Saint of the Day – 26 November – Saint Sylvester Gozzolini OSB Silv. (1177– 1267) Priest, Abbot, Founder of the Silvestrini Congration, Mystic, gifted with the charism of prophecy and miracles, but also subject to violent attacks by the devil. Born in 1177 in Osimo, Marche, Italy and died on 26 November 1267 at Monte Fano, Fabriano, Italy of natural causes aged 90. Also known as – Silvestro, Sylvester of Osimo.
Sylvester was born of a noble family at Osimo in the Marches of Ancona and in his boyhood was remarkable for his love of study and his good conduct. As a youth, he was sent by his father to Bologna to study jurisprudence but was admonished by God to devote himself to sacred learning. Thus he abandoned the study of law for that of theology and Holy Scripture, giving long hours daily to prayer. This incited his father to anger, which Sylvester patiently endured when his father would not speak to him for ten years. On account of his remarkable virtue, the Canons of Osimo elected him an honorary member of their chapter, in which position he benefited the people by his prayers, his example and his sermons.
While assisting at the funeral of a nobleman, his relative, who had been unusually handsome, he looked into the open coffin and seeing the corpse all deformed, said to himself: “What this man was, I am now; what he is now, I shall be hereafter.“ As soon as the funeral was over, reading these words of our Lord: “If any one will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” he retired into solitude in order to attain greater perfection.
There he gave himself up to watching, prayer and fasting, often eating nothing but raw herbs. The better to conceal himself from men he frequently changed his place of abode;and at length settled at Monte Fano, which, though near to Fabriano, was at that time, a desert. There he built a Church in honour of the most holy father St Benedict and founded the Congregation of Sylvestrians, under the Rule and Habit shown him by St.Benedict in vision.
Satan, roused to envy, strove in many ways to terrify his Monks, making assaults by night at the Monastery gates. But the man of God repressed the enemy’s attacks with such vigour, that the Monks, recognising their father’s sanctity, were more and more confirmed in their holy purpose.
Sylvester was remarkable for the spirit of prophecy and other gifts, which he guarded by deep humility. This so stirred up the devil’s envy that he cast the saint headlong down the oratory stairs and well nigh killed him but the blessed Virgin at once graciously restored him to health. In gratitude for this benefit, Sylvester showed her the tenderest unfailing piety to the end of his life.
In 1247 he obtained from Pope Innocent IV, at Lyons, a Bull confirming his Order and before his death, founded a number of Monasteries.
He died at the age of ninety years, renowned for sanctity and miracles in1267. He was Beatified in1269 by Pope Clement IV who also added him to the Martyrology) and Canonised in 1598 by Pope Clement VIII. His body was disinterred and placed in a Shrine (1275-85) and is still honoured in the Church of Monte Fano. In 1890, the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII, extended his Office and Mass to the universal Church, with the rank of Double (third-class feast in the 1960 reform of Pope John XXIII), therefore, reducing today’s memorial to the status of a commemoration, as well as that of Saint Peter of Alexandria, who shares today as his Feast. In 1970, both these were removed altogether and relegated to the local calendars. These wonderful Saints were packed away in dark storage where no-one ever venerates or prays to them for their holy intercession.., but you and I will pray the Collect below and remember .him ..
May the intercession, O Lord,
of blessed Sylvester, the Abbot,
recommend us to Thee;
that what we cannot hope for
through any merits of our own,
we may obtain by his prayers.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Thy Son, Who lives and reigns with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
God, world without end.