Saturday, 29 June 2013

St Peter and St Paul


St. PETER
Today we have the BBC national Radio 4 team at St Arvans to set up and rehearse for tomorrow morning's live Sunday Worship programme at 8.10 am  HERE There is a professional choir from Cardiff coming;  see CANTEMUS CHAMBER CHOIR

St PAUL
This will be the fourth time the BBC have broadcast from our parish of just 1200 souls in recent years and it is good that our ministry and mission can be to such a wide and varied congregation on these occasions. Fr. Michael is preaching and the family will be well represented with his wife KATE PRICE the well known cellist and professor from the Royal Welsh College of Music performing.
Our thoughts and prayers will turn to all those Christians united and divided who share with us the great Apostles Peter and Paul as founders of the Church and guardians of the faith in Jesus Christ. We pray especially for the re-union of all Christians looking to the See of Peter as a focus for that unity for which Peter was commissioned by Jesus himself and for which He prayed to the Father "that they may be one".

If you can't join us live why not listen in on the BBC iplayer later!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Glastonbury Pilgrimage 2013

To the abbey church ruins today for the outdoor annual pilgrimage. The weather was wet for the Mass at noon and dry for the afternoon Benediction. Interesting homily from the Bishop of Exeter which will hopefully be printed soon. Also a moving street procession of the Blessed Sacrament followed with Benediction and devotional address by Bishop Roger Jupp of CBS. Time to catch up with old friends and acquaintances and to pray for and remember those we love and shared the faith with but see no longer. As the Bp of Exeter's address reminded us bereavement can be not only for those who have died but also for those people and sacred things we have lost or been separated from. The theme of "Ecce""Behold" gave focus to Mary and also to Jesus always present for us and within us.Well run as usual by faithful volunteers; with our special prayers please for Robin Thwaites the long serving Secretary who left after Mass for a scheduled admittance to hospital. Next year's date 21st June 2014 see www.glastonburypilgrimage.com












Thursday, 16 May 2013

Ecumenical Conversations

There is a report HERE that Cardinal Schonborn, talking to 5000 (a prophetic number?!) from Holy Trinity Church, Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge (universally known as HTB), thinks that there is hope for re-union progress under the current stewardship of the Bishop's of Rome and Canterbury. How wonderful if that could be the case and as he points out the Holy Spirit can move fast and in unexpected ways (viz. who would have thought a few years ago that married Anglican bishops and priests could be offered a home in the Roman Catholic Church of the new Ordinariate). However, given that the first thing the Archbishop of Canterbury did was to declare his belief in the new change to the catholic order of Bishops inherited by the Anglican church at the reformation by opening it to women, how on earth could this come about? Only by a huge about face by the national Church of England and it is almost impossible to imagine this happening. Or is it? Suppose that the new legislation to allow women bishop's failed at the final hurdle all might be possible for re-union again. It seems a very long shot but we know the power of God the Holy Spirit is very strong. We must never give up praying to Him that the universal Church may be one again; (divided as it is from our perspective by an accident of history in the 16th cent.) in the knowledge that what seems impossible for us is not for Him.

The irony is that it wasn't very long ago that the evangelicals at HTB would have supported male headship as biblically based and untouchable by modern liberal preferences motivated by a misguided imposition of social "justice" and secular "equality" of gender. Instead of celebrating the differences of male and female as created and ordained by God some of the evangelicals at HTB which of course includes the Archbishop of Canterbury appear to have been distracted (let's hope temporarily) by the secular rather than the biblical imperative. But perhaps not all, and just maybe the tide could turn; the more dialogue with Rome the better. Blessed John Henry Newman's best statue is in London where he presides over the Brompton Rd. right in front of both The Brompton Oratory and.....none other than HTB church immediately next to it! Could this be another of the signs that the cardinal spoke of? I have an enormous respect and love for HTB, it is where I went to Sunday school and learnt the traditional faith and in those days about the sacraments too. We even had processions on feast days with clergy in copes! It was where my late father was a church warden. Things have moved in a different and more evangelical direction now and there is wonderful work being done. Could the scandal of a divided church of Christ be the next prophetic mission of HTB to address? That would be a fruiting of the works of the Holy Spirit beyond wildest dreams and a fruition of the enormous amount of work, prayer and witness begun by Bishop Sandy Miller, Fr.Nicky Gumbel and their co-workers for Christ; a new vision at this time of Pentecost when all understood each other in a new and God given way.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Ice Saints

