In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I recently had the pleasure of listening to an Audible presentation of ‘The Friar of Carcassonne’ by Stephen O’Shea.
Do not worry, this message will not be a a review of the literature, although it is my strong opinion that you should read this book or listen to the presentation on audio.
The book speaks of the Franciscan Friar Bernard Delicieux. Serving the word of God around the turn of the 14th century, he lived in an area that was hotbed of political fervor at a time when the Politics of the State and the Politics of the church merged together in a single thread of Bureaucratic horror.
Prior Delicieux was part of a sect known as the “Spiritual Franciscans” which was known during his time and among historians by the generalized term Fraticelli or “little Brethren.” Of course, one learns that the term Fraticelli designated a loose confederation of Sects with differing views, much like the term Gnostic is used today.
The Spiritual Franciscans were bound to the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi and maintained that rule in the strictest practice possible. They were critical of the temporal riches of the Church; they viewed the culture of the church of the time as Scandalous. Due to their criticism of the lavish lifestyle of the ruling class Bishops and their Priest King, Pope Boniface VIII, they were unsurprisingly declared heretical in 1296.
His contemporaries knew prior Delicieux as the “Agitator of Languedoc” for good reason and in the best way possible. He was in all measure, a good Christian and a fair man. He saw the wickedness of the “little crusade” that was happening in his home country and spoke out against it. He was the Prior of the Franciscan convent in Carcassonne. He came to the notice of the ruling class in the church when he led a revolt against the city’s inquisitors in Carcassonne, preventing the unjust arrest of two “declared heretics” who were being sheltered by his Franciscans brothers.
The rest of his story, which is best read in the wonderful work mentioned above is one of triumph and tragedy.
The triumph is that this saint stood against the powers of wickedness. He reminded the common people through his teaching that we are subjects of the eternal church, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church that dwells in the place of universal reality. We are not servants of petty politicians and corrupt career clergy. We are responsible for those we serve in the same spirit of humility as the prime example of our works, Jesus Christ. We are to give of ourselves to the community without condition, Clergy and Laity, we are to serve and work to create a new world.
Prior Delicieux stood upright against the corrupt ruling clergy of the time, pointed his finger at them and without shame or apprehension, spoke candidly to them regarding their decadent behavior and willingness to indulge their power hungry depravity. He stood as the embodiment of the Apostolic Sacramentalist. He understood that to criticize the actions of men does not diminish the truth of the Holy Spirit and the church founded by the Passion of the Living Logos.
He remained faithful to the church of Christ for the duration of his life without wavering. The tragedy of his story is to be expected for someone so outspoken at a time when freedom of speech did not exist. He was arrested, tortured, tried for an assortment of manufactured charges and found guilty. He died in Prison due to mistreatment and frailty of his body brought about by the punishing and brutal effects from Torture in the year 1320.
Prior Bernard Delicieux was a Martyr of the Eternal Church and despite the corrupt political minded Bishops defrocking him, he in truth died as he lived, a dedicated Prior of the teachings and life of Jesus Christ and a servant of the Holy St. Francis of Assisi.
What lessons have I learned from studying the life of this remarkable man? A profound lesson that I hope to keep with me throughout my own days especially in my service to the Holy Church as her Priest.
The lesson is simple: That which is unjust must be challenged, that which is wicked must be stood against. Bureaucracy found within faith must be removed or it will rot the body of believers from the core. There is no place in the Eternal church for political maneuvering or temporal decadence.
Where it does exist, one must take care to make sure that you are not confusing the works of man with the works of God.
So often, I see criticism leveled at the practice of my faith due to the negative experiences caused by men or women that have nothing to do with the heart of the faith. One must be ready to see a person for who they truly are. One should ask; do they manipulate the word to serve their carnal or gluttonous interest, or do they serve the church openly and faithfully, placing themselves in the proper role?
Prior Delicieux knew this instinctively and gave his life to remind those around him that the Church is Love, goodness and Joy. Not materialism, judgementalism and harshness.
We must honor Prior Delicieux and remember him with loving acceptance and thanks. He was a Saint of God, a good man, and a flawed man who was honest in his love for Christ and for his brothers and sisters in this world. He is the true Franciscan example, and in many ways, a man whose life and even existence has been forgotten to the ears and memory of most Christians.
While he has been forgotten to Most, he has not been forgotten to all, I will not forget him.
In the spirit of grace and love, may you also never forget him.
In Service to the Logos,
Msgr. Meinrad, n/OSC – Priory of the Rose Cross