Fr. J. Michael Venditti

Subj: Non-Catholic Marriage and Divorce
Date: 94-08-30 01:30:58 EDT
From: Jeremy
To: Fr. M

Hello, Father. I have a question for you regarding how the Church views non-Catholic Christian marriages and divorce. I am a 29 year old Catholic male. I have met a woman who was married in the Lutheran church and has recently been divorced. My question is: would I be free to marry this person in the Catholic church or would she have to go through an annulment process first? Thanks.

Dear Jeremy,

While a Catholic is bound to observe the canonical form of marriage (in the presence of a priest and two witnesses), a non-Catholic is not. The Church, therefore, recognizes as valid the marriages of all non-Catholics who have exchanged free and mutual consent; and, if both parties are baptized, she likewise recognizes the marriage as a sacrament.

Therefore, your intended is not free to marry, assuming her first marriage is valid. She is free, of course, to ask the Church to examine the validity of this first marriage; and, if sufficient evidence can be found to prove the marriage not valid, a declaration of nullity would be issued leaving her free to marry. There is never a guaranty that a petition for nullity will be accepted—that depends entirely on the evidence presented—, but one never knows until one tries.

Thanks for your question.

Subj: Confession 101
Date: 94-09-01 10:18:06 EDT
From: AB


When we were little we were told to state the number of times a particular sin occurred...we tend to move away from this as adults...but I was uncertain about what to say in the confessional until I read DeSales "Intro to the Devout Life".

He states that we should look for that which is behind the sin (e.g., judging another out of pride). I have found this extremely helpful and was wondering if you would elaborate on this/comment on what is most beneficial in the confessional.


Dear AB,

One of the necessary elements of a valid confession is the confession of all mortal sins of which we are aware in both number and kind. Naturally, those who are confessing for the first time in many years may not be able to remember all of them, but should confess as much as they remember.

Recently it's been fashionable to condemn what some call the "laundry list" confession in favor of a more general type of confession which focuses not on the sins committed but on the lack of virtue occasioned by the sin. While focusing on the virtues, as St. Francis De Sales suggests, is always of benefit, it can't replace the necessity of confessing the individual sins and how many times we did them. If we can go to confession with some awareness of why we are sinning, that's great; but regardless we must confess all the mortal sins we can remember and how many times we committed them. To willfully withhold from the priest a mortal sin of which we are aware invalidates the entire confession.

The completeness of our confessions is directly related to our own sensitivity to sin in our own lives. As one progresses in the interior life, one becomes more and more sensitive to his or her own actions and the effects they may have. Today I may confess certain venial faults that would never have occurred to me years ago. Making an examination of conscience regularly and confessing frequently can help us to become more aware of the faults we have. St. Francis De Sales recommends also what he calls the "particular examine," by which we try to identify that one particular fault which seems to occasion most of our sins, and the particular virtue we are in need of. Almost all the spiritual writers recommend frequent confession of sins to a priest as the most beneficial way to progress in the life of virtue.

Subj: Have I attended Mass?
Date: 94-09-04 12:08:04 EDT
From: Alex

Nearby, there is a small monastery started by some ex-Benedictines who will not adhere to Vatican II. They have a Mass every Sunday, but only in Latin. This mass is done by a number of retired Roman Catholic priests.

For the most parts the Masses said around here are really lacking, homilies without much substance, fidgety children playing with toys and eating, the usual 20% leaving before the Mass is over.

I would like to attend mass at the Monastery. My wife says that since the local Bishop will not recognize this order as part of the diocese, that even if we attend this Mass, said by an ordained priest, it will not count as attending Mass. I say it will since it is said by an ordained priest.

Who is right?

Dear Alex,

Certainly you have attended Mass. Any Mass offered by a validly ordained priest is a valid Mass. The question of whether the Mass at the monastery fulfills your Sunday obligation, however, depends entirely on the status of the community within the Catholic Church and the availability of other Catholic churches in your area, and is a purely juridical matter.

