St. Ignatius of Laconi
The saint of the day is St. Ignatius of Laconi, OFMCap.
The second of nine children born to Matthew Peis and Anna Maria Sanna first saw the light of day on December 18, 1701. In baptism, he received the name Francis Ignatius Vincent, but was known as Vincent. The family was economically poor, cultivating a small plot of land in the village of Laconi on the island of Sardinia. Difficulties had marked Anna Maria’s pregnancy with Vincent which prompted her to dedicate the unborn child to Francis of Assisi, promising that, in return for a safe delivery, the child would enter the Franciscan Order. The Peis family provided for the religious education of Vincent who received the sacraments of confirmation and eucharist on May 17, 1707. Vincent loved to go to church which he called “my home.” Noticing the youngster’s prayerful attitude, people called him “the little saint.”
Vincent felt drawn to the contemplative life and would openly speak of his vocation to become a Franciscan. However, his father would not permit him to pursue religious life because the survival of the family depended on Vincent’s help. During adolescence, Vincent fell seriously ill. He promised that, if he recovered, he would become a Capuchin. Despite Vincent’s recovery, Matthew continued to oppose his son’s resolve. Toward the end of 1712, Vincent confronted his parents with the vow he had made to enter the Capuchins, and their resistance vanished. On November 2, 1721, the 20-year-old Vincent, together with his father, traveled to Cagliari. At St. Anthony Friary, situated on the hill called Buoncammino, Vincent made his request to Francis Mary of Cagliari, the Capuchin provincial minister. The minister’s response was a quick, cold “no.” The provincial judged that Vincent’s frail constitution was too much of an obstacle for living the austere, rigorous life of a Capuchin. The family had recourse to the Marquis of Laconi, Don Gabriel Aymerich, protector of the Peis family, asking that he intervene on Vincent’s behalf. On the following day, the marquis and the provincial minister met and decided to allow Vincent to enter the Capuchins.
On November 10, 1722, at the isolated novitiate of St. Benedict the Abbot, Vincent laid aside the traditional Laconese costume, was invested with the Capuchin habit, and given the name, Ignatius. Louis of Nureci was his novice director. Firmly founded in the tradition of unquestioning obedience and humble service, Ignatius professed vows a year later, after which, he ministered as cook and fuller. For the last 40 years of his life, he served as questor for the friary of Buoncammino.
Ignatius was illiterate, his grammar poor and his dialect rough. Still, everyone welcomed him because they recognized his holiness. He always set out on his quest with rosary in hand and eyes cast down. There was hardly a house in Cagliari, especially in the poorer district of Stampace, that hadn’t welcomed the brother. People would give alms to Ignatius more out of personal devotion to him than out of charity. Despite their own need, even the poor would offer some gift. Ignatius would courteously refuse their offering, telling them, “Take this offering for yourselves right now; give it to me sometime in the future when I ask you for it.” Despite being held in high esteem by others and being referred to as the “holy friar,” Ignatius was very self-effacing. Conscious of his own human weakness and the shortcomings of his natural temperament, Ignatius focused on his need of God’s pardon and mercy. He never sought personal prestige or recognition. His words, though unpolished, always reflected a faith perspective. To those who came to him for comfort, he would advise, “Trust God.” In numerous instances, God’s healing power was channeled through this “apostle of the streets.”
Ignatius had a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary. Once, while assigned as cook at Iglesias, as he was drawing water from the well the keys to the friary storeroom fell into the well. Ignatius knelt down and devoutly recited three “Hail Mary’s”. When he retrieved the bucket, the keys were found inside. Although blind for the last two years of his life, Ignatius was still actively engaged in ministry until just a few months before his death. Ignatius died on May 11, 1781 at the friars’ infirmary at Buoncammino. He was buried in a separate vault next to the chapel of Our Lady of the Angels at the Buoncammino friary. His tombstone reads: “cum sanctitatis acclamatione.” Due to a number of factors: the political events affecting the island‹especially the French Revolution and the suppression of religious orders‹and the conflicting interests of some of the Capuchin superiors of Cagliari, the cause for beatification was not begun until July 16, 1844. It was Pius XII who beatified Ignatius on June 16,1940 and canonized him on October 21, 1951.