Above: Order of Friars Minor
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SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS (DIED IN 1220)
Roman Catholic Franciscan Missionaries and Martyrs
Saint Francis of Assisi sent six friars to the Almohad Caliphate (1121-1269), which controlled southern Spain and much of the northwestern Mediterranean coast of Africa. Their goal was to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people there. The friars were Berard, Peter, Adjute, Accurs, Odo, and Vitalis. The six men left Italy for Spain in 1219. Along the way, Vitalis left the mission due to illness.
The Almohad Caliphate (1121-1269) was markedly fundamentalist and, of course, theocratic, as the term Caliphate implies. The government persecuted Jews and Christians, most of whom chose to emigrate. So the five friars who landed in Spain placed their lives in danger. They preached in Seville, but made no converts. They were arrested instead, and insisted that they see the Caliph, Yusuf II. So the governor at Seville sent them to Marrakesh, Morocco, to see the Caliph. At Marrakesh the five friars preached in the marketplace. The Caliph had them arrested, beaten, and bribed, all in hopes of convincing them to cease preaching. But they refused. So, on January 16, 1220, the five friars became martyrs by beheading.
These, the first Franciscan martyrs, inspired missionary zeal among members of the Order of Friars Minor. And the gospel of Jesus Christ, of course, does not cease because potentates order executions.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
DECEMBER 14, 2010 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS
THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER
THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC
Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth. Inspire us with the memory of Berard, Peter, Adjute, Accurs, and Odo, whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 5
Revised on November 20, 2016