Saint of the Day – 30 October – St Angelo of Acri OFM Cap – Priest of the Franciscan Capuchins, Confessor, Preacher, Missionary, Evangeliser, Miracle-Worker, Apostle of Charity and Mercy to the sick, Mystic with the gifts of prophecy, bi-location, visions and the ability to see into men’s souls in Confession. St Angelo was born on 19 October 1669 at Acri, Cosenza, Italy and died on 30 October 1739 at the friary of Acri, Consenza, Italy.
Luca Antonio Falcone was born in Acri, then a small town at the foot of the Sila mountainous plateau, in the heart of the of the old Casalicchio neighborhood, to a family of humble means. Of this, he was always proud and in later years would recall in his conversations with the nobility, that he was the son of a baker and a goatherd. ,,He was baptised in the church of St Nicholas the day after he was born.
Having learned to read and write from a neighbour who had opened a sort of elementary school, he was also taught the fundamentals of Christian doctrine by frequenting the parish of St Nicholas and the friary church of the Capuchins, St Mary of the Angels. As he grew up, an uncle who was a priest, his mother’s brother Fr Domenico Errico, put him to study in the hope of making of him a learned and cultivated person, able to be of assistance to his mother, who had been widowed at a young age.
As he turned twenty, after a brief experience of the eremitical life, Luca Antonio turned to consecrate himself among the Capuchins, casting aside all doubts in 1689 after hearing the charismatic preaching of the Capuchin Antonio of Olivadi. But the young man soon faced a sort of obstacle course; twice he put aside the religious habit and left the novitiate, discouraged by the austerity of Capuchin life and giving into how much he missed his mother, whom he had left in tears. But on the third time, on 12 November 1690, Luca Antonio began the novitiate in the friary of Belvedere Marittimo with the name Angelo of Acri.
This time too, the second thoughts and temptations were not lacking but during the reading of the heroic deeds of Br Bernard of Corleone († 1667), whose cause for beatification was taking place at the time, Br Angelo lifted up a deep prayer to the Lord, asking for help in his struggle. It is said that the young novice was encouraged by the Lord, who showed him that he should follow in the footsteps of Br Bernard, behaving just as he did. It was the awaited sign.
Making profession of vows on 12 November 1691, Br Angelo set himself on the way of evangelical perfection, preparing himself also for priestly ordination, which he received in the cathedral of Cassano all’Ionio at Easter, 10 April 1700. He was then called by obedience to prepare himself to be a preacher. From 1702 until his death in 1739, he travelled tirelessly through all of Calabria and much of central Italy preaching Lenten sermons, retreats and popular missions.
The beginning of his preaching ministry was not very glorious – his debut in the pulpit of San Giorgio Albanese, near Corigliano Calabro, was a real failure. For three consecutive evenings he was unable to remember the text which he had studiously committed to memory and, finding himself unable to continue to preach in some other way, could only go away in disappointment.
In tears before the crucifix in his cell, Br Angelo took stock of his failure and reached an irrevocable decision: from then on he would preach, “Christ crucified and naked, far from esoteric rhetoric and also from the uneasiness of the Tuscan language but only in his native dialect,” repeating “step by step” what the Holy Spirit would suggest to him, as his heart was thus inflamed with zeal and spiritual unction. And in this he was a success!
Aware, however, that the preacher who does not also hear confessions is like a sower who does not think of the harvest, Angelo of Acri spent many hours in the confessional, never tiring of listening and of treating sinners with mercy. He was convinced that the most difficult situations could be resolved with charity and that mercy was the easiest way to lead back to God the sinners that divine love had drawn to kneel at his confessional. But he didn’t just wait for them; many times the love of God pushed him to seek out sinners in need of reconciliation, just as he was also solicitous for the sick who asked for his spiritual assistance.
Angelo’s love for the poor and those who suffered injustice moved him many times to call the Sanseverino family, for centuries the great nobles of Acri, to listen to the justified claims of the people such that their basic rights would be respected. He had at heart the salvation of the whole person, of both the spiritually and materially poor, of those denied their dignity and those who distanced themselves from God.
He never left the place where he had preached the mercy of God and reconciled sinners without leaving some concrete signs: an image of Calvary and a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows as tangible reminders of the Love of God that suffers and offers itself that humanity might have Life.
Angelo also had roles of authority in the Order and as Provincial Minister he did not fail to recall the friars to an authentic Capuchin life, offering them five precious gems: austerity, simplicity, the exact observance of the Constitutions and the Rule, innocence of life and boundless charity.
At the age of seventy, Angelo died in the friary of Acri, offering his life that God would lavish on the city and on all of Calabria, the greatest of gifts, those of peace and well-being for all.
He was Beatified on 18 December 1825 by Pope Leo XII and Canonised on 15 October 2017 by Pope Francis. His body is incorrupt and is enshrined in in the Basilica dedicated to him in Acri. His face is covered by a wax mask.