Saint of the Day – 4 June – Saint Francis Caracciolo CRM (1563-1608) Priest, co-Founder of the Congregation of the Clerics Regular Minor with Venerable John Augustine (1551-1587) the “Adorno Fathers,” Confessor, Apostle of the Eucharistic Adoration – born as Ascanio Pisquizio on 13 October 1563 at his family’s castle at Villa Santa Maria, Abruzzi, Italy and died on 4 June 1608 at Agnone, Italy of a fever, aged 44. Patronages – Association of Italian Cooks (chosen in 1996), Naples, Italy (chosen in 1838).
Francis Caracciolo was born of a noble family on 13 October 1563 in Villa Santa Maria (Abruzzo Region). His parents, Ferrante Caracciolo and Isabella Baratucci Baptised him as Ascanio. He received an excellent educational formation and Catholic education and these showed from his virtues, evident from his early childhood.
When he was 22 years old, he was inflicted by a terrible disease which almost led him to death. In this trial he heard the Lord’s call and was ready to dedicate his life completely in the service of God and neighbour, if he would recover.
After his miraculous cure, Ascanio, faithful to his promise, renounced all his properties and noble titles. He left his home and went to Naples to prepare himself for the Priesthood. He was Ordained a Priest and joined the Confraternity of the White Servants of Justice (I Bianchi), a confraternity that looked after the spiritual welfare of prisoners and those condemned to death. It was located close to the Hospital of Incurables.
His real work was revealed to him, however, in 1587, when he mistakenly received a letter addressed to a relative of the same name, Father Fabrizio Caracciolo, the Abbot of St Mary Major in Naples. He learned from it that the writer, Father Augustine Adorno of Genoa, was planning to found a religious Order of Priests whose work would combine both active and contemplative life. The project appealed to Ascanio and he soon joined forces with Augustine Adorno and Fabrizio Caracciolo.
It was the period after the Council of Trent and Ascanio felt strongly the ideals of the Catholic Reform and saw this opportunity, as a providential sign from God. He immediately made himself available to the initiatives of Augustine and Fabrizio.
The three fathers retreated to the Camaldolese hermitage in Naples to write the first Constitutions of the Order. In addition to the three evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, they contemplated a fourth vow – the renunciation of any ecclesiastical dignity. A particular dedication to the divine worship centred on the Eucharistic Devotions nourished by the Circular Prayer and an austere life expressed in the Circular Penitence were indicated as the main qualities of the spirituality of the new religious Order.
After their stay in the hermitage, Ascanio and Augustine went on foot to Rome to ask for the Papal approval. Sixtus V granted their petition and on 1 July 1588, the new Religious Order was approved under the name of Clerics Regular Minor.
Augustine Adorno and Ascanio Caracciolo made their Religious Profession in the Chapel of the White Servants of Justice (I Bianchi) in Naples on 9 April 1589. Ascanio took the name Francis in honour of his devotion to St Francis of Assisi. They chose the motto: Ad Maiorem Resurgentis Gloriam – For the greater glory of the Risen Christ.
The first community of the Clerics Regular Minor lived and carried out their apostolate at the Church of Mercy in Naples. A few days later, they went on a journey to Spain with the intent of establishing the Order there. They were unsuccessful in establishing the Congregation but, they made contacts with other religious orders and leaders. They came back to Naples after a very tiring trip which caused Francis enormous suffering.
In 1591, while Francis took possession of the Church of St Mary Major in Naples, Augustine Adorno went to Rome for the ratification of the approval of the Order by Pope Gregory XIV. The Pope graciously granted the new Order all the same privileges that other religious institutes have.
In September of the same year, Augustine died prematurely at the age of 40. Most of the responsibilities and concerns of the new religious family fell upon Francis, who became the first Superior General during the First General Chapter in 1593. He accepted out of obedience the office for three years.
Francis was convinced of the necessity of expansion of the Order in Spain. He left for another time with Father Giuseppe Imparato and Brother Lorenzo D’ponte on 10 April 1594. He did his works of apostolate at the Hospital of the Italians in Madrid. The hard work and faith which Francis dedicated to the mission bore its first fruits on 25 July 1595, when he obtained the permission to open a religious house dedicated to St Joseph in Madrid. His success through his zealous priestly works provoked hostility of some people against the Order. Francis, solid in his faith, overcame all the difficult moments and left Spain for Italy in June 1596.
The first religious house in Rome was founded at the Church of St Leonard. He sent the first group of clerics to reside in this house.
In November 1596, Francis returned to Naples, where, after lots of hesitation, accepted to share the charge as Superior General for another year. This was the 23 May 1597.
After he obtained for the Order the Church of St Agnes in Piazza Navona and after his resignation as Superior General, Francis left for his third journey to Spain (September 1598). During his stay, he opened the religious houses in Valladolid and Alcala de Hanares. When returned to Rome, he was elected Vicar General for Italy and Superior of St Mary Major in Naples. In his humility, he asked the Pope Paul V to be spared from this position but in vain. The Order obtained from the same Pontiff the Roman Basilica of San Lorenzo in Lucina.
Francis’ health became weaker because of his austere life. Despite all limitations, he did not hesitate from undertaking his last journey with his brother, Father Antonio of the Theatine Fathers, which led them to Loreto, Villa Santa Maria and Agnone (Molise Region) to accommodate the request of opening a new religious house there.
Upon his arrival to Agnone, Francis was physically tired and fell ill. On 4 June 1608, he died uttering the words: “Let’s go, let’s go to heaven.”
His body was given enough preparation for a long journey to Naples. Truly, God has left His own sign on him. When the body was lanced, the blood spouted a red and scented fluid and his vital organs were uncorrupted. Around his heart were printed the words of the Psalm: “The zeal of your house consumes me” (Ps 69:10).
St Francis Caracciolo was Beatified by Pope Clement XIV on 4 June 1769 and Canonised by Pope Pius VII on 24 May 1807. In 1838 he was chosen as a Patron Saint of Naples, where his body lies. At first, he was buried in Basilica of St Mary Major but his remains were afterwards translated to the church of Santa Maria di Monteverginella, which was given in exchange to the Clerics Regular Minor (1823) after their suppression at the time of the French Revolution.
O Saint Francis Caracciolo,
for that most ardent love which You brought to this earth
and now in heaven you bring to Jesus Christ,
our most loving Redeemer
and to His ever Virgin Mother Mary Most Holy
and for that tender charity with which You consoled
and comforted the afflicted and troubled.
Oh! obtain the deliverance of our present affliction
and tribulation to this soul,
which full of trust,
has recourse to your loving and mighty patronage
and at the same time,
that humbly resigns itself to the supreme will of God,
whose eternal honour and glory be given forever.
(Clerics Regular Minor – Adorno Fathers)