Sunday, December 15, 2002

If it were not Sunday,
today would be the date of commemoration of Blessed Antony Grassi, of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Fermo, a beatus for whom I have an especial fondness. Unfortunately, I don't see much about him in English on the Internet. So I will post a little on him here.
Antony Grassi lived in Fermo in what is now Italy, in the 17th century. As a young boy, he met Fr. Flaminio Ricci, who had been a disciple of St. Philip himself, and joined the Oratory at Fermo at the age of seventeen. While he suffered from scruples as a seminarian, he overcame this with the help of the Lord and his community. He became known for his amazing serenity, and several people testified that they had never seen him annoyed, let alone angry. (Oh brother, do I need his intercession !)
Perhaps the most remarkable event of his life occurred when he was a young priest of 29. He went to the Holy House at Loreto, and while praying there he was, believe it or not, hit by lightning. When he first regained consciousness he was unable to move or speak, and once he could speak he, understandably, asked for the last sacraments, thinking that he would die soon. However, this did not happen, and after a few days he made a complete recovery. For the rest of his life, Antony constantly gave thanks to God for sparing his life in this spectacular fashion. (He gave some of his scorched clothing to the shrine as an ex voto, and made a pilgrimage to Loreto every year on the anniversary.)
He spent large amounts of time hearing confessions and visiting the sick and the dying. People with problems flocked to him, and he made time for them. Later, when riots broke out in Fermo over a food shortage, he attemped to mediate between the rioters and the government. Unfortunately, this was not successful, and Antony was nearly shot by someone in the mob of rioters.
In 1635, his community elected him Provost ( superior), and they continued to do so every three years for the rest of his life. He was known for both his insistence on following the Oratorian constitutions closely, and for his gentleness. When he was asked why he was not more severe, he stated that he did not know how, then remarked, "Is this the way ?" and proceeded to assume an air of mock pomposity and arrogance. He, like St. Philip, was less enthusiastic about physical penances than many devout people of his time. He said "Humbling the mind and will is more effective than a hair-shirt. "
In the last few years of his life, he had to stop preaching, as he could not make his listeners understand him. Then he realized that he was going deaf, which made his apostolate in the confessional at first difficult and finally impossible. However, even as an elderly man, he tried to keep and spread the joy of Christ. One of his last recorded acts was his reconciliation of two brothers who had been violently quarreling for years. Antony Grassi went to his reward in 1671. Due to various civil disturbances in Italy, his beatification did not happen until 1900.


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