Francis is a false narrative.

To start with, take a look at the Holy Father’s remarks to the Schoenstatt movement on October 25:

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2014 / 12:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an audience with members of an international Marian movement, Pope Francis warned that the sacrament of marriage has been reduced to a mere association, and urged participants to be witnesses in a secular world.

“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience.

He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed.

He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

Noting that there are many who cohabitate, or are separated or divorced, he explained that the “key” to helping is a pastoral care of “close combat” that assists and patiently accompanies the couple.

Pope Francis offered his words in a question-and-answer format during his audience with members of the Schoenstatt movement, held in celebration of the 100th anniversary of its founding in Germany.

Roughly 7,500 members of the international Marian and apostolic organization, both lay and clerics from dozens of nations around the world, were present in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall for the audience.

In his answers to questions regarding marriage, Pope Francis explained that contemporary society has “devalued” the sacrament by turning it into a social rite, removing the most essential element, which is union with God.

“So many families are divided, so many marriages broken, (there is) such relativism in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage,” he said, noting that from a sociological and Christian point of view “there is a crisis in the family because it’s beat up from all sides and left very wounded!”

The secular press, as usual, did not even bother to report these remarks. (And if you still don’t belief the media is either ignorant or malicious or both in reporting on the Pope, check this out – HT to the folks at

Admittedly, one reason for the lack of reporting might be that Pope Francis’ remarks were made in a question and answer session, for which the Vatican has not yet supplied an official text or even a transcription. I’ll try to find a complete transcription if I can.

Then there are the reports of the various Circuli Minores or small groups of bishops that met after the infamous Relatio. They made their feelings known in no uncertain terms. Important passages from all these reports, translated into English, are available here. They were originally on the Vatican website in their original languages (English, French, Italian and Spanish). Now even the originals don’t seem to be on the Vatican web site any longer. Here are some samples:

From the second Italian group moderated by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco

The final text must necessarily show that it is a continuation of the Teaching Magisterium in this regard. The pastoral character of this Synod, on the other hand, must show even more that there is no break between the doctrine and pastoral, but this (pastoral) is based on the first (doctrine) and it expresses the truth in the daily life of the christian community.

It seems that there is some fear in expressing a judgement on different topics which have become by this time dominant cultural expressions. This does not appear to be coherent with the prophetic mission which the Church possesses. It is important that the text expresses at best the prophetic role which the Pastors and the Christian community possess knowing well that we are not in search of an easy populism … but that we have the responsibility to express also a judgement which comes from the Word of God.

The words addressed to the prophet Ezechiel: “When you hear from my mouth a word, you have to inform them in my name…” (Ez 3, 17-19). This becomes evident above all in front of situations which are surmised as a form of de-instituting marriage and the family in force of asserted alleged rights.

From the 3rd Italian group moderated by Archbishop Angelo Massafra

All of the Fathers of the Circolo press for clarity on the final document, expressing this directly at the beginning of the text.

The majority of the Fathers said they were surprised at the public dissemination of the Relatio post disceptationem; others, conscious that this was the practice in former synod assemblies, suggest avoiding this in the future.

It would be appropriate to return to the practice of publishing the interventions of the individuals.

Consider it essential that the Relatio restate in an explicit way the doctrine on marriage, family and sexuality, without hesitation in recourse to “sin” and “adultery” and “conversion” with respect to the situations which objectively conflict with the Gospel of the family. The same fathers insist on the fact that to use euphemisms may cause misunderstandings among the faithful, above all due to distorted interpretations made by unskilled press.

The majority of the fathers, in analyzing the text of the Introduction to the document, signaled the need to use words that leave no doubt from the beginning that the only model of the family which corresponds to the Doctrine of the Church is that founded on a marriage between a man and a woman. This direction was readily welcomed

Don’t miss the beautiful concluding Message of the Synod Fathers to families And of course, the final Relatio.

Update: Nov 1: Here is a more extended, but not complete, transcription of the Pope’s remarks, from Zenit:

“That the family is hit, that the family is knocked and that the family is debased as [how can this be] a way of association … Can everything be called a family? How many families are divided, how many marriages are broken, how much relativism there is in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage. At present, from a sociological point of view and from the point of view of human values, as well as, in fact, of the Catholic Sacrament, of the Christian Sacrament, there is a crisis of the family, a crisis because it is hit from all sides and left very wounded!”

Therefore, the Pontiff invited to reflect on the contemporary reality, in which, he underlines, the Sacrament of Marriage is “devalued”. We are witnessing, he notes, the “reduction of the Sacrament to a rite,” “the Sacrament is made a social event,” “the social [dimension] covers the fundamental thing, which is union with God.”

“What they are proposing is not marriage, it is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this! The pastoral helps, but in this alone it is necessary that it be ‘body to body.’ Therefore support, and this also means to waste time. The great teacher of wasting time is Jesus! He wasted time to support, to have consciences mature, to heal wounds, to teach. To support is to journey together.”

Connected with this, the Holy Father expressed concern that engaged couples engage in a profound preparation for marriage, have support, and understand the meaning of “forever” which today is disputed by the “culture of the provisional.” He urged them not to be scandalized by what happens, “family tragedies, the destruction of families, the children” who suffer because of their parents’ disagreements, but also [because of] the new [forms] of living together.

