This site takes its name from “The Freres Tale,” one of the wild and often risqué stories woven by Geoffrey Chaucer in his 14th Century classic, The Canterbury Tales.
Chaucer’s “Frere Huberd” was a worldly man, more interested in going for a hunt than in lingering in his friary to pray and do penance. Moreover, when invited to spin a tale on the way to Canterbury Cathedral, he used it as an occasion to take a stab at a fellow pilgrim.
The inspiration for this “tale” – we pray – will be quite different!
The “frere” in question is a Catholic priest, originally from New York, who was ordained in Rome in 2004. He studied philosophy in the Big Apple, theology in the shadow of the Abbey of Montecassino, and later immersed himself in the study of Church History in the Eternal City. He currently serves in Pennsylvania.
In recent years, he has received many requests to make his sermons and conferences available online, whence this collection of “musings” was born.
The term “mendicant” comes from the Latin mendicare, which means “to beg.” It refers to the great religious orders founded in the High Middle Ages by figures like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic Guzman, who relied exclusively on Divine Providence for their sustenance. Unlike the monastic orders, the mendicants renounced the right to own property, both individually and corporately. They wore poor clothes, lived in simple dwellings (which always belonged to someone else) and begged for their daily bread.
On a practical level, this gave them an incredible freedom of movement and also added a weight of credibility to their preaching. But for St. Francis, the purpose was preeminently spiritual: “to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of His most holy Mother, and to persevere in this until the end.” St. Francis was enamored of the twin mysteries of the Incarnation and the Passion, which he strove to imitate in the most literal manner possible. Christ “became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9) – how could Francis not do the same? Renouncing a military career, he instead became a knight in the service of the Kingdom of Heaven, fighting beneath the standard of Jesus and Mary and brandishing the weapons of the spirit.
In their heyday, the mendicants won back countless souls from the path of error and perdition, and raised up a veritable army of saints, from preachers like St. Anthony of Padua and St. Bernardine of Siena, to consecrated virgins like St. Clare of Assisi and St. Catherine of Bologna, to monarchs like St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Louis IX of France (both lay members of the Franciscan Third Order). In more recent times, the mendicants have continued to produce saints, such as St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Pio of Pietrelcina, monumental figures of the 20th Century who merited to be venerated alongside their holy founder, St. Francis.
The saints are God’s great masterpieces who show forth His continuing presence within the Church. As a rule, however, they were not born saints (Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Baptist aside). To arrive at holiness, each one had to undertake a journey – a pilgrimage, if you will – from the valley of sin and human misery to the summit of union with God. St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio describes this pilgrimage as a “journey of the soul into God.”
This journey is not a human conquest, the fruit of our own initiative, but a free response to the invitation of God. It is possible only by cooperation with divine grace. It is a journey that cannot be traced with the maps of this world. It is a pilgrimage into the Heart of that great Mystery which is not a something, but a someone: a journey into the Heart of the God who is Wisdom, Beauty, and Love, the only one who can satisfy the purest and noblest longings of the human heart.
The author makes no claims to be an expert on these paths, and what little he’s learned has involved plenty of wrong turns. Consequently, our guides on this journey will be the ones given us by God Himself: Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6); the Holy Spirit, “whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32); and the perennial teachings and tradition of the Catholic Church, which is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
The author, his life and works, are under the special patronage of the creature who knew God best: the Holy Virgin Mary, the New Eve who shone forth at the moment of her conception with a splendor that the first Eve could hardly have imagined, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Bride in the Song of Songs, the faithful “handmaid” who stood at the Foot of the Cross suffering the birth pangs of our Redemption, the sea in which God gathered every grace, the woman “whom even God dreamed of before the world was made” (Ven. Fulton Sheen).
“We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.”