SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO (1563-1608), priest and co-founder – Patron saint of Italian chefs, Naples, Italy and the Eucharistic Congress of Abruzzo, Italy
Today, the Church honors Saint Francis Caracciolo, a servant of the Church who faithfully served the Body of Christ through an austere and holy life, and who practiced and fostered within others a deep devotion to the Eucharistic Presence of Christ.
Francis was born into a noble family on October 13, 1563 in Villa Santa Maria in Central Italy, and was baptized with the name Ascanio. He lived a virtuous life as a youth and seemed inclined towards a religious vocation.
When he was twenty-two years old, he contracted a skin disease which appeared like leprosy. He begged God to cure him and promised to follow what seemed clear to him as his calling to the priesthood. He was cured instantly upon making the promise, and taking the cure as a miraculous sign for his life, he sold his goods, gave the money to the poor, and went to study theology in Naples, Italy in 1585. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1587 and joined the Confraternity of the White Servants of Justice.
He dedicated himself to the service of God and His people, including ministry devoted to looking after the spiritual welfare of prisoners and those condemned to death. Father Ascanio was known for cultivating a great spirit of prayer – notably, adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. And, to this devotion, he dedicated as much time as possible.
His real work was revealed to him, however, in 1587, when, upon meeting with Fathers Augustine Adorno of Genoa and Fabrizio Caracciolo (a relative of the same name) of Naples, they founded together a new religious order, the Clerics Regular Minor, a religious Order of priests whose work would combine both active and contemplative life, all for the purpose of assisting the needs of the Church after the Council of Trent.
Besides the goals and objectives common to other religious Orders and the three vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, Father Ascanio wanted to add a fourth vow: not to aspire to ecclesiastical honors. Also, one of the main qualities of the spirituality of this new religious Order was a particular devotion to Eucharistic Adoration, nourished by an austere prayer life.
After receiving papal approval on July 1, 1588, Father Ascanio made his Religious Profession to this new Order and took the name Francis, in honor of his devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi.
Now known as Father Francis, he was chosen to be the Order’s first Superior General, and he established houses for the Order in Naples and Rome, Italy and Madrid, Spain. His personal health, however, became weaker because of his austere lifestyle. Despite his physical frailties, he did not stop from carrying out his last journey to establish more religious houses throughout Italy.
Upon his arrival in Agnone, Italy, Francis was physically tired and became ill. On June 4, 1608, Father Francis Caracciolo, at the age of forty-four, died uttering the words: “Let us go; let us go to Heaven.”
His life was like a long series of outstanding episodes which were dependent upon the intervention of Divine grace, together with an authentic Christian charity towards others – for which he was called “Father of the Poor”, “Preacher of the Love of God” and the “Hunter of Souls”. He was canonized a saint by Pope Pius VII on May 24, 1807.
We commemorate his feastday on June 4.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, newadvent.org, and adornofathers.org)
(The following prayer is from the Collect of the Clerics Regular Minor for Saint Francis Caracciolo)
“O God, You adorned blessed Francis, the founder of a new Order, with a zeal for prayer and a love of penance; grant that Your servants may make such progress in the imitation of his virtues, that by constant prayer and the desire for personal holiness, they may deserve to attain Heavenly glory.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”