Saint of the Day – 11 May – Blessed Gregory Celli of Verucchio OSA (C 1225-1343) Priest of the Augustinian Order, renowned Preacher, Contemplative, Hermit – born in c 1225 at Verucchio, Diocese of Rimini, Italy and died in 1343 at Franciscan monastery at Monte Carnerio, Rieti, Italy. Patronage – against drought.
Gregorio Celli was born in Rimini. His father died in his childhood. He was baptised in the church of Saint Martin in Verucchio.
Each evening his mother would set off for the local church to find her son there who remained entranced with the Gregorian Chant. His mother’s relations – despite being devout – feared that Celli would not follow in his father’s footsteps to become a doctor of law but rather that he would consider the religious life. And, at the age of fifteen, in 1240, he confirmed their dread and joined a Monastery in that place, of the Augustinian Rule. He belonged to the “Hermits of Blessed John the Good” (often called the “Giamboniti”).
He travelled to the convent on a mule, for admission to commence his period of novitiate and in 1242 he had become a well-noted and regarded figure for his penances and strict adherence to the rule of Saint Augustine. He made his solemn profession into the hands of the order’s superior Matteo de Modena. It was Brother Matteo who later selected Celli to preach and hear confessions in the region despite the latter not being yet Ordained Priest – though he was soon Ordained as such, at the successful conclusion of his ecclesiastical studies. It was during this period that he preached against the heresies of Catharism and he even met the famous heretic Armanno Pungilupo.
In 1256 he witnessed the Grand Union of the order. (In 1256 these various autonomous monasteries, following the Rule of St Augustine, were banded together by the Church to form the Augustinian Order.)
In 1300 he set off for Rome to participate in the Jubilee that Pope Boniface VIII called for and he visited each of the tombs of the Apostles. In 1300 he decided to withdraw from the active life of the Apostolate he had served for decades, in favour of a more contemplative existenc, somewhere in the hills surrounding the region he lived in. He confided this to Agostino Novello – the general of the order – and the general embraced and encouraged him. He lived in a cave where he spent the remainder of his life in reflection and fasting.
He died in mid-1343. His remains are now interred in the church of Saint Augustine in Verucchio. He is said to have lived until 1343, which would mean that he was 118 years old at the time of his death. His remains are preserved in Verucchio.
Citizens in Rimini requested on numerous occasions that a Beatification process be opened and it was believed that Pope Innocent VI drew up a decree for the actual Beatification itself in 1357, however, this was not confirmed. People in Rimini again began pushing for Fr Gregory’s Beatification in 1757. The Beatification was later approved on 6 September 1769 after Pope Clement XIV issued a formal decree, which acknowledged a spontaneous and enduring local ‘cultus’ – otherwise known as popular veneration – to the late Fr Gregory. He was Beatified on 6 September 1769, at Saint Peter’s Basilica by Pope Clement XIV (cultus confirmed).
Blessed Gregory was an authentic witness to the life of the gospel, spending the great part of his life in rigorous asceticism, penance and contemplation
God our Father,
You alone are holy.
You gave to Blessed Gregory Celli
the grace to witness to Your love
in holy penance and contemplation.
Trusting in his prayers
we ask You to help us to become
the holy people You call us to be.
Never let us be found undeserving
of the glory You have prepared for us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Your Son, who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.