Since the Country Life article some have suggested to me if I would develop writing more of the experience of rural ministry. So here we are in the middle of the old calendar of Ice Saints 11-13 May. In Europe these days are judged to be highly dangerous to farmers and growers as they can be prone to attack from the tail of winter in the form of frosts, deadly to tender plants, shoots and blossom. As farmers in the UK are recovering from the coldest of March weather when sheep were buried in snow drifts especially in the north of Wales, let us pray for them and join in our prayers to invoke the protection of St. Pancras and the Ice Saints to help keep away the frosts which will devastate yields and wipe out fruit crops if too severe. It was hovering just above freezing here last night, we await these next days in hope that farm incomes and the food production so necessary to our country and the world
may be spared the effects of ice...




  • Saint Mamertus, Patron of 11 May, died 474 AD Archbishop. Pray for us.....
  • Saint Pancras, Patron of 12 May, died 304 AD aged just 14 Martyr. Pray for us...
  • Saint Servatius, Patron of 13 May, died 384 AD Bishop and Martyr. Pray for us...



Friday, 10 May 2013

Country Life

I was not sure that the article in the uk Country Life magazine was going ahead. I had been contacted in Lent and Holy Week and got some words together. I then cancelled their professional photographer coming to the parish and didn't feel able to be a "poser" during all those most important holy, spiritual and liturgical days of the church calendar. However, there were a few home archive photos that we sent in. The article was however published in part this week HERE . I know they are pushed for space but it is interesting to see the bits which have been edited out of the final text and redacted, because they are not deemed perhaps to be of interest to the "readership". Very sad that the links didn't go in as I had hoped we might get a mention for the roof appeal which is why I put some effort into it in the first place. No idyl exists in any walk of even country life, everything has it's pressures and tensions but we can all thank God for the many blessings we do receive and perhaps it is justified to share them, especially if in a small way it goes to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ present in our vocations whatever they may be. What was not printed was the full text and other photos of what I sent in response to the reporters questionnaire; so here it is in full for what it is worth:


Name: The Reverend Mark Elston Zorab 
Job: 1.Hon. Assistant Curate, St.Arvans group of Parishes near Chepstow, Diocese of Monmouth.
2. Chartered Surveyor and Principal, Elstons Country Land & Estate Agents, Usk, Monmouthshire.
Age: 59 Married with four children.
What was your route into the job?: 1.Ordained 1994 by Archbishop Rowan Williams to serve as non stipendiary Curate in the St. Arvans group of Parishes with five rural churches including St. Deiniol’s, Itton in which parish are kenneled the Curre&Llangibby foxhounds and where the famous hound breeder Sir Edward Curre, Bt, lived and bred his famous white hounds with Welsh cross bloodlines many of which can be found in hunt kennels throughout the UK and USA if you look far enough back at the pedigrees in the Foxhound Kennel Studbooks.
2. My father Phillip was as an Artillery officer in WWII and afterwards became a London hospital Consultant and was one of 5 brothers, all third family generation practicing medicine, I am the black sheep of the family! He encouraged me to attend the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester and I trained in the rural practice division of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors becoming FRICS and eventually Principal of my own rural Estate Agency and lettings practice in Usk Monmouthshire, the county of my mother’s family from Piercefield Park (now Chepstow racecourse) and where my grandfather farmed a heard of Guernsey dairy cows near-by.
What's the best part of the job?: Living and working and ministering to all different kinds of people in their different stages of life and needs here in Monmouthshire. In the estate agency practice I am very fortunate as it allows me to see all the most interesting rural properties in SE Wales.

