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The tale of the Tau

At least once in your life you’ll be asked about the meaning of the cross, usually made of wood, which is shaped like a “T” and is often worn by Franciscan friars. With the help of the portal, St. Francis Patron of Italy, we sought to understand the meaning of the Tau.

Ancient Origin

Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and was used symbolically in the Old Testament. It was already spoken of in the Book of Ezekiel: “The Lord said to him, ‘Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over the abominations… (Ez. 9:4). The Tau is the sign placed upon the foreheads of the poor of Israel, it saves them from extermination.

It was then adopted by the very first Christians, for a twofold reason:

 
  • 1. As the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it prophesied the Last Day and had the same function as the Greek letter Omega as it appears in the Book of Revelation: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life … I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 21:6;22:13).
  • 2. The Christians adopted the Tau, because its form reminded them of the Cross on which Christ was immolated for the salvation of the world.

What it is not

The Tau is not a magic amulet.

It is not a fetish, much less a trinket.

Nor is it a charm that is hung only because it brings good luck.

What is it a sign of?

It is a concrete sign of Christian devotion, but above all it is a sign of the commitment of ones life to following the poor and crucified Christ.

It is a sign of the awareness of a Christian, i.e. of a child of God, a child who has escaped danger, of one who has been redeemed and saved. It is a sign of powerful protection against evil (Ez.9,6).

It is a sign willed by God for me, it is a divine privilege (Rev.9:4; Rev.7:1-4; Rev.14:1).

It is the sign of the Lords redeemed, of the unblemished, of those who trust Him, of those who see themselves as beloved children and who know that they are precious to God (Ez.9:6).

It is a symbol of the dignity of the children of God, for it is the Cross that held Christ.

It is a sign that reminds me that I too must be strong in time of trial, ready to obey the Father, and docile in submission, as Jesus was docile before the Fathers will.

"Look at the crucifix and it will teach you everything.."

St. Francis and the cross

Because of the Tau’s resemblance to the cross, this sign was very dear to St. Francis of Assisi, so much so that it occupied an important place in his life as well as his gestures. In him the ancient prophetic sign was actualized, regained its saving power and expressed the beatitude of poverty, which is an essential element of the Franciscan way of life.

Whenever necessity or charity required, St. Francis marked with this seal the letters he sent” (FF 980); “He began all of his actions with it” (FF 1347). The Tau was therefore the sign dearest to Francis, his seal, the telltale sign of a deep spiritual conviction that the salvation of every man is only in the Cross of Christ.

Thus the Tau, which is backed by a solid biblical and Christian tradition, was received by St. Francis for its spiritual value. The Saint of Assisi took hold of this sign in a manner so complete and intense that, at the end of his life and through the stigmata impressed in his flesh he became the living image of the Tau that he had so often contemplated, drawn, and especially loved.

Why wood?

Wood is a very poor and flexible material, and the children of God are called to live simply and in poverty of spirit (Mt.5:3). Wood is a material that is easily crafted, and the baptized Christian too must be shaped in everyday life by the Word of God, in order to be a herald of the Gospel.

This article originally appeared in the Italian edition of Aleteia. Translated by Diane Montagna.

 
 

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

ST. FRANCIS

ST. FRANCIS

FRIARS' BIRTHDAY (January)

Date

Name of the Friars

Events

Year

03

St.Antonine Morton

Austin Francis

Home

Ordination

1970

2004

04

Sandesh Manuel

St.Rudolph D ’ Silva

St. Daniel Sigamony

Birth

Home

Home

1980

2005

2016

06

Thomas M.J.

Carlos Dias

Joseph Stephen M

Shanti Vanam, Raipur

Kurnool Missions

Basil S. Lobo

Birth

Solemn Vows

Birth

Arrival

Foundation

Ordination

1972

1986

1984

1997

2002

2008

07

Christopher (Christy)

Birth

1983

08

St.Ernest Reilly

St.Bernard Silveira

Home

Home

1981

2004

09

St.Anthony Rickards

Francis Arockiasamy

Justin Savio A

Home

Ordination

Birth

1989

2016

1998

10

Francis Xavier

Ordination

2004

11

Jerome Kispotta

Birth

1961

12

Nicholas D' Souza

St.Gerwin van Leeuwen

Ordination

Home

1973

2002

13

Praveen Roshan Toppo

Ordination

2015

15

Francis Kaviyil

St.Francis Serrao

Phyrnai Lyngdoh

Birth

Home

Ordination

1966

1990

2017

16

Prashanth Wilson Fernandes

Jeddu Praveen Chinna Reddy

Joseph Prasanna Kumar

Birth

Ordination

Ordination

1984

2015

2015

17

Nesakkaram – Chennai

Basil Tirkey

Foundation

Ordination

1991

2016

18

Felix Gassam

Felix Vijay

Ejekial Lakra

Birth

Ordination

Birth

1965

2015

1995

19

Albinus Ekka

Birth

1993

20

Tomy Palackal

Ordination

2011

21

Parish at Malom-Noatoli

Erection

1996

22

Prem Kumar D’ Souza

Nathaniel Tirkey

Prem Kumar D’ Souza

Birth

Birth

Ordination

1982

1988

2013

23

St.Peter D’ Souza

Eugene A.

