NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Saint of the Month - October 2017: Saint Angelo [Falcone] of Acri

St. Angelo of Acri
An Angel of Peace ~ Feast: October 30th

Arguably, St. Padre Pio (d. 1968) is the most celebrated Saint of the Franciscan Capuchin Order. However, without trying to detract in anyway from popular devotion to him (I love Padre Pio!), I hope people are aware that the sainted stigmatic was not the only great holy, miracle-working priest to come out of his illustrious Order. There were several other gifted Capuchin men who are equally worthy of our admiration and, this month, I feature the soon-to-be canonized Bl. Angelo of Acri. His life was filled with accounts of wonders that were quite similar to Padre Pio's charisms: Bilocation, Ecstasies, Healing Abilities, Prophecy, Reading of Hearts, and Visions. Bl. Angelo, on several occasions, was even reported to have suffered the terrible pains of Christ's wounds in his body and spirit, but in a manner that did not manifest in visible Stigmatic wounds.

As of this writing, Angelo of Acri is only still a Blessed, however his canonization is literally just around the corner so I'll be referring to him as "St. Angelo" going forward...

St. Angelo was born Luca (Luke) Antonio Falcone on October 19, 1669, to a humble peasant family in the town of Acri, Italy.  According to several biographies I consulted, his family was deeply pious (an uncle was a priest) and the child was raised by his parents in a worthy Christian manner.  Luca, himself, aspired to religious life and in his early youth he joined the Capuchins - twice - but each time, due to an overwhelming sense of fear and unworthiness, he returned home. He even considered marrying at one point but had a change of heart and decided to give religious life one more try.

St. Angelo had a great love for Christ
Crucified and often carried a crucifix.
During his third and final attempt to become a Franciscan in 1690 (I’m surprised the Capuchins readmitted him), he was again on the verge of leaving when he dropped to his knees before a crucifix and pleaded with Jesus for his divine help: “Lord, I cannot trust myself.  You know my weakness.  Help me with your grace!” It must have did the trick because Luca – now renamed Angelo - managed to complete his novitiate and professed vows as a Capuchin in November 1691; he was eventually ordained a priest on April 10, 1700.

In 1702, Padre Angelo’s superiors commissioned him to preach the Lenten mission in nearby Carigliano. The priest prepared himself by studying scriptures and rehearsing his sermon in the stylized form of speech that was popular in his day. When the time came to deliver his sermon, he mounted the pulpit to speak but mysteriously forgot the words he planned to say. The poor Padre was so flustered, he left the pulpit in humiliation and retreated to his cell where he again begged the Lord’s guidance. In reply, God spoke to him with the following instruction, “Fear nothing, I will grant you the gift of preaching… In the future you will preach in a familiar and simple style so that all may understand your words.”

Padre Angelo understood the Lord's point and revamped his preaching style to better suit his general audience, which mainly consisted of simple folk from the small rural towns of southern Italy.  Rather than wracking his brain over-thinking his sermons, he trusted in the God's promise of help and prepared himself through diligent prayer before each speaking engagement. He would then preach on a level that the common people could easily grasp and, as a result, his efforts met with much success as he conducted missions from one town to another. Wherever Padre Angelo spoke he touched hearts and moved countless sinners through his inspired words; he was even nicknamed the "Angel of Peace" (a play on his name Angelo) and soon signs and miracles began manifesting around him.  This is where his mystical gifts make him more and more comparable to his famous spiritual brother, St. Padre Pio.

Accounts of the saintly preacher's ability to heal began circulating, as well as his uncanny ability to read hearts in the confessional and to correctly predict future events.  In addition, Padre Angelo was at times seen preaching at a certain venue while at the same instant witnessed to be somewhere else ministering to the sick and needy. And frequently during his Masses, he spontaneously fell into sublime ecstasies, which edified those in attendance.

Relics of St. Angelo's sandals and Franciscan cord-belt.
Lastly, during one particular incident, Padre Angelo was invited to Naples to speak where he was interrupted by a small group of people who loudly heckled his sermon. The Saint stopped his speech to publicly announce that someone in the congregation would soon meet his demise and that prayers were needed for the unfortunate soul. After the service ended and the crowd began to exit the church, a certain man - the main instigator of the noisy disruption - suddenly dropped dead to the terror of all present.  The people then realized that they had a true Saint in their midst and the good Padre's subsequent sermons in Naples were met with enthusiasm and serious reflection. 

In his final years of life, increasing illness forced Padre Angelo to retire to the Capuchin Monastery of Cosenza.  He eventually went blind six months prior to his death, but through a unique favor from God, he miraculously regained his eyesight each day for the amount of time needed to offer Mass and recite the Divine Office (incredible!). He died on October 30, 1739, at the ripe old age of 70, and after having served the Lord in religious life for 47 years!

The incorrupt body of St. Angelo, enshrined in the Basilica dedicated to him in Acri, Italy
(a wax mask covers the relic's face).

Pope Leo XII beatified Angelo of Acri on December 1825 after recognizing three miraculous cures attributed to his intercession. I am pleased to share that a fourth miracle was officially approved for his Cause this past March 2017, which paved the way for his upcoming Canonization on October 15th, 2017. The bodily remains of this Saint - reportedly incorrupt - is enshrined in the Basilica of Acri dedicated to his honor. May he intercede for our personal needs and the needs of the Universal Church, especially for all priests to be worthy servants of God and the Church!

A Reflection
"... preach in a familiar and simple style so that all may understand your words.”  ~ Words of our Lord to St. Angelo of Acri

A Short Prayer
Lord, as you did with your servant Angelo of Acri, grant our priests of today the gift to effectively preach in a manner that will touch souls and lead them to You.  Amen.

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