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Catholic Heroes… St. Francis Anthony Fasani

November 28, 2019 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

There are so many Franciscan saints that they are listed by categories and subcategories. The Franciscan martyrs are separated by the Capuchin martyrs and the 26 martyrs of Japan. There are both men and women martyrs and saints who came from wealthy families such as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare. There are also saints who have come from impoverished families such as St. Francis Anthony Fasani. Some of the saints were professed religious and some were laity belonging to the Third Order Franciscans. One thing they all had in common was an all-consuming love of God.
St. Francis Fasani, called a “son of the soil,” came from a peasant family in Lucera, Italy, a part of the Kingdom of Naples at that time. When Francis was born on August 6, 1681, his parents, Giuseppe Fasani and Isabella Della Monaca, gave him the name Donato Antonio Giovanni Nicola Fasani at his Baptism.
Fasani’s parents provided Giovanniello — as they fondly called him — with a holy and Catholic education and family life. He was one of those blessed persons showing great virtue at a very young age.
Giovanniello’s father died in 1690 and his mother remarried. At that point his stepfather sent Giovanniello to the local Conventual Franciscans to continue his education. As years went by his vocation to the Order of Friars Minor Conventual became more and more evident to him.
To this call he responded with a wholehearted enthusiasm. In 1695 he received the Franciscan habit and took the names Francis — in honor of the Franciscan founder, St. Francis of Assisi — and Anthony, in honor of St. Anthony of Padua.
Francis Anthony consecrated himself to the apostolic and evangelical life. He professed his vows the following year and began his studies in liberal arts and philosophy in Agnone.
In 1703 Francis Anthony went to Assisi, 454 kilometers from Lucera. In Assisi he completed his studies, spending a good deal of time near the tomb of St. Francis. He would sit by the tomb to study, to pray, and to meditate in the quiet, peaceful atmosphere.
During his formation, Francis Anthony practiced three devotions. The first was uncommon for his times — an ardent devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, similar to the twentieth-century Franciscan martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not yet declared. It was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
Francis Anthony also had a fervent devotion to Jesus present in the Most Holy Eucharist. His third devotion was to the Baby Jesus. During one of his prayer times, someone saw St. Anthony of Padua — whose name Francis had taken — holding and caressing the Baby Jesus as he levitated.
In 1705 Francis Anthony was ordained to the priesthood in Assisi. After his Ordination, he continued his theological studies and received his doctorate in theology in 1707. With this licentiate, he returned to Lucera to be lector of philosophy at the college run by the Conventual Franciscans.
Francis Anthony’s pastoral activities won the affection of the faithful of Daunia and Molise and he was lovingly called “Padre Maestro” or Father Master — he is called that even to this day. He was well known for his yearning to absorb the salvific treasures of the mysteries of faith.
In Lucera, Francis Anthony proved his gifts of holiness, administration, and oratory. Successively he served as regent of studies, guardian, and ultimately provincial superior from 1721 to 1723.
As a respected teacher of scholastic philosophy, the novices also looked upon Francis with great reverence. In his private conferences and public presentations he drew many to a deeper love of our Lord. He encouraged them to make more sacrifices and to live life with a generous heart for God’s greater glory.
Francis Anthony’s example of fraternal and supernatural charity, his humility, and austerity led the people of Lucera to say of him, “Whoever wants to see how St. Francis looked while he was alive should come to see Padre Maestro.”
Fr. Francis Anthony’s love for God above all else led him to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience in a most high degree. He firmly believed that doing so was the most perfect way of practicing charity for both God and man.
Some of his contemporaries believed he was a mystic and heard Francis Anthony exclaim with great fervor during prayer, “O Highest Love, Immense Love, Eternal Love, Infinite Love!”
In addition, he never settled for the level at which he knew Mary. His devotion pushed him to seek to know more intensely, more clearly, just “who Mary is.” And thus knowing her, he could share this knowledge with others so that they, too, could entrust themselves to her loving care. By his explaining Mary’s role in salvation history to the faithful, they would understand her love for both God and man. With great confidence they could seek her intercession.
This zeal for souls had no limits. Francis Anthony was highly sought after to hear Confessions, visit the sick and imprisoned, and help the orphans. He also eagerly ministered to those prisoners condemned to death.
Furthermore, he spent many hours giving spiritual direction, preaching retreats, holding Lenten devotions, and collecting gifts at Christmas for poor children. As one witness affirmed, “He allowed himself no rest in the salvation of souls.
In 1742 Fr. Francis Anthony fell ill, accepting this cross with joy and serenity. As was his habit, he offered it to God, “The Will of God: That is my Paradise.”
Having received the Last Rites, Fr. Francis Anthony entered eternity as he began a novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception. He died in the Franciscan friary of Lucera, the city where he was born and served the people of God for 35 years.
Immediately the children of Lucera ran through the streets with the sad news, “The saint is dead! The saint is dead!” All of Lucera turned out for the holy man’s funeral and at its conclusion they cried, “Our holy Padre Maestro has died!”
After Fr. Francis Anthony’s death, his fame for holiness quickly spread. This motivated the bishop of Lucera, a friend of the priest, to begin the cause for his canonization shortly after Francis Anthony’s death.
On June 21, 1891, Pope Leo XIII declared Fr. Francis Anthony Venerable, recognizing the heroic virtue of the saint.
It was not until sixty years later that Pope Pius XII beatified Fr. Francis Anthony on April 15, 1951 after two miracles were attributed to his intercession. Pope St. John Paul II canonized Fr. Francis Anthony Fasani on March 21, 1985, having received a third miracle in his name.
St. Francis Anthony’s feast day is November 27.
Dear St. Francis Anthony, with what holiness and charity you constantly sought to know God better, to know His Blessed Mother better in order to bring the joy of such knowledge to many souls. Obtain for us a thirst to know Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and the Blessed Virgin Mary better so that we may love them better and imitate their example of holiness and kindness to our neighbors. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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