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The Padua Program: Called to Serve

Francis and Clare of Assisi were reluctant leaders. I have spent a lot of time wondering why people followed them. Initially, Francis’ charismatic personality attracted people. Clare was attracted by Francis’ preaching, and they quietly began a conversation perhaps about what is important and what is unimportant for living a Christ-like life. 
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Four Great Spanish Saints

Last spring, 40 pilgrims, with me serving as chaplain, crossed northern Spain by motor-bus. We had the good fortune to visit—in the following sequence—the shrines and birthplaces of four prominent Spanish saints: Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Ignatius Loyola, and Saint Francis Xavier. I’m pleased to share these memories so that readers can follow our path across Spain and become better acquainted with these inspiring saints.
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The Franciscan Saints: Padre Pio

Capuchin Friar, Mystic (1887–1968) Padre Pio, a Capuchin friar of peasant background, spent virtually his entire life in a monastery in southern Italy. In most respects he was indistinguishable from his fellow friars. But for some mysterious purpose, Padre Pio was set apart. For the thousands of pilgrims who flocked to hear him say Mass, or to have him hear their confessions, or simply to rest their gaze on his bandaged hands, he was living proof for the existence of God.
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The Franciscan Saints: Margaret of Cortona

Third Order Franciscan (1247–1297) Saint Margaret was raised in a poor family in Tuscany. Following the death of her mother when Margaret was just eleven, a new stepmother turned her out of the house. Eventually, with few apparent options, she eloped with a young nobleman, who kept her as his mistress. Though she bore him a son, he would not marry her.
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The Franciscan Saints: Solanus Casey

Capuchin Friar (1870–1957) Solanus Casey, the son of Irish immigrants in Wisconsin, felt called to the priesthood after witnessing a drunken sailor stabbing a woman. Somehow, this scene of sin and suffering caused Casey to dedicate himself to God and to promote God’s love as the answer to the world’s troubles.
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The Franciscan Saints: Franz Jägerstätter

Third Order Franciscan, Conscientious Objector and Martyr (1907–1943) Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant and devout Catholic, was executed for refusing to serve in Hitler’s army. He was known in his village of St. Radegund as a man of honesty and principle, devoted to his family and his faith, a sacristan in his parish church, who in 1940 had joined the Third Order of St. Francis.
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The Franciscan Saints: Bonaventure

Minister General of the Order, Doctor of the Church (1221–1274) Bonaventure, who was born to a wealthy family in Orvieto, joined the Franciscans around 1238 in the midst of his studies at the University of Paris. Saint Francis had died only some dozen years before, but already his order was rapidly changing the face of the Church in Europe. To Bonaventure, it seemed that the Franciscan Order “was not invented by human providence but by Christ. In it, the learned and the simple lived as brethren.” 
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The Franciscan Saints: Matt Talbot

Third Order Franciscan (1856–1925) Matt Talbot was one of twelve children born to a poor family in Dublin. His addiction to alcohol began at twelve, when he got his first job with a wine merchant. Before long, drink had become the primary focus of his life. All the wages he earned carrying bricks went to support his addiction. What funds he lacked, he begged, borrowed, or stole.
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The Franciscan Saints: John XXIII

Pope, Third Order Franciscan (1881–1963) On October 28, 1958, a new pope greeted the Church from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. There stood the smiling, rotund figure of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the son of peasants and recently the patriarch of Venice. “I am called John,” he said.
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The Franciscan Saints: Marianne Cope

Third Order Regular, Servant of the Lepers (1838–1918) Barbara Koob, who was born in Germany, immigrated with her family to the United States when she was less than two years old. At the port of entry, the family name became Cope. In 1862, Barbara entered the Third Order Regular of Franciscans and received her religious name, Sr. Marianne.
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