These days, the friars in Germany often tell each other a certain anecdote. It concerns an event that took place in 1219, when Francis of Assisi sent the first friars to Germany. The chronicler Jordan of Giano tells how they arrived tired, exhausted, and unable to speak German. They had only picked up the word “ja” somewhere, meaning “yes.” Therefore, when people asked if they were hungry or thirsty, the friars would answer “ja” – and receive help.
Likewise, if someone asked the friars if they wanted to spend the night, the friars would joyfully respond “ja” and to their surprise, they would be offered a place to sleep. Of course, this game could not go on for long. In the end, someone eventually asked, “Are you heretics and do you want to poison us”? The friars’ “ja” response resulted in their being defeated and expelled so soundly, that they became quite fearful of Germany ever since.
The Chapter of Pentecost in 1221 decided to make a fresh attempt. It chose Caesar of Speyer, a friar whose mother tongue was German, and gathered together enough volunteers to start a new mission. A group of nearly thirty friars laid the foundations of a story that has lasted for eight hundred years: the story of Franciscan life in Germany.
Thus, the year 2021 will be celebrated as a jubilee year. The three great Franciscan Orders of men will celebrate a Chapter of Mats in the autumn.
As for the Friars Minor Conventual of the Province of St. Elizabeth in Germany, we will begin the festive year by erecting an international friary in the Diocese of Osnabrück. In fact, the erection of the “Kloster Lage” Friary is scheduled for February 2, 2021. The heart of the celebrations will be in Würzburg, where we have maintained a continuous presence for 800 years. We will celebrate a great feast on May 24, 2021, Pentecost Monday, health conditions permitting, and we hope that the Franciscan story in Germany will have many more chapters in the future.
Friar Andreas MURK, Minister Provincial