In 1967, the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity issued a "Directory Concerning Ecumenical Matters." In that decree, they address the question of liturgical sharing between Catholics and Orthodox Christians who, while they have valid sacraments, are not in communion with the Catholic Church. The decree states that Catholics may be allowed to attend Orthodox liturgical services if they have reasonable grounds, e.g. arising out of a public office or function, blood relationships, friendships, desire to be better informed, etc. The reception of Holy Communion, however, is to be governed by a mutual agreement between the local Catholic authority and the wishes of the Orthodox bishop concerned. It then states that "A Catholic who occasionally, for the reasons mentioned, attends the holy liturgy (Mass) on a Sunday or holiday of obligation in an Orthodox Church is not then bound to assist at Mass in a Catholic Church. It is likewise a good thing if on such days Catholics, who for just reasons cannot go to Mass in a Catholic Church, attend the holy liturgy of their separated oriental brethren, if this is possible" (SPUC, Ad Totam Ecclesiam, 14 May, 1967. # 47).

Unfortunately, this decree deals exclusively with the relationship between Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. No mention is made of those groups who may be made up of former Catholics who have formed their own Church apart from Rome for whatever reason. Whether what is contained in the decree would apply in this case is not clear. What I recommend is that you contact your diocesan office and ask them the actual status of the monastery, and whether it is permitted for you to fulfill your Sunday obligation there.

Sorry I can't be of more help.

Subj: RE: Attending Mass
Date: 94-09-04 16:49:06 EDT
From: Faith

In regard to the previous post, "Have I attended Mass" does watching a Catholic mass on the Eternal Word Catholic cable network also count as attending a Sunday Mass?

Dear Faith,

Watching a Mass on television does not fulfill one's obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holydays. However, keep in mind that most of those who watch television Masses regularly are home-bound for one reason or another. Those who are unable to attend Mass because of illness, age, or handicap are not bound by the obligation. The Masses broadcast on television help such people to keep in touch with the Church and helps to keep them from feeling isolated and left out of the Church's liturgical life.

Subj: Mortal Sins
Date: 94-09-06 22:47:30 EDT
From: Ann

Hi Father!

I have been reading the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" and am finding a wealth of information. However, I can't seem to find a list of what the church considers mortal sins. I find individual grave sins, but not mortal. Non seem to "listed", but are discussed. Can you supply a "short list"?

If so, Thanks in advance.

Dear Ann,

The reason the catechism doesn't give a list of mortal sins is because whether a sin is mortal or venial depends as much on the conditions in which the act is committed as it does on the act itself.

"All wrong doing is sin," says St. John, "but there is a sin which is not mortal" (1 Jn 5:16). Catholic theology explains the difference between mortal and venial sin in terms of the soul's proper orientation to its last end. Therefore, I've always felt that the analogy of physical illness is helpful...

Consider that there are two types of illnesses of the body: (1) those that, while they certainly do harm, are not life threatening, and can be cured from within; and, (2) those that cannot be cured without some kind of outside intervention, without which the patient would surely die. For example, a common flu can be dealt with effectively by the sick person himself, by getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, etc. But should he have a serious case of pneumonia, and if an infection should develop, then a doctor must give him antibiotics, without which his life would be in real danger and he would eventually die.

A mortal sin is one which is grave enough that it cannot be healed without outside intervention, normally, the absolution of a priest, without which the "sick" person would not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. This was what our Lord was speaking about when, on Easter Sunday morning, he charged the apostles: "Who's sins you forgive, they are forgiven; who's sins you hold bound, they are held bound."

To help us know what kinds of sins fall into this category, the Church, over the centuries, has taught that three conditions must be present for a sin to be mortal:

1. The deed must be of a genuinely serious nature. As a general rule, anything that touches, in any way. on the 10 Commandments is considered serious matter

2. You must know that what you're doing is wrong. Certainly one cannot be held responsible for acts of which, through no fault of his own, he is ignorant of their evil nature.

3. You must choose freely to do it. So no one can put a gun to your head and force you to commit a mortal sin.

So, it really is impossible to say that a particular act committed by anyone is always a mortal sin for someone else, since we cannot know if all of the above conditions exist for that person. We can identify certain acts which always are serious in nature, such as abortion; but whether such an act qualifies as a mortal sin for any individual depends on all of the conditions mentioned above.

Subj: Abortion re Health
Date: 94-09-08 20:07:25 EDT
From: John

Dear Father

I have a friend who by recommendation to save her own life had an abortion. She has a genetic disorder which causes emphysema and leads to an early death she has a great difficulty breathing and is a young woman in her mid- thirties. I know her decision has caused her great anguish. She contemplated what her decision should be for a while but finally had the abortion. The visiting nurse treating her for her condition refused to continue to take care of her because of this incident. Is her choice still contrary to the Catholic doctrine? I would appreciate your response . I hope for her sake she can find peace. Thank you and God Bless

Dear John,

Those of us who are active in the pro-life cause often find that many doctors are, unfortunately, less than straightforward regarding the risks of childbirth in certain circumstances.

