The story of the six Franciscan friars who embarked on a mission to Morocco in 1219, under the guidance of St. Francis of Assisi, is a tale of courage, faith, and ultimate sacrifice. Friars Berard, Peter, Adjutus, Accursio, and Odo set sail for the northwest corner of Africa, embarking on a perilous journey to spread Christianity among Muslims.

Upon arriving in Seville, Spain, the friars began their mission immediately, preaching on streets and in public squares. Their unconventional approach led to their arrest, as locals considered them mad. Desperate to continue their mission, the friars insisted on meeting the Sultan of Morocco. The governor of Seville, recognizing their determination, granted their wish and sent them to Morocco.

In Morocco, the Sultan allowed them freedom to preach. Their presence, however, was met with resistance from some locals, prompting the Sultan to relocate them to Marrakesh for their safety. There, they were sheltered by Dom Pedro Fernandez, a Christian prince and ally of the Sultan. Despite the risks, the friars frequently returned to the city to continue their mission, driven by a steadfast commitment to their faith.

Their persistence eventually led to conflict. The Sultan, frustrated by the ongoing complaints and disturbances, confronted the friars with a stark ultimatum: cease preaching or leave the country. The friars, unwavering in their mission, chose neither option and were executed on January 16, 1220.

Dom Pedro Fernandez, moved by their martyrdom, retrieved their bodies. He later transported their relics to the Holy Cross Church in Coimbra, Portugal. The friars’ mission, though brief and seemingly unsuccessful, had a profound impact. Their story ignited a passion among the early Franciscans, inspiring them to embrace missionary work and martyrdom. Among those inspired was a young man who would later become known as St. Anthony of Padua. The legacy of these friars thus lives on, not in their immediate success, but in the enduring inspiration they provided for generations to come.

Photo credit: Bobo Boom via Wikimedia Commons

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