Saint of the Day – 12 April – Saint Alferius of La Cava (930–1050) Cluniac Priest, Founder and Abbot of Arsicia (La Trinità della Cava) which follows the Benedictine Rule, nobleman, Diplomat to Prince Waimar III of Salerno, Cluniac reformer, cave Hermit, Founder, Mystic and Ecstatic, miracle-worker. Born in 930 in Salerno, Italy and died on Holy Thursday 1050, of natural causes. Also known as – Alferius Abbate, Alferius the Abbot, Adalfere, Adalfericus, Adalferius, Alfere, Alferio, Allerius, Alpherius.
The Roman Martyrology states: “In the Monastery of Cava de ‘Tirreni in Campania, Saint Alferius, Founder and first Abbot, who, after having been adviser to Guaimario, Duke of Salerno, who became a disciple of Saint Odilone in Cluny, learned in an excellent way, the discipline of monastic life.”
Alferius was born into a noble Lombard family in the second half of the 10th century. It is uncertain whether he actually did belong to the noble Lombard Pappacarbone family, related to the Princes of Salerno. From his youth, he had placed himself at the service of the Princes of his City. who had dominated the region since the seventh century.
In the year 1002 , Alferius, was sent as Ambassador of his Prince to the Emperor Henry II, to solicit military aid against the Byzantines who threatened the borders of the Principality of Salerno . On reaching the Alps he fell seriously ill and asked for hospitality in the Monastery of Chiusa di San Michele. There, he vowed ,that if he recovered, he would give up his Diplomatic career and become a Benedictine Monk. He did recover and fulfilled his vow by wearing the habit of St Benedict of Nursia , in the great Abbey of Cluny in France .
Alferius, having obtained the cure, had asked the Abbot of Cluny Sant’Odilone , who was passing through San Michele, to welcome him among his Monks. There he studied and grew in piety and was eventually Ordained to the Priesthood.
After a few years, however, Prince Guaimario III of Salerno, called him back to Salerno to reform the many Monasteries of that City. Alferius began the work but after a while, feeling attracted by a life of solitude, he secretly abandoned Salerno and took refuge in the Arsicia cave, at the foot of Monte Finestra, today in the Municipality of Cava de ‘Tirreni . Here, with two companions, he devoted himself totally to prayer, penance and manual work.
Soon the fame of his holiness spread to the surrounding countries and disciples eager to follow his example wished to join his community. People from all walks of life, sought hisspiritual assistance and began to flock to hs Cave.
It was then necessary to build a Monastery sufficient for a dozen religious. Following the famous vision of the three rays, handed down by oral tradition, the construction of the Monastery and the Church began in the narrow space between the Selano river and the Arsicia cave. Thus was born the Abbey of Cava, which Alferius dedicated to the Holy Trinity, La Trinità della Cava. It was aound the year 1011.
However, in the Cavense Archive, the Princes of Salerno, Guaimario III and Guaimario IV, granted full ownership to the Monastery, all the land sorrounding it, including the Arsicia Cave and the large area above, on which the current Church of Cava was built.
Among his disciples we remember, in particular, St Leo, who would succeed him in the government of the Monastery and Desiderio di Benevento who later became Abbot of the Monastery of Montecassino and then the 158th Pope with the name of Victor III. His successor, Pope Urban II, endowed this Monastery with many privileges, making it immediately subject to the Holy See, with jurisdiction over the surrounding territory.
Alferius died on Holy Thursday, 12 April 1050 at the age of 120 after having celebrated Holy Mass, comforted by a vision of the Redeemer , Who summoned his home.
He was buried in the same cave, see below, which since then, has become the heart of the Abbey.
The first four Abbots were Canonised on 21 December 1893, by Pope Leo XIII.
Pope Pius XI, in 1927, Beatified the next 8 Abbots, being the Blesseds: Simeone, Falcone, Marino, Benincasa, Pietro II, Balsamo, Leonardo and Leo II.