15 Jan Feast of the Franciscan Protomartyrs: Closing of the Extraordinary Jubilee
The eighth centenary (1220-2020) of the Franciscan Protomartyrs’ death, 16 January 2020 – 17 January 2021, focused primarily on St Anthony’s church in Terni (Italy). The Apostolic Penitentiary granted a plenary indulgence for the year. However, one could say that the whole “Way of the Franciscan Protomartyrs” is an open air shrine of the five saintly Friars Minor who, following St Francis’s example, followed in the footsteps of Jesus by living according to the Gospel up to the shedding of their blood.
The centenary programme was well-structured and packed with initiatives, but in January 2020 no one knew that the coronavirus pandemic would soon arrive in Italy, with the consequent lockdown. Thanks to the Narni Lions Club, meetings were planned in Coimbra. The diocesan delegation’s trip to Portugal of eight people – the Bishop Giuseppe Piemontese, the guardian of the Sant’Antonio friary in Terni, Br Danilo Tremolada, some religious and lay people – was cancelled two days before departure. A plaque prepared for the occasion to give to the Bishop of Coimbra is still waiting for more favourable times to be delivered. In this case, as in others, we soon learnt that alongside the martyrdom of blood reserved for some, there is the no less bloody but equally fruitful martyrdom of patience!
While respecting the antivirus norms, liturgies, meetings, pilgrimages, and other events helped us to discover that the martyrs are truly those who have taken on Jesus’s form of life. A Eucharistic love that passes from gratitude for gifts received to generoisty to the point of giving one’s life for one’s brothers and sisters. Moreover, they testify that love and sacrifice are called to work hand in hand if the former is not to become pure fleeting emotionalism and the latter frustrating activism. When love expresses itself in sacrifice, and sacrifice is moved by love, we are faced – in the words of Dostoevsky – with the beauty that saves the world; thus, we can say that love alone is credible.
Like Brother Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan Protomartyrs went to the land of non-Christians to proclaim the Gospel. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Rule of the Friars Minor is the first to dedicate a section to those who go among the unbelievers.
As the eighth centenary of the Franciscan Protomartyrs’ death draws to a close, the centenary of St Anthony’s arrival in Italy is just beginning.
(The full text is available in Italian at ofm.org)
Br Pietro Messa ofm
Pontifical Antonianum University