Tag Archives: Dominicans

St. Antoninus of Florence—This brilliant Theologian also was known as The Father of the Poor

Antoninus of Florence (statue)                                           aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

Antonio Pierozzi was born on March 1, 1389, in Florence which, at that time, was an independent republic. His father, Nicollo, was a notary which was considered an upstanding position in the community. His mom died when he was five years old, and his dad remarried the very same year. His “new” mom helped raise him, but her influence in his life seems minimal.

Antonio came from a very religious family. He had a sister who became a nun, an aunt who was a nun, and a brother who entered the religious life. His other sister married and became a Third Order Dominican. As for Antonio, from early on he was an extremely pious child and he spent one hour a day in prayer in front of the Crucifix in the garden at the nearby church. Many people noticed his piety and his reputation as being holy began to grow. Also, Antonio was very smart and was quickly recognized as being a brilliant student.

Antonio had heard a sermon by Blessed Giovanni Dominici and was instantly drawn to this man. Dominici was the leading preacher of his day and had received his authority from Blessed Raymond Capua who was the first follower of St. Catherine of Siena. Antonio’s future was now a brightly lit path for him to follow. He asked John Dominici to receive him into the Dominicans.

Antonio was only fifteen years old at the time, and John Dominici thought he was still too young. He even thought he might be too small and too weak to live such a life. So he challenged Antonio. He told him to memorize the Decretum of Gratian, a complex work of Canon Law.

His motive was to overwhelm the young man while not hurting his feelings. He was sure Antonio could never fulfill such a request. He was wrong. One year later Antonino came back to John Dominici and recited the entire work. He even answered hard questions after doing so proving he understood the nuances and meanings as set down. At that time he was received into the Dominican Order.

A new priory had opened in Fiesole, and Antonio received his habit from John Domenici. The first years of Antonio’s life as a Dominican are vague, but it is recorded that he kept growing in sanctity, spent hours in prayer, fasted constantly, and studied as much as possible. Then he moved to Cortone and met Lorenzo di Ripafratta. Lorenzo was a prominent force in the reform of the Dominicans which had, in many areas, turned from the principles the order had been founded upon.

His age mattered not because he was made an administrator and put in charge of communities in Rome, Naples, Cortona, and  Florence. All of these places now fell under the reorganized Dominican Congregation of Tuscany which had been created to get the Order back to its founding principles.

From 1433 to 1446 Antonio served as Vicar of the Congregation. He followed the rule as set in place by Blessed John Dominici and believed that he should care for his novices as Christ cared for His apostles.  He was determined to do his best to instill in them the spirit of the Beatitudes which would sum up the Order’s Rule. He was also very strict on poverty. All that was necessary to the operation of a household would be sold and given to the poor.

It was during this time that Antonio founded an organization called: Buonomini de San Martino. This was something like the St. Vincent de Paul Society except it was designed to help poor people of high social status who were living in shame because they had become poor. This organization became a huge success. Much money was collected and many of the “hidden” poor were helped. The people began calling him Antoninus the “Father of the Poor,” a name that is still used.

Antoninus became Archbishop of Florence. His writings were deeply theological and he was the papal theologian at the Council of Florence.  His writings were a major development in the field of moral theology and stand to this day.

Archbishop Antoninus died on May 2, 1459.  He was canonized a saint by Pope Adrian VI on May 31, 1523. His feast day is May 10.

The last words of St. Antoninus of Florence were: “Servire Deo regnare est”, “to serve God is to reign.”

copyright©LarryPeterson2019

 

 

St. Agnes of Montepulciano—St. Catherine of Siena called her, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes

St. Agnes of Montepulciano                                                   aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

The Dominican Order has five women who are canonized saints. The two best known are St. Catherine of Siena, the stigmatist and a Doctor of the Church, and St. Rose of Lima, the first woman canonized a saint from the Americas. The other three are St. Margaret of Hungary who became Empress of the Byzantine Empire, St. Catherine de Ricci, the stigmatist, and lastly, St. Agnes of Montepulciano.

St. Agnes, who may be the least known of the five, could be the most important among them. What tells us that is, it was St. Catherine of Siena, who knelt by Agnes’ incorrupt body and said, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes.” As Catherine bent forward to kiss the foot of Agnes, it raised up so Catherine could easily reach it. St. Agnes had died almost 300 years before that moment.

On January 28, 1268, a baby girl was born into the wealthy De Segni family, in Montepulciano, located in the Papal States (central Italy). The child was named Agnes, and from an early age, she displayed an outward and obvious devotion to God.

By the time Agnes was six years old she was asking her parents to please allow her to enter the convent. When they told her she was much too young, she pleaded with them to move closer to the convent so she could be near to it. On one occasion Agnes was traveling to Montepulciano with her mom and some of the household.  The group passed by a house that was up on a hill and was known as a place of ill repute. Suddenly, a flock of screaming crows soared down from above and attacked little Agnes.

With claws outstretched and beaks flailing away they scratched and clawed at the seven-year-old, causing her to bleed from her head and arms which she was using to cover herself. The women in the group had to fight the shrieking birds off by waving their shawls and yelling at them. The ladies knew that the evil in the nearby house did not want Agnes anywhere near it. It had been a demonic attack. Years later, Agnes would build a convent on that very site.

By the time this child was nine years old she had convinced her parents to allow her to enter the convent. She was so young this was against church law but, Pope John XXI gave Agnes permission to enter the Franciscan monastery. The nuns who lived there were known as the “Sisters of the Sack” because the garments they wore were so coarse. Nine-year-old Agnes happily wore it every day.

When Agnes was fifteen, she found herself in need of another special dispensation. This time it was so she could become the abbess of a new convent in Proceno. She desired to be in a contemplative state where she could simply pray and commune with those above. But she did not complain and humbly followed the path that always seemed to appear before her. On her day of consecration as abbess, showers of tiny white crosses floated down inside the chapel on the people below. Being a fifteen-year-old abbess was unheard of, and everyone took this as a sign of heaven’s pleasure with Agnes.

Agnes was graced with many visions. Probably the most legendary and the one for which she is best known is was when Our Lady appeared to her holding the Baby Jesus in her arms. Our Lady allowed Agnes to hold Him and caress Him. Another time the Blessed Mother gave Agnes three stones and told her to keep them in honor of the Blessed Trinity. She told Agnes that one day she would need them.

Agnes had another vision which told her that she was to leave the Franciscans and join the Dominicans. In 1306 she was asked to return to Montepulciano to build a new convent. She had no money, but she did have the three stones the Blessed Virgin had given to her. Using the three stones as a “cornerstone,” she raised money and built the convent. The sisters embraced the Rule of St. Augustine and joined the Dominican Order.

Sister Agnes died on April 20, 1317. It is said that the children of the city woke up the next morning and sadly cried out, “Holy Sister Agnes is dead.”

Agnes was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. The Dominicans celebrate her feast day on April 20.

St. Agnes of Montepulciano, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019