Feast Day: January 16
St. Berard was born at Carbio in Italy and came from a noble family. When he was older he joined the order of Saint Francis of Assisi as a Franciscan Friar. St. Berard later became a priest and was a good preacher who also spoke Arabic.
St. Francis of Assisi asked some of his Franciscan friars, including St. Berard to go to Morocco and preach. They were to announce Christianity to the Muslims. The Friars agreed and Berard, Peter, Adjutus, Accursio and Odo traveled by ship in 1219.
Morocco is in the northwest corner of Africa and the journey was long and dangerous. The group arrived at Seville, Spain. They started preaching immediately, on streets and in public squares.
The people there thought they were crazy and had them arrested. To save themselves from being sent back home, the friars declared they wanted to see the sultan. So the governor of Seville sent them to Morocco.
The sultan welcomed the friars and gave them freedom to preach in the city. But some of the people did not like this and complained to the authorities. The sultan tried to save the friars by sending them to live in Marrakech, on the west coast of Morocco.
A Christian prince and friend of the sultan, Dom Pedro Fernandez, took them into his home. But the friars knew that their mission was to preach the faith and they returned to the city as often as they could.
This angered the people who did not want to hear the friars' message. Their complaints finally angered the sultan so much that one day when he saw the friars preaching, he ordered them to stop or leave the country.
Since they had been sent to fulfill a mission, they refused to do both and were beheaded right then and there. It was January 16, 1220.
Dom Pedro Fernandez went to claim the bodies of the martyrs and later brought their remains to Holy Cross Church in Coimbra, Portugal. The friars' mission to Morocco had been brief and looked like a failure. But the results were surprising.
The story of these heroes fired the first Franciscans with the desire to be missionaries and martyrs too. It was their particular witness that inspired a young man to dedicate his life to God as a Franciscan priest. We know him as St. Anthony of Padua. His feast day is June 13.
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