Friars, students and others celebrate Transitus service despite cancellation of annual Francis Fest

Photo by Elena Mirus

Theresa Balick

Staff Writer

Despite other cancelled events, the Franciscan friars and sisters along with over 70 students, parents and local Steubenville residents gathered Saturday 5 p.m. at the Steel Cross to celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis.

While the weekend closest to Oct. 4 is usually a large celebration known as Francis Fest, campus coronavirus regulations have made the majority of the fest impossible to celebrate. However, some of the events were modified to fit with the regulations.

One of these events, the celebration of the Transitus of St. Francis, was held outside by the Steel Cross instead of inside Christ the King chapel.

The Transitus, meaning “to cross over” in Latin, celebrates the death of St. Francis and his entrance into eternal life. It is a prayer service that is celebrated by all Franciscans, consecrated or lay, the evening of Oct. 3, the day before St. Francis’ feast day.

“Franciscans from all around the world have a Transitus celebration this evening,” said the Rev. Luke Robertson, TOR. “The Transitus is a Franciscan devotion to ritually remember the passing of St. Francis from this life into heaven.”

The celebration consisted of a procession of the relics of St. Francis, several hymns, the reading of a Psalm and a Gospel, narrations from St. Francis’ life and the veneration of his relics.

“It is similar to what you might do on the anniversary of the death of a family member or very dear friend,” Robertson said. “You sit around and remember their lives and recall the day they died and what occurred.”

The Rev. Jonathan St. Andre, TOR, the main presider of the Transitus, read the passage in St. John’s Gospel where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper, since that was the Gospel passage read at St. Francis’ death in 1226.

He also gave a short homily about the understanding St. Francis had for creation and for death.

“In the famous poem … ‘The Canticle of the Creatures ,’ Francis praised God in the brotherhood and sisterhood of created things … and sometimes we forget that the end of that poem leads to Sister Death,” St. Andre said.

Sister Maria Teresa Tortorice, TOR, explained the familial nature of the Transitus celebration and its importance in the Franciscan tradition.

“The Franciscan family, all of us here … we’re gathering and talking about a family member who passed,” Tortorice said. “I don’t know if others — like Dominicans or Benedictines and some other big communities — if they do this kind of celebration.”

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