THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Saints Berard and Companions
16 January 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
These first martyrs of the Order of St. Francis hold a special place in the hearts of all Franciscans. St. Francis sent: Berard, Peter and Otto (priests) along with Adjutus and Accursius (lay brothers) to preach the Gospel to the Moslems in Morocco. Filled with the grace of God they went on their mission just as the Apostles did: without money or food.
Their faith and fearlessness in preaching Christ to the infidels earned them a glorious crown of martyrdom. “On the orders of the Moorish king, these heroes of Christ were beaten with rods until their entrails were uncovered. They were then rolled on pieces of glass and the tops of broken pots, and vinegar and boiling oil were poured on their gaping wounds. In the midst of all these horrible tortures, the martyrs sang praises to the Lord. When the king made treacherous proposals with the hope that they would change their faith, they made this courageous reply, ‘Do you think that the pleasures which you offer us can delude us? Keep these delights which will lead you to hell, in which even now your false prophet has been burning for a long time, for yourself and your kinsmen.’
“The Moslem King Miramolin, angered by these words, took his scimitar and cut off the heads of the courageous disciples of Christ with his own hand. After their death, the infidels dragged their bodies across the town and tore them to pieces. These first Franciscan martyrs were offered to God on January 16, 1220. When St. Francis learnt of the great triumph of his courageous children, he exclaimed, crying with joy, ‘I can say now that I have five real Friars Minor!’ Their bodies were brought back to Coimbra in Portugal; it was on this occasion that St. Anthony of Padua entered the Franciscan Order. Sixtus IV instituted the feast of these martyrs.”
In today’s Gospel Jesus warns those who would be His disciples. He tells us that He sends them as sheep in the midst of wolves. Truly the Franciscan Martyrs that we honor today went as sheep in the midst of wolves.
They were wise with the wisdom of faith and yet as simple as doves. They spoke the truth simply, honestly, and courageously. And they bravely accepted the consequences that were meted out to them for the faith that they bore in the name of Christ.
It was not necessary for them to prepare long and drawn out arguments against the infidels. For Christ has likewise promised them that “. . . it will be given you in that hour what to speak; for it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.” It is truly the voice of God that spoke through these first Franciscan martyrs announcing to the king and all those with him who follow the false prophet that they are being led to hell where even now their false prophet has been burning for a long time.
All too often we worry and concern ourselves with what we must do or what we must say and gradually little by little we talk ourselves out of doing anything with the excuse that we don’t know what to say or do. We must be moved by faith. With a simple and honest faith and the intestinal fortitude of our convictions we should go forth bravely. We should not fear any worldly power. We should be filled with trust in God. It will be given us what to say in that hour.
With true love for God we believe and know that He is true and right and we should be ready to die for Him. Can we truly say that we believe if we are not ready to suffer for God?
Let us pray to these “five real Franciscans” and true soldiers of Christ that they may intercede for us so that we too will obtain this deep love for God and complete trust in Him. Let us not hesitate or cower in fear when it is a matter of defending Jesus, the Church and the true Faith. Let us not hesitate to denounce all those who oppose Jesus, the Church and the true Faith.
It is not with hatred or malice that we must do these things, but on the contrary with love for God and for the salvation of souls. Our martyrs that we honor today went to preach to the infidels filled with a love for God and a love for the infidel. It is true love that caused them to say and do what they did. They preached to them of Jesus because they wished for them to save their souls.
This great love and service for God was not without its fruit. We see a most precious and beautiful fruit in the inspiration given to St. Anthony of Padua. With this knowledge let us not fear that we are wasting our time, energy, or lives in serving and praising God. Even if we do not live to see the fruit of our sacrifices here on earth we will certainly see them in eternity.