Category: Franciscan cultural review “Spirit + Life”
The Franciscan Cultural Review “Spirtu u Ħajja” (Spirit and Life) has been published in Maltese since April 1986. It is now being posted on this website in English, in order to be more accessible to a wider readership, and it can be downloaded on-line freely from the Franciscan Books section. It features articles, papers and translations of texts regarding Franciscan spirituality, theology, history and culture. The review is aimed at average readers, and thus tries to steer a middle course between a scientific and a popular presentation of the various themes.
The presence of Fr. Noel Muscat ofm, editor of this Review of Franciscan Culture, in the friary of Santa Marija ta’ Ġesù in Valletta, Malta, as archivist and librarian, is an asset for the inclusion of historical information regarding the Franciscan presence in Malta. In this issue a paper is dedicated to the figure of an 18th century Maltese Franciscan, Fr. Giovanni Antonio Mercieca who, in 1731, wrote an interesting Chronicle on the history of the first two friaries of the Franciscan Observance in Malta, both dedicated to Santa Maria di Gesù, in the old capital of Rabat-Mdina (Città Notabile) and in the city of Valletta built by the Knights of St. John during the 16th century. The Chronicle covers more than 250 years of history, and is a precious source of information for the historical and artistic legacy of the Franciscan Friars Minor in Malta. Another short paper is dedicated to a painting of St. Blaise, that used to hang in the Franciscan church of Valletta, and is now in the same friary, and its link with the community of merchants from the maritime republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik in Croatia) of which St. Blaise is the patron saint. These Dalmatian merchants traded with Malta under the Order of St. John. In the study of Franciscan Sources there is a presentation on the figure of St. Francis in the Legenda aurea by Jacopo de Voragine. Lastly we present a translation of a paper by Roberto Rusconi on the Formulation of the Minoritic Rules during the first quarter of the 13th century. This paper is also presented because this year we commemorate the 800 years of the Regula non bullata (1221).
The year 2021 will mark the 8th centenary since the approval of the Regula non bullataof the friars Minor (1221). So called because it never received papal confirmation through an official bulla, it is an important document for its rich scriptural and spiritual contents and because it constitutes an immediate preparation for the Regula bullata of the friars Minor, confirmed by Pope Honorius III on 29 November 1223 with the bulla “Solet annuere”. This issue of S+L will examine the historical circumstances leading to the formation of this Rule. Other papers include a short presentation of the Franciscan Spirituality of some ancient works of art in the church of Santa Marija ta’ Ġesù in Rabat, Malta. These artefacts include the marble statue of Antonello Gagini of Messina, which is currently under restoration, and two panels of the original altarpiece of the original church, the work of Antonello de Saliba of Messina. All artefacts date from the early years of the 16th century. They were also described in an 18th century chronicle by a Maltese Franciscan, dealing with the first two friaries of the Franciscan friars Minor in Malta, both dedicated to “Santa Marija ta’ Ġesù” (Ta’ Ġieżu), a popular title with Franciscans of the Regular Observance in Sicily during the 15th and 16th centuries.
This issue commemorates a group of Franciscan friars who died as martyrs in Jerusalem after they brazenly went to preach to the Muslims. Nikola Tavelić, Adeodat of Rodez, Peter of Narbonne and Stefano da Cuneo were canonised by Pope Paul VI in June 1970, fifty years ago. Their martyrdom, seen from a purely historical perspective, does not add much to the crusader ideal of dying for the faith by wielding the sword or, in this case, the word of preaching to convert. The same can be said of another Franciscan penitent, a great intellectual, namely Ramon Llull. He also was an ardent apostle of the Gospel among the Saracens, but his methodology was based upon the effective result of dialogue through learning and study. After the loss of the crusader dream at the end of the 13th century, other Franciscan missionaries and thinkers tried to come to grips with how to recover what had been lost to western civilisation by changing strategy and methodology. Not that they lost their allegiance to the crusader ideal of conquering the Holy Land. They did not forget that the ideal of carrying the Cross among those who were considered to be “Saracens and non-believers” was still a calling to be followed, but in a different way. These learned Franciscans tried the way of persuasion through dialogue, based upon study and learning. They were still sons of their times, and they still dreamt of one unified army and navy which could guarantee the safety of the Christian strongholds in Outremer. However, for them, the use of the force of arms was not to be the only method to follow. Indeed, it would have to be used only as a last resort. Their writings still resemble treatises on military strategy. Fidenzio da Padova, a Franciscan of the Holy Land, is a case in point, being ready to compose a plan for the recovery of the Holy Land. However, in heart, these men were convinced that their calling was that of being missionaries. For this reason, dialogue based upon intellectual openness to cultures, languages and religions, was fundamental. They were innovators.
