Caesar of Speyer


The Servant of God Caesar of Speyer, Confessor, First Order

Caesar was born in Speyer on the Rhine and had already been ordained a priest when he entered the Order of Friars Minor. A sermon of Brother Elias that he had once heard made such an impression on him that he joined the order. When he came to Assisi to the holy Father Francis, he felt strongly attracted to him, because he beheld him so full of love for meditation and for holy poverty. Our Seraphic Father, on the other hand, held his new disciple in great esteem, not only because of his extraordinary talent and his ability for the task of preaching but especially because of his exemplary efforts to observe the rule of the order even in the smallest details. Full of holy joy he once said to him: “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, and all the promises that Christ has given me will be fulfilled in you and in all those who will observe our holy rule to the letter and with holy readiness.”

When the general chapter of the order was held at the Portiuncula in 1221, St. Francis expressed his intention of again sending brethren into Germany, where on two previous occasions the undertaking had proved unsuccessful. The brethren did not understand the German language and had met with such ill-treatment that the mere name of Germany struck terror into their hearts. But the holy Founder, who applied to himself the words of the Lord to His Apostles: “Teach all nations,” and who had often been edified by the Germans who had come as pilgrims to the holy places in Italy, encouraged the brethren anew to volunteer for the German missions, which he could now place in charge of the German, Caesar of Speyer. Ninety of the brethren volunteered, prepared to suffer all for the name of Christ. At the command of St. Francis, Caesar chose twenty-five of this number, twelve priests and thirteen lay brothers, with whom he set out after being fortified with the blessing of their Seraphic Father.

The Servant of God Caesar of Speyer


In Trent, they were graciously received by the bishop. Amid great hardships, they then crossed the Alps. Nevertheless, in October 1221, they arrived safely at Augsburg. From here Caesar sent his brethren into the various parts of Germany. John of Piano de Carpine and Barnabas the German went to Wuerzburg, Speyer, Worms, and as far down the Rhine as Cologne. Others were sent to Salzburg, others to Saxony, where the first convents of the Saxon province, which still exist, were soon founded at Magdeburg and Halberstadt. In the year 1222, so many convents had been founded, and so many novices from Germany had been received, that Caesar, as the first provincial of Germany, held a chapter at Worms for the purpose of organizing the individual convents and the brethren.

After this had been accomplished, Caesar of Speyer ardently desired to return to Italy to his holy Father Francis. He appointed Thomas de Celano as his vicar and then set out again across the Alps for Assisi, where he appeared in 1223 at the Pentecost chapter to report about his mission. At his earnest request, Caesar was now released from his obligations as provincial and remained in Italy, where he lived for many years after the death of St. Francis as the head and support of the true observers of the holy rule. He died in the odor of sanctity in 1239.

“He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater.” (Lk. 16,10) These words of Jesus Christ we see verified in His servant Caesar. He observed his rule so faithfully even in the smallest points that he merited the special praise of St. Francis. In consequence, when he was commissioned with the great responsibility of the mission to Germany, he proved himself loyal and executed his charge successfully. Fidelity in little things will also be very profitable to us, since the little things occur daily, such as the opportunities to practice patience, and charity towards our neighbor – and they provide us with occasions of doing good, the essence of virtue. The little things also enable us to gain merit which, when accumulated daily, becomes great. In this way is it necessary to win the heavenly reward, as the Judge Himself will one day say: “Because you have been faithful over a few things, I will place you over many things.” (Mt. 25, 21)

“Strive manfully,” says Thomas a Kempis, “habit is overcome by habit.” Almighty God will look graciously upon your faithful efforts, and His all-powerful grace will assist you.

Prayer of the Church

Almighty and eternal God, graciously look upon our weakness and stretch forth the right hand of Thy Majesty for our protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

*from the Franciscan Book of Saints by Marion A. Habig, OFM

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