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Jan 14 - Blessed Odoric Matiussi of Pordenone 1265-1331

Odoric was born of noble parents in the year 1265 at Pordenone in Friuli. He entered the Franciscan Order in the convent of Udine when he was only 15 years old. He felt himself called by God to be a missionary, and so prepared himself for his vocation by a strict life of penance, intimate union with God in solitude, and earnest application to study.

Ordained a priest, he labored as a zealous and forceful preacher of penance. The people came from great distances to hear his sermons and through him to be reconciled to God in the tribunal of penance. But soon his vast field of labor no longer satisfied his burning zeal. He was desirous of winning souls for God in the distant heathen countries and, if God so wished it, even to shed his blood for Christ. IN 1296 he went as a missionary to the Balkan Peninsula, and then to the Mongols in southern Russia.

In the year 1314 he sailed for the Orient. From Constantinople he crossed the Black Sea and landed at Trebizond, whence he travelled and preached in Armenia, Media, and Persia. In all these countries the Franciscans had founded mission centers.

With an Irish confrere, Friar James, he sailed to India and the islands of Ceylon, Sumatra and Java. He then pushed forward to China, and preaching Christ crucified as he went his way, he finally arrived at the capital, Cambalac, now called Peiping. There he met the great apostle of China, the Franciscan friar John of Montecorvino, who had been appointed archbishop of Cambalec in 1307.

After three years of fruitful labor in Cambalec, Odoric resolved to go to Europe and submit a report of his 15 years of apostolic labor to the then reigning pontiff John XXII, in the hope of securing fresh recruits for the apostolate. He traveled through China and central Asia, and returned to Italy in the year 1330, 65 years old, and emaciated by incessant toil and sufferings of various kinds, so that none of his brethren recognized him.

Reaching Pisa, he fell ill, and, as has been recorded, it was revealed to him that he should go to his native town and repair to the convent at Udine. At Padua he rested several days, and, at the command of his superiors, dictated an account of his apostolic journeys to Brother William. In this account the humble son of St. Francis says nothing of the hardships and dangers that he encountered; but his associates report that he suffered torment from evil spirits and wicked men, from wild animals, from hunger and thirst, and from heat and cold. Once he was seized by cruel heathens and tortured nigh unto death, when our Savior and the Blessed Mother appeared, consoling and strengthening him.

Having arrived at Udine after a wearisome journey, Odoric patiently awaited death in the convent where he had once received the holy habit. After making a general confession and receiving the last sacraments he departed this laborious life and entered into eternal rest on January 14, 1331.

Moved by the many miracles that were wrought at the tomb of the great missionary, Pope Benedict XIV, in the year 1775, approved the veneration which had been paid to Blessed Odoric. In the year 1881 the city of Pordenone erected a magnificent memorial to its distinguished son.

CONCERNING THE MISSIONS AMONG THE INFIDELS
1. Consider how pleasing to God must have been the labor and exertion of Blessed Odoric, as he brought the light of the Faith to so many nations, and led them to the bosom of the Church which alone could bring them salvation. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb 11:6) and to be saved. If your heavenly Father had so great a desire for the salvation of souls that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to enlighten them who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, how pleasing to Him must be the labors of apostolic men who continue the work of our Divine Savior! They are doing what Christ Himself commissioned the apostles to do in His parting words to them: "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt 28:19). O happy calling, to co-operate in God's work of leading souls to heaven! -- Would you not like to co-operate in such work?
2. Consider how this co-operation can be put into effect. The Catholic Church has not only sent out missionaries at all times, but she has established an official department for the propagation of the Faith, which supervises all such activity. For its purposes vast financial assistance is needed, in order to support the missions in the distant heathen countries, and all those whom God has blessed with temporal goods can lend their co-operation. The department of Propaganda accepts, through the bishops and the priests, the gifts and bequests of the faithful toward spreading the Faith, in order to apply them where they are most needed. By affiliation with the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Franciscan Missionary Union, and similar institutions, one can co-operate in the holy work of the missions by easy regular donations. -- Have you utilized such opportunities according to your means?
3. But more necessary than the financial aid, is the special grace of God for the propagation of the Faith, and everybody can help to obtain that grace from God by his prayers and by offering up his hardships. St. Theresa, who entertained an ardent desire for the conversion of the poor heathens, offered up all her prayers and mortifications for the purpose, and she received from God the assurance that she co-operated in the salvation of more infidels than St. Francis Xavier had baptized. So you, too, can co-operate daily in the spreading of the Faith, by your daily prayers and by offering up the difficulties you must suffer daily in your state of life, as is required of the members of the Apostleship of Prayer. Should not every Catholic Christian this profess his gratitude for the grace of having been born of Catholic parents?

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who, in order to lead the nations of the East to the bosom of the Church, didst equip Blessed Odoric with invincible strength of soul, graciously look upon all those who are still blinded by the deceptions of hell, that by his glorious merits they may be delivered from their darkness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., 1959 Franciscan Herald Press