Saint of the Day – 16 April – Blessed Joachim Piccolomini of Siena OSM (1258–1305) Lay brother Friar of the Tertiaries of the Order of the Servants of Mary (the Servites), Apostle of charity of the sick, devotee of the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin. Born in 1258 at Siena, Italy and died on Good Friday, 16 April 1306 at Siena, Italy of natural causes. Patronage – against epilepsy. Additional Memorial – 4 February (Servites). Also known as – Gioacchino Piccolomini, Joachim of Siena.
Joachim Piccolomini was born into a ancient and noble family of Siena, Italy. A pious youth, he was especially noted for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His greatest childhood pleasure was to pray the Ave Maria before an image of the Blessed Lady of Sorrows. He was also known from an early age to exhibit extreme sensitivity to the plight of the poor. He gave them his own clothes and spent his pocket money on almsgiving. One day when Joachim urged his father to increase his aid to the distressed, his father argued that prudence ought to moderate his liberality. Otherwise, he would reduce his whole family to poverty. Joachim is said to have replied, “You have taught me that an alms is given to Jesus Christ, in the persons of the poor. Can we refuse Him anything? And what is the advantage of riches but that they be employed in purchasing treasures in heaven?” Hearing these sentiments, his father wept for joy.
Joachim joined the Servites as a lay-brother at the age of fourteen, becoming a spiritual student of Saint Philip Benizi, one of the seven Holy Founders. By all reports, he was a perfect model of virtue; it was not unusual to find him at midnight, praying, while the rest of the house slept and on Saturdays, Joachim abstained from all food in honour of the Seven Dolours of the Virgin. His fervour grew, yet instilled in him an extraordinary humility. Joachim was urged by his brothers to study and be ordained a Priest but he felt he was unworthy, and wanted nothing grander than to be an Altar Server. It would appear that his whole life was an attempt to hide himself from the eyes of others and live in obscurity. In fact, he had become so well-respected and widely known for his sanctity that he requested that he be transferred to Arezzo. The move aroused such a stir of complaints in Siena that he was ordered to return.
According to the legend Joachim reportedly died when he was unable to console an epileptic with words, so he begged God that he might take the illness upon himself. He died of epilepsy in 1305.
One account of Joachim’s hagiography has the Blessed Virgin appearing to him at important times in his life, such as in his adolescence, when she urged him to join the Servites. The second time, she appeared with two crowns in her hands; one of rubies to reward him for his compassion in her sorrows and the other of pearls, in recompense for his virginity, which he had vowed in her honour.
Shortly before his death, the account continues, she once more appeared. Joachim begged her that he would die on the same day on which Jesus Christ had died. The Virgin immediately gratified him, saying, “It is well, prepare thyself; for tomorrow, Good Friday, thou shalt die suddenly as thou desirest—tomorrow thou shalt be with me in heaven.” So, during the singing of the Passion according to Saint John, at the words “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother” (John 19:25), Joachim fell into his last struggles of death and at the words “He bowed down his head and expired” (John 19:30), Joachim died. The whole Church was filled with an extraordinary light and a sweet-smelling perfume.
Blessed Joachim Piccolomini was Beatified by Pope Paul V on 21 March 1609. He is commonly depicted as a Servite holding a book and a flower and is venerated especially in Arezzo and Siena.
A little note of interest concerning the family of our saint – the Church has elected 2 Piccolomini Popes Pius II and Pius III and another relative of Siena, is also a Blessed – Ascanio Piccolomini (1628-1671).