Bearers of the Gospel: Franciscan Evangelization

Reason and Evangelization


Reaction was inevitable. Particularly under the influence of the "learned friars" of the Order, a less mystical, a more reasoned theory of mission evolved.


It was the conviction of those friars that a method of evangelization involving the head as well as the heart would in the long run win more converts.36 The English Friar Minor, Roger Bacon (1214-1292) (also known by the scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis, Latin for "Wonderful Teacher"), and the Majorcan Secular Franciscan, Rámon Llull (1235-1316) were important proponents of such a method. "Faith did not enter the world by arms," Bacon insisted, "but through the simplicity of preaching. "37

Roger Bacon

Rámon Llull

To that end missionaries had to be trained in languages and all forms of the humanities. Llull's approach was less practical, more mystical. During his long lifetime (he was over eighty years old when stoned to death by irate followers of Muhammad), he wrote almost 300 books to demonstrate that Christianity had a ground of basic truth: his "necessary reasons" which would bring unbelievers to accept Christ.38 To the end, however, thwarted by the Muslim rejection of what he regarded as irrefutable, he never abandoned his conviction that by "martyrdom and the greatness of charity, the whole world could be won over to Christianity. "39 And this led him to the primitive Franciscan tactic of reckless confrontation.

A knowledge of the language and the culture of the peoples among whom the friars went to missionize gradually came to be considered an appropriate qualification for those friars destined to evangelize non-Christian communities. But it appears that the ministers provincial, whose duty it was to judge the fitness of prospective missionaries, continued to give equal, if not greater, weight to the "divine inspiration" which motivated friars expressing such a desire.40 The Council of Vienne (1311-12) had encouraged the founding of "language schools," but there is no evidence that the order initiated its own such schools.41 The first Franciscan missionary college was not founded until 1622, twelve years after Paul V had directed religious orders to establish such institutions.42

On intellectual conversion, see E. Randolph Daniel, The Franciscan Concept of Mission in the High Middle Ages (Lexington, KY: University Press, 1975) 55-75.

The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon, 2 vols., trans. Robert B. Burke (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1928) I: 111.

On Lull's theory of mission, see Miguel Batllori, "Teoria ed azione missionaria in Raimondo Lullo," in Expansione dei Francescanesimo 187-211, and Ramon Sugranyes de Franch, Raymond Lulle, Docteur des missions. Avec un choix textes traduits et annotes (Schoneck-Beckenried, Swtz.: Novelle Revue de Science Missionnarire, 1954).

Felix. The Book of Wonders, Bk.8, ch.89, trans. Anthony Bonner in Selected Works of Ramon Lull (1232-1316), 2 vols. (Princeton: University Press, 1985) I: 15.

See "Final Rule," chap. 12, in Brady, 102.

See Arduino Kleinhans, Historia Studii Linguae Arabicae et Collegii Missionum S. Petri in Urbe Franciscano, Biblioteca bio-bibliografica della Terra Santa e dell'Oriente, ns 13 (Quaracchi: Collegio di S. Bonaventura, 1930); and Martiniano Roncaglia, "I Frati Minari e lo studio delle lingue orientali nel secolo I," Studi Fra11cescan2i 5 (1953): 169-84.

See Kieran McCarty, "Apostolic Colleges of the Propagation of the Faith-Old and New World Background," The Americas 19 (1962-63): 50-58.

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

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