It brings me into contact with people at all the various stages of their life. People move home for all sorts of different reasons for example, getting married, moving up or down the ladder, gaining or losing jobs, ill health and of course at their death too. This is a vocation to help people move of itself. However, it also provides the salary to live on and so that the church doesn’t have to pay me. The bible says, “the labourer is worthy of his hire” Luke ch 10 and of course even St. Paul earned his own living as a tent maker in the early church. This means bridging the gap for people between the world and the church quietly continuing to help make Christianity and the name of Jesus known and loved in the rural areas. I follow the catholic Anglican tradition, where we value the historical context of the rhythm of daily prayer and sacrament, worshipping in the same Celtic and medieval buildings of our ancestors in the faith, to traditional liturgies which speak louder and I believe more truthfully, than any of the new liberal innovations the church is currently engaging with, can ever do. In my own parish of St. Arvans we have a 10th century Celtic wheel cross and are currently trying to raise £200,000 to renovate the roof.
And the most challenging aspect?: Working as part of a team with my friend and colleague Fr. Michael Gollop SSC the parish priest of our group, to jointly bring to people the daily Holy Sacraments and on Sundays and Baptism, Marriage and funeral rites to all the five churches in very rural areas. Two of the churches have no road or electricity to them and we walk across the fields in all weathers, so winter is always a challenge but often very beautiful too. Making time is a challenge for the three vocations I follow with a busy pastoral, family and business life, and a very active working Cocker Spaniel called Dot who accompanies me into church and sits obediently at the back during Mass on Saturday mornings!
What has been your proudest moment?: In the Church pride is something to avoid and which can be sinful! So perhaps I could tell you about my activities instead! Fishing the famous Monmouthshire rivers for trout and salmon; the Usk is next to my office and the Wye runs through the parish and shooting at Usk Castle down the road makes me very fortunate. As a former MFH I continue to support the hunt although I don’t ride any more, time is the problem. Both Chepstow racecourse and the point-to-point course at Howick (where I used to race ride in younger days) are situated within the parishes, so I go there too, aren’t I lucky!
What advice would you give someone going into the role?:The future of the rural parishes may largely rest with the properly trained voluntary ordained ministry, it could be you! Make time for your family, for daily prayer and make sure to turn the mobile off sometimes because you are never off duty!


Monday, 15 April 2013

Happy Returns!?


Many Happy Returns
It seemed like a long Lent but not so much so now that we are in the 3rd week of Easter and signs of new life are all around. Today is a personal day of celebration on all fronts.
"Or Two!"
 From one who has managed; Grace à Dieu and with the care of the medical profession against all the odds, to return to health and now reached three score years, prayerful thanks. Also thanks to all my friends, family and parishioners for all their prayers and all they have done for me over the years. A privilege also to have been able to return to serve in the actual same church locus of my Baptism all those years ago. Will I be able to continue to serve here in the future? Only if there is a great deal more generosity from those changing the very ecclesiology into which I was born, nurtured and ordained and if there is a return to the catechism and order of the universal church.  For today, nothing more than rejoicing, extra Te Deum and celebration at the best sign of hope and resurrection for me at this time of the year. On this exact special day of April, I always hope to see here in South East Wales the return of my favourite swallows, the best present imaginable. Not thinking that it could be possible following the coldest March and April beginning for many years, imagine my delight to see the returning swallow today! Who knows, through our prayers and hopes for a return and resurrection of apostolic order in this great land of the Saints, it may yet be possible. 'Be Joyful Keep the Faith'.


Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

New Fire

The Lord is risen Alleluia! ....He is risen indeed Alleluia!

The tomb is empty, death is not the end Jesus Christ lives now and forever!

The Easter Vigil begins St. Arvans

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Higher Order of the Baptised


Choir, Cathedral of the Holy and undivided Trinity, Bristol. 12th cent.

 As readers of this blog over the years will know, we have had no pastoral oversight from an orthodox Anglican Bishop here in Wales for quite a number of years. This is not an ideal situation but which of necessity we live with provisionally (for years, decades or perhaps much longer following God's timing not ours) but always in hope of a return to the proper ordering of our part of the universal Church and the catholic faith within our Province, of which we strive to be faithful disciples within the reformed Anglican tradition.


 Another nave altar disaster. Might look better at the Bristol corn exchange.
Our Lady. beautiful.
  It was therefore good as a wandering celtic college of priests and deacons with their faithful to be made welcome again by the see of Ebbsfleet for the Mass of Chrism at one of it's three venues this Holy Week season at Holy Trinity Cathedral Bristol (and importantly facilitated by the Dean and Chapter to whom thanks are due- and why can't our Cathedrals in Wales help our own?). During the interregnum vacancy it was celebrated by the Bishop of Plymouth, Bishop John Ford to whom we are grateful.  In the homily, which hopefully will hit the digital air waves sometime soon, he referred amongst many things for us to again return joyfully (Ps. 51) to our vocation to proclaim the Gospel.

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you."