“They are new forms, totally destructive and limiting of the grandeur of the love of matrimony. There are so many [persons] living together, and separations and divorces: therefore, the key to know how to help is ‘body to body,’ supporting and not engaging in proselytism, because this does not lead to any result: to support with patience.”

My Biography of St. Elizabeth is Back in Print

My book The Greatest of These is Love: The Life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary is back in print!

greatest_rev_cover_finalIt was originally published in 2007 when I was working on the team in charge of St. Elizabeth’s centenary celebrations for in the Secular Franciscan Order, and proved to be very popular. The edition sold out.

This is the book that I’ve had the greatest number of requests over the years to make available again. I published the e-book version last year, and now it is back in print in paperback. It is now available for pre-sales on Amazon and will be published November 1.

It would make a great saint’s day gift for anyone named Elizabeth — her feast day is November 17, so you still have time to get it. It’s also a great Christmas gift.

It will also be available on my website here: in print version, as well as EPUB and Kindle formats.

Here is the book’s cover description.

Though St. Elizabeth of Hungary lived 800 years ago, she has a unique appeal for Christians today. Love, rather than politics or ideology, was the driving force of her life. She was a happily married woman who loved her husband and children. She was a lover not just of social justice in the abstract, but of the poor as individuals. Above all, Elizabeth hungered for God, and found him in her everyday activities as a noblewoman, wife and mother before she found him in heroic charity to the poor and in religious life in imitation of St. Francis.

The Greatest of These is Love, first written for the 8th centenary of Elizabeth’s birth in 2007, and based on the most up-to-date research, will bring us closer to her than ever before. It also includes an English translation of the testimonies given by her closest friends at her canonization process, along with newly-discovered from the process never before translated into English; and a section of prayers for private meditation or group celebrations.

The Real Paul VI: Paul and His Successor

Since today (October 17) is Pope John Paul I’s birthday, I’ll add these excerpts from the draft of the biography of him that I am writing; I don’t have time to polish it  much, but I did my best; I’ve had to leave the references incomplete, but I can assure you everything is well documented.

In September 16, 1972, Pope Paul made a trip to the National Eucharist Congress in Udine. On the way, he was scheduled to pay a visit to Venice. The murmurs of dissatisfaction and dissent against his papacy from both the right and left were increasing.  He was rapidly approaching his 75th birthday (September 26), and this event was not ignored by the press.  Many pointed out that the Pope had asked bishops to resign from their dioceses when they reached 75.  Many people speculated that Paul too might decide to resign at 75. Some even hinted that he really should resign.

On the morning of September 16, just before departing for Venice, he gave a clear sign that he intended to die where he was: he made an addition or codicil to his testament, beginning with the words “Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. . .” A final stock-taking, in view of his birthday, and a reminder of death.

Luciani and Paul VILater, after his flight landed in Venice, the Pope, accompanied by Patriarch Luciani, walked down the special platform that had been built the whole length of the piazza in front of the Basilica of San Marco. After the Pope finished giving his blessing, the Patriarch and the whole crowd burst into applause, startling the pigeons who took perfectly timed flight across the square.

Pope Paul then took off his papal stole, embroidered with the symbolic figures of Peter and Paul, the first leaders of the Church in Rome. After first holding it high in the air to attract attention to his gesture, he put it over Luciani’s shoulders, saying, “For the good shepherd!” Luciani began to to protest, but the Pope insisted, “You are an inspiration . . . you deserve this”-(Camillo Bassotto: Il mio cuore è ancora a Venezia, Venice, 1990).

Everyone speculated about the gesture, though Luciani himself never mentioned it. His sister-in-law Antonietta later told me, “Pope Paul was not one to joke, like Pope John.  He knew what he was doing and he did it very seriously.  He thought that it was right that he [Luciani] should be his successor.” (From a conversation on September 30, 1985).

Later on, in 1974, when diocesan archivist, Don Gino Bortolan, wanted to put the photo of Luciani with the Pope and wearing his stole on the cover of the diocesan annual, Luciani objected to the picture being there. “We’re talking about history here,” Don Gino replied. “He is the latest Pope to come to Venice and we have to recall the event, don’t we?” And Luciani said no more (interview with Msgr. Gino Bortolan by Gloria Molinari, November 18, 2004). Luciani was modest, and would not have trumpeted his relationship with the Pope in any case, but it seems as if he also feared what the gesture represented.

Pope Paul, for his part, seemed to have wanted to make a statement to all the world: “I won’t resign now, but in a few years, you can have this man.”

Though before becoming Pope, Luciani was very reluctant to speak about the incident with the stole, he told the whole world about at his first Angelus after his election, when he spoke of his affection for the two Popes from whom he had taken his papal name:

Pope Paul not only made me a cardinal, but a few months earlier, on the runway in St. Mark’s Square, he made me turn red all over in front of 20 thousand people, because he took of his stole and placed it on my shoulders.  I have never been so red!  Besides, in the fifteen years of his pontificate, this Pope showed not only me but the whole world how we should love, how we should serve, and how we should work and suffer for the Church of Christ. (Transcribed and translated from the tape recording Giovanni Paolo I: Il Papa del Sorriso).

It was almost as though he finally felt free to speak of the honor that Pope Paul had paid him, and the warmth that so many had missed in this misunderstood Pope.