The Franciscan Cultural Review “Spirit+Life” 131 (January – March 2020) features papers commemorating events in the early history of the Franciscan Order, particularly referring to the year 1220. The development of the Order from the Forma Vitae of 1219 to the Regola non bullata of 1221 is the subject of an initial analysis of the contents of the Earlier Rule that was approved nearly 800 years ago, in view of a more profound attention to the theme in 2021. The 200 years since the discovery of Saint Francis Tomb in the crypt of the Assisi Basilica on 4 December 1818, constitute the subject of a summary of a study published in the review Miscellanea Francescana. The year 1220 was also an important moment for the early Franciscan fraternity. During Francis’ absence in the East the Order went through a crisis. A solution was found with the institution of the Cardinal Protector in the person of Ugo di Ostia, who took care to ensure that the friars Minor would be accepted as catholics, particularly in France. Thus, Pope Honorius III published the Bulla Pro dilectis (29 May 1220). Lastly, on 16 January 1220, Brothers Berardo Calvi and Companions suffered martyrdom in Marrakesh, Morocco. They are the first martyrs of the Order.
The Franciscan Cultural Review “Spirit+Life” 130 (October – December 2019) features the conclusion of the 800 years of Franciscan presence in the Holy Land. The Editorial is dedicated to a reflection on the Pan-Amazon Synod and its significance to the Church, as seen within a Franciscan perspective. The main paper regards the Origins of Franciscan Presence on the Island of Cyprus, which is part and parcel of the Custody of the Holy Land. The review also concludes the series of papers dedicated to the celebration of the 800 years of Franciscan presence and of Francis’ visit to the East in 1219. Then follow two presentations of two Congresses celebrated in October 2019, namely the annual Congress of the International Society of Franciscan Studies in Assisi, and the Congress concluding the 800 year celebrations in the Holy Land, with a reference to a recent publication on the same themes that have been presented during this centenary year.
Issue 129 of Spirit + Life is now online. The main contribution in this Franciscan culture review is dedicated to the figure of Father Alfons Marija Camilleri OFM (1910-1994) on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his death on 16 August 1994. Father Alfons was one of the most distinguished Franciscans of the Maltese OFM Province. Minister Provincial for two terms, and three times Visitator General to important Provinces of the Order, he is remembered for his courage and dedication to the values of Franciscan life. The study is published after thorough consultation in the archives of the Maltese OFM Province, and of two autobiographical manuscripts of Father Alfons. The celebrations of the 800 anniversary of the arrival of Saint Francis in the Holy Land are also the object of the third part of a study that will be presented during this current year, this time focusing on the Franciscan Sources. Lastly, a study by a Franciscan young student in Jerusalem on the true nature of the mission of Saint Francis among the Muslims brings some interesting insights on the motives that prompted the Poverello to undertake his journey to Egypt in 1219.
This issue of the Franciscan Culture Review “Spirit+Life” includes a translation of a study on the Franciscan theologians and preachers who spread the cult of Saint Joseph during the period from the 13th to the 15th century. The original version is found in the Franciscan Review “Miscellanea Francescana”. It shows the importance of the Franciscan contribution to spread devotion to Saint Joseph, particularly in the writings of Saint Bonaventure, Peter John Olivi, Ubertino da Casale, Saint Bernardine of Siena and Blessed Berardino da Feltre. The Review also features the second part of a study on The Franciscan Presence in the Holy Land on the occasion of the 800 years since Saint Francis came to Acre and Damietta. The last paper is a research carried out at the Archives of the Holy Land Custody on the figure of a Maltese lay brother who worked in the Holy Land during the first half of the 20th century, namely Fra Elija Grech from the village of Mellieħa, and who was sacristan in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. The paper also recounts the events that unfolded on 4 April 1901, when a group of Greek Orthodox monks attacked the Franciscan friars in the courtyard of the Basilica.
The Franciscan Cultural Review Spirit+Life 127 (January – March 2019) features the translation of the second part of a study on Brother Bernardo di Quintavalle, the first companion of Saint Francis, by Bernardo Commodi OFMConv. Noel Muscat OFM presents the first part of a paper dedicated to the Origins of the Franciscan Presence in the Holy Land. This paper commemorates the 800 Years of the Arrival of Saint Francis in Acre and in Egypt during the Fifth Crusade, and his encounter with Sultan Al-Malek Al-Kamel. A summary translation of a paper by Archbishop Felice Accrocca on Bishop Guido I and Saint Francis provides new insights upon the role of the Assisi bishop during the period of “conversion” of the young Francis. The editorial is dedicated to the theme “Dialogue or Evangelisation”, in the light of the commemoration of the encounter of Francis with the Sultan, and also as a result of the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates, and its importance in inter-religious dialogue between Christianity and Islam.
The Franciscan cultural review Spirit+Life features papers dedicated especially to the preparations underway for the celebrations of the 800 years of the coming of Saint Francis to the Levant, or Outremer, during the Fifth Crusade that was besieging Damietta in Egypt. It also features the first part of a study regarding Brother Bernardo di Quintavalle, the first follower and disciple of Saint Francis. The Editorial is dedicated to the theme of Saint Francis as a man of peace, and to the true significance of being instruments of peace in the world today, so as not to mix up a God-less pacifism with the authentic Christian message of peace of Francis and his brothers.
• 100 Years of the Franciscan
Parish of Sliema
• The liturgical prayer
of the early Franciscan
• “Let them serve and obey
one another voluntarily.”
The founding inspiration
of our brotherhood
• Before celebrating 800
years since the coming of
Saint Francis in the east .