Addressing us in the threefold order of Bishops, Deacons and Priests. Importantly he spoke of "the higher order of the Baptised" from which all the other orders stem;  how true and good to be reminded of that. We can not bring Christ to the world without the faithful laity, especially at this time of great challenge to the faith. The vocation to the Christian life as a lay person is vital and of paramount importance to God and his church. However, not as proposed by some in place of or absorbed into holy orders but separate in it's own distinct identity and character from divine grace.


Passiontide veiling.

 Also he spoke of our mission within the undivided church as being the priority. The one church of God, irrespective of painful divisions within and among the various denominations of Christianity. The liturgy was supported musically to a very high standard; for which grateful thanks, by the most accomplished assistant cathedral organist Paul Walton and by the Ebbsfleet affiliated choir with servers from All Saints, Clifton (pray for that parish at this time of vacancy for a priestly father, pleasing to the Lord and in keeping with the traditions of His church there). Let us hope that God (and the Bishop of Bristol) will be merciful.


Some of the Welsh connection.









Monday, 18 March 2013

Unacceptable Behaviour

The Prime Minister should be at the inauguration of Pope Francis. Not to go is simply childish, unacceptable behaviour. I used to think that if nothing else at Eton they taught good manners; obviously not. It doesn't make me very proud to be British with such loutish and ill advised decisions as this especially without an apparent good excuse for absence. Even the Royal family could and should do better than the Duke of Gloucester; how embarrassing this is for all British Christians. I suppose the new Archbishop of Canterbury has some excuse (one being that that they don't apparently teach good manners at his same school) but the Bishop of Chichester would surely have been happy to allow absence at the prayer pilgrimage for the installation of the Bishop of Rome. Now we aren't even paying lip service to ecumenism.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Good news to the Poor

In my previous post there is a comment by Anonymous who correctly points out that St. Francis of Assisi is actually apparently the patron of the new Holy Father's name. At the time I wrote it we did not know (but thanks to him for pointing it out). However, it does raise the issue of the poor who Pope Francis is wanting rightly to concentrate on. We know that St Francis was from a wealthy family and renounced inherited wealth. I will remain supportive of the new successor to St. Peter who is the unifying apostle on earth for  Christians, including Anglicans separated through their accident of history from Rome. I do hope also that we can remember that wealth, or the relative holding of it by world standards in the west, does not bar us from being faithful to Christ or lessens us as believers. Pope Francis as a Jesuit will know that in common with Ignatius and Francis Xavier, Francis Assisi had and continues to have a mission to the poor in spirit. For us in the relatively rich western world and Europe in particular we should rejoice that we can share in the mission of the whole church when Christ proclaims "I have come to bring Good news to the poor" for we too are all poor in spirit, sinful and in need of the new life that Christ promises us in the soon to be proclaimed mystery of the resurrection at Easter. For now we can rejoice that there are religious whether Jesuits, Franciscans (Anglican one's too), Dominicans and others who continue to take their vows and minister to all of us poor, both materially and in spirit. We also who are ordained to serve Christ in the various parts of His church can share in that ministry and renew it. As Passion-tide arrives and Lent continues into it's most sacred part we have time left to give sacrificially in alms to the poor, as Pope Francis encourages us but also to concentrate on the great mission to the poor in spirit, the bringing of the good news of the Lord to those who don't know him yet or don't follow him as closely as he wants.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Which Francis, successor of St. Peter

Te Deum Laudamus for the new Pope Francis but might he not have invoked his name after the patron St. Francis Xavier co-founder of the Society of Jesus with St. Ignatius, rather than as everyone assumes Francis of Assissi? In any case our prayers for the ecumenical priorities that the Jesuit's espouse. May Pope Francis be blessed with the strength and the health required for the mission for which he has been today Ordained through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Advent 2

Last evening we went to hear Meditations on Icons with liturgical singing at the lovely traditional parish of St. Martin, Roath, Cardiff. This was led by Dr. David Woolf and interspersed with anthems for the season by the St. Martin's liturgical choir. In two words "absolutely beautiful". Well done to David for his scholarly and passionate presentation. The words that keep resounding : "each stroke laid down in the Icon painting is a prayer in itself". The choir exceptional, with tender renditions including Con­di­tor al­me si­de­rum (Creator of the stars of night) and Alma Redemptoris Mater. The Rachmaninov in Latin exquisite. The Icons are well worth seeing there. Also see the lovely new Cloister entrance, putting the church on the busy pavement with a presence hitherto undreamt of; inspirational. Help support Fr. Irving Hamer and the musical tradition by visiting their website HERE and supporting the musical academy. Music is so important to the Anglican patrimony and brings alive the faith of Jesus Christ in the soul as well as the heart.

