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Fourteen Prague Martyrs

In 1604 the Friars Minor were given the tumbledown friary of Saint Mary of the Snow in Prague, recalling the invitation of the San Damiano Crucifix to Francis – “go and rebuild my house, which you can see is in ruins.” The friars soon rebuilt the friary and the church. But they did not limit themselves to the rebuilding project. With their preaching of the Word and, above all, with their witness of life, they followed the example of the Poverello and continued their mission. They put themselves at the service of the faith of the people of God and of those who opposed the Catholic faith, until they gave their lives on February 15, 1611.

Today we might reflect on many aspects of the witness of these blessed martyrs. i want to highlight one of them for our universal Fraternity. They note that the 14 OFM martyrs formed a truly international fraternity, representing different modalities of the Franciscan charism and different nationalities. Four were friar priests (Br. Bedrich Bachstein, Br. Juan Martínez, Br. Bartolomeo Dalmasono, Br. Simon); four were friar brothers (Br. Cristoph Zelt, Br. Johann Didak, Br. Emanuel, Br. Giovanni Bodeo); one was a friar deacon (Br. Girolamo dei Conti Arese); one was a friar subdeacon (Br. Gaspare Daverio); two were friars in temporary vows (Br. Jacob and Br. Klemens); two were friar novices (Br. Jan and Br. Antonin). They were from various countries: 4 Bohemians, 4 Italians, 3 Germans, 1 Spaniard, 1 Frenchman and 1 Dutchman.

Here is a witness that our International Fraternity can give to Europe and beyond in today’s world. So many people swing between solidarity and selfinterest, between the desire to offer a “common home” to all and the erection of new “walls”. We need to promote a new plan for society, one based on the dignity of every person and on the gifts that each person has to offer. We are invited to call to mind the exhortation of Francis: “For this God sent you into the world.” He has sent us as brothers and to be brothers to all and to say to everyone: you are brothers and sisters. The first and most legible proclamation of the Gospel is to give witness to fraternity. The idea of international Fraternities is not far-fetched. Rather, it is based on the “ancient vestiges” of the itinerant Fraternity of Francis, on the international Fraternity of the 14 martyrs of Prague!

Rome, September 24, 2012
Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM
Minister General OFM