Saint of the Day – 25 July – Blessed Antonio Lucci O.F.M.Conv. (1682-1752) Bishop of Bovino, Franciscan Friar, Theologian, Professor, Writer, Apostle of Charity and Marian devotee – he was born as Angelo Nicola Lucci on 2 August 1681 in Agnone, Isernia, kingdom of Sicily (in modern Italy) as Angelo Nicola Lucci and died on 25 July 1752 in Bovino, Foggia, Italy of natural causes.
Blessed Angelo Nicola Lucci was born on 2 August 1682 to the cobbler and coppersmith Francesco Lucci and Angela Paolantonio. He attended the local school that the Order of Friars Minor Conventual managed and later joined them in 1698. Lucci made his solemn profession in 1698 in the religious name of “Antonio”. He completed his studies for the priesthood in Assisi where he was ordained in 1705. He studied rhetoric and philosophical studies before completing higher theological studies and then further studies led to a doctorate in theology. He was appointed as a professor in Agnone as well as at the Franciscan school in Ravello (from 1709 to 1712) and at the Franciscan school of San Lorenzo in Naples (from 1713 to 1718). He also served as Chaplain of the convent in Naples.
Lucci was elected as the Minister Provincial in 1718 and held that post until 1719; in 1719 he was appointed as a professor at St Bonaventure College in Rome and remained there until his appointment to the episcopate. In 1725 he received instructions from Pope Benedict XIII to write against Jansenism. It was rumoured that Pope Benedict XIII would appoint him as a cardinal but the Holy Fatber instead had decided to name him as the Bishop of Bovino in 1729 and explained of the appointment: “I have chosen as Bishop of Bovino an eminent theologian and a great saint”. Pope Benedict XIII himself, conferred episcopal consecration upon Lucci in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
He served his diocese the remaining 23 years of his life. Known for his charity to the poor (he gave away most of his personal income) and the creation of schools and catechism classes for the young and the poor, theological and training in public speaking for priests, all of whom had been much neglected in a tiny diocese beset with political problems. He travelled through the diocese, re-equipped and repaired churches, enforced discipline on his clergy who had fallen into worldly ways, raised the standards and revitalised the liturgy and parish life throughout his see and even visited hermits to ensure that their lives were in line with Church teachings. His reforms were opposed by local lords and princes who had fostered and who benefited from the lax and worldly ways of the priests and people, who wanted to control appointments of clergy and offices and who tried to treat Church property as their own. Bishop Antonio fought them at every step, always defending the poor and outcast and the rights of the Church and ignoring their demands for the appointment of friends and followers to positions that he filled with more qualified candidates. He restored the cathedral, which had fallen into disrepair and supported a resumption of devotions.
Somewhere along the way he managed to write Manual of Theology which was used as a standard textbook for many years and in 1740 a book about the saints and beati from the first 200 years of the Franciscan Conventuals.
Lucci studied with and was a close friend of Saint Francis Fasani (1681-1742) who – after Lucci’s death – testified on 29 November 1742 at the diocesan hearings regarding the holiness of Lucci’s life. He and Fasani were both ordained as priests together and were great and lifelong friends. aint Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori (1696-1787) wrote of Lucci and heaped great praise upon him.
Lucci died in the morning of 25 July 1752 due to a high fever and his remains were interred in the Bovino Cathedral, which is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It was formerly the episcopal seat of the Diocese of Bovino but since 1986 a co-cathedral in the Archdiocese of Foggia-Bovino and was granted the status of a minor basilica in 1970.
His Beatification cause commenced under Pope Clement XIII on 5 December 1764 and Lucci became titled as a Servant of God while Pope Pius IX confirmed that Lucci had lived a model life of heroic virtue and so named him as Venerable on 13 June 1847. The informative process for the miracle needed for beatification spanned from 1779 until 1780 and received validation in Rome on 10 September 1782 before a medical board met and approved this miracle two centuries later on 3 February 1988. Theologians approved the miracle on 7 July 1988 as did the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 8 November 1988. St Pope John Paul II approved this miracle on 28 November 1988 and beatified Blessed Antonio Lucci on 18 June 1989 in Saint Peter’s Square. The current postulator for this cause is Fra Angelo Paleri.