A Franciscan to Philadelphia

Rome has just accepted the resignation of the embattled cardinal archbishop of Philadelphia, Justin Rigali, 76, and has announced his replacement: Archbishop Charles Chaput, 66, currently the archbishop of Denver, Colorado.

 Chaput is a Capuchin Franciscan whose ethnic origin is American Indian. (Here is a link to his official biography.)

The Capuchins are a strictly observant branch of the Franciscan order that St. Francis of Assisi founded in 1209.

The Capuchins arose in 1520 when Matteo da Bascio, an “Observant” Franciscan friar from the Italian province of Le Marche, said he had been inspired by God to return to the strict manner of life of St. Francis, especially solitude and penance.

His superiors tried to suppress his innovations, and Friar Matteo and his first companions were accused of having abandoned their religious duties and were forced by Church authorities into hiding.

They were given refuge by the Camaldolese monks, in gratitude for which they later adopted the hood or cappuccio worn by that order — the mark of a hermit in that region of Italy. The popular name of their order originates from this feature of their religious habit, and a cappuccino cup of coffee is named after this by visual analogy — the little twirl of cream created by the steamer often looks like a monk’s hood.

 In 1528, Friar Matteo obtained the approval of Pope Clement VII and was given permission to live as a hermit and to go about everywhere preaching to the poor.

 I went to see my friend, Father Jeremiah, to ask him what he thought of the choice of Chaput for Philadelphia (the see is traditionally cardinalatial, so Chaput normally would be expected to be named a cardinal in an upcoming consistory, and so to participate in an eventual papal conclave).

You see?” he said. “This is what I meant when I told you a few weeks ago that it may be time for a cappuccino. Rome has seen the need for this type of profound, traditional Catholic spirituality… and not only in Philadelphia.”

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