Saint of the Day – 10 November – St Andrew Avellino CR (1521– 1608) Confessor, Theatine Priest, Canon and Civil Lawyer, Reformer, Founder of many new Theatine houses, Preacher, Spiritual Advisor, Miracle-worker.
Saint Andrew Avellino, Confessor
By Fr Francis Xavier Weninger SJ (1805-1888)
St Andrew Avellino was born at Castro Nuovo, in the kingdom of Naples. To fear God and to avoid sin, were the maxims which his mother, from early childhood, implanted deep into his heart and which became the rule of his entire life. While he studied at Senise, a lady sought to attract him by several presents which she sent him but the chaste youth, accepted not her gifts,and sent her word, saying that she should trouble him no more and might rest assured that he would rather die than consent to any evil. On another occasion when he was enticed to sin, he fled like the chaste Joseph. To escape similar temptations, he determined to become a Priest and was Ordained after he had finished his studies.
For some time he devoted himself to the practice of Canon Law in the eEclesiastical Courts until one day, in the heat of his argument, a trivial lie escaped him. Soon after, while reading the Holy Scriptures, the words, “The mouth that lieth, killeth the soul,” came under his eyes and his repentance was such that, from that moment, he renounced his profession in order to escape from the danger of offending God and gave himself entirely, to the Sacred ministry. By associating frequently with the religious of the Theatine Order, he conceived the desire of joining their number, which he did in 1556. It was on this occasion that he took the name of Andrew, in honour of the holy Apostle of that name, after whose example he desired to suffer much for the glory of God.
His eminent virtues induced his superiors to make him Master of Novices, although he had been only five years in the Order,and afterwards, to charge him with the administration of several houses. He attended to all his duties to the greatest benefit of those under him. Besides the usual vows, he imposed upon himself two more. The first of these was to work continually against his own inclinations; the second, to make continual progress in perfection. The fervent love he bore to God and men, induced him to employ all his leisure moments in prayer and in labouring for the salvation of souls. Before entering into religion, he had been accustomed to give six hours daily to prayer but as he could not, as a religious, spare so much time during the day, he took a part of the night for this sacred duty.
He benefitted mankind much, by preaching and hearing Confessions. He reformed many a hardened sinner, restrained others from falling again, reconciled embittered minds and led numberless souls to Heaven.
God manifested more than once, by miracles, how agreeable the endeavours of the Saint were to Him. One night as he returned home, with his companion, from the house of a sick man whose Confession he had heard, a violent storm extinguished the light that was carried before them but then, such a brightness emanated from the Saint’s body that the way was made clear through the darkness, whilst, at the same time, neither he, nor his companion, was touched by the rain. Many similar events, as also the frequent visions of Saints, the gifts of prophecy and of reading the hearts of men but above all, the many examples of heroic virtue which he gave to others, won for St Andrew, the highest regard. St Charles Borromeo, the holy Cardinal, esteemed him greatly and made use of his zeal on many occasions.
Notwithstanding this, the holy man had so low an opinion of himself that he regarded as nothing his great and arduous labours to further the honour of God and the salvation of souls; looked upon himself as a great sinner,and frequently evinced great fear in regard to his salvation. “If they,” said he, “must regard themselves as useless servants, who have done all their duty, what must I do, who have done so small a part of what I ought to have done?” Sometimes he would look up to Heaven and sigh: “Will that magnificent mansion of the blessed spirits allow the entrance of one so miserable, despicable and sinful as I am?”
From this fear, however, he was afterwards freed by a comforting vision. St Augustine and St Thomas of Aquin, both of whom he honoured as Patrons, appeared to him, consoled him and promised him their aid, especially in that hour, on which eternity depends. Andrew, taking heart, asked them whether he would enjoy eternal life? The answer was as follows: “The time of thy salvation has not come yet. But as in life, everything is doubtful and uncertain, follow our advice – struggle, with the greatest perseverance, on the battle-field of virtue, as thou hast done till now and thus, thou wilt gather a treasure of merit and God will not close to thee, the gates of Heaven.” With these words, the Saint consoled himself,and not only continued his zeal in the practice of virtue but increased it daily.
During the last 18 years of his life, he allowed himself neither meat, nor eggs, nor fish – his nourishment consisted of beans only, of which he had always enough cooked to last him three days. When advised to change his diet, on account of his advanced age, he said: “Although, at the age of 83 years, I am excused from the law of fasting, I find, when thinking of my sins and my indolence in the service of the Most High that I am obliged to fast and to observe other austerities, in order to appease the wrath of God.” Thus spoke he, who had ever preserved his first innocence. His bed was a sack of straw on two boards. He daily scourged himself to blood. Not content with all this, he daily begged the Almighty to send him something to suffer.
The greatest wrongs he bore with invincible meekness; in persecutions and trials, he evinced heroic patience and he met his enemies with truly Christian gentleness. This was especially experienced by the man who had cruelly murdered the son of the Saint’s brother. The holy man exhorted his brother neither to seek, nor demand vengeance. He knew the murderer but revealed him not and when the wretch was at last discovered and arraigned, before the judges, Andrew implored mercy and pardon for him.
Our Saint’s devotion to the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, was the cause of his earnest desire to suffer more and more. He was often heard to say: “Ah ! what is all that I do and suffer compared with what my Jesus did and suffered for my sake? O, that I might, for His honour, be torn with scourges and pierced with nails and expire on the Cross for Him!”
Not less deep was his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and at the time of Holy Mass, his whole countenance glowed with divine love. To the very last day of his life, although he was almost entirely exhausted, he insisted on saying Mass but he had hardly begun the Psalm at the foot of the Altar, when he was struck with paralysis. He was then carried to his room, where the last Sacraments were administered to him. Having received them, he blessed all those who were present and peace and happiness shone from his countenance. After this, he turned his eyes upon an image of the Blessed Virgin,whom, during all his life he had greatly loved and honoured and expired in the 88th year of his life. His face beamed after his death with a truly divine radiance and God proclaimed the glory which the Saint enjoyed in Heaven, by many and great miracles. St Andrew Avellino, Pray for us! Amen.