Saint of the Day – 16 December – Blessed Sebastian Maggi OP (1414–1496) Religious Priest of the Order of Preachers, Confessor – born in 1414 at Brescia, Italy and died in 1496 at Genoa, Italy of natural causes. Blessed Sebastian also served as the confessor to both Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498) and Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447–1510). His body is incorrupt.
Sebastian Maggi was born in Brescia to nobles in 1414. He is related to Bishop Berardo Maggi who was also the Duke and Count of Brescia.
Maggi began his work in 1429 when he joined the Order of Preachers. His intelligence was noticed and he later received a master’s degree in theological studies. He rose through the ranks and became the superior of several religious Dominican houses. He practised corporal mortification and was strict in discipline. He would often tell his subordinates: “When you have committed a fault, come to me, not as prior but as your father. If you will not have me as a father, you will find me a severe judge.”
He appointed the monk Girolamo Savonarola to the position of novice master and set that famous Florentine friar on his own path to fame. In his time he was regarded as one of the greatest preachers in the Italian state.
Pope Alexander VI chose Father Maggi to investigate revelations that Savonarola claimed were given to him directly from God. Savonarola appealed the choice and believed that Sebastian – as Vicar-General of the Lombard Congregation – would be biased and try to take over his recently-emancipated “San Marco” facility in Florence. Alexander VI, however, had already decided to give the facility back to the Congregation, making Sebastian, Savonarola’s canonical superior.
Perhaps, if Sebastian Maggi had lived, he might have saved Savonarola from the political entanglements that sent him to his death. Sebastian was his confessor for a long time, and always testified in his favour when anyone attacked the reformer’s personal life. It is hard to say just where he stood politically in the long and complex series of events concerning the separation of Lombard province from the province of Italy. But all that has been written of him, conveys the same impression, he was a kind and just superior, who kept the rule with rigid care but was prudent in exacting it of others.
Several times Sebastian Maggi was sent on missions of reform and he died on one of these. On his way to a convent for visitation, he became ill at Genoa and died there in 1496. He is buried at the Dominican “Santa Maria di Castello” complex in Genoa (see below).
History has written of Blessed Sebastian that his greatest virtues were seen in his governing. As the prior of several convents, Blessed Sebastian often loved to wait on his Dominican sisters and brothers with his own hands and to minister to them when they were ill. It was commonly said, that when Blessed Sebastian visited the sick, he did so with as much joy as attending a wedding.