A few days ago the Minister General, Friar Carlos TROVARELLI, received a letter from one of the oldest friars in the Order, Friar Oreste CASABURO. Friar Oreste was born in 1926. He is a member of the Province of the Seraphic Father St. Francis in Italy (Naples) and currently resides at the friary in Portici. In his letter, he reported a happy discovery he made last year. He found an article by St. Maximilian M KOLBE, entitled “Two Hundred Years Ago” (cf. The Writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe 1271, in: Various Writings, vol. II, Lugano 2016, pp. 2216-2217).
The article was written in early May of 1934, in Mugenzai no Sono, Japan. In it, Friar Maximilian explained that at the conclusion of the General Chapter, celebrated in May of 1719, in Rome, it was decided to elevate the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Immaculate Conception, as the Foremost Patroness of the Order. That General Chapter was the 156th General Chapter of the Order and the 28th to be celebrated in Rome. During that Chapter, Friar Carlo Giuseppe ROMILLI of Bergamo was elected the 81st Minister General. At that election, a decree was issued which stated:
“Since its origin and throughout its history, the Order of Friars Minor Conventual has surrounded the Conception of the Blessed Virgin with special manifestations of devotion. Therefore in the footsteps of their fathers, the Venerable Definitory has decreed to establish the Blessed Virgin, under the title of Immaculate Conception, as their main Patroness, in the firmest hope that more every day in our Order, devotion and veneration toward the Mother of God and toward the mystery of her Immaculate Conception should increase and be developed.”
This decree of the Chapter was approved by Pope Clement XI precisely on May 7, 1720.
In his letter, Friar Orestes remarked: “In Father Kolbe’s day, there was the 200th anniversary. Now, it is the 300th anniversary: three centuries!” He invited the Minister General to seize the occasion: “Given this strange but happy coincidence, I was struck by the idea of asking you to address us during this bitter predicament with the virus and offer us some words of comfort with a Franciscan prayer to the Virgin, entrusting your apostles and sons to her, as our Seraphic Father St. Francis once did.” The 120th General Minister accepted Friar Orestes’ proposal.
On May 7, 2020, Friar Carlos presided over Mass in the Basilica of the XII Holy Apostles in Rome, still closed because of Covid-19. After the Mass, Friar Carlos renewed the entrustment of the entire Order to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoked under the title of the Immaculate Conception.
Once again we encounter the tradition of the Order; we hope and trust in the protection and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Cf. Constitutions, art. 1, §§ 6-7).
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