Saturday, June 4, 2011

St Francis Caracciolo, Confessor

Wisdom 4:7-14 / Luke 12:35-40

Francis Caracciolo, one of the founders of the Minor Clerks Regular, could be said, on one description, to have been brought to holiness by mistake. While known to be more pious than his peers, he was not opposed in his youth to chasing after the usual worldly, even if not sinful, pursuits that captivated young gentlemen of Italy in the sixteenth century. His story at first follows a usual pattern. Struck by a terrible illness, he pledges his life to God should he recover. Recover he does, and joins with the Bianchi della Giustizia, the White Robed Men of Justice, who pledged themselves to serve the spiritual needs of men in prison, and especially those who were condemned to die. This was, and indeed is, a holy and good work, and had the story ended there, with Francis and the Bianchi helping the souls of criminals turn to God at the hour of their death, then this would have been a fine example of being conformed to Christ.

However, as it happened, Francis is mistakenly delievered a letter sent by Ven. John Augustine Adorno to Fabrizio Caracciolo, inviting him to join him in founding a new religious congregation. Francis, even when realizing the error, nonetheless took the mistake to be a more profound, and providential, message, God directing him to take up Adorno's offer. Together, the two Caraccioli and Adorno founded the Minor Clerks Regular, most notable for their taking of a fourth vow not to pursue any ecclesiastical office outside or even within the community. In their collective humility, the Minor Clerks Regular, the Adorno Fathers and Brothers, put themselves under the motto Ad majorem Resurgentis gloriam, "to the greater glory of the Risen One."

There is, of course, a kind of superstition which sees in every coincidence a hidden message, in every stirring of a leaf, in every drop of rain or positioning of tea leaves, an important clue to the a successful life, if one had only the eyes and knowledge to interpret. For some, Francis Caracciolo's decision to abandon his laudable work with prisoners on the basis of a wrongly delivered letter seems just this kind of superstition. Why, after all, take what one knows to have been human error to be the unmistakable voice of God? Would not God have used more direct, or at least less fortuitous means, minimally have avoided using the ambiguity that arises from error, to communicate with his saints?

To be sure, there is no surefire way to distinguish God's deliberate and providential arranging of events from an "ordinary" coincidence since the distinction is a false one. All events, including mistakes and coincidences, fall under the providence of God and all things that happen, however they are caused directly, have God as their first cause and origin. So, the question is not one of picking out the intelligible from the simply random in life. Whatever is random as regards this world is, without ceasing to be unplanned in its own way, always planned and intended by God.

What remains for us, however, is not to try to discern the hidden counsels of God from flights of birds or the entrails of goats as did the pagans of old, nor from the patterns of the stars as some do even still today. Rather, we are to be attentive to the task our Lord, Jesus Christ risen from the dead, gave us before his Ascension, to go, preach the Gospel to every creature, teaching them, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This is how we are to be found when he shall return from the wedding. It is in taking without delay those opportunities to proclaim and live out the Good News of Jesus risen from the dead and ascended into glory, whenever and however those opportunities come to us, that at the first, or second, or even third watch, the householder will consider us blessed among his servants.

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