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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6 -- Feast of Saint Sylvester of Assisi

Saint Sylvester was nominally a Christian, probably even a faithful and generous congregant, but it was not until his did business with Saint Francis that he felt a vocation to dedicate himself to religious service. 
Sylvester at Arezzo

As a merchant, he sold Francis and his earliest followers some stone to repair one of the many crumbling churches in the area of Assisi.  He sold the stone at a deep discount because these friars were mendicants -- beggars and day laborers without cash.  Shortly thereafter, a wealthy lawyer named Bernard of Quintavalle joined Francis' small group.  Naturally he liquidated all his wealth and invited Francis to help disburse it to the needy. 

Sylvester thought he ought to get a share of that, figuring that he would not have discounted so deeply if he had known that Brother Moneybags had such fat stacks of cash.  He asked Francis to come across, and the good friar complied. 

A more abstract view of the same
It should have been a happy ending, except Sylvester's conscience troubled him.  The way I figure it, there are times when we want a grievance more than we want satisfaction.  I can't be sure, but it seems to me that what Sylvester wanted most was to be able to say, Those rotten friars will nickel and dime an honest hard-working man like me and then turn around and give all the money they get away to the unemployed, the transients and bums and winos.   It would have allowed him to hold his head high every time he closed the door on anyone who showed up asking for a loaf of bread or a piece of fruit. 

But Francis didn't hold back.  He paid the balance for a premium price on the building materials.  Sylvester had come from a wealthy family, gotten his doctorate of civil and canon law, and been a successful merchant.  He didn't need the cash, and as it turned out, he didn't want it.  Instead, it gnawed away at him.  Before long, he too had sold all his stuff and joined Francis' small group of day-laboring, mendicant street preachers. 

He became the first ordained priest among the Franciscans (Francis himself, though a deacon, was not a priest).  He managed to pull off an exorcism of a whole town which was plagued by vendetta.  He stood at the gates of Arezzo and called out "In the name of almighty God and by virtue of the command of his servant Francis, depart from here, all you evil spirits."  The demons fled and peace was restored.  Good thing he had searched his soul and expelled his own demon first.

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