This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17 -- Feast of Saint Serafino of Ascoli Piceno

Today's post is brought to you by the virtues of patience and humility.  Additional support was once again made possible by Google Translate.

Serafino's story is, on the surface, quite unremarkable, which is probably why I wrote about Saint Ignatius of Antioch last year.  Being thrown to the lions is just better copy than being a doorman.  But that's where the patience and humility come in to get him canonized.

Serafino was a shepherd, which gave him lots of time to contemplate the religious ideas his mom was trying to instill in him.  But that shepherding came to a close with the death of his mom and dad, so he went to work for his brother, a bricklayer.  We don't actually know that his brother was an alcoholic, but we know that he was ill-tempered and abusive.  It could be that the future saint was in fact "a clumsy, worthless little parasite who eats more than he's worth" and that "the world would be better off without" him.  Okay, those aren't really direct quotes, but sources agree that the older brother said many harsh things to him as he was beating the crap out of him.

Since the bricklaying thing wasn't working out, Serafino went to work as a domestic servant for a local family.  There, he was intrigued by the stories of the saints that the family's daughter was reading.  One might have guessed that a story in which the hard luck / heart of gold orphan servant meets the family's daughter might end at the altar, but Anthony Trollope didn't write this one.  Instead, when Serafino asked what she was reading, it wasn't an icebreaker.  They talked about the saints, and he was out the door and down the road to knock on the gate at the Capuchin monastery in Ascoli Piceno.  (He's more commonly known as Serafino of Montegranaro, but since that wasn't the happiest place on earth for him, I figure his home monastery makes a better cognomen).

One source omits all accounts of his failure to please superiors in monasteries all up and down the Italian peninsula.  The other source describes those failures collectively.  The story certainly fits a pathocomic pattern better if we still have a bumbler who tries the patience of every person since his late mother who has tried to guide him.  They keep shifting him around, trying new jobs or new places, and he keeps smiling and nodding and praying but he never gets it right.  He is extra-helpful to all the other brothers, who snicker a little and take his help, but can't possibly respect him.  He goes to prayer instead of bed after matins, spending two more hours each night in contemplation of Jesus' passion and the sacrament of Communion.  But perhaps that just makes him a little more tired, a little slower, a little more clumsy in his daily chores. 

At last, he winds up back at Ascoli Piceno, where perhaps there is a new abbot.  He gets put on door duty.  As the Porter, he's away from the other brothers, but in contact with the locals, especially the neediest.  Since he distributes alms, he's popular with them, especially since he is humble (it's harder to take charity from a monk with a proud, overbearing, judgmental demeanor).  They seek advice from him.  He gives it without scorn or condemnation.  They bring the sick to him and he prays and blesses them -- they recover.  They tell him there are more mouths than they have meals in the food that the monastery has given them, so he saves three-quarters of his own food to give to the needy. 

As his reputation grew, he became recognized as a model Christian.  At this point, he becomes in demand.  Dukes and cardinals showed up at his door to honor him as a living saint -- he began to carry a crucifix while portering (porting?) because he was embarrassed when they bowed to kiss the hem of his robe.  He could probably have parlayed that reputation into an easy gig in the monastery, but he didn''t.  There was a rumor that he was needed at another abbey somewhere, but the people protested to the bishop to block his transfer.  He worked the gate for the rest of his life and died at age 64, a model of humility and patience.

Oh, and there are some miracles attested beyond the healing.  As a wee one out in the fields with the sheep, he wanted to visit the Shrine of the Blessed Mother in Loreto.  The creek was at flood stage - cold and fast and dangerous.  Without missing a step, he walked right across the surface which became as solid as bedrock under his feet.

Later, when he was doling out the food to the hungry locals, he gave away the whole allotment and yet more people stood before him.  He ran back to the monastery gardens and gathered vegetables for them.  The abbot was (of course) furious with him, but in the morning, the garden had yielded another who crop of vegetables to replace those he had given away. 

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