Franciscan Martyrs (†1220)
In 1219 brethren of Saint Francis went to Spain to take the Gospel to the Moslems. After being arrested they were sent off to Morocco where they continued preaching. Taken prisoner in Marakesh they were cruelly tortured and put to death by the regional governor himself in 1220. They were canonized in 1481.
A reading from the Chronicle of the Ministers General of the Friars Minor
Analecta Franciscana III, 15-19
Blessed Francis, following the will of the Lord, sent six of his most virtuous brethren to Morocco to preach the Catholic faith ceaselessly to the infidel. While they were in Aragon, Brother Vitalis fell seriously ill and foresaw that it would be no short matter. Anxious not to allow his sickness to delay the work of God he bade the other five continue to Morocco and fulfil the command of God and Brother Francis. Leaving Brother Vitalis behind the holy company continued on obediently to Coimbra. There, they doffed their habits, left Coimbra and arrived in Seville, then a Moslem town.
One day, in their eagerness, they came without any guide to the principal mosque, or Moslem house of prayer. When they tried to go in there was uproar and commotion among the indignant Saracens. So they then showed themselves at the palace gates, saying they had been sent as ambassadors, as it were, from the king of kings, our Lord Jesus Christ. Seeing that they were expounding matters of Catholic faith with a view to his conversion and baptism the king was angry and ordered that they be beheaded; but later, on the advice of his ministers, he sent them on to Morocco as they had wished.
Once in the city, they began immediately to preach to the Moslems round the market place. When he heard of it the king clapped them in gaol for twenty days without food or drink, their only nourishment being divine consolation. The king was further incensed by their perseverance in the faith and had them subjected to various tortures including scourging, each of the brothers in a different house. Iniquitous officials then bound them hand and foot, put a rope round their necks and dragged them along the ground, flaying them so that their entrails were almost visible. They proceeded to pour boiling oil and vinegar on the open wounds and then to roll them on straw bedding littered with broken pottery. There were almost thirty Moslems to watch and scourge them throughout the night.
In his frenzy the king had them brought before him the next day. They were brought, with their hands tied. They were stripped and barefoot, their bodies covered, with blood from the floggings they had received. When the king found them immovable in their faith, he ushered everyone out of the room and had women brought in. He made a proposal: “Become converts to our faith and I shall give you these women for your wives, with money enough and a respected place in our realm.” The holy martyrs were ready with their answer. “We don’t want your women or your money. We despise all things for Christ’s sake.” Furious, the king had them separated from one another, took his sword and split their heads open through the forehead, one after another. It took three swords to sever their necks; and so with his own hand he put them to death with savage ferocity.
you consecrated the infancy of the Franciscan Order
by the glorious martyrdom of Berard and his companions;
grant that as they died heroically for you
so we may grow in persevering faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.