Blessed Mark of Bologna

Blessed Mark of Bologna
(Blessed Marc de Bologne)

Feast Day – April 10

Among the beautiful palaces in Bologna which to this day give evidence of the glory enjoyed by this city in the Middle Ages, one of the most beautiful is the palace of the Fantuzzi. Mark of Bologna was born in it in the year 1405, the only son of this wealthy patrician family.

When Blessed Mark of Bologna had completed his studies in philosophy as well as in civil and ecclesiastical law at the university of his native city, and the question of choosing a state of life arose, this generous young man, for whom the glory of his world was too insignificant, went to the door of the poor Franciscan convent and asked to be admitted there.

Blessed Mark of Bologna received the habit on the feast of his holy patron, St Mark. He was then twenty-six years old. Blessed James Primadizzi was charged to initiate him in the religious life, and St Bernardine of Siena was his teacher in theology. Under such direction Mark made rapid progress in perfection and within a few years had developed into so perfect a religious that he was appointed guardian of the convent of Fonte Colombo, that venerable abode where our Divine Savior dictated the holy rule to St Francis.

Mark was ever zealous for the faithful observance of the holy rule. After he had given proof of his sterling qualities as superior in several other convents, he was elected provincial, and in the year 1452, vicar general of the Observant Friars Minor. Later again he had to discharge the duties of this office for two terms announcing the word of God to the people; but above all he was solicitous to maintain the faithful observance of the rule of his convents.

When the king of Bosnia, who had lately been converted to the Faith by the Friars Minor, imposed upon his subjects a special tax for the support of the convents, Mark begged him to leave his people full liberty in the matter, so that the benefactors might not lose their merits and the spirit of poverty of his brethren might not suffer injury. On the other hand, this wise director did not wish to impose any precepts over and above those already laid down in the rule. Hence, when a suggestion was made at one of the chapters that perpetual abstinence should be imposed on all the religious, Father Mark would not permit its adoption, saying:

“Our perfection consists in the observance of our rule. It can do no good to add thereto anything more perfect, since in such cases the more perfect is enemy to that which is good.”

More edifying than his zeal and wisdom in the administration of his office was the humility he displayed when he completed his trienniate. He prostrated himself before his brethren and with tears accused himself of the many faults which he believed he had committed in the administration of his office.

Because of his wisdom and zeal for the interests of the Church, Popes Nicholas V, Callistus III, Pius II, and Paul II held him in high regard. The last named pope wished even to raise him to the cardinalate; Father Mark, however, withdrew from Rome and found a way to evade this honor. It was not without the permission of God that for a time Mark received little consideration in the order; but the holy man bore all without a word of complaint.

Full of zeal for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, Blessed Mark of Bologna preached everywhere with the fervor of an apostle. In his seventy-fourth year he still preached the Lenten sermons at Piacenza. It was then that he was attacked by a fever that brought him close to death’s door. He asked for the guardian of the convent of the Friars Minor, which was located in the suburbs of the city, and said to him:

“Father, although I am a great sinner and not worthy to die in your convent, still I beg you to grant me the privilege that I may be taken to it.”

There, after devoutly receiving the last sacraments, Blessed Mark of Bologna died the death of the just in Holy Week of the year 1479. Pope Pius IX approved the immemorial devotion paid to Blessed Mark.

from The Franciscan Book of Saints, edited by Marion Habig, OFM

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