Today, 11 May 2012, is the feast day of St Ignatius of Laconi, an 18th century Capuchin Franciscan friar who lived in Sardinia. Due to a difficult pregnancy while he was still in the womb his mother dedicated him to St Francis of Assisi. Eventually this little one entered the Capuchins and edified everyone with his humble holiness.
St Ignatius of Laconi was born in 1701 as Vincent Peis into a loving, faithful but very poor family. Growing up, Vincent never enjoyed good health and these times of solitude and sickness led him deeper and deeper into prayer. During a serious bout of illness Vincent promised God that he would become a Franciscan if he was healed. Healed he was, but his father depended upon his labour to keep food on the family’s table, so Vincent wasn’t permitted to leave. Later on, Vincent recalled the promise he had made to God when he was spared from death after a horse bolted, and delayed no longer. Some convincing was needed to get Vincent – now aged 20 – accepted into the Capuchins because of his frail health.
The friary at Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, received him, and when the time came for him to receive a name in Religion, they gave him the name Ignatius. Without much education, Ignatius became a lay brother of the Order, and set out to keep the Rule as perfectly as possible. Those who worked with him in the various menial tasks of the friary soon came to appreciate the holiness growing and glowing within him. For many of these early years of religious life Ingatius worked in the weaving shed, one of those places which appreciates order, patience and attendtion to detail.
In 1741, now aged around 40, Ignatius began the ministry for which he is now famous. Whenever a Franciscan friary could not support itself from its own labour, they would send out members to seek alms from the locals. Ignatius now became one of these questors. With his Rosary beads in one hand and his eyes downcast, Ignatius would walk the local streets and docks questing for alms. As he did his rounds Ignatius loved to speak to the people he came in contact with about God, about Our Lady and about the Passion of Jesus.
When poor children came up to him, he welcomed them warmly, shared some bread with them and helped them to learn the catechism. Sometimes he was insulted on his way, but this did not disturb him because he knew his faults. Because his heart was so close to God’s, Ignatius had a kindly knack of consoling people, giving advice, converting sinners and helpng people reconcile their differences. Ingatius proved to be a good listener, so people readily confided their troubles to him. He encouraged them to trust in God and then he spent long hours of prayer in the chapel praying for all those he had encountered. In time people began to notice that after they had been with brother Ignatius that their troubles eased. Around 121 pages of miracles are attributed to him during his lifetime and 86 miracles after his death.
Ignatius lived with his eyes and heart fixed on the goal of Heaven, and gave good example to others through his obedience to the Rule and to the superiors, his mortification (he knew how to make sacrifices within the Rule for the conversion of sinners), his love for poverty and his thirst for prayer. One of the hardest things he had to do under obedience was to go to a wealthy man (whom he had previously avoided) and to seek alms from him. Ignatius knew that this money resulted from the man’s oppression of the poor. When he arrived back at the friary God permitted that instead of coins, blood flowed out of the begging sack because it was money obtained through the blood and tears of the poor. Now that the friars realised why Ignatius ignored that place, they joined together to pray for the wealthy man’s conversion.
Even when his eyesight began to fail, and when he went blind, Ingatius continued upon his rounds – only now with greater confidence in Gods care and providence. Following two years of blindness and a short final agony, Ignatius passed into his eternal reward on 11 May 1781, aged around 80.
The virtues of St Ignatius of Laconi still speak strongly to us today, and encourage us to make the most of the interactions with people that come our way, so that those we encounter might leave us closer to God than when re arrived.
St Ignatius of Laconi, pray for us.