Saint of the Day – 6 March – Blessed Sylvester of Assisi OFM (Died 1240) Priest, Franciscan Frria. One of the first 4 followers of St Francis of Assisi and was the first Priest in the Franciscan Order.
Sylvester was a member of one of the noblest and wealthiest families of the City of Assisi, the Uncle of St Clare Of Assisi.
When St Francis embarked on his campaign to “rebuild My church” Sylvester sold Francis stones which were to be used to rebuild the little Church of St Damiano. When, a short while later, he saw Francis and Blessed Bernard of Quintavalle distributing Bernard’s wealth to the poor, Sylvester complained that he had been poorly paid for the stones and asked for more money.
Though Francis obliged, the handful of money he gave Sylvester later caused him to regret this spirit of greed he found in himself, his conscience rebuked him and he was filled with guilt. He sold all of his goods and gave the money to the poor and began a life of penance. Sylvester was Ordained a Priest and became a Canon of the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi.
Thereafter, he joined St Francis. Sylvester became a holy and prayerful man and a favourite of Francis. He was known in the Order for his strict observance of the life of poverty and contemplation. Together with his cousin, Clare, he later prayed for enlightenment to discern the will of God for Francis, when Francis sought advice on how he should best serve God. Should he go out to preach rather than by devoting himself solely to prayer?
Sylvester often accompanied Francis during his preaching tours. Once, in the city of Arezzo, it was claimed by the residents, that Sylvester’s preaching and prayers brought peace to the City, which was falling prey to hatred and violence amongst its citizens. In another City where civil war was raging, Sylvester was commanded by Francis to drive the devils out. At the City gate Sylvester cried out: “In the name of almighty God and by virtue of the command of His servant Francis, depart from here, all you evil spirits.” The devils departed and peace returned to the City.
St Bonaventure, in a special way, mentions the visions which Sylvester had concerning Francis.
Sylvester died in Assisi in 1240, surviving Francis by 14 year. He is one of Francis’ four original companions who are buried near his tomb in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi.