Saint Ignatius of Laconi
May 11th is the feast of St. Ignatius of Laconi (1701 – 1781), an Italian Capuchin monk.
Born on December 18, 1701 the second of seven children, to a poor Italian farming family, he received the name Francis Ignatius Vincent after St. Francis of Assisi, who had interceded for his safe delivery at birth. In turn, his mother promised the saint that she would name her unborn baby Francis and that he would join the Capuchins as an adult.
Vincent was a pious child and loved to go to church which he called “my home.” Noticing the youngster’s prayerful attitude, people called him “the little saint.” He was also a hard worker on the farm. He desired to join the Capuchins as a teenager, but his father would not allow him to because the family depended on his labor to survive.
During adolescence, Vincent fell seriously ill. He promised that, if he recovered, he would become a Capuchin. Despite his recovery, his father continued to oppose his call to the religious life. At age 20, he was nearly killed when he lost control of his horse. Following the accident, Vincent confronted his parents with the vow he had made to enter the Capuchins, and all resistance vanished.
In November 1721, the 20-year-old Vincent entered the Capuchins and the following year was invested with the Capuchin habit, and given the name, Ignatius. He professed vows a year later, after which, he served as cook and fuller. The next forty years, he served as part of a team who went house to house asking food and donations for the friars. He was assigned to this task due to his great charity and humility. In addition to begging, Ignatius would also instruct children, visit the sick and urge sinners to repent.
Ignatius was illiterate, his grammar poor and his dialect rough. Yet everyone welcomed and respected him because they recognized his holiness. He always set out on his quest with rosary in hand and eyes cast down. People would give him alms more out of personal devotion to him rather than out of charity. Despite their own need, even the poor would offer some gift, which Ignatius tactfully refused.
Despite being referred to as the “holy friar,” Ignatius was very self-effacing. Conscious of his own human weaknesses and shortcomings, he 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.”
On May 11, 1781, Ignatius died 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. Pope Pius XII beatified Ignatius on June 16,1940 and canonized him on October 21, 1951.
Lord God, you led Saint Ignatius along the way of humility, innocence, and fraternal charity to the heights of sanctity. Help us to imitate his virtues and to practice charity on earth with word and deed. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.