There are certainly various conditions that can make childbirth problematic, but physicians are often contradictory regarding conditions that would make childbirth suicidal. One physician I know who is active in the pro-life movement claims that there is no such condition known to medical science that must cause the death of the mother.

According to this doctor, many of his colleagues will often tell pregnant women that their life is at grave risk because of some complication in order to minimize the legal risks involved, misleading women into thinking that they don't have a choice.

Not being a doctor myself, I can't speak authoritatively on the possible medical situations that make childbirth risky.

Nevertheless, it is absolutely clear that direct abortion, for any reason, is contrary to the will of God, even when childbirth poses a risk. My advice to a woman who is told she is facing a risky delivery would be to seek the care of a physician who is experienced in dealing with such risks, in addition to whatever spiritual advice I may offer her.

With regard to your is doubtful to me that there was any sin involved in what she did, given the fact that she was probably scared half to death by what her doctor had told her. In such a case, the psychological compulsion put on her by her doctor's advice reduced, to a great extent, her freedom of will. Without true freedom of will, an act cannot qualify as seriously sinful. I suggest that you advise her to seek out the council of a priest in confession, making sure that she tells him the special circumstances of her decision to have an abortion at that time. She will, most likely, be very consoled by what he has to tell her.

Thanks for your post.

Subj: Holy Communion in Hand Plus.
Date: 94-09-09 23:57:45 EDT
From: MD

Hi Father,

When did the Holy Father approve Holy Communion in the Hand ?

What is the document I can use to defend this ? Didn't an Old Testament character TOUCH the "ark of the covenant" (not the tablets, inside) AND DIE !!!! How does a real Bible Christian, a Catholic, reconcile this biblical passage with the popular practice of Holy Communion in the hand? I have had problems tracking down DOCUMENTATION that approves this. For this practicing Catholic an answer like, "Oh, it was done in 'the Spirit of Vatican II' " doesn't wash. Which of the 16 Vatican II documents ?!!! Which of the Post Councilliar documents that were approved, if they were and when ?, by the Holy Father ? What canon law approved by the Holy Father ? What action done by a Vatican congregation, approved (put into the Acts of the Holy See) by the Holy Father ?

Note: I have been applying the same set of questions to:

When did the Holy Father approve the use of female altar servers. I am aware of his 11 July '92 decision but I don't think he has put anything into the Acts of the Holy See or formally promulgated it. If He has when did he ? Don't Catholic Cardinals and Bishops in America have to be in union with the Holy See OR HAS THAT CHANGED TO THE AMERICAN MEDIA AND PRESS ?

I am very concerned that young Catholic girls are being lead by dissenting parents and will be ROBBED of the spirituality of St. Catherine of Siena, St. Therese of Avila, or a St. Maria Goretti. Were they ever misguided to a non-existent vocation to the Priesthood ? Would they have EVER thought of being a female altar server ?

Dear MD,

The practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand was addressed by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in the instruction, "Memoriale Domini," dated May 29, 1969. In this document, the Holy See first traces the history of the manner in which Holy Communion has been received in the Latin Church, then strongly criticizes those bishops who have allowed Communion to be received in the hand without authorization. The document then goes on to authorize national episcopal conferences to weigh the issue carefully, and, if they approve by a two-thirds majority, to ask the Holy See for permission to implement the new practice, while also leaving the old practice available to the faithful. The full text of the document can be found in Flannery's collection of conciliar and post conciliar documents, vol. 1, as well as in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis for that year, pp. 546-547.

A follow-up instruction, "Immensae Caritatis," dated Jan. 25, 1973, also touched on the matter, reminding bishops of the care that should be taken to see that proper reverence is shown the Eucharistic species in those places where Communion in the hand has been allowed.

All of the instructions issued by the dicasteries of the Holy See are published only with the permission of the Holy Father.

The scripture reference you mention is from 1 Chronicles, chapter 13, in which David decides to move the Ark back to Hebron from its temporary dwelling in Abinadab's house. In the course of the moving, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark and was struck dead. The passage has nothing to do with liturgical discipline within the Catholic Church.

The permission to allow female altar servers is contained in a letter sent to the national episcopal conferences by the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, authorizing each national episcopal conference to decide for themselves whether they wanted to allow this practice, leaving the final decision up to each individual bishop. The letter will most likely appear in the 1994 volume of the Acta once the year is over.