Catching Up

Some things that have been happening:

Nov. 1st Anniversary of Death. 
A lovely Requiem for the soul of Fr. Jeremy Winston on the day one year on from going to be with the Lord (see here). Not at his parish church of 17 yrs or the cathedral where he was Dean for so short a time but over at his friends, and ours, at Our Lady and St. Michael Abergavenny with grateful thanks to Fr Richard Simons OSB (Belmont Abbey) whose introduction to the Mass was welcoming, intuitive and instructive of Fr. Jeremy's extraordinary ministry.
I can't help wondering with the announcement of the Bishop of Monmouth's retirement in June 2013 what might have been...? RIP Jeremy.

2. November. St Hubert's Day.

Blessing of Hounds in the parish of St. Deiniol, Itton within our group.


By the intercession of St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters, may you always honour God the Creator, who set man in dominion over all the animals.
May the Lord God make you an honorable hunter who respects fellow hunters, the animals, and all creation.
May He keep you safe and all who share the field or the forest.
May He make all hunters proud of the traditions entrusted to them, generous and thankful in all circumstances. And May Almighty God bless you: +
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

3. Remembrance Sunday 2012.


Homily. Remembrance Sunday Requiem Mass.”..and I will raise them up at the last day” Jn.6. 37-40

As I was re-reading the letters of 1943-1945 which my father sent home from his artillery regiment (191/64 L.A.A. Regt. RA), which I get out every year at this time, I was struck yet again by the ability of those sent out to overcome the evils of those days by their adaptability and belief that, in spite of all the horrors of war, what they were doing was right and they would overcome; that good would prevail over evil, light over darkness. He was writing firstly from the British North African Force stationed in the desert (Tunis), then from the Central Mediterranean Force in Greece where they were embroiled at the end of the war in the Greek Civil War, shot at by snipers and factions from all sides. I wonder if I may here quote from one of his letters sent from the Mediterranean front:

The padre is magnificent. He walks about in his cassock puffing his pipe indifferent to the snipers, tanks and barricades. He always turns up for meals but in between there is no hot spot he does not visit. He seems to have complete faith in the immunity provided by his dog-collar...or perhaps it's his complete faith."
 
He also writes on the end of hostilities that finally came.. 

" I walked back to my HQ in the late afternoon hardly able to believe it. It was this silence that was so odd. It made it seem like some awful nightmare from which you are just waking up. The sun was shining on the hills. The birds were singing. But there on the pavement was the body of a dead girl and there were the craters of those two mortar bombs which just missed the Colonel and I, and there in the garden a soldier's grave."  

There is never any glory in war and fighting, only sadness at the tragic turmoil and loss of life and the suffering it inflicts on military and civilian souls alike as is clear from his letters. The ultimate sacrifice was given by those whom we especially remember today who fought and those who suffered death in two world wars but also in later conflicts, which as we know living so close to Chepstow army barracks, continues in the world even today. This season of All Saints, All Souls and Remembrance Day are poignant as the leaves die and fall from the trees and the death and darkness of winter begin to take hold. However, just as there is a belief that this will be followed by spring, new life, warmth and light so does today’s Gospel remind us that God gives the offer of a new life and resurrection to us when all here on earth appears to be lost and gone. Jesus says this and promises us “I will raise you up at the last day”. At this celebration of Requiem Mass for the souls of those who have died, as in every other celebration of the Eucharist we recall, remember and offer back to the Father all that he promises for us.

The sacrifice of the death of himself through his Son on the cross, where he truly suffered persecution, torture and death only makes sense when we know that he then was resurrected to new life and opened the path to everlasting life for us all, overcoming all death, forever and for all time. The incarnation of God as man in Jesus has to be true to achieve this.

As we remember with horror the evils and killings, the genocides, the horrific holocaust in concentration camps and the tortures of war we can today through this sacramental act together take part and help to make effective those saving, transforming and enlightening acts of God that overcome evil and give new life and new meaning to our time. We today pray for their souls as they pray for us too. We believe that through the Act of Remembrance especially at this Eucharist, this holy thanksgiving, we will share and link the divine action of Christ in his words, “do this in remembrance of Me” with all the living and the departed and help to pass salvation on to this current generation and the one’s to come. We do this through faith, the faith in Jesus Christ who saves and transforms this imperfect world, our imperfect lives and makes them holy. Let us be clear, the church is crucial to this, it must never become only a lifestyle choice, and it is the key to all life and makes sense of everything within it.

