Sunday, January 17, 2010
BERARD AND COMPANIONS; FIRST FRANCISCAN MARTYRS
Yesterday was the feast of the first Franciscan martyrs. Berard and his companions were sent by St. Francis to southern Spain to witness to the Muslims. This, of course, did not go down too well. The local Spanish Church might not have been too pleased either as such public evangelization could easily lead to persecution. Dispatched instead to Morocco they continued with their mission and were immediately interrogated, tortured and had their heads split in two. To my shame I used to joke that they should be considered martyred for foolishness but having read again the account of their martyrdom I noticed that they were sent. Francis sent them. It was out of obedience that they endangered themselves and indeed died horrible deaths.
Interestingly in some of his writings Francis exhorts his brothers to preach only if it is possible but above all preach by their behaviour. As others have suggested perhaps Francis had a bitter lesson in the deaths of these men whose obedience took them to their deaths.