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Saint Berard and Companions

Saint Berard of Carbio was born in Carbio, Umbria, a province of the Papal States at the time and was received into the Franciscan Order by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1213. Saint Francis declared in 1219 (after the Second General Chapter) that their missionary and apostolic labors were needed beyond Italy and Europe and put out the call to evangelize the world over. Saint Berard, knowing how to speak and write Arabic was chosen by Saint Francis to evangelize in Morocco. Alongisde him would travel two priests, Saint Peter and Saint Odo as well as two lay brothers, Saint Accurs and Saint Adjute. Another by the name of Vitalis travelled with them but became sick on the journey.

The group reached Seville and began to evangelize the town. At the time, the town was under Islamic occupation and the group found it very difficult to find converts initially. The group then travelled onwards to Morocco after the exasperated local administration placed additional pressure on their departure. Arnald of Sarrant in his Chronicle of the Twenty-Four Generals of the Order of Friars Minor writes that the group was arrested by the King of Morocco and placed on ships to be expelled. Under cover of night, the group left the ships and resumed preaching and evangelizing. Again they were arrested, but instead of being placed on ships, local guides were hired to escort the men back into Christian lands.

Like before, the men left the guides and resumed their mission. The Moorish king demanded their arrest and had them inprisoned. In prison, the men were subjected to terrible tortures and beatings in an effort to have them recant their faith. When they refused to do so, the Moorish king personally had them executed.

Saint Berard of Carbio and the other men of the group were the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order. Saint Francis, when learning of their martyrdom, shouted

"Now at least do I have true Friars Minor!"

As the bodies were processed from Portugal to Assisi, a young man who was so moved by the solemn procession decided on the spot to join the Franciscan Order. That man was Saint Anthony of Padua. Pope Sixtus IV officially canonized the entire group in 1481 and their feast day is celebrated by the Franciscan Order on January 16th.

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