November 10, 2021: ST. ANDREW AVELLINO
November 10, 2021: ST. ANDREW AVELLINO, CONFESSOR
The Lord loved him, and hath adorned him. He hath clothed him with a robe of glory.
O God, who didst dispose the heart of blessed Andrew, thy Confessor, by the difficult vow of every day advancing in virtue, to ascend by wonderful steps to thee: grant, by his merits and intercession, that we may be so far partakers of the same grace, as to make a continual progress towards perfection, and be happily brought to an eminent degree of glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
In the sixteenth century, in reply to the reproach of exhaustion hurled against the Church, the Holy Ghost raised from her soil an abundant harvest of sanctity. Andrew was one of his most worthy cooperators in the work of holy reformation and supernatural renaissance, which then took place. Eternal Wisdom had as usual suffered Satan to go before, for his own greater shame, cloaking his evil works under the grand names of renaissance and reform.
It was nine years since St. Cajetan had departed this world, leaving it strengthened by his labours and all embalmed with the fragrance of his virtues; the former Bishop of Theate, his companion and collaborator in founding the first Regular Clerks, was now governing the Church under the name of Paul IV; when in 1556 God bestowed upon the Theatines, in the person of our Saint, an heir to the supernatural gifts, the heroic sanctity, and the zeal for the sanctuary, that had characterized their father. Andrew was the friend and support of the great Bishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo, whose glory in heaven he went to share on this day. His pious writings are still used in the Church. He himself formed some admirable disciples, such as Laurence Scupoli, author of the well-known work so prized by the Bishop of Geneva, the Spiritual Combat.
Nothing need be added to the following history of his life.
Andrew Avellino, formerly called Lancelot, was born at Castro Nuovo in Lucania; and, while still an infant, gave evident signs of future holiness. He left his father's house to study the liberal arts; in the pursuit of which he passed so blamelessly through the slippery age of youth, as ever to keep before his eyes the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. Of a comely appearance, he was so great a lover of holy purity that he was able to escape snares laid for his chastity by shameless women, and even to repel open attacks. After being made a cleric, he went to Naples to study law, and there took his degree. Meanwhile he was promoted to the priesthood; after which he began to plead, but only in the ecclesiastical court and for private individuals, in accordance with the prescriptions of Canon Law. Once, however, when pleading a cause, a slight untruth escaped him; and happening soon after, in reading the Holy Scripture, to come upon these words: The mouth that belieth killeth the soul, he conceived so great a sorrow and repentance for his fault, that he determined at once to abandon that kind of life. He therefore left the bar, and devoted himself entirely to the divine service and the sacred ministry. As he was eminent in priestly virtues, the Archbishop of Naples confided to him the direction of certain nuns. In discharging this office he incurred the hatred of some evil men, who attempted his life. He escaped their first assault; but soon afterwards one of the assassins gave him three wounds in the face: an injury which he bore unmoved. Desirous of a more perfect life, he humbly begged to be admitted among the Regular Clerks; and on obtaining his request, he asked to be called by the name of Andrew, on account of his ardent love of the Cross.
He earnestly devoted himself to the stricter manner of life he had embraced, and to the practice of the virtues, going so far as to bind himself thereto by two most difficult vows, viz; never to do his own will, and ever to advance in Christian perfection. He had the greatest respect for religious discipline, and zealously promoted it when he was superior. Whatever time remained over after the discharge of his duties and the prescriptions of the rule, he devoted to prayer and the salvation of souls. He was noted for his piety and prudence in hearing Confessions. He frequently visited the towns and villages near Naples, exercising the apostolic ministry with profit to souls. Our Lord was pleased to show by miracles how great was this holy man's love of his neighbour. As he was once returning home late at night from hearing a sick man's confession, a violent storm of wind and rain put out the light that was carried before him; but neither he nor his companions were wet by the pouring rain; and moreover a wonderful light shining from his body enabled them to find their way through the darkness. His abstinence and patience were extraordinary, as also his humility and hatred of self. He bore the assassination of his nephew with unruffled tranquillity, withheld his family from seeking revenge, and even implored the judges to grant mercy and protection to the murderers.
He propagated the Order of the Regular Clerks in many places, and founded houses for them in Milan and Piacenza. The Cardinals Charles Borromeo and Paul of Arezzo a Regular Clerk, bore him great affection, and availed themselves of his assistance in the discharge of their pastoral office. The Virgin Mother of God he honoured with a very special love and worship. He was permitted to converse with the Angels; and affirmed that when saying the Divine Office, he heard them singing with him as if in Choir. At length, after giving heroic examples of virtue, and becoming illustrious for his gift of prophecy, whereby he knew the secrets of hearts, and distant and future events, he was worn out with old age and broken down with labours. As he was at the foot of the Altar about to say Mass, he thrice repeated the words: I will go in to the altar of God, and fell down struck with apoplexy. After being strengthened by the Sacraments of the Church, he peacefully expired in the midst of his brethren. His body was buried at Naples in the church of St. Paul, and is honoured even to this day by as great a concourse of people as attended the interment. Finally, as he had been illustrious for miracles both in life and after death, he was solemnly enrolled among the Saints by Pope Clement XI.
Another account of St. Andrew Avellino.
St. Andrew Avellino was a native of Castro Nuovo, a small town in the kingdom of Naples, and born in 1620. In his infancy he gave early tokens of the most happy dispositions to virtue. At school he had the fear of God always before his eyes, and dreaded the very shadow of the least sin. A beautiful complexion exposed his chastity to several snares and dangers, which he escaped by assiduous prayer, mortification, watchfulness over himself, and care in shunning all dangerous company. After mature deliberation he took the ecclesiastical tonsure, and was sent to Naples to study the civil and canon law. Being there promoted to the degree of doctor in laws, and to the dignity of the priesthood, he began to plead such causes in the ecclesiastical court as the canons allow clergymen to undertake. This employment, however, engrossed his thoughts, too much dissipated his mind, and insensibly weakened his affection for holy meditation and prayer. A fault into which he fell, opened his eyes, and made him see the precipice which lay before him. Once, in pleading a cause, in a matter, indeed, which was of no weight, a lie escaped him, for which, upon reading these words of holy soripture, “The mouth that lieth killeth the soul,” he was struck with so great remorse and deep compunction, that he resolved immediately to renounce his profession, and to give himself up entirely to a penitential life, and to the spiritual care of souls. This he did with so much ardour, that his whole conduct was a model of perfect virtue.
The archbishop judging no one more proper than Andrew to be the director of souls that were engaged by the obligations of their state in the career of evangelical perfection, committed to him the care of a certain nunnery in that city. The holy man's zeal for removing all obstacles to the recollection of those spouses of Christ, in which consists the very essence of their state and virtue, stirred up the malice and rage of certain wicked men in the city, whom he had forbid being ever admitted to the grate to speak to any of the nuns. He once narrowly escaped death, with which they threatened him, and another time received three wounds in his face. These injuries he bore with invincible meekness, being ready with joy to lay down his life for the spiritual interest of souls, and for the defence of justice and virtue. Out of an earnest desire of more readily attaining to a perfect disengagement of his heart from all earthly things, in 1556 he embraced, at Naples, the rule of the Regular Clerks, called Theatins, in whom flourished at that time, to the great edification of the whole city, the religious spirit and fervour which they had inherited of St. Cajetan, who died there in the convent of St. Paul, in 1547. Our saint, out of the love he bore to the cross, on this occasion changed his name of Lancelot into that of Andrew. By the humiliations and persecutions which he had met with even amongst his dearest friends (which trials are always the most severe to flesh and blood), he learned what incomparable sweetness and spiritual advantages are found in suffering with patience and joy, and in studying in that state to conform ourselves to the holy spirit and sentiments of Christ crucified for us. Nor can it be conceived what improvement a soul makes by this means in experimental perfect meekness, in patience, humility, and the crucifixion of self-love, and all her passions, by which Christ (or his Spirit) begins to live in her, and to