Blessed Mark of Aviano
History; Posted on: 2008-01-31 15:44:14 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
Crusader friar of Habsburg Austria: "without him, Italian women would today be wearing the burqa."
London barrister and historian James Bogle discusses here the life and times of a great Catholic: Blessed Mark of Aviano (Marco d’Aviano in the original Italian), who deserves to be much better known in the English-speaking world.
On 27 April 2003, Pope John Paul II beatified Rev Fr Mark of Aviano OFMCap (1631-99). The ceremony occurred without any world-wide protest from Muslims, and certainly nothing of the sort that accompanied the considerably more innocuous recent commentary of Pope Benedict XVI at Regensburg.
Mark of Aviano was a Capuchin friar, born Carlo Domenico, in Aviano in the Republic of Venice. So keen was his zeal that, at the age of sixteen, he went to Crete – where the Venetians were then at war with the Ottoman Turks – to offer himself to defend the island.
Christendom was in constant danger of being overwhelmed by the Muslim Turks.
...In September 1529, after defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohács, the Ottoman Turks and their allies laid siege to Vienna – the famous “Siege of Vienna” of 1529. After a tremendous struggle the Austrians, under the seventy-year-old Count Nicholas von Salm, were finally victorious, although Salm himself was killed during the siege.
On 7 October 1571, the Ottoman Turks had seized the opportunity to launch a vast fleet to conquer as much of Christendom as they could. Almost miraculously, they were defeated at Lepanto by the combined Christian fleets under the command of Grand Admiral John of Austria, the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.
In 1648, Mark of Aviano entered the novitiate of the Capuchins. This was in the year when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed and ended the bloody and internecine Thirty Years’ War.
One year later, Mark professed his vows... But it was in 1676 that his life took a sudden new direction. He gave his blessing to a nun who had been bedridden for some thirteen years, whereupon she was healed.
Soon his fame grew widely enough for the Emperor himself – by then Emperor Leopold I – to take note. Leopold met Friar Mark, was soon deeply impressed by him, and effectively made him one of his privy counsellors.
Around this time Mark was also appointed by Pope Innocent XI as Apostolic Nuncio and Papal Legate. His status was now complete: he was the personal adviser of the Emperor and of the defending Catholic monarchs.
He turned his attention back to his original aim and desire: the defence of a free Christendom from Islam. A passionate and eloquent preacher, he used his skills to great advantage in keeping and maintaining unity among the Holy League armies of Austria, Poland, Venice, and the Papal States, by now under the leadership of King Jan Sobieski, who was called upon by the Emperor to defend Christendom from the once more invading Turk.
This time, the Turks came by land.
In the decisive Battle of Vienna of 1683, the Holy League armies succeeded in repulsing the invaders. Famously, during the fighting, Friar Mark brandished a crucifix at the Turks, shouting to them "Behold the Cross of the Lord: Flee, enemy bands!"
From 1683 to 1689 he committed himself to the military campaign, promoting good relations between the various component forces of the Imperial army. He acted as Chaplain General to the Army exhorting, consoling, ministering to, and leading the soldiers. In this, he mirrored the heroic life of an earlier Franciscan, St John of Capistrano, who had aided the Empire’s Hungarian general, Count Jan Hunyady, to lift the Turkish siege of Belgrade in the fifteenth century.
Friar Mark’s guidance helped bring about a second liberation of Belgrade.
...Friar Mark, magnanimous in victory, was ever astute in protecting surrendering Muslims and prisoners from retribution. His zeal for the defence of Christendom was fierce, but always tempered by mercy and compassion.
The Ottomans fought on for another sixteen years, losing control of Hungary and Transylvania in the process, before finally giving up. Thus, the Battle of Vienna marks the end of Turkish expansion into Christendom, finalized by the Treaty of Karlowitz.
The combination of the spiritual and the temporal, the religious and the lay, pope and emperor, friar and king, had once again proved the ultimate defence for Catholic Christendom. Not for nothing did Our Lord say, mysteriously, when St Peter showed him two swords, interpreted to mean the lay and the spiritual, “It is enough” (Luke 22:38). Sobieski, doubtless influenced by Friar Mark, had entrusted all to the protection of Our Lady of Czestochowa before the battle.
Ironically, for us, the Battle of Vienna took place on a very significant date. It began on 11 September and ended on 12 September, the Vigil and Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, respectively. It thus began on the date that is now known to us as 9/11, the day of the attack upon the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. The choice was doubtless deliberate on the part of the Muslim terrorists, but they did not reckon with its other resonances.
At Friar Mark’s beatification in 2003, the Pope said that Friar Mark reminds the European continent "that its unity will be more stable if it is based on its common Christian roots." Other commentators like John Allen, of the National Catholic Reporter, feared that the beatification might lead to hostile reaction from Islam. But Italian director Renzo Martinelli, who is making a film based on the life of Mark of Aviano, countered by saying that "without him, Italian women would today be wearing the burqa."
Legends surround Friar Mark. One says that the croissant was invented in Vienna to celebrate the defeat as a reference to the crescents on the Turkish flags. Austrian-born Marie Antoinette introduced the pastry to France in 1770.
Another legend from Vienna has the first bagel as a gift to King Jan Sobieski, to honour his victory. It was fashioned in the form of a stirrup, to commemorate the victorious charge by the Polish cavalry.
After the battle, the Austrians discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Turkish encampment. Using this captured stock, Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki (a Polish merchant) opened the third coffeehouse in Europe and the first in Vienna, where, according to legend, Kulczycki and Friar Mark added milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee. The result was thereafter termed “cappuccino”, after the brown hood of the Capuchin friar.
News Source: Oriens