Home

Ordination

1991

2015

24

Tomy Palackal

Arun Junes A.

Kulandaisamy M.

Christopher (Christy)

S.Vows

S.Vows

S.Vows

Ordination

2004

2004

2004

2015

25

Dominic C.J.

Jayapal Dwarakonda

Ordination

Ordination

1992

2013

26

Assisi Sadan - Umred

Blessing

1996

27

Chinnappan M. Devaraj

St.Dunstan Rickards

Roshan Lobo

Shaju Paliyathil

Shaju Paliyathil

Birth

Home

Birth

S.Vows

Ordination

1967

1940

1992

2002

2004

28

TrevorD ’ Souza

Birth

1960

29

Christopher (Christy)

Thomas Kiren A.

Anthony Roobandass A.

Solemn Vows

Birth

Ordination

2013

1993

2011

30

Bryan Carneiro

Ordination

2013

31

Scaria Varanath

Jeddu Praveen Chinna Reddy

Birth

Birth

1949

1985

Date

Name of the Friars

Events

Year

03

+ Antonine Morton

Austin Francis

Home

Ordination

1970

2004

04

Sandesh Manuel

+ Rudolph D ’ Silva

+ Daniel Sigamony

Birth

Home

Home

1980

2005

2016

06

Thomas M.J.

Carlos Dias

Joseph Stephen M

Shanti Vanam, Raipur

Kurnool Missions

Basil S. Lobo

Birth

Solemn Vows

Birth

Arrival

Foundation

Ordination

1972

1986

1984

1997

2002

2008

07

Christopher (Christy)

Birth

1983

08

+ Ernest Reilly

+ Bernard Silveira

Home

Home

1981

2004

09

+ Anthony Rickards

Francis Arockiasamy

Justin Savio A

Home

Ordination

Birth

1989

2016

1998

10

Francis Xavier

Ordination

2004

11

Jerome Kispotta

Birth

1961

12

Nicholas D' Souza

+ Gerwin van Leeuwen

Ordination

Home

1973

2002

13

Praveen Roshan Toppo

Ordination

2015

15

Francis Kaviyil

+ Francis Serrao

Phyrnai Lyngdoh

Birth

Home

Ordination

1966

1990

2017

16

Prashanth Wilson Fernandes

Jeddu Praveen Chinna Reddy

Joseph Prasanna Kumar

Birth

Ordination

Ordination

1984

2015

2015

17

Nesakkaram – Chennai

Basil Tirkey

Foundation

Ordination

1991

2016

18

Felix Gassam

Felix Vijay

Ejekial Lakra

Birth

Ordination

Birth

1965

2015

1995

19

Albinus Ekka

Birth

1993

20

Tomy Palackal

Ordination

2011

21

Parish at Malom-Noatoli

Erection

1996

22

Prem Kumar D’ Souza

Nathaniel Tirkey

Prem Kumar D’ Souza

Birth

Birth

Ordination

1982

1988

2013

23

+ Peter D’ Souza

Eugene A.

Home

Ordination

1991

2015

24

Tomy Palackal

Arun Junes A.

Kulandaisamy M.

Christopher (Christy)

S.Vows

S.Vows

S.Vows

Ordination

2004

2004

2004

2015

25

Dominic C.J.

Jayapal Dwarakonda

Ordination

Ordination

1992

2013

26

Assisi Sadan - Umred

Blessing

1996

27

Chinnappan M. Devaraj

+ Dunstan Rickards

Roshan Lobo

Shaju Paliyathil

Shaju Paliyathil

Birth

Home

Birth

S.Vows

Ordination

1967

1940

1992

2002

2004

28

TrevorD ’ Souza

Birth

1960

29

Christopher (Christy)

Thomas Kiren A.

Anthony Roobandass A.

Solemn Vows

Birth

Ordination

2013

1993

2011

30

Bryan Carneiro

Ordination

2013

31

Scaria Varanath

Jeddu Praveen Chinna Reddy

Birth

Birth

1949

1985