Saint of the Day – 19 April – Blessed Conrad of Ascoli OFM (1234-1289) Franciscan Friar Missionary, Evangeliser, Penitent, zealous Preacher, Cardinal-elect. Blessed Conrad had a great devotion to the Most Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Born in 1234 in Ascoli, Italy and died on 19 April 1289 as in Ascoli of natural causes aged 55.
At Ascoli in the district of Ancona, Conrad was born of the noble Migliano family in the year 1234. It was marvellous how the small child practised mortifications and self-denial in all things as saints would do. It is recorded, that even as an infant he took his mother’s milk only once on fast days. It was discovered that even as a small boy he possessed the gift of prophecy. Sometimes, for instance, he would go on his knees before a companion named Jerome and he always tendered him great respect. When he was asked for the reason, he said: “I have seen the keys of heaven in his hands.” Jerome later became a Pope, known to us as Nicholas IV.
The two companions formed an intimate friendship. They vied with each other in their application to study but still more, in the practice of virtue. Together with Girolamo (Jerome) Masci, he became a Franciscan Friar in the Convent of Ascoli. United by a close friendship, Corrado and Girolamo devoted themselves with ardour to the piety and austerity of the Franciscan life, following the narrow path of Christian perfection.
From Ascoli they were both sent to Assisi and then to Perugia to complete their studies. They earned the title of “readers” of sacred knowledge and then from Perugia to Rome, where they taught theology and fruitfully preached the Word of God to the people.
Wisdom and humility, austerity of life and zeal for the salvation of souls are the personality traits of the young Corrado. A very humble man, he shunned any reason for personal prestige by living as a true friar minor.
From his friend Girolamo, who became General of the Franciscan Order, he obtained permission to leave for Africa to announce the Word of salvation.
At the cost of great efforts and pilgrimages he evangelised Libya and Cyrenaica. In preaching, he always adapted, with due discernment, his speeches to the intelligence of his listeners. God blessed the simplicity of the religious scholar. His word went straight to the hearts of the listeners.
The privileged object of his proclamation was the adorable mystery of the Most Holy Trinity: it drew everyone to worship God. He accompanied the proclamation of the Word with a harsh and penitent lifestyle. He was strict with himself and indulgent with others. He tenderly loved the Mother of the Lord and the memory and meditation of the Lord Jesus, Crucified love, never fell from his mind.
Pope Nicholas III sent Fra Girolamo Masci as legate to the King of France to induce him to more peaceful sentiments, he wanted Brother Corrado as his companion who, reluctantly, had to leave Africa. When Fra Girolamo saw this close friend arrive in Paris covered in a very poor dress and barefoot, moved by compassion and veneration, he exclaimed “This man is more than Jonah!”.
Once the peace between France and Spain was restored, the two friars returned to Rome, where, in 1278, Fra Girolamo was awarded the dignity of Cardinal. Conrad, after two years of preaching and residing in Rome, was sent to Paris to teach theology, proving himself to be an eminent teacher.
In 1288 Girolamo Masci ascended the Papal throne with the name of Nicholas IV; he called Brother Conrad to him to avail himself of his enlightened advice. To the rumours of his imminent Cardinalate that spread in the Parisian environment, he replied, in his farewell address, exhorting everyone to love above all the Christian virtue of humility and concealment.
Exhausted by the long and uncomfortable journey, he died in Ascoli on 19 April 1289. Nicholas IV deeply mourned and, confirming the intention he had had, to make him a Cardinal, ordered a solemn mausoleum to be erected on his tomb. His remains, buried in the primitive convent, were then transferred in May 1371 to the Church of San Francesco.
Among the Christian virtues practised by Blessed Corrado, a characteristic was that of penance. He wore a very crude habit, walked barefoot, rested for only a few hours on a hard table, fasted on bread and water four days a week.
He had placed the Holy Trinity at the soul of his apostolate, thanks to which, he obtained miracles of all kinds.
Credited legends had flourished, while he was still alive, around his holiness. The popular cult, attributed to him from time immemorial in the Marche and in the various Families of the Minoritic Order, was approved by Pope Pius VI on 30 August 1783.