(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA Spring 2024 Digital Issue #111)

by Patrick Martin, OFS National Centenary Task Force

According to the American Museum of Natural History, two thousand years ago our planet’s population was about 170 million souls (a far cry from today’s population of about 8 billion). Hundreds of thousands of babies were born that year. And in a far corner of the Roman Empire, a child was born to a carpenter and his wife in a small shed or cave in the village of Bethlehem.

Eight hundred years ago, our Seraphic Father, St. Francis, created that scene again in the hill town of Greccio. That event, that statement of incarnational belief, would influence the direction and theological foundation of the Franciscan Movement forever.

The Sanctuary at Greccio - full mountain view

The Sanctuary at Greccio

This past year, the worldwide Franciscan Family celebrated the eighth centenary of the Nativity scene at Greccio. Here in the United States many events were held at the national, regional, and fraternity level to remember and remind us about the importance of what happened at Greccio in 1223.

Mother Cabrini Region’s Regional Formation Day last March focused on the incarnation, starting with a presentation by Fr. Edward Tverdek, OFM, entitled “The Incarnation, the Atonement, and the ‘Franciscan Thesis.”‘ The afternoon included a slide tour of Greccio, presentations on the many dimensions of the Centenary, and a closing liturgy. Regional Minister, Luana Lienhart, said, “Our formation team put together a beautiful set of presentations on recognizing the Incarnation in ourselves and each other. We focused on the works of mercy/JPIC/multicultural dimensions of the Incarnation and collected goods for a shelter for women and their children.”

The San Diego District of the St. Francis Region planned its Greccio event working with the First Order, Second Order and Third Order Regular to bring the entire Franciscan Family together for celebrations in November at two different locations in the diocese. “It’s events where the branches of the Franciscan family come together – and when we gather with Seculars from many fraternities, in our District, Region, or Nationally – that we truly experience what it is to be a member of this beautiful community. Our Franciscan spirituality is so much more than what’s in any one Fraternity – and that’s a camaraderie you could deeply feel at both of these Greccio events,” said Laura Chun, Minister of San Luis Rey Fraternity.

Also in November, the OFS-USA Centenary Task Force presented an online event called, “Celebrating Christmas at Greccio,” where more than 300 individuals and groups saw a virtual tour of Greccio conducted by Sr. Maryann Dosen, ssfcr. Following the tour, readings from the writings of two early Franciscan biographers were shared with the group: Thomas of Celano, one of the original followers of St. Francis, and St. Bonaventure, a “second generation” Franciscan who interviewed the remaining original followers. Discussion questions were given to the participants, who met in small groups for sharing. Videos of the presentations can be found at the OFS-USA website: Centenary Resources: Christmas at Greccio – Secular Franciscan Order – USA

(accessed Mar 2, 2024).


San Diego Greccio Celebration: Receiving small bundles of straw and blessing cards for home crèches.