Feast Day : January 16
Also known as: Berardus and Companions
Berard was born in Carbio, Italy, to a noble family, and grew up well-educated. He learned to speak Arabic, which served him in his missionary work. Berard joined the Franciscan order and was accepted by St. Francis of Assisi himself. He served the order as a friar minor, priest and preacher. St. Francis sent him and a party of Franciscans to preach to Muslims in Morocco. Joining Berard were Peter, Otho, Accurcius and Adjutus. Their work was short-lived. After their arrival, the Franciscans began preaching in the marketplace. They were immediately arrested and ordered to cease. When they returned to preach again, they were beaten. The Muslims demanded that they renounce Christ, but they refused to do so. The sultan had them all beheaded on January 16, 1220. It is believed that Berard and his party were the first Franciscan martyrs. They were canonized as a group. Years later, St. Anthony of Padua saw their relics, and was inspired to join the Franciscans and go to Morocco himself.