Let us then always remember, let us never forget and let us make known and make sure to give thanks to God for our deliverance from war, deliverance from evil and deliverance from earthly death through the sins of mankind which lead to it. Rejoicing in resurrection to new life, to new beginnings, new light, bathing in the warmth of the great love that the Father has for us and for those whom he has restored to Eternal Life, remembering his words:

“and I will raise them up at the last day”. +                       Fr. Mark Zorab.


 4. December. Re-roofing at St Arvans.


Lots of dust and inconvenience but hopeful that we will keep the Lord's house safe and dry for generations to come.

5. Visit to St Chad's Birmingham

Pondering on the advice that some procedures are a "blunt instrument".

6. Advent.

Some images from this holy season of waiting and watching upon the coming of God as man. The deep blue of the sky the colour of divinity in icons and the colour of Our Lady. We are pregnant with expectation as she is with holy child. Taken in the two and a half mile regular walk to Church across the fields and woods of the parish. Truly blessed...

"All we like sheep have gone astray."

" Every Valley...."


"Be it unto me according to Thy Word"

7. Caught!

Fishermen love to show photos of what they caught so here you are! What you don't see is the days and weeks and sometimes years it takes in not so holy waiting to get one!
12 lb. Salmon.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

St Francis was a Deacon


St Francis was never a Priest; a Religious he was later in life ordained a Deacon to which Order he submitted under protest. 


Francis was not a reformer; he preached about returning to God and obedience to the Church. Francis must have known about the decay in the Church, but he always showed the Church and its people his utmost respect. When someone told him of a priest living openly with a woman and asked him if that meant the Mass was polluted, Francis went to the priest, knelt before him, and kissed his hands because those hands had held God; a mission in which Deacons share in a different and supportive way knowing too about the fragility of living the life of sacred ministry.

Slowly companions came to Francis, people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for garbage to eat and loving God. With companions, Francis knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life so he opened the Bible in three places. He read the command to the rich young man to sell all his good and give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. "Here is our rule," Francis said; as simple, and as seemingly impossible, as that. He was going to do what no one thought possible any more; live by the Gospel. Francis took these commands so literally that he made one brother run after the thief who stole his hood and offer him his robe! 

Francis never wanted to found a religious order, this former knight thought that sounded too military. He thought of what he was doing as expressing God's brotherhood. His companions came from all walks of life, from fields and towns, nobility and common people, universities, the Church, and the merchant class. Francis practiced true equality by showing honor, respect, and love to every person whether they were beggar or pope. 



Another example of his directness came when he decided to go to Syria to convert the Moslems while the Fifth Crusade was being fought. In the middle of a battle, Francis decided to do the simplest thing and go straight to the sultan to make peace. When he and his companion were captured, the real miracle was that they weren't killed. Instead Francis was taken to the sultan who was charmed by Francis and his preaching. He told Francis, "I would convert to your religion which is a beautiful one, but both of us would be murdered." 

Francis did find persecution and martyrdom of a kind; not among the Moslems, but among his own brothers. When he returned to Italy, he came back to a brotherhood that had grown to 5000 in ten years. Pressure came from outside to control this great movement, to make them conform to the standards of others. His dream of radical poverty was too harsh, people said. Francis responded, "Lord, didn't I tell you they wouldn't trust you?" 

He finally gave up authority in his order but he probably wasn't too upset about it. Now he was just another brother, like he'd always wanted. 

Francis' final years were filled with suffering as well as humiliation. Praying to share in Christ's passion he had a vision and received the stigmata, the marks of the nails and the lance wound that Christ suffered, in his own body. 

St. Francis responded to blindness late in life and to suffering by writing his beautiful Canticle of the Sun that expresses his brotherhood with creation in praising God. 

Francis never recovered from this illness. He died on October 4, 1226 at the age of 45. Francis is considered the founder of all Franciscan orders and the patron saint of ecologists and merchants and is an example to all Deacons as well as one of their most important patrons although most of the faithful still think of him as a Priest, which he was not. 

May his prayers and that of all God’s Holy Deacons continue to renew, restore and sanctify the Church of Christ crucified for our sins and with whose marks of suffering he shared. Amen.

With acknowledgement to catholic online