establish the reign of his pure love in all her affections. Of this St. Andrew was an example. To bind himself the more strictly to the most fervent pursuit of perfect virtue in all his actions, he made two private vows which only an extraordinary impulse of fervour could suggest, or, even according to the necessary rules of Christian prudence, make allowable or lawful, for fear of sacrilegious transgressions, or scrupulous anxious fears. The first was, perpetually to fight against his own will; the second, always to advance to the utmost of his power in Christian perfection. Wonderful were his abstinence and exterior mortifications, and the indifference with which he treated his body; but much more his love of abjection and hatred of himself, that is, of his flesh and his own will. He bore without the least disturbance of mind the barbarous murder of his nephew; and, not content to withdraw all his friends from prosecuting the assassin, became himself an earnest supplicant to the judges for his pardon. His exactitude in the observance of regular discipline in every point, and his care to promote the same in others, especially whilst he was superior in his Order, were equal to the ardour of his zeal for the divine honour in all things. All the hours that were free from exterior employments of duty or charity, were by him devoted to prayer and contemplation; and these were the source of his interior eminent spirit of piety and charity, by which his labours in the conversion and direction of innumerable souls were miraculously successful. By the eminent sanctity of many of both religious and secular persons who had the happiness to be his penitents, it appeared visible that saints possess the art of forming saints.
Cardinal Paul Aresi, Bishop of Tortona, the author of many works of piety and ecclesiastical learning, and the Mecӕnas of his age, had a particular esteem for our saint, and often made use of his advice and assistance in his most important affairs. St. Charles Borromeo did the same, and obtained of him some religious men formed by his hand, and animated with his spirit, for the foundation of a convent of his Order at Milan. He had, soon after he was made archbishop, pitched upon the Theatins, whom St. Andrew had formed to a perfect ecclesiastic spirit, to set before the eyes of his clergy a model and living example from which they might learn the apostolic spirit of the most perfect disengagement from the world. Our saint founded new convents of his Order at Placentia, and in some other places; and was honoured by God with the gifts of prophecy and miracles. After having given the world an example of the most heroic virtues, being broken with labours and old age, he was seized with an apoplexy at the altar as he was beginning mass, at those words, Introibi ad altare Dei, which he repeated thrice, and was not able to proceed. He was prepared for his passage by the holy sacraments, and calmly resigned his soul into the hands of his Creator, on the 10th of November, 1608. His body is kept with honour in the church of his convent of St. Paul, at Naples; and he was canonized by Clement XI.
This saint was a fit instrument of the Holy Ghost in directing others in the paths of perfect virtue, because dead to himself, and a man of prayer. He never spoke of himself, never thought of his own actions, except of his weaknesses, which he had always before his eyes in the most profound sense of his own nothingness, baseness, total insufficiency, and weakness. Those who talk often of themselves, discover that they are deeply infected with the disease of the devil, which is pride, or with the poison of vanity, its eldest daughter. They have no other reward to expect but what they now receive—the empty breath of sinners. Even this incense is only affected hypocrisy. For men, by that base passion which they betray, become justly contemptible and odious to those very persons whose vain applause they seem to court. St. Teresa advises all persons to shun such directors, as pernicious to souls, both by the contagion of self-conceit and vain-glory which they spread, and by banishing the Holy Ghost with his light and blessing; for nothing is more contrary to him than a spirit of vanity and pride. The most perfect disinterestedness, contempt of the world, self-denial, obedience and charity, are no less essential ingredients of a Christian, and especially an ecclesiastical spirit, than meekness and humility. The vows of regular canons, and their strictest rules, only point out what are the duties, and what ought essentially to be the spirit of every clergyman by the obligation of his state, without the tie of particular vows, as the example of Christ and his apostle shows.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Andrew Avellino, pray for us.