Acclaimed by Four Centuries: History of the Cause

A Lesson From Failures


The lack of an enthusiastic reception on the part of the Franciscan Postulation General in Rome was the same fate which attended a similar request made directly to the Holy See by the Hierarchy of the United States about the same time.


Inspired perhaps by the then recent beatification of the 136 English Martyrs of the Protestant Reformation (December 15, 1929), as early as the 1930's the bishops of the United States moved for a like favor for this country. In 1941 the hierarchy at their annual meeting submitted a petition to the Holy Father to beatify 118 missionaries – among them the Five Franciscan Martyrs of Georgia – who within the borders of the country had given their lives for the Faith in the period 1542-1886. What answer was given to this request, signed by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty as President of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, and transmitted to the Sacred Congregation of Rites by Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, the Apostolic Delegate, is not of public knowledge. In any event, no further developments are known to have followed the request.

From the failure of these two attempts to institute a corporate Cause of Martyrs who among themselves were not associated in place and time, it became unquestionably clear that the Franciscan Order should concentrate its efforts on one individual martyr, or on a group of martyrs who died at the same time and in the same general geographic area and for the same specific reason. A simple and clear provision of the Code of Canon Law then in effect (Codex Juris Canonici, 1999-2041) did indeed preclude the grouping together of martyrs from several areas and diverse times. The Holy See was not disposed even to consider a precedent-setting exception to the norm.

More and more there began to evolve the conviction that the Martyrs of Georgia — members of the one missionary undertaking, slain for the same reason and within the period of one week in 1597 – presented the required oneness. Moreover, thanks to the quiet work which historians had been carrying out during the previous several decades, a cursory familiarity with the historical sources of knowledge of their story established a prima-facie belief that their death was an incontestable martyrdom according to the classical understanding that had evolved over the centuries. The conviction was growing that a Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of the Five Martyrs of Georgia would meet all the requirements of the Church. Their case seemingly corresponds with the succinct definition of martyrdom given in the current manuals of theology: Mors tolerata pro fide aut pro alia virtute christiana (Death accepted because of the Faith or another Christian virtue).

”Rule of l221," ch. 16:10-11, in The Writings of Saint Francis, trans. Ignatius Brady (Assisi: Edizioni Porziuncola, 1983) 77. Henceforth, Brady.

St. Bonaventure, Major Life of St. Francis, chap. 12: I, trans. Benen Fahy in Marion A. Habig (ed.), St. Francis of Assisi: Writings and Early Biographies: English Omnibus of the Sources for the Life of St. Francis, 4lh rev. ed. (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983), 721. Cited henceforth as Omnibus.

Ibid., chap. 3:1, pp. 646-47.

Thomas of Celano, The First Life of St. Francis, chap. JO: 29, trans. Placid Hermann in Omnibus, 247.

Ibid., chap. I 5, p. 258.

Bonaventure, Major Life, chap. 9:5, in Omnibus, 701.

St. Francis, "Letter Addressed to the Whole Order," in Brady, 121.

CREDIT: REPORTATIO SUPER MARTYRIO SERVORUM DEi PETRI DE CORPA ET SOCIORUM EJUS ANNO DOMINI 1597 IN FLORIDA OCCISORUM (Editio Tertia "Positionis", 7 Maii 2002)
Contact Information
  • General Contact

  • Press Inquiries

    Barbara D. King // Email // (912) 201-4051

Credits/External Links
REPORTATIO SUPER MARTYRIO SERVORUM DEi PETRI DE CORPA ET SOCIORUM EJUS ANNO DOMINI 1597 IN FLORIDA OCCISORUM (Editio Tertia "Positionis", 7 Maii 2002)
The First Georgia Missions: Our Southern Catholic Heritage, Dr. Paul Thigpen and Katherine Ragan. Illustrations by Pamela Gardner, based on the retablo by Dan Nichols. This retablo is part of the parish patrimony of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church in Jasper, Georgia

Join the Cause!

Donate

Children's Resources

Copyright © 2018 The Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah
2170 East Victory Drive, Savannah, GA 31404-3918
site by Sans Sheriff Studio