Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Memorial of St Angelus of Sicily

"Angelus came into Sicily with the religious who emigrated to the island from Carmel and he died there, according to the traditional data — which, however, seem worthy of belief — having been killed at Licata at the hands of "impious infidels", during the first half of the XIII cent. Since he was considered a martyr, a church was erected in his honor on the site of his death, and his body was placed upon an altar in the church. These brief details are gathered from the Catalogue of Saints, which dates from the end of the XIV cent. or the beginning of the XV, while another mention, gathered, it is said, about 1370 by Nicholas Processi, a beneficiary of St. John Lateran's, speaks of a visit of Angelus to Rome.

Especially well-known and widespread is the life written by a certain Henoch, who is said to have been a Carmelite and a patriarch of Jerusalem.

According to this biography, Angelus was born of Hebrew parents, Jesse and Maria by name; he and his brother John had been foretold by the Blessed Virgin during the same apparition that decided the conversion of his parents to Christianity. When the two brothers were orphaned, the Patriarch Nicodemus educated them until their eighteenth year; they then joined the Carmelites of the convent of St. Anne, near the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, their birthplace, and after a year of probation they went on to Carmel, where they lived in rigorous asceticism for ten years. Angelus soon began to imitate the miraculous powers of his Fathers, Elias and Eliseus: he made an axe that had fallen into the water float; he crossed over the Jordan with dry feet; he healed a leper; he raised the dead to life; he made fire fall from heaven. When he was twenty-eight years old, after having gone to Jerusalem to receive his priestly ordination, he retired into the desert of the Forty Days, where he remained for five years in prayer and penance.

At the end of this period, Christ, in a vision, ordered him to go to Sicily, to work for the conversion of a sinner by the name of Berengarius, who had been living sinfully with his sister for a long time and had had three children by her. First, however, he was to pass through Alexandria and take some relics from there. At the prayer of Angelus that the Lord protect the Holy City, he was informed of the future of Jerusalem, of the Promised Land and of Christianity in Egypt, Asia Minor and Southern Europe, prophecies that he was to promulgate in his preaching. Having returned to Jerusalem, where his brother John had meanwhile become patriarch, Angelus preached to 60,000 people and then, with three companions, he went to Alexandria, where he received the relics that the Patriarch Athanasius consigned to him.

He set out for Sicily on April 1, 1219, on a Genoese ship. Near Sicily he ran into four ships loaded with Saracens, who maltreated him and his companions. At the prayer of the saint, fire came down from heaven and killed seventy of the attackers. The others, about 300 in number, were struck blind, but were for the greater part miraculously cured after their conversion. After a stop in Messina, he went on to Civitavecchia, where he consigned the relics to Frederic of Chiaramonte, and then continued on to Rome. Here, during a visit of the holy places, he met St. Francis and St. Dominic in St. John Lateran's. On this occasion Angelus foretold the stigmata to St. Francis, and St. Francis foretold his own early martyrdom. He returned to Palermo in Sicily and was the guest of the Basilians of St. Mary of the Grotto. He preached there for forty days, after which he went on to Agrigento. In passing through the baths of Cafalà he healed seven lepers (whose names and places of birth are given), as well as the Archbishop of Palermo, Godfrey by name. He preached in Agrigento for fifty days and ended his tour at Licata.

At first in private and then publicly, Angelus endeavored to convert Berengarius, who grew more exasperated at the conversion of his sister. On May 5, 1220, while Angelus was preaching to 5,000 persons near the church of SS. Philip and James by the sea, Berengarius wounded him mortally with five strokes of his sword. Before dying, the saint urged the others not to avenge his death. After his death Angelus appeared to the Archbishop of Palermo and asked him for burial, which occurred eight days later accompanied by various prodigies."

-- From a biography by Louis Saggi, OCarm

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