13 March 2013
With the Saints in Lent (29), Blessed Agnellus of Pisa, 13 March
Blessed Agnellus of Pisa was an Italian Franciscan Friar Minor and the founder of his order in England. He is remembered in some Church Calendars today The Blessed Agnellus of Pisa was an Italian Franciscan Friar Minor and the founder of his order in England. He is remembered in some Church Calendars today [13 March].
Angellus was born in 1195 in Pisa into Angenelli family, a prominent family, and he was admitted into the order by Saint Francis while Saint Francis was staying in Pisa. He was sent to the Friary in Paris, where he became the guardian.
A plaque in Cloister Court in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, remembering the early Franciscans in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
In 1224, Saint Francis appointed Agnellus, who was still a deacon, to found an English province of Franciscans.
As they left for England, Agnellus and the eight or nine other friars who were with him, had no money, and their passage to Dover was paid for by the friars of Fecamp.
They arrived in England on 10 September 1224 with a commendatory letter from Pope Honorius III. In Canterbury, their simple piety, cheerfulness and enthusiasm won them many friends. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Steven Langton, announcing their arrival, said: “Some religious have come to me calling themselves penitents of the Order of Assisi, but I called them of the Order of the Apostles.”
Agnellus and one group of friars first stopped in Canterbury, while Richard of Ingworth, Richard of Devon and two Italian friars went on to London, where, in the harsh winter, they were well received and found a dwelling on Cornhill. Later, when they moved on to Oxford, Agnellus came from Canterbury to take charge of the London settlement.
The friars were received with enthusiasm wherever they went, and Matthew Paris says Agnellus was on familiar terms with King Henry III. He was stern in resisting relaxations in the Franciscan rule, but his gentleness and tact led him to be chosen in 1233 to negotiate on behalf of the king with the rebellious Earl Marshal.
He earned a reputation for his sanctity and prudence and it is said his zeal for poverty was so great that “he would never permit any ground to be enlarged or any house to be built except as inevitable necessity required.”
His health is said to have been undermined by his role in the negotiations in 1233 and by a last painful journey to Italy. Upon his return to England, he was seized with dysentery at Oxford and died there, after crying out for three days: “Come, Sweetest Jesus.”
Agnellus died at the age of 41 on 7 May 1236, only 11 years after he landed at Dover. He was buried in Oxford.
His feast day is kept on 7 May in Italy, but is observed today [13 March] in some Roman Catholic dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Birmingham, and by the English Franciscan provinces on 10 September.
Tomorrow (14 March): Fannie Lou Hamer.