St. Nicholas Tavelic is a sterling example of a Franciscan Knight whose sword was the Gospel. Just when you think you’ve got a good handle on the calendar of saints another one comes to prominence exactly at the moment when you need to hear their story.
Today I was thinking about how some are called to evangelize by humble witness and in the sanctification of the everyday things and how others are asked to be a crucified Word.
St. Francis Assisi addresses this in the Rule of 1221 where he writes that the friars going to proclaim the Gospel to the Saracens (Muslims) “can conduct themselves among them spiritually in two ways. One way is to avoid quarrels or disputes and ‘be subject to every human creature for God’s sake’ (1 Peter 2:13), so bearing witness to the fact that they are Christians. st-nicholas-tavelicAnother way is to proclaim the word of God openly, when they see that is God’s will, calling on their hearers to believe in God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Creator of all, and in the Son, the Redeemer and Savior, that they may be baptized and become true and spiritual Christians” (Ch. 16).
St. Nicholas moved from the first way of St. Francis to the second. He volunteered to go the Holy Land to help maintain the Christian places of worship under the Mamluk Sultans of the 14th Century. After some time and study St. Nicholas decided to take a very direct evangelical approach and set off to preach to the Quadi leader, being martyred near the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem, 1391 on November 14th (pictured at the top of this article).
Looking for images that capture the spirit of this man I stumbled across this remarkable image of a church dedicated to St. Nicholas, in Manhattan of all places. And, it looks like the Alamo with a fresco!
Funny, how hidden things can be so beautiful! A little church dwarfed by skyscrapers and whose door panel frescoes seem to stop the rushing of time the concrete and steel of the surrounding environment seems to echo.
A coincidence perhaps, that the church, and the Alamo, both resemble the Jaffa Gate. History has a wonderful tendency to crisscross making a tapestry of wonder.
May we all have the courage of the brave Franciscan Knight — St. Nicholas of Tavelic!
Read on for a little more detail about this amazing saint.
Nicholas was born in 1340 to a wealthy and noble family in Croatia. He joined the Franciscans and was sent with Deodat of Rodez to preach in Bosnia. In 1384 they volunteered for the Holy Land missions and were sent there. They looked after the holy places, cared for the Christian pilgrims and studied Arabic.
In 1391 Nicholas, Deodat, Peter of Narbonne and Stephen of Cuneo decided to take a direct approach to converting the Muslims. On November 11, 1391, they went to the huge Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem and asked to see the Qadi (Muslim official). Reading from a prepared statement, they said that all people must accept the gospel of Jesus. When they were ordered to retract their statement, they refused. After beatings and imprisonment, they were beheaded before a large crowd.
Nicholas and his companions were canonized in 1970. They are the only Franciscans martyred in the Holy Land to be canonized.