Thanks for your note, and be assured of my prayers.

Subj: Orth. Christian
Date: 94-09-12 18:45:01 EDT
From: AnnieMAe

Father - here's a naive question for you - Does Orthodox Christian refer to a fundamentalist?

Also is there a" Cairo Update" on AOL that you know of? -(Other than what may be in News & Finance)


Dear AnnieMAe,

The term "Orthodox Christians" refers to members of the Orthodox Church, or, rather, the Orthodox Churches, since each one is autonomous, giving a primacy merely of honor to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

For a great part of the history of early Christianity, practices differed between Christians in the East and the West, initiated by the transfer of the seat of the empire from Rome to Byzantium by Constantine. As the Church continued to spread the Gospel message Westward throughout Europe, it adapted and absorbed the cultures and traditions of the various peoples it encountered, while the Church in the East, for the most part, sought to cling to their own more traditional practices and customs. The two most important differences, and those which caused the greatest amount of friction between East and West, were the decisions of the Church in the West to adapt to the pagan calendar in use throughout most of Europe, and to translate the liturgy into the common language of most believers by that time, which was Latin. The East, for its part, clung to the old Christian calendar and the use of Greek as a liturgical language. With the most important feasts being celebrated on different days, and in different languages, the unity of the Church was strained.

Individual bishops in the East floated in and out of unity with the Catholic Church for many centuries. The intense rivalry between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople fueled many disputes, the latter of the two believing strongly that the seat of the Church and the seat of the government should co-exist together in one place, the former maintaining that the establishment of the See of Rome by the Prince of the Apostles fixing that city as the center of the Church.

When the final schism finally occurred, in 1054, the real reasons were almost all political, though theological ones were often given as the excuse. The famous "filioque" clause of the creed, for example, which is often cited as the reason for the break, was a point of dispute only among a few Eastern bishops and never hotly contested by the majority of Orthodox even today. The name "Orthodox Church" was introduced only at the time of the final schism as a means of distinguishing the new Church from the Nestorians and Monophysites who had separated from the Catholic Church long before, and whose doctrines the Orthodox and Catholics both rejected. Four hundred years later, at the Council of Florence, the Catholic Church followed suit by coining the phrase "Holy Roman Church," to emphasize acceptance of Rome as a condition for complete unity.

Because they share in the true sacraments of Christ, the Catholic Church recognizes a special relationship with the Orthodox. Their priesthood is a true priesthood, and their sacraments, including the Eucharist, are recognized as valid.

There are, however, many important differences, chief among them the whole theology of marriage and the question of the primacy of the Pope (the former posing even more a barrier to unity than the latter). The Orthodox maintain a married clergy, though celibacy was certainly the norm at the time of the schism.

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, St. Josephat labored to bring many Orthodox Christians back to unity with Rome.

Those who heard his call were offered an opportunity to keep their liturgical and cultural traditions, forming what are known today as the various "Eastern Rites" of the Catholic Church.

For this reason, every individual rite in Orthodoxy has a corresponding counterpart in the Catholic Church. An Armenian Catholic liturgy, for example, will not appear at all different from an Armenian Orthodox liturgy, even though the one group is part of the Catholic Church and the other is not.

As far as the Cairo conference is concerned, I don't know of any particular information available on line, other than searching the news data base. There might be something floating around on the Internet, however.

Subj: contemplative prayer
Date: 94-09-17 23:58:23 EDT
From: Maryanne


Why don't people ever talk about infused prayer? I know that is referred to in the bible ("the peace that surpasses understanding" etc.) and the Saints talk about it, but I never understood what they were talking about until a few years ago...and the priests never mention it (or if they do I'm not picking up on it) and friends never talk about it either. I realize it is hard to talk about.

Dear Maryanne,

I don't think it's because the subject of what you call infused prayer—what St. Teresa calls Advanced Mystical Contemplation—is all that difficult to talk about that it's seldom discussed, but because of the very real dangers that exist in attempting to force oneself into a level of the interior life for which one is unprepared or unsuited. The anonymous author of "The Cloud of Unknowing," one of the most famous treatises on contemplative prayer, opens his first chapter by warning that the book is not to be given to any save those who have been in contemplative monastic life for many years, and, even among them, only to the most advanced. St. Teresa, in the "Interior Castle," mentions of the danger of thinking that one is capable of contemplation when one is not, and gives examples.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange, whose writings on Ascetical Theology are the mainstay of seminary courses on the subject, distills the spiritual theology of the Spanish mystics (St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross) into our current understanding of the three ways of the spiritual life: purgative, illuminative, and unitive. Herein he mentions that while transitory acts of infused contemplation may occur in the illuminative life, it does not become a plenary form of ordinary prayer until the unitive way is achieved (keep in mind that the vast majority of Christians never progress beyond the purgative way). In describing the attainment of the purely contemplative form of prayer, St. Teresa insists that it is not something "learned" or "practiced"—it cannot be taught—; rather, it is something that flows naturally from the unitive life, into which one enters not through method or deliberate choice, but as the natural result of the passive purgation of both body and spirit, usually occasioned by a spiritual trial of intense magnitude.

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange writes: "The transitions from one stage to another in the spiritual life, analogous to similar transitions in our bodily life, are marked by a crisis in the soul; and none has described these crises so well as St. John of the Cross. He shows that they correspond to the nature of the human soul, and to the nature of the divine seed, which is sanctifying grace."

In other words, our ability to achieve the unitive life, and hence the experience of advanced mystical contemplation, has nothing to do with anything we can learn or do ourselves; rather, it is brought about by things totally outside of ourselves: a crisis in the soul which is accepted and overcome by the pure grace of God in spite of ourselves. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange mentions that the greatest of the apostolic saints—St. Dominic, St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure—, some of whom were great theologians, never achieved this state.

St. Teresa continually insists throughout all her works on the absolute necessity of humility in the interior life, without which we might be compelled to think that we are more pleasing to God simply because we've reached a more advanced stage of mystical communion with God. Those who know no other prayer that that said out of a book are no less holy than those comtemplatives who have reached the unitive way. And she herself confessed that there was never a time in her life when contemplation was always habitual in her.

So, to answer your question, the reason infused contemplation is not mentioned is because there is no purpose in mentioning it. It is not something that one can "pursue" or "achieve" and should never be thought of as a "goal." It is something that springs spontaneously from a level of union with God which is more a gift than anything else, and is rarely seen except in the most experienced and advanced souls. Nor is it in any way necessary for salvation. St. Teresa uses the analogy of falling in love: it's not something you decide on before hand then set out to accomplish; it just happens (her famous commentary on the "Song of Songs" is an illustration of exactly this point).

Thanks for your post.

Subj: Ectopic Pregnancy
Date: 94-09-18 17:11:10 EDT
From: Karen

Father -

My husband and I have a question about the licit treatment of an ectopic pregnancy. This is a purely theoretical question, but it could in theory become a reality for us, and we have decided to worry about it. (Probably means we don't have anything important to worry about!)

I know that it is permitted, in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, to remove the fallopian tube with the fetus inside. It is my understanding that it is now possible instead to remove the fetus without removing the fallopian tube (if it's not possible, I imagine it could become so). The advantage of the second kind of treatment is that the chances of future pregnancies are not reduced, as they are if the fallopian tube is removed. It seems to me that this treatment is as permissible as the first, but my husband isn't so sure.

In Jone's "Moral Theology" (the only reference we could find that even mentions ectopic pregnancy), it lists a series of hospital procedures that are unlawful. Among these: "4. Direct removal of a nonviable fetus from a fallopian tube in case of ectopic gestation." [p. 139] Earlier, Jone states: "In like manner it seems that in case of an ectopic pregnancy which endangers the mother's life, the pathological formation may lawfully be removed, even though the foetus will be removed together with it, provided, however, one cannot otherwise save the mother and surgical intervention can no longer be postponed." [p. 138] (Rev. Heribert Jone, "Moral Theology", TAN Books, 1993).


Dear Karen,

An ectopic pregnancy is described as any gestation developing outside of the uterus. Although the vast majority of these are found in the fallopian tubes, implantation in the ovary itself, the abdominal cavity, or the cervix is also possible.

The reason the removal of the tube is allowed is because this constitutes the removal of a diseased organ, with the death of the child as an unintended yet unavoidable consequence. Because it is the only solution to this pathology, it fulfills all the qualifications for the "principle of double effect," that is, the procedure itself is at least morally indifferent, the evil effect is not directly intended, and there are no other options.

The possibility of the procedure you mention has been bounced around for a while now, but is not a viable option both morally and medically. Medically, we must keep in mind that by the time a tubal pregnancy has advanced to a stage where it can be diagnosed, even if the diagnosis is only incidental to laparotomy for some other reason, the tube will already have been so damaged as to constitute a serious threat to the maternal life in and of itself. In order for the procedure you mention to be performed, diagnosis of the ectopic pregnancy would have to occur sometime before the tube has been seriously damaged; and, since a woman with a tubal pregnancy continues to menstruate normally, she will not know that a tubal pregnancy has occurred until there is pain, at which point the tube is already beyond the stage of being saved. In this sense, the question becomes a moot point.

But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that diagnosis before tubal damage is possible. T. J. O'Donnell, in his book, "Medicine and Christian Morality," describes the procedure you mention as "milking of the embryo out of the distal end of the tube and linear salpingostomy with extirpation of the fetus."

Aside from the question of how one might diagnose the condition without pain and before tubal damage has occurred, he mentions that, in any case, "The direct removal of an embryo or fetus from its site of implantation is clearly the direct infliction of a lethal blow which is, in turn, directly destructive of the fetal life." Unlike the normal procedure in which the damaged tube is removed and the fetus dies as an unintended consequence, this procedure would have as its direct intention the removal and death of the fetus. Therefore, the procedure could not be permitted on moral grounds.

Another point to keep in mind is that the promise of leaving the tube able to function is misleading, in as much as any surgical intervention of tissue leaves scaring which, no matter how slight, complicates future function. In the case of "shelling out" a fetus from a fallopian tube, Msgr. William Smith, whom I consulted about your question, mentions that a tube so shelled is scared in such a way that, even though the tube is intact, future ectopic pregnancy is likely, since the interior wall of the tube is no longer smooth.

So, let me summarize my answer to your question this way...

(1) Since there are no hormonal changes during an ectopic pregnancy, diagnosis of the condition does not occur until there is pain and damage to the tube, so the question of saving the tube is irrelevant.

(2) Even if we discounted number 1 above, the procedure is NOT morally acceptable since it is a direct attack on the fetal life, unlike the removal of the damaged tube, which is not.

(3) Even discounting numbers 1 and 2, the removal of the fetus from the tube would not leave the tube as before, but would make future ectopic pregnancies likely.

Pages 162 through 168 of O'Donnell's book covers the whole subject of ectopic pregnancy in light of the most modern developments. It's available from Alba House, New York.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Thanks for posting.

Subj: "Transitus" Date: 94-09-20 00:59:45 EDT From: W

Dear Father M,

I see where a parish in our diocese is going to have a "service in honor of the transitus of St. Francis of Assisi." Could you explain what that is? An e-mail response would be helpful as I don't get to this section very often. Thanks.

Dear W,

The Transitus is the annual commemoration of the death of St. Francis by members of his community.

Francis died on October 12, 1226, in his little hut in the Portiuncula woods outside Assisi. He had already asked to be buried on the Collis Inferus, a hill just outside the walls of the city where criminals were executed. Brother Elias, who had already succeeded Francis as Vicar of the Friars Minor, began construction of the Basilica which would eventually hold his body while the saint was still alive.

After Francis' death, Brother Elias and the friars carried the saints body in secret to the unfinished basilica and entombed him under the high altar. This was because cities used to fight over the relics of saints, and Perugia had already threatened to steal Francis' bones as soon as he was dead. This transfer of Francis body to his final resting place in secret is called the "transitus."

It wasn't until December 10, 1818 that the Friars Minor revealed to the world the final resting place of St. Francis.

At that time, a crypt chapel was created around the supposed site, and on October 4, 1824, the tomb was exposed and the accompanying documents inspected. Everything was exactly as Brother Elias had left it almost 700 years before. In 1977 the Holy Father created a special commission of three cardinals, two bishops, and a friar who was also a physician to open the tomb and inspect the remains. On the evening of January 24, 1978, after exhaustive preparations, the tomb was opened in the presence of the commission, the Ministers General of the Friars Minor, and the friars of the Basilica. They carried the body in procession to a special room, where the commission made an exhaustive study of the remains, and treated the bones for preservation. They created a plexiglass container for the remains, and sealed them in a neutral gas. The remains was on exposition to the people of Assisi for about a week, after which they were returned to the tomb under the altar, where Mass is offered daily. I had the rare opportunity to offer the daily Mass at the tomb of St. Francis